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The New Word I’m Not Defining

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Department Of This Is All I’m Gonna Say About That…

…for now.

About that treacherous excuse for a president calling the whistleblower a traitor.

yeahright

When it comes to running this country into the ground, devising his various schemes which pass for governance which then inevitably lead to him to try and cover his ginormous behind, #45 seems to have been channeling the mindset of an 11-year-old boy. Thus, my advice to him and his equally conspiratorial minions: remember in fifth grade, the kid who was always the first one to raise his nose in the air, make exaggerated sniffing noises and then loudly ask/proclaim, WHO FARTED?

All together now:

He who smelt it, dealt it.

 

fart

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Dreamed I Made Up A Word…

…and the Other People ® in my dream seemed very enthusiastic about it, but I woke up before I could dream its meaning. The word was embolitigious.

bee

No way that’s a real word…but…may I have the definition please?

 

*   *   *

Department Of You’re Not Fooling Anybody

You may have seen the posts from actor Chris Pratt which have been creeping around on social media outlets, in which Pratt shares the festering turd of an  inspirational poem he allegedly “found,” titled Indivisible.

DING- DONGS.
Ding to the left.
Dong to the right.
The reverberations swell.

 

smell

 

Yep; that’s how it begins.

Oh…equating left and right as both acting like “ding-dongs” – I get it!  For a moment there I thought Mr. Pratt was leaving us all some cheeky clues as to the ultimate, Inquiring Minds Want To Know ® manhood question, Which way do you hang? (“dong to the right”).   [1]

Yet again, I digress.

 Indivisible presents itself as a plea for unity via criticizing “both”  [2]   political sides (“the media plays them like a fiddle/drowning out the healthy middle…”).  Reality check: a disguise this thin would gag an anorexic.  Indivisible is religious shilling at its most blatant (and poetically cringe-worthy):

Ding-dongs from the far left squad
Fixed on answers outside God.

 I winced in sympathetic embarrassment, just typing that. 

The poetic (retch) preaching is not surprising, given the source.  Pratt has been open about his evangelical Christian beliefs, and has been quick to defend – if not successfully refute – charges of anti-LGBTQ bias re the celebrity-ridden Hillsong Church franchise he belongs to and $upport$.

Pratt – EXCUSE ME, I of course mean, whoever wrote the poem Pratt “found” – recycles some valid if hackneyed, yes-everyone-knows-to-do-this talking points about keeping calm/checking the facts, old trust-and-verify, because, no matter whether we identify left or right, we can be easily manipulated….

DUH

Moiself – and other religion-free folks, I’d bet – found those bits o’ advice mildly amusing and butt-frostingly ironic, given the not-quite-under-the-radar proselytizing prose woven throughout the religious tract  poem   (“…burdened by a sinful heart and hiding in some form of shame…We’re His Children….Under God we’re indivisible…”).

The source of penultimate manipulation and suppression of rational thought inspires someone to tell you to check your facts and consider the sources?  Hello, Religion, we did just that!  Which is why we’re now Freethinkers, Brights, Atheists, Humanists, Skeptics….

Yo, Mr. Pratt, did you ever re-read what you wrote, and was it perchance originally intended for The Onion?     

*   *   *

Department Of Make Up Your Minds: Is It Fast, Or Is It Slow…
(  ♫ Should I Stay Or Should I Go ♫ )

Something I wrote about last week sparked a memory re the many reasons I’ve never paid attention/given credence to book reviews, be they of my works or anyone else’s.

(“…a pointless and confusing story.”
Publisher’s Weekly, 1963, re Where The Wild Things Are.)

 

From two reviews of one of moiself’s books, The Mighty Quinn (my emphases):

“Bullying, competition, hot and cold friendships, male and female peer role models, and comic relief are just a few of the issues presented in the fun and fast moving plot pages for this humorous….
(from The Midwest Book Review review of TMQ)

 Although the story suffers from a slow pace and drawn-out conversations, Parnell neatly weaves ideas about social justice and acceptance…
(from the Publisher’s Weekly review of TMQ)

 

   *   *   *

Department Of Some Really Substantial Food For Thought
(But Remember To Chew Slowly If You’re Over 65)

The brilliant psychoanalyst Erik Erikson coined the term “identity crisis” over 60 years ago to describe the profound psychological challenge faced by adolescents and emerging adults who must figure out who they are, what they’re going to do with their lives and who they’re going to do it with.

Thus begins a compelling article by psychiatrist/psychoanalyst and Forbes magazine contributor Prudy Gourguechon,  who “advises leaders in business and finance on the underlying psychology of critical decisions.”  Gourgeuchon makes the case that the thousands of people from the “Baby Boom” generation boomers who turn 65 every day are facing a second identity crisis, one which did not exist for previous generations.  [3]

I’ve little commentary…

REALLY

…yes, really, except to provide some excerpts which just might tantalize you enough to read the article yourself, and then tell me what *you* think about it.

 These are the questions that come into play, either consciously or unconsciously: Who am I anyway, after all this? What kind of work do I want to do now? Who do I want to spend my time with and where? What is the point of my life now? What kind of stimulation do I need, and what kind do I want to avoid? What have I had enough of and what do I still yearn for?…

 The process of confronting these questions –and finding the answers–has all the disruptive hallmarks of an identity crisis….

 The person in an identity crisis suffers…from a “diffusion of roles.” “I knew what it was to be a doctor (lawyer, teacher, trader, etc.) but if I don’t do that anymore what am I, what shapes my day, what do I want, what should I do.”…

The need to search out new roles and structures –role diffusion—is accompanied by a subjective, psychological feeling of diffusion. Despite its inherent positive potential this feeling state is disorienting and risky. Diffusion feels smoky, undefined, vague and uncomfortable. There’s an amorphous fuzzing out of previously held certainties. “Unmoored” captures the state pretty well. A bit of what psychiatrists call “depersonalization” may be there—you’re not quite inside yourself.
(Excerpts from “The Second Identity Crisis: How To Deal In A Smart Way With A New Phase Of Life,” by Prudy Gourguechon, Forbes )

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Isa Does It, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Recipe:  Ranch Salad with Red Potatoes and Smoky Chickpeas

My rating:

Twiddle

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

May you admit you dealt it when you smelt it;
May you remember that even if you never start over, one day you’ll start older;
May you be mindful which way your dong dings;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Now *I’m* channeling my inner 11 year old.

[2] There’s a lot more political nuances to be found than just “left” and “right,” but that takes more sophistication than an internet social media poem can handle.

[3] Due to many factors, including the lengthening of the life span after retirement.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Comments I’m Not Making

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Department Of Raising Them Right

Dateline: last Friday; circa 4 pm; a Manzanita (OR) grocery store. Three towheaded children watch their equally blond parents taste the Syrah that is offered at the store’s weekly wine tasting. The parents speak softly to each other, in lightly accented English which makes me think they’re originally from Germany, or possibly the Netherlands…maybe North Dakota. 

Spicy,” Mom says, sipping her wine sample. The middle child, a boy who looks maybe five years old, grins up at the store’s wine tasting host and says, “Expensive.”  [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of There Goes The Neighborhood
Chapter 391

The latest salvo in my never-ending battle against tasteful lawn décor:  [2]

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

Recipe:  Moong Dal

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

   *   *   *

Department Of Naming Your Kid After A Leafy Green Is Child Abuse, IMHO

Dateline: Tuesday evening, circa 7:30pm, our local Costco.  Leaving the store with MH, I do something moiself has never done before. 

 

 

No, not that.  (Holy farting Jesus H. Buddha on a raft – nuns have the dirtiest minds).

There are two female employees at the store’s exit door. What I do is that I look at the nametag/ID badge of the Costco employee whose job moiself had hitherto thought of as Receipt Swiper (the employee who looks at the goods in your cart and then uses their Sharpie Pen ® to make a loopy mark across your receipt).   [5]  Beneath the employee’s name is her work title, which, for some reason, startles me: Front End.

Moiself: “Oh, my!

Receipt Swiper: (looking at me quizzically) “Yes?”

Moiself: “Sorry – I’m just wondering, is there another person in the back of the store with the title, ‘Rear End’ ?”

Receipt Swiper laughs and makes her sharpie mark on our receipt.  The other employee standing by RS’s side also laughs, and I look at her ID badge, which has no title, just her name.  I somehow manage to refrain from commenting with the first thing that comes to mind; instead, I do a double take to make sure that, yep, according to her Official Costco Badge, ®  this young woman’s name is Kale.

(The comment moiself does not make):
“Right on, Sister!”  [6]   My name is Arugula, and this is my husband Radicchio, and our two children are Romaine and Endive.”

 

Why do all the dickheads come to my line?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Go Read This Man’s Essay Right Now

Moiself refers to American writer Walter Mosley’s compelling essay, Why I Quit The Writer’s Room, wherein he describes how he came to quit a new job writing for a network television series after receiving an (anonymous) complaint about his use of language.

I’d been (in the new writers room) for a few weeks when I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said, “Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room.”

I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.”

He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except in a script. I could write it but I could not say it. Me. A man whose people in America have been, among other things, slandered by many words. But I could no longer use that particular word to describe the environs of my experience.

Someone else in the writer’s room – HR would not reveal the identity to Mosley – had called HR about Mosley’s use of the N-word (which Mosley had used in sharing an encounter which had happened to him; he didn’t call anyone that word). Mosley’s concern about being censored – “…if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job.” –   led him to resign from that show.

 

 

Some of my most cherished beliefs and opinions I hold and espouse,  [7]  both as a Mere Mortal ® and A Writer ®, have developed over the years because I have been able to hear and read ideas and words that made someone feel uncomfortable – even threatened.

One of the most dangerous but effective kinds of censorship for a writer is when “they” get you to do it to yourself. I’v watched with lip-curling disdain and alarm while claims of authenticity and charges of appropriation have seeped into the literary and publishing world.  The stench of the well-intended, silent-but-deadly admonition to “write what you know” has become “write what you are,” and the cherished ideals of imagination, empathy and craft are in danger of becoming subservient to identity politics.  In this write-what-you-know/are, A & A (authenticity & appropriation) world, an author cannot – or rather, should not – create or even write about certain characters unless the author shares what the self-appointed A & A police deem as those characters’ primary representative markers (hint: “race,” ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability….).

Had I listened to that flaming and festuring turd of suppression advice, the protagonist (and other crucial characters) of my book The Mighty Quinn  could not have existed. Because who was I, a 50-something female, to write about the travails of a bullied fifth grade boy?   [8]

In the ideal A & A regime, moiself, as an able-bodied, politically left-of-center, plant-based-eating-and-cooking, yoga-practicing,  religion-free, English-speaking, healthy, heterosexual, middle-aged, native born American woman primarily of European descent residing in the Pacific Northwest, could only “authentically” write about my tribe.  No 30-something, ALS-stricken, bi-curious, computer programming and ESL-student, cricket-playing, Indonesian immigrant son of Baptist missionary parents living in Utah could – or should – escape the confines of my mind and onto the pages in that stifled world.

 

 

I do not believe that it should be the object of our political culture to silence those things said that make some people uncomfortable…. if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job. And furthermore I do not believe that it is the province of H.R. to make the decision to keep my accusers’ identities secret. If I’ve said or done something bad enough to cause people to fear me, they should call the police.

I’m a fortunate guy. Not everyone can quit their job. But beyond that, we cannot be expected to thrive in a culture where our every word is monitored. If my words physically threaten or bully someone, something must be done about it. But if you tell me that you feel uncomfortable at some word I utter, let me say this:

There was a time in America when so-called white people were uncomfortable to have a black person sitting next to them. There was a time when people felt uncomfortable when women demanded the right to vote. There was a time when sexual orientation had only one meaning and everything else was a crime.

(excerpt from Walter Mosley’s Why I Quit The Writers’ Room)

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Your Parents To Shut Up   [9]

The pleasures of walking alone on the beach early in the morning are legion, but the dangers are very real, as per a recent 6:30 am-ish stroll I took along the shoreline near Nehalem Bay State Park. A vigorous and obsessive dog dashed by me, chasing gulls it would never catch; 30 seconds later I made a friendly/offhand comment to the only other person I saw on the beach at that time, whom I assumed was the dog’s owner.  [10]   She turned out to be a wild-eyed, animated, proud ex-Marine determined to engage me in conversation.  In less than 90 seconds she’d managed to turn my dog comment into an opportunity for her to go to LaLa Land – specifically, to speechify about the fact that although she was born and raised in SoCal (as was moiself) you couldn’t pay her to live there anymore (ditto for moiself)…which somehow led to her impassioned defense of California’s Proposition 13….   [11]

He (Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Holmes) did not have a curmudgeon’s feelings about his own taxes. A secretary who exclaimed ‘Don’t you hate to pay taxes!’ was rebuked with the hot response, ‘No, young feller. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.’
(Felix Frankfurter, “Mr. Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court”,
as cited in Quote Investigator)

I managed to extricate myself from the political harangue chat, but not the memory it invoked. Along time ago in a galaxy far, far away, moiself and MH were in Santa Ana (CA), visiting my parents at a time when they’d just happened to have recently received their property tax bill. My folks were proud beneficiaries of Prop 13   [12]  and they were practically gloating when they waved the bill in front of MH and I and asked us how much we were paying in property tax for our house in Hillsboro (OR).

Strike “ practically gloating” – it was up front, out of the closet gloating. They gleefully pointed out that moiself and MH (who found an excuse to leave the room when he realized where the conversation was headed) were paying over ten times what they were in property taxes.  Although my parents were usually Nice People ® , they mentioned this disparity repeatedly.

I told my folks, sure, like most people I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes, but I do enjoy the numerable services I receive in exchange for doing so.  I make it a point to look at the entire property tax bill when it arrives…

At this point I was interrupted by my parents, who made the comparison, yet again, of how little they paid and how much MH and I paid  –  with the implication that we were somehow schmucks for paying more.

As I was saying…I look at the entire property tax bill, not just the number we have to remit. I pay attention to how the  tax total is broken out into categories – primary, secondary and community college education; parks and recreation; police and fire and rescue services; enhanced sheriff patrols; clean water services, urban road maintenance….  I think about all the services I get for my $$ and thus am grateful, both for those vital, life-and-community-enhancing services and for the opportunity to share their cost with my fellow citizens…

And so, Mom and Dad, CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT UP ABOUT THIS?

 

 

They were momentarily shocked into silence, which allowed me to explain the reasons for my umbrage.  During that past year, my parents had had several grandchildren in CA public schools…and my folks had also received at least one visit from the fire department and two from the paramedics (due to various “old people” incidents, which included my father accidentally starting a fire in their oven and my mother having two falls requiring emergency medical attention).  Given the publicly-funded services they had directly benefited from, they were not paying anywhere near their fair share of the cost of living in a civilized society. Instead of gloating, how about even a modicum of gratitude? If that’s too much to ask, how’s about just saying nothing at all about your taxes, particularly nothing about how we are paying 10x what you are?

My parents mounted a lame defense of their tax gloating, then quickly changed the subject. Earlier I had noted the ubiquitous stack of Billy Graham Association literature on their coffee table; I remember thinking at one point during the tax talk,

What would your Jesus say about your tax burden? As I recall, according to y’alls scriptures, not only did JC *not* have anything nice to say about the desire for nor the accumulation of wealth, he famously admonished his followers to “render unto Caesar” … Oh yes, but the modern prosperity gospel gives y’all entitlement to make sure you feel fine about rendering the least while others render more.

 

*   *   *

May you be judicious in discerning when to tell your parents to “shut up;”
May you carefully consider what causes you to attempt to censor other people;
May your yard ornamentation be celebrated in your neighborhood…or not;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The Syrah was $46/bottle. How did the little smartass know?

[2] And who is anyone to argue against such an obvious homage to diversity?

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] Which indicates…what?…their initials, methinks, signifying you are not walking out with an unpaid for HDTV or a 50 pound sack of Kirkland Signature Pirate Booty Puffs.

[6] Does anyone say Right on! anymore?

[7]  And continually revise, as new information comes to light.

[8]  and Quinn’s friends and antagonists, who are a mix of male and female, English, Russian- and Bantu-speaking, religious and religion-free, emotionally stable and physically abused….

[9] And, BTW, why do we tell someone to shut “up,” and not down?

[10] She was not;  she was walking the dog for a friend who was out of town.

[11] In 1978 California voters enacted a “tax payer’s revolt” measure, which amended their state constitution to both limit property taxes and make it extremely difficult to raise them in the future.

[12] Which limited property taxes to 1976 assessed values and allowed very strictly limited increases, the assessment of which, for older folks, could be carried to a new home when they relocated.

The September Rituals I’m Not Assuming

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Department Of Some Movies Abbreviate Better Than Others

Ticket in hand, I looked for the theater in the multiplex which was showing The Peanut Butter Falcon at 2 pm.

 

*   *   *

Department Of If You Can’t Stand Misanthropy and/or Curmudgeon-ry
Then Slowly Back Away From Your Computer/ Other Device Right Now, Okay?

Someone had to be the first. Who started this “Fido has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge” thing? And by thing I mean supernatural crap wherein otherwise/mostly sentient, rational and potty-trained adults resort to sickly-sweet euphemisms when reporting on the death of their or another person’s beloved pet.

Now, before you get your incontinence garments in a knot, notice my use of the term, beloved pet.   Moiself, too, has had the heart-squeezing experience of losing dearly loved pets over the years, whether they died via natural (old age) or accidental means   [1] or euthanasia.  But, really:  Rainbow Bridge?  Can’t we just say what happened?  Your dog died; you miss your canine companion, and are sad.

Why is reality not sufficient? Who’s behind this? Something tells me the kind of people who fantasize about unicorns are involved.   [2] 

Disclaimers: The RB metaphor is used by good people with good intentions, blah blah blah. But hey, there are those of us who are trying to watch our lifestyle markers, eat properly and exercise and avoid high fructose corn syrup – which is added to everything these days, including toilet paper  [3]   – and  yet we get hit by these Type-2-Diabetes-inducing images from which there seems to be no hiding.

Moiself was curious/annoyed enough to do a little research on the term.  And by, “a little research” I mean the laziest easiest kind of research possible.  All hail Google search engines:

The Rainbow Bridge is the theme of several works of poetry written in the 1980s and 1990s that speak of an other-worldly place where pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with their owners…..
The first mention of the “Rainbow Bridge” story on the internet is a post on the newsgroup rec.pets.dogs, dated 7 January 1993, quoting the poem from a 1992 (or earlier) issue of Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League Newsletter, which in turn is stated to have quoted it from the Akita Rescue Society of America.
Other posts from 1993 suggest it was already well established and being circulated on the Internet at that time, enough for the quotation of even a single line to be expected to be recognized by other newsgroup readers…
.
(Wikipedia, Rainbow Bridge entry)

I still want to blame the unicorn people.

 

Whatever floats your boat.

*   *   *

Department Of Other Multi-Colored Bridges That Are Also Not Crossed
By Your Dead Pets, Or By Any Other Creatures, For That Matter

Frequent readers of this blog know that I am not religious, and hold no credence in the existence of anyone’s heaven or hell or other stages of post-reality existence. But I am convinced there is an afterlife, as per these two phenomena:

֎  people live on, after their physical life has ended, in the ways they are remembered by those who love them, and by the impact their deeds (for better, worse, and everything in between) have had on the world;

֎  and also by the fact that my mother has been reincarnated in my cerebellum, or whatever portion of my brain is responsible for time perception.  I heard her distinctive voice via my own proclamation this week:

How did it get to be September already?!

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci

Recipe:  * Vegan Celeriac Alfredo With Broccolini

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

Department of September Rituals

Very occasionally, someone (who doesn’t know me well) asks moiself if I am “still working.”  During the rare times when I am asked my occupation in some formal/legal way (e.g., tax forms), I put down “retired,” for lack of a better option. I feel rather…odd…in doing so. How can I be retired, from anything? Because I don’t really know if I am, or not. When it comes to writing for publication, I am on a sabbatical, which may or may not be permanent…which segues into the September routine I’m (not quite) missing.

September brings the strangeness of being apart from the back to school mode, which I’ve previously referenced (8-24-18)  :

There is something different for me this year, about this time of the year – this particular end of August. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until I realized that Belle’s graduation from college in May (brother K graduated three years earlier) means that for the first time in twenty years, there is no Back to School ® component to my life. The end of summer/resumption of school, the preparation and routine and rhythm of such, it was not so all-encompassing – for both my personal and the family’s schedules – when the kids were in college.  Still, it wasthere.I’ve noticed how “out of it” I’ve sometimes felt, during the past four years, with regards to schedules of other families – including even the approaching of holidays – by not having at least one child with a public school schedule. There was no compelling reason for me to keep track of certain things, and so I didn’t…and then I found myself frequently (and sometimes sheepishly) surprised by the mundane:
Why is there less traffic these past couple of morning? Why are there so many kids wandering around in the early afternoon…oh..yeah….it’s probably a teacher conference/grading/”staff development day” off for the schools….”

But September has other significant ritual associations, for fiction writers. Fall is (or used to be) when writers would send for updated guidelines from literary journals, many of which are associated with colleges and universities and thus have publishing schedules which are linked to the academic calendar. September was back to school housekeeping for writers: what are the Oxnard University Review’s new writers guidelines – same as last year, or any changes? What are their deadlines and estimated response times? Do they want online or print submissions? Do they still have two three month reading periods year round for their three issues, or do they publish bi-annually now? Are there new guidelines regarding manuscript length; will they have any special/themed issues?

Back in the olden days, before even the most obscure of journals had a website, writers obtained this information re the time-honored send-a ms. guidelines-request-enclose-a-SASE method.  All those stamps and envelopes added up to be a financial irritant – not an insignificant part of a writer’s budget, when you consider that the vast majority of the “good” literary journals (i.e., those that actually pay and/or have a circulation above 1000 readers) accept less than 1% of manuscripts submitted.  The acceptance rate for the “other” literary journals – from the obscure to the prestigious, they offer no remuneration for publication other than copies of their journal and, of course, the dreaded promise of “exposure” – varies from 2-10%.

 

(cartoon via electriclit.com)

 

That financial irritant of guidelines requests/SASEs has been mostly alleviated, in that you can now get guidelines from a journal’s websites. But the major irritant for writers about those guidelines – whether you got them via a letter or a computer screen – remained: discovering that a journal had a no simultaneous submissions policy.

(Oh-so-brief- Definition: A simultaneous submission is the submission of a literary work – e.g. a short story,  novel or short fiction collection or another piece of writing –  to more than one literary magazine or publisher at the same time.)

*   *   *

Blast From The Past: the Ongoing   [6]  Department Of Complaining About….

In the past year, reading Facebook posts from writers reminded me of a few   [7]  of the major complaints I had re submitting work to literary publications, including response time and no simultaneous submission policies. Especially infuriating were/are the journals who have a no simultaneous submission policy (i.e. these journals have the audacity to ask for exclusive submissions – as in, they want you to guarantee you are not submitting your work to publications while they are considering it) and also have notoriously long response times, some up to 8-16 months .

Really.

What kind of B.S about submitting a M.S. is that?  How did that policy – editors demanding exclusive consideration of your work – even get started?  Imagine going to a job interview where your potential employer said you couldn’t apply to any other jobs until he made his decision (and you noticed you were one in a line of 50+ applicants outside his office door)?

Once I began to encounter that imbalanced policy, I vowed I would not submit work to magazines that declared they would not read ss (simultaneous submissions).

In theory, I refused to support such a monstrously skewed power dynamic.  If editors wanting to enforce a ss policy were willing to practice the exclusivity they expected from writers – i.e. if they promised to only consider one ms. at a time –  then I would promise to submit my work to them and only them.

In practice, my policy in response to journals proclaiming a no ss policy was twofold:

(1) Depending on how obnoxiously self-important the guidelines were written, I either did not submit work to those journals which had that policy…

(2) or I did…but didn’t tell them my work was a ss[8]   After all, they didn’t tell me how many manuscripts other than mine they were considering, did they?   [9]

*   *   *

One of the “reminder” FB posts I mentioned came from NS, editor of the late great literary journal, Oasis (1992 – 2009)  [10]  who is also a writer.   NS’s beef is with editors and journals who waste writers’ time via absurdly long response times to manuscript submissions.  NS – I’ll call him Neal,   [11]   because that’s what his mommy and daddy did – was one of the more efficient and competent editors I’ve had the privilege of working with: smart and  pleasant; down to earth and enthusiastic; no BS.  Despite (or more likely because) of having had the experience of being a literary magazine editor, Neal finds the standard long response times of journals to be maddening, even insulting:

Isn’t it odd how most literary magazines make you pay for the privilege of ignoring you?
 Also:  All you literary magazines who claim to appreciate SO MUCH the men and women who submit to you, prove it. Start by no longer claiming you need 4 months to do what can be done in 4 minutes.

I – and most fiction writers, I’d bet – am fully in NS’s corner on this.  What is it with some journals’ response times – what could possibly be their excuse?  If you don’t know in two months, you will in eight…twelve…even more?  You are not conducting trials on the efficacy and safety of pharmacological treatments for malignant melanoma; you are considering which stories to publish.  Do you like the story, or not?  Does the story “fit” (if you’re that type of journal) with the rest of the material/theme of the issue, or doesn’t it?

 

 

Not all journals were like that. I kept on file the guidelines of a few of the best of what I considered to be Good Examples ®, two of which moiself will share with y’all:

Simultaneous Submissions: We accept simultaneous submissions, since we feel that it’s unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work unless the magazine can respond within two to three weeks.
We want writers to have every possible opportunity for success, so we’re willing to risk losing a story we want when someone at another magazine may have done their reading before we have, and in that case we’ll be sorry to lose the piece but happy for the writer.

We encourage simultaneous submissions.  It is unreasonable for any editor to ask for exclusive consideration of your work for an indefinite period of time.  There are many good writers submitting quality work.  Unless you have just won a Pulitzer or have an established rapport with a publication or editor, send your best work out to numerous publications you have vetted.  If your work is accepted elsewhere before you hear from us, just drop us an email and we will be very happy for you!

It was shocking to me that the reasonable-ness of these magazine’s respective policies…well…shocked me, when I first read them.  It was a Eureka moment – here are editors who understand and respect writers (and likely are themselves writers, as well as editors and/or publishers).

 

Are we done complaining yet?

*   *   *


May you never voluntarily cross anything resembling a Rainbow Bridge;
May the story of your life provide for a most provocative movie marquee abbreviation;
May you remember that the more you complain, the longer you live;   [12]
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Run over by a car….shudder and ick.

[2] Almost always (or so it seems to moiself) the Rainbow Bridge metaphor is used in relation to dogs, but I’m sure other animals involved.

[3] Just a hunch. I haven’t actually read a toilet paper ingredients label.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] As in, neverending.

[7] There were many….sooooooo many….

[8] As in, it was already under consideration by another journal, or I’d also planned on submitting it elsewhere.

[9] And yes, it is possible I ended up on the notorious/rumored “blacklist” for doing so.

[10] Full disclosure: my story We’ll Talk Later  (which was included in my short fiction collection, This Here And Now, ) was published in Oasis in 1993.

[11] I usually don’t name names in this blog, unless the namee is somewhat of a public person.

[12] Or actually it just seems longer to everyone around you.

The Official Party Business ® I’m Not Undertaking

Comments Off on The Official Party Business ® I’m Not Undertaking

Department Of Why The Two Party Duopoly Has To Go, Reason #379

Republican, schmublican; Democrat, schmemocrat – both parties use the same sleazy-ridiculous tactics when it comes to fundraising.  As per the following which MH received in the mail – previewed by moiself to him in an oh-so-excited text:

MH, look what you’re getting!  It’s official party business!
It has official numbers on it!  Quick – find something to salute!

*   *   *

Department Of I Guess You Had To Be There

Homemade yogurt joke:

 

“Whey! No whey!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of You Need To Watch This Show Because I Say So

“Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.”
(“Anne,” to “Tony,” at their regular meeting place – in a cemetery,
sitting on a bench which faces their respective late spouses’ gravestones.)

Last weekend Moiself watched all six episodes of the first season of.After Life – a Netflix series written and produced by Ricky Gervais –  and I recommend that you do, too.

A British black comedy, After Life follows Tony, whose beloved wife has  died and whose dementia-addled, elderly father is in a care facility.  Tony, struggling to deal with the irritations and futility of everyday life, considers suicide, then decides to live long to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants, including telling the truth about the pointlessness of his and his colleagues’ jobs – working for a community newspaper no one reads. Tony thinks of this as his “superpower,” but his friends and colleagues persist in seeing through his gruff persona to the decent chap  [1]   he used to be.

Every episode had me on the verge (and sometimes over the edge) of tears, of both mirth and pain.  Keep the Kleenex handy for the laugh out loud, spit out your popcorn/iced tea/wine dialogue, interspersed with gut-wrenching displays of the depths of Tony’s love for his wife and grief at her loss.  Tony’s observations about humanity are cutting; his misanthropy can be obscene; his heartache is raw and palpable. And the supporting cast – from his colleagues at the newspaper, to a prostitute (“Excuse me, sex worker!”) he befriends, to the inept postman he taunts, to the nurse at his father’s care facility, to a widow he meets at the cemetery who becomes a kind of grief mentor – all are multi-dimensional characters, keenly written and well-acted.

Frankly, imagining moiself in his shoes, I think Tony shows remarkable restraint in many of his interactions with his fellow humans. For example, he goes on assignment with the paper’s photographer to interview yet another clueless couple who think their daft doings deserve media coverage – in this case, parents who think themselves newsworthy for  having “…a baby who looks like Hitler.”

Newspaper staff member:
Got a good lead for you: “Local baby looks exactly like Adolf Hitler.”

Tony, at the baby’s home, with the staff photographer,
looking at the Hitler-style mustache on the baby’s upper lip:
So is that a birthmark?

Baby’s Mother:
Oh, no, it’s eyeliner. We did it with marker pen at first, but it took ages to get off.

Baby’s Father:
Yeah, I mean, this way we can do it when we want then wipe it off if we need to.

Tony:
So hold on, it doesn’t really look like Hitler then.

Photogapher:
It does.

Tony:
No. I mean naturally. It wasn’t born with its hair combed forward
and a mustache, was it?

Photographer:
Nor was Hitler, to be fair.

 Tony:
What I’m saying is, it’s not a revelation, is it? I mean, to get in the paper. “Baby born that looks a bit like Hitler,” mildly interesting if it had a real mustache. But you can draw a mustache on any baby and it looks a bit like Hitler.

Father:
Not a black one.

Mother:
Not as much.

Tony:
I’ve got one more question. Why do you want your baby to look like Adolf Hitler? You’re not fans, are you?

Parents:
We’re not Nazis, no.  Just a bit of fun, innit?

Tony:
I mean – Yeah. Hitler’s the funniest thing to do, I guess.

 

Moiself, I prefer Hitler cats to Hitler babies.

 

Tony (like his creator, Gervais) is an atheist. I’m grateful for Gervais using Tony’s character as a foil with which to reveal and parry some of the absurd things people  say to non-religious believers, as in Tony’s meaning-of-life exchange with Kath, a co-worker. Kath, the newspaper’s advertising editor, is a haughty thorn in most of her colleague’s sides. She’s also a fervent fan of the American comedian-/actor Kevin Hart:

Kath:
 If you were atheist –

Tony:
 I am.

Kath:
 – and don’t believe in an afterlife –

Tony:
I don’t.

Kath:
If you don’t believe in heaven and hell and all that, why don’t you just go around raping and murdering as much as you want?

Tony:
I do.

Kath:
What?

 Tony:
I do go around raping and murdering as much as I want, which is not at all.

(a co-worker chimes in):
‘Cause he’s got a conscience.

Kath:
But if death is just the end, what’s the point? –

Tony:
What’s the point in what?

Kath:
– Livin’! You might as well just kill yourself.

Tony:
So if you’re watching a movie, and you’re really enjoying it – something with Kevin Hart in – and someone points out that this’ll end eventually, do you just go, “Oh, forget it then. What’s the point?” and just turn it off?

Kath:
No, ’cause I can watch it again.

Tony:
Well, I think life is precious ’cause you can’t watch it again.  I mean, you can believe in an afterlife if that makes you feel better. Doesn’t mean it’s true. But once you realize you’re not gonna be around forever, I think that’s what makes life so magical.
One day you’ll eat your last meal, smell your last flower, hug your friend for the very last time.
You might not know it’s the last time, so that’s why you should do everything you love with passion, you know? Treasure the few years you’ve got because that’s all there is.

(a thoughtful silence envelops the newsroom)

Kath:
I’ve watched Ride Along 2 five times.

Tony:
Well, you haven’t wasted your life, then.

Kath:
Definitely not.

 

Series Bonus: you know satisfying it is when you resolve a Where do I know this actor from?! feeling? By the last episode I was so happy when I figured out (without “cheating” – i.e., looking at the credits) that the actor who plays Anne, Tony’s cemetery buddy, is Penelope Wilton.  Wilton is probably best known to American audiences for playing Downton Abbey’s Isobel Crawley, the more liberal member of the family whose modern outlook is an irritant to the imperious Countess Dowager.

 

 

Anyway, if it isn’t obvious by now, I found the show quite entertaining as well as thought-provoking and mirth-inducing.  And if anyone else thinks they have a better philosophy of life (that can be proven) than Tony’s what makes life so magical speech (along with what his friend Anne says in the quote which opens this segment) – well then, to use a suggestion the Tony character would likely approve of,  go $#?! yourself.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Words A Parent Lives For
(Sub-Department of My Work Here Is Done)

Earlier this week moiself ran into one of son K’s  high school teachers/coaches when I was out walking and she was out for a run.  So, wait a minute: did she run into me, or did I walk into her?

Move along, folks, nothing here to see.

 

I didn’t recognize her at first; it had been at least six years since I’d seen her.  She wore a running shirt emblazoned with the logo of the fitness club she and other coaches had started at K’s and our daughter Belle’s high school. I asked her about that, we chatted, I introduced myself, and she remembered K from his years on the Cross Country team and also from one of her classes. She will always remember K, she said, as being …very intellectual, and also kind, very kind.” Two more times in our conversation she used the word kind to describe him.

 

That’s my boy.

*   *   *

Department Of One More Thing About Offspring

I found this while going through the file cabinets, looking for something which was in a folder adjacent to the folders in which MH and I keep old notes and sketches written by  Belle & K.  There is no date or attribution on it –  PARENTING FAIL!  [2]   I’m thinking it was done by K, due to the handwriting…but then, as MH pointed out, Belle was big on writing notes to us, so it could have been either one of them.   

 

 

Translation:

How to take care of children

  1. get in PJs.
  2. eat dinnr.
  3. let them have as much Desrt as they wont!

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert

* Creamy Fava Bean Soup
* Eggplant Zaalouk
* Berber Skillet Breads

 

My ratings: for the Fava Bean Soup and the Eggplant Zaalouk:

 

 

For the Berber skillet bread:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

*   *   *

May you appreciate (or at least tolerate) yogurt puns;
May a teacher remember your child – or you – with fondness;
May you rest assured that no baby is born looking like Hitler;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] He’s British, you know.

[2] I always (or so I thought) wrote on the back of a drawing or note I saved, the name of its creator, and the date.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The 4th Of July Parade I’m Not Recovering From

2 Comments

Best Compliment Ever
Aka, My Work Here Is Done

“You’re my spirit animal!”
(Absolutely adorable/soon to be handsome 13 year old boy, to moiself,
after Manzanita’s July 4 July parade)  [1]

I think it was the Dali Lama – or was it Dolly Parton?  [2]  – who advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Thus, the impetus for my participation in Manzanita’s July 4 Parade.

Manzanita’s annual parade is small town enough that individuals can just show up at the parade assembly grounds and participate. I’m a smartass cynic when it comes to such events, and this year I decided to force myself to join in. Okay, but…how?

When notorious parade loather moiself thought of parades in general and July 4th parades in particular, I decided I wanted to see something else among the usual procession of star-spangled, flag-waving

* kids on tricycles

*adults on bicycles

* politicians in convertibles

* golden retrievers on leashes

* T-Rex-costumed teens on roller stakes

* Civil War re-enactors on foot

*muscle car drivers on methamphetamines….

Not that there’s anything wrong with all the red white and blue on July 4….but it’s been done, you know? I knew there were people who would do the flag-waving thing far better than moiself; I also knew it was likely that no one would be willing to take on the role of Goodwill Ambassador to the Planet ® in the form of Orange Hat Women With Spatulas.

My outfit and participation had the effect I’d intended: smiles, laughter and shout-outs all around. I mean, really – who doesn’t appreciate a spatula?  It’s a humble kitchen utensil which unites everyone on the political spectrum (as I explained to some parade watchers who wanted to know, why spatulas?). 

Some folks looked bewildered at first, until they figured out what I was (the signboard I wore was easier for some parade watchers to read from behind; i.e., just after I’d passed them). You never heard so many calls of “Spatulas!  Yay!” in your life.  [3]   There was nothing to “get” – no greater, existential meaning. Just truth in advertising, so to speak.

One of my favorite reactions came from two elderly women – sisters, I like to think – who were sitting side by side in beach chairs on the sidewalk in front of the Manzanita Post Office.  As I passed by, one of them read my sign aloud, and her sister responded (both women’s piercing vocal volume indicated they were probably hard of hearing):

Sister #1:
” ‘ Orange Hat Woman With…uh…Spatulas?’  What does it mean?”

Sister #2 (slapping sister #1, then pointing toward moiself, who was wearing an orange hat with spatulas dangling from the hat rim, and waving two spatulas in each hand):
“What do you THINK it means ?!”

 

 

You made my day!
Spatulas, yee haw – I Love Spatulas, too!
You should win best costume!
You’re my favorite parade entry of all time!
Spatulas rock!
God Bless America, and spatulas!
(a sampling of the comments Orange Hat Woman With Spatula ® received, 7-4-19)

It is truly difficult to convey how enjoyable it was to be on the receiving (and producing) end of so much good will.

And so, I did it:  I’ve marched in a parade, and I don’t ever have to do it again.  Except that my neighbor and a few other folks afterwards urged me to consider an encore performance next year, with “more” of what they assumed was my theme…

You can add to your banner – tape a sign at the bottom which says, ‘AND WHISKS’ and then sew some whisks onto your hat, or hold some whisks along with the spatulas….OH OH OH – and then the year after that, you can add slotted spoons! And then….

*   *   *

Department Of A Good Story That Gets Even Better

Dateline: Wednesday a.m. Over breakfast, MH reads aloud a headline from the NY Times sports section (print edition):

“Olympic Swimmer Rescues Drowning Man”

“In record time,” moiself adds.

MH chuckles and continues to read. It appears that the swimmer came to the aid of a man on his honeymoon…

who had fallen off an inflatable swan.”

Say no more, I insisted. It just can’t get any better.

 

No man – don’t risk it!

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

David’s Vegan Home Cooking, by David A. Gabbe

Recipes:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing
* Millet Cornbread Muffins
*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

My ratings:

* Miso Tahini Salad Dressing

* Millet Cornbread Muffins

*”Creamy” Cauliflower Soup

 

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

           Department Of Testing The Goodwill Of Strangers

Dateline Monday, July 8, circa 5:30 pm. Moiself is parked in a grocery store parking lot, sitting in my car’s driver’s seat, texting to MH and son K re our dinner options (ants have invaded our kitchen counters; no one’s in a cooking mood). I am just about to exit the vehicle when I am startled by an Out Of Nowhere ® rap on my car’s door.

I open the door, exit the car, and behold a Very Large And Friendly-If-Sheepish Looking Man holding a cell phone and gesturing toward my car’s rear bumper.

I was just talking a picture of one of your bumper stickers, VLAFISLM says, and thought I should let you know.

I reply that I don’t mind, and that he’s not the first person to do that – in fact, from what I’ve seen, it’s a frequent occurrence, in parking lots.

Oh, then can I take a picture of the others, too?

I laugh and tell him he can take as many pictures as he wants, as long as he doesn’t slash my tires.   [6]

Oh Yeah, ha ha thanks!  I just wanted you to know – I mean, I didn’t want you to, like, look in your mirror and think that there was some crazy guy taking pictures of your car.

But that’s actually what’s happening, isn’t it? I say, as I head toward the store’s entrance.

 

He told me his favorite was the one in the upper right corner (hard to make out in this picture), which reads:
National Sarcasm Society
like we need your support

*   *   *

May you be patient with the Crazy Guy In The Parking Lot ® ;
May you consider that whatever romantic or aphrodisiac properties may be obtained by riding an inflatable swan just might not be worth the inherent risk;
May you one day experience the indescribably joy of being a non sequitur parade participant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] He then asked if he could take his picture with me, and I gave him a spatula.

[2]  It was a dolly/dali of some sort.

[3] Or, most likely, it was the first (and possibly last) time you’d hear such a call.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] Several of the stickers poke fun at religion and certain political views…you never know who has a sense of humor about what, although I’ve yet to receive an in-person negative reaction.

The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling

2 Comments

The real reason behind the total ban on abortion in Alabama and other backward misogynist shithole legislatures states, or so political strategists on both sides of the aisle tell us, is to set up a challenge in SCOTUS for Roe v. Wade. State legislators know their draconian laws will be struck down by state judges as unconstitutional; thus, the hoped-for trip to up the judicial ladder to SCOTUS chambers.

But so-called real reasons often leave real people and their real stories in the dustbin of history.   I will share some of those stories in this post: a series of vignettes, in no particular chronological order, from my time working in women’s reproductive health care. The stories I have from those years are legion; I’ll attempt both restraint and discretion in relating a just few of them.  [1]

The last one still blows my mind, all these years later. If I were to write it up as a short story I’m sure literary journals would reject it (“Contrived plot,” the editor’s notes might read), but trust me, I’m not a skilled enough writer to have made it up. Once again, reality trumps fiction.

TheBackground

 

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for a Planned Parenthood (“PP”) clinic in a SoCal county, a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area, and Planned Parenthood clinics in a Bay Area county.

PP clinics provided services determined by geographic need.  Example: because there were several other clinics in the county which performed abortions, the SoCal PP clinic provided a range of health care but referred patients seeking an abortion to those other clinics. Because there were few options in that same county for women needing colposcopy exams,  [2] that PP set up a colposcopy clinic, the patients mainly coming via referrals from the county public health system.

The Doctor (“Doc”) at the OB-GYN office where I worked (“The Practice”) shared the practice with a nurse practitioner (“NP”). Their patients ranged from Silicon Valley execs to welfare recipients (but skewed toward the higher end of the economic spectrum). Doc infrequently performed first trimester abortions (~ four per year), at an offsite day surgery center (he was aware that many more of his patients had abortions, but went elsewhere for the procedure). He told me he didn’t like performing them (“It’s a sad situation, all around”), but what he didn’t like even more was the idea of abandoning his patients when they needed help.

The Bay Area county PP had four clinics in the county, three of which offered abortions services, one to three mornings per week. I worked initially at the main site’s STD screening clinic,  [3]  then at their abortion (AB) clinics.

 

 

The Stories

We (The Practice’s Doc, NP, and I) developed a personal relationship  [4]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….   [5]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [6]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court. He snorted with disgust as he recalled how a grown-ass adult woman had to grovel and reveal highly personal information to male strangers who held power over her life.  Doc re-filed the chart, the ever-present twinkle in his eyes absent as he said, “Don’t ever let it go back to that.”

 

*   *   *

The R- PP clinic site (Bay Area) performed abortions on Friday mornings. The R-PP had two recurrent anti-abortion protesters who hung out on the sidewalk by the clinic parking lot. They were an odd pair: an older woman with an imperious air, always impeccably dressed in a woolen suit, designer handbag matching her designer pumps, her chin-length white hair sprayed into a Doris Bay-type bob, and a tall, lanky young man with wild eyes and a shock of Conan O’Brien-ish, unruly red hair. I called them Snow White and Big Red.

Dateline: A Friday am; the clinic had just opened, patients were in the waiting room filling out forms. One of the four clinic aides motioned for me and the other aides to follow her down the hallway. Looking out the clinic’s rear window, we saw “Consuela” outside, approaching Big Red.

Consuela, a native Mexican married to an American, was R-PP’s AB clinic manager. She was committed to providing reproductive care for Latinas, even as she admitted struggling with her work, due to her harsh Catholic upbringing. Consuela was kind and sweet-tempered, admired by PP’s staff and beloved by PP’s Latina patients, about whom she would tolerantly (but never patronizingly) educate us “white girl” clinic aides. She told us about the vagaries of the male-dominated culture Latina women had to endure, and the stories of her patients who’d had a horrifyingly experience common to impoverished Latinas entering the US were truly heartbreaking. The template: a woman’s husband summoned her to join him in the US after he’d found a job. He’d wired money to pay a coyote  [7] to escort her across the border, and during the journey the coyote raped her. Coyotes often assaulted women and girls with impunity and threatened their lives, knowing they’d be too frightened to tell the authorities or their husbands (sadly, Consuela said, even loving husbands were steeped in their culture’s machismo code, which cast a wife’s rape as a stain upon her husband’s honor…or as a cover for an affair).

Consuela would be in a certain mood I learned to identify – anger muted by melancholy – after working with a woman impregnated by coyote-rape. I often saw her, as her patient was leaving the clinic, slip the patient some money (“For bus fare,” Consuela would whisper in Spanish).   [8]

Back to the sidewalk: Sweet, warm Consuela was also very, very shy. Thus, we (her fellow clinicians, staring out the window) were amazed to see her approach Big Red, speak to him for a few minutes, return to the clinic…and holy crap, Big Red is leaving the parking lot! When the clinic was finished (~ 1 pm) Consuela told me what she’d said to him (paraphrased here):

I know you are here because you think you are doing good, but there is something you need to know. Three weeks ago, there was a no-show at our clinic – that older Latina woman you thought you had talked out of having an abortion. Actually, she left when you confronted her because she was afraid of you; she speaks only a little English, and didn’t understand everything you had to say, only that you were a stranger, who knew nothing about her, trying to intimidate her into not having an abortion.  She returned last week and had the procedure.

She may be poor and illiterate, but she is not stupid. When a woman makes such an important decision she considers all her options, and when she makes up her mind she is going to do whatever it takes.  All you did was make her wait another two weeks; she had to be sick and stressed and distraught for another two weeks. That may not have been your intention, but that is what happened. You caused even more grief for her.

For several weeks after Consuela spoke to Big Red, Snow White was the lone protester outside the R-PP clinic.

*   *   *

I’m glad those days (when abortion was illegal) are passed. But I fear the younger generations have no memories of what happened and take their rights for granted, and those of us who lived in those times are dying out, and our stories will die with us.
(paraphrased, from a conversation with Samuel Greenberg, M.D., PP-M physician)

Dr. Greenberg was an older gentleman, retired from his longtime OB-GYN practice, who worked several days a week at the PP main site (“PP-M”). “Dr. G” was the doctor I most often worked with at PP, and I came to admire his expertise, experience, humor, and compassion.

We talked often; Dr. G was concerned that when he and his peers died there’d be no one left to tell about The Bad Old Days, and that people might forget….  Sound familiar? Like many Jews of his age, he’d lost loved ones to the WWII concentration camps. His family’s experiences as Jews in non-Jewish cultures was one of the reasons, he said, he felt so strongly about his work at PP  –– he knew first-hand what can happen when people have their rights abridged by those of differing beliefs.

When Dr. G was a young doctor in the 1950s, doing his OB-GYN residency rotations in two different urban Catholic hospitals, he saw and treated many women who showed up in a the hospitals’ ERs, gravely ill and/or dying from botched illegal or self-induced abortions. Yet he never *once* saw the attending physicians list complications from illegal abortion as the cause of death for a patient who had indeed died from that.  On one such occasion, when Dr. G had the unhappy task of writing the “cause of death” on the patient’s chart, he challenged the doctor in charge who’d instructed Dr. G to write that the patient died of sepsis from an incomplete miscarriage. But, that’s a lie! Dr. G protested. – How can we, as doctors, lie about such a thing – people need to know, and the public health statistics will never reflect the reality…

Dr. G’s boss grabbed Dr. G by the elbow and steered him to the ER waiting room, pointing toward a sofa where the dead patient’s bereft husband and children sat.  He then led Dr. G to an empty hallway and spoke to him, privately and sternly, about the hospital’s non-official policy re reporting abortion-related deaths:  This is a Catholic hospital, with a mostly Catholic clientele. The truth will only bring further anguish, and shame, to a grieving family; also, since abortion is illegal, the police will have to be notified, and the hospital does not want its staff to get dragged into criminal investigations….

I will never forget the patience and kindness Dr. G showed toward all of the women we saw in the clinic, but in particular, to one recovering heroin addict.  Like most addicts, she was hypersensitive to pain, and howled as if she’d been stabbed when I did a simple finger prick blood test to check her iron level. She’d asked for additional analgesics for her procedure, which less than 5% of patients requested and which the doctor had to approve and then administer intravenously. Due to her years of junkiedom, Dr. G couldn’t find a usable vein to inject the medication.  I waited with an impatience I tried not to show, thinking thoughts for which I was later ashamed (What a whining wimp – suck it up lady, this is all from your own doing… you’ll be out of here in 10 minutes, and nobody else begs for drugs….), while Dr. G searched and searched, and searched again, and finally found a usable spot between her toes. After her surgery Dr. G spent additional time with her, holding her hand and encouraging her not to get down on herself or let this be another setback on her road to healing and sobriety.

*   *   *

In the PP clinics I saw a variety of women, from a wealthy Señora from Guadalajara whose IUD “slipped” while she and he husband were vacationing in the US, to a mother of four, in her late 40s and going through a bitter divorce (who’d had been told by a doctor that she’d gone through early menopause and couldn’t get pregnant), to the proverbial teenage girls who seem as if they can get pregnant just by standing downwind from a boy.

As per the coyote story,  rape/incest victims were the saddest cases to see. Those included a preteen holding onto her mother with one hand and her stuffed animal with her other hand (accompanied by a police escort, to retrieve “evidence’ of the assault, evidence they hoped to use to prosecute the family member who’d raped the girl); a woman forcibly impregnated by her estranged, abusive husband (she was told  [9] by a police officer that she couldn’t press rape charges because she was still married to her rapist), girls abused by their brothers/cousins/stepfathers/mom’s “new friend”/youth pastors….

And then there were those who’d been assaulted by non-related acquaintances – scenarios given a term I despise for its downplaying of the trauma it inflicts:  Date rape.

During a patient’s intake procedure we reviewed her medical history, and one of the questions we asked was, What kind of contraception were you using when you became pregnant? That question was not posed to known rape victims, and was a particularly cutting one to hear for sexual assault victims who’d not yet told anyone what had happened to them.  One patient, her tough chick attitude failing to mask her nervousness, threw her hands up in the air and laughed bitterly when I asked that question. Nothing; I was using nothing!  Can you believe that the guy my friend set me up with, the guy who choked me until I passed out, didn’t have the decency to put on a condom before he raped me?!   [10] 

*   *   *

Big Bad Wolves are not always so obvious, Little Red Riding Hood.

 

She was not my patient; I’d finished my first intake and was on my way to place my patient’s chart in the surgical queue. She stood in the hallway outside the clinic’s bathroom, holding her urine sample cup, fidgeting in a way I’d come to recognize as a woman trying to convince herself to pee when she didn’t have to go. She was dressed like a 1950s secretary, with a pleated plaid skirt and a faded, rose red cardigan sweater. She looked sweetly anachronistic, nervous, and shy.

“Let me guess,” I pointed toward the empty cup she held.  “It seems like you have to go every five minutes, then when you need to go, you can’t?”

Exactly!  She flashed me a puppy-eyed look of gratitude. Kelly, my, uh, intake lady, left me here; she needed to talk with a nurse or something.  It might take awhile before I can… she looked askance at the empty cup in her hand. I shouldn’t have gone at my mom’s, before we came here.

I offered to get her a glass of water, and as I walked her back to her intake room she told me how out of place she felt.  I can tell I’m the oldest girl here. It’s so embarrassing. She lowered her voice. I’m twenty-seven.

“I’m thirty-one,” I said. “I win!”

She blushed, and told me she hadn’t meant the age of the staff, but rather “the girls” she’s seen in the waiting room, whom she assumed were, like her, there for an abortion, but unlike her, were probably not virgins… I mean, were virgins, until….

I stopped before entering the intake room, where her mother sat.  Sweet Twenty-Seven-Year-Old-Former-Virgin looked at me imploringly. Can you come in and talk with me?

I said I’d love to, and asked if it would be okay to talk in front of her mother.  She assured me it was.  I sat down with the two of them, and STSYOFV began to spill her guts. 

STSYOFV had flown out from Kentucky, where she’d gone to college and where she lived now. Her mother was helping out, paying for the abortion –  STSYOFV didn’t want to have it done where she lived, in case any of her friends and especially her church friends found out…well, I  really don’t have any friends besides church friends…

As STSYOFV told it, her  life revolved around an evangelical church where she was a member of the choir. STSYOFV ‘s mother discretely shook her head and gave me a look.

STSYOFV said she loved choral music; her church choir met for practice several times a week…and what they would think of me, if they knew where I was now.  I know what I’m doing is wrong in their sight, but my they’d disown me if I was pregnant out of wedlock and I know all my options and everyone here is so nice about reminding me but I wish they’d stop asking I don’t need adoption or pregnancy referrals I know what I’m doing and I can’t bear being pregnant it would destroy me and how could I be was so stupid and ignorant and naïve to stay a virgin until 27 and then get pregnant the first and only time…I feel felt guilty but I’m going to do it anyways, I tried a few home remedies, even thought if I threw myself down the stairs…

My eyes widened at the remark, and STSYOFV’s mother gasped. STSYOFV assured us both that she’d chickened out; I made her laugh when I told her that a miscarriage caused by falling down the stairs only happens in the movies.

Lawdy, Miss Scarlett!

 

My eyes flitted back and forth, from STSYOFV to her mother, who mostly remained silent while her daughter talked.  The mother’s unwavering love for STSYOFV was evident to me, as was her disapproval of the church her daughter had gotten involved with.

STSYOFV said she hadn’t even intended to have sex… I hope god will forgive me but I am going to do this, or if he can’t forgive me, at least I hope he won’t hate me.   If they only knew…they all think I’m a nice person….

“Then that’s one thing they’re right about – you are a nice person.” I placed my hand over STSYOFV’s. She grasped my hand with both of hers, her eyes moist with gratitude. Although a (closeted, at that time) non-believer, I attended a liberal Christian church, and knew what STSYOFV needed to hear. I assured her that her god, that no one, could ever hate her.

STSYOFV smiled at me through her tears. I wish you would be doing my intake, and be with me during the procedure. Kelly is nice, but she’s so young.

Actually, Kelly is 26, I thought to myself.  I also thought about how STSYOFV, with her gentle, desperate naivete and high voice, seems like a 12 year-old in a 27 year-old’s body.

I told STSYOFV I had another patient to help, but promised I’d check on her after her procedure. She hugged me, and said she’d like that.

STSYOFV was the last patient to see the doctor, and when she was out of the recovery room she, her mother and I had a heartfelt conversation before they left the clinic. I assured STSYOFV re how much she had going for her – she was young, strong- spirited and good-hearted, with a wonderful mother who loved and supported her…

She is the best. STSYOFV gazed lovingly at her mother. And she says she won’t let me pay her back, for lending me money for the plane tickets and everything.

“Speaking of which…” I hesitated. “What about the guy who got you pregnant? Why isn’t he helping you with this, or at least paying?”

Oh, no, that would ruin him. STSYOFV shook her head, sadly yet vehemently.  While her mother’s mama bear eyes blazed with rage on behalf of her daughter, STSYOFV told me that the man who’d seduced her was her choir director. He was older, married and with children, and active in the church’s pro-life demonstrations. When she went to him with news of her pregnancy he warned her to not to tell anyone, and told her to “take care of it,” and so STSYOFV had swallowed her pride and telephoned her mother….

*   *   *

Department Of This One Takes The Cake
Aka If I Hadn’t Seen It With My Own Eyes….

I lost track of how many times an AB clinic patient laughed and said, “Until it happened to me, I was against abortion. That” – the patient would indicate the clinic’s entrance, referring to the protesters outside – “might have been me a couple of months ago.” I’d smile, say, “We hear that a lot,” and do my best not to reveal that I didn’t find her admission – that she’d have supported taking away other women’s autonomy until “it” happened to her –  to be amusing.

PP-M had a semi-regular group of protesters who demonstrated outside the clinic’s front entrance. (I never saw them; I parked in the employee lot at the back of the clinic and entered and left through the back door.) Other PP-M employees became quite familiar with the protesters, who were part of some Catholic group led by a perky blond in her mid-thirties. The Vice President (“Veep”) of PP-M went out of her way to befriend the protesters. Veep was an ex-Catholic, and would go outside and chat with the protesters during her coffee breaks, sometimes joining them in reciting The Rosary. On sweltering summer days Veep carried cups of water out to the protesters – one day she even brought them lemonade – and on more than one cold winter morning I heard a fellow clinic aide good-naturedly grouse about how She ( meaning, Veep) is out there, serving them hot cocoa, can you believe it?

Dateline: one memorable Monday, ~ 8 am, at the PP-M AB clinic. As I reached for the first chart in the intake pile, “Cindy,” the clinic’s assistant manager, whisked the chart out of my hand. “I don’t believe this,” Cindy hissed. She motioned for me to follow her to the reception office, where she and the receptionist stared through the  bullet-and-sound-proof plate glass window to the waiting room, and traded incredulous remarks back and forth:

I don’t believe it – can you believe it? That can’t be her…no, it is her…this is got to be a joke…a plant…a set up…no – look at the chart, it is!….

I asked, What’s up? Cindy told me that Perky Blonde Anti-Abortion Protest Leader was in the waiting area, with her 15 year old daughter, whom she’d brought in for an abortion.

I am doing this intake,” Cindy announced. As her WTF ?!?!  expression morphed into that of Compassionate Health Care Worker, she opened the door to the waiting area and called PBAAPL and her daughter back to an intake room.

It was a busy morning; I didn’t get to talk with Cindy until after the clinic was over, when all four of us clinic aides gathered around Cindy to ask, What the heck….?  Cindy told us that she’d started the intake as usual – she led PBAAPLW and her daughter back to a private intake room, then asked the daughter to give a urine specimen. While the daughter was in the bathroom, Cindy introduced herself to PBAAPL, and the following conversation (paraphrased) ensued:

Cindy: I need to tell you something. I recognize you, from the protesters outside. If this makes you or your daughter uncomfortable, you can request another…

PBAAPL:  Oh no; thank you. You’ll be fine.

Cindy: Okay. Uh…now I’m speaking for me, personally, not on behalf of Planned Parenthood.  I can’t help but wonder, what are you doing here?

PBAAPL:  Well, my daughter got in trouble, you know?  And you people here are all so nice, I knew you’d take good care of her.

Imagine, if you will, the sound of four jaws simultaneously dropping to the clinic’s tile floor.

PBAAPL skipped the protests for the next two weeks (there were a few demonstrators who showed up, and only for one day, during PBAAPL’s absence). After she brought her daughter in for the girl’s post surgery exam, PBAAPL returned to leading the protests, trying to deny other women’s daughters the “good care” she’d sought for her own.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [11]

 The excursion returns next week, having been temporarily grounded this week, due to the appetite-quashing political upheavals which prompted this post.

*   *   *

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1]  We didn’t have HIPAA laws then; still, I’ve altered all names and a few geographical details for privacy’s sake.

[2] A colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine a woman’s cervix for signs of disease, using a special instrument (colposcope). The procedure is most often done due to the woman having an abnormal pap smear, and may be followed by a cervical biopsy.

[3] I worked primarily at two PP clinics  in the county, and twice at a third PP clinic.

[4] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[5] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[6] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a third time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[7] A coyote is a man who makes a living smuggling migrants across the US-Mexico border.

[8] Consuela and her husband ( who was still in college) were far from wealthy, and had two children of their own to support. It probably violated some kind of clinic policy to give money, even your own, voluntarily, to patients; I always saw her look around furtively when she did so.

[9] Erroneously, I believe, although I don’t know the status of the marital rape laws in California at that time.

[10] I stopped the intake immediately and got the patient to speak with someone from PP’s counseling/education department. She was over 18; we couldn’t force her to go to the police, and she refused our advice to do so (she said she’d known someone that had the same thing happen and “was raped again by the cops” (i.e. they didn’t believe her ). After her procedure we set her up with referrals for individual counseling and a rape crisis center…I have no idea if she ever followed through with those contacts.

[11] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

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