The Bridge I’m Not Building

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Department of Snarkosity and Sarcasm

Aka, Religion Is Such A Rational Reaction to Reality

Dateline: last Friday afternoon: To driver of the Grand Caravan minivan with the California license plates, you who made a concerted effort to pass me on the right and then cut me off in traffic  [1]  on that very busy road in Beaverton where two lanes narrow down to one:

I assume you placed the Bloody Praying Hands Of Jesus ® decal on your rear window for a reason.  Do you really want your “witness” to be that which provokes a reaction like mine –

Jesus F. Christ You Drive Like A Dick!


*   *   *

Department Of Missed Opportunities


Neither MH nor I have ever owned a gun. MH fired a gun a few times in his childhood, on a trip to Montana with a friend to visit the friend’s uncle (uncle had a backyard target range or something). I have fired a gun twice. Once was during my grade school years, when a neighborhood kid was showing off his BB gun. [2]  My second Annie Oakley moment took place the summer after my sophomore year in college, when I fired a shotgun for the first (and so far, last) time, giving me my first (and so far, only) Shotgun Story © .

A college friend APRIATT [3] and I were visiting the friend’s brother, who lived in a cabin in the mountains in Northern California. Friend’s Brother was a logger who looked like he’d applied for a job as a Jeremiah Johnson [4] stand-in.



Kinda like this, sans bear hat.

Kinda like this, sans bear hat.




Friend’s Logger Brother aspired to live the life of a Mountain Man. ®    FLB liked to fire his shotgun out in the woods behind his cabin, to keep his aim sharp in case he ever needed to protect himself from, say, a marauding tin of Spam (or so I assumed, as his target practice consisted of firing at cans placed on a tree stump). FLB took us to his makeshift firing range, set some cans on a log and shot at them, knocking all but one off the log. He then winked at his brother, held out the shotgun to me, and asked me if I’d like to give it a try.

I did not hit the can. I also did not get knocked tit-over-ass, or even sideways, by the shotgun’s recoil, which is what happens to most novices, or so I was later told (in an abashedly admiring tone) by FLB. Somehow I’d managed – totally without any kind of instruction, mind you  [5] – to instinctively brace the barrel properly and tuck the gun stock into my shoulder before squeezing the trigger.

Firing once was enough, for me. It was neither traumatizing nor titillating; it was very, very LOUD. It sounded, I told my friend, as if three Led Zeppelin concerts had just been performed in my right ear.

*   *   *

Time warp with me, if you will, to many years later – early 1990’s, is my guess. I was walking to downtown Hillsboro one afternoon, and on my way to Someplace Else I passed the only local gun store in town (which is no longer there). Apropos of nothing, I realized I’d  never set foot in a gun shop. And so I did.

I was the only customer. There was one employee, a smiling, genial man in his late-30s-to-early40s-I-reckon. He introduced himself as the shop owner and asked if I needed any assistance. I told him my story, such as it was: I was passing by, realized I’d never been in a gun store, and spur-of-the-moment decided to see what one looked like. While relating this thrilling tale I did a quick visual survey of the shop, noting the glass display cases filled with ammunition and the variety of firearms hanging on the walls, seemingly organized into categories: shotguns on the east wall, handguns on the south wall, rifles on the west wall.

Friendly Gun Shop Owner invited me to look around and said he’d gladly show me any “piece” that caught my interest.  Oh, alrighty. And, since you mentioned it, when you get a customer who is a potential first-time buyer, what is the first “piece” you show them?

Immediately after posing that question I realized the answer it would depend on if the customer had express interested in taking up hunting or target shooting or felt paranoid every time an iota of progress was made in civil rights that they needed a gun for personal protection. But before I could add this follow, FGSO whirled about and grabbed a shiny black pistol from the wall behind him. He set it on the counter in front of me and asked me to pick it up (It’s okay, it’s not loaded) and admire it.

The gun felt lighter than I’d expected. What is it that I am holding? FGSO said it was a 9 millimeter Smith & Wesson. This prompted me to ask about a gun’s designation: did the caliber size refer to the size of the bullet, or the dimension of the gun’s barrel, and if the latter was that an external or internal measurement, and either way, diameter or radius – diameter, I’d always assumed, but I didn’t know for sure and wondered…

Don’t really know. FGSO shrugged his shoulders, and seemed almost perplexed by my question. I found that odd – did he, a gun shop owner, actually not know, or did he think it something I shouldn’t bother knowing? Before I could ask a follow-up question, he began talking about the beauty of the piece he’d shown me. Yes, I said, I can see the attraction of it – of  admiring the construction of any kind of mechanism, and appreciating the craft…although I had to admit that even just holding that gun made me a wee bit nervous. You see, I hadn’t been around guns much and, considering their purpose…

No, don’t think like that.

There was an infinitesimal yet noticeable shift in FGSO’s demeanor.  It’s like what you first said; it’s just a mechanism – a machine. It’s a tool. A gun is just a tool. People who don’t like guns or are afraid of them don’t understand that.

His tone became insistent, and although the corners of his mouth remained his smile had transformed, from genuine to forced.  A gun is just a tool, like a car is a tool. Every year thousands of people are killed and injured in car accidents, but no one tries to ban people from owning cars.

Uh, gee…how do you figure? I donned what I thought was my most disarming, wide-eyed, smile, [6] and gently pointed out that the auto analogy didn’t quite hold up.  Injuries and deaths due to auto accidents are just that – accidental, and while certainly tragic, are also incidental to an automobile’s purpose – which is to transport people and/or cargo. A gun’s purpose, what it is in fact designed for, is to shoot (at) some thing or some one.






Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.


And he just lost it. When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns!

“Uh….?” I looked around the store; it was still just me and FGSO. “Who said anything about outlawing guns?”



Ok, Chucky, just hold still....

Ok, Chucky, just hold still….



Guns don’t kill people; people kill people!  There are no dangerous weapons; only dangerous men! The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!

The clichés rolled off out of FGSO’s soon-to-be-frothing mouth. I thought, oh, this is great – a gun nut is going into rhetorical seizure mode, he’s likely packing some serious heat, and here is little ole moiself holding the unarmed “piece.”

Just for a moment, I thought to tell FGSO of the small but ultimately significant bridge he could be building…the opportunity he was missing – to show a non-gun owner that not all gun folk were irrational, hot-tempered zealots. Instead, I laid the pistol on the counter and thanked him for his time. He continued to spout slogans at my back as I slowly headed for the exit, shaking my head with can-you-believe-this? wistfulness.

I left the store, and left FGSO with the impression he’d likely/already held – that people who don’t own guns are fearful, naive do-gooders. In turn, he had done his best to reinforce my own stereotype of the wild-eyed, paranoid, slavering, gun nut. Not exactly an outstanding moment in the history of cultural diplomacy.




*   *   *

May you speak your piece without fear;
May you work for peace without regret;
May you watch out for who’s packing a piece;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] Yeah, so you got ahead of me, and then stayed just ahead of me for another five miles, making me wonder what was the point to your machinations, which got you to your destination …what, twenty feet/two seconds earlier than had you not cut me off?

[2] A birthday present which was confiscated by his parents when they realized he was letting other kids fire the gun without adult supervision.

[3] And Possible Romantic Interest At The Time.

[4] And who spoke highly of what he saw as the ideals espoused in that iconic Robert Redford film.

[5] I can only assume FLB was playing a joke on me, and thought he’d amuse his brother by having his brother’s potential girlfriend mishandle a firearm – and who doesn’t enjoy seeing that?

[6] The one I heretofore privately thought of as my blonde smile. All appropriate apologies to you melanin-deficient ladies and gents.

The Slough I’m Not Kayaking

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Department Of Not To Be Disrespectful Toward
Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform ®

… but every time I walk past The Tacoma Fallen Firefighters Memorial I imagine that the second guy in the sculpture – the one tapping the first guy (pointing the hose) on the shoulder, is calmly but insistently saying, “Dude, put down the hose – nothing’s on fire.”




*   *   *


I had yet another opportunity to pass by the above pictured sculpture during MH’s and my last minute/last weekend trip to Tacoma. Because when your 20 year old daughter hints and hints and hints again that she’d like to see you, you drop everything and go.

In late August Belle will start her junior year at the University of Puget Sound. She’s staying in Tacoma for the summer, working fulltime as a Zoo Camp Counselor at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  We’ve enjoyed hearing her talk about the camps, and comparing them with her stories from last summer, when she was a camp counselor for the Oregon Zoo. [1]

When we drove up last Saturday, Belle said she wanted to show us around the zoo. We’ve been to the PDZ & A several times over the past few years when visiting our offspring.  [2]  This time we got a brief “backstage” tour, courtesy of Belle, which consisted of being able to step inside one staff-only area:  the marine wildlife food preparation facility, which included a huge, walk-in freezer filled floor-to-ceiling with cases of various fish and shellfish (read: more frozen herring [3] than you can shake a walrus’s tusk at).

As a five year Oregon Zoo volunteer, a biology major, and a volunteer docent at her school’s Natural History Museum, Belle has amassed a good deal of information about fauna and flora. Still, as our daughter led us from exhibit to exhibit, MH and I were impressed by how much she knew about the animals in every habitat . [4]  I guess that’s what happens when you’re leading two camps per day, five days a week – you have to know your stuff.

And then there are the moments you just have to strut your stuff, as when Belle eagerly donned my Convertible Survival Kit ®  [5] when MH and I took her for a spin around town.






*   *   *

Department Of Screw The Slough

Because his company is weird that way, MH had July 5 off as a vacation day.  [6]  What shall we do, he asked? I suggested we take our kayaks out for the first paddle of the season. I wanted to try out one of the entry points along the Columbia River Slough, and so, with our Paddler’s Access Guide in hand we loaded up the car, drove to what looked to be the optimum entry point…and then on to the next, and the next, and the next….

The first entry point was strewn with trash and had other signs of being used as a homeless camping/partying area. It was devoid of bipedal presence save for one Sketchy Looking Man ® sitting on a bench by the camp/party area. We parked our vehicle and walked down to the slough’s boat dock, SLM watching us every step of the way.

The slough was…well, we knew it was a slough, but it was really in full slough mode (low water depth and tepid-to-nonexistent flow). Probably good for winter and spring paddling, but already too late in the season, at this particular entry point (~ 17 miles upstream), for a decent paddle. That, plus the area’s vibe, which was if you-leave-your-car-you-will-return-to-find-it-broken-into, led us into checking out other slough access points downstream.





By the time we’d reached access point four or five MH said, “I suppose we can look at this as a scouting excursion for future trips.” As time went on it became imperative, first for MH and then also moiself, for us to find something resembling a bathroom.  Ninety minutes after we’d arrived at the first access point and were still not in the water, I said “Screw the slough.” I knew there were pit stop facilities at Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands, so we ditched the last slough entry point [7] and headed there.

I’d been kayaking at Smith & Bybee several times, including once with MH. I’d give it a solid 3 on the 1 – 10 whoopee scale; I wanted to try somewhere new, but our plans hadn’t worked out and it was getting late, so what the heck. After The Pause That Refreshes © we checked out the canoe launch ramp.  Ay yi yi. I’d never seen the water level so low. How dare they call it Smith and Bybee Lakes?






We hiked around the S & B Lake wetlands for an hour before returning to our car and heading off to find lunch. At least the birds seemed happy with the conditions in the boggy-wetlands-which-no-self-respecting-limnologist-would-call-a-lake – we saw an astounding number of Great Egrets wading about in the muck.

It turned out to be a good, low key day, capped off by a delightful evening at downtown Hillsboro’s Tuesday Marketplace. MH and I got dinner and a bottle of wine from the various food venders, found a spot on the courthouse lawn which was close enough to see the music stage but far enough away to be safe from the blaring amps and pissing pugs, [8] and staked our claim with folding chairs.


I really wish I could say I was joking about this.

I really wish I was joking about this.



It was a perfect evening for being outside – that temperature where you don’t know where your skin ends and the air begins. We enjoyed listening to the classic and original rock provided by Hippie Love Slave, a band that, besides having an awesome name, has a guitarist/singer whose vocal stylings reminded me of Grace Slick. I encountered said vocalist between sets, and shared my opinion with her. She took it as the compliment I intended, and then I complemented us both on being old and wise enough to understand.





Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Be Happy To Explain It To You

In the wake/midst of the Thunderswampfuckton of Crap ® that our country is experiencing (and will, no doubt ,keep on slogging through), in particular the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge followed by the allegedly retaliatory shootings in Dallas, I’ve been hearing and reading about (what I take to be) a misunderstanding of the activist movement known as Black Lives Matter.






The very phrase or concept itself seems to be, IMHO, misconstrued. So, attention, critics – be you well-intended or closeted/overt racists – I’m about to clear it up for y’all.

It’s like this: You don’t walk into an Nike footwear store and criticize them for not carrying dress shoes.

But what about the Florsheims!



Wingtips Matter

Wingtips Matter



I’ll try again.

My city has a veterinary clinic named All About Cats . The clinic’s founding veterinarian had a multiple animal practice (dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles, birds) for over two decades; now he has one specializing in felines. One of the reasons he got the idea of establishing a felines-only clinic was his observation, during his years of practice, that cats were more stressed in a vet clinic by the smell and presence of dogs than vice-versa.

When I first saw the clinic’s sign I did not feel obligated to point out to the clinic’s staff, “I appreciate your intentions, but, All About Cats – life is not all about cats!” But I do know someone who, when they were informed that there was a new veterinary clinic in town that sees only cats, had that kind of reaction:

Oh, yeah, well, what about dogs?
What about budgies, and hamsters – other pets need veterinary care, too!”

All About Cats does not equal And other animals don’t need/aren’t worthy of veterinary care. Establishing a feline-only clinic does not mean you dismiss or dislike other animals. It merely denotes a special area of concern or concentration, for which there is a reason.

Black Lives Matter is a special interest civil rights/activist group. It exists because…well, because there are, unfortunately, fucking good and sad/pathetic reasons for it to exist. Including the fact that when my son K told me, many months ago, about being pulled over by a cop because K’s car had a non-functioning tail light, I had the privilege to not think that K might have been in danger.

I’d had The Talk with both of my offspring about how to behave if, while driving, they were ever pulled over by a cop. Still, it never occurred to me to ask K if he’d been overly respectful to the police officer no matter how the officer had treated him; it did not occur to me to ask/remind K if he’d remembered to move very slowly, always keeping his hands in sight, when the officer asked him to product his license and registration….







*   *   *

May you have the privilege of assuming your children will be safe;
May you be able to enjoy the moments that arise and screw the slough when called for;
May you stop and smell the roses (or the frozen herring – whatever is handy);
..and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] What the stories have in common: she remains mystified by the immaturity and moodiness of the younger kids (in particular, five year old boys), who “…don’t listen to what you say and have a meltdown when they spill a cup of water.”

[2] K, Belle’s brother, also attended UPS.

[3] And herring doesn’t smell any better the colder it is.

[4] Including their names. I mean, two gorgeous tigers lying side by side (“The one on the right is Kirani and the other is her sister, Dari”), they looked identical, to me.

[5] Which I keep in our new car, for those top down moments. The kit consists of a choice of three Glamorous Sunglasses ® , a scarf, and a tube of bright red lipstick to complete the ensemble.

[6] Other holidays which most people get as vacation days, Like MLK day or Memorial Day, he won’t.

[7] Kelly Point Park, which might be a good entry point for future kayaking on the slough but which also had signs of sketchy-ickiness and people-camping-who-shouldn’t-be (including two recently burned-out cars –  as in completely torched, parked side by side, — in the parking lot. Yet another omen).

[8] Yo, dog owners: when you bring your dogs to the various Farmer’s Markets – and you seem to think there is a city ordinance which requires you to do so – please mind where they “go.”

The Fish I’m Not Smelling

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Department Of Fish And Visitors Stink After Three Days,
Except When They Don’t


There are some people…when you see them it’s like you’ve seen them yesterday…even though it’s been too many yesterdays since you’ve in fact seen them.






MH and I were fortunate enough to have such people visit us this week.  The lovely and talented LW and her equally lovely and talented husband, SB, were making a road trip from the Bay Area to the Puget Sound, and stayed with us Monday – Thursday. Not once did I think of stinky fish; just good time with dear friends.

LW, a buddy o’ mine since our apartment-mate days at UC Davis, has steadfastly remained one of the more intelligent, witty, creative people I’ve had the pleasure to know.  Important Sidebar ® : If you are interested in social justice via political activism, [1] LW’s husbo is one of the more effective bloggers – as in, one whose advocacy and research has prompted real change – in that sphere (you can check him out, at Spocko’s Brain ).

It was fun cooking and eating with them, picking berries, “playing” and just hanging out/catching up. We spent a day in the Alberta Street Arts district in Portland, where we were, of course, treated to many sights and sounds that were oh-so-Portlandia. Being longtime San Francisco residents, LW & SB are on familiar terms with many if not all things hipster, and are also wise to the up and down sides of gentrification…which made the street art/op-ed we encountered all the more appreciated.




*   *   *

Department Of Cliché But True


Like many creative people who are also thoughtful, decent human beings, artist Helen Honer finds non-verbal ways to express the inexpressible, most recently re the Orlando mass shooting. This painting of hers, which she described as “trying to calmly express my sorrow,” struck me as both simple and profound, calming and elegiac. One picture that is truly worth a thousand…you know.


*   *   *

Department Of I Just Don’t Fucking Get It

Okay, I’m totally sincere, here: I would love to hear from an articulate, rational Republican re so many issues, mostly about their party’s presumptive nominee.  But, are there any (rational Republicans) left at this point?



confused lady

Was that a The Onion headline I just read, or something a Republican actually said?


Look; I have my beef [2] with the Dems, too. I moiself only register for any political party during primary season – depending on if I want to vote for – or against a particular party’s nominee – then change my registration back to  independent/no affiliation status.  I seriously loathe the whole political party identification thing, and strive not to judge someone/assume their opinions based on their political affiliation.

Still…I want to know what kind of political party, from its leaders and major players down to the rank and file members, say, over and over , that Trump’s comments are offensive and racist and just plain wrong but yes, they will still support him for POTUS?

If for whatever reasons you just can’t bring yourself to vote for the Other Guy ® , can you at least have the personal integrity to sit this one out?


*   *   *

Department Of How Can I Be The Most Special Snowflake In The Room
When Every Snowflake Is Special?


The latest entry: nonbinary gender.




*   *   *

Department Of Now I’m Depressing Myself So It Must Be Time For A Happy Topic ®


There Are Pancake People, And There Are Not Pancake People.


Well? Are you, or aren't you?

Well? Are you, or aren’t you?


I am (or was) in the latter category, until the afore-mentioned visit of LW & SB. Tuesday eve LW and I were talking about my culinary adventures with sourdough starter.  [3]  In the past few years LW and her hubs been cooking and eating in a vegan/plant-based way, [4]  which inspired me to concoct a  vegan-friendly sourdough pancake batter to serve as yet another transport medium for our copious crop of homegrown blueberries.

Mission accomplished.

There aren’t enough swear words – the kind you use when you taste something so delicious, non-profane superlatives just won’t’ do – to adequately describe the yummers factor here.

And I’m going to share it, with you, for free. [5]


aka Vega-licious Lemon Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes ( makes ~ 16 small)

Start this batter the night before you intend to serve it for breakfast (or in the morning, if you want pancakes later for dinner)

– 100g  sourdough starter
– 200g  oat & white whole wheat flour (about half; i.e. 100g, of each)
– 1 ½ c spring water, * more or less
– 2T brown rice syrup (or maple syrup or agave syrup) **
– heaping ½ t ground cinnamon; and scant ½ t sea salt
–  ½ t vanilla extract
– grated zest of half of a small lemon

– 1t baking powder + ¼ t baking soda.
blueberries ! A good handful
– REAL maple syrup, for serving

– your favorite neutral oil *** for cooking


Any questions?

Any questions?

I’ll try that again.


Whisk the sourdough starter in a ceramic or glass mixing bowl with half of the water, then add in the remaining ingredients – except for the baking powder & soda & berries – whisking as you go and adding enough of the remaining water until you get a smooth batter (you may use more or less water than indicated in the recipe, depending on what kind of flours you use and the “wetness” of your starter).

Cover the batter bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, making sure there is at least one hole or gap so the batter can “breathe.” That’s it for now. Sweet dreams; walk away and enjoy yourself for ~8 – 12 hours or overnight (do not refrigerate the batter).

When ready to cook the pancakes, heat a cast iron griddle (or several cast iron pans) over medium-high heat, for several minutes.  While the griddle is heating (griddle must be verrrrry hot, or the pancakes will stick), mix the baking powder & soda in a small bowl with a small amount of water (a scant T) and whisk it into the batter, along with the blueberries

When the griddle is really hot **** , lightly grease it with the oil of your choice (lightly reoil griddle when/if necessary, between batches.). Using a ~ ¼ c scoop or ladle…well, you know how to cook pancakes, right?


* do not use tap or distilled water when working with sourdough starter.
** maple or agave syrup will give you a sweeter batter, so reduce the amount…or not, depending on the strength of your sweet tooth
*** “neutral” used here does not refer to your oil’s aversion to getting involved in geopolitics; rather, a neutral oil but as in grapeseed, peanut, canola, or safflower oil – the kind of oil you use when you don’t want the oil to add its own flavor to your dish. [7] 
**** hot enough so that drops of water flung on its surface do the Ow wow ow  ow – that’s hot! dance




In all of my numerous reincarnations these are the best goddessdam pancakes in the world.

In all of my numerous reincarnations these are the best goddessdam pancakes in the world.




*   *   *

May you find a picture which evokes a thousand words of comfort;
May you have the opportunity to be gob-smacked by your own culinary creation;
May you have the courage and integrity to sit this one out when necessary;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] And if you’re not, WTF is wrong with you?

[2] Or its plant-based/vegan equivalent.

[3]  And you would be too, if you were a guest in my home. It’s required as per a local ordinance.

[4] Although LW changed her nutritional lifestyle for health and not cosmetic reasons, she is, like, radiant, and back to her high school weight and looking Fucking Fabulous, if I may say so (and I just did).

[5]  If you want to send me money or any other form of compensation (stocks, T bonds, your offspring’s soccer trophies….), leave a message.

[6] Holy Fucking Flying Spaghetti Monster These Are The Best Pancakes Ever And They’re Vegan-Safe, Who Knew It Could Be Done?

[7] I.E. not olive oil and definitely not sesame oil.

The List I’m Not Making

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Haiku for Walking
While Listening to Nothing
Yet Hearing So Much

Early evening,
heading downtown, I greet the
others who walk past.

They nod, adjust their
earbuds, and return their gaze
downward, at their phones.
They have their iTunes,
podcasts, or conversations,
but miss the street songs:

Backyard wind chimes;
breeze rustling the birch leaves;
a child’s distant laugh.

Cars unseen but heard;
cheers from the nearby sports field;
crows rebuking jays.

Walking to downtown
to meet MH for dinner
cellphone in stasis.


*   *   *

Department Of Pissing In The Wind
Aka, Will It Do Any Good?

Briefly: I experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing something online and, when the product arrived, was horrified by the excessive, totally unnecessary, wasteful, non-recyclable packaging. I sent an email to the company [1], with this picture, and advised/implored them to do better. [2]



*   *   *

Department of Even More Essential Than a Bucket List


Last Friday MH surprised us [3] by procuring dinner reservations at an mahhhvelous vegetarian restaurant, Natural Selection. The dining atmosphere was at once intimate and welcoming, and not at all twee or intimidating, despite the restaurant having the all-too-Portland description rustic chic applied to it by critic.

We spent over two hours enjoying a prix fixe, four course (with wine pairings for each course) dinner. We enjoyed the kind of meal that makes you feel ebullient and comrade-ic with your fellow diners, and you turn to those seated to your left and right and find an excuse to make conversation – the kind of meal that turns strangers into friends (“What did you choose for the second course?”).

It was the kind of meal that should have had me posting a picture of each course to a certain friend, but I was so into the repast I neglected to do so. By the way, if you have the good fortune to know Scott Duke Harris, intrepid Santa Ana, CA – Hanoi journalist, do send him pictures of your favorite meals. He’ll love it.





Once again, I digress.

As per the afore-mentioned, strangers-begin-talking-when-inspired-by-good-food impulse, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated at the table to my right. He and his Lovely and Talented Wife © were, like MH and I, first-timers at the restaurant. They were celebrating her retirement from 25 years with one job and moving on to the third act. He preceded her in retirement, and we began chatting about how he was filling his time, including trying new things – like a gourmet vegetarian restaurant – and yet not falling into the I-only-have-so-much-time-left-and-must-do-all-the-things-I-missed-doing-when-I-was-younger trap. We commiserated about the ever-increasing swiftness of the passage of time, and about avoiding the well-meaning advice of those people who have compiled their own bucket list and pressure you to do the same.

I told him how, while continuing to seek meaningful ways to contribute to society, I also seek to minimize time spent in activities I loathe. [4] For example, I know I will never be able to reclaim those hours, attending a “morale raising/teamwork-building” business workshop, or sitting in a committee, listening to someone ask a question that needn’t have be asked (or that had already been answered) but was put out there so that the asker could be seen as insightful or perceptive by his colleagues….

The gentleman concurred, and offered this sentiment: the older he gets, the more he realizes the importance of not doing certain things. That is, he recognizes what, for him, is the primacy of not the bucket list, but the fuck-it list.

Exactly! I resisted the urge to pound my fist on the (artisanal, hand- crafted) table in enthusiastic recognition of a kindred spirit.  And I told him I was going to steal his description.

No matter our age, we are all bound by the limits of lifespan. You may be compiling an inspiring bucket list, and if so, good for you!  I hope you are also keeping track of what you do not need to do anymore – including things you’ve never done, things that may be #1 on someone else’s bucket list but which you just don’t see as effort- or time- or money- or risk-worthy  [5]  .  As in, fuck it, I’m not going to squander my time on that.




*   *   *

Skepticism is hard.  How do you convince someone they’re not thinking clearly when they’re not thinking clearly?
Our brains are not “wired” for skeptical thinking; studies have shown that people who lose their “faith” tend to replace it with something else, with a different type of belief – with some other non-evidence-based reasoning.

(Phil Platt, astronomer, writer and science blogger, from his “Don’t be a Dick” talk at the TAM Conference , 2010)




Last week I came across a link to an article titled, Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme. The article was written by Paul McHugh, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and published via the conservative thinktank, The Witherspoon Institute. The link to the article was posted by a FB friend who is a conservative Christian and who recently obtained an (on-line) degree in counseling from Liberty University.

Yep. That Liberty University – the one founded by Jerry Falwell. [6] Liberty is the kind of conservative religious institution that purports to offer an “education” and “the pursuit of knowledge in every discipline” – as long as said knowledge can be cherry-picked to conform to their frighteningly, medieval superstition relic doctrinal statement…in which Iron Age mythological beings are treated as serious 21st century driving forces.

So. FBF posted this intro to the link: “Very good article. If a person wants help, evidence-based intervention is always the best way to go.”

One of the article’s assertions about transgenderism –  that facts are more determinative than feelings –  is one I happen to agree with…about any subject. And so I couldn’t help but chuckle Oy vey, if only after reading FBF’s intro.

“For those who want to be helped, evidence based-reasoning….” Indeed. That would be a nice change and a pleasant surprise.

If only y’all religious believers would apply evidence-based reasoning across the entire spectrum of your lives, and not only when you (think you) can find or fashion evidence to suit a particular doctrinal tenet.

Facts are (or should be) more determinative than feelings, including the fact that religious/supernatural claims about the world are ultimately based on feelings – believers [7] live and walk by faith, as their own holy books tell them . The only fact-based thing about religion is the fact that all religions tells different stories as to how the world works and/or how and why their god(s) operate, and competing faiths use similar arguments to stake why theirs is the only true faith.





Meanwhile, Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and others who hold a reason-based worldview shake our heads and smile our holy shit?! smiles and say, Cool story, bro.

And for those religious believers who want to be helped, evidence-based reasoning can be found at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Recovering From Religion organization and hotline, and many, many other organizations which provide support for those who recognize they need to overcome religious indoctrination.


*   *   *

May you carefully and joyously compile your bucket and fuck-it lists;
May you remember to pull the plugs and listen to the nothing;
May you enjoy many a meal that Scott Harris would envy;
.. .and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] whose product line name rhymes with Soil of NoWay.

[2] The same advice I gave to myself, re checking out a product’s packaging before looking for a good price.

[3] Yes, both us; as in, I think he surprised himself by the awesomeness of his choice.

[4] Read: committees and meetings.

[5] Sky diving, anyone?

[6] Yep, that Jerry Falwell, the one who said, among numerous batshit crazy claims for Jesus, “Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.”

[7] Notice they are called, and call themselves, believers.

The Question I’m Not Posing



Department of Just Sayin’

Last week NPR’s Science Friday program contained a segment with a provocative premise. The segment featured an interview with “game researcher” Katherine Isbister, who makes the case in her book How Games Move Us that “…games can push us into new emotional territory.” According to Isbister, new video game designers are now crafting games that can make players more empathetic, by, e.g., putting players in the shoes of food cart vendors, immigrants seeking asylum, caretakers for someone with a terminal disease….

Isbister talked about how the designers of these “feel-good” video games write scenarios that encourage players to work together to solve problems, and how the designers also “harness character design, game mechanics, and movement to craft rich emotional experiences for players.”

Okay; sure, they do that. As do the designers of other scenarios that might be termed “feel-bad” games.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a video game that might encourage greater empathy in its players. But, listening to the interview, I sensed an elephant in the room that didn’t get its turn to trumpet. The host [1]  blew it by not asking a question/raising an issue that seemed obvious, IMHO.

The question/issue is in the That train runs both ways category.


But not like this.

But not like this.


Back when the industry was in its infancy, players and proponents of video games reacted with a combination of dismissive scornfulness and furious defensiveness when anyone – from psychologists to Concerned Average Citizens ® – dared to pose the question of whether playing a violent video game [2] might foster aggressive behavior, or at least dull players to the consequences of real life, anti-social behavior.

I remember well the indignant self-righteousness of video game-playing friends, colleagues and family members who were asked to even consider the possibility that violent games might induce violent thoughts:

Games don’t change how you feel. Thousands of kids play shooter video games – I play shooter video games – and we don’t go out and snipe students at the school playground. [3]

True, such a simplistic correlation (violent game = violent acting out) was likely an exaggeration. But now, smiley happy game = smiley happy people? Y’all can’t have it both ways.

If you are now saying video games can promote empathy and craft other “emotional experiences,” you are acknowledging that games can influence a person’s emotions, from which thoughts and actions spring.


Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I'll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!

Just watch me help that cancer victim get her chemotherapy right now, or I’ll show her the meaning of a terminal diagnosis!



Violent video games alone likely didn’t cause (name redacted) to go on his rampage. But these games aren’t harmless, either….
My colleagues and I found that typical college students who played violent video games for 20 minutes at a time for three consecutive days showed increasingly higher levels of aggressive behavior each day they played….studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in.
“Do Violent Video Games Play a Role in Shootings?”
Brad Bushman, Ph.D., psychology professor specializing in “the causes, consequences, and solutions to the problem of human aggression and violence,” and author of “Why do people deny violent media effects?”


Both “good” and “bad” video games use similar techniques for attracting and holding the interest of their players. There is no magic formula for emotional manipulation, which would allow feel-good video games to stimulate positive emotions while preventing feel-bad games from stimulating negative emotions. That’s not how our limbic system works.


*   *   *

Department Of Parent Fail

Has there ever been a task, performance, assignment, an approaching life event, at which you anticipated you’d be superb – or at least competent – and then when it came time to get down to it, you massively sucked?

Last week I wrote about an April Fools’ Day joke I considered playing on a student driver… which got me to remembering that which I am about to confess: I was a lousy “teacher” for my own two student drivers.

Yes, I was an Awful Parent Driving Instructor. It was a role I had actually (as in, positively) anticipated. I thought I would be calm and positive mentor; I thought I would be the one to Set. A. Good. Example. ©

Instead, I was one of the worst things a driving teacher can be – nervous – which totally took me by surprise. My nervousness was evident, [4] and did not promote confidence in my student drivers. But my apprehension was not without cause. In my defense, as I was later to tell both son K and daughter Belle,

I take it personally when my own offspring are trying to kill me.

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!

Who knew giving my mother an anxiety attack could be so much fun?!



Fortunately for my children, MH was a (comparatively) calm and patient instructor.

MH and I also thought it worthwhile for our student drivers to have other professional/adult instruction, and forked out for lessons for each of them with a local driving academy…an act ($$$) which made me appreciate growing up in California when I did, when mandatory driver’s education was part of the public high school curriculum.

The driver’s Ed class was included in a class called State Requirements, which most students took during their sophomore year. With its massive/ pervasive car culture, California thought it in the best interests of the state to have students enter the driving world with a modicum of driving experience and education.  Apparently, many other states’ public education systems used to have such a requirement, but some states have dropped or drastically cut back on offering driver’s ed (and some states have none at all), due in large part to the perpetual bugaboo known as Budget Cuts.

A moment of silence please, while We Oldsters recall the days of (what we thought were) adequate school funding. [5]





Thanks to the State Requirements and Driver’s Ed classes, not only did I and my high school peers have a common reference frame of how to drive, we also shared a legendary cultural touchstone: having to sit through don’t-reason-with-’em-just-scare-the-shit-out-of-’em documentaries like Red Asphalt.

Red Asphalt was astutely described by the Los Angeles Times‘ reporter Martin J. Smith as “The Reefer Madness of driving.” I think of it and others like it as a car accident snuff films –  ” horror shows of vehicular ultraviolence,” Smith wrote, “intended to scare the bejabbers out of fresh-faced and obliviously immortal teen drivers.”

“Red Asphalt” — the title says it all — is the flip side of California’s carefree car culture. ‘What you’re about to see is not going to entertain you,’ warns the host…. ‘There are scenes of human suffering and death in stark reality..’
Thus welcomed, you’re off on a joyless ride of grim highway fatality statistics, hectoring commentary about driving safely and bona fide hurl-your-cookies gore….you’re likely to come away with three unforgettable impressions:

* Driving at more than 10 mph is a seriously bad idea.
* Anyone who ever lobbied against seat belts and air bags as standard equipment should be arrested, tried and executed, ideally all in the same day.
* Not even George Romero has come close to replicating the sight and sound of human viscera being hand-scooped off damp pavement and into a plastic bag.

(“Thrills! Nausea! Bad Acting” by Martin J. Smith,  Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2006)





Red Asphalt, and another documentary called Signal 30 , used a combination of real footage taken by firefighters and other first responders and horrendously acted re-creations to depict the deadly consequences of speeding, negligent driving and/or failure to wear your seat belt – AND LEMME TELLYA, THOSE IDIOT DRIVERS ALL DESERVED TO DIE. [6]

The movies’ graphic images included ghastly scenes of mortally wounded and dismembered bodies, the screams of gravely injured and dying drivers and their passengers trapped in multiple vehicle pileups, and – my favorite, from Signal 30 – the footage of the charred remains of a driver who’d tried to race a train to railroad crossing.

I recall that only one student had to make a hasty vomit retreat during my Driver’s Ed class showing of the latter film. [7]


*   *   *


Department Of Trying To Find A Segue From Bloody Bodies to Blue Berries

Aka, The Frozen Blueberries I’m Not Buying

Oh wait – but I am.

I hate it when I lie to y’all.

Last week, for the first time in three years, I bought frozen blueberries from the grocery store. Three to four times a week I have blueberries and raspberries with breakfast, and for the past three years by the end of summer our garage freezer is full to bursting with bags of our homegrown blueberries and raspberries.

However, last season’s hotter-earlier weather [8] was one of several factors which led to our blueberry bushes being a bit skimpy on production. The raspberries were smaller than usual and not as prodigious, but I still have enough in the freezer to last until this summer’s crop is ripe for the picking.



*   *   *

May you recall with fondness (or at least tolerance, if not abject pity)
those who taught you to drive;
May the games you play foster the mental equanimity you seek;
May your berries be bountiful…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


*   *   *

[1] I’m talking to YOU, Ira Flatow.

[2] that is, a game where the objectives include murder/rape/robbery, ala Death Race, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, etc.

[3] Ah, but at least one person did. I remember reading of about the many disturbing hobbies of Brenda Spencer, the infamous “I don’t like Mondays”‘ elementary school shooter (who also carries the dubious distinction of being one of the few such female shooters), which included, according to interviews with friends and neighbors, being obsessed with playing violent/shooter-type video games.

[4] “That’s a person in the crosswalk – DON’T RUN THEM OVER.”

[5] No footnote here; we’re still doing the moment of silence thing, okay?

[6] Good thing we didn’t have to rely on violent video games back then to provoke such feelings.

[7] Apparently, as per one driver’s ed teacher I spoke with, at least two scared straight barfers was the norm per screening of that film.

[8] Which we didn’t anticipate and forgot to account for when scheduling starting up our automated yard watering system.

The Gifts I’m Not Authenticating

Comments Off on The Gifts I’m Not Authenticating


Department Of Almost Feeling Guilty

Imagine the conundrum for a socially conscious political cartoonist, comedy writer and/or comedian: As a good citizen you want the electorate to make rational, informed choices; you want your fellow voters to consider the issues at stake when weighing a candidate’s qualifications for elected office and not be swayed or misled by hyperbole and fear. On the other hand, [1] you can’t help but savor the guilty pleasure arising from your knowledge of the inverse proportion between the level-headedness of a presidential candidate and the resulting opportunities to ply your trade.

I refer of course to the embarrassment of satirical riches – the material for monologues, jokes, cartoons, videos, memes, animated GIFs, you name it – to be found re the current primary season. Oy vey, what a dilemma. You of course want the best for your nation, but for your profession, the more Dan Quayles, [2] Sarah Palins, Ted Cruzs, the better.

And I will gladly suffer the WTF?!?!? barbs from people residing in the rest of the civilized world (What is wrong with your country, that such people can even be considered for president?!), as long as those people keep supplying us with gems like the following:






*   *   *

Last Saturday MH and I attended NARAL-Pro Choice Oregon ‘s annual dinner buffet/auction benefit in Portland. Since we had tickets to a theatre matinee (also in Portland) the following afternoon, we decided to book a hotel room and make a night of it. The benefit was entertaining, the buffet items tasty, and it was even fun to force myself to get dressed in something other than a tie dye shirt and yoga pants. Also, the people-watching opportunities were prime – you couldn’t spit without hitting a local or state politician (and believe me, I did try). During the auction, MH and I mused about one day being able to bid on the high end items, once we stop our “bidding” on college tuition.

On the way from our hotel to the benefit we had a little time to kill, which we did by watching A Guy On A Horse [3] Ride Up And Down The Steps Of Pioneer Square © . Because, Portland.




After the event wound down we cruised downtown Portland, taking in the street sights and allowing ourselves to feel superior to the line of tourists outside Voodoo Donuts. Feeling in the mood for something else, [4] we stopped in at a Portland institution, Huber’s Cafe .

This was our first visit to Huber’s. Fortunately for us newbies, the people sitting at a nearby table ordered the café’s signature drink, a Spanish Coffee, which, the café boasts in the culinary understatement of the year, is “flamed tableside with great flair.”

The bartender approached the table with his tray of accouterments. He managed to hold three stemmed goblets between the fingers of his left hand – I was impressed, even before the swirling of liquids and the flaming began – and undulated his left arm as if….

Okay: picture a dude in a tuxedo working on mixing a multi-layered cocktail and then setting it aflame while riding a roller coaster. I don’t even like Spanish Coffee, but I am definitely going back to Huber’s to order one before I die.

The timing must be right, of course. I don’t want to order a Spanish Coffee, and then die.



 Only two goblets? Amateur.

Only two goblets? Amateur.



*   *   *

Department of Belated Holiday Pathos


This week I’ve been feeling a little bluesy.



Like this?

Like this?



No, not in a Bessie Smith bluesy way. More like in the reflecting upon the passage of time, How Did It Get To Be March Already, way – a way that, for some reason, made me think about how and why our post-Christmas cleanup gets easier each year. Now that our offspring are Young Adults ®, there is less gift flotsam there is for MH and I to deal with.

When K and Belle were kidlets, there were many, many, many – and did I mention many? – years where it took us up to four weeks post-Christmas to find enough room in the garbage can for all of the non-recyclable packaging materials which were indigenous to gifts that came from A Certain Side of The Family.

Read: my side. Specifically, my mother. [5]  Mom was abetted in her trashing of the planet abundantly swathed present-bestowing by the good folks at Lillian Vernon. Are you familiar with that catalog company? If so, you have my sympathy.




My mother discovered the Lillian Vernon catalog (too) many years ago. Once she did, there was no turning back for her. The catalog became her go-to source for gifts for her grandchildren, and a more wasteful source I’ve yet to encounter. Why a four inch tin-plated Model T replica needs to be encased in enough Styrofoam insulate an entire Uzbekistan village is a mystery to me…but that, apparently, is the shipping policy at Lillian Vernon.

The excessive packaging of the gifts was one thing. The gifts themselves, ay yi yi. All made in China, of substandard construction [6] –– and almost all items but clothing are accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.


This is an authentic piece of crap, guaranteed.

This  crap is authentic, guaranteed.



Most bewildering of all was how inappropriate the gifts were. Not inappropriate as in giving a life-size Uzi replica to a five year old; rather, inappropriate in that the gifts had no relation to what K and Belle actually wanted.

I’ll never forget K’s reaction the year he opened his present from Grandma M, dug through the layers of packaging and…oh, um….yeah…a set of miniature antique automobile replicas? Perhaps for some child somewhere, that would have been a welcome present. K had no interest in “antique replicas” (even those that came with certificates of authenticity).  Thus K, along with his sister, got an early introduction to practicing the art of Present Face.




It was (kinda sorta) terrible to laugh at the gifts, but we did – after I gave K & Belle the usual parental reassuring (Grandma means well). Year after year, my mom gave her grandchildren stuff they neither wanted or needed.  I tried to figure it out, thinking aloud to MH one Christmas, after K & Belle had opened their respective, bewildering (but authentically certified!) LV boxes: It’s as if my mom is using suggestions based on someone’s idea of gender and age; here are gifts for Boy Child, ages 9-11, and for Girl Child, Ages 5-8….

Which, as I would discover, was exactly what my mother did.

In year three or four of the They Sooooo Do Not Want These Things For Christmas (the year of the antique replica cars) phenomenon, I resolved to find out what was going on. I tried to be gentle during my Christmas Day phone call to my parents – I tried to tease out what made them think K would be interested in a set of Ford Model A and T cars? I could have used a verbal sledgehammer, for all of my mother’s obliviousness. [7]

I do all my Christmas and birthday shopping from the catalog, my mother explained. (actually, it was more like bragging than explaining). I have all the categories covered – they list them for girls and boys, of any age. When it’s time for a Christmas or birthday I go to the boxes in the garage or under my bed and pick one out!

Hmmm…yeah. Say, Mom, for next year, how about if you ask K and Belle what they’d like? Or they could send you a gift list, like you used to have me write up for my birthday and Christmas. K really likes to draw – there’s an artist’s pencil set he’s interested in, and Belle loves Legos and….

That’s okay, I already have next year’s Christmas presents picked out!  Birthdays, too! I keep them all in a big stash under the bed. K’s and Belle’s birthday presents are ready to go – it’s so convenient. Oh, here’s Dad….

I was more direct with my father: “This is difficult to say…I want my kids to be grateful for any gift, but Dad, it’s like the presents are from a stranger who doesn’t know them. It’s nothing they are interested in. Why doesn’t Mom ask them what they’d like? They’d love to tell her.” He just didn’t hear me (Well, that’s how she likes to do it.) and changed the subject.

Later that day I sought email counsel from my older and younger sisters. It wasn’t just my family’s dilemma – they’d both dealt with the LV catalog gift gifting issue, and had tried everything from dropping hints to being directly confrontational.  Their advice: Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Learn to live with it.





MH and I raised K and Belle to look at gifts as just that – gifts, not entitlements. We encouraged them to find something about which to feel grateful for any present they received; we advised them to never expect nor request presents, but to be gracious and specific when asked by someone what you’d like.

My parents never asked. [8]

K and Belle dutifully wrote their thank you notes to Grandpa Chet and Grandma M. After year two of getting presents they didn’t want, it became somewhat of a silly family ritual: on Christmas morning, along with our gift-opening accouterments we also set out a direct-to-Goodwill bag for the Lillian Vernon haul, and there was a special ceremonial flourish when a Certificate of Authenticity assumed its rightful place in the paper recycling bin.

Along with the droll (okay, snarky) comments and laughter which became a part of our gift-opening, there were genuine hurt feelings, for both me and my children. It sliced at my heart the first time K and Belle looked at me with sad-round eyes and said, Why don’t they ask me what I want?

It was so effin’ impersonal; it showed no interest in them as individuals. My mother took pride in being done with her present shopping months (even years) in advance…and took no interest in finding out what her grandchildren actually wanted. You can learn a lot about children by asking them what they’d like for a present – it can be a segue into finding out about their hobbies and interests and talents, about finding out who they are and what they like to do.

Instead, it was This Christmas Belle gets something from the Girl Toys Ages 6-9 bag under Grandma M’s bed.  My mother even mixed up the presents one year: K got a gift that was meant for his cousin. The gift tag read, “To X, Love Grandma M” (cousin X, my younger sister’s second son, was the same age as K)!

At my suggestion and with my father’s encouragement, my parents switched to giving checks to their grandchildren a few years back, a practice my mother continued after my father died. Now, the LV catalog present years are the stuff of family lore. Then, it was Yet Another Life Lesson for my children (and their parents) in tolerance, acceptance, and loving people as they are, warts/quirks and all. Looking back, a part of me is even grateful for the experience, which provided us with one of our favorite family code phrases:

Belle: What do you know about that new cafe downtown?
Moiself: I haven’t heard much about them, only that each menu item comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Belle: Whoa, thanks for the warning.


*   *   *

May all of your gifts be authentic;
May your foo-foo cocktails be flaming,
And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] You have other fingers. No, that never gets old (for me).

[2] I remember reading an interview with a joke writer who worked for a late night comedy show – it may have been The Tonight Show during Carson’s reign – who said that during the Dan Quayle years “…sometimes the monologues just write themselves.”

[3] This was not a mounted patrol officer. Just some random guy with his cool as a cucumber horse.

[4] Which, in my case, translated into onion rings, sautéed mushrooms and a glass of Pinot Gris.

[5] Content reassurance: my mother is alive, albeit in poor physical and mental health. We speak at least once a week; she doesn’t remember our phone conversation from the previous week (nor often what I said five minutes ago). She is a shut in, in her own home, with 24/7 care by patient and loving attendants. She has no access to the internet, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[6] I was going to write shoddily manufactured…there’s just no nice way to put it. That shit was cheaply made.

[7] And it was my mother’s doing. As was common to many men of his generation, my father gladly ceded the birthday and holiday gift-choosing tasks to his wife.

[8] MH’s usually did.

The Dr. Seuss Book I’m Not Reading


Department Of I Really Don’t Want Us To Be Those People…

…who end up on the nightly news, as video clips of their car spinning out plays over and over again, entertaining viewers safe and sound at home who congratulate themselves on staying put and smugly if rhetorically wonder aloud, What kind of idiot goes out on the road in this weather if they don’t have to?

Yeah, well. That would be, this kind of idiot.

Although Belle’s second semester classes at the University of Puget Sound don’t begin until after MLK Day, Belle had a job in the UPS bookstore that started on January 4. She’d taken the train down from school for Winter Break but didn’t think she could handle the return trip schlepping all the stuff she’d brought with her plus all the loot she acquired at Christmas (the cast iron frypan and a case of spinach linguini were her tipping points).

So. MH and I agreed to drive her back up to Tacoma on the January 3rd ….the morning a rare snowstorm hit the Portland area and moved north to Washington.




We passed way too many vehicles post spin-out (or rollover, ugh) on I-5, and the going was slow, but we managed to safely deliver our girl back to her on-campus house. After helping her stock up on groceries, we began the trip south at around 4 pm.

Things were getting ugly on the return trip, and by that I do not mean MH and I hallucinated the visages of Republican presidential candidates in the snow eddies on the freeway. ..although happy heathen moiself did have an experience worthy of a Catholic mystic in that for a moment I thought saw the image of Gov. Chris Christie on the side of a Target ® truck that skidded past us in the (not-so) fast lane.


Storm – you call that a storm? C'mon, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I'll show you a storm.

Storm – you call that a storm? C’mon, tough lady, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I’ll show you a storm.


Once again, I digress.

The radar [1]  said we had a bunch of ice to get through, so I used my Smart Device ® to find us lodging in the nearest bed-big-ridden fleabag comfy motel. It was a good decision; the roads were better in the morning. We had a relaxing evening after a stressful day of driving, and stomped carefully from the motel to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. The otherwise dark night was bright in the little town of Kelso, its downtown illuminated by streetlights reflecting off new-fallen snow, which can make the most mundane town resemble a quaint, magical, North Pole scenario.


 Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

*   *   *

¿Cómo se dice WIMP en español?

Tuesday evening was supposed to be the first night of the “accelerated” Spanish One [2] class I’m taking this quarter at the local campus of Portland Community College. Tuesday was two days after the aforementioned winter storm. I noticed no unsafe conditions when driving to the PCC site, and one by one, would-be Spanish (and German and ASL and other “community education” classes) students entered the building and milled around our unlit classrooms until we compared notes and arrived at the same conclusion: although the building was open our particular classes were, apparently, cancelled…but why is there one occupied classroom, full of students speaking French?

Someone used his cellphone phone to check the PCC site, and that Someone reported that indeed, PCC classes were cancelled for the day. [3] Meanwhile, another Someone returned to the (unstaffed) site  information desk to check the small, a hand-written sign, which announced in barely legible Sharpie scrawl that any PSU – Portland State University, which, evidently, uses the PCC site for at least one French class – sessions would meet as scheduled… but all PCC classes were cancelled.

A few of the Accelerated Spanish One students, one of whom said she had lived in Buffalo (They think THIS is snow?!), shared our opinions as to the ridiculousness of the situation, and also bonded in that I-drove-all-this-way-for-THIS? way that only befuddled strangers can, as we groused about the inconvenience of the cancellation [4]  and the relative wimpiness of the PCC vs. PSU schedulers.





It wasn’t all for naught. While three of us aspiring estudiantes were waiting for what we hoped was the late arrival of the Spanish teacher, we shared our history/familiarity with speaking Spanish. When it was my turn I said what I remembered most were bits of rudimentary medical Spanish, or what I liked to think of as Planned Parenthood exam survival Spanish: e.g., Please remove your clothing from the waist down. The Woman Who Formerly Lived In Buffalo © grinned broadly, asked me to repeat the phrase, and thanked me. It might come in handy, she explained, seeing as how she’d recently started dating a man from Mexico.


*   *   *

My Mother’s Resumé

Last week my older sister forwarded a text she’d received from CG, one of our mother’s caregivers. The subject was, “Mom wants to pitch in.”

(It was a )Good day here. Your mom was making her resumé for a while in her office. She feels that she should be working. I didn’t want to dampen her hopes but we talked about being a volunteer which of course would be too much….

I got a kick out of it…for a moment. The image of my mother making her resumé –is cute, funny, sweet – make that, bittersweet. And now a part of me wants to know: did mom follow through, and what would be on it if she did? What would this 87 year old woman (who is not always cognizant of her own age [5] ) list on her resumé?




My mother was the youngest of four daughters – her parents’ midlife, “oops” baby. [6]

Like most women of her generation, my mother had little hope for independence as an adult and was, essentially, a sentenced to life with her parents until/unless she married.

She moved with her mother and father to Santa Ana (CA) after her father retired from his job in Cass Lake (MN), an event which coincided with Mom’s high school graduation.

Mom enrolled in the local community college, got an A.A. degree, and managed to land a job with the Post Office. I gathered from the stories she told me over the years that she loved her job. Although she still lived with her parents [7] she was thrilled by the promise of even a modicum of independence that arose from earning her own money – she was saving up to buy her very own car; she really liked the styling on the Chevy Bel Aire! – even as she was less than thrilled (read: downright resentful) to be privy to the status and higher salaries of her fellow Post Office employees, all older than her and male, whom she described as slack-off, ineffectual, Civil-Service-for-life “geezers” whose jobs she felt she could do so much better (and sometimes did, but without credit) but would never be hired for or promoted to.

And then she got married.

She transferred her savings into the account of he-who-would-be-my-father, and their joint monies went for the deposit for their apartment, and a couple of years later, after my older sister was born, the down payment for their first house.

Oh, and she had to quit her one and only “real” job after she got married.


Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds...but married women give me the willies.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…but married women give me the willies.



What do you mean, you had to quit your job when you got married? Why?

No matter how many times I asked that question [8] I never received a satisfactory answer. This was because

(a) there can be no satisfactory answer to a rational question about an absurd situation;
(b) my mother, hardly the bastion of feminist consciousness and one of the least introspective and politically conscious persons I’ve ever known, didn’t understand the why herself.

When I’d press her, she’d say that she didn’t know if it was codified Post Office policy, but it was common knowledge that only single women were hired for such clerical work. Her supervisor informed her, when she told him she was engaged, that she could remain at her position “until that time,” but that she’d have to quit her job when she got married.




It’s been 60 – sixty!? – years since my mother had worked for pay. She worked nonetheless and of course for all those years, in a job of total dependency – a job which wasn’t even called a job, and for which there was little-to-no recognition outside that from the family which “employed” her. She played by the rules; she heeded the porous platitudes from the male-worshipping culture which spawned, formed, defined and limited her:

We won’t let you be a scientist  [9] but you will have the-most-important-job-in-the-world-as-wife-and-mother!

That same ManSociety neglected to mention that, lofty rhetoric aside, it placed little value in that “most important” of jobs, which by the way and don’t you worry your pretty little head about this will leave you completely financially dependent upon your husband and without translatable, marketable experience and skills.




And now, ’tis 2016. Seemingly apropos of nothing, a sweet, memory-addled, elderly widow-woman wants to update her resumé. If she were physically and mentally able to seek employment, what would she be qualified to do?  [10]

I won’t ask, in my next phone call with her, how her resumé is shaping up. It would only confuse and upset her; she’ll have no memory that she mentioned her project to CG. She will have forgotten; I can’t. It’s gnawing at me, in a wistful way that makes me think about the last book Dr. Seuss never wrote: Oh, the Places You Could Have Gone.

I’d like to think that, if only for a moment, when my mother was thinking about writing her resumé she was reaching for the proverbial stars, and genuinely if only fleetingly thought she had a chance at applying for something important and exciting. Astronaut camp counselor? Postmaster general? Chevrolet design engineer?  Hell’s bells, what good is a stalling memory if you can’t jump start it and take a joy ride every now and then?


1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire

1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire


*   *   *

May you learn survival phrases in the foreign language of your choice;
May your life’s resumé be the stuff of sweet dreams,
And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!





[1] Do you have the Accuweather app? You should.

[2] “Accelerated” meaning you’ve had some familiarity with Spanish however long ago, and, like in my case, when you can remember bits of what I refer to as Planned Parenthood Spanish (please remove your clothing from the waist down”) you might want a faster paced class than one which begins with “Uno, dos, tres….”

[3] It hadn’t occurred to those of us who showed up to check the status of the classes. Monday, maybe, but things seemed fine on Tuesday.

[4] We had to provide email addresses to register for the class. Would it have been too much to send out a mass email notifying us of the cancellation?

[5] My mother suffers from a variety of age-related ailments, including memory impairments.

[6] And the fact that she knows the history of her “embarrassing” birth – that she was told by her parents that her “arrival” was an embarrassment to them – explains a lot, IMHO, about many aspects of her personality.

[7] Apartment complexes/landlords would not rent units to unmarried women.

[8] I stopped asking around the time when I was in high school, when, thanks to the Second Wave of Feminism, I “got it.”

[9] My mother’s high school physics teacher announced on the first day of class that he would not teach science to female students wanted them to leave the classroom. My mother’s mother intervened with the principal, and the teacher begrudgingly let the girls stay in his classroom but continued to slight them (including my mother, who would go on to be her class valedictorian). He never looked at them during his lectures and ignored their raised hands when he asked for questions…with one exception. He agreed to teach my mother’s best friend, Dorothy, because “It was obvious Dorothy will never marry ” and thus she’d need to be educated to support herself (Dorothy had been facially disfigured at birth by the inept, forceps-wielding doctor who delivered her).  This story was first told to me when I was taking physics in high school. I’d commented on something we’d learned in class, and my mother told me she’d never found physics very interesting. Imagine that.

[10] Please don’t say, Walmart greeter. Gawdammit, I heard ya.

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