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The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

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…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 Headwind I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Future Aspirations

Yoga teacher giving instructions on how to perform Supported Bridge Pose:

* Place a yoga block by your side and lie supine on your mat, arms at your side.

*Bend your knees; rest your feet flat on the floor, hips width apart, toes and heels in a line, heels as close to your sit bones as possible.

* Exhale, press your feet into the floor. Inhale and gently lift your hips off your mat, just enough to slide the block underneath you.

* Position the block low against the back of the pelvis, so that your sacrum is supported on the block and your fleshy buttocks are just off the edge of the block….

In my next life I want to be a yoga teacher, if only to have a legitimate, professional reason to use phrases like,  fleshy buttocks.

*   *   *

Department Of Simple Pleasures That Have Me Humming Like An Idiot
For The Rest Of The Day

Last Friday, a few hours after last week’s blog was posted live, I was driving to yoga class, listening to The Local Radio Station With The Eclectic Playlist I’ve Mentioned Before ® (in the 2-24 post). I had to take time for a driveway moment  [1] when I got to my destination (or perhaps in that case, a parking lot moment?).

Whatever the name of the pause, I had to take it. Because, apropos of nothing, the station had begun playing the theme song to the cartoon series, Underdog.

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve even thought of that show, or heard the theme song? [2]

 

 

 

underdog

♫… speed of lightning, roar of thunder/  fighting all who rob or plunder….♫

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Privilege Schmivelige – Appreciate The Reality Of Your Tailwinds

 

No, this is not an elaborate set up for a fart joke.

 

 

astonishedspock

I find your assurance quite unnecessary, given the fact that all known sentient species appreciate  fart jokes.

 

 

Ahem. I instead refer to the Freakonomics podcast I recently listened to (the March 15 episode). The episode has the provocative if whiny title , Why Is My life So Hard? . This podcast has, IMHO, performed a public service by giving us another metaphor with which to understand the much-debated concept of privilege.

It seems that some white men feel put upon when it comes to any discussion of the white male privilege thing. Or perhaps I should say, some “men who believe that they are white,” as author Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, in his wonderful book, Between the World and Me.  Coates reminds us that DNA and genetic analysis show there is no such biological reality as ‘race;” rather, the invention of race (and thus, racism) come from the human need to construct a social hierarchy.

Once again, I digress.

It seems that many….

 

 

confusedspock

For example, the Tellarites consider flatulence humor a necessary overture to the establishment of successful diplomatic relations, as I discovered when the Tellarite ambassador mistook my greeting as an invitation to pull upon my outstretched digits in expectation that he would subsequently hear the sound of emissions of a gaseous nature passing through an unobserved part of my anatomy….

 

Yeah. 

I’ll start again.

It seems to moiself that there are white men who feel put upon by any mention of white male privilege. It also seems that most of the men I know personally – compassionate, empathetic and intelligent dudes that they are – do not feel that way.  [3]  For those who do, perhaps it might help to try to understand the reality of social privilege through the metaphor of headwinds and tailwinds.

The stated purpose of the particular podcast to which I refer was to try to understand why it’s so easy for many people to “…feel put upon, to feel resentful, to feel that life has made things harder for them than it has for other people.” The podcast features two psychologists, who study how people make judgments and decisions in their everyday and professional lives, discussing their recently published paper, The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings.

 

 

 

angry spock

You needlessly complicate matters! Had you heeded my original admonition, you could be entertaining your patient yet bored readers with the “Lethal Atmosphere” video by now.

 

 

 

Thank you for your suggestion, Commander. I’ll keep that in mind.

AS I WAS SAYING….

Both competitive and recreational runners and cyclists know that when you have a headwind, it’s not very pleasant. You’re aware of it the whole time; it impedes your progress and you can’t wait until the course/road changes so that you can get the wind at your back. When you reach that 180 turn and have the wind “on your side,” you are relieved and exhilarated…but only for a little bit.

You remain conscious of a headwind the entire time you’re fighting against it, but you quickly stop appreciating the boost a tailwind gives you – you take it for granted, even to the point of forgetting that it exists.

“…you’re grateful for about a minute. And very quickly, you no longer notice the wind at your back that’s helping push you along. And what’s true when it comes to running or cycling is true of life generally.
We have to pay attention to the barriers in front of us because we have to get over them, or get through them in some way. We have to overcome them. We don’t have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us along. We can just be boosted along. And that fundamental asymmetry in attention is the headwinds/tailwind asymmetry.”
 (Tom Gilovich, Cornell University Professor of Psychology,
known for his research in heuristics and cognitive biases)

In our society, white males – even those born into poverty, as was my father – have had a tailwind for hundreds if not thousands of years. As marginalized groups begin to make gains in access and power, WMs may begin to believe that their advantages – which they probably don’t even think of as advantages, but merely as their “lot” in life or their circumstances – are diminishing. That belief is not entirely incorrect; their advantage is diminishing…just a smidge.  But it’s still there; it’s still an edge they have, over someone not born into their social potential and advantages.  [4]

“…What we’ve shown in the lab is directly applicable to some of the discussions going on in the country right now. There’s this term that “there’s a war on white males these days,” white Christian men, and channeled through the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry, you could see why that group would think that. That is to say, the influence they’ve had has decreased, and of course that’s the focus of their attention. That decrease. At the same time, if you look at it from the outside, what you see is an enormous advantage that had existed for hundreds of years being reduced just a little bit. And from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like at all like a war, it looks like just a little bit of rebalancing and we even need to rebalance some more.
(Tom Gilovich, from the Freakonomics interview, my emphases)

 

 

Here. Are you happy now, Spock?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the wind when it is at your back;
May you appreciate the headwinds with which others have to contend;
May you always root for the underdog;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] You are likely familiar with the concept if not the term: a driveway moment is when you just can’t leave your car after returning home, but turn off the engine and stay for a few minutes with the radio on, because you’re captivated by a story – say, something on NPR, or perhaps a Serial podcast – you’ve been listening to.

[2] And the masses respond, their voices raised in unison, Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve cared?

[3] Or at least they do not admit to feeling that way.

[4] Even my father, 4th of 6 children born to a pair of marginally educated, impoverished tenant farmers, had an advantage and potential:  over his sisters and other females, by being male, and over the other tenant farmer families, who were the descendants of African slaves. My father’s father was illiterate, to the point that his wife, who had all of a 5th grade education, had to read his farm contracts to him and then he would sign them with the proverbial X. Yet was made foreman over the other (black) tenant farmers, most of whom could read and write, because, as my father once told me, “You would have had a riot back then if you put a black man in charge of a white man.”

The Historical Document I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Pipe Dreams

I had hoped – naively, as it turns out – that after my mother’s death and other losses, I would be able to bear paying attention to politics for more than two minutes…by the end of March. Yeah, that’s an attainable goal.

 

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

I actually thought it would be a welcome distraction.

 

 

 

obamalaugh

 

 

 

 

Yeah; rub it in.

Okay; I was more than wrong.

Still, I do try to distract myself, sometimes in ways that relate to politics. For example, I’ll imagine hopping into my time travel portal,  [1] zipping back a quarter of a millennium and trying to explain to those authors of the U.S. Constitution – those (alleged) founders of this country – something we take for granted, such as the wide variety of entertainment options we have in (what is to them) the future.  Would I be able to summon the right terminology to enable those old white bewigged dudes to picture a service like Netflix, or even a device like a DVD?

Our so-called “Founding Fathers” were intelligent, educated, and in many cases forward-thinking people. That said, there are just some things even an inventive mind like Ben Franklin’s could neither anticipate nor imagine. Including, I would argue, the fact that our country has become simply too big for the form of government they crafted over two centuries ago.

I’m not even going to get into the fact that the mind-fuck of an anachronism/poop stain upon the pants of democracy that is the Electoral College hasn’t been deep-sixed yet. I’m talking about another fact: there are 326 million people in this country, and the majority of them are getting electorally screwed by virtue of a old document written when the total population of the country one hundred and thirty times smaller than it is today.  [2]

Here’s a comparison: Wyoming and California.  I have traveled around this country a bit – a lot, in the Western states. I love Wyoming’s spectacular natural wonders (although California has that too, and more, in spades). I also love Wyoming’s state motto – “Equal Rights” – but, holy fucking inequality, Superhero Formerly Known as Batman, let’s take a look at some numbers.

* Wyoming is the least populous state.

* California is the most populous state.

* Wyoming’s economy: the state’s GSP (Gross State Product) hovers around $38.4 billion.

* California’s economy is the largest in the USA, rivaling that of the largest countries in the world, with a GSP of approximately $2.514 trillion.

It would seem “fair” that Californians would be the big puppies in any kind of federal governmental equation. They are, when it comes to the lower house of Congress. Yet when it comes to senatorial representation, 587 thousand Wyomingians have a greater percentage of representation in the most powerful chamber of Congress than do 40 million Californians.

 

 

thatswrong

 

 

I realize the historical reasons for the way congressional representation was divvied out; I know that the ultimate concern of unity and stability of individual states within a nation won out over any concepts of “fairness.” The compromise plan was/is that the more numerous and shorter term (and thereby less powerful) representatives are allotted per each state’s population, while exactly two senators are allotted for each state, regardless of population (a smaller number of senators serving larger terms = more power).  But that was then (1787, to be exact) and this is now, two hundred and thirty years later, when our form of representative government is, IMHO, devolving an Orwellian system wherein all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Of course, there are too many vested interests in the current system for me to imagine that there will be anything resembling reform or reorganization in the next few decades years. But if I could trade my time travel portal for a Reality Wand ® (patent pending), I’d wave it and get folks to consider something like this: Cascadia.

 

 

LargerCascMap_4-14

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Breaks

It is unlike moiself, writing in this venue (that would be, my blog), to post a focused rant thoughtful ruminations centering on one issue, which is what I appear to be doing.  Although it could be argued that, by stepping aside and observing/commenting upon this singular focus, I am writing about at least two issues: my one issue focus, and my contemplation of the rarity of my focusing upon one issue…which kinda negates the former.

I’m confused.

That’s more like it.

We now return you to our regular programming.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

 

The concepts of nations and national boundaries were formed in primitive times with respect to what we now know about science – specifically and significantly in this case, ecology and geography. It terms of choosing sides or determining who belongs with whom, Bioregionalism –  the concept of organizing populations outside of or beyond political boundaries to form provinces or governing systems based on bioregions –  [3] makes far more “organizational” sense to me, as well as to the growing number of supporters of the movement.

The geographically distinct habitats, distributional patterns of flora and fauna, plate tectonics and topographic features of ecozones do not stop at the line drawn where 17th century politicians and surveyors decided that Minnesota ends here and Manitoba begins there.

I am an Oregonian. I reside in a state which was long ago defined by the (mostly artificial) boundaries of what was decided would be Oregon. Florida is also a state; but being a USA state is where  [4]  the common interests begin, and mostly end, between the two regional entities. Geographically, us Oregonians aint’ got much of a connection with Florida.

Oregon’s regional economic, climatologic and ecologic realities and interests are more closely aligned to the region known as the Pacific Northwest, including Washington State, parts of Northern California, and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Enter, Cascadia. The Cascadian independence movement is a growing social and cultural – and ideally/ultimately political –  fantasy movement which seeks, in the words of the folks at Cascadia Now, to recognize and establish a bioregion…

…that defines the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, incorporating British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, parts of Idaho, southern Alaska and northern California, and in many ways is geographically, culturally, economically and environmentally distinct from surrounding regions. It is a place in the world with unique flora and fauna, topography, geology and is comprised of a interconnected ecosystems and watersheds….

A much more common definition of Cascadia instead seeks simply to help further local autonomy, empower individuals and communities to better represent their own needs, as well as push or environmental and economic responsibility, and increased dynamic, transparent and open governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you to contemplate “The Doug,”  [5] the proposed flag of the bioregion, Cascadia.

 

 

 

 

 

dougflag

*   *   *

 

 

 

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too….

(John Lennon, “Imagine“)

*   *   *

May you recognize when some animals are becoming more equal than others;
May your imagination work for the good of all animals;
May we all live to see the invention of The Reality Wand;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Does your imagination have a time travel portal? It really should.

[2] The US population around the time of the Declaration of Independence was 2.5 million.

[3] Bioregions are naturally distinct areas, defined via sharing common or overlapping physical and environmental features, such as watershed boundaries, soil and terrain characteristics, latitude and climate.

[4] And this is where there should be another footnote. But, there isn’t.

[5] As in the Douglas Fir tree, which adorns the unofficial but proposed flag for the Cascadia bioregion.

The Longer Post I’m Not Writing

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Department Of Words That Make Me Cringe

Edibles.

It used to be a fine term, with respectable Latin origins – an enjoyable three-syllable word to utter with a simple, non-entendre meaning: something that is appropriate or safe to eat.

Now, thanks to marijuana legalization, you can’t assume that a person using the word is referring to foods that are edible, or “edibles.”  And that annoys me.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

 

Never was a toker, not even in my younger days. However, unlike Bill Clinton I did inhale (it was either that or suffocate at many a Led Zeppelin concert). I wasn’t fond of the effects cannabis [1] visited upon those whom I observed imbibing it; I don’t use the stuff now, and its legalization in my state doesn’t alter my opinion of or interest in it.

 

 

 

edibles

Edibles…or edibles?

 

 

I gladly voted for legalization/decriminalization of cannabis in Oregon, and I hope other states will do the same. Still, sans a compelling medical reason to partake, for moiself adding edibles to edibles ‘twould be a pitiful way to turn a formerly delectable edible into a skunk-smelling maryjanedible.

 

On the other hand,  [2]  if the minister performing my mother’s funeral service is the same dude who performed my father’s funeral service, or takes a similar approach, [3]  then I may need some sort of reality-altering substance to help me bite my tongue and/or not eviscerate his.

 

 

 

rude

*   *   *

Department of The Moving Sidewalk Of Life  [4]

 

My mother’s graveside funeral service is tomorrow. Just sayin.’

*   *   *

 

I wasn’t yet blogging when my father died. If so, this would have been the second post wherein I would try to convince readers that brevity is the soul of wit. Or failing that: sorry, no can much do this week.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you enjoy that which is truly edible;
May you inhale when necessary;
May you never have to bite your tongue at your parent’s funeral;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] whether smoked or consumed, whether the usage was sporadic or habitual.

[2] …you have other fingers.

[3]  Hey, I’ve got a captive audience! Good time to lecture the Jews and atheists and others present “who do not know Jesus” about how there can be “little joy” and “no singing” at their memorial services. Yep, Holy Fuck and WTF, this happened.

[4] Alternative to symbolic philosophical representation aka The Circle of Life.

The Motorcycle I’m Not Getting

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Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled

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

 

 

camel

Like we’d let her forget!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

reaper

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

tomom

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”

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

 

marionalbertaparnellcirca1953

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

 

 

chesterbryqanparnellcirca1953

Chet Parnell, circa 1953.

 

*   *   *

And Then There’s That

 

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

Belle:  ?????

MH: “How do you figure?”

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

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

chopper

RIP, Mom.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] GEE, DO YA THINK?

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

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

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

[5] Closer to several dozen

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

The Questions I’m Not Answering

Comments Off on The Questions I’m Not Answering

Less than twenty-four hours prior to leaving for my sabbatical to Yachats (as per last week’s post (The Life I’m Not Rebooting[1] I received news of the passing of Davis W. Baldwin, M.D., my beloved former employer, mentor, and friend. Next week MH will travel to the Bay Area to attend his memorial service. While I was in Yachats MH forwarded me the link to DWB’s obituary.

Join hands with the nearest sentient being and cue the Circle of Life. News of Dr. B’s passing should not have caught me off guard – he was 89, after all. Still, there are some people I think will live forever. And he’ll continue to live on, in the way that my father lives on for me, and in only way we all will: through the stories told and memories held by colleagues, friends and family.

I’m not ready to write much about him. One story would be too many and 100 would be not nearly enough. How can you not love a man who, when he tells you why he doesn’t like rhubarb pie, relates the story as if the WTF?!?!?! reasons for his rhubarb antipathy were the most logical consequence in the world?  (When DWB was a child he and his brother played outside during the summer, for as long as they could, running through the fields, and when the young DWB heard nature’s call he would ignore it for as long as possibly, and then finally he would pee in the neighbor’s rhubarb fields rather than take a time out to return home to use the facilities at home.  [2]  Thus, he associates rhubarb with an uncomfortably full bladder).

*   *   *

Department of Oh…So…The Trip Thing

My self-described/imposed sabbatical. My trip began a day earlier than planned due to inclement weather complicating my route to the coast, and was cut short due to the more inclement weather…plus yet another extended family concern.  [3]

While I was in Yachats I received a request for feedback from friend KW re a song he’s working on, “The Blue State Blues.” KW asked how my trip was going. I sent him yet another deflecting-sorrow-through-crass humor explanation, along with my suggestions for possible lyrics for his next musical composition:

I like the guitar!  A very heavy-angry, I-am-so-fucking-depressed/pissed vibe is essential to the song…. Cutting my trip short due to Life Happens, in the form of having to plan one memorial service trip to the Bay Area, for my former boss, mentor and friend Dr. Baldwin, and possibly coordinating hospice care for my mother, who has taken a drastic turn for the worse. How inconsiderate of others to mess up my plans, eh?

I guess I should stop complain about turning 60 on Friday, but I wanted to wake up on my birthday at the coast, not in Hillsboro. At least I’m not waking up in Alleppo….

♫  I organized a getaway
From daily cares I ran
There’s people sick and dyin’
Hell, that’s fuckin’ up my plan!
I got dem how-in-the-hell-am-I-sixty,
Cranky ‘bout my big-ass-birthday blues  ♫

singer

Sing it, sister.

 

 

*   *   *

 

Once again, I digress.

Sorry to disappoint longtime friend JWW and others who requested, re last week’s blog post, something ala “I hope you find and discover everything I’ve always wondered about in my own life. Then let me know about what you found out.”

I didn’t find Big Answers to the Meaning of Life ® for several reasons, including

(1) I don’t think there are any one-size-fits-all answers, Big or Small, to such questions;

(2) I don’t think such questions (e.g., “What is the meaning of life?”) are valid, relevant or translatable;  [4]

(3) There is no reason #3

(4) I didn’t find answers to “the big ones” because that’s not what I was looking for.

Here is one answer I did find:  how to pronounce the name of one of the many trails I hiked, The Ya’Xaik Trail.  I had no problem with “the” and “trail.” As for Ya’Xaik, when I say it properly (Yah’ khik)) I sound like…well, imagine a Chihuahua retching up the world’s biggest cat hairball.

 

 

dog

I resent cheap humor at my expense

 

 

 

The trip served its purpose: to either affirm or rebut what I’ve been feeling, for quite some time, about my work. My dissatisfaction reached critical mass this year, thanks in good part to the persistent, evidence-based (i.e. it’s ‘s not just my personal experiences and/or feelings)  – research and communiqués, from the Authors Guild and other professional writers advocacy organizations, on the state of /changes in the business of writing fiction.

What I was able to affirm is that I am done. I, simply but emphatically, don’t want to be part of that world, anymore.

*   *   *

Department Of There Must Be An App For That

A world I do want to be a part of, career/life work wise? There’s the rub. Preferably, I’ll find one where oxygen breathers can survive. [5]  More ruminations to come, dealing with another evidence-based reality:  while such dilemmas aren’t easy at any age, the simple truth is that one’s possibilities get narrower with age.

Whatever/wherever that world is, I hope it’s filled with opportunities to traverse trails with unpronounceable names and be impressed with and humbled by big ass rhododendron leaves.

 

bar

*   *   *

Department Of Assume The Guru Pose

Observations after hiking each day, every day, for a week: some of the most interesting trails, for me, are loop trails. Does this mean, you may say to yourself, she thinks her life is going in circles, or is she attempting some kind of it’s the journey vs. the destination – it’s the journey as well as the destination metaphor?  [6] 

Not exactly re the former; maybe/kinda re the latter

 I’ve come to the simple realization – be prepared to be whacked with the Stick of Profundity ®  – that when I’m not primarily focused on a destination (gotta make it to the spectacular viewpoint/the highest ridge) I pay more attention to the details along the way.

 

 

guru

Aren’t you glad there’s no subscription fee for reading this trite verbiage — er,  insightful principle?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Making New Friends

Last Saturday early eve I went to a wine tasting at Yachat’s only wine place. [7] As I opened the door to the small shop I saw eight people, each cradling a wine goblet in their hands, seated around a rectangular table in the middle of the shop. These folks were regulars at the shop’s tasting events, not visitors such as moiself …or so I judged from their palpable familiarity with one another.

A jingle bell on the shop’s door handle announced my arrival. Sixteen pairs of eyes turned toward me; affable, anticipation-of-greeting-a-friend expressions quickly morphed to who-is-this-newcomer?

After one or two beats of silence, a man seated at the head of the table lifted his glass as if to toast me, and said, “Welcome to Yachats’ Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.”

I waited another beat, then replied, “Worst. Wine. Shop. Ever.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Today Is My Birthday

 

 

party2jpg

Please, try to contain your excitement.

*   *   *

The Old (er) People I’m Making Happy

Someone is here!

I heard the gasp before seeing the source of the enthusiasm: a mid-seventies [8]  woman who scuttled out from a supply closet at the Waldport Visitor’s Center. She didn’t seem to mind that my rain hat, coat and boots and I were dripping/tracking water all over the foyer. I was, at 3:30 pm, the only visitor the center had had that day.

I had similar encounters at other coastal town Visitors Centers, and also with at least five  [9]  volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.  Would you like me to show you around? Remember, if you’ve any questions…. The urgency in their voices made me realize I needed to ask them some questions. Legitimate or otherwise. (Please, validate my existence. Besides, you’re the only one who showed up in the pouring rain.)

The Visitor Center at Yachats was manned by an overly enthusiastic and chatty Older Man Wearing An Unfortunate Bill Cosby Sweater ®.  I checked the guest register which, OMWAUBCS assured me, every person who walks into the Visitors Center must sign. If that indeed was the case, I’d been the only visitor to the center in three days. And, gosh golly gee thanks, OMWAUBCS, but truth be told, I’m not really interested in the Come Meet Santa! gathering at the community hall (“Great fun for families and all – young and old everyone is invited.”), and I’d rather trim my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than sit through a two hour Community Christmas choir and hand bell concert at the Presbyterian church….

It didn’t hurt me to listen to the various guides and volunteers. And so I did, with mild/faux enthusiasm, each and every time.

 

My work here is done.

*   *   *

 “There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t gonna be any answer.
There never has been an answer.
There’s your answer.”
(Gertrude Stein)

*   *   *

Department Of The Petty Pleasures I Live For

One day on my trip, between courses at a seafood restaurant, I was checking my email on my phone. The subject line in one email was about a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association, but the organization, due to space constraints, was abbereviated, Children’s Cancer Ass.

 

grannyshock

*   *   *

Department Of Secrets Of The Great Outdoors Revealed

Note to all ye who walk your fearful/unfriendly yippy dogs on hiking trails:

When I approach to pass you on the trail you try, unsuccessfully, to stop the machine-gun barking and leash-tugging and other aggressive behaviors your dog displays at non-threats such as moiself. I smile and greet you, then speak in kind, soft, non-threatening tones to your frantically vocalizing dog, even as I am thinking, Why can’t you do us all a favor and leave that miserable, yowling mop rag of a mongrel in the RV?

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy each and every petty pleasure;
May your patient if faux interest make a volunteer guide’s day;
May you remember to leave your yipster in the RV;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] about my thinking-things-out, week-plus “sabbatical trip” to Yachats.

[2] Or defile your own family’s field.

[3] The declining health of my mother, who is being evaluated for hospice care.

[4] Except in Monty Python films.

[5] After the recent election debacle, I have my doubts as to my fitness for my home planet.

[6] Stop talking to yourself, or people will think you’re daft.

[7] Which carries  the astoundingly apt name of The Wine Place.

[8] Mid-Seventies as in my guestimage of here age, not that she was dressed indisco-area attire.

[9] “Senior,” once again.

The Life I’m Not Rebooting

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At some point during childhood, a well-meaning adult asks, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up? What I like about this question is that it embraces the idea that work is an expression of who you are as well as who you want to be. Yet that question takes an odd turn when you become an adult. “What do you do for a living?” is what we typically ask each other. Gone is the inquiry about what you aspire to “be.” This shift in emphasis from “being” to “doing” focuses you solely on the external activities and behaviors that you perform for your work, rather than on your intrinsic values, strengths, and motivations.
(from Inner Compass, mindful magazine,  December 2016

*   *   *

Yachats. It’s pronounced  yah -hots, and it is the name of yet another gem of a town on the Oregon coast. The name comes from…different sources argue over the origin. It is likely a term of the Siletz or other indigenous peoples,  [1]  and has something to do with “dark water by the foot of the mountain,” which may refer to the estuary where the Yachats River enters the Pacific Ocean, the remarkable view of which I have from the apartment I’m renting for a week.

If I have the privilege of needing/recognizing/taking a control-alt-delete [2]  sabbatical, it might as well be here.

Also, I just like having an excuse to say Yachats.

*   *   *

My mini-sabbatical was originally scheduled for December 8-16. Then on Tuesday of this week MH pointed out the latest weather forecast: a winter storm, carrying snow but more problematically freezing rain, was scheduled to hit the coast and the Portland Metro area on the 8th, which would make traveling over the Coast Range dicey….so maybe you might want to consider leaving a day earlier? [3]

Negligent moiself hadn’t re-checked the forecast since…since when the storm wasn’t expected to hit until Friday (today), so all of a sudden on Tuesday it was do everything in one day (packing-wise, for  a weeks+ getaway, plus getting the car ready for winter storm contingencies  [4] I was planning on doing ion Tuesday and Wednesday, plus adding on figuring out a different, less-likely-to-have-icy-roads route, plus practice putting on the tire chains on the car I’d be driving, [5] plus finding a place to stay somewhere near the place I’d already reserved but which wasn’t expecting me until the next day….

Plus…then checking messages at the end of all this planning – early Tuesday evening, about 12 hours before I’d be leaving, and discovered sad news…which meant that three days after I return from my think-about-what-the-hell-to-do-in-Act-3-of-your-life getaway trip I will be flying down to the Bay Area to attend the memorial service for a beloved friend, mentor and former employer of mine, who had recently finished his own Act 3.

Anyway and so, I am here.

Yachats. Say it like you mean it.

*   *   *

As per my post of October 28:

Long Story Short: I have a significant birthday coming up in few weeks, and have had a significant Act 3 Career & Life Crisis ®  going on for a few…years.  I shared some recent downturns regarding such things [6]with friend SCM who, wise counselor that she is, offered this wise counsel:

It’s obvious you need a control-alt-delete from life right now….She advised I take a trip, to…anywhere.  “… you need a break from real life.”  I’d been thinking along similar lines – a meditative kind of vacation, not a trip involving lots of activities, which is what I’d usually want. I need to go alone, to have contemplative opportunity away from distractions, from the familiarity of work, routine, home and family…the kind of trip where you are forced to chill, where my main activity would be a combination of taking it easy, taking stock, and…dare I hope…figuring Things Out ® .

Initial plans for my getaway didn’t work out, but now, this week on the Oregon Coast seems fitting. Blustery (almost) winter weather should be good for contemplative ventures, right?

Unless….

Unless it becomes yet another entry in my To Do list. Eight days away is not likely to provide the magic AHA!!! answers to years of career/life balance questions, and I don’t want the pressure to find solutions [7]  to Life’s Really Big Questions ®  to diminish what this trip may turn out to be: a week’s vacation, composed of simple pleasures (I get to sleep in/not get up to feed cats/read for pleasure/hike every day/see some ocean spray stuff and pretend it was whales spouting….)

*   *   *

Department Of The Sacrifices We Make

One casualty of my mini-sabbatical, is the cancellation, this year, of my annual Ladies Lefse Party  — an event I’ve been hosting for ( is it over twenty-five years?) a long time, as mentioned here and here and here and…. You get the idea.

I will still have to find time, in the brief space between returning from this trip and then going down to the Bay Area for the afore-mentioned memorial service for He Whom I Am Not Quite Ready To Talk About In This Space, to make lefse for our family’s Christmas eve dinner, lest there be rioting among the troops.  [8]

*   *   *

Department Of What’s The Fucking Point

If I were a young(er) person looking for civic involvement motivation, after the two recent presidential electoral debacles (George W Bush and now the PuJu [9]) which resulted in someone losing the popular vote yet attaining the presidency due to our country’s  antediluvian and bigoted Electoral College system…why would I even bother?  How dare we, as USA citizens, criticize one goddamn thing about any other county’s elections?

As longtime friend and journalist SH put it on Facebook, re the vote count as of 12/2/16:

So now the margin is 2.5 million votes that don’t count for squat, because 80,000 votes in three states mattered more. But I guess Trump did better than W, who won because 537 Floridians mattered more than 540,000 of their fellow Americans. 
Pretty effed up….

*   *   *

Department Of I’m Wondering If You’ve Noticed…

…that there are hardly any pictures in this week’s blog post.

Analyze the significance; ponder; discuss; yawn; dismiss.

*   *   *

Department Of U-Turn Segues

It was a very nice hotel I stayed in – the last minute/extra night lodging I had to find due to starting my trip a day earlier than planned. Still, I wondered about the hotel’s welcome info in their Guest Information folder which was on the coffee table in my room. In the folder’s introductory, “who we are” paragraph, the owners touted their commitment to caring for their guests’ needs and running a responsible business. I so enjoyed the typo contained therein I decided not to bring it to the front desk clerk’s attention, lest the folder be corrected, which would rob future guests of the opportunity to derive similar enjoyment :

While we are completely committed to making your stay the best possible, we are committed to an unprecedented level of stainability.

stain

*   *   *

May all your stains be precedent-setting ;
May you notice when something is missing;
May you find out whatever is the fucking point;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] That is, those before the whale watchers took over.

[2] Innumerable thanks to SCM for that metaphor.

[3] I loved the way he phrased it: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, but…”

[4] Nothing like a Canadian friend nagging – I mean of course carefully advising – you in this regard.

[5] It had been years since we needed to do this. Guess what? Time passes, and putting on chains still sucks.

[6] The abridged/mostly censored synopsis, for you Reader’s Digest Fans:  holy FSM it’s a cliché to feel this way and I know it’s “just a number” but it’s a big one I’m facing and HOW THE FUCK DID I GET HERE?…And if he (MH)even attempts to throw my a surprise 60th birthday party I swear I will take out my bow and arrow and use his ass for target practice.

[7] Whether to Life’s really Big Questions or what to do with moiself

[8] H and son K and MH would miss it; daughter Belle, not so much; the kitties just keep shedding, no matter what.

[9] My son has chastised me for the immaturity he sees in my using the moniker PuJu (as in Putin Junior) rather than using the soon-to-be-president’s name.

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