The Instinct I’m Not Obeying

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Department Of Fun With Student Drivers

Dateline: Tuesday, early a.m., out for my morning walk, waiting to cross a street. As I watched the cross traffic’s stoplight and saw the green-changing-to-yellow light – the pedestrian’s rewarding indicator that it will soon be your turn to cross the street – I noticed a white sedan slowing down much more deliberately than is usual yet still not managing to come to a complete stop until the car’s front bumper was just a tad into the crosswalk.

My light changed to green, I began to cross the street, and saw the telltale red and yellow logo for a local driving academy on the car’s driver’s door.  A student driver?


I looked inside the car: the student in the driver’s seat sat ramrod straight, an expression of nervous anticipation drenching her face. Her white-knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel and her gaze was fixed ahead. Her instructor was looking down at a clipboard he held; neither of them seemed aware of my approaching presence.

My instinctive reaction was to throw myself onto the hood of the car and scare the living pee-pee out of both of them.

How I managed to restrain myself, I’ll never know.

But, I did. Okay?



*   *   *


Pity the afore-mentioned scenario happened Tuesday, and not today. Had I gone through with my whimsical notion, ‘twould have made a good – dare I say, even legendary? – April Fool’s Day prank.




You gotta love a day that is devoted to honoring and encouraging practical jokes, hoaxes, and pranks both well- and feebly-played. 

The origins of April Fools Day’s are not completely agreed upon by historians, and have been variously attributed. What is agreed upon is that many cultures, going back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, have set aside days for celebrating jokes and pranksters. Perhaps, as some people have speculated, there’s just something about the day’s timing – the fading of winter and the blooming of spring, which lends itself to the observance of light-hearted frivolity.





I can recall only a few of the pranks I’ve played on friends, family and co-workers over the years. The memories are silly but fond, and include:

* Sneaking a package of Hydrox cookies [1] from the family snack drawer and replacing all the cream fillings in the second row of cookies with toothpaste.

* Showing two positive pregnancy test dipsticks to a newbie Planned Parenthood co-worker and telling her I was pregnant with twins.

* Adding just a couple of drops of blue food coloring to the carton of nonfat milk in my parent’s refrigerator.

* Calling my father at his office and convincing him (if only temporarily) that someone had bought a raffle ticket in his name for the local animal shelter’s fundraising event, he’d won the raffle, and could he please let the shelter know when he was coming to claim his prize: an English Mastiff and a week’s supply – a 100 lb. bag of kibble – of the dog’s food.  [2]


I don't get it – why would that be funny?

I don’t get it – why would that be funny?



* Swapping my and my siblings’ framed high school graduation pictures, which hung in my parent’s hallway, with pictures of the members of Led Zeppelin.

* Replacing the hard-boiled egg in my sister’s school lunch bag with a raw egg.

* Cutting my finger, smearing my blood on the scissors in co-worker Roger’s cubicle, leaving a note on my computer saying I had been threatened by Roger and feared for my life, then faking my own death and leaving town.


Oops, that’s right – I never got around to implementing the last one.  

As pleasurable as it is to pull off an epic prank, it can be equally fun, IMHO, to have a great prank played on your own self. I hope y’all have a Happy April Fools’ Day…and I hope that I do not regret having made that previous declaration.


*   *   *

Speaking of foolery…

Department Of Uh, Since You’ve Asked, That Would Be, “No”

Last Sunday a FB friend began her post thusly:

Happy Easter, everyone! Can I share what it means to me?

FBF went on to – surprise! – offer her testimony for Jesus, without waiting for an answer to her question.


raptor jesus

*   *   *

Department Of So What Am I Supposed To Use, A Q-Tip?

The following non-instruction was printed on the top of a large, thick, sturdy cardboard shipping container, which was filled with non-delicate items (cans of cat food).



*   *   *


*   *   *

“My hunter buddy tells me, ‘Don’t worry, when I hunt I use every part of the animal.’
You know who also uses every part of the animal? THE  ANIMAL.”
Deepak Sethi, writer/comedian





*   *   *

Department Of Asking The Same Question, But For Different Reasons

“What is wrong with people?”

That question was posed on the FB page of an outdoor archery range which is located ~ 15 miles from my little house on the prairie home in Hillsboro. I was researching archery practice ranges, and remembered there is one up in the hills that is open to the public, as per a man I’d met at the Washington Park range. The range he recommended caters primarily to bow hunters,[3] or so I guessed after finding its website.

There wasn’t much current info on the website. I followed a link to the range’s Facebook page, where I encountered a post with the above question accompanied by a photo – a photo that caused me to ask the same question, but for very different reasons.

The photo, which you can see here (9-15-15 post) if you are so perverse inclined, was of the decapitated head of an enormous bull elk. The head rested atop a bloodied blanket in the bed of a pickup truck. The post asked for help in returning this pathetic souvenir of macho death lust trophy to the hunter who’d killed the elk:

“These antlers were stolen from a man in his 70’s who has never killed a bull this big with a bow. It was taken from his property….”

These antlers.

No mention of the rest of the animal; no mention of the head to which those antlers were attached – the head which showed the elk’s tongue protruding from its mouth, a mute testimony to the elk’s agonizing death throes; [4]  no mention of concern for the remaining 600 lbs of the animal. A magnificent creature was slaughtered, not for sustenance or in self-defense, but so that some old dude could hang a part of that creature’s body on his wall as a testimony to the fact that he’d previously “never killed a bull this big.”



What is wrong with people?

As posed by the FB poster(s), the question speculates as to what kind of person would steal an elderly hunter’s booty. As posed by moiself, the question wonders what kind of person of any age enjoys killing any creature for “sport.”


*   *   *

And One More Thing

If you consider trophy hunting to be a legitimate sport, I obviously disagree with your assessment, although I respect our difference of opinion on this matter.

And by I respect our difference of opinion on this matter I sincerely mean,

Go fuck yourself.




*   *   *

May you always respect my difference of opinion, on any matter;
May you have unending patience with apprentice drivers;
May your day be filled with April foolery…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


*   *   *



[1] Anyone else remember the precursor (and competitor) to Oreos?

[2] My sisters making muffled barking sounds to approximate background animal shelter noise was a great help in pulling off this prank.

[3] Rather than wimpy anti-hunting target shooters like moiself.

[4] Death by arrow is not instantaneous, not matter how expert the marksman.

The Pants Seat I’m Not Flying By

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This has been a week of Deep Thoughts ®. Bear with me.

Conversation Of The Week

Sensing that I’m a friendly person – or perhaps that pesky, Go Ahead, You Can Say Anything To This One sign was flashing on my forehead, again – the stranger behind me in the checkout line begins chatting with me while she unloads her cartful of groceries. I had just a few items, including a bag of son K’s favorite cookies, which she commented on (“I didn’t know they came in mini-size!”). She hefted a 10 lb. bag of potatoes onto the scanner belt, followed by several other fresh vegetable items, and began to complain about the produce selection at the “new store.”

Woman Whom I’ve Never Seen Before: “I was really disappointed at the produce selection at the new store. There’s hardly any variety in vegetables – nothing like here.”

Me: “The new store?” I assumed she meant that a new franchise of the supermarket chain she and I are in has opened.  “I didn’t know they’d built another one.”

WWINSB: “Yeah, the new store.” She paused, anticipating the light of recognition in my eyes that never appeared. “You know the one. It’s right by where I live.” 

Me (as sweetly and patiently as humanly possible): “I have no idea where you live.”

WWINSB: “Right by the new Wal-Mart.”

We were not in a Wal-Mart.


WTF Spock

*   *   *

Fess up. Neither you nor I nor the rest of the world, I bet, have ever seen someone actually flying by the seat of their pants. For some reason, this is bothering me.

I’ve a general awareness of the definition of the idiom (“to proceed or work by feel or instinct, without formal guidelines), and also that it has several origin stories, including, no surprise, an anecdote from the early days of aviation.

But that story doesn’t help to explain the images that come to mind or are implied when that expression is employed.




Does that mean that you are able to fly by, what, flapping your pants’ seat? Or, is it that the seat of your pants is flying, as are you, and you are flying “by” (in formation, alongside, or proximity to) the seat of your pants…in which case, if your pants are flying by themselves then you are flying pants-less, and the wind-chill factor is likely to do a number on your noonies.

Yeah, I know: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.



*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Hurts

Just a sample of the thoughts spinning through (orbiting?) my head after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast , “Colonizing Mars with Bas Landsdorp.” [1]

Some of my questions/thoughts were addressed or at least acknowledged…but not fully answered, IMHO…by  my buddies, Neil and Bas. The issues facing the successful, long-term survival of colonists do not, to me, seem to be primarily those which will be solved [2] by engineers and – oh, I love the chance to type this – rocket scientists.  The main obstacles of establishing and maintaining a colony on Mars would seem to be psychological and sociological. Some of my concerns include:

* What kind of person volunteers for a no-return trip? Are you going to end up with a ship (and then colony) full of highly intelligent, scientifically and technologically literate, highly motivated…sociopaths and misanthropes? I know there will be psychological/personality testing up the wazoo for any volunteers…and I also know that highly motivated and highly intelligent and highly manipulative people can figure out how to beat those tests.

* Establishment of a long-term or permanent colony brings up the dilemma of how the colony members will be replenished: by continuing trips from earth, or via reproduction?  Humans evolved to live in social groups; most people instinctively crave the love and support of family life, want to pass on both their genes and their experiences, and find pleasure in raising children. If you assume that people will do what people will do and plan to let nature take its course…will nature even be able to find a course?  Can humans, who evolved on earth, even reproduce in different gravity environments, and what will happen with pregnancy and fetal development?

* Humans are humans. If you don’t send already established couples to the colony, there will be competition/jealousy when it comes to the finding a mate issue. Also, the pickings, initially, will be slim. Will the desire or need for reproduction (to keep the colony going) rule out sending gay male scientists and explorers? [3]

* If/once you have a colony rug rat or two, ay yi yi. How can you give a child a normal life without endangering the colony and/or driving both the parents and the child insane via the need for constant vigilance? It’s one thing if little Marina kicks a soccer ball through the neighbor’s plate glass window, quite another if she inadvertently takes out a solar panel or other crucial piece of equipment.

* The most important question of all: will I live to see any of this?





*   *   *

Department Of This Is What Happens When You Talk Loudly Next To A Blogger
Aka, With Friends Like These, Who Needs Lunch Dates?

After my Qigong class at the community college I treated myself to lunch at a nearby pasta restaurant. Two women in their mid-to-late sixties were seated at the table next to me, and I had no problem catching parts of their conversation about a friend of theirs who had bailed out on their lunch invitation.

Friend #1: I probably shouldn’t say this…

(But of course, she does.)

Friend #1: I know there is such a thing as migraines, but sometimes I think she just doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Friend #2: “Well, that’s her problem.”

Friend #1: “She takes one or two prescriptions, but she won’t take the prescriptions that the doctor gives her.”

Friend #2: “So why bother going to the doctor?”

Friend #1: “That’s what I told her. She said she doesn’t want drugs, she only (#1 sniffs disdainfully) wants ‘natural stuff.'”



*   *   *

Department of Great Movie Lines

One of the greatest (IMHO) pieces of movie dialogue consists of only one word. Oh, but what a word. A Golden Scroll from the Department of Cultural Literary ® if you can remember [4] where this one comes from:


Think hard, and this trophy can be yours.

Think hard, and coveted this trophy is yours.

*   *   *

May you never have your lunchtime gossip chitchat recorded by a stranger;
May your flights by any kind of pants be safe and turbulent-free;
May we all live to see a (human) Mission to Mars…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Bas Lansdorp is a Dutch entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Mars One Project , not a kind if rocket or an extra planetary colonization technique. But you knew that.

[2] And I believe the mechanics of getting people to mars and housing and feeding them while they are there will be solves.

[3] Gay women can still conceive and bear children.

[4] Hint: no.

The Lab Specimens I’m Not Sniffing

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Department of Big Surprises

Son K is enjoying his job as a research assistant for a medical diagnostics company, and I love to hear his stories about his tasks. Recently he was preparing lab specimens used to cultivate proteins. Specifically, he was working with  e. coil bacteria. Dare you guess how descriptive K was when trying to convey to MH and I what the lab samples smelled like?


bad smell


*   *   *

And now, a related breaking (sorry) news story, which I shall classify under

Department of Tempting Fate

From The Looks Of Things © , I am probably the youngest student in my Tai Chi-Qigong class.  And from the sounds of things, I am also the only student who has not (yet) inadvertently let one slip – if you know what I mean and I think you do – during one of  the class’s twisting routines.



*   *   *

By Grabthar’s Hammer…

…this is one actor I am really going to miss.

Alan Rickman played an amazing range of characters over the years. Praised for his performances across the board in the theatre and television, he was most widely known for his movie roles. He was perfectly cast to play the complexly nuanced, ostensible-villain-turned-heart-rending-hero, Severus Snape, [1] and probably most widely known for turning what could have been just another wise-cracking action film (Die Hard) into Something Truly Memorable, with his performance as arguably the greatest bad guy of all time, German terrorist Hans Gruber.

My favorites of Rickman’s many movie roles included the reticent, infatuated, honorable Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) and Alexander Dane, the hilariously frustrated classically trained actor fallen on hard times who finds himself stuck repeating a catchphrase from his role in a sci-fi Television franchise he despises (Galaxy Quest).  And I managed to forgive Rickman for so convincingly playing the conflicted husband who broke wife Emma’ Thompson’s heart in Love, Actually. For a real cinematic treat, revel in his “gloriously nasty” portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, by which Rickman steals Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves right out from under Kevin Costner’s spasmodic British accent.

When I read the news of Rickman’s passing I noted he was the same age as David Bowie. The world lost two truly Great Brits, esteemed and beloved in their respective fields. Thanks and RIP – you guys rock (ed).

Now, if you believe the old husband’s tale that “these things [2] come in threes,” who’d you put $$ on to be the next to go? I hear O.J. Simpson is turning 69 this year….



*   *   *

Yet Another Reason To Hate/Quit Writing Go On Living

I belong to several professional writers associations. The Authors Guild is the largest, oldest and most influential of the lot, and the one I most admire. As per its mission to “…advocate for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts…protect authors’ copyrights…establish fair royalty rates for both e-books and print books…” the AG has its work cut out for it, especially in these days of the digital and electronic piracy and royalty grabs changes in publishing.




The AG are the good guys; they fight the right fights. There are so many fronts, so many battles, for authors these days, I truly wish I could – as per the suggestion on the AG’s membership renewal form – add a donation in addition to my dues to further their work.

Except for one pesky detail: I have no spare writing income with which to do so.

The AG has a tiered membership dues structure, based on author members’ annual income from book and magazine writing.  There are four levels: I ($0 – 24,999; II ($25 – $49,999); III ($ 50,000 – 100,000): IV ($ over $100,000), with dues rates increasing with each level.

I am (surprise!) at the lowest level. My writing income-loss sheet [3] has remained the same as last year, and the AG’s Level I dues have jumped 38%, from $90 to $125.



*   *   *

Department of Apparently It’s a Thing ® Now

…to leave up your Christmas or solstice tree year round, and decorate it according [4] to whatever season’s or month’s commemorations strike your fancy. For example, you might hang paper flags from the branches during July (to celebrate Independence Day);  Bunny and Easter egg ornaments in March (Spring); candy corn and mini pumpkins in October (Halloween); Quaaludes and still photos from The Bill Cosby Show in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)….

Well. I’ve left our tree up, but I’m not sure you can call it decorated (I did leave two of my favorite ornaments on it). I just like having it around. I don’t know why, but I derive much sinple contentment from looking at the little blinking lights.



*   *   *

May your enjoy whatever constitutes your own blinking lights of contentment,
and may the hijinks ensue.




Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] I don’t need to reference the Harry Potter series of books and films, do I? I do not require readers to be fans of either; I do assume a certain amount of cultural literacy.

[2] In this case, famous and/or infamous peoples’ deaths.

[3]  I’ve not done the figuring for 2015, but already know it will rival last year in pathetic-osity.

[4] Simply not enough footnotes in the New Year.

The Military I’m Not Saluting

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And They Said The Honeymoon Wouldn’t Last

I sliced the steaming, freshly roasted squash down the middle, and sighed. “I love the aroma of roasted Delicata squash.” I waved a piece of squash under MH’s nose, and bid him to inhale.  “I just want you to know that.”

This is good to know, MH replied. He assured me that, upon my death, a Delicata squash would be cremated alongside my body.



*   *   *

The Verisimilitudinous Vermin of Autumn

I kick through the foliage detritus at least once a day, during my morning walk. Still, I never tire of the splendor of the Fall colors, which have a way of elevating and beautifying everything they surround…including, as I discovered ~ seven in the morning last Monday, the parking lot of a nearby athletic field. A brief portion of the otherwise mundane asphalt surface was transformed, however ephemerally, into Nature’s abstract palate, when I espied the desiccated, flattened carcass of a rat adorned by nature’s seasonal garland.



*   *   *

Belated Veterans Day Thoughts and Wishes


Thank you for your service.
(A phrase employed far too often, IMHO, by civilians, directed to military personnel)

I have come to despise that trope of alleged appreciation, even though I’ve no doubt it is used sincerely by many who wish to thank our brave men and women in uniform [1] for doing…well…what the rest of us would rather not spend much time thinking about.

It’s just too easy…it is too sanitized and safe. Thank you for your service – it’s as effective as, I’ll pray for you. It gives the spouter of the phrase the feel-good illusion of action, when in fact you’ve done nothing concrete.

You want to thank soldiers for their service? Lobby or work to insure veteran’s benefit reforms and to get our soldiers out of these never-ending, police-the-world wars…and, oh yeah, end the all-volunteer military and reinstate the draft and/or some form of compulsory national service.




Yes, really. Do you think we’d still be ass-deep in the AfghaniRaquPakistania quagmire if every American family had to face the possibility of their age-appropriate sons and daughters serving in the military?

Once again, I digress.

My intention for this segment was to honor a certain generation [2] for What They Did When They Did What They Had To Do. [3]

Six years ago my father, Chester Bryan (“Chet the Jet”) Parnell, had military honors at the graveside service following his funeral. The honors consisted of a brief observance involving a color guard, a gun salute, and presentation of an American flag to my mother, along with the “thanks of a grateful nation.” It was a ceremony Chet’s usually-not-impressed-with-such-things second born daughter [4] found very moving.

Although he never left the US of A during his military service, Chet was credited with serving in a combat zone. He and his fellow Army paratroopers stationed in Alaska were training for the inevitable invasion of Japan, and were also tasked with guarding the Aleutians, which the Japanese, as part of their Aleutian Islands campaign, were determined to invade and occupy. [5] Thus, Chet was eligible for “full” military honors at his funeral. Although Chet was proud of his WWII service he’d let us know in advance he didn’t want the full treatment (whatever that would involve – military flyover? Invasion of a small island in the Pacific?), out of respect for those soldiers who had engaged in active combat.

One day many years before Chet’s death, when my family was down in SoCal for a visit, Chet asked if MH could copy, enlarge and clarify a photo Chet had discovered while cleaning out his desk. The picture – actually, a small, wrinkled, time-worn copy of a picture sent from a paratrooper buddy – was one the few pictures Chet had from his Army days.  MH put his computer wizard /Photoshop skills to use, and was able to earn Son-In-Law Of The Year ® honors by providing Chet with a cleaned-up enlargement.  MH also had the enviable [6] task of informing Chet about a certain aspect of the picture, what I think of as a Photo With Benefits.  By enlarging the photo, a gesture made by one of Chet’s fellow soldiers – a “military salute” common among paratroopers but heretofore obscured by the photo’s size and lack of clarity – was clearly revealed.

At the time the picture was taken Chet of course was facing the camera, and had no idea how the other guys in the photo had posed. He got such a hoot out of it – which came as no surprise to me.  What was a wonderful surprise was how much my mother enjoyed the photographic revelation: she giggled like a schoolgirl who’d just understood her first A nun walks into a bar… joke  [7].


Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).

Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).


*   *   *

Department Of Some Phone Calls Are Harder Than Others

And getting through some 12 minute phone calls can seem more exhausting than running a three hour marathon, when I’m constantly “on guard” during said calls, with a pins and needles/jaw clenching concentration, giving myself a headache that lasts the rest of the day, reminding myself of what to say as well as what not to say when the only truthful/logical response to what my elderly mother just asked would be to give the correct information….

However. I have learned from Compassionate Communication With The Memory-Impaired and other resources that when dealing with those afflicted with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions which beget memory-disabilities, compassion must trump rationality and logic. And even truth.

My mother’s truth, her reality, can change from day to day. I am well aware of this; still, the ups and down sometimes catch me seemingly unaware. This week I was pleasantly surprised by her lucidity and higher-than-usual energy mode – I’m always the one who calls, but she called me on my cellphone (she’d remembered– with a caretaker’s reminder – that she’d been napping when I’d called the previous day)! We were having a nice if boring conversation, and in a normal (for her) voice she asked how long it had been since MH’s father had died (Hey, she remembered he died! I silently rejoiced). When I answered her question about the relative suddenness of my FIL’s passing (Well, he’d been living with Parkinson’s for many years…), and she reacted with shock and horror to a fact she’s known for over a decade.

“No!” she gasped. “No!  How awful! I had no idea!’

I gently tried to steer the conversation to another subject, which led to the inadvertent revelation that she’d forgotten MH’s sister is married and has a 14 year old son. Her overt change of atone accompanied the implied, painful, fearful accusation: Why have you/has everyone been keeping this information from me?

And during our phone conversation next week she may well remember what she’d forgotten…and then forget something else. Like the existence of my children.

Her sudden plummet into the memory abyss hit me harder than usual this week. I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot, fighting off a crying jag, holding my cellphone to my ear and nodding reassurances to someone who wasn’t there.

“Old age is no place for sissies.”
Bette Davis

elderly bird

*   *   *

Department of Can You Run A Tab At An Urgent Care Center?

Speaking of children I do remember, Belle is back to practicing with the UPS Women’s Rugby team, although she will not be playing in any league games until next semester, due to her broken finger and resultant surgery. Last week she took a hard blow to the chest during a practice. A visit to the Student Health Center and subsequent x-ray confirmed her coach’s fear: Belle had suffered a separated rib.

Belle’s (severely) broken finger occurred during a practice in early September. Last year’s injuries included a cracked rib and…I forget what else. Going through the mail last weekend, I told MH that it just isn’t a normal week unless we receive yet another Explanation of Benefits form from our insurance company, along with a bill from a doctor or a physical therapist or an urgent care center….


Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!

Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!


*   *   *

Department Of Need I Say More?

Happy Belated Exploding Whale Day! Forty-five years ago, yesterday, a day that put Oregon on the map…and gushy whale parts on anyone standing within a quarter mile range of the event:

*   *   *

May you remember and appreciate the service (and “salutes”) of others;
may your fondest memories be as fuzzy or clear as time permits;
may you find beauty in unexpected places and sights (and rodents);
and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Another clichéd phrase I loathe.

[2] No, not “the Greatest” generation, and damn you, Tom Brokaw, for that well-meaning but inaccurate description…which Andy Rooney, bless his atheist heart, tried to counter at every opportunity.

[3] Which was actually Steven Spielberg’s first choice for the title of his epic WWII movie (okay…actually…not). Can you believe Saving Private Ryan won out?

[4] That would be moiself.

[5] They succeeded in occupying two: Kiska and Attu.

[6] In my opinion. MH was a little hesitant to reveal what he’d found, thinking it might be embarrassing (“Uh…will they – meaning my parents – be okay with this?”).

[7] A nun, badly needing to use a restroom, walked into a bar. The place was hopping with music and conversation, and every once in a while the lights would briefly flicker off and then go back on, whereupon the patrons would erupt into cheers. However, when the crowd saw the nun, the room went dead silent. The nun approached the bartender,and asked, ‘May I please use the restroom?”

“Sure,” the bartender replied, “but I gotta warn you: there’s a statue of a naked man in there wearing only a fig leaf.”

“Thank you; I’ll just look the other way,’ said the nun.

The bartender showed the nun to the back of the restaurant. After a few minutes she came back out, and other patrons stopped what they were doing and gave the nun a loud round of applause.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the bartender. “Why did they applaud for me just because I went to the restroom?”

“Well, now they know you’re one of us,’ said the bartender. “‘Would you like a drink?”

“No thank you,” said the puzzled nun, “but, I still don’t understand.”

“You see,” laughed the bartender, “every time someone lifts the fig leaf on that statue, the lights go out.”

The Bully I’m Not Canonizing

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Department of Simple Pleasures

My table calendar by artist Joyce Gabriel makes the time-passes-too-damn-fast transition somewhat bearable…and I never peek ahead. I like to be surprised by each month’s mascot.

Yesterday was goodbye, cucumber, hello, candy corn.




The artist also makes the Best Playing Cards Ever ® .

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures, the Sequel

Dateline: yesterday morning, circa 7:30 am, walking through a local park. Many school children, sometimes accompanied by a parent or older siblings, take the park’s paths to the nearby elementary school. A lad (age six or seven, I’d guess) riding a scooter was on the path, headed toward me. He called, “It’s hard.” At least5, I think that’s what he said – I was listening to a podcast and had my ear buds in.




I paused the podcast and looked around. The boy was alone; the friendly, please-notice-me expression on his face was definitely directed my way. As he scooted past me he showed to a stop and indicated with one hand the direction from which he’d come.

“It’s hard, riding all that way,” he said. “I’m new at this.” I gave him a thumbs up and told him I never would have guessed that –  he rode like a champ! The bashful smile on his face indicated I had made his morning…and he, mine.

*   *   *

I’d been trying to avoid most of the All Pope/All the Time coverage infesting seemingly every media outlet [1] of that RC dude known as Francis’ “Rocking America” tour. It frosts my butt, FAVOR, [2] to see a smoke-and-mirrors appointed leader of a patriarchal mythological religion [3] treated as if he were the head of a legitimate nation with whom the USA has strategic interests and/or trade and arms agreements.

(And don’t get me started even thinking about how much thi$ i$ co$ting taxpayer$ in providing $ecurity and other logi$t6ical arrangement$.)




As per my life de-stressing campaign, a part of my pope-news-evasion strategy includes trying to ignore the fawning statements by some of my allegedly liberal sisters and brothers, who rhetorically pee their tighty-whities [4] with excitement when Frankie says something that sounds even vaguely 21st century (his predecessors set the bar way low, so the rejoicing is almost understandable).

I understand the hopeful, the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend reasoning.  Still, I cannot ignore the fact that, his welcome rhetoric on climate change aside, Frankie has changed not one mote of the Roman Catholic Church’s dark ages, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-reality doctrine.

And then I hear this: during his visit, PF canonized Junipero Serra.


WTF, Captain?!

WTF, Captain?!


Okay. The whole thing with saints is, of course, just another embarrassing relic/irrational ritual, so who cares who gets in to the RC Hall of Superstition.  But, really, Junipero Serra? The convert-or-die, religious fanatic bully Franciscan friar who marched north from Mexico with the conquistadors through what is now California, establishing the mission system, beating and enslaving Native Americans and asking the Spanish Inquisition headquarters in Mexico City to send an Inquisitor to the Sierra Gorda missions?

Yeah, that’s the ticket.


 "For crissake, child, cover those buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we've so generously given to you ignorant savages."

“For crissake, cover your buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we’ve so generously given you ignorant savages.”


Regular readers of this blog [5] might rightly assume that I view the RC hierarchy as a misogynist, anti-intellectual, humorless gang of doddering old men. Still, I gotta credit their wacky sense of humor when it comes initiating and maintaining the saint circus.

There’s a patron saint for everything, from coffee houses and broken bones (St. Drogo) to kidney disease and spelunkers (St. Benedict of Nursia ) and motorcyclists (St. Columbanus) and civil disorder (St. Andrew Corsini)  and toothache (St. Medardus) and beekeeping (St. Valentine) and…no, really, ice skaters (St. Lidwina)? and….

So, I guess there is plenty of room for Serra – why not a patron saint of cultural genocide?  Give ’em another hundred years and some pope will find a way to sanctify Risadle of Ballarat, patron saint of altar boy diddlers and child molesters.


Saint Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

St. Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

*   *   *


“It’s not what kind of church I believe in – for that should be important only to me – but what kind of American I believe in.”
(Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, 9-12-1960, speaking before the Houston Ministerial Association

Attention, ye bloviating Baptists and chattering Catholics – yes, I’m talking to you, Republican presidential candidates – who so liberally [6] imbue your political rhetoric with what should be your private primitive, mythologically-based ignorance nonsense religious opinions: I cringe with embarrassment for y’all – with the embarrassment y’all are apparently to self-unmindful to feel – when I hear your why-my-god-told-me-to-run-for-president blathering.  Such a pathetic contrast to the soaring reassurances from one who came before you.




That speech to the Houston Ministerial Association addressed what was a pressing issue at the time – what Kennedy referred to as “the so-called religious issue.” This issue, which distracted from the real issues that should decide a political campaign, was the idea that, if elected, JFK would be the first “Catholic President” and thus would be subject to “taking orders” from the Vatican.

“I believe in an American where the separation of church and state is absolute…”

We’ve all likely heard or read that oft-quoted excerpt from Kennedy’s masterful oration, but I urge you to listen to or read the transcript of the entire speech.

Have we fallen so far so fast, that politicians feel comfortable – even obligated – to advertise their personal religious beliefs, as if publicly stated allegiance to imaginary friends are prerequisites or necessities for gaining votes in our patently (and constitutionally mandated) secular democracy? I despair when I consider the fact that so many god-talk people are apparently/willfully ignorant of the deliberately god-free constitution of the country they aspire to lead.

Oh, and a prescient shout-out from JFK’s speech, to scofflaw county clerk Kim Davis [7] and others of her ilk:

“But if the time should ever come …when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”


*   *   *

I Realize Marijuana Has Been Legalized in Oregon…


But I wasn’t expecting my broccoli to be getting all giggly about it.



*   *   *

Recently Overheard


“I would not wish ____

* shingles

* leukemia

* Huntington’s Disease

* the heartbreak of psoriasis

* mandatory attendance at an Adam Sandler film festival

*standing downwind of Mike Huckabee after a Gods, Guns Grits & Gravy workout

* ( name your affliction )

on my worst enemy.”


Just wondering: what would you wish on your worst enemy?


*   *   *

May your worst enemies send you their best wishes,
May you live a life free from possible sainthood,
may your vegetables give you the drug-free giggles,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Shame on you, NPR.

[2] For a variety of reasons.

[3] A redundant description, I realize.

[4] Rainbow colored, in this case.

[5] As well as those who suffer from occasional irregularity.  Sorry.

[6] Well, in a manner of speaking.

[7] How embarrassing for us all, that this ignorant, hypocritical bigot now has her own Wikipedia entry.

The Trigger I’m Not Warning

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Trigger warning: image of child abuse:


From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.

From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.


Could someone please alert UNICEF?

*   *   *

A Book of Oh, Barf

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame,
 Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed.”
(Life’s Been Good, Joe Walsh)

Trigger warning: this post contains strong opinions, vulgarities and strong language.


 “I have a love/hate relationship with ____________. “

That’s what I would say; that’s the standard (read: worn out) phrase I might employ, were I to describe something about which I am ambivalent. Except that when it comes to the topic of literary fame and publicity, my feelings are definitely one-sided.

My loathing for such was rekindled Monday morning, as I thumbed through The Arts section of The NY Times, looking for the crossword and KenKen puzzles. [1] A full page ad opposite the puzzles trumpeted an upcoming reception celebrating the release of a new book by what I refer to as one of those TWAB POTS (scrambled acronym for Authors Who Have Started To Believe Their Own Publicity).  Here is the ad’s description for the book of what is likely to be a slim volume, given the subject matter: [2]

“______ (TWAB POTS’ name) has inspired millions with her wisdom, courage and honesty. Now she has selected 100 of her most popular and inspirational quotes for ______ ( pretentiously terse book title), a new volume she calls a “book of yes.”


I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.

I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.


“A book of yes.”



Really – and, dang! Yet another of my working titles stolen. So now I have to call my collection of 100 of my most obscure and disheartening quotes, A Book of, Fuck No, What The Hell Were You Thinking?!”

Yet again, I digress.




The ad further informed me that I may “hear the NY Times best-selling author discuss the twists and trials of her remarkable life” – an offer I shall decline, given my suspicions that author’s twists and trials have been somewhat calculated so as to procure book contracts.

Okay; I could be off-base about that previous opinion. But one thing I know for sure is that it is not good for one’s sense of self to voluntarily or otherwise [3] be subject to fawning adulation – no matter what the reason and no matter what your profession.

Honestly, how truly wise and courageous is it to allow yourself to be hyped for your wisdom, courage and honesty?

Our society revels in gleefully harping on the pomposity and egomania of celebrities. I am no exception, and oft mourned in this space what I see as the celebritization of authors.  Surrounded by such public relations horse manure hyperbole, how does or can you maintain a sense of perspective and modesty re your place in the larger world?

Fortunately (and, obviously), in my case, that question has never been put to the test. Still, were I to show up at a reading of one of my books and see a larger-than-life head-shot of me [4] on a banner, accompanied by a description of how my remarkable life and writing has inspired millions, no Sharpie ®  would go uncapped in my efforts to bring the proceedings down to earth.


Something like this, only even less mature.

Something like this, only even less mature.

*   *   *

The Return of the Asshat

Trigger warning: this post contains opinions, language and pictures that may be offensive to people who watch reruns of Hee Haw and sigh, Now, that’s entertainment!


Let’s say you are a corporate CEO who employs a stable of intelligent and accomplished engineers. Do you utilize their technical experience and skills to find and/or create sources of renewable energy, or upgrade devices to remove pollutants from the air we all breathe…or maybe just design a more energy efficient window defroster?


VW = Veracity-Free Weasels

VW = Veracity-Free Weasels


Nah. You use them to cheat : Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Widens

You pay them to find a way to break the law and thus facilitate even more spewage of toxins into the atmosphere. [5]

Volkswagen, this Asshat of the Week award is for you.



*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Segue to a Smoky Wee-wee Anecdote

Trigger warning: smoky wee-wee anecdote.


Dateline: First Day of Fall, out for my morning walk. Passing through a certain neighborhood, I noticed the air smells like what I can only imagine a bucket of piss would smell like if you put in under the lid of one of those BBQ smoker contraptions.

Not the autumnal aroma I was hoping for.


BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.

BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.


*   *   *

Trigger warning: If you think phrases like “trigger warning” should be posted before strongly worded or controversial opinions, you shouldn’t be reading any blogs and definitely should not be browsing the internet.


Son K is (re) taking up fencing (he and his sister, Belle, took a fencing class many, many years ago). He has signed up for a couple of trial session with a local fencing academy, wherein one can drop in on ongoing classes. He returned home Tuesday night, after the first session, and said that although the class he attended is listed as for adults, at age twenty-two he seemed to be one of the elder class members.

When I asked if that bothered him, K smiled wryly and replied that it didn’t.  At  6 ‘3″+ he was one of the taller students in the class; thus, his reach far exceeded that of his kiddie opponents, most of whom were longtime students, obviously more experienced and skilled than he. K confessed to taking petty pleasure from sparring with the younger, shorter fencers, because at some point he’s just reach his blade over the top of their heads and, to use his sound effect, bop.


Here come de bop.

Here come de bop.

*   *   *

Trigger warning: I really like saying bop.

I wonder if Little Bunny Foo Foo can be adapted for the scenarioI have going through my head?

You’re singing it now, admit it.


Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest....

Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest….


*   *   *

Trigger warning: Giddyap, boy, head for the hills while you can – that crazy ass cowboy plans to stuff you and put you in his museum!



*   *   *

May you enjoy more than your share of petty pleasures,
may your life be trigger-warning free,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Which the NYT oh-so-conveniently prints side-by-side on the same page, for us puzzle lovers.

[2] Insert hissing sound effects.

[3] I assume an author of her ilk has some input if not total approval of her own PR.

[4] For which you will never find me posing.

[5] Is this the fifth footnote? What a letdown.

The Work I’m Not Imitating

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As I’ve occasionally carped about mentioned in this space (here, and here and here, to list just a few spaces), I often find writers guidelines [1] to be obtuse, pretentious, long-winded bunk.




However, I sometimes have the good fortune to stumble across a gem like the following, discovered while checking a clearing-house type website for literary journals seeking material (my emphases):

The James Franco Review Call for Submission

The James Franco Review is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (snip snip)….
We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes—writers need not be so cruel.

I did not send them anything, but I did take the time to savor the metaphorical breath of fresh (and not hot) air.

*   *   *

Speaking of clearing the air….

Which I wasn’t. Not to get all technical, but I was writing, not speaking. I was also trying for a segue. Bear with me.


That's not me on the right, but if it was, then the picture would be Bear with me.

That’s not me on the right. If it were, then the picture would be Bear with me.


Last week BBC News Hour reported on a story about researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia who found that “….pollution levels over several major cities in the Middle East are dropping and have concluded that it is due to economic and political unrest and war.” It seems that the chaos of war and instability leads to a lowering of economic standards in many cities, which means that less fuel is burned by cars or used in electricity production.

What a wonderful if totally unintended byproduct of madness, I thought, in that making-lemonade-from-lemons way of mine. People with respiratory diseases suffer and die due to air pollution. People with weakened immune systems and other health disorders, as well as all of us Average Citizens ® , experience diminished quality of life due to pollution. As per the EPA:

“Scientific evidence indicates that ground-level ozone not only affects people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics), but healthy adults and children as well. Exposure to ozone for 6 to 7 hours, even at relatively low concentrations, significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people.”

And from the World Health Organization:

“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma… Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”


After reading the story’s provocative premise and before continuing with his report, the BBC announcer made some toss-off remark about how he hated to highlight such a “trivial” point (as reduction in pollution), given the effects of war and instability.

A reduction in pollution – read: air poison – is trivial?

I wanted to reach through my car radio and slap him.




Sorry to bother you with something so trivial....

Sorry to bother you with something so trivial….

*   *   *

Department of More People I Want To Slap



Late last week much of Oregon west of the Cascades Range was blanketed by smoke from fires burning in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades.

I’ve lived here for almost twenty-five years. My brain can’t remember ever seeing (or smelling or tasting) pollution that bad, in this area, but my lungs and bronchial tubes did provide me with a sensory memory: the tightness under my sternum was a flashback to being a child of So Cal in the 60s and 70s.

I remember well (and would like to forget) the days of Smog Alerts, when PE classes and athletic practices were cancelled and/or held indoors and some parents kept their kids home from school and all citizens were advised to restrict physical activity and refrain from driving if possible. [2]  Hospital ERS and doctors offices reported being clogged with the most vulnerable patients (the elderly, and young children) who experienced shortness of breath and headaches, and I felt a distinctive “catch” in my chest when I tried to take a deep breath.

I also remember that it got better. The air quality, that is.


Surf's up...down there, somewhere.

Surf’s up…down there, somewhere.


Many years ago, during a daytime flight to visit my So Cal family, K and Belle expressed alarm as our airplane made its descent toward the Orange County Airport. [3] “What’s that?” K asked, as he pressed his nose against the airplane’s window. “Yeah,” Belle chimed in. “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?”

“It’s the air,” I replied. “Or, at least, what passes for it, here.”

I proceeded to inform my offspring that, believe it or not, it had been worse when I was their age. [4] Although there are twice the amount of people and vehicles in So Cal now then when I was living there, the air, while not clean, is cleaner, thanks to the enactment of strict emission standards.

Here’s where the slapping part comes in: ere’s where the I remembered how furious I was when certain redneck relatives of mine bragged about how they’d removed the catalytic converters from their emissions-belching vehicles, because no gummint agency (cough, rasp, hack) was gonna tell them (wheeze, pant, snort) to sissify their muscle cars.

*   *   *

Yet Another Way To Clear the Air

Or at least, your sinuses.

I mean of course, by consuming roasted peppers. This is the season where you may be fortunate enough to acquire Padrón peppers from your farmer’s market, your CSA or even your local grocery store.


The pretty, "before" picture.

The pretty, “before” picture.


Padrón peppers are sometimes sold alongside shishito peppers.  How to tell the difference? The two varieties look almost identical. A Produce Dude ® told me that the two are often confused, even among farmers. The shishitos may seem to have a shinier surface and are a bit longer and twistier and “ridgier” than Padróns.

Both peppers are generally milder than jalapenos. No matter; they’re both tasty, with slight differences in flavor. [5] After discovering and then playing around with them, I don’t make ’em any other way than by using the following the skillet dry-roasting method.

Dry skillet roasting requires just three ingredients

(1) Padrón (or shishito) peppers, intact [6]
(2) your best/most flavorful sea salt

(3) your best olive oil
(optional – the oil’s not for cooking the peppers, but for seasoning them afterward)

and five pieces of equipment

(1) a large cast iron skillet (or comal)
(2) tongs
(3) an oven mitt (that pan is gonna get hot)
(4) a shallow (but not callow) serving bowl
(5) okay, it requires only four pieces of equipment

Get your skillet good and hot (a drop of water should wiggle and dance on its surface and evaporate almost immediately). Add the peppers, in batches if you have a lot – don’t crowd ’em, they should be in a single layer. Sear peppers ~ 1m on all sides. They may wiggle-dance just like the water droplets, which is just too cute.


Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.

Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.


Use the tongs to turn the peppers as they roast – you want the skin to blister. [7]  When they are roasted to your liking, tong-transfer them to the serving bowl, drizzle ’em with the oil (if using), [8] sprinkle with sea salt, and serve: hold by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper. You may want to take a test bite first. (Padróns vary in hotness; some folks say the larger peppers are hotter. [9] )


The yummers "after" picture.

The yummers “after” picture.


*   *   *

Department of That’s What He Said

MH and I usually do the NY Times Sunday crossword together during lunch. This past Sunday MH decided to get an early start. As I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes he read aloud one of the clues that, he said, was stumping him, even though the answer was only four letters long.

Clue:  “When repeated, an aerobics class cry.”

I did not spew an immediate solution, and so MH wrote in what was, to him, the only logical answer:

“Stop.”  [10]

Please, please make it stop.

Please, please make it stop.

*   *   *

May your personal and professional guidelines be down-to-earth,
May your air be breathable,
May your peppers be wiggly and tasty,
and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1]  a set of guidelines from a literary journal or publisher that specify their requirements for material from writers, including the length, categories, format and styles of articles they seek, rights purchased and compensation rates, appropriate editors or other contact persons, how to submit work (query first or send full ms.), etc.

[2] Which, for a Southern Californian of that day, would only be possible if they’d lost both arms in a pesky meat grinder accident.

[3] Aka The John Wayne Airport. The name change in 1979 still frosts my butt. Airports should be named for their location, not for a wealthy movie star whose only connection to the airport was grousing about the airplanes flying over his Newport Beach mansion.

[4] And we had to walk to school with barbed wired wrapped around our feet to get through the six foot snow drifts in winter…or was that my mother’s story?

[5] After roasting, Padróns have a light smoky taste, while shishitos may seem slightly sweet/herbal/floral.

[6] Intact as in whole peppers with their stems, not intact as in, with all their boy parts still in one piece.

[7] the padrón’s skin, hopefully not yours, because you’re using the mitts to handle the hot pan, right?

[8] This is optional. They are delicious just dry-fried and tossed w/salt.

[9] Some folks have been known to be wrong.

[10] The answer was, “step.”

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