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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.”

 

 

tacomafirefighters

*   *   *

 

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.

 

 

sadieconvertible7-16tacoma

 

 

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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.

 

 

columbiaslough_general

 

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?

 

 

yeahright

 

 

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.

 

 

SOAPBOX

 

 

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….

 

 

 

privelegejpg

 

 

*   *   *

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.

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

 

 

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.

 

 

strteetart

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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.

 

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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?

 

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

 

The latest entry: nonbinary gender.

 

 

 

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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]

 

HFFSMTTBPEATVSWKICBD   [6]
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

Directions

Any questions?

Any questions?

I’ll try that again.

Directions

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.

downtownb

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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]

 

olay

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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.

 

NS

 

 

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.

 

 

buycket

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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)

Acartoon

 

 

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.

 

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

3 Comments

 

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]

 

silence

 

 

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)

 

hellshighway

 

 

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.

 

berries

*   *   *

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

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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.

 

horse

 

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.

 

LillianV

 

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.

 

 

sad

 

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.

ohno

*   *   *

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

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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.

 

spinout

 

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.

 

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

 

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?

 

oldjobjpg

 

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.

 

wow

 

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.

 

REALLY

 

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.

The Military I’m Not Saluting

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And They Said The Honeymoon Wouldn’t Last

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

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

 

squash7

*   *   *

The Verisimilitudinous Vermin of Autumn

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

 

rat

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Belated Veterans Day Thoughts and Wishes

 

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

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

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

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

 

REALLY

 

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

Once again, I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Department Of Some Phone Calls Are Harder Than Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

elderly bird

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Department Of Need I Say More?

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

*   *   *

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

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Another clichéd phrase I loathe.

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

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

[4] That would be moiself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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