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The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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

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

 

 

 

billie Jo

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

grocery guardians

 

 

 

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

 

*   *   *

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

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

Impatient Mother called out to the girls,

“You are not running away from me!”

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Was I that easily amused when I was younger?

 

*   *   *

They’re here!

 

 

harpandfuchsia

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is One Big Celebration

 

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

 

 

Dingle2

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

wind

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] Yes, there is such a pose.

The Ethics Code I’m Not Violating

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As you may remember from the last two weeks, I am openly and admittedly violating the Bloggers Code of Ethics ® by posting little current/relevant content while I am taking a blog sabbatical. [1]

 

 

shame

 

 

 

As you may already know, the Bloggers Code of Ethics ® is similar to many other historical charters, from Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights to the Port Huron Statement, it its ground-breaking declaration  [2] of and reflection on human rights…

 

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

 

…except that, OH FUDGESICLES, that’s right – there is no Bloggers Code of Ethics ®.  Nothing even close to it exists.

Either that, or I didn’t get the memo.

 

 

memo

That’s so precious – she thinks she is worthy of my memo.

 

 

 

Lest loyal readers think I have shirked my public interest responsibility, I shall bore the knickers off y’all keep you both entertained and informed by posting these reminders of the relevant celebrations unique to this day.

 

 

bored

Please, don’t keep us in suspense.

 

 

 

While you may know that June 9 is the 160th day of the year, you may not be aware that it is celebrated around the world as

* National Heroes Day in Uganda.

*Autonomy Day for the Åland Islands

* National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day

* National Donald Duck Day [3]

* Coral Triangle Day [4]

* National Earl Day

 

The latter day honors “legends” named Earl, from banjo whiz Earl Scruggs to basketball’s Earl “The Pearl” Monroe to SCOTUS chief Justice Earl Warren. In this every-kid-gets-a-trophy syndrome world it seems acceptable if not fitting that every Earl gets his day…but where could I find a mention of the most infamous Earl of all?

Right here, y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you get your trophy if not your day;
May you shamelessly violate nonexistent ethics codes;
May you be patient with this space for just another week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] First pathetically presented  candidly mentioned in my May 26 post.

[2] This would be a good place for a footnote.

[3] Please don’t let me footnote this reference. Do you really want more information about such a day?

[4] A day to promote and raise awareness of the ocean conservation and protection, particularly that of “The Coral Triangle – aka the tropical marine waters of the Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands areas.

The Beer I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Except That It Was

Another week, another celebrity demise, another chance for everyone to get it wrong. But not in the way most people think.

I refer to friends and former coworkers of Erin Moran (best known for playing Joanie on Happy Days), who received a bit o’ splash back for their comments after her death. Some of the comments either directly mentioned or alluded to the actor’s well-known struggles with substance abuse as the likely cause of her death.

Indeed, the rush to remark upon and speculate about a famous person’s death is worthy of a modicum of scorn. It seems celebs often Twitter-trip over themselves to see who can be the first to express condolences and…opinions.  If, for whatever reasons, you feel the world needs your commentary within hours of the death notice, can you just say to her family and friends that you’re sorry for their loss, and leave it at that?

There’s more to the story. In my mind, at least. When it was revealed that Moran had been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, the self-righteous gotcha! critics took aim at the self-righteous she-died-from-substance-abuse speculators:  Aha! Shame on you! It was cancer, it wasn’t drugs!

Except that it was.

There’s more ways to die from substance abuse or drug overdose or to have a drug-related death than by choking on your own vomit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of this writing, it appears that Moran died from throat cancer. Throat cancer is one of many cancers caused by cigarette smoking. Moran was a longtime cigarette smoker.

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, DeeDee Ramone, Philip Michael Hoffman, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley – we’ve all heard or seen the list of hundreds if not thousands of musicians and actors, politicians and reporters and others in the public eye who’ve died of drug overdose/substance abuse.

George Harrison‘s name never appears on those lists, and that frosts my butt.

The Beatles’ lead guitarist and far too many of his comrades died from their chronic use of arguably the most powerful addictive substance – nicotine – known to humanity. However, their names do not appear in the annual toll of drug/substance abuse deaths.

Also not appearing on those lists: Yul Brynner, Spencer Tracey, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Peter Jennings, Desi Arnaz, Humphrey Bogart, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Fosse, Warren Zevon, Sarah Vaughn, and the other musicians, actors and artists who died from lung cancer and other cigarette-related diseases.  Is it because their deaths were due to their addiction to a toxin which happens to be legal?  [1]

 

 

cig

*   *   *

Department of Prom Dress Rugby

Because how much fun is that?

 

 

 

Last weekend  MH and I made a road trip up to Tacoma, to visit daughter Belle,  [2]  who lives in a rental house off-campus. As always during our visits with her  [3]  we found an excuse to go onto the college campus, such as:

(1)  it is a beautiful campus, so who needs an excuse?

(2)  to view and/or participate in Some Interesting Event ®

(3)  see reason (1)

(4)  there is no reason (4)

In the case of (2), Some Interesting Event ® turned out to be Belle’s (former) rugby teammates suiting up for their annual Prom Dress Rugby match. A tradition amongst many college women’s – and some men’s – rugby teams, a PDR match is pretty much what it sounds like. The women get decked out in formal finery (worn over their usual game uniforms) and play serious rugby…or as serious as you can be while charging up the pitch with your feather boa dangling behind you or trying not to grind your tiara in your teammate’s ass during a scrum.

Referees of any gender – and often the men’s rugby team members, in solidarity – also don the festive attire (I imagine thrift shop owners local to colleges with PDR events are pleased at the spike in used formal wear sales).  Sometimes PDR events are mixed gender: not quite the Battle of the Sexes, more like The Battle Of Tuxes And Dresses, wherein the men’s team wear prom dresses and the women’s tuxedos, and the teams play an exhibition match against one another, usually to raise money for charity.

While Belle remains an active supporter of her school’s rugby teams, her class and work schedules have not allowed her to be a member of the women’s rugby team this year. I have mixed feelings about that. I love the fact that she has taken advantage of the opportunities around her, to try/learn new skills and activities (that’s what you do in college, right?), from lumberjack axe-throwing to rugby to kick boxing to being a disc jockey at her school’s radio station. I also and decidedly do not miss the weekly (no exaggeration  [4] ) bills MH and I  received, during her sophomore year, from various doctors, hospital, physical therapy, urgent care and other medical facilities – bills which resulted from an enthusiastic and but relatively petite young woman participating in so physical an activity.

 

 

rugbygirl

Image not to scale.

Department Of How Can I Make This About Moiself

Via Belle’s participation in the sport, the more I learned about the forthright and festive and playful “culture” of college rugby, the more I wish I had further pursued an invitation to join the UC Davis women’s rugby team.

 

 

 

 

tellmemore

 

 

 

I was involved in athletics throughout high school. During my senior year, after I had been accepted at The University of My Choice ® (aka UC Davis), I received a letter from the UCD Athletic department. The letter was both brief and fawning – a note saying they’d heard of my athletic “accomplishments” and were thus extending me the honor of an invitation to try out for their field hockey team.  [5]  I had a good laugh showing the letter to my family, and then responded with a letter of my own, in which I briefly and non-fawningly declined the invitation.

I’d enjoyed my various school sport adventures, from field hockey to volleyball to track & field to badminton, but I’d had enough of schedules and practices. While I intended to try out the occasional intramural sport while in college – and is there any game more fun than inner tube water polo[6] – I viewed my continuing participation in team sports as…well, as so high school. College was going to be a new thing, much more intense academically than high school, I assumed (and hoped), and I didn’t want to tie myself down to any other time-consuming extracurricular schedule.

I can’t exactly recall how she found me, but early in my first quarter of my college freshman year a short but strapping young woman knocked on my dorm room door one afternoon.  She said she was on the women’s rugby team, and asked if I’d be interested in attending a rugby scrimmage, as an observer. She’d gotten my name from the UCD field hockey coach, and while she was aware that I wasn’t interested in being on the UCD field hockey team, she figured that my having been a hockey player meant I must like sports requiring running and endurance, and the rugby team was seeking new players….

What the heck; I had a free afternoon. Like most Americans then (or now, I’d wager), I knew next to nothing about rugby, and thought it might be a jolly good show to watch something that required an effort of concentration for moiself, as a spectator, to try and figure out what the heck was going on.

 

 

       

rugbydance

Watched it; still didn’t know what the heck was going on.

 

 

 

 

While not vain about my appearance, [7]  I was fond of (most of) my body parts and in particular my teeth; thus, after observing two scrums, I thought, I’m outta here.

A minute after coming to that conclusion I chided moiself for making such a snap judgment – or for, as The Young People Of Today ® say, for getting’ all judgy.

I stayed for the rest of the practice. In an attempt to be cordial and to also learn more about the sport, I made conversation with She Who Had Invited Me. It turns out SWHIM didn’t know much more about the rules than what I, a newbie observer, was deducing moment by moment. Still, SWHIM was filled with enthusiasm for her new sport. She told me she’d participated in everything from field hockey to basketball to softball to swimming in high school, and had decided that rugby was the best game, ever.

I stopped prodding her about regulations and strategy, and asked what she personally found so enjoyable about rugby. The skills required? The workouts? The strategy? The…?

“Oh, it’s just the best!” she gushed. “After every game, we party with the men’s team. AND THEY BUY ALL THE BEER !!”

 

promrugby

 

*   *   *

May you be cognizant of which drugs you use or abuse;
May you realize that the best use for a prom dress has nothing to do with the prom;
May the other team always buy all the beer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] But alcohol is legal, and alcohol poisoning and related deaths are included on those lists.

[2] A junior at the University of Puget  Sound.

[3] And prior to that, with her brother, K, who graduated from the same school three years ago.

[4] I thought we check into running a tab at the Tacoma Urgent care clinics.

[5] The honor did not include mention of a scholarship or any $$$.

[6] Which was invented at UC Davis, ahem and hurrah!

[7] Then, as now, I walked around looking like…well…looking like moiself.

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 Subject I’m Not Avoiding

1 Comment

 

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

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

But, I didn’t.

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

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

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

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

Content warning: TMI

Las

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

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

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

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

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

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

The Plot I’m Not Developing

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Happy (belated) Vernal Equinox!

This particular astronomical phenomena – one of two moments each year when our sun is exactly above the equator [1] and which, in March, heralds the arrival of the season we call Spring – is deserving of a more sophisticated name, IMHO. The way my mind works, when I hear the words Vernal Equinox I think of a hillbilly mother hollering off the front porch for her miscreant son to come home for dinner:

“VERRRRRRNAAAAAAL!
Vernal Equinox, you git yer sorry butt home right now ‘fore I throw yer supper to the hound dawgs!”

 

 

 

 

axialtilt

Axial tilt is the reason for the season (any season).

*   *   *

Department Of No, In Fact, They Are Not

We recently lost one of our cherished pets, our oldest cat, Mandy.
We never had children, so our pets ARE our children.

This was opening line in a letter to Dear Abby, 3/23/17. The writer goes on to express her disappointment that not all of her friends have expressed condolences for her loss, as they would for the loss of a child.

Her loss is genuine and heartfelt – I get that, and have been there. But it doesn’t matter how enthusiastically you all-caps your sentiment, your pets ARE NOT your children. The fact that you never had children does not turn your animal companions into de facto children. By definition. Offspring of dogs = puppies; offspring of cats = kittens; offspring of humans = children.

“My puppies are my babies.”

“Our cats are our children.”

We’ve all heard some variation of this sentiment. Perhaps some of us have even uttered it. And I “get it,” when it is used to describe and/or elevate the importance of our bond with our pets. It can also be used, IMHO and observation, as a self-protective response from people who have pets but no children and think they need to defend their child-free status when asked by us breeders (many of whom can be quite smug and overbearing about the matter) about their children:

We don’t have children; we have two   ____ ( dogs; cats; African grey parrots ).               

However, in some cases I’ve gotten the impression that the utterers, particularly those who’ are child-free by choice, [2] are serious. That is, they actually equate the two.

My ____( dogs; cats; African grey parrots) are my children.

That statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is also, I think, insulting to the creatures on both sides of the equation.

Here’s something I’ve long wondered about:  why don’t we hear that sentiment going the other way?

To wit: I’m one of those Animal Lovers ® people, and if I’m out for a walk, or at a park and I encounter dog owners and their puppies (and I refer to all dogs as puppies), I admire the canines and say something complimentary to their owners. This typically evokes my fellow bipeds to inquire after my pet status. When asked if I have any dogs my answer is, merely and truthfully, “No, not currently.” I’ve never – not once – been tempted to respond, “No, but I have two children. My children are my puppies.”

 

 

 

puppypj

Alert the ASPCA – this is animal abuse.

*   *   *

Department Of Inter Species Maladies
Aka Someone (Or Some Thing) Needs To Strengthen Their Abs

 

Our garbage can has a hernia.

 

 

 

 

 

garbagecanhernia

*   *   *

Department Of Friends With Benefits

By that of course I refer to my Swenadian  [3] friend, currently living abroad while her husband has a temporary university teaching gig, who brightened my Monday morning with an email filled with jokes involving Swedish-English linguistic misunderstandings.  [4]  Such as….

*  The HR division of a British parent company sent out a mail to their daughter companies worldwide. It asked simply: ‘Please report the number of employees broken down by age and sex.’ From the Swedish office came the reply: “The number is zero. If our staff are broken down it is because of stress and alcohol, not age and sex.”

and my personal fave:

*  Lars and Ronny were dining at a restaurant in London. The waiter came to take their order. “I’ll have a bloody steak,” said Ronny. “And how would you like your fucking potatoes?” asked the waiter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why You Should Talk To Strangers

 

Wednesday 3/22/17: Dear Diary, I made a new friend today! [5]

I’m out running errands, ’tis lunch time, a bit earlier than I usually eat but my stomach is reminding me of my lighter-than-usual breakfast and there is Sushi Town and tummy says you can go there and get something healthy RIGHT NOW….

I’m so glad I did.

Two minutes after I was seated at the sushi bar a woman was seated next to me. She ordered hot tea and water to drink, as had I, and when she asked for a bowl of miso soup I realized I had forgotten to do so and signaled the server. The Woman Who Did Not Forget To Order Miso Soup and I struck up a conversation about – wait for it – miso soup. As in, which sushi restaurant has the best? One thing led to another, and TWWDNFTOMS and were still chatting, almost two hours later. We exchanged contact information and I learned that TWWDNFTOMS is actually the lovely and talented KS.  [6]

We had many things in common, including

*recent (moiself) and ongoing (KS) major life issues involving caring for frail, elderly mothers with dementia;

* having lived in/currently living in a certain Hillsboro neighborhood;

* other common interests from the sublime to the silly, including science and nutrition and current events and love of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie. [7]

 

 

 

miso

The soup that launched a thousand conversations.

 

 

 

 

When I tested the waters by referring to Current Occupant #45 as the person whose name is not allowed to be mentioned in my house I discovered that KS is not only an intelligent, delightful, perspicacious person and well-read person with a ready smile and a quick wit, she is also one of those people whose moral compass and IQ exceeds that of her shoe size – read: she is fighting the good fight, and actively working to save her country from its electoral folly.

KS currently has a stronger stomach for political involvement than I do, and joked that I might not want to friend her on FB because so many of her posts and links would be the ones I confessed to skipping over recently because I just can’t stomach the stress of the political mess. She and her husband are involved with Indivisible, a grass roots kind of organization which triggered a this-is-familiar feeling for me, even as I told her I wasn’t sure I’d hear of it…until I returned home and did a search about the grass roots organization. Indivisible is composed of citizens who, in the organization’s own words, are

…working to inspire a cultural shift in how Americans think about the role of government in America by training the next generation of civic-minded leaders, disrupting and reframing negative media discourse about government, and creating a network of champions to change the conversation about government in their communities.

The organization advocates for local civic education and involvement. Your Congressional Representative weasels out of a Town Hall meeting – hold your own, anyway, and here’s how to do it, effectively and positively.

Check it out, moiself recommends. And take a chance on sharing a bon mot or two with that stranger at the sushi bar, or in line at the Post Office. You never know what may come of it. They’re your species, after all.

*   *   *

Department Of For Some Reason This Was On My Mind

 

A Cinematic Blast From The Past:

Remarks from an email exchange with my friend and fellow movie lover CC, re why we both loved the film Winter’s Bone – a movie we saw separately and both admired, making us Jennifer Lawrence fans years before she hit the big time with The Hunger Games trilogy launched. What both surprises and saddens me is my use of the verb allow…because that’s what it feels like, sometimes, when it comes to movie roles for women.

A female protagonist, who is allowed to be just that – the protagonist, herself.  She does the right thing; she is allowed to be resourceful and discerning; she is emotionally and physically strong, but not cartoonishly so.  She is the main character, without a man to lead/guide/rescue her; without her character being an appendage to a man and/or his love interest.  She is allowed to be and do all of this and be female without her sexuality

(a) being in any way part of the plot, or

(b)being threatened by others, or

(c) being threatening to others.

The desperation of the character’s circumstances was more than adequately portrayed by the actor without having her bare breasts used to illustrate her vulnerability (see directors’and/or actors stock excuse: “The nudity was necessary to the plot/character development…”)

 

 

 

 

Winters-Bone

Whaddya waiting for – stream/rent this movie if you haven’t already seen it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things You Don’t Know You Need Until You See Them

To wit, an orange colander.  Along with the obvious, straining–liquid functionality, this handy device may also be used to protect against the kind of alien radio wave transmissions that apparently beset the Current Occupant, aka SCROTUS,  [8] aka #45, aka….

 

 

 

colander

*   *   *

May you be surprised by those things you didn’t know you needed;
May you appreciate puppies and kitties and babies for what they are;
May your nudity always be necessary to plot/character development;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And which in March is when the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun, giving us “longer” – sunnier days. The other equinox occurs in September, the Autumnal equinox, marking the arrival of Autumn.

[2] In contrast to those who would have liked to have had children but could not, due to infertility and/or other life circumstances.

[3] A married couple, the husband Swedish and the wife Canadian.

[4] Shame on those of y’all who thought for even a moment what the other the “benefits” might entail.

[5] My diary entry for the day, if I kept a diary, which I haven’t since, like, age eight, a venture which lasted for all of  two days….

[6] As in my custom in this blog, she and all other civilian will be referred to be initials or a nom de blog, unless or until she requests otherwise or runs for public office, or has a tawdry affair with Ryan Reynolds.

[7] Season 3 is available tonight!

[8] So Called Ruler of the United States.

The Toilet Seats I’m Not Believing

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‘Tis The Season

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

 

 

 

whiskey

*   *   *

About those snakes….

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

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

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

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

 

snakesplane

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

St. P) snakes

 

 

 

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

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

Good thing stuff like that never happens today!

 

 

creationism

*   *   *

Department Of More Petty Things About Moiself

 

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

 

 

ants

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

*   *   *

Department Of The Simple Pleasures Of Spring

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

WTF

 

 

 

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

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

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

*   *   *

.

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

Subject line in an email caught in my spam filter:

You won’t believe these three toilet seats.

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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