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The Hedgerow I’m Not Bustling

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Department Of I’m So Glad This One Made It Over The Fence

I refer of course to the Guatemalan blue banana squash, which was in our CSA share this week.   [1]

I’m not sure about the name; to moiself it looks more like a model of the Goodyear Blimp that had accidentally been zapped in a food dehydrator.

It’s almost too cute to cut. Methinks it will end up in a curry with some greens, or my fallback method:  when in doubt, roast it and turn it into soup.

 

 

bluebananasquash

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 Department Of Why I Feel I Must Apologize To Someone I’ve Never Met

There is, apparently, a designer with the unfortunate name of Helen Ficolora. I say unfortunate because, through no fault of Helen’s, who is likely proud of the Italian heritage indicated by her surname, the first time People Like Me ® hear her name we are likely to mishear it, and blurt out,  Helen FECAL FLORA? – what kind of name is that !?!

 

 

exclamation chip

You’re right – this picture has nothing to do with this blurb, but do you really want to see what I came up up with to illustrate fecal flora?

 

 

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Speaking Of Designers  [2]

Those with no too much time on their hands attentive attentive readers may remember the post from last month (9-1-17) regarding the t-shirts MH made for our eclipse viewing party:

Our astronomer friend and trip organizer MM posted pictures of the event on his FB page, which caught the eyes of two astronomy fashion bloggers.  [3]

MM contacted MH and let him know that the startorialist astronomers had noticed our group’s groovy shirts, and had asked for more photos and info on how the shirts were made, which they intended to post on one of their upcoming blog posts.

Upcoming is here: http://www.startorialist.com/ . Look for the link in the September archives.

 

 

eclipse

Look – there go our fifteen minutes – make that seconds –  of fame!

 

 

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Department of They’re Too Young to Get the Eleanor Rigby Reference

One route of the several routes I vary during my morning walks takes me through a local park around 7:50 am. At that time I typically see ~ 10-12 students, coming from all compass points, walking through the park, toward their bus stop.  A bus to the high school stops on the street which marks the eastern boundary of the park, at a point where one of the park trails veers off from the sidewalk. It is a prime people-watching opportunity for moiself, , albeit an increasingly disheartening one. Here is what I observed on Monday, which is, unfortunately, becoming par for the course.

I approached the park from the east, walking toward and then past the (unmarked) bus stop, and noted the students walking, from various directions, through the park, toward the street. Except for three gangly-buff, football player-ish looking boys who are standing within four feet of each another on the sidewalk, none of the students come together as a group. One stops under a tree, within 30 or so feet of the stop, and another goes to a picnic bench and several others all pick their own spots, some stopping in the middle of one of the park’s walking paths, within viewing distance of where the bus will pull up to the curb.  I walk past them and turn around to check out the scene…and then walk back the way I came so that I can brazenly look into their faces from about twenty feet away. Their eyes are glazed, and they pay me no mind.

Most of the students are wearing earbuds, and although it is a warm day, several of them have their hoodies pulled over their faces, and all of them – every goddamn one – are looking down at the their cell phones, captivated – read: numbed – by what, I can only guess. No student interacts with another person or with their environment, save to glance up every ten seconds or so toward the street, to see if the bus is approaching.

I remain there, watching for a while. No one watches me in return. None of them are smiling; their faces are devoid of expression. Even the four boys standing by or “with” each other are not talking to each other. And I am overwhelmed by the thought that whatever they are doing, however “social” they (think they) are being through their phone media, no matter what kind of “friend“  they may be interacting with via their tiny screens, they all look so…isolated.  And so incredibly lonely.

 

 

 

allthelonely

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Goodbye, Mr. Christmas

Mr. Christmas has died.

I don’t know if either son K or daughter Belle remember the trip we made to his house. It many years ago, when we were in the Bay Area (specifically Concord, CA) visiting with my younger sister, RAPV, and her family, who were hosting our extended family fore Thanksgiving. The day after Tday RAPV insisted she had something special to show us, and that night we made the pilgrimage to Olive Dr., to see an ordinary house turned into a light spectacle…well, I thought my retinas would go into spasms. [4]

Bruce Mertz, the Concord man known around Contra Costa County as ‘Mr. Christmas’, has died. He was 87.
Mertz owned the home on Olive Dr. in Concord, and for 36-years during Christmastime, he decorated his home with thousands of lights and custom made characters.
A documentary about Mertz was made by filmmaker Nick Palmer in 2014.
(from Claycord News & Talk, 10-11-17)

 

 

 

mrchristmas

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Two Sad Stories In A Row – Must Be Time For The Scotsman

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of I So Would Have Said It If He’d Been Wearing A Led Zeppelin Tee Shirt

Dateline: Last Friday, at the Whole Foods  [5] register. A man standing behind line dropped a paper bag as he was transferring the items in his hand cart to the register belt. I don’t know what was in the bag – but something made a loud, crackling sound when the bag hit the floor, and I turned to see if anything had broken or if the man needed assistance. As the man bent down to retrieve the bag he looked up, an expression of agitation on his face…and it just came to me in a flash.

I almost said to him, “You seem alarmed; is there a bustle in your hedgerow?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you know the simple pleasure of contemplating an oddly-shaped winter squash;
May you hold in your heart, for just a moment, all the lonely people;
May you realize that the bustle in your hedgerow is just a spring clean for the May Queen;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Our CSA is La Finquita del Bujo, or “Little Farm of the Owl,” in the scenic farmlands north of Hillsboro.

[2] Even if you weren’t, we can pretend.

[3] The blog’s motto: Where science meets fashion and scientists get fabulous!

[4] Mr. Christmas had a donation box attached to the (light-bedecked, of course) fence around his yard – I can only imagine his electric bill.

[5] Brought to you by Amazon ®

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?

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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?).

 

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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.”

 

 

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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 Sabbatical I’m Not Taking

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sabbatical – noun [ C/U ] US /səˈbæt̬·ɪ·kəl/:
time away from work given to college or university teachers, esp. to study, write, or travel:
“Professor Logan will be on sabbatical this term.”
(Cambridge English Dictionary)

 

For the next three to four posts I will be taking a blog sabbatical.

 

 

 

 

mourners

 

 

 

 

Get a hold of y’all-selves; it’s all right. I will still be posting a blog on the upcoming Fridays….

 

 

martha

 

 

 

…but there will not be “timely” material featured. Just a smattering of significant celebratory dates, old jokes, and likely a baby sloth picture or two, as space placeholders for your edification and entertainment.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

For example, did you know that May 26 is celebrated round the world as International Eggplant Hygiene Day?  [1]

It isn’t (as far as I know). But it is Sally Ride Day,-. Also,  May 26 was also the first day (in 1897) that Bram Stoker’s Dracula went on sale in British bookstores.

Speaking of isnts, there isn’t one eggplant joke I can think of. And that’s just wrong. Although I once purchased an eggplant at a supermarket that looked like a profile shot of Richard Nixon.  [2]   But that’s no joke.

 

 

 

 

eggplant

 

 

 

 

Apparently, there is a pantheon of photographs of veggies thought to resemble human buttocks, although those images are too tasteless for this space.

 

 

 

 

buttocks

Then again….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait Wait I Found One!  [3]

 

The grocery store’s teenaged produce stockboy is stacking fruit on a display stand, when an elderly lady asks him, “Do you have any eggplant?”

“Sorry ma’am,” the stockboy replies, “we are out of eggplant. We’ll be getting a shipment tomorrow morning.”

The lady looks around the store some more, returns to the stockboy a few minutes later and asks where the eggplant is. “As I said, ma’am…” The boy smiles patiently. “I’m sorry we’re out of eggplant, but we will be getting a shipment tomorrow morning.”

The lady looks around some more, then returns to the same stockboy.  “Where the hell do you keep the eggplant?,” she demands.  “I need some eggplant for dinner tonight!”

“Right,” the stockboy sighs. “Answer a couple of questions and I will get you your eggplant.” She agrees, and he starts the questions. “Spell cat for me, as in catastrophe.” She says, “Ok; “C A T”.

“Very good,” the stockboy says. “Now, spell dog, as in dogmatic.” The lady, obviously getting irritated, spells it correctly. “Now,” the stockboy says, “spell, Fuck, as in eggplant.”

The old lady sputters indignantly, “There’s no Fuck in eggplant!” To which the stockboy says, “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THE WHOLE TIME!”

 

 

*   *   *   [4]

May you listen to what the stockboys are trying to tell you;
May you never fail to think of eggplant jokes;
May you take a sabbatical, however you define it;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Please be thinking to yourself, “No, I didn’t know that, because no one knows that.”

[2] It sat around the kitchen counter for weeks until it’s protuberance which looked like Nixon’s ski jump of a nose deteriorated – I couldn’t bear to cook it.

[3] An eggplant joke, that is.

[4] Why are you looking here? Footnotes are never associated with those starry-thingies. At least, not in this blog.

The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

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Department of IF ONLY

Dateline: Tuesday, April 25, 8:31 am. I turn to the last page of the New York Times Arts section, only to have my eyeballs unexpectedly and viciously assaulted [1] by an enormous, surgically-stiffened nightmare of a visage – it is an advertisement for a “book.” The “face” to which I referred currently belongs to a particular offshoot from a particular celebrity-mongering hominid tribe. The ad takes up the entire page

The entire fucking page.

A really big headline –  FINALLY, THE WHOLE STORY – menacingly looms above a really big picture of the product being flogged: the ironically and erroneously entitled, The Secrets Of My Life. Caitlyn Jenner.

 

 

 

KHAN

No. No.  No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

If only such would truly be kept confidential – which is in fact what a secret is.  That title; that book; those people…. So wrong, on so many levels. Including that of basic word usage and definitions. How can there be any “secrets” about any member of that conniving clan of celebrity seekers whose only talent is self-promotion – a tribe who seemed determined to convince The Rest Of Us ®  that a colonoscope’s view into their every moment is warranted?

 

 

policetape

Back off, folks. Move along; there’s nothing here to see.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Correspondence Re Dead Friends

Bay Area friends LH and DH, who are very much alive, were up for a visit last weekend. LH, a fellow UCD alum, had expressed her condolences re the death of my friend since college, Jim, the One Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet ® (mentioned in last week’s blog).  LH has also experienced the recent passing of several loved ones, and we email wondered (e-wondered?) back and forth about the situations. Are we getting to that stage in our lives, or are these deaths just a wobble in the Circle Of Life’s orbit?

Here is what moiself mused:

 One of the things I’ve long admired about some of the Buddhist perspectives on life is that there is an admission, right up front, that life is tough! No one gets out alive (well, then there is that silly reincarnation crap….).

I wish I could remember the phrasing; I know it’s not the 4 Noble Truths or the 8 Fold Path (Buddhism is big on numbering things), but a few years back I came across a list of Buddhist observations that were as profound as they were simple. I kept the list in my office, and now I can’t find it (a cat probably barfed on it, and it got thrown out).

It forthright, yet somehow not depressing, and goes something like this:

It is in my nature to grow old;

– It is in my nature to contract illness;

– It is in my nature to have the cat barf on things that are important to me.

And so on. As you may have guessed, that third observation isn’t really attributed to the Buddha (but if he’d had a cat I know he would have been enlightened on the matter).

So, I guess it is in our nature to, as the years go by, be adding to our list of loss. That doesn’t mean I have to like it…

I guess it keeps me humble, how even the things I *know* are inevitable (like my mother’s and Jim’s deaths) and think I have prepared for still sneak up and kick me in the spleen. And I want to kick back SO HARD but there’s nothing to aim at. At least the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course I recently completed is helping.

WAIT  WAIT – I FOUND IT! It is called The Five Remembrances (see, I told you about the numbers thing). The idea behind the Five Remembrances is this: when we deny the reality of life, we appreciate it less. There are several versions/phrasings; the following is attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh.

* I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

* I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

* I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

* All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

* My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

 

 

buddha cat

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ve Always Thought My Dinner With Andre Was Overrated,
But Dinner With A Dung Beetle Is Spectacular

The lowly dung beetles – where would we be without them?   [2]  Dung beetles are some of the most unappreciated creatures on this planet, so I was thrilled to run across a short-but-sweet video clip about them, via the NY Times. Dinner With a Dung Beetle is a presentation about – a tribute to, really – these vital creatures.

Naturally, the dung beetle video got me to thinking about potluck dinner parties.

 

 

siriusly

 

 

Yes, seriously.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: when our now young adult offspring were still living at home), we used to host potluck dinner parties for ~ 20 – 30 people on a regular basis. The parties always had a theme, and guests were encouraged to bring food to share that they could justifiably claim was appropriate to the theme.

Past dinner party themes included

Cusina Obscura  [3]

*  White Trash Potluck   [4]

*  The PuPu Palace   [5]

*  Better Red Than Dead  [6]

One of our most memorable parties was held in the autumn of 2005, when MH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself transformed our humble abode into The Dung Beetle Café. The guests were encouraged to bring round or “roll-able” culinary creations, in honor of dung beetles but also to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Or, at least that’s how we convinced our guests to attend.

The real story behind what sparked the party theme was an evening several weeks prior to the party, when my ungrateful wretches darling offspring complained yet again about the exotic (to their middle school palates) meal I had once again served for dinner…which lead to them being treated to the following harangue serene clarification from moiself.

Do you know how lucky you are? You should be thankful we’re not…uh…a family of wolves. What if your father and I were wolves? Each night, after a long day of hunting, we’d return to the den, greet our pups – that’s YOU – with howls of, “We’re home – gather ’round, time to eat!” And then we’d serve you dinner by regurgitating the elk we’d eaten and partially digested.

Or what if we were…dung beetles, yeah! What if we were a family of dung beetles?  “Hey Mom, what are you making for dinner tonight?”  The answer would be the same, Every. Single. Time. “Good news, kids, it’s DUNG for dinner!”

 

While my kids counted their blessings I left the dinner table, scurried to my office and wrote myself a note about what would be the theme for our next dinner party. The rest is potluck party history.

 

 

 

dung

Is this a great party or what?!

 

 

 

About a year or so ago MH heard someone tell a dung beetle joke – the first dung beetle joke MH had ever heard. Romantic fool that he is, he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. I was smiling the rest of the day, in awe of the joke’s masterful sublimity. I’m smiling right now, just to have this chance to share it with lucky y’all.

A dung beetle walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Is this stool taken?”

 

 

 

duck

The chicken doesn’t talk, either.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you have many great remembrances of many friends;
May you appreciate culinary diversity in all forms;
May you tell me every dung beetle joke you hear, the moment after you hear them;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1]  I feel as if my retinas have been scarred. And it’s not like I was standing in line at the supermarket and caught a glimpse of a tabloid headline, and could then look away. I turned the page of a (formerly) respectable newspaper, and was ambushed.

[2] Answer: covered in manure.

[3] Foods of the “minor” cuisines, as defined by people’s familiarity with the cuisine and/or its availability in restaurants.  In other words, none of the usual suspects — French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, German, Moroccan….  How about Gourmet Guyanan?  Savory Samoan?  Nouvelle Netherlands or Norwegian Noshes? Tasty Tibetan? Yummy Yemeni…?  

[4] White Trash Food was defined for the party as embarrassing comfort food. From the party invitation:  That is, food you (at one time) ate and even liked, but would hesitate to share with others. Are you ashamed to admit you loved your school cafeteria’s “Salmon Surprise?” Do you secretly crave your Aunt Erva’s liver/lima bean/cream cheese casserole, or have fond flashbacks re surviving college on Kraft Mac and/or Stouffer’s chicken pot pies?  This is your chance to share these goodies with others, in an atmosphere of mutual confession, acceptance, and acid reflux.

[5] Pupus, as in appetizers and “finger foods.” From the Hawaiian-derived term  pū-pū, which indicates a relish, appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre.

[6] Guests were asked to bring a Red Food dish to share.  There are the classics — Cajun red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. An imaginative interpretation of the theme was strongly encouraged, as we feared dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup.

The Ancestors I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of Sourdough Analogy
Hint: An Acorn Is Not An Oak Tree

My sourdough starter, “fed” and bubbling, plus the right proportions of flours, water, salt, an autolyse period, an initial rise, a final shape and rise followed by baking in a properly preheated oven, usually/hopefully (but not guaranteed every time – ask any baker) will yield a loaf of sourdough bread. But the sourdough starter and flour and water and salt, separately or combined, are not a loaf of sourdough bread.

Picture this: At one of MH’s and my dinner gatherings, a friend/guest/family member expresses anti-reproductive choice sentiments just as I am about to pass the basket of homemade sourdough bread.

Yeah – someone getting all anti-abortion-y at a dinner party hosted my moiself? The scenario is a stretch to imagine,  [1] but bear with me:

 

 

 

bearjpg

Well, okay.

 

 

 

Depending on the vehemence of their sentiments (on a scale running from “I’d never have one or be the cause of one myself, but I’d never try to butt in on other people’s medical decisions,” to “A fertilized ovum is the equivalent of a person,” to  “Citizenship for sperm!”) they will be served some combination of the following: the raw sourdough starter, flour, water, salt, the pre-risen bread dough, the risen and shaped but unbaked bread dough – while the rest of us enjoy the actual bread.

 

bread

bread2jpg

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Almost Worth The Potential Global Destruction
And/Or At Least Worldwide Humiliation Regarding The Functioning Of Our So-Called Democratic Electoral System…

…to have someone like Cheetos Hitler be #45, so that someone could come up with One Of The Best Acronyms Ever ® .

It is a given that most sentient beings with moral compasses larger than a fleck of bellybutton lint refuse to refer to #45 as POTUS. Now – thanks to/may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless The Internet – we have a most fitting option:  SCROTUS.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents; [3] flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church [4] for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over a decade ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor veneration, not worship. For the love of the FSM, get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
1.  [with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith” [5] – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their imaginary friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees ,[6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts,  ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then. By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

 

candles

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

*   *   *

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind. A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the bestest, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.  [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, hejab –  to a full-body, Bro burqua, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended diety;  protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts –  must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

 

 

hejab

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

*   *   *

Department Of Factory Fail

For some reason I’d prefer to think that it was an assembly line glitch, rather than a human judgment call, which was responsible for putting this spice shaker style cap on a bottle of bay leaves:

 

 

bayleaves

*   *   *

May you choose the appropriate cap for your container;
May you acknowledge if not esteem those who blazed your family trails;
May you continue the resistance and gram ’em by the SCROTUS;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I do not know each and every political belief of each and every  member of my family and circle of friends. I’ve some anti-choice family members, who have yet to bring up the topic at a dinner table gathering.  With my friends I either know or surmise we are on similar pages re The Big issues .®  

[2] So Called Ruler of the United States.

[3] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking, It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[4] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who for whatever reasons are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

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