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The Friendly Skies I’m Not Flying

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Department Of This Never Would Have Happened On Alaska Airlines

Ah, United Airlines, where customer service goes to die.

Unless y’all have recently emerged from a persistent vegetative state, it is likely you are familiar with recent headlines along the lines of

* Two Girls Barred from United Flight For Wearing Leggings

* Passengers ‘shaky and so disgusted’ as United forces screaming doctor off a plane

 

 

united1

 

Once again, the internet comes to the rescue: satire wafts from the ashes of tragedy and shame, as per these new slogans people have suggested for United Airlines:

* United Airlines: You Carry On, We Carry Off.

* United Airlines: The Captain Has Turned On The No Passenger Sign.

* United Airlines: Other Flights Have Cabin Crews. We Have Bouncers.

* United Airlines: Board As a Doctor, Leave As a Patient.

* United Airlines: You Can Run But You Cannot Fly.

* United Airlines: Would You Like a Neck Pillow or a Neck Brace?

* United Airlines:  If We Overbook You’ll Catch a Right Hook.

* United Airlines: Now Serving Punch.

* United Airlines:  Tell Us Your Safe Word At Check-in.

* United Airlines: We Have First Class, Business Class, and No Class.

* United Airlines: We’ll Drag You All Over The World.

 

Years ago (decades, actually) I stopped voluntarily [1] flying United Airlines, due to what I perceived as their cattle-car treatment of passengers. As for the (latest) incident, it is turd-twirlingly mind-scrambling to think of how many ways United fucked up.

I recall standing in an airline’s boarding area, listening to the announcement that the flight is full, and wishing I’d hear a, We’ve-overbooked-would-anyone-volunteer-their-seat-for-the-following-compensation? announcement, because although it would inconvenience me it was the one time when I could have taken the free trip anywhere plus hotel voucher and rebooked for a later flight to my destination.

I can recall many more times when I have heard the, We’ve overbooked announcement but could not take the offer because I really had to be at a certain some place at a certain time. Being at a certain place by a certain time is why I had booked that particular flight – why 99.9% of passengers book any flights – in the first place.

 

 

DUH

 

 

 

Flying hasn’t been fun, or even a mildly pleasurable form of transportation, for years. Unless you can manage/afford to fly first class you’re basically boarding a bus with wings after having the write-home-to-grandma experience of the bus station employees giving you a body cavity search. People generally don’t book airline flights on a whim; they book a particular flight because they need to get to a particular place by a particular time. Thus, it is understandable that the United flight in question had no takers when the pilot or whomever announced that they’d overbooked the flight and needed four seats for their standby crew.

According to the news stories, the give-up-your-seat offer was $400 and a night at a hotel – no takers. United upped the cash to $800 – still no takers. Then a manager came on board the plane and announced that a computer would randomly select four people to be kicked off de-boarded.

Now then: why did United wait until the plane was already boarded to make the announcement/do the selection? We’re supposed to believe they didn’t know until the very last minute about the standby flight crew wanting a ride, or just didn’t announce it until later? Everyone knows you do the, We’re overbooked thing while passengers are still in the airport, impatiently milling about the gate – you do this BEFORE boarding the damn  plane, to save time/avoid hassle and embarrassment of having to de-board already boarded passengers. Major Fuckup #1.

Major Fuckup #2 – No takers on getting people to surrender a seat they’ve already paid for? You keep upping the amount until someone agrees to reschedule their flight. Sweeten the pot enough, eventually, someone will accept the offer.  By overbooking in the first place, you, the airline, have screwed this up, so you’re going to have to suck it up financially  in order to get someone to give up their seat.

Major Fuckup #3: random selection by computer may sound like the fairest option in a bad situation, but such measures will always need human triage, in the form of oversight and tweaking. What if the computer selects a single parent traveling with minor children, which would leave the children flying alone? Nope; move on to the next roll of the dice.  A person with a disability which makes boarding problematic, or a frail, easily confused elderly man flying with his attendant? Move on to someone else. A shell-shocked woman who is rushing to be with her mother after the sudden and unexpected death of her father,  [2] or a physician who has patients to treat…. The human components of reviewing circumstances and applying compassion must overrule random selection.

I’ll stop at that. In this era of instantaneous Twitter posts passing for reporting, the incident is already old news by now. Other minds more articulate and reflective than mine will continue to investigate and dissect the incident…but knowing this does not “un-rattle” me about what happened. It so Did Not Have To Be That Way. ®

 

 

united

May I show you our complimentary involuntary deplaning menu items?

*   *   *

Department Of That WooWoo That You Do So Well  [3]

Do you want to try something “woo” this Friday?

This is how I text-invited MH, last Wednesday, to an event about which I knew next to nothing. When I Googled What is a Crystal Sound Bath one of the first descriptions I ran across contained the advice to “…think of it as a woo-woo horizontal concert.”

The event, held at the yoga studio where I take classes, had the following description on the studio’s website:

“Come join us for an evening of sound healing and relaxation. A crystal bowl sound bath offers the participant the ability to completely release any stress or tension in the mind and body allowing one to relax, balance, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
During this sound bath the participant will relax comfortably on their back, while the sounds and resonance of the pure crystal bowls engulf the room and move through and around you; feeling like an energetic massage from the inside out.”

It’s not like the crystal bowls resonate themselves…which you might wonder after reading that lacking-in-some-essential-details-description. There was a person, [4]  a self-described “musical artist”  [5]  playing the crystal bowls, and also drums and chimes and a few other percussion-type objects, while attendees were supine, eyes closed, on yoga mats.

I did find it a most pleasant and relaxing way to spend an hour. Bonus woo: the entertainment value of the “sharing” afterwards of participants’ experiences, wherein MH and I had an unspoken pact not to make eye contact when a very few other participants hopped the Woo Train and shared their experiences, including one person who claimed to have opened her eyes at one point and seeing – not imagining nor hallucinating, but seeing – “ethereal beings hovering” over the people in the studio…

 

 

 

beans

Ahem, ’twas BEINGS hovering, she said….

 

 

 

…while the sound of chimes engulfed the room.

Crystal Sound Bath.  I figured out the bath reference – one’s body is “bathed” in the sensation of sounds. Although when I first heard the term Crystal Sound Bath, for some reason I pictured moiself sitting in a really large bathtub with other participants and a guy holding one of those crystal bowls. Which, of course, took me right back to a tune from long ago.

Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.
My how interesting – move over, boys.

BTW, if anyone can help me identify the novelty song  from whence those ever-so-lightly-naughty lyrics stem (a song played on the Dr. Demento radio show), you will have my eternal gratitude.  [6]   Thanking you in advance, I offer this Dr. D all time-favorite, for your listening pleasure:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes It Hits Me With No Warning

Dateline: Saturday morning. While exercising, I looked out at the window to our backyard, surveying the remnants of the wind apocalypse that hit northwest Oregon from the coast to the Columbia Gorge last Friday. Just for a moment, I thought, in the present tense, I can’t wait to tell Mom about this.

The weather – that most bland, mundane and seemingly impersonal of subjects – was actually one of the best thing to talk about with my mother in her later (Read: “declining”) years. Mom loved hearing about the rain, or the glorious autumn foliage, or first sunny day in Spring and the unexpected snowstorm to blanket the Portland  area. She in turn seemed to enjoy sharing details of the latest (read: ongoing) drought in SoCal, the same weather she’d told me about the previous week.

In her last two years, all conversational roads with my mother circled around and back to the weather.  It was her way of keeping grounded, of telling me how she was doing, when the simple, basic “How are you doing/what’s up with you?” conversational queries were no longer so simple.   [7].

When she couldn’t remember the names of my children; when she couldn’t remember her own age or how many children she had or the fact that she was living in Southern California and not Minnesota or that she was talking with me and not another of my sisters, or that her husband was not with her because he had died and not deserted her – or if she could remember just enough to know that she was forgetful ,and was physically and cognitively deteriorating, which made her fearful – she could still understand and appreciate the weather.

Oh, tell me about it! Do you think you’ll get more ____ (rain, snow, wind, sunshine)? We really need the rain down here, even though, as you know, I love the sun….

And so on Saturday morning, for the briefest of moments, I was happy thinking about my next phone call to her – happy to have a “safe” topic to share…followed by my brain’s gut-clenching reminder to my heart that I now have no obligation – nor opportunity –  to share the weather report with my mother, who died last Christmas Eve.

 

 

 

MarionatOliveSt.

Marion Parnell, in the days when she didn’t have to pretend to care about the weather.

 

 

*   *   *

May all your airplane de-boardings be voluntary;
May your sound baths be as woo-filled or wee-free as you like;
May you never lack for safe topics to share with your loved ones;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I have flown United once since making that vow; on a flight booked by someone else.

[2] I have been that passenger, and can’t imagine the additional heartache of being “randomly selected” to be thrown off the plane.

[3] If you’re too young to get the Frank Sinatra lyrical reference, just keep that to yourself, okay?

[4] A yoga teacher and “healer” type person specializing in “energy work.” Yeah, MH and I cringed a bit, but he was quite nice.

[5] As in, neither true musician or artist?

[6] Could it be The Moustache Song  (sp?)?  Here is a sample, but where is the entire song?  a sample here…where is the song? And no, not the one from that A Million Ways to Die in the West movie.

[7] Such questions are not recommended – in fact, they can be (unintentionally) cruel – for people suffering from memory impairment.

The Historical Document I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Pipe Dreams

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

 

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

I actually thought it would be a welcome distraction.

 

 

 

obamalaugh

 

 

 

 

Yeah; rub it in.

Okay; I was more than wrong.

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

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

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

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

* Wyoming is the least populous state.

* California is the most populous state.

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

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

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

 

 

thatswrong

 

 

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

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

 

 

LargerCascMap_4-14

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Breaks

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

I’m confused.

That’s more like it.

We now return you to our regular programming.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

dougflag

*   *   *

 

 

 

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

(John Lennon, “Imagine“)

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot I’m Not Developing

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Happy (belated) Vernal Equinox!

This particular astronomical phenomena – one of two moments each year when our sun is exactly above the equator [1] and which, in March, heralds the arrival of the season we call Spring – is deserving of a more sophisticated name, IMHO. The way my mind works, when I hear the words Vernal Equinox I think of a hillbilly mother hollering off the front porch for her miscreant son to come home for dinner:

“VERRRRRRNAAAAAAL!
Vernal Equinox, you git yer sorry butt home right now ‘fore I throw yer supper to the hound dawgs!”

 

 

 

 

axialtilt

Axial tilt is the reason for the season (any season).

*   *   *

Department Of No, In Fact, They Are Not

We recently lost one of our cherished pets, our oldest cat, Mandy.
We never had children, so our pets ARE our children.

This was opening line in a letter to Dear Abby, 3/23/17. The writer goes on to express her disappointment that not all of her friends have expressed condolences for her loss, as they would for the loss of a child.

Her loss is genuine and heartfelt – I get that, and have been there. But it doesn’t matter how enthusiastically you all-caps your sentiment, your pets ARE NOT your children. The fact that you never had children does not turn your animal companions into de facto children. By definition. Offspring of dogs = puppies; offspring of cats = kittens; offspring of humans = children.

“My puppies are my babies.”

“Our cats are our children.”

We’ve all heard some variation of this sentiment. Perhaps some of us have even uttered it. And I “get it,” when it is used to describe and/or elevate the importance of our bond with our pets. It can also be used, IMHO and observation, as a self-protective response from people who have pets but no children and think they need to defend their child-free status when asked by us breeders (many of whom can be quite smug and overbearing about the matter) about their children:

We don’t have children; we have two   ____ ( dogs; cats; African grey parrots ).               

However, in some cases I’ve gotten the impression that the utterers, particularly those who’ are child-free by choice, [2] are serious. That is, they actually equate the two.

My ____( dogs; cats; African grey parrots) are my children.

That statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is also, I think, insulting to the creatures on both sides of the equation.

Here’s something I’ve long wondered about:  why don’t we hear that sentiment going the other way?

To wit: I’m one of those Animal Lovers ® people, and if I’m out for a walk, or at a park and I encounter dog owners and their puppies (and I refer to all dogs as puppies), I admire the canines and say something complimentary to their owners. This typically evokes my fellow bipeds to inquire after my pet status. When asked if I have any dogs my answer is, merely and truthfully, “No, not currently.” I’ve never – not once – been tempted to respond, “No, but I have two children. My children are my puppies.”

 

 

 

puppypj

Alert the ASPCA – this is animal abuse.

*   *   *

Department Of Inter Species Maladies
Aka Someone (Or Some Thing) Needs To Strengthen Their Abs

 

Our garbage can has a hernia.

 

 

 

 

 

garbagecanhernia

*   *   *

Department Of Friends With Benefits

By that of course I refer to my Swenadian  [3] friend, currently living abroad while her husband has a temporary university teaching gig, who brightened my Monday morning with an email filled with jokes involving Swedish-English linguistic misunderstandings.  [4]  Such as….

*  The HR division of a British parent company sent out a mail to their daughter companies worldwide. It asked simply: ‘Please report the number of employees broken down by age and sex.’ From the Swedish office came the reply: “The number is zero. If our staff are broken down it is because of stress and alcohol, not age and sex.”

and my personal fave:

*  Lars and Ronny were dining at a restaurant in London. The waiter came to take their order. “I’ll have a bloody steak,” said Ronny. “And how would you like your fucking potatoes?” asked the waiter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why You Should Talk To Strangers

 

Wednesday 3/22/17: Dear Diary, I made a new friend today! [5]

I’m out running errands, ’tis lunch time, a bit earlier than I usually eat but my stomach is reminding me of my lighter-than-usual breakfast and there is Sushi Town and tummy says you can go there and get something healthy RIGHT NOW….

I’m so glad I did.

Two minutes after I was seated at the sushi bar a woman was seated next to me. She ordered hot tea and water to drink, as had I, and when she asked for a bowl of miso soup I realized I had forgotten to do so and signaled the server. The Woman Who Did Not Forget To Order Miso Soup and I struck up a conversation about – wait for it – miso soup. As in, which sushi restaurant has the best? One thing led to another, and TWWDNFTOMS and were still chatting, almost two hours later. We exchanged contact information and I learned that TWWDNFTOMS is actually the lovely and talented KS.  [6]

We had many things in common, including

*recent (moiself) and ongoing (KS) major life issues involving caring for frail, elderly mothers with dementia;

* having lived in/currently living in a certain Hillsboro neighborhood;

* other common interests from the sublime to the silly, including science and nutrition and current events and love of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie. [7]

 

 

 

miso

The soup that launched a thousand conversations.

 

 

 

 

When I tested the waters by referring to Current Occupant #45 as the person whose name is not allowed to be mentioned in my house I discovered that KS is not only an intelligent, delightful, perspicacious person and well-read person with a ready smile and a quick wit, she is also one of those people whose moral compass and IQ exceeds that of her shoe size – read: she is fighting the good fight, and actively working to save her country from its electoral folly.

KS currently has a stronger stomach for political involvement than I do, and joked that I might not want to friend her on FB because so many of her posts and links would be the ones I confessed to skipping over recently because I just can’t stomach the stress of the political mess. She and her husband are involved with Indivisible, a grass roots kind of organization which triggered a this-is-familiar feeling for me, even as I told her I wasn’t sure I’d hear of it…until I returned home and did a search about the grass roots organization. Indivisible is composed of citizens who, in the organization’s own words, are

…working to inspire a cultural shift in how Americans think about the role of government in America by training the next generation of civic-minded leaders, disrupting and reframing negative media discourse about government, and creating a network of champions to change the conversation about government in their communities.

The organization advocates for local civic education and involvement. Your Congressional Representative weasels out of a Town Hall meeting – hold your own, anyway, and here’s how to do it, effectively and positively.

Check it out, moiself recommends. And take a chance on sharing a bon mot or two with that stranger at the sushi bar, or in line at the Post Office. You never know what may come of it. They’re your species, after all.

*   *   *

Department Of For Some Reason This Was On My Mind

 

A Cinematic Blast From The Past:

Remarks from an email exchange with my friend and fellow movie lover CC, re why we both loved the film Winter’s Bone – a movie we saw separately and both admired, making us Jennifer Lawrence fans years before she hit the big time with The Hunger Games trilogy launched. What both surprises and saddens me is my use of the verb allow…because that’s what it feels like, sometimes, when it comes to movie roles for women.

A female protagonist, who is allowed to be just that – the protagonist, herself.  She does the right thing; she is allowed to be resourceful and discerning; she is emotionally and physically strong, but not cartoonishly so.  She is the main character, without a man to lead/guide/rescue her; without her character being an appendage to a man and/or his love interest.  She is allowed to be and do all of this and be female without her sexuality

(a) being in any way part of the plot, or

(b)being threatened by others, or

(c) being threatening to others.

The desperation of the character’s circumstances was more than adequately portrayed by the actor without having her bare breasts used to illustrate her vulnerability (see directors’and/or actors stock excuse: “The nudity was necessary to the plot/character development…”)

 

 

 

 

Winters-Bone

Whaddya waiting for – stream/rent this movie if you haven’t already seen it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things You Don’t Know You Need Until You See Them

To wit, an orange colander.  Along with the obvious, straining–liquid functionality, this handy device may also be used to protect against the kind of alien radio wave transmissions that apparently beset the Current Occupant, aka SCROTUS,  [8] aka #45, aka….

 

 

 

colander

*   *   *

May you be surprised by those things you didn’t know you needed;
May you appreciate puppies and kitties and babies for what they are;
May your nudity always be necessary to plot/character development;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And which in March is when the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun, giving us “longer” – sunnier days. The other equinox occurs in September, the Autumnal equinox, marking the arrival of Autumn.

[2] In contrast to those who would have liked to have had children but could not, due to infertility and/or other life circumstances.

[3] A married couple, the husband Swedish and the wife Canadian.

[4] Shame on those of y’all who thought for even a moment what the other the “benefits” might entail.

[5] My diary entry for the day, if I kept a diary, which I haven’t since, like, age eight, a venture which lasted for all of  two days….

[6] As in my custom in this blog, she and all other civilian will be referred to be initials or a nom de blog, unless or until she requests otherwise or runs for public office, or has a tawdry affair with Ryan Reynolds.

[7] Season 3 is available tonight!

[8] So Called Ruler of the United States.

The History I’m Not Reading

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Content warning: Yes, content follows. Y’all been warned.

Plus (or bonus, depending on your POV), juvenile fart reference.

 

*   *   *

Department Of First Things First

Happy (almost) Birthday to the Queen of Hats!  [1]   This chapeau is for you.

 

 

 

hat

*   *   *

 

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”  [2]

MH and I are traveling ’round Ireland in the late spring.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

I try to read up on the history of places I’m going to visit, and also sample the destination’s contemporary art (in the form of fiction and films). As per the former endeavor, I am currently and once again reminded of why I loathe reading history: because war and religion, two of the most despicable human enterprises, IMHO, almost always figure so prominently. And in Irish history, the combination of the two is a feckin’ load of ballsch to curl your clackers.  [3]

I cannot recall the source of the nailed-it! quote I ran across, several years ago (I believe it was from an Irish novelist, not a historian), which went something along the lines of this:  Ireland’s cultural and political woes can be attributed to the fact that the Irish are “a twice colonized people – first by the Catholics and then by the British.”

There are many ways to interpret history, and two “sides” I keep encountering, each which urges the reader to keep in mind either (1) “History is written by the winners,” or (2) “History is written by the literate, whether or not they were the ultimate winners.”

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

Whatever. In either case, and especially with regards to reading Irish and European history, it’s the nomenclature, for lack of a better term, that gets to me. Consider the many, many, many – and did I mention a whole lotta? – pages devoted to the various invasions of “The barbarians.” Some of these pages are contained in a book I recently finished, the presumptuously titled, How The Irish Saved Civilization. HTISC, by it’s very title, presents a (dubious, in some critics’ eyes) supposition as fact. The book essentially argues for the elevation of the importance of the Irish Catholic clergy in preserving Western culture after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when western Europe was “…being overrun by barbarians” (aka the Huns, and the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes).

So. We have the entrenched residents, whose beliefs and actions I would not hesitate to call barbaric, whose priests waged wars and inquisitions to subjugate, torture and kill “heretics” (defined however they chose, from those who simply disagreed with official policy, to philosophers, Jews, “Witches,” Protestant reformers, and other fellow Catholics, the various factions who slaughtered each other over nuances in theology)…  But it’s these guys coming over the hill, they are the barbarians, because….uh…because they are illiterate and thus can’t cite their magic holy books to justify their atrocities.

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

My impression and subsequent summation of centuries of Irish history, after reading 600+ pages (and more to come!) in various books, is almost Tweetable  [4] in its brevity:

The ____ (civil articles; treaty; king; bishop) promised religious toleration; the _______ (king; landlord; bishop) saw no advantage in a peace now that victory was secure; the Gaelic infantry was slaughtered.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

*   *   *

Department Of And Then There’s This

Slogging through the pages of history, I am occasionally rewarded with a gem hidden in the festering bog. Such as this sentence, from a passage about kinship ties between Gael lords and the Catholic clergy:

“One sixteenth-century bishop of Clogher was eulogized on his death as ‘a very gem of purity and a turtle dove of chastity,’ this despite his leaving behind at least fifteen children.”
(Ireland: Land, People, History, by Richard Killeen)

 

 

 

turtledove

Not tonight, dear, I’m the turtle dove of chastity.

*   *   *

To those dear readers who enjoy such things, pretend there is a clever and apropos segue right here, perhaps one related to the Irish history of being both immigrants and emigrants. For the rest of y’all:

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia.
( James Traub, The Hard Truth About Refugees )

Apparently I’m not the only one who cringes with you-are-so-naive discomfort when I hear Ill-Informed But Well-Meaning People ®  spout the trés liberal, All refugees are innocent victims and we should welcome everyone! stance.

International affairs journalist James Traub, in his recent New York Times op-ed piece (cited above), offers up a smorgasbord for thought on the issue. He uses the Swedish idiom asikstkorridor (“opinion corridor” – i.e., things considered taboo not only to say, but to think) as a metaphor to reflect upon his visit to Sweden during the refugee crisis in 2015. His observations that  “…refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians,” and “polls find that Muslim immigrants are vastly more conservative than native Europeans on matters of sex, family and the role of religion in public life” are outside the liberal asikstkorridor.

Traub asserts that the truth about refugees and assimilation is complicated. As for the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees to Sweden and other northern European countries, the jury is out as per how well refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria will integrate. How much will they – will they at all – accept and support the extremely secular, extremely progressive cultures of their respective asylum countries?

He argues that liberals’ knee-jerk claims that all immigration has positive effects and that refugees will fit easily into European society are as unsupported as Trump’s knee-jerk claims that refugees are terrorists. Furthermore, the naive embrace of the premise that “…vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals” is the perfect door-opener for xenophobes who can point out facts that indicate otherwise. Thus, anti-immigrant/right-wing politicians can “parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” which helps spur the rise of leaders like the USA’s Trump, Geert Wilders (aka “the trump of the Netherlands”), and the French National Front president Marine Le Pen.

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

*   *   *

Any cretins out there who are still opposed to women in combat,  [5] please listen to this Fresh Air interview with helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart medals, and author of the new memoir, Shoot Like a Girl. An (edited) excerpt:

Terry Gross (Fresh Air interviewer): What are the arguments that have been used against you and other women being in combat?

Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar: “…They range from concerns that are very legitimate to concerns that are absolutely ridiculous. I think that the number one thing is…whether or not women are physically strong enough to be in combat…. First of all, we’ve already disproven that that’s an issue because there are women serving successfully in combat.
…yes, you have to be strong…but it’s not always the person who has the most brute strength wins. It’s…who is the best with their weapons, who is the best tactical thinker, who’s the best team player, who is the best leader, those types of things – who holds their composure when the bullets fly, because I’ve seen 200-pound men curl up in the fetal position and call for their moms…

I’ve seen firsthand that the warrior spirit is not directly proportional to how many pull-ups you can do. So the physical standards question is important, but the way that you answer that is…you keep the standards very high and you maintain one standard. There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men. There should be a standard for this job, for – to do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.

 

 

 

siryessir

“Sir yes Sir that sexism makes your ass look big Sir.”

*   *   *

Department Of Sorry But That’s The Way My Mind Works

I am ¾ of the way through an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The program requires participants to commit to weekly Thursday night meetings, daily “homework” assignments, and one longer session – a six hour Silent Retreat – which was held last Saturday.  My monkey brain, of course, kept referring to it as the Silent But Deadly Retreat.  I had to use all of my still-nascent mindfulness skills to stop myself from wondering aloud about who would be the first to break (ahem) the silence?

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

*   *   *

 

 

May you always know what I mean;
May your silence be mindful and not deadly;
May your history not be a boring read for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

[2] From The Ballad of the White Horse, by G. K. Chesterton, English Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936.

[3] For the Irish slang impaired, feckin’ = fucking; ballsch = rubbish; clackers = testicles.

[4] If I were a Twitter kind of person, which I am not.

[5] Make that, still opposed to women getting proper credit for serving in combat, because that is what your opposition amounts to, seeing as women have served in combat  in every war since those “barbarians” came over the hill.

The Songs I’m Not Remembering

Comments Off on The Songs I’m Not Remembering

 

Department Of That’s His Story And He’s Sticking To It

MH traveled to Pasadena last weekend to attend a memorial service for a college classmate.  [1]  He shared a hotel room and rental car with friend with fellow alum DH.  Following the Sunday afternoon service, the two longtime buddies went out to dinner with another friend/CalTech alum – JD, who had also attended the memorial. JD offered to drive and picked up the boys at their hotel – which, BTW and not incidental to this story, had a choice of valet parking or no parking; thus, MH left the rental car’s keys with the hotel parking valet.

Upon returning to their hotel room, the boys found they had a terse/sheepish message on their room phone, saying that they needed to come down to the front desk and see the manager “…about your car.” In his text and photo to me about what had happened, MH, trying to piece together the story, said that the hotel’s parking valet apparently “…had a fun drive in the parking garage…until a cement post got in the way.”

 

 

mcar

“Officially, he hit a puddle and lost control.”

*   *   *

Department Of Weapons Of A Would-Be Serial Killer

Or make that, squirrel-y-er killer.

Exhibit A, as viewed from our kitchen window: Can you spot the discharged shell?

 

 

ammo

 

 

 

Exhibit B: Can you identify the weapon on the windowsill?

 

gun

 

 

A classy addition to our home décor which I’d hitherto unimagined, a Nerf Uzi [2]  seems to have found a home on our kitchen eating area windowsill during the past few months.  This particular window looks out onto our side yard, a jungle-y area of shrubs and ferns and vine maples. The trees bear the responsibility of holding MH’s growing collection of bird feeders, at least two of which were guaranteed to thwart those nefarious scourges of bird feeder hangers everywhere.

Yep, I’m talkin’ squirrels.

A “squirrel-proof” bird feeder is, as we have discovered, a concept and not a reality. Similar to how Science ® has proved that trailer parks attract tornadoes, hanging a squirrel-proof bird feeder in your tree guarantees that your neighborhood’s most balletic-ally agile, persistent, inventive and dexterous squirrels will be irresistibly, almost magnetically drawn to your yard. Thus, the years-long enmity between MH and sciurus carolinensis which has led my otherwise mild-mannered spouse to keep the afore-mentioned, foam dart-deploying weapon handy.  [3]

Exhibit C: can you spot the mas, which, when donned by a 6’2″ male biped, produces not one iota of dread in squirrels but is most effective in inducing a butt-dragging-crapping-outside-the-box-in-terror reaction in housecats?

 

 

s-head

*   *   *

Department Of More Fun With Animals

So, thanks to my new car’s radio – and BTW, when you say the phrase, my new car, please use your best Oprah voice…

 

 

Yet again, I digress.

My new car’s radio has, like, a bajillion preset options, [4]  and I’ve only seven or so channels I listen to on a regular basis. Before I selected the presets I did an internet search for Portland metro area music stations, to get my number of presets up to what I thought was a respectable figure (10). More often than not, I find myself leaving the channel on one of these new station “discoveries” – an eclectic oldies station run by local (Hillsboro) ham radio operators.  The station’s programming is all over the oldies map:  I’ll hear a 50s doo-wop song followed by a John Denver’s first hit (Country Roads) followed by one of The Beatles’ lesser-played covers (Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t) to other hits and misses spanning several decades. Wednesday morning I was treated to a somnambulant edition of Hang on Sloopy I had no idea existed. [5]  The latter version varied greatly in tempo and even melody and was not as swampy/sexy as the more familiar version by The McCoys, but still had its own charm.

Earlier in the week I’d heard the station play, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by The Shangri-Las, that classic, romantic tragedy (romagedy?) tale of a teenage girl lamenting the loss and/or unfaithfulness of her boyfriend – which was fundamental fodder of songs written for the girl groups of the late 1950s – early 1960s.

I was familiar with the song, but couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it…and after I heard it on that radio station I had to consider whether or not I’d ever listened to it all the way through.  Perhaps the radio station’s engineer was having fun with the background volume controls; whatever the reason, the increasingly loud sound effects at the end of the song got me to wondering: are listeners supposed to think that the heartbroken narrator returned to the beach where she once walked (in the sand…remember?) with her boyfriend and, distracted and distraught over her lover’s betrayal, she staggered into a mob of seagulls and was pecked to death?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Fun With Radio

Make that, fun with a podcast. And I’m not sure that fun is the appropriate modifier…although I’d like to think that enlightenment of any kind is entertaining, in some ways.

Wednesday morning I listened to an amazing TED talk. Two speakers shared a stage, and shared a story which began almost two decades ago. Listen to it, and you’ll discover that what starts out as the tale of an Icelandic girl and her Australian exchange student boyfriend doesn’t go where you’d expect, to put it mildly.

For the rest of the day I kept thinking about the after effects of sexual violence, and in particular, the paucity of perspectives we have from its perpetrators. Increasingly, women and girls are daring to speak out about their experiences of having been raped, but how many men and boys have you ever heard admit to being rapists, and to talk openly about what that was like?

Rapist; Brute; Savage; Animal; Inhuman. We’ve many epithets and adjectives for those who commit sexual assault.  I vote for eliminating inhuman from that list, because I think societies might make more progress in dealing with sexual assault by ultimately recognizing the humanity of the assailant.

Yep, you read correctly. I know, it sounds almost sacrilegious [6] to refer to a rapist’s humanity. But how can you ever hope to solve a problem if you aren’t willing to think clearly about it?

And clearly, history demonstrates that just as kindness, compassion, empathy, altruism, and sacrifice are bright colors on the spectrum of human behavior, so are the darker shades of human-on-human abuse.

Rape and other acts of assault and violence, from bullying to waging war, are unfortunately common to the human experience. But when we label rapists/sexual abusers as inhuman we enable those human beings who for whatever reasons  [7] force themselves upon weaker/ intoxicated/drugged/otherwise incapacitated human beings, to subsequently and sincerely not consider themselves to be rapists or to have committed sexual assault, because they are not the archetypal inhuman fiend who sprang out from behind a hedge and held a knife to her throat….

 

*   *   *

Department Of Ending On A Lighter Note

Business sign of the week… or month…or maybe even year:  I saw this sign on the side of the road, meant to entice passers-by to consider the services of a landscaping company to spruce up your yard for the coming warmer months:

“This spring don’t get caught with your plants down.”

 

 

 

 

plantsdown

*   *   *

 

 

 

May you revel in the small pleasures of a forgotten song remembered;
May you never get caught with your plants down;
May you consider the humanity of the serial squirrel-harasser;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Who died too young after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis. I shall write a bit about him in another post.

[2] Not its official name.

[3] Yeah, the squirrels flee when he fires it at them. And then they return.

[4] Okay; thirty.

[5] The stations website, such as it is, is quite low tech, and has no playlist, so I don’t know who did that version of HOS.

[6] But I’m a happy heathen, remember?

[7] Usually related to the cultural dictates which teach men that they are entitled to women’s bodies.

The Exit Row I’m Not Blocking

3 Comments

 

Department Of And Who Can Argue With That?

My lifelong and ongoing study of my species has led me to formulate this highly complex principle re human nature: We the People ®  are sometimes more strongly united by our fears than our hopes.

These worries-in-common include the fear of

(1) harm befalling our children and/or others we love;
(2) becoming less useful and relevant – to society, our families, and ourselves – as we age;
(3) farting during yoga class;
(4) there is no 4th fear which unites us;
(5) really, is anything more frightening than (3)?

 

 

 

Speaking of common fears, like most concerned citizens I boycotted the most recent episode of American Horror Story. Translation: On January 20 I did not watch the least presidential presidential inauguration the world has ever imagined inauguration.

On January 21, I did participate in the anti-inauguration, pro-human rights, Portland Women’s March, one of the dozens of marches held around the country – around the world [1] – in solidarity with the main march on Washington, D.C.

 

*   *   *

 

I was thrilled that daughter Belle, who attends college in Tacoma, was highly enthusiastic about the event and joined with friends to travel to the Seattle march. Moiself, however, had many reasons to be hesitant about taking part in the local march. There was the emotional and physical fatigue of having recently returned from my mother’s funeral and house cleaning aftermath; there was also Portland’s history of anarchist assholes showing up, running amok and ruining otherwise sane and peaceful demonstrations…which they’d managed to do on the previous day; [2]   the was also the idea that a march is kina like maybe sorta close to being a parade – and for a renowned parade loather such as moiself, that alone is reason enough to stay home.

And…signs?  We should carry signs and, uh, chant meaningful slogans – that’s what you do in a protest march, right? Well, IMHO if your politics can fit on a sign, you need to rethink your politics.  Nevertheless, I made a two-sided sign. Side 1 was to express a serious sentiment.

 

 

sign2

 

 

Side two, I opted for what I assume would be a universally understood metaphor: 

 

 

sign1

 

 

I made my signs, but still hadn’t decided on attending, until it hit me on Friday:  I. Just. Had. To. Go. As per my post last week (link) re the the young people will save us! cliché, I decided to aside my Seen Most Of It All world-weariness….

And I am still not quite sure how to describe the experience. I only know I am so glad that I, and MH and friends JWW and MW, joined the one hundred thousand other people and marched our soggy asses off.

I thought I was old and cynical – correct on both counts – but still… In the pouring rain, being part of an enormous, seemingly endless river of humorous and good-hearted humanity and then discovering that this was going on all over the world as well as in every major city in the country…. Women and children and MEN and elderly women in wheelchairs and women and MEN and even dogs wearing pink hats and police officers accepting the pink hats the marchers offered them (and placing them atop their helmets) and did I mention how many MEN there were, supporting the women and advocating for their own issues and rockin’ those pink hats?

 

 

womens-march-dc-police-wear-anti-trump-pussy-hats-dave-stroup-twitter

 

 

The Predator-in-Chief  [3] aka Agent Orange is going to have his reality-denying job cut out for him, trying to ignore the fact that this has never happened on such a scale, not even during the anti-Vietnam war era protests

And I love the fact that, returning home after the march, my right index finger got a mild case of repetitive motion soreness (what I think of as FBLS, or FaceBook Like Syndrome) from clicking like on pictures and posts from friends and family all over the world, who also participated in the marches. I am, we are, far from alone. Millions of people in this country, around the world, share our concerns and fears about what the incoming administration is capable of.

Now, I’m aware of the dangers that can follow acts of solidarity, and of how moments of satisfaction can lull us into complacency, especially if demonstrations do not translate into action. This struggle – against Agent Orange and his human rights quashing/reality-denying minions – will take vigilance and consistent action on the part of everyone, but especially young adults, who, IMHO, have the energy and responsibility [4]  to do so.

I am somewhat skeptical about the capability of the on-line, instant gratification generation’s ability to devote significant time to causes which require longer attention spans than watching a six second GIF.  Still, I would like nothing better than to have a big fat I TOLD YOU SO thrown in my face after my son’s and daughter’s peers rise up and do whatever it takes to get this political impostor and his toadies out of our nation’s capital and back to the circus where they belong.

 

*   *   *

 

Take a look at pictures snapped from atop the Lincoln Memorial, or at the video footage shot from helicopters hovering over people amassing on the Washington Mall. Examine the images of a crowd of 100,000 people, and then the images taken from the same viewpoint showing a crowd of 300,000 in the same space. A pre-mathematically literate child could tell the difference – a group of three Lego blocks is smaller than a group of nine Lego blocks. But Agent Orange looks at the first picture and says, MINE WAS BIGGER.

Attention, Trump supporters…

 

 

 

camel

Like there are any of those who read her blog!

 

 

 

 

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Good point.

Still, if you voted for the Republican candidate, for whatever reason, and you find yourself reading this, for whatever reason, please consider the following:

The inaugural’s and protest march events’ attendance figures have been confirmed by outside, objective sources – including the professional “bean counters” and satellite imagery. The information shows that this most recent inauguration was one of the smallest recent inaugural events in terms of public attendance, while attendance at the following day’s protest march was three times as large. If you don’t trust the crowd counters, simply look at the aerial photographs of the events – this is not classified information.  Trump and his spokespeople have the facts are available to them, yet they continue to say theirs was bigger.

Please don’t tell me – please don’t try to convince yourself – that you are okay with this.

You may say something along the lines of, Okay, but what’s the big deal – which crowd was bigger? Does it matter, ultimately It’s a small detail; it’s not one of the bigger issues facing the country.

That’s precisely my point.

If which-crowd-was-larger is small potatoes in the grander garden patch of issues, why then does Trump, and why do those around Trump, feel compelled to lie about it?

The big issues are made up of the small details. How is it you can trust Trump with what you say are the big issues (jobs, immigration, “making American white great again”) when he so consistently “falsely hits” – oh, come now, let’s use our big words – lies – about the details?  [5]

If Trump and his staff are willing to lie about something as demonstrably false as the inauguration attendance figures, just what is it they won’t lie about?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Still Petty After All These Years

 

Dateline: 6 a.m.-ish, two weeks ago at the Portland airport, getting in a little people-watching as I am waiting to board my flight to SoCal for my mother’s funeral. Also waiting to board the flight is a young woman dressed in multiple shades of black, from boots to leggings to kilt to shirt to jacket. One side of the dyed black hair on her head is fashionably [6]  shaved,  revealing multiple ear and body piercings and tattoos from the tips of her ears down her neck and shoulders. As she turns around to fiddle with her carry-on bag, I see that the back of her leather jacket is “decorated” with a very distinctive picture of an upraised hand with its middle finger extended.

 

 

 

fu-jacket

 

 

What a lovely way to present yourself to…well, to everyone you meet, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, politics, worldview, or relationship to you. Up yours, whomever you are.

In yet another Sure Sign You’re Getting Old ® moment, I was tempted to tap her on the shoulder and whisper, “I’m sitting in the exit row, and if we need to make an emergency evacuation I’ll make sure you’re the last person off the place. Have a nice fucking day.”

*   *   *

dogcitizen

 

 

Department of Things to Consider

On Saturday my imagination was momentarily if infinitesimally tweaked by the following description, from The Oregonian, about a must-see event (my emphases):

“The Rose City Classic dog show series is underway at the Portland Expo Center. Some 3,000 dogs representing more than 180 breeds will face off in competitions including best of breed, agility, obedience and good citizenship.”

 

 

really

 

Yes, really.

I had to scratch my noggin’ and other anatomical points as I wondered how the latter competition would be decided. What, exactly (or even vaguely), are the criteria for a dog (or any other animal) displaying good citizenship? Would there be doggy recitations of doggy essays on Why American Is Still The Home Of The Brave? How will the dogs be judged on the classic qualities of a good citizen – contributing positively to society, participating in public affairs with wisdom and discretion, being willing to serve on a jury and/or fulfilling other civic duties….

 

 

A Friendly Game of Black Jack - Dogs Playing Blackjack

It is the civic duty of every dog to respect the laws of probability, and stand on 17 or greater.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of We All Need This Right Now

 

Take a deep, cleansing breath, cast all thoughts of political turmoil aside, and enjoy this picture of Belle and her Bengal kitty, Yeti.

 

 

sadieyeti

*   *   *

 

May you display good citizenship regardless of your species;
May you always be able to recognize and respect the most rudimentary principles of math (such as, 300,000 > 100,000);
May you work for a world where guacamole is not extra;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] We saw pictures posted from a friend, taken at the march in Ljubljana, Slovenia!

[2] Side note: I’ve always been amused by the idea of anarchists organizing to show up at the same time and place for…anything.

[3] Thank you, Jane Fonda, for that most apt moniker.

[4] Hey, it’s your future.

[5] See Trump Falsely Hits Media On Turnout And Intelligence Rift.

[6] Not in my fashion book, but, yeah.

The Resentment I’m Not Hoarding

2 Comments

Dateline, Sunday 1/15: another sun-drenched SoCal day, the luminosity belying a certain surrounding darkness. Although there has been much circumspection and little to no (direct) talk of politics, it has become evident that some of my family are Agent Orange [1]  supporters.  How did I get born into this clan?

And yet I’m glad I did, as I have had enough delightful, witty, bawdy, touching conversations with those of my nieces and nephews and their spouses and partners who make me realize that the darkness has, with a few exceptions, hopefully skipped a generation. I find myself comforted by a cliché thought: The Younger Generation ® shall save the world.

My mother’s graveside funeral on Saturday (1/14) was…tolerable, given the religious nature of the ceremony. There were several blackbirds cavorting around a palm tree just in front of and to the left of the canopy under which the attendees sat; the birds’ aerial acrobatics provided a welcome distraction from the service’s Christian theology and clichés, [2] which I find inane and pathetic. How I wished for a service like many I had attended, consisting of simple and heartfelt sharing of remembrances by friends and family. At least, there was one break in the minister’s come-to-Jesus blather recitations: my younger sister gave a wonderful “life overview” of our mother, which was quite touching, and which had many of us reflecting on the value of hearing from/keeping in touch with someone  [3] who remembers you as a young adult.

 

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
( Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune columnist and author of the commonly-misattributed-to Kurt-Vonnegut “Wear SunScreen”-commencement-speech )

 

 

marionatolivest

Marion Alberta Hole, [4]  Santa Ana, CA, ca. mid-early 1950s

 

 

The after party, however, was an unqualified delight – a wonderful, noisy, mess of fun with family, neighbors and friends.  I was once again reminded of why my friend SCM loves funerals, and even prefers them over weddings: with both events you get to visit with acquaintances, friends and relatives you may have lost touch with or aren’t in close geographic or emotional proximity to…and while those holding grudges might not attend (or be banned from attending) a wedding, most folk seem to put things in perspective and set aside their differences to attend a funeral.

*   *   *

The funeral was both preceded and followed by days of my siblings and I, with invaluable help on several of those days from nieces and nephews and spouses  [5]  going through my parents’ house, sorting and arranging and keeping and discarding, [6] preparing the house for an estate sale which will be followed by putting the house up for sale.

For these tasks, we rented a VLD (Very Large Dumpster), and completely filled it…and this was after 30-plus other yard waste-sized trash bags of stuff were delivered to the Goodwill and other charitable donation centers (much of which will end up in their dumpsters, I’d bet). And STILL we left behind behind a house full of things for the estate sale.

Each of the four Parnell siblings took items of sentimental or practical value, and encouraged our spouses and offspring to do the same. There were items deemed schlep-worthy, like a photo of my older sister NLPM and moiself ( on the left) wearing the kimonos our father brought back for us from San Francisco, during one of his rare business trips.

 

 

 

nancyandiinkimonos

 

 

 

And then for each keeper there were approximately 1,003 items of complete and utter mystery, interesting and/or valuable to no one save for extraterrestrial anthropologists.

Many of the items, from the valuable (to us) to the inexplicable (to anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size), had post-it notes pinned to them, with what were meant to be explanatory labels, written in my mother’s distinctive, military-precision script. We unfortunately misplaced the note belonging to my uncle Bill’s World War II paratrooper’s dress jacket, a true treasure which was already well-known to the family. I was happy to be able to bring it home with me, as my father deeply regretted not keeping his own paratrooper jacket.

 

 

 

billomalleyparatrooperjacket

 

 

 

And then there were the notes that ranged from the stupefying to the hilariously mortifying.

There was one note-pinned item I wanted to send to Whoopi Goldberg. Not that we’re BFFs or anything, it’s just that I remember reading a magazine article years ago about the award-winning actor/comedian/author/talk show host’s extensive collection of what she calls “Negrobilia” – i.e., objects made by white people which stereotypically depict and degrade black people.

 

negrobilia

 

 

The item to which I refer is the Aunt Jemima appliance cover my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Erva, had made. I remember how appalled I was when (mid-1970’s) Erva showed me her handiwork and asked if I’d like her to make one for moiself. It was a two-gasp moment, the second gasp occurring when I realized she was serious. Since she was not deterred (she didn’t even blink) by my brief but passionate explanation as to why such an object was offensive, I segued into the excuse that as a poor college student, I didn’t actually own any appliances. My aunt assured me that the industrious Jemima could do double duty as a “toilet paper roll hider.”

My mother, to my chagrin and embarrassment, halfheartedly accepted her sister’s “gift” but, at my insistence, did not display it. I had completely forgotten about its existence until my niece found it, in a back bedroom closet filled with a random assortment of Christmas decorations and WWII memorabilia.

Jemima was discovered on Thursday, and had taken her place in our Dumpster? or Donate? or People-will-buy-anything-so-save-for-the-estate-sale-as-an-object-of-curiosity? pile in the back bedroom. On Friday MH and our son K had flown down for house-decluttering and funeral attending. While helping the Parnell sisters with the former task, K spotted Jemima and could not believe his good fortune. He snatched it up, exclaiming, “Really – nobody wants this?” He felt it would be the perfect home decor addition for his multi-ethnic household.

 

jemima

The Post-it note reads: “Appliance cover. Not politically correct (But a fact of history!) which of course makes me wonder what “fact” she was referring to – that Black women at one time dressed in full Gone With The Wind mammy regalia and willingly perched atop appliances, or that white people made those hideous “craft” objects?

 

 

Once again, I digress.

*   *   *

“You kids are going to have quite a job going through…all of this.”
(Prediction/warning given to my older sister by one of my mother’s caretakers, when my mother’s demise seemed imminent)

Really, it is impossible for moiself to adequately describe how sad/appalling/embarrassing it was to discover pile after pile of dust and spider egg sack covered shit precious mementos in yet another drawer and closet, under each and every bed and every piece of furniture and behind the under the furniture, all covered with layers of dust which merited carbon dating.

We knew our mother had turned into a hoarder in her later years (and discovered that our father was one as well, but mildly so, in comparison to his beloved wife). Still, the enormity of the task was daunting.  All the clothing,  baseball caps, fifty year old frayed and yellowed linens, clothing and accessories never worn, books, decorations, dishes, costume jewelry, coins, picture frames, souvenirs, dishes and kitchenware, photo albums, pre-purchased Christmas and birthday gifts for children and grandchildren (labeled but never sent), [7] cassette tapes, videotapes, 8 track tapes, travel-sized soaps & lotions and an entire room’s worth – as in, you could stack the items from floor to ceiling [8] – of Christmas “decor” (most of it of the kitschy/really cheap Lillian Vernon catalog variety…and the knickknacks, a word which from this time forward is likely to give me a panic attack – and ALL OF IT duplicates of crap they already had “out” on display or in use.

It was interesting to see how, one by one, the siblings, spouses, and grandchildren all began to manifest the fight-or flight reactions when reality of the mission ahead of them sunk in. And we all tried to provide each other with breaks and levity, as well as practicality and concern for each other’s health and safety.  [9]

And we kept joking about – then seriously posing to anyone nearby or muttering to ourselves –  variations on the question that had no rational answer: How is it that people who lived through The Great Depression ® and who subsequently cited the hardships endured and the resulting appreciation for simplicity and frugality which TGD privations imbued in them – how is it that such people ended up amassing all that stuff which could fill a landfill the size of Gambia?

It was at once distressing, frightening, mystifying, annoying, hilarious, and six other emotions I can’t quite describe.

 

 

buckley

Have you tried stupendiflying superflu-otic?

*   *   *

 

Just as frightening as having to deal with the house cleanup was having to keep reminding myself how much good stuff I received from my parents, including what was, for the most part, a loving and secure childhood.  I had to do this because I realized I was starting to resent them for leaving their children this horrendous mess to deal with.

Attention, all you hoarders: (okay, I’m probably pissing in the wind here because hoarders rarely see themselves as hoarders [10])  please, stop, right now, and do whatever it takes to reverse course. Do NOT do this to your children.

Attention, all you children of hoarders: have your parents diagnosed/treated, while you can. Failing that, hide their credit cards in the middle of stack 15 of 32 stacks of Trailer Life magazines.

 

 

hoard

We’ll want to read through these someday, I just know it.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Painful Reminders

Dateline: Tuesday, PDX airport, just having returned from SoCal. I waited at the baggage claim area while MH tried to summon an Uber ride. I chose a spot close to the baggage carousel, and saw that ten feet to my right was the frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair whom I’d seen boarding our flight during the initial those-who-need-special-assistance pre-boarding call. She was accompanied by a woman I judged to be her attendant, and she was distressed to the point of shedding frantic tears. er shaking  Her shaking hands rummaged through her handbag, frenetically searching, as if she’d misplaced something. She began to sob and moan.

No no no – it was right here.”

The attendant remained calm – almost heartlessly and diffidently so…or so it seemed to me, even as I reminded myself that I did not know these people and should not judge the situation.  In the elderly woman’s distress I recognized the fear and confusion my own mother displayed when, sporadically at first and then increasingly during her last days…and months…and years, she was beset by bouts of dementia, fear and forgetfulness, and their companions, panic and paranoia. But your mother is no longer afraid, or upset, I coached myself. She was able to remain and die at home, which is what she wanted.

I sidled over and spoke to the elderly woman’s attendant: I apologized for any intrusion and gently asked if I could be of some assistance – could I fetch a drink of water, or…something? The attendant smiled and politely refused my offer. In a broken English accent I took to be Russian, she said that the elderly woman was merely confused (“She think she lose something”). I smiled at both women and inched back toward my waiting spot as the baggage carousel began to roll out our luggage

The elderly woman, who had calmed down for a moment, resumed her sobbing and rummaged through her handbag.

“No, no, no, why? I had it right there, and now it’s gone. I wish I was dead…”

Her quavering cry of despair hit like a sucker punch to my innards. I remembered my mom expressing that sentiment in her moments of desperation and fear – my mother, who was right there and is now right gone, and all her “stuff” gone as well.

 

 

*   *   *

May you learn not to binge so as not to have to purge;
May you realize that even if you love your stuff it doesn’t love you back;
May you have patience with those who fear what they may have lost;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Yet another appellation for He Who Shall Not Be named in this space. You know – Putin Junior.

[2] “Marion had been in our prayers for years…” Well, if that don’t show the inefficacy of appealing to a nonexistent sky god, what else will?

[3] In this case, my sister read memories shared by one of my mother’s nieces, who was only ten or so years younger than my mother.

[4] No question about her wanting to keep her birthname. Hole may have been a fine, upperclass Norwegian surname, but in America…not so much.

[5] Read: we’d still be there, trapped under layers of old ultility bills and sixty year old packages of rotting tinsel had they not shown up to help.

[6] And discarding and discarding and scratching our heads and asking, “WTF did they keep that for?” an discarding some more and sneezing and sneezing and sneezing

[7] Some labels were specific (“_____ {grandchild’s name) birthday” or cringingly age and gender nonspecific and stereotypit (“for 12 yerd old boy)

[8] Although the items were distributed throughout the house and in the rafters and cabinets of the two car garage.

[9] My younger sister’s college age son, gazing at the boxes in the garage he was asked to get down, wisely decided that a trip to Home Depot to purchase protective eye goggles and dust masks was called for.

[10] Especially if they watch one of those Hoarders of La Habra reality shows, which allow them to delude reassure themselves that, “Well, I’m not as bad as that so I’m not really a hoarder.”

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