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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 Heritage I’m Not Claiming

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I’d given up on attending Christmas-themed theatrical performances – at least, the ones which (theoretically) are comedies. The disaster that was A Tuna Christmas has become legend in my family. Several years ago MH got our family tickets for a Portland performance of the play, at my request, as a family outing for my birthday. When intermission was announced and everyone in the theatre stood up to stretch their legs and find the bathroom, I turned to son K, who was standing beside me, and asked, “Would you be disappointed if we left now?”

Oh, Mom, K gushed, hugging me so hard I almost toppled out of the balcony, “I’m so glad you feel that way!” His enthusiasm quickly spread to daughter Belle and MH, who, as it turned out, were all equally unimpressed with the play. We’d each been sitting there, thinking the same thing (this play sucks), each of us thinking we were the only one who felt that way….

There are few worse forms of entertainment than unfunny comedies, especially those that present themselves as satire and/or farces. The series of Greater Tuna plays – set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas and described as satirical yet affectionate take-offs on small-town, Southern life and attitudes – are, IMHO, a prime example of that phenomenon.

I suppose…I can maybe imagine…how, in the early 1980s, the sight of two gay men portraying a play’s twenty-plus cast members, including elderly female characters, was considered to be thigh-slappin,’ boot-stompin’, side-splittin’ hi-larious. For some folks. [1]

Moiself? I found it dated, and, worst of all – take it away, Joanne Worley – 

 

 

joanne

BOOOOOORRRRRRING!

 

 

Last Sunday I decided to give the Christmas Comedy one more try, thanks to local theatre company Bag & Baggage.  Because nothing says holiday spirit like the description of their one time cabaret event, Drunk as the Dickens:

Five of our Resident Actors will start drinking at 5:00pm. We will pull as many vaguely Victorian costumes as our drunken hands can carry, and then head over to Clark’s Bistro and Pub where, at 8:00pm, we will make them pull their characters from out of Scrooge’s nightcap, hand them a 1 hour(ish) version of A Christmas Carol and see if any of them can read while hammered. What could possibly go wrong?

*   *   *

Speaking of Christmas….

 

Annual Holiday History Lecture Reminder To The War On Christmas Imbeciles Bunch

 

 

heathen

 

The more fundamentalist the believer, the more ignorant they seem to be re a fundamental truth behind their religious observances: “Christian” holidays, in particular the biggies (Christmas and Easter), began as pagan festivals. Christmas belongs to and was in fact originated by pagans. Christians just changed your own history and renamed the festivities. However, in the true spirit of generosity, we heathens are happy to share the jolly season with one and all. As per these self-plagiarisms excerpts from my previous blogs:

  The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  [2]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.  [3]

 

pagan-idol

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

Heretics/apostates non-Christians We happy heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

 

 

santa

 

 

Who doesn’t like a party/celebration, for any reason? We who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with any religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they acknowledge the fact that the ways we celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas tradition” that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism. [4]  A celebration in the depths of winter, at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north, is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

 But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked, actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For all of the seasons.

 

winter_solstice_diagram

 

 

Our names for the days of the week come from religions predating Christianity. The Greeks named the days week after the sun, the moon and the five (at the time) known planets which they’d named after their gods… then the Romans substituted their equivalent gods, followed by the Germanic, Norse and Celtic peoples. For example, Thursday comes from Thor’s-day, Friday from variants on Frigg’s and Freya’s Day, Saturday from Saturn’s Day….

The god Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  [5]  My calling that day Wednesday doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

 

 

woden

“Go smite the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

 

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [6]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or around December 25 included HorisHuitzilopochtliIsisMithrasMardukOsirisSerapis and Sol.)   [7] 

When the Roman Catholics came to power and spread north from Rome, they encountered pagan practices that had gone on for thousands of years before the Popes decided to claim divine authority and subdue the illiterate masses by dressing like the bastard spawn of Elton John and Lady Gaga.

 

gaga

 

 

The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [8] Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the (Christian) church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the son-of-god.

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  [9] when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

saturnalia

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Is She Or Isn’t She

I’ve lost track of the number of times it’s happened to me. In a lecture hall at college; in a restaurant; while riding public transportation; with fellow travelers in a rowboat on Lake Bled in Slovenia….

It’s a combination of my reminding people of someone else, and/or my saying or doing something that makes people suspect (or even hope) that I might be one of their clan.

Are you Jewish? You’re Jewish – right?

It (the questioned ethnicity/group of origin in question) is almost always not the case, and I can’t help but be fascinated by why it matters to the person asking. The default explanation presented to me (by someone who once asked) is that if you are in the minority, in any way or group, you tend to notice [10] who might be one of your kind, so to speak.

Hands down, the majority of identity inquiries I’ve received have been about my being a member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Chosen People. But not exclusively. Other Are you _______?s have included gay/lesbian, Russian, Native American and – one of my favorites – Australian (hello?  Aussie accent, like, nonexistent?).

 

 

 

gday

We don’t claim her, mate, now G’day and bugger off.

 

 

 

Most recently it happened at a seafood bistro, during last week’s sabbatical-of-sorts trip to the Oregon Coast.  It was a slow evening for the restaurant, and my waiter and I had established a chatty rapport.  Near the end of my meal, before he frightened me with the dessert tray,  [11]  and seemingly apropos of nothing, the waiter asked if I or any members of my family were French Canadian, or Cajun?

I told him that, to my DNA analysis-deficient knowledge, the only thing French about me was the attempt by certain relatives on my father’s side of the family to downplay their indigenous heritage (this was back when it wasn’t considered “cool” for white folks to claim Native American ancestry) by reassuring my maternal grandmother than the purported Chickasaw/Cherokee woman who’d married a Parnell man was “maybe just French.”

The waiter chuckled; I asked him why he wondered about my heritage. He replied that, physically and mannerisms-wise, I reminded him of several relatives on his mother’s side of the family, and also, specifically, his mother.

The waiter was at least my age (several years older, I’d bet).  Nevertheless, I told him I would take that as a compliment, and he left verbal skidmarks assuring me that, indeed, that is what the similarity was supposed to be.

I did not order dessert, but left a good tip. Monetarily ,that is. I refrained from leaving him another good tip: never tell a woman who is older than twenty that she reminds you of your mother.

 

*   *   *

May you never be forced to endure a humor-free comedy;
May you acknowledge the old traditions before creating your own;
May whatever tribes or traditions you claim bemuse the hell out of someone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

Happy Saturnalia and Solstice and Yule and Merry Christmas and Boxing Day and Hanukkah and Kwaanza and Festivus and….

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Like, say, your mildly homophobic grandparents.

[2] Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday, New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[3] Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.

[4] “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[5] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.

[6] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[7] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[8] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[9] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

[10] And in some cases/in some situations, it can be life-preserving to keep track of such things.

[11] Really, out of nowhere a ginormous dessert tray appeared by my side, and my being startled by it greatly amused my waiter.

The Questions I’m Not Answering

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Less than twenty-four hours prior to leaving for my sabbatical to Yachats (as per last week’s post (The Life I’m Not Rebooting[1] I received news of the passing of Davis W. Baldwin, M.D., my beloved former employer, mentor, and friend. Next week MH will travel to the Bay Area to attend his memorial service. While I was in Yachats MH forwarded me the link to DWB’s obituary.

Join hands with the nearest sentient being and cue the Circle of Life. News of Dr. B’s passing should not have caught me off guard – he was 89, after all. Still, there are some people I think will live forever. And he’ll continue to live on, in the way that my father lives on for me, and in only way we all will: through the stories told and memories held by colleagues, friends and family.

I’m not ready to write much about him. One story would be too many and 100 would be not nearly enough. How can you not love a man who, when he tells you why he doesn’t like rhubarb pie, relates the story as if the WTF?!?!?! reasons for his rhubarb antipathy were the most logical consequence in the world?  (When DWB was a child he and his brother played outside during the summer, for as long as they could, running through the fields, and when the young DWB heard nature’s call he would ignore it for as long as possibly, and then finally he would pee in the neighbor’s rhubarb fields rather than take a time out to return home to use the facilities at home.  [2]  Thus, he associates rhubarb with an uncomfortably full bladder).

*   *   *

Department of Oh…So…The Trip Thing

My self-described/imposed sabbatical. My trip began a day earlier than planned due to inclement weather complicating my route to the coast, and was cut short due to the more inclement weather…plus yet another extended family concern.  [3]

While I was in Yachats I received a request for feedback from friend KW re a song he’s working on, “The Blue State Blues.” KW asked how my trip was going. I sent him yet another deflecting-sorrow-through-crass humor explanation, along with my suggestions for possible lyrics for his next musical composition:

I like the guitar!  A very heavy-angry, I-am-so-fucking-depressed/pissed vibe is essential to the song…. Cutting my trip short due to Life Happens, in the form of having to plan one memorial service trip to the Bay Area, for my former boss, mentor and friend Dr. Baldwin, and possibly coordinating hospice care for my mother, who has taken a drastic turn for the worse. How inconsiderate of others to mess up my plans, eh?

I guess I should stop complain about turning 60 on Friday, but I wanted to wake up on my birthday at the coast, not in Hillsboro. At least I’m not waking up in Alleppo….

♫  I organized a getaway
From daily cares I ran
There’s people sick and dyin’
Hell, that’s fuckin’ up my plan!
I got dem how-in-the-hell-am-I-sixty,
Cranky ‘bout my big-ass-birthday blues  ♫

singer

Sing it, sister.

 

 

*   *   *

 

Once again, I digress.

Sorry to disappoint longtime friend JWW and others who requested, re last week’s blog post, something ala “I hope you find and discover everything I’ve always wondered about in my own life. Then let me know about what you found out.”

I didn’t find Big Answers to the Meaning of Life ® for several reasons, including

(1) I don’t think there are any one-size-fits-all answers, Big or Small, to such questions;

(2) I don’t think such questions (e.g., “What is the meaning of life?”) are valid, relevant or translatable;  [4]

(3) There is no reason #3

(4) I didn’t find answers to “the big ones” because that’s not what I was looking for.

Here is one answer I did find:  how to pronounce the name of one of the many trails I hiked, The Ya’Xaik Trail.  I had no problem with “the” and “trail.” As for Ya’Xaik, when I say it properly (Yah’ khik)) I sound like…well, imagine a Chihuahua retching up the world’s biggest cat hairball.

 

 

dog

I resent cheap humor at my expense

 

 

 

The trip served its purpose: to either affirm or rebut what I’ve been feeling, for quite some time, about my work. My dissatisfaction reached critical mass this year, thanks in good part to the persistent, evidence-based (i.e. it’s ‘s not just my personal experiences and/or feelings)  – research and communiqués, from the Authors Guild and other professional writers advocacy organizations, on the state of /changes in the business of writing fiction.

What I was able to affirm is that I am done. I, simply but emphatically, don’t want to be part of that world, anymore.

*   *   *

Department Of There Must Be An App For That

A world I do want to be a part of, career/life work wise? There’s the rub. Preferably, I’ll find one where oxygen breathers can survive. [5]  More ruminations to come, dealing with another evidence-based reality:  while such dilemmas aren’t easy at any age, the simple truth is that one’s possibilities get narrower with age.

Whatever/wherever that world is, I hope it’s filled with opportunities to traverse trails with unpronounceable names and be impressed with and humbled by big ass rhododendron leaves.

 

bar

*   *   *

Department Of Assume The Guru Pose

Observations after hiking each day, every day, for a week: some of the most interesting trails, for me, are loop trails. Does this mean, you may say to yourself, she thinks her life is going in circles, or is she attempting some kind of it’s the journey vs. the destination – it’s the journey as well as the destination metaphor?  [6] 

Not exactly re the former; maybe/kinda re the latter

 I’ve come to the simple realization – be prepared to be whacked with the Stick of Profundity ®  – that when I’m not primarily focused on a destination (gotta make it to the spectacular viewpoint/the highest ridge) I pay more attention to the details along the way.

 

 

guru

Aren’t you glad there’s no subscription fee for reading this trite verbiage — er,  insightful principle?

 

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Department Of Making New Friends

Last Saturday early eve I went to a wine tasting at Yachat’s only wine place. [7] As I opened the door to the small shop I saw eight people, each cradling a wine goblet in their hands, seated around a rectangular table in the middle of the shop. These folks were regulars at the shop’s tasting events, not visitors such as moiself …or so I judged from their palpable familiarity with one another.

A jingle bell on the shop’s door handle announced my arrival. Sixteen pairs of eyes turned toward me; affable, anticipation-of-greeting-a-friend expressions quickly morphed to who-is-this-newcomer?

After one or two beats of silence, a man seated at the head of the table lifted his glass as if to toast me, and said, “Welcome to Yachats’ Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.”

I waited another beat, then replied, “Worst. Wine. Shop. Ever.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Today Is My Birthday

 

 

party2jpg

Please, try to contain your excitement.

*   *   *

The Old (er) People I’m Making Happy

Someone is here!

I heard the gasp before seeing the source of the enthusiasm: a mid-seventies [8]  woman who scuttled out from a supply closet at the Waldport Visitor’s Center. She didn’t seem to mind that my rain hat, coat and boots and I were dripping/tracking water all over the foyer. I was, at 3:30 pm, the only visitor the center had had that day.

I had similar encounters at other coastal town Visitors Centers, and also with at least five  [9]  volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.  Would you like me to show you around? Remember, if you’ve any questions…. The urgency in their voices made me realize I needed to ask them some questions. Legitimate or otherwise. (Please, validate my existence. Besides, you’re the only one who showed up in the pouring rain.)

The Visitor Center at Yachats was manned by an overly enthusiastic and chatty Older Man Wearing An Unfortunate Bill Cosby Sweater ®.  I checked the guest register which, OMWAUBCS assured me, every person who walks into the Visitors Center must sign. If that indeed was the case, I’d been the only visitor to the center in three days. And, gosh golly gee thanks, OMWAUBCS, but truth be told, I’m not really interested in the Come Meet Santa! gathering at the community hall (“Great fun for families and all – young and old everyone is invited.”), and I’d rather trim my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than sit through a two hour Community Christmas choir and hand bell concert at the Presbyterian church….

It didn’t hurt me to listen to the various guides and volunteers. And so I did, with mild/faux enthusiasm, each and every time.

 

My work here is done.

*   *   *

 “There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t gonna be any answer.
There never has been an answer.
There’s your answer.”
(Gertrude Stein)

*   *   *

Department Of The Petty Pleasures I Live For

One day on my trip, between courses at a seafood restaurant, I was checking my email on my phone. The subject line in one email was about a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association, but the organization, due to space constraints, was abbereviated, Children’s Cancer Ass.

 

grannyshock

*   *   *

Department Of Secrets Of The Great Outdoors Revealed

Note to all ye who walk your fearful/unfriendly yippy dogs on hiking trails:

When I approach to pass you on the trail you try, unsuccessfully, to stop the machine-gun barking and leash-tugging and other aggressive behaviors your dog displays at non-threats such as moiself. I smile and greet you, then speak in kind, soft, non-threatening tones to your frantically vocalizing dog, even as I am thinking, Why can’t you do us all a favor and leave that miserable, yowling mop rag of a mongrel in the RV?

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy each and every petty pleasure;
May your patient if faux interest make a volunteer guide’s day;
May you remember to leave your yipster in the RV;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] about my thinking-things-out, week-plus “sabbatical trip” to Yachats.

[2] Or defile your own family’s field.

[3] The declining health of my mother, who is being evaluated for hospice care.

[4] Except in Monty Python films.

[5] After the recent election debacle, I have my doubts as to my fitness for my home planet.

[6] Stop talking to yourself, or people will think you’re daft.

[7] Which carries  the astoundingly apt name of The Wine Place.

[8] Mid-Seventies as in my guestimage of here age, not that she was dressed indisco-area attire.

[9] “Senior,” once again.

The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

Comments Off on The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

 

“I hope you’ll display it as a reminder of the natural beauty you’re protecting.”
(Note on a card sent,  along with a paper Christmas ornament, by The Nature Conservancy, in a three page won’t you contribute? solicitation.)

MH and I give a lot of thought to which charities we support. We donate to organizations we deem effective, whether on a local or global scale, in supporting our “favorite” causes. Over the years we’ve added some causes/organizations and deleted others, the latter action usually taken due to what we see as a misuse of our donations. For example, if we received waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many requests for additional contributions, including being dunned for “annual” dues/membership fees starting at seven months before the end of when our membership expires year, it’s buh-bye to that one.

One such charity was Nature Conservancy. We supported them for years, and then we didn’t. They do some really, really good work – who isn’t for preservation of natural lands and restoration of habitat for endangered species? – but the constant appeals for more, accompanied by trinkets we neither wanted nor asked for, including their latest we’d love to have you rejoin appeal, [1] remind me of why I decided our conservation $$ would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

ornament

 

An unsolicited holiday ornament wrapped in plastic, made in China. Now, there’s some mighty fine stewardship of the earth’s resources.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Every Cart Tells A Story

My computer calendar gave me a pop-up reminder: time to change out the emergency water supply in the garage. [2]  Two days later I was standing in the unusually long line at the store,  [3] bored outta my gourd, checking out the items in other people’s shopping carts. I began a game I’ve played for years: concocting a story about strangers, my fellow shoppers.  Their age, jobs, educational and marital status, state and/or country of origin, likes and dislikes – even their political opinions – I make up a profile of them, based on what they have in their shopping carts.

Before long I considered the thirteen items in my own cart – twelve water jugs and a stick of antiperspirant – and wondered what would my story be, to someone playing a similar game?  [4]

This middle-aged, sweaty white woman is very, very thirsty.

 

 

 

cart

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Give Me Hope Re The Resilience Of The Human Spirit

The good folks who gave us that most refined parlor game, Cards Against Humanity, have now given us yet another reason to go on living: they dug a really, really big hole, into which money was thrown. Check it out at https://www.holidayhole.com/

 

*   *   *

Department Of Shoot Me Now And Get It Over With

Forget water boarding – if you ever want to see me with my spirit totally broken,  [5] force me to sit through a Singing Christmas Tree ® performance.

And yes, I have been to such a thing. Twice, when I was young. Whenever I had to picture the concept of hell (a concept adults seemed to believe in, or at least find useful, but which I thought was rubbish), I flashed back to those horrifically perky, Lawrence-Welk-on-Quaaludes-and-acid, holiday “concerts.”

 

singing-tree

*   *   *

Department Of And Then There’s That

Hoping for the best the best doesn’t exclude ignoring reality.

Specifically, I refer to my pondering (read: dreading) what will happen after January 20, 2017. Many Democrats and select Republican non-trolls have been making noises re working together with a PuJu [6] administration on what might be considered nonpartisan, everybody-wants-this-done issues.

Now, I’ll be one of the first to commend the actions of everyone involved in finding ways to, say, fix our crumbling bridges/update our infrastructure and reform/simplify our tax code, etc. Still, any such accomplishments will not erase the fact that we’ll have a boorish, narcissistic, knowledge-incurious, unrepentant racist and misogynist as head of state.

 

 

disappointed

*   *   *

We have reached the seventh circle of the hell I don’t even believe in.

I was listening to a podcast of a Freakonomics radio show, the 11-16-16 episode, How To Make A Bad Decision. The hosts and guests were discussing a research paper, Decision Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy.   The paper’s authors analyzed decision-making within three different professions – baseball umpires, loan officers, and asylum judges – to see whether those professionals were likely to fall prey to the gambler’s fallacy.  [7]  

The podcast included an interview with professional baseball umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who talked about the application of technologies such as the PITCHf/x system [8] and instant replays of close plays as ways of checking an umpire’s calls. Not all umpires are enamored with the technologies and the resultant second-guessing/undermining of their authority, but Wendelstedt was a supporter:

“… these pitch systems got into place, it’s been a great educational tool for us….it really helps us become a better-quality product for the game of baseball.

 

 

really

 

The world is indeed ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I completely lost interest in the rest of the podcast after hearing that quote.  I beg of all sentient beings:  Never, ever, refer to yourself, or any other human being, as a product.

Unless in your case the human being thing is just an act and you actually happen to be a can of Cheezey-whiz.

*   *   *

The Toes I’m Not Spreading

Balance; calm; equanimity, toe envy….

Wait a sec. Of all the elements one might pursue or experience in a yoga class, envy of any kind – well, it’s just not yoga.

Still, there I am, in my yoga class, glancing around to see my fellow yogis seemingly effortlessly widen their lithe, long, supple little piggies when the instructors suggests we spread our toes to help us balance in tree pose. Meanwhile, my puny, span-challenged podiatric digits spasm with the effort.

Stub toes [9]  is just one of the milder epithets which have been applied to my toes over the years.  Some folks have refrained from outright name-calling, but still have obviously noticed my phalange deficiencies. One afternoon in high school,  the dance teacher substituted for our field hockey coach (who was called away for some emergency) during warm-ups. Dance Teacher decided to teach us hockey ladies some exercises which, she said, would increase our flexibility. DT asked us to remove our shoes and socks, stand barefoot on the gym floor, feet approximately 18 inches apart…

“Now, everyone spread your toes…” DT patrolled the rows of smirking field hockey players (we needed stamina, not flexibility, so why weren’t we doing our warm-up laps?), checking everyone’s deportment, berating this girl’s posture and that girl’s stance. She came to me, looked downward, and scowled.

“Widen your toes!” DT insisted. She then pointed to the feet of the girl standing beside me, as if to inspire me, for that girl’s lengthy, prehensile toes looked as if they would enable her to hang upside down from a tree branch.

“I am,” I replied. “This is as wide as they go.”

DT bent over, reached her hand down toward my foot, and made a clucking noise of patronizing sympathy. “I see, she sighed, and moved on down the line.

Flash forward to a couple of years later: I am in an athletic footware store, to purchase a new pair of running shoes. I am a regular customer of the store and know what size I wear, but the store’s new (to me) salesperson insists I remove my shoes and socks and step on the store’s shoe size measurer-thingamawhoowhooy-gadget. [10]

 

 

shoesize

You know, this thing.

 

 

Wow,” he gasps, as I comply with his request, “your toes are really short!” He crouches for closer inspection; I resist the urge to suddenly feign a spasm and kick him in the teeth.

“You know,” he looks up at me earnestly, “if your toes were normally proportioned to your feet, your shoe size would be one or even two sizes larger.”

Guess which salesman didn’t get that commission?

BTW – I rock at tree pose. Stub toes and all.

 

 

treepose

*   *   *

May you rock at your balance poses;
May your cart tell a noteworthy story;
May you dig a really big hole for any reason you chose;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What could their financial/donations manager possibly be thinking? “Sure, they left us five years ago, but this paper ornament will bring them back!”

[2] Every six months I buy 12-one gallon jugs of water, swap them out with the supply already in the garage, and use the older supply for watering plants, etc.

[3] It’s the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend; these people are already out of leftovers?

[4] Whom am I kidding – like anyone else would be playing that game, or looking up or around or anywhere but down, for that matter. Everyone else in my line, and in all the adjacent lines (Yep, I checked) was looking down at their cellphone…waiting for it to hatch a rare three-toed pygmy sloth dragon, or something equally significant, judging from the rapt expression on their face.

[5] If you did desire such a thing, that would make you a miserable little shit, wouldn’t it?

[6] aka Putin Junior, as I cannot bear to type his (allegedly real) name.

[7] The Gambler’s Fallacy is an erroneous  understanding of probability – the belief that the chances of something happening with a fixed probability, i.e., rolling 10 even dice in a row, become higher or lower as the process is repeated.

[8] A pitch tracking system which tracks the velocity, movement, release point, spin, and pitch location for every pitch thrown in a baseball game.

[9] Thanks, Mom!

[10] There must be a name for that device.

The Lunch I’m Not Buying

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For almost twenty years, my Canadian-born neighbor and friend has been itching to give moiself suggestions for the Canadian Trip I Have Yet To Take ® . Tuesday morning I awoke early, excited about the decisions I’d made on Monday re just such a trip. I looked forward to emailing an invitation to her: “I’ll take you out to lunch and you can be my travel agent!”

But first, I decided to go ahead and book my trip.

Long Story Short: I have a significant birthday coming up in few weeks, and have had a significant Act 3 Career & Life Crisis ®  going on for a few…years.  I shared some recent downturns regarding such things with friend SCM who, wise counselor that she is,  [1] offered this wise counsel:

It’s obvious you need a control-alt-delete from life right now….

She advised I take a trip, to…anywhere. Someplace totally random, or “…even if it’s just Quebec or Victoria or someplace on the same continent, you need a break from real life.”

I’d been thinking along similar lines – a meditative kind of vacation, not a trip involving lots of activities, which is what I’d usually want. I need to go alone, to have contemplative opportunity away from distractions, from the familiarity of work, routine, home and family…the kind of trip where you are forced to chill, where my main activity would be a combination of taking it easy, taking stock, and Figuring Things Out ® .

A long train trip would fit the bill. One where the destination is not so important as the process…and with really cool scenery on the way. However, my birthday being when it is (within loogie-hocking distance of Christmas)…what’s available/accessible in December?

After many days of research, I’d found the one that hit the spot with both my head and heart: Vacation By Rail’s Canadian Snow train, which travels across five provinces, from Toronto to Vancouver. I discussed it with MH Monday at dinner, working out which departure dates would be good for him perhaps being able to meet up with me at the end of my solo jaunt and spend a couple of days sightseeing in Vancouver. Later that eve, my fitful sleep was, for once, due to a good cause. I was filled with restless excitement – I was doing whatI usually poke fun at: setting my heart on something.

You know where this is headed, don’t you?

 

 

disappointed

 

 

Here is the email I sent to MH Tuesday morning, after I’d tried to make the reservations.

Subject line – trip: back to square one.

I noticed that no matter what date I put in on the train trip, just trying to see how far I could get in the online scheduling process, I got a message saying I had to call to speak to a booking agent to continue.

 It turns out that I had to call because I was booking for one passenger traveling solo, and they don’t list that price on line. The price listed on Vacation by Rail site’s – $___ for the rate class I sought – is the price per passenger for more than one passenger.  Same trip, same room, for a single passenger is “…uh,…significantly higher,” the very nice (and apologetic and embarrassed-soundin)  booking agent said, after she’d looked it up.  “Significantly higher” turns out to be More. Than. Double.

 Seriously  – over $8k  (I stopped writing the figure down after I heard the “Eight thousand…”)

 I told the booking lady I feel as if I’ve been had.

 I flashed back to a conversation during my Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia trip, where a bunch of the veteran travelers were talking at dinner about the many reasons they liked Rick Steves tours, including the fact that there was no price discrimination for single/solo travelers.

 I woke up excited this morning (can’t remember the last time that has happened) and now I feel like I’m six years old and someone strangled my hamster.

 I don’t often burst into tears when talking to a stranger on the phone…at least I managed to hold off until I hung up.

 Fuck. To put it mildly.   [2]

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things You Should Know About Me If We’re Going To Be Friends

I like “bugs.” Mammalia and Insecta –  I am appreciative of our respective ecological niches…with notable exceptions  [3] . I particularly respect and admire spiders. If at all possible, any spider found in our house is escorted to the great outdoors (as opposed to squashing it), where she may build her web in peace and harmony.

 

 

spider

We love you too, sweetie.

 

 

Ants, however, can kiss my ass – but Noooo,  blog-reading ants out there, do not take that literally, because I absolutely hate hate hate it when you creepy crawlers get in the house.

Maybe it was that stupid movie I saw as a kid – a movie which held the distinctions of being both the first nuclear-mutated-big-monster movie and the first horror movie I ever saw on TV. I had nightmares for days, until…once again, Science to the rescue! ®   With a little research I discovered that humans could never be attacked by giant mutant ants due to basic laws of physics; that is, physical limitations of the ants’ exoskeletons meant they’d be unable to support a body weight beyond a certain size.

 

 

 

them

 

 

 

Still, I find little comfort in the fact that ants will always remain small. The ants go marching one by one – that’s the part that gets me.

The hive mentality is abhorrent and frightening to me. I am uncomfortable around any creatures which display groupthink and which, voluntarily or otherwise, act as slaves to instinct. From social insects to German soldiers marching in lockstep; from fundamentalist Christians simultaneously raising their hands at a faith healing rally to Mormon missionaries on bicycles to a bazillion Muslims all dressed white and in throwing pebbles at pillars during their hajj…..ICK.

Ants in the house is the worst; I feel like I’m being invaded by The Borg.  And I don’t just want to kill them; I want to frighten them. I want to hire tiny ant IRA operatives to kneecap the invaders so they can return to their colony as a living warning to the others: stay away from this lady; she means business!

Can you guess what tried to occupy our kitchen this week?

 

 

hateants

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Things We Do For Science

Text exchange between daughter Belle, a junior majoring in Biology at the University of Puget Sound, and moiself, yesterday:

Belle: …guess what – I am now the temporary owner of a super cute frog.

Moiself: Temporary? You mean you’re watching it while someone is away? And you know you must prove it is super cute…

And she did:

 

 

sadiefrog

 

 

Moiself: Dude, that looks like a huge toad!

Belle: He’s for my ecology independent research project!

Moiself: What are you researching?

Belle: Me and my partner are looking at how diet nutrient content affects behavior syndromes in crickets after a predator stimulation.

Moiself: So, you’re actually interested in cricket behavior? The frog is just there to be the predator?

Belle: Basically we’re feeding crickets a bunch of different diets, and seeing if that affects how brave they are in the presence of a predator. Yeah, he’s just there to scare some crickets.

Moiself: Are these male crickets? If so, just given them a diet of nothing but beer and they’ll think they’re invincible. I’m serious. You might win a Nobel Prize for this.

Belle: The sex of our crickets is unknown, ha ha.

Moiself: Well then, can your research project have more than one hypothesis? Do the beer diet thing, and if it produces what passes for cricket bravado, they are likely male. If it has no effect, except that the crickets seem to be getting a bit heavy in the hip, they are likely female – and you have found a noninvasive way to determine the sex of crickets.

Belle: I don’t think they’ll let us use beer.

Moiself:  Hot pockets?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Going Through The Motions

For reasons that should have been made clear in the opening of this post, I’m not in much of a oh-fa-la-la-la-la-la-here-come-the-holidays mood. [4] Nevertheless, with Halloween just around the bend, it’s time to share what has become my holiday season tradition:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be careful what you set your heart on;
May you be free from ant and Borg invasions;
May you find the good in going through the motions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Literally. Among her many attributes (such as being the Queen of Hats), she is a lawyer.

[2] After several hours of feeling like I got kicked in the gut, I got back in the saddle so to speak, and researched more options…and once again and more than once encountered the obscene solo traveler surcharge. Not gonna be a party to that ripoff.

[3] IMHO, fleas and mosquitoes can suck festering, turd-encrusted donkey dicks and die.

[4] And only four footnotes? Now, that’s a funk.

The Coffee I’m Not Fetching

4 Comments

 

Department Of Oh That Explains It

I opened turned to page 2 of The Oregonian and saw the reassuring headline for the Editor’s Notebook column:

We’ve redesigned with our readers in mind.

I guess I’m not one of the readers Those Who Redesigned had in mind, because I couldn’t get beyond the column’s next sentence, [1] which contained this gem of an explanation:

We’ve redesigned The Oregonian to be easier to read.

All these years, I’ve wondered about the decline of print media. Newspapers have seemingly lost their appeal; circulation and subscriber bases have dropped precipitously. Could it be related to competition from internet and other electronic media/online sources, including revenue loss from online advertising sources which made newspaper classified ads dated and/or irrelevant?

Noooooo. It’s just because newspapers have become SO  DIFFICULT  TO  READ.

 

newspaper

“Article continued on A13?” This. Is. So. Hard. For. Me.

*   *   *

Department of Eat, Prey, Write, Gloat With Cynicism

Did I ever tell y’all about the time in 2006 when I was subject to special screening by TSA agents because I was the only woman in the PDX airport  [2] who was not toting a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in her carry-on bag?

That’s right – I didn’t tell you. Because that never happened. But it felt like it did.

 

 

tsa

Now, turn your head and cough, Ma’am, because if we don’t find a copy of that book you will not be allowed to board your flight.

 

The more EPL was recommended to me [3] the more I resisted jumping on the EPL bandwagon. Besides, after reading interviews with Gilbert, I got the feeling the no-detail-of-my-life-i$-too-private-be-$hared author wasn’t done with exploiting her personal life seeing as how it sold so much better than her fiction sharing her searching-the-world-for-wisdom-so-you-don’t-have-to exploits. I thought I’d bide my time and wait for the box set.

A sequel soon followed, which picked up with the author’s falling in love with/marriage to the Brazilian businessman she met at the end of EPL. The sequel was inaptly titled, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. “Inaptly,” I daresay write, because the peace the author supposedly made with marriage turned out not to be with her own.

In June, Gilbert announced she’d ended her 12 year old marriage (emphases mine):

“Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal. At this time of transition, I hope you will respect our privacy. In my heart, I know that you will do so, because I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living—not a story that I am telling.”

Privacy?  Oh yeah – that thing defined as the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret. It’s that thing practiced by other people, not Gilbert, who despite her protestations has been telling the story she has been living for the past 12 years.

Sure, I snorted when I read her press release, She wants privacy, I can (continue to) give her privacy. I can also, from experience,  [4]  give her or any privacy-requester a smidgen of advice: if you want your request for privacy to be taken seriously you can start by not giving interviews/press statements/making a living from writing about your private life.

With a publicist’s masterful timing (never reveal everything at once if there’s a chance people will pay for a sequel!), three months after her divorce announcement Gilbert made another spotlight-grabbing broadcast: she’d ended her marriage because she’d fallen in love with a (terminally ill) female friend.

Do I smell another self-serving revelation soon-to-become another LET-ME-TELL-YOU-ABOUT-MY-AMAZING-LIFE-JOURNEY memoir?  [5]  It needs a catchy title:

Eat, Pray, Love, Regurgitate Triumphs And Heartaches, Write, Marry, Regurgitate Some More, Write, Divorce, Ask For Privacy – Holy Misguided Solitude, There’s No Money Or Attention In Discretion! – Write, Discover Gender Fluid Sexuality – Now I’ve Really Got Something To Write About….

 

 

eat_pray_love

Didn’t see the movie, either.

*   *   *

Department Of Wednesday Digressions

The Worst Types Of Workplace Sexists—And How To Fight Them

I cannot recall where I came across the article referenced above, but I am grateful for the memories it brought back.

 

really

 

I’ll try to explain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in the women’s reproductive health care field. Stints with Planned Parenthood clinics bookended six years at a dual practitioner (an M.D. and a N.P. [Nurse Practitioner]) [6] OB-GYN practice near Stanford hospital.

Before y’all get the wrong idea, there were no sexists working at that practice. Both of my bosses were wonderful people, as were (most of) the office staff. But as for some of our dealings with other “professionals”…. Let the story hijinks ensue.

Although Dr. B’s office was open Monday-Friday, with rare exceptions neither he nor the NP saw patients on Wednesdays. The day was plenty busy: the practice hosted a new parent support group which met in the waiting room every Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, “backstage” there was catching up on charting and non-emergency callbacks, exam room cleaning/stocking/organizing and preparation for the upcoming week’s patients…and on many Wednesday mornings and/or afternoons, Dr. B would consult, on the phone or in person, with attorneys.

Dr. B had a lucrative “side job” serving as a consultant/reviewer and expert witness  [7] for medical malpractice cases. He loved the work, and not just because of the money. He had a keen, forensically detailed intellect; he found reviewing and analyzing the case files fascinating, and had a knack for explaining complex medical issues to laypersons. The only thing he didn’t like about such consulting was having to deal with lawyers.

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?
A: The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.

 

 

shark

 

The attorneys I met during those six years were poster children for every lawyer gag you’ve ever heard. They were, with one exception I can recall, all male, and without exception the boy lawyers were sexist, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, windbag asshats. I tried to have as little to do with them as possible, and was mostly successful in that endeavor. Our office manager’s duties included lawyer-wrangling; patient care/education/advocacy was my gig. But there were certain Wednesdays when there was no avoiding the bastard barristers. Like a pair of cheap underpants, they crept up on you.

Dr. B would meet with lawyers in his private office. More often than not, he’d leave his office door open during these meetings. [8]   It’s not that the doc was indiscreet; I figured he just couldn’t stand to be alone with a conniving weasel lawyer (and, much to my surprise, Dr. B confirmed this when I told him my theory about the open door).  [9]

I picked up on Dr. B’s lawyer loathing. On those (mercifully few) occasions when there was no avoiding them, I took petty pleasure in tormenting the malpractice attorneys [10]  in the most passive-aggressive ways possible.

Anecdote the First
Sitting at the front desk with a pile of patient charts and pap smear lab reports, I reluctantly answered the phone (the office manager was taking a potty break). The caller cut short my standard work greeting, “Dr. B’s office, this is Rob…”

Car Phone Lawyer: “Yes, I’m calling from my car phone….”

It was the attorney who was scheduled to meet with Dr. B that morning for a malpractice case consult. The attorney informed me that he was calling from his car phone, and that the purpose of his call was to let us know that he was going to be late for his appointment. He was quite determined that I know he was calling from his car phone – he stated this twice in his opening remarks, mentioned it two more times in what should have been a brief, sorry-I’ve-been-detained-I’ll-get-there-as-soon-as-I-can apology, and ended the call with this fascinating bit of information.

As I mentioned, I’m calling from my car phone….

This was way back in pre cell phone days when, apparently, for Certain Kind$ of People ® there wa$ a certain amount of pre$tige a$$ociated with anyone who had a car phone. Moiself didn’t give a flying fuck if he was calling from a Maxwell Smart shoe phone. Had I asked from where or with what he was calling, and what did it have to do with…anything?

 

 

shoephone

 

 

“So, you’re going to be late…” I wrote a note for Dr. B, who was standing right behind me, his eyes almost audibly rolling toward the ceiling as he drew his index finger across his throat – his sign for I do not want to talk to this asshole until he gets here. Stifling my laughter, I waited for the Car Phone Lawyer to add something relevant, such as his ETA, or perhaps even a brief apology/explanation for his tardiness.

 “Yes,” CPL repeated. “As you know, I’m calling from my car phone…”

“Oh,” I pitched my voice to approximate the oral equivalent of a Sweet Young Thing’s ® smile. “That must be why it sounds like you’re talking into a tin can tied to a string.”

Anecdote #2
Dr. B was in his office, consulting with a malpractice attorney. I walked down the hallway, on my way to inventory amniocentesis kits in the supply closet and prep the ultrasound exam room for the procedure scheduled for the following morning. The office’s ever-brewing coffee pot was on the counter in the lab area, directly opposite Dr. B’s office and clearly visible to anyone sitting in the chair beside Dr. B’s desk…like, say, that attorney.

As I passed by Dr. B’s open door the attorney called out to me. He snapped his fingers – yes, he snapped his fingers – as he did so. “Hey,” (snap snap),”how about a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I cheerfully replied, without breaking my stride.  [11]

We didn’t know about mic drops back then, so I’ll ask the Notorious RBG to give a belated Bam! on my behalf.

 

 

rbg

*   *   *

Department of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Dateline: 7:50 am-ish, [12] near the tail end of my morning walk, I exit a neighborhood park via a pathway that leads through a cul-de-sac. I am at a nexus in the neighborhood space-time continuum: parents are walking their children to the elementary school one block south, preteens are schlumping toward the junior high two blocks northwest, and high school students are either heading for their bus stop or getting into cars with their parents.

I walk down the middle of the street and approach a house on the left just as a boy and his (presumed) mother exit the house and head for a car parked at the curb. The boy is tall, refreshingly skinny, with skateboard-sized feet which indicate much gangliness in his future. His childlike face belies his height – he looks all of 12 or 13 to me, yet he’s dangling car keys from his right hand. He heads to the passenger’s door, hesitates for a moment, then circles around to the driver’s door, his expression equal parts fear and anticipation.

I smile as I stride past the car, and chuckle to myself: Ah, driver’s permit. First week.

 

 

student-driver

*   *   *

May you have patience with student drivers;
May you appreciate how truly easy it is to read a newspaper;
May you savor life’s mic drop moments;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Read: I was overcome by a snort/laugh attack.

[2] Consistently rated one of American’s best airports. Not that we want you to come here all that much….

[3] including by More Than One Well-Read And Intelligent Friend Who Said The Author’s Writing Style Reminded Them Of Me ©

[4] Admittedly, not the kind that get$ paid a$ well a$ writing about Gilbert’s private life.

[5] To be followed by seminars and workshops advising mere mortal women on how they can do the same.

[6] who were also husband and wife (although not all of their patients knew this).

[7] The vast majority of malpractice cases settled out of court.

[8] something that would never happen these days, what with HIPAA and other privacy concerns and regulations.

[9] Was the good doctor joking or not? I may never know.

[10] Which had the bonus of thoroughly entertaining my bosses, both the doc and the NP.

[11] By doing so, I had won Dr. B’s eternal respect. I swear, after that Wednesday morning, the good doctor looked for ways to finagle attorneys into asking me that question. And it happened more than once. The attorneys would never ask directly/politely for anything, as in, “May I kindly trouble you for a cup of coffee?”

[12] As in morning-ish, not as in Amish..ish.

The Tomatillos Salsa I’m Not Making

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Department Of A Star Is Born

The prevalence of female vanity is legendary and, like most legends, largely fictional. Counterpoint stories of men going to extremes to make their boy-selves attractive – or caring about such at all – are viewed as anomalies, despite data and anecdotes to the contrary. As per the latter, of the four Parnell offspring (three girls and one boy) constituting my Nuclear Family ®, the only one of us who ever stayed home from school because of a perceived bad hair day was my brother. [1]

Yep, there’s a point I’m getting to.  Or rather, yet another anecdote.

Dateline: yesterday morning. Returning from my am walk, I passed a group of four Hispanic boys who were walking down the middle of the street, headed toward the nearby junior high. They were talking loudly amongst themselves in spanglish – loudly because one of the boys was about forty feet ahead of the other three. The lone/lead boy turned around, crooked his arm and called back to the group, urging them to catch up with him. One of the three replied in English, “I don’t want to run because it’ll mess up my hair.”

It was all I could do to stop myself from turning around to get a look at the no-mess-worthy hair, and say, Kid, you don’t know it but you’re gonna be the star of my blog.

 

 

badhair

Yet another no-fuss, man-style hairdo.

*   *   *

Department Of Belated Good Riddance….

To Phyllis Schafly, anti-feminist, anti LGBTQ rights, religious conservative activist. Schafly, who earned the title One of History’s Worst Homophobes in this article by The Advocate, “…spent a lifetime trying to prevent LGBT people from gaining equality, while spreading an onslaught of falsehoods — and she did all of it despite having a gay son.”

Most famous for her strident anti-ERA/anti women’s rights agenda, Schafly was the creepiest kind of conservative: one whose blinkered, religion-tainted world view made her guilty of what is, IMHO, one of the worst of human errors: ingratitude. Schafly profited and benefited from the work of feminists – women and men who fought the fights so that a woman could, as Schafly did, attend college and law school and be taken seriously (and earn money) as a political activist, commentator and author – and then devoted her professional life to dissing feminism and feminists.

On the bright side, ’tis possible that the self-loathing misogynist jibberish rhetoric of Ms. Schafly created more women’s rights advocates than the writings of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and bell hooks combined.

 

 

phyllis

*   *   *

Department Of What’s Your Favorite Not My

A couple of friend and I were recently sharing stories of what had been, for each of us, one of the surprise benefits  [2] of becoming a parent. Mine was this: once I had children I found myself rarely irritated or offended by being in proximity to other people’s children misbehaving in public. The kid throwing a tantrum in the grocery store or restaurant; the toddlers going ballistic on a flight as the place begins its landing descent – it just didn’t bother me the way it had in my pre-parenthood days.

I was flummoxed the first few times it happened – the first time I realized that, instead of being annoyed by the boy who’d just howled bloody murder and made a Frisbee of his personal size pizza, I felt something like…could it be…liberation?.  By the fourth or fifth time, the aha moment sunk in. I realized that my lack of irritation was in small part due to my empathy for the child’s parents (IF I felt they were handling the situation correctly [3]) and in large, gigantanormous part  because it wasn’t my kid acting up and thus I was relieved of the responsibility of dealing with the situation. As I put it to my friends, “Not my monkey; not my circus.”

 

 

tantrum

“Paging Ringling Brothers, aisle three, come get your monkey.”

 

The morning after that conversation, I awoke with this thought on my mind: Why have other Not my… scenarios not attained a recognized shorthand for the you-don’t-have-to-fix-everything meme?

* Not my cowboy; not my rodeo.

* Not my buffalo; not my stampede.

* Not my ice block; not my igloo.

* Not my cat turd; not my litter box.

* Not my lunatic; not my asylum.

* Not my urine sample, not my steroid scandal.

* Not my Focke-Wulf; not my Luftwaffe.

* Not my parish priest; not my sexual abuse settlement.

* Not my RMS Titanic; not my Trump-for-President campaign.

Just wondering.

 

 

rodeo

Someone else handle this, please.

*   *   *

The Tomatillos Are Calling

Now there’s a sentence I’ve heretofore not written. Nor even imagined, I imagine (no, wait….). But there it was, on a continuous loop or so it seemed, from late Saturday night through Sunday morning.

I tried to blame my insomnia on the mundanities [4]  of life…but it wasn’t the concern for the surfeit of produce from the week’s CSA bag (aka, what-am-I-gonna-do-with-all-of-these-tomatillos?) that had me waking up every two hours with those wretched, what did we miss/what could we have done? thoughts.

 

 

tomatillos

Don’t blame us, lady. Not your tomatillos; not your salsa.

 

 

Instead, it turns out that pesky subconscious mind o’ mine was ruminating on the approaching one year anniversary of A Very Dark Time Of Fear And Sadness ®  for our nuclear and extended family, which included but was not limited to the death of MH’s beloved father.

Just get past that day has been my mantra for this past week; thus, the relative brevity of this week’s post. For which there may be much rejoicing in the blog-reading world.

 

*   *   *

May you rejoice in the true mundanities of life;
May you be entitled to use (but never abuse) the occasional bad hair day defense;
May you remember to act when it is your monkey/your circus;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] My mother confirmed this, a long time ago when she confided in/complained to me about why my brother was staying home from high school that day – he was faking illness (she’d gotten him to admit this), because he didn’t like the way his hair looked. And this was not the first time he had done so.

[2] That is, a plus or perk which you totally did not anticipate.

[3] And if they were not, well then, I could self-righteously participate in that most American of pastimes: judging other people’s parenting skills.  So, win-win.

[4] Yep, that word has been added to my dictionary.

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