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The Name I’m Not Misspelling

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Department of It’s About…This

 

stellashirtjpg

 

The above shirt was worn by Stella McCartney, upon the occasion of her father Paul’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s also the sentiment of Some Of Us Who Are Embarrassed For Our Country Being This Late To The Game. ®

No matter whom you supported in the presidential primaries or will support in this upcoming election, let us pause for a moment to think of history being made. We congratulate ourselves for, for the first time, nominating a woman as a major party candidate for president.

After we’re done patting ourselves on our collective backs, let us also consider the fact that we who often refer to ourselves as leaders of the free world are trailing behind Australia, Bolivia, China, Great Britain, Haiti, Iceland, Malta, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, Germany, India, Ireland, The Philippines, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Liberia, Guyana, Ecuador, Finland, Chile, Israel, Austria, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Serbia, Malawi, Croatia, Central Africa Republic, Nepal, and a dozen other countries who currently have or had have elected or appointed female heads of state.

 

 

...that it took you Yanks so bloody long.

…that it took you Yanks so bloody long.

 

 

*   *   *

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Discombobulate

Which is why I am re-reading Elie Wiesel’s Night, and tempering that with Philip Norman’s new biography of Paul McCartney, and also You’ll Grow Out of It,  a collection of essays by Jessi Klein, the standup comic and writer for Inside Amy Schumer.

I chose the latter book mainly for the chapter titled Get the Epidural, upon which a hilarious sketch  (It’s Better For the Baby)  from Schumer’s show  [1]  was based.  That chapter was indeed delightful, but it was near the end of the book.  I had to skip from the chapter about watching The Bachelor, [2] which I could not stomach; thus, I had to punish the author [3]  by not reading the intervening eleven chapters between The Bachelor and Get The Epidural. And then, I just didn’t want to read the rest of the book. The author’s style and humor…I got it. Didn’t need to get anymore.

One of the Truly Great Things About Being An Adult ® is that it doesn’t matter whether I paid $12.99 for the Kindle book or $500 for a season theatre subscription – if I decide I am no longer interested in the book or the play, then I stop reading/leave at intermission. That money and time is gone and cannot be retrieved; I understand the Sunken Costs Fallacy and I get to decide at what point it just isn’t worth it to me anymore.

Once again, I digress.

Get The Epidural, as you may surmise by the title, is about the expectation and pressure pregnant women experience re choosing their birth “experiences.”

 

I'm planning on having a sea turtle birth.

“I’m planning on having a sea turtle birth.”

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, in my job as a health educator in a family-oriented OB/GYN practice, I tried to steer away women from using the term “natural” re childbirth sans drugs.

“The more accurate term,” my spiel went, “is medicated or un-medicated childbirth. It is natural to seek relief from agonizing pain. No one asks your husband if he’s going to have his broken leg set ‘naturally,’ right? If the pregnancy is housed in your uterus and exits via your vagina, regardless of how much or how little pharmaceutical intervention took place in between, that’s a natural birth.”

Thus, I did my “Preach it, sistuh Jessi!” dance when I read Klein’s rumination on this irony: that women are pressured to do this one thing “naturally,” yet during the rest of their lives they are told that everything which is in fact natural about their bodies (e.g. the existence of leg, underarm and pubic hair; their womanly body shape, their normal hair color and texture and skin tone and complexion) is either annoying and/or gross and/or deficient and must be eliminated or altered.

It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything “naturally” until it involves them being in excruciating pain.
No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” No one ever asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.”
(Jessi Klein,  You’ll Get Over It)

*   *   *

Department Of What’s In A Name?

From birthing to naming – how did I get on the baby thing? Coincident with my reading the afore-mention essay I also read an anecdote about baby naming, which reminded me of my e-versation with friend KW in which he teased me for insisting on spelling my name “…in some bizarro way.”  In return, I felt obliged to relay the story of my naming:

 

record

 

Actually, ‘twere my parents who insisted on spelling my name Robyn (for my father, whose middle name is Bryan).  Here is what they told me about how I got my name.  [4]

I was born in Santa Ana Hospital. The day after my birth the Nurse Who Was In Charge Of Such Things ® brought the birth certificate form and other discharge documents into my mother’s hospital room. She asked my parents, “What name do you want on the birth certificate?”

“Robyn Gwen Parnell,” my parents replied, and relayed the spelling of each name.

“That’s not how you spell Robin,” the nurse huffed. “It’s spelled with an i.”

My parents said Nurse Jackboots seemed pretty disgusted with them, but they insisted that, no, they were spelling it Robyn with a y.  Nurse Nazi-nose actually continued to argue with them about it. My parents held firm.  Nurse Poopypants rolled her eyes, completed her paperwork, and told them they’d receive a copy of the birth certificate in the mail, eventually.  When my parents received the copy of my birth certificate they put it on a pile of papers on my father’s desk, and it wasn’t until a few months later, when they got to organizing things, that they actually looked at the certificate and discovered that Nurse Ratchet had taken it upon herself to give a bureaucratic fuck you to my parents [5] and had spelled my name with an i !

 

 

 I know what's best. Trust me.

I know what’s best. Trust me.

 

 

Chet and Marion [6] Parnell were furious, but Chet consulted a lawyer friend who told him not to worry, you can spell the name however you like, it’s no problem. A few years after my college graduation, when I asked for a copy of my birth certificate, my father found a judge who put some kind of amendment to the document, to note the initial clerical “mistake.” Santa Ana Hospital burned to the ground not long after that. Karma, I sez.

Friend KW said he found it somewhat scary, that a nurse would decide to override the parents’ choice for a baby’s name. He did also advocate for judicious selection in naming – “proofreading and gentle questioning might not be inadvisable in certain cases.”  He cited the story of a young pregnant woman who came into the hospital where KW’s SIL worked at a nurse and who insisted on naming her new baby boy Gonorrhea. (“She just liked the way it rolled off the tongue [ew!] No amount of gentle persuasion dissuaded her.”)

Anyone who would give their baby such a name (“And let me introduce you to her older sister, Chlamydia, and her twin brothers, Herpes and Simplex.”) – that’s grounds for instant, mandatory sterilization, IMHO. It almost makes the heretofore odd (to me) fact that certain countries (like Iceland) have “naming laws” seem reasonable.

 

 

There oughta be a law.

There oughta be a law.

 

 

And then, when it comes to names, there is the issue of unsolicited feedback.

I’ve shared the Ultimate Baby Naming Advice ® [7] to many a prospective parent – advice which I mistakenly forgot when I was expecting my firstborn.

My mother was the first person to ask what names MH and were considering. This was early in my second trimester of pregnancy, when I’d telephoned my parents to talk about planning a visit to see them. We didn’t yet have the amniocentesis results, and so all (gendered) names were in the running. I told my mother that we’d barely started to consider names, but for a girl, I was thinking about “Aurora” – as in Aurura Borealis, a groovy Natural Phenomenon ® , and also as in the name of the 19th century French author whose pen name was George Sand. We’d call her Rory.

“Oh. That’s…interesting,” my mother mumbled.

Most people like things to be interesting, because interesting is, you know, interesting. When my mother uses that word, she means the opposite. I hung up the phone, knowing there would be fallout feedback.

The next day my mother telephoned me and said that I might want to consider a different name, seeing as how “R’s are the most difficult of the consonants for people, especially children, to pronounce.”

This, from the woman who gave three of her four children R-names.

Yep, I replied, I’m fully aware of that, having grown up being called “Wobyn” by my younger sister and her friends – and now my nieces and nephews – until they could pronounce the R sound. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. I even find it rather endearing.

But really, you should see it when little children, even older people, struggle to pronounce a name with more than one difficult sound….

Still doesn’t bother me, Mom.

She wouldn’t drop it.  “Now, I want you to go stand in front of a mirror and look what happens to your face when you say, ‘Aurora.’

Her point was…?   [8]  My response was, “I want you to go stand in front of a mirror and look at your face when you say, Buttinsky.”

She changed the subject.

Six months later I had my son, K.

 

 

Look what happens to your face when you say, awesome.

Look what happens to your face when you say, awesome.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Because This Is A Classy Space, That’s Why

 

Aka, The Joys of Owning Cats, Chapter CDMXVII

Banana slug, or hairball? You be the judge.

 

 

NovaBarf

*   *   *

And One More Thing ©

 

Banana Slug or Hairball? was the title of the game show pitch I submitted to the leading game show production company in America. I got no callback, imagine that.

 

 

 

 "I'll take Mollusks for $1000, Alex."

“I’ll take Mollusks for $1000, Alex.”

*   *   *

May you have an entertaining naming story;
May you in turn provide an entertaining naming story for others;
May you be as natural or medicated as the situation merits;
May you celebrate whatever when it’s about fucking time;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] You must see that sketch, if you’ve ever been pregnant, or have ever known or seen a pregnant woman talking about her “birth plan.”

[2] Yeah I know it’s supposed to cheeky fun showing how confident you are in your own intellect to admit to being happy you are to watch a brain sucking show…still, ICK. It creeped me out to even read about someone else watching it, and I couldn’t make it through the essay. 

[3] I’m sure she’d lose several nights of sleep/gain a few stress pounds if she knew about my opinion.

[4] So, perhaps my name should be Rabyn?

[5] Not my parents’ phrasing.

[6] Not spelled Maryon, for some reason.

[7] “Do not tell your family the name you have chosen for your child until you’ve given birth and the name is on the birth certificate, for if someone thinks they have a chance of changing your mind, they will try to do so.”

[8] I’m still not sure. I only know that she must have done that herself, and thought saying the name made her…look funny? 

The Slough I’m Not Kayaking

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Department Of Not To Be Disrespectful Toward
Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform ®

… but every time I walk past The Tacoma Fallen Firefighters Memorial I imagine that the second guy in the sculpture – the one tapping the first guy (pointing the hose) on the shoulder, is calmly but insistently saying, “Dude, put down the hose – nothing’s on fire.”

 

 

tacomafirefighters

*   *   *

 

I had yet another opportunity to pass by the above pictured sculpture during MH’s and my last minute/last weekend trip to Tacoma. Because when your 20 year old daughter hints and hints and hints again that she’d like to see you, you drop everything and go.

In late August Belle will start her junior year at the University of Puget Sound. She’s staying in Tacoma for the summer, working fulltime as a Zoo Camp Counselor at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  We’ve enjoyed hearing her talk about the camps, and comparing them with her stories from last summer, when she was a camp counselor for the Oregon Zoo. [1]

When we drove up last Saturday, Belle said she wanted to show us around the zoo. We’ve been to the PDZ & A several times over the past few years when visiting our offspring.  [2]  This time we got a brief “backstage” tour, courtesy of Belle, which consisted of being able to step inside one staff-only area:  the marine wildlife food preparation facility, which included a huge, walk-in freezer filled floor-to-ceiling with cases of various fish and shellfish (read: more frozen herring [3] than you can shake a walrus’s tusk at).

As a five year Oregon Zoo volunteer, a biology major, and a volunteer docent at her school’s Natural History Museum, Belle has amassed a good deal of information about fauna and flora. Still, as our daughter led us from exhibit to exhibit, MH and I were impressed by how much she knew about the animals in every habitat . [4]  I guess that’s what happens when you’re leading two camps per day, five days a week – you have to know your stuff.

And then there are the moments you just have to strut your stuff, as when Belle eagerly donned my Convertible Survival Kit ®  [5] when MH and I took her for a spin around town.

 

 

sadieconvertible7-16tacoma

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Screw The Slough

Because his company is weird that way, MH had July 5 off as a vacation day.  [6]  What shall we do, he asked? I suggested we take our kayaks out for the first paddle of the season. I wanted to try out one of the entry points along the Columbia River Slough, and so, with our Paddler’s Access Guide in hand we loaded up the car, drove to what looked to be the optimum entry point…and then on to the next, and the next, and the next….

The first entry point was strewn with trash and had other signs of being used as a homeless camping/partying area. It was devoid of bipedal presence save for one Sketchy Looking Man ® sitting on a bench by the camp/party area. We parked our vehicle and walked down to the slough’s boat dock, SLM watching us every step of the way.

The slough was…well, we knew it was a slough, but it was really in full slough mode (low water depth and tepid-to-nonexistent flow). Probably good for winter and spring paddling, but already too late in the season, at this particular entry point (~ 17 miles upstream), for a decent paddle. That, plus the area’s vibe, which was if you-leave-your-car-you-will-return-to-find-it-broken-into, led us into checking out other slough access points downstream.

 

 

columbiaslough_general

 

By the time we’d reached access point four or five MH said, “I suppose we can look at this as a scouting excursion for future trips.” As time went on it became imperative, first for MH and then also moiself, for us to find something resembling a bathroom.  Ninety minutes after we’d arrived at the first access point and were still not in the water, I said “Screw the slough.” I knew there were pit stop facilities at Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands, so we ditched the last slough entry point [7] and headed there.

I’d been kayaking at Smith & Bybee several times, including once with MH. I’d give it a solid 3 on the 1 – 10 whoopee scale; I wanted to try somewhere new, but our plans hadn’t worked out and it was getting late, so what the heck. After The Pause That Refreshes © we checked out the canoe launch ramp.  Ay yi yi. I’d never seen the water level so low. How dare they call it Smith and Bybee Lakes?

 

 

yeahright

 

 

We hiked around the S & B Lake wetlands for an hour before returning to our car and heading off to find lunch. At least the birds seemed happy with the conditions in the boggy-wetlands-which-no-self-respecting-limnologist-would-call-a-lake – we saw an astounding number of Great Egrets wading about in the muck.

It turned out to be a good, low key day, capped off by a delightful evening at downtown Hillsboro’s Tuesday Marketplace. MH and I got dinner and a bottle of wine from the various food venders, found a spot on the courthouse lawn which was close enough to see the music stage but far enough away to be safe from the blaring amps and pissing pugs, [8] and staked our claim with folding chairs.

 

I really wish I could say I was joking about this.

I really wish I was joking about this.

 

 

It was a perfect evening for being outside – that temperature where you don’t know where your skin ends and the air begins. We enjoyed listening to the classic and original rock provided by Hippie Love Slave, a band that, besides having an awesome name, has a guitarist/singer whose vocal stylings reminded me of Grace Slick. I encountered said vocalist between sets, and shared my opinion with her. She took it as the compliment I intended, and then I complemented us both on being old and wise enough to understand.

 

 

 

 

Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Be Happy To Explain It To You

In the wake/midst of the Thunderswampfuckton of Crap ® that our country is experiencing (and will, no doubt ,keep on slogging through), in particular the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge followed by the allegedly retaliatory shootings in Dallas, I’ve been hearing and reading about (what I take to be) a misunderstanding of the activist movement known as Black Lives Matter.

 

 

SOAPBOX

 

 

The very phrase or concept itself seems to be, IMHO, misconstrued. So, attention, critics – be you well-intended or closeted/overt racists – I’m about to clear it up for y’all.

It’s like this: You don’t walk into an Nike footwear store and criticize them for not carrying dress shoes.

But what about the Florsheims!

 

 

Wingtips Matter

Wingtips Matter

 

 

I’ll try again.

My city has a veterinary clinic named All About Cats . The clinic’s founding veterinarian had a multiple animal practice (dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles, birds) for over two decades; now he has one specializing in felines. One of the reasons he got the idea of establishing a felines-only clinic was his observation, during his years of practice, that cats were more stressed in a vet clinic by the smell and presence of dogs than vice-versa.

When I first saw the clinic’s sign I did not feel obligated to point out to the clinic’s staff, “I appreciate your intentions, but, All About Cats – life is not all about cats!” But I do know someone who, when they were informed that there was a new veterinary clinic in town that sees only cats, had that kind of reaction:

Oh, yeah, well, what about dogs?
What about budgies, and hamsters – other pets need veterinary care, too!”

All About Cats does not equal And other animals don’t need/aren’t worthy of veterinary care. Establishing a feline-only clinic does not mean you dismiss or dislike other animals. It merely denotes a special area of concern or concentration, for which there is a reason.

Black Lives Matter is a special interest civil rights/activist group. It exists because…well, because there are, unfortunately, fucking good and sad/pathetic reasons for it to exist. Including the fact that when my son K told me, many months ago, about being pulled over by a cop because K’s car had a non-functioning tail light, I had the privilege to not think that K might have been in danger.

I’d had The Talk with both of my offspring about how to behave if, while driving, they were ever pulled over by a cop. Still, it never occurred to me to ask K if he’d been overly respectful to the police officer no matter how the officer had treated him; it did not occur to me to ask/remind K if he’d remembered to move very slowly, always keeping his hands in sight, when the officer asked him to product his license and registration….

 

 

 

privelegejpg

 

 

*   *   *

May you have the privilege of assuming your children will be safe;
May you be able to enjoy the moments that arise and screw the slough when called for;
May you stop and smell the roses (or the frozen herring – whatever is handy);
..and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What the stories have in common: she remains mystified by the immaturity and moodiness of the younger kids (in particular, five year old boys), who “…don’t listen to what you say and have a meltdown when they spill a cup of water.”

[2] K, Belle’s brother, also attended UPS.

[3] And herring doesn’t smell any better the colder it is.

[4] Including their names. I mean, two gorgeous tigers lying side by side (“The one on the right is Kirani and the other is her sister, Dari”), they looked identical, to me.

[5] Which I keep in our new car, for those top down moments. The kit consists of a choice of three Glamorous Sunglasses ® , a scarf, and a tube of bright red lipstick to complete the ensemble.

[6] Other holidays which most people get as vacation days, Like MLK day or Memorial Day, he won’t.

[7] Kelly Point Park, which might be a good entry point for future kayaking on the slough but which also had signs of sketchy-ickiness and people-camping-who-shouldn’t-be (including two recently burned-out cars –  as in completely torched, parked side by side, — in the parking lot. Yet another omen).

[8] Yo, dog owners: when you bring your dogs to the various Farmer’s Markets – and you seem to think there is a city ordinance which requires you to do so – please mind where they “go.”

The S*** I’m Not Fixing

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Department Of Now Who Can Argue With That?

 

 

 

“You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
(Jim, aka The Waco Kid, Blazing Saddles)

 

 

Happy (belated) birthday to Mel Brooks. He shares a birthday with my nephew, BPV, who turned 26 on Tuesday while Mel is…can it be…90?

In Mel’s honor, I had to watch a certain movie Tuesday evening. I have three of his films in my DVD collection; Blazing Saddles won out.

I am ever so fond of Brook’s boisterous Western spoof for many reasons, [1] including that it has come to remind me of my offspring.

 

 

explain

 

 

Gladly, Neil. The weeks preceding each of K’s and Belle’s births, I had an après-diner DVD (or video rental) film fest – two movies per night, screening my then-current or all-time favorite comedies. I was trying to laugh ’em out.

While watching Blazing, I wondered yet again: if the movie were made today, how likely is it that the film’s dialogue would include such copious usage of the N-word?  [2]

Brooks was an equal opportunity offender and master genre satirist. Blazing includes some of my favorite movie dialogue, including the authentic frontier gibberish speech opening this post. One line from the movie (can you guess which?) was nominated for the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. [3]

 

 

And, of course, there is the scene which altered the art of the western cinematic genre. For decades after the release of Blazing Saddles, directors complained that they could no longer include any incident involving a campfire, due to Brooks’ lampooning of that iconic Western setting.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Going To Make For Interesting Dinner Table Conversation

It’s been a movie-watching week at dinner time. MH was late getting home on Monday, and I settled into one of our comfy chairs and put in a Netflix video: the documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”  A few minutes past the title sequence MH returned home. He began watching the documentary, which included having to watch me squeal with delightful recognition as one of my college professors, journalist and historian Ruth Rosen, made an onscreen appearance.

MH asked me a few questions about the documentary’s subject matter – the resurgence of what historians call 2nd wave feminism (circa 1960-1972). This prompted me to ask him if he’d ever read The Feminine Mystique, or Sexual Politics, or The Feminist Papers, or….I gestured toward the shelf on our family room’s ceiling-to-floor bookcase where those books, and other seminal (so to speak) writings of the feminist movement may be found. Uh…no?

Alright then, what about Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice? Nope?  Okay, not even (I did not use those words) Black Like Me?

MH said something about one disadvantages of not going to a liberal arts college (he attended Caltech) was not having those books on his reading list.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

And I was flummoxed.

I sat there thinking…stuff I mostly didn’t say. Once again I indicated our bookshelf by the fireplace. I read those books, and not because I attended a “liberal arts college” where they were required reading. I attended UC Davis, a public research university with (at the time) a mostly science/agricultural bent and reputation. Some of those books I read were mentioned in a couple of the classes I took, in the classes’ supplemental/extra reading syllabi, but were not “required” reading. All of them (and many other titles) should, in my opinion, be required reading for every citizen, regardless of their academic interests. Because of THE PROFOUND SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC CHANGES both documented and/or foreshadowed in them; because….  Oy vey.

 

Consider yourself warned.

Consider yourself warned.

 

 

Equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of any ism, is something MH and so many Good Men ® like him espouse and practice…and also, in some ways, IMHO, take for granted, often times because of how they were raised. But MH is no historical ignoramus; thus, I sat…and wondered. I wondered why so many men of his age, class and ethnicity who are (considered to be) well-educated, seemingly display little curiosity about why those books were written and the historical context in which such manuscripts and manifestos could be – had to be – produced?

People who have a science- or evidence- or reality-based view of the world (I consider both MH and I to be in that category) want to know how the world works. That is one of the strongest incentives MH and I had for eschewing the religious indoctrination of our respective childhoods and families: “It” (religion) is not a rational explanation for How Things Work. ® .

I am puzzled by people who hold a reality-based worldview and yet seem to lack the curiosity to understand the many other ways in which the world “works.” Perhaps it’s simply because those other ways are just too damn complicated. Even as complex as understanding the biology, chemistry and physics of life is trying to understand and dissect the pesky, messy, human political and cultural processes…including how a person may be an unwitting beneficiary of systems he did not design but by which he profits and therefore has no vested interest in dismantling…or even fully recognizing.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

Our brief exchange on the matter made me think of a term which makes many people defensively (unfortunately) cringe. It’s in the category of those terms which can be seen as cultural yellow alerts – ala “microagressions” or  “heteronormative” –  terms which cause a certain number of people to close their ears, minds and hearts the moment you use them.

I intuitively understood “privilege,” the first time I heard the word used to frame matters of social inequalty, [4]  because it was a concept I’d previously defined to myself as “luxury.”

Many men – including MH and our son, K – are decent folk who would never (consciously) think of oppressing, limiting or defining someone because of race or gender or sexual orientation or economic or social class.  Nonetheless, MH and K and manparts-people like them, as people born into this country’s dominant/normative gender/race/class, have the luxury of not having to think about their dominant or privileged status, simply because it isn’t part of their daily experience (unless it is “required reading” in some academic or theoretical setting).

The thing about privilege is that it’s invisible to we who have it. The ultimate privilege is the fact of not having to think about privilege, or to even notice that it exists.

Oh, and this privilege, luxury, or whatever you want to call it – it’s not inherently a bad thing. As scientist and atheist/feminist writer and activist Jen McCreight has pointed out, we all have some kind of privilege over somebody. What matters is whether we’re aware of it, how we use it, and that we not dismiss the concerns of the people who don’t share our particular form of it.

 

Young man, if you honestly think this country doesn’t care about religion or race, then you are privileged. You have grown up in an America that has enabled you to not know otherwise.
And I don’t need to you to be sorry about it, because you didn’t create that. I’d just love for you to someday understand it.

(Mary Elizabeth Williams, We Don’t Need Your Apology, Princeton Kid written in response to an essay published by a Princeton student who claimed he’d “checked his privilege” and decided he need “apologize for nothing.”)

 

Okay; deep, cleansing breath. Writing this makes me feel…old. Like I’ve failed my kids. Wasn’t my generation supposed to fix this shit?

 

 

Yep – totally your job!

Yep – totally your job!

 

 

*   *   *

Speaking of generational shit:

Department Of Saving Time And Heartache And Maybe An STD Or Three

“Booze gave me permission to do and be whatever I wanted.”
(Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget,  by Sarah Hepola)

 

I wish I could get all teens through twenty-somethings to listen to author Sarah Hepola‘s interview on the June 21st  edition of Fresh Air, in which she discusses her participation in the “hook up” culture of college and the reality of sex without the “liquid courage” of alcohol. It would be wonderful if young men and women could have the insights at age 19 that Hepola didn’t recognize until age 35.

 

*   *   *

May you feel responsible for fixing a modicum of shit attributable to any generation;
May you appreciate the well-written campfire scene;
May you remember the insights at age 35 when you’re way older than that;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not the least of which is singing along to the marvelous title song. I still can’t believe Brooks got the singer of so many iconic Westerns, Frankie Laine, to do it with a straight face…or straight vocal cords.

[2] According to an interview with Brooks I read many years ago, co-screenwriter Richard Pryor is to thank for that.

[3] Yes, it’s now official – there is a list of Best 100… for everything.

[4] E.g., white privilege or male privilege.

The Fish I’m Not Smelling

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Department Of Fish And Visitors Stink After Three Days,
Except When They Don’t

 

There are some people…when you see them it’s like you’ve seen them yesterday…even though it’s been too many yesterdays since you’ve in fact seen them.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

MH and I were fortunate enough to have such people visit us this week.  The lovely and talented LW and her equally lovely and talented husband, SB, were making a road trip from the Bay Area to the Puget Sound, and stayed with us Monday – Thursday. Not once did I think of stinky fish; just good time with dear friends.

LW, a buddy o’ mine since our apartment-mate days at UC Davis, has steadfastly remained one of the more intelligent, witty, creative people I’ve had the pleasure to know.  Important Sidebar ® : If you are interested in social justice via political activism, [1] LW’s husbo is one of the more effective bloggers – as in, one whose advocacy and research has prompted real change – in that sphere (you can check him out, at Spocko’s Brain ).

It was fun cooking and eating with them, picking berries, “playing” and just hanging out/catching up. We spent a day in the Alberta Street Arts district in Portland, where we were, of course, treated to many sights and sounds that were oh-so-Portlandia. Being longtime San Francisco residents, LW & SB are on familiar terms with many if not all things hipster, and are also wise to the up and down sides of gentrification…which made the street art/op-ed we encountered all the more appreciated.

 

 

strteetart

*   *   *

Department Of Cliché But True

 

Like many creative people who are also thoughtful, decent human beings, artist Helen Honer finds non-verbal ways to express the inexpressible, most recently re the Orlando mass shooting. This painting of hers, which she described as “trying to calmly express my sorrow,” struck me as both simple and profound, calming and elegiac. One picture that is truly worth a thousand…you know.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Don’t Fucking Get It

Okay, I’m totally sincere, here: I would love to hear from an articulate, rational Republican re so many issues, mostly about their party’s presumptive nominee.  But, are there any (rational Republicans) left at this point?

 

 

confused lady

Was that a The Onion headline I just read, or something a Republican actually said?

 

Look; I have my beef [2] with the Dems, too. I moiself only register for any political party during primary season – depending on if I want to vote for – or against a particular party’s nominee – then change my registration back to  independent/no affiliation status.  I seriously loathe the whole political party identification thing, and strive not to judge someone/assume their opinions based on their political affiliation.

Still…I want to know what kind of political party, from its leaders and major players down to the rank and file members, say, over and over , that Trump’s comments are offensive and racist and just plain wrong but yes, they will still support him for POTUS?

If for whatever reasons you just can’t bring yourself to vote for the Other Guy ® , can you at least have the personal integrity to sit this one out?

 

*   *   *

Department Of How Can I Be The Most Special Snowflake In The Room
When Every Snowflake Is Special?

 

The latest entry: nonbinary gender.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Now I’m Depressing Myself So It Must Be Time For A Happy Topic ®

 

There Are Pancake People, And There Are Not Pancake People.

 

Well? Are you, or aren't you?

Well? Are you, or aren’t you?

 

I am (or was) in the latter category, until the afore-mentioned visit of LW & SB. Tuesday eve LW and I were talking about my culinary adventures with sourdough starter.  [3]  In the past few years LW and her hubs been cooking and eating in a vegan/plant-based way, [4]  which inspired me to concoct a  vegan-friendly sourdough pancake batter to serve as yet another transport medium for our copious crop of homegrown blueberries.

Mission accomplished.

There aren’t enough swear words – the kind you use when you taste something so delicious, non-profane superlatives just won’t’ do – to adequately describe the yummers factor here.

And I’m going to share it, with you, for free. [5]

 

HFFSMTTBPEATVSWKICBD   [6]
aka Vega-licious Lemon Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes ( makes ~ 16 small)

Start this batter the night before you intend to serve it for breakfast (or in the morning, if you want pancakes later for dinner)

– 100g  sourdough starter
– 200g  oat & white whole wheat flour (about half; i.e. 100g, of each)
– 1 ½ c spring water, * more or less
– 2T brown rice syrup (or maple syrup or agave syrup) **
– heaping ½ t ground cinnamon; and scant ½ t sea salt
–  ½ t vanilla extract
– grated zest of half of a small lemon

– 1t baking powder + ¼ t baking soda.
blueberries ! A good handful
– REAL maple syrup, for serving

– your favorite neutral oil *** for cooking

Directions

Any questions?

Any questions?

I’ll try that again.

Directions

Whisk the sourdough starter in a ceramic or glass mixing bowl with half of the water, then add in the remaining ingredients – except for the baking powder & soda & berries – whisking as you go and adding enough of the remaining water until you get a smooth batter (you may use more or less water than indicated in the recipe, depending on what kind of flours you use and the “wetness” of your starter).

Cover the batter bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, making sure there is at least one hole or gap so the batter can “breathe.” That’s it for now. Sweet dreams; walk away and enjoy yourself for ~8 – 12 hours or overnight (do not refrigerate the batter).

When ready to cook the pancakes, heat a cast iron griddle (or several cast iron pans) over medium-high heat, for several minutes.  While the griddle is heating (griddle must be verrrrry hot, or the pancakes will stick), mix the baking powder & soda in a small bowl with a small amount of water (a scant T) and whisk it into the batter, along with the blueberries

When the griddle is really hot **** , lightly grease it with the oil of your choice (lightly reoil griddle when/if necessary, between batches.). Using a ~ ¼ c scoop or ladle…well, you know how to cook pancakes, right?

 

* do not use tap or distilled water when working with sourdough starter.
** maple or agave syrup will give you a sweeter batter, so reduce the amount…or not, depending on the strength of your sweet tooth
*** “neutral” used here does not refer to your oil’s aversion to getting involved in geopolitics; rather, a neutral oil but as in grapeseed, peanut, canola, or safflower oil – the kind of oil you use when you don’t want the oil to add its own flavor to your dish. [7] 
**** hot enough so that drops of water flung on its surface do the Ow wow ow  ow – that’s hot! dance

 

 

 

In all of my numerous reincarnations these are the best goddessdam pancakes in the world.

In all of my numerous reincarnations these are the best goddessdam pancakes in the world.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you find a picture which evokes a thousand words of comfort;
May you have the opportunity to be gob-smacked by your own culinary creation;
May you have the courage and integrity to sit this one out when necessary;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And if you’re not, WTF is wrong with you?

[2] Or its plant-based/vegan equivalent.

[3]  And you would be too, if you were a guest in my home. It’s required as per a local ordinance.

[4] Although LW changed her nutritional lifestyle for health and not cosmetic reasons, she is, like, radiant, and back to her high school weight and looking Fucking Fabulous, if I may say so (and I just did).

[5]  If you want to send me money or any other form of compensation (stocks, T bonds, your offspring’s soccer trophies….), leave a message.

[6] Holy Fucking Flying Spaghetti Monster These Are The Best Pancakes Ever And They’re Vegan-Safe, Who Knew It Could Be Done?

[7] I.E. not olive oil and definitely not sesame oil.

The Syllables I’m Not Pronouncing

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They’re Baaaaaaaaack

The FBFD, that is: Former Boyfriend Dreams.

FBFD are dreams in which former boyfriends of mine have significant co-starring roles, or sometimes just make cameo appearances.

Some of my FBFD are “historical-realistic; i.e., they take place within the time frame when I knew the particular FBF who appears in the dream. Other FBFD take place in present (or near future) scenarios, with or without my current family members as part of the cast.

My brain concocts FBFD under certain circumstances of which I am aware, and, I assume, for other reasons effervescing in my subconscious. FBFD as seem to occur during certain Life Passage ® moments; e.g., when I’ve started a new project or am stuck on an old one, or find myself flustered by the passage of time and reflecting on roads not taken and the like.

Sometimes I wonder if other people experience the equivalent of FBFD. [1] I used to think that they must, but then I rarely see FBFD mentioned in lists of most common themes in adult dreams, which usually include

* Falling

* Showing up to school/work/a job interview naked

* Teeth falling out

* Missing a school exam and/or taking a test for which you are totally unprepared

* Flying

* Being chased by someone or some thing

* Showing up late for an important event

All of the scenarios listed above have made frequent appearances in my dreams. [2]  But I’ve yet to see FBFD on anyone else’s dream-theme list. Just wondering.

 

 

follow your dreams

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Since Someone Recently Asked

Sometimes, very rarely, [3] I am asked to “explain” my views as a Humanist/Freethinker/Bright/Atheist, or describe how my views evolved  [4]  from my religious upbringing.

I can, when prompted, offer an articulate exllanation. However, as per the timeworn trope, a picture speaks louder than words.

 

what religious people see

*   *   *

Department Of Not Exactly OCD

 

But a quirk of mine, nonetheless:

I don’t like it when people pronounce all four syllables of the word, comfortable.

Don’t they know, it’s not kuhm-fer-tuh-buhl, it’s kumf-ter-bull.

BFD, right?  I am almost ashamed to admit that I’ve actually argued with people over this.

 

 

siriusly

 

 

Yes, seriously.

I know: the four-syllable com-for-ta-ble way is the correct way to pronounce the word, no matter how snooty or Masterpiece Theatre-ish it sounds to moiself. But there are a whole lotta us commoners who use the shortcut. Thus, for the sake of linguistic harmony and world peace, I think we all should switch to using comfy, the pronunciation of which is fairly standard.

 

 

*   *   *

Terrorist Night Club Shooting; Alligator Baby Snatching….
Department Of Fun Times In Orlando This Week

 

On second thought, no comment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Changing The Subject

In my blog post of  July 24, 2015 (an elephant’s memory ain’t got nothing on me), I mentioned one of the few advantage so of having a birthday close to Christmas: getting multiple gift checks – which is what we aging children get from our parents – at or near the same time.

That particular advantage can (possibly only) be appreciated from an adult’s POV. As a kid, having a birthday on or near a holiday can be…shall we say…inopportune. [5]  I was reminded of this recently when I had to provide my birth date on An Official Form Of Some Sort ®, which caused the Form Reader to commiserate, “How awful it is to have a birthday so close to Christmas – yours is even worse than mine!”

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, my parents suggested that our family celebrate my birthday on my half-birthday, June 16, in order to offset the fact that my actual birthday, December 16, seemed to get short-shrifted in the Christmas brouhaha.

My parents always tried to insure that my birthday was as special and stand-alone important as anyone else’s, and not just one-more-thing-to-have-to-do during the holiday season. They never, not once, gave me a present with the preamble, This is for your birthday and Christmas. Also, while my relatives’ and friends’ birthday gifts to moiself were usually presented in Christmas themed boxes, my parents’ gifts were always wrapped in birthday paper, and our family’s Christmas tree was not put up until the day after my birthday. Little things, sure, but the intention – which I recognized and appreciated – was to make sure my birthday wasn’t lost in the holiday shuffle.

However, the first time my parents suggested that I might want to move my birthday celebration to June elicited the kind of self-righteous retort only an eight year old can muster: You should have thought of that when you decided to have me in December!” [6]

As for the gift thing: I learned at a young age to stifle my instinctive riposte to the standard excuse  comment from those who thought the best way to deal with my “inconvenient” birthday  [7] was to convince me that theirs was a combo gift:

Faux Enthusiastic Gift-Giver:  This is for your birthday and Christmas!
Moi Smartass Self: Well then, it better have cost twice as much!

 

 

xmasbday

 

*   *   *

Department Of While I’m On The Subject Of Family Celebrations

Last month (May 22), would have been my parents’ 63rd wedding anniversary.

I’ve had the good fortune to know widowed spouses who truly cherish talking about their deceased partners – they treasure the memories and stories that keep their loved one “alive” for them in the present. I’d hoped that my mother would reach that place, eventually.

As I have previously noted in this blog, my father died seven years ago, a fact my elderly, physically and mentally frail mother often…which has evolved into almost always…forgets.

My mother’s present day circumstances are not pleasant, in many ways. She is geographically comfortable, [8] but physically, cognitively and emotionally feeble. Of particular annoyance, embarrassment and pain to her (and to moiself and my siblings) is the fact that the one thing she is consistently aware of is her forgetfulness: she knows that she cannot be sure of what she knows or does not know.  [9] Thus, the life that she cherishes [10] is in the past…but I can’t even go there in telephone conversations, because of what it may trigger.

There have been rare moments, these past seven years, when she’s mentioned my father without the fear/guilt/ agony of bereavement. But I always have to let her take the initiative re mentioning him…and when she does, 99.94 % of the time, it’s not good.  [11]

I wish that I could have talked to her about the date last month. I wish I could have shared stories: Remember when we (their children) surprised you on your 25th anniversary, and Chet posed with the loving cup trophy we bought for you….

But that was then and this is now. And, as Compassionate Communication With The Memory Impaired reminds me, memory impairment is a disability.  Reminders are rarely kind. They tell the patient how disabled they are – over and over again. Reminders of the recent past imply, “I remember; I’m okay; you don’t; you’re not.” Refer only to the present or the future.

 

 

Chet anniversary

*   *   *

May your life reminders bring you comfort and not anxiety;
May friends former and present be kind (or at least entertaining) agents in your dreams;
May you be comfy in your pronunciations of choice;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Well, do you?

[2] I like my flying dreams the best. I have epic flying dreams.

[3] People who know me and “approve” or agree with or are neutral (or couldn’t give a flying squirrel’s ass)  re my worldview don’t ask. Family and others who disagree and/or don’t approve have learned not to ask.

[4] Most (not all) religious people don’t use that word.

[5] Or just plain suck.

[6] I was not quite cognizant of the fact that my parents did not “decide to have me” at any certain date.

[7] Mostly adult relatives who used this term. This should be a no-brainer, but folks, never tell a child their birthday is “inconvenient.”

[8] Able, so far, to stay in her home – which is her resolutely expressed desire, no matter the emotional and financial detriment to others – with 24/7 care, arranged for and supervised by her children.

[9] I’ve learned the hard way never to go on autopilot and do the how are you? greeting, as she does not like to answer the question. “Well, I’m still here,” is her most optimistic (t) answer.

[10] And often re-writes to make it more cherish-able

[11] She wonders where he is, why he left her (as in, deserted her – she doesn’t remember he died), and why he and we (her adult children) are hiding this information from her?

The Chemicals I’m Not Balancing

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Department Of Sometimes I Just Can’t Help Myself

Last week I ordered some Star Trek birthday cards, featuring the visage of Captain Jean Luc Picard, from an Etsy vendor. The vendor emailed me to verify the order:

I just wanted to contact you to say thank you for your order and to confirm your shipping information. So, you would like a set of 5 Star Trek Next Generation Birthday cards, shipped to ______(my address)

I of course had no choice but to respond: Make it so.

 

 

facepalm

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Love Learning New Things

And here are four New Things ®  I’ve recently encountered. [1]  The first, via my “reupping” my volunteer status for C.A.T. (Cat Adoption Team).

 

 

flank

 

 

The typical female kitten or cat is (or once was) spayed via an abdominal incision. For several years now veterinarians have had the option of performing a “flank spay” – which uses a lateral entry. A lateral entry is especially useful for cats that are lactating, as it reduces chances of infection and makes it easier to monitor the incision as the cat does not have to be handled (turned on its back and its tender belly exposed) to do so.

 

 

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

 

New thing #2 is the third meaning of the word, abduction.

I was aware of the first two meanings of the word (1. The act of forcibly taking someone somewhere against their will; 2. The movement of a limb or muscle or other body part away from the mid-line of the body), but didn’t know that abduction is also a form of scientific reasoning, abductive  aka inference) reasoning:

…a form of logical inference which goes from an observation to a theory which accounts for the observation, ideally seeking to find the simplest and most likely explanation.

 

This came courtesy of a Freethought Radio podcast interview with physicist Sean M. Carroll,

 

 

Get on with it, please.

Get on with it, please.

 

 

New Thing #3: “Your brain has a chemical imbalance.”

That statement always sounded fishy to me, even when I was using it, with family members suffering from depression, to discuss their situation. Sure, it sounds scienc-y…but what does it actually mean?  As it turns out, in cases of brain disorders (aka depression and other mental illnesses), probably nothing, according to professor and psychologist Elliott Ingersoll, [2]. Ph.D. , who has given a provocative TED talk on the subject.

Unlike chemical imbalances in body organs or systems that can actually be measured (e.g. the insulin/blood sugar imbalance in diabetics, which can be measure through blood and urine tests), brain chemistry is highly complex and not completely understood. There is no way to measure levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and other messenger transmitters which may be involved in clinical depression, nor even an agreement on which ones are involved and what a “balance” of those would be.

I spent a decade researching psychopathology and psychopharmacology and neuroscience…but, I kept thinking I was missing something because I never came across what the actual chemicals were in this mysterious ‘chemical imbalance’ everyone kept talking about…. I came to realize that there was no such thing, and that, for years mental health professionals were telling clients, ‘You have a chemical imbalance in the brain,’ (A) there was no way to measure brain chemistry – it’s too complex and you can’t get it through peripheral measures like spinal fluid and, (B) I was more horrified to realize that this was being driven by marketing and pharmaceutical companies….”

(Dr. Ingersoll’s interview with Freethought Radio, 6-5-16

 

There is no New Thing #4.

 

rejoicing

*   *   *

Department Of Kids Say The Darndest Things

Background info to apropos to this Department:

  1. Our annual family Solstice/Christmas/Year’s end letter to family and friends opens with a quote from each family member, chosen by each person to be somehow representative of the year for that particular family member…or to just confuse people.
  1. Son K is reveling in young adulthood: gainfully and happily employed, he’s residing in a house he rents along with four of his friends.

On Monday, apropos of seemingly nothing, K initiated the following exchange via FB Messenger:

K: Okay, my Christmas letter quote will be, “I am the Folks.”

Moiself: Nice to know in advance. I’m sure an explanation will be forthcoming.

K: door to door sales type guy asked if my folks were home and that was my response.

 

 

They are the folks.

They are the folks.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of All Things Must Pass

 

Buh-bye to our Honda Odyssey minivan. It joined our household…over sixteen years ago – can that be?  That’s the longest period of time MH or I have ever had a car.

MH decided to get the van during the height of his company’s stock boom years. While many of his (male) work peers were opting for what Perspicacious Friend ©  SCM describes to her daughter as, The kind of car a man buys when he has a small penis,” MH opted for the Practical Family Car ® . Indeed, the van served our family well over the years, with little output in terms of repairs, until recently, when that mutha Father Time turned it into a new-transmission-needing money pit.

Although I came to see the logic of acquiring a minivan, I was initially and strenuously opposed to the purchase. (“If I want to drive a bus I’ll get a job with Trimet,” I huffed to MH). And then, I found a way to make it  – driving a minivan, FFS – more tolerable to me: I bumper-stickered the holy crap outta that vehicle:

 

 

 

VanBumperStickersArgus

 

 

The above picture was taken (unbeknownst at the time, by me) by a reporter for the now defunct [3]  Hillsboro Argus, and appeared on the paper’s front page, circa late 2009. Although we subscribed to the paper MH and I had no idea the back of our van front page news, until a friend e-alerted us to check out the paper’s latest edition (“That HAS to be your van!”). The photo was accompanied by a sweet – if misleading – caption, written by someone who AS to be yourobviously didn’t read all the stickers:

No Personal politics on display, but a bumper crop of humorous stickers to make fellow motorists smile at stoplights.”

Over the years, after shopping at New Seasons Market or running some other errand, or returning to our van after, say, seeing a movie, we discovered hand-written notes pertaining to our stickers left on the windshield. On more than one occasion I returned to the van as someone was in the process of writing such a note. I enjoyed sneaking up on them, pretending to be Not The Owner, and usually greeted them by indicating the back of the van and cracking, “Get a load of these weirdos, eh?”  to gauge their reaction.

It’s hard to believe, given the political and freethought nature of many of the stickers, that not once did anyone leave a negative comment (or slash our tires). Most of the notes expressed sentiments along the lines of this one, the only one I kept:

 

 

vannoteJPG

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Exactly Late Breaking News

 

In fact, I was wondering why it was even considered news, when I read that Rep. Speaker of the Houser Paul Ryan announced he will support Trump.

What an earth-shaking, bone-breaking, tooth-rattling, sphincter clenching surprise that absolutely no one could have predicted: The Republican Party leader announces he will support the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

Please, someone bring me the smelling salts.

DO YOU SEE WHAT GAY MARRIAGE HAS LED TO ?!?!?!?!?!?!?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Snakes on a Plane! ( Actually, in terrariums…. )

That was the subject line in ads MH and I placed on Craig’s List and the FB page for Oregon Reptile Association. We are trying – successfully, if current arrangements go well – to re-home our cornsnake, T’Pol, and ball python, Andy.

The snakes were acquired many years ago by our offspring, along with the late great bearded dragon, Belle (from whom my daughter took her pseudonym for the purposes of this blog).

 

 

Blueberry-loving Belle

Blueberry-loving Belle

 

 

All were captive bred, acquired during the kids’ Reptile Are Cool Years ®  (Belle the BD has since gone to join the great Beardy collective consciousness). In the past couple of years the snakes weren’t getting much pet action, what with son K and daughter Belle out of the house; thus, MH and I decided that finding another home for them was a Nest Cleaning ® thing to do.

 

 

T'Pol on a hot day, enjoying a dip in her water dish.

T’Pol on a hot day, enjoying a dip in her water dish.

 

 

We let K and Belle know of our intentions. [4]  Even as they understand our reasons for re-homing the reptiles, I imagine they’ve a certain sense of poignancy re the matter: another piece of childhood passing by.

 

 

 A rare picture of Andy not curled up into a ball (which ball pythons like to do).

A rare picture of Andy not curled up into a ball (which ball pythons like to do).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Signs Of The Times

The first (and not last, I hope) political yard sign of the season that’s made me laugh.

 

 

suck

 

*   *   *

Department Of Current Events: In Case You Hadn’t Noticed

I am not planning on addressing the case of the Stanford Student/Swimmer who raped an unconscious women in this space. The despicable incident is just now coming to the general public’s attention due to the sentencing of the rapist and the revealing statements from the victim, the rapist’s father, and the rapist himself. I’ve let just a smidgen of my disgust and outrage leak out onto FB, but I just cannot go there…here.

 

*   *   *

May you heed the signs of the times;
May you leave kind notes on other people’s windshields;
May you be able to there when you are here,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] New to moiself, although other people may find some of these tidbits old nets.

[2] Yep, related to (a great-grandnephew of) the greatest American few people outside of the Freethought and atheist communities have heard of, the 19th century civil rights champion, orator & lawyer Robert G. Ingersoll.

[3] as an actual, as opposed to virtual, community newspaper.

[4] And overrule it, should they be able to provide a home (read: get a landlord’s approval) for one or both snakes.

The Parents I’m Not Blaming

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Or, am I?

*   *   *

Department Of Not Ignoring The 800 Lb Gorilla In The Room

That would be the 450 lb gorilla named Harambe, an endangered silverback who is no longer in the room (at the Cincinnati Zoo). As you’ve probably heard by now, Harambe was shot and killed last week by zookeepers to protect a three-four year old [1] boy who had somehow climbed under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the gorilla’s enclosure.

Visitors. Guests. The Public  whatever you call them (that is, us), zoological parks, National and State Parks and wilderness preserves and  animal conservancies couldn’t exist without them.  And, as any park employee [2] can tell you, the most dangerous animals to be found at such preserves are the humans.

 

 

zoo1

 

 

MH and I have been members of the Oregon Zoo for a long time. Both our son K and daughter Belle were active in the ZooTeens program and other zoo internships, service and educational programs for 5+ years. Through our membership level, our own years of attending the zoo, and our kids’ involvement with some amazing mentors, we’ve been privy to behind-the-scenes info and stories from zoo staff and volunteers…which is leading up to this: you wouldn’t believe the crazy, stupid, irresponsible (and sometimes just plain malicious) shit some people will pull.

Take this story, of the Very Tall Dad who, holding his infant daughter in his arms, pushed through shrubbery to get as close as he could to the railing guarding the concrete moat surrounding the tiger enclosure. While his wife aimed her camera at him, VTD stretched his very long arms out as far as he could to make it appear as if he were dangling his baby above the tiger enclosure.

I heard about this from zoo employee ZE, a much-loved mentor to many ZooTeens. The afternoon this debacle-in-the-making unfolded, ZE happened to be walking by the tiger enclosure on her way another area of the zoo. She quickly approached the parents and pointed out that they were endangering both the tigers and their child. The parents were shocked out of their astonishing act of idiocy by the reality check from ZE, and thanked her accordingly:

Oh my goodness, you are so right, and we are so sorry! We were thoughtless and acted rashly, and set a bad example for other parents and children, and put you in an awkward situation. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

 

 

REALLY

 

 

Of course they didn’t. Snap out of it!

The actual reaction: the father glared at ZE and snarled, Fuck you as he and his equally white trash negligent immature partner wife scurried away.

Over my two decades plus of zoo-going, I’ve received similar responses from The General Public ®  when I’ve kindly yet firmly pointed out to people that their children were climbing over/under barriers (not into animal enclosures, but barriers meant to keep people on the trail and not trample plant habitats) or tossing their litter into animal habitats or pounding their hands against terrarium walls or shrieking in front of enclosures (in defiance of signs clearly pointing out that the animal inhabitants were sensitive to loud noises) or otherwise yelling/roaring at/taunting the animals [3]….

 

 

zoo2

 

So. We have the template, of both intentional and unintentional negligence and even willful harm, that is part of what happens when you have people at zoos.  [4] And then, there are the accidents. A kid got away from his mom, somehow got into an animal enclosure, and a beloved, valuable member of a highly endangered species is dead.

Social media is doing what social media does: casting blame, seemingly without pausing for a moment’s reflection, and abetting what has become our new national pastime. Why pay $ for tickets to a baseball game when you can, for free and in the comfort of your own living room, shame/vilify/judge the parenting skills of other people? The parents should be brought up on child endangerment charges/shot and skinned and their hides sold and the money donated to endangered gorilla/wildlife  reserves….

 

 

Yet another thoughtful rumination.

Yet another thoughtful rumination.

 

 

My Unofficial Survey On The Matter ®  indicates that most people commenting online on the matter are blaming the parents (read: mother), while a smaller percentage fault the zoo for not having a foolproof enclosure: …it could be argued that she (the boy’s mother) surely trusted the zoo to have an enclosure that was childproof.”

And I surely trusted that most people who have the slightest familiarity with children doubled over with thigh-slapping laughter after reading that statement.

 

 

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

An enclosure that was childproof.  I made no such assumption when I took my kids to the zoo, or anywhere, for that matter – even to another family’s home. [5] There is not an enclosure in the world that is childproof, or (adult) human willful stupidity-proof.

It seems there is the opportunity every day, skimming through the news, for us read about the consequences of the human propensity for doing stupid things/not paying attention/thinking “it won’t happen to me.”  Yet, like most blowholes concerned citizens ruminating over this tragic affair, I wasn’t there. Thus, I can only imagine how the tragedy unfolded…and, of course, cast hindsight judgments about what zoo officials should or shouldn’t have done, and what the gorilla would or wouldn’t do, after viewing the one video that has surfaced.

What with our Selfie Society, wherein everyone is seemingly documenting every minute of their noteworthy lives, there’s got to be another shaky cellphone  recording of the incident (or a zoo security videocam) that might shed more light on the situation. Until that or other accounts surface, we’ve only a few bystander reports, including the story of A woman who witnessed the boy’s fall said she heard the youngster say he wanted to get in the water with the gorillas. She said the boy’s mother was with several other young children and told him no.

There will continue to be a crap-ton of second, third, and twentieth guessings: the mother will be blamed (perhaps, rightfully) for not noticing the boy signaling his intent to get into the enclosure and/or for her negligent parenting skills (who is responsible for the fact that her son obviously didn’t take her “no” seriously?!?!!?), while others will point out the naiveté and willfulness of a three year old.  And, seriously folks, what parents reasonably suspect that toddlers will follow through on every desire they express? “Mommy, I wanna play with the gorilla” does not immediately translate into the almost unthinkable, Uh oh, this means my kid is going to run away from me and find a way to get into that gorilla enclosure.

The parents of the boy aren’t talking (as of this writing), except for releasing a statement through a public relations firm – a statement that froze my butt, almost as much as the whole incident itself:

“We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff…”

 

Typical.

 

 

epicurious

 

 

The parents thanked their imaginary friend – for what? For apparently picking his holy nose while their child scrambled away from his mother and somehow got up/over/under barriers and fell into the gorilla enclosure? They thanked their “lord” for their boy’s safety, a “lord” who did nothing while the gorilla alternately (arguably) protected the boy and dragged him around the enclosure [6]?  What, pray tell,  [7] exactly, did that lord do to deserve thanks? Did their deity magically/invisibly aim the gun that the heartbroken keepers used to kill the gorilla – a beloved creature mourned by his caretakers as “a gentle giant” and “like a member of the family” –  in order to protect the errant toddler from his own folly and/or parental negligence?

Once again, I digress.

Look. The parenting thing: I’ve been “there,” and it is truly amazing, even frightening, how quickly a child can apparently vanish when you do the proverbial turn your head just for a moment to check on something.

But – you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you? – I’ve also been to and witnessed the other “there.” I’ve seen the there where parents turn their heads for way more than for a moment –the there where parents carelessly and sometimes seemingly deliberately focus their attention elsewhere, and/or expect others to pick up their slack.

;

As animal expert Jeff Corwin put it, “the zoo is not your babysitter.” And, I would add, also not your babysitter is the candy aisle of the grocery store, the video and electronics section of Costco, the furniture section of the department store…nor any of the other public places and/or employees I’ve seen parents use as virtual/free childcare. Including the doctor’s office. [8]  [9]

 

*   *   *

May we all be accountable for our actions;
May we also be understanding of lapses in judgment and other human frailties;
May we work to ensure that empathetic humans are not an endangered species;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

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[1] I have read conflicting reports as to the boy’sage.

[2] If you know them well enough and can get them alone/willing to speak off the record.

[3] This seems to be, in my experience, largely the territory of late adolescent/early adult young males who, when they get near the larger felines, bears and or other predator species, are trying to prove…what are they trying to prove?

[4] Or at the DMV, for that matter.

[5] I was One Of Those Parents © who asked other parents, when my kids were going to their house for the first time, if they had firearms in the house (and if so, how/where are they stored) and if there were cigarette smokers in the house (smokers tend to leave matches and lighters around, and every small child is an inherent firebug).

[6] Depending on which animal behavior expert’s interpretation you read.

[7] On second thought, ignore the expression. Don’t pray, just tell.

[8] “Oh, I can bring him in the room with me and you can just watch him for a bit, can’t you?” Sure, lady, it’ll be no problem for me to use my other four hands to restrain your child while I’m prepping the pap smear slide for the doctor who is PERFORMING YOUR PELVIC EXAM.

[9] Yes, that scenario has happened to me, and more than once, during my former reincarnation as a women’s reproductive health care assistant.

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