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The Good Old Days I’m Not Remembering

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Department Of The Joke I Wish Was Not So Spot-On Descriptive

Q. How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None; #45 just says it’s been changed and the rest of them sit in the dark and applaud.

 

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Department Of The Good Old Days Are More Old Than Good

Why is nostalgia like grammar?
We find the present tense and the past perfect.   [1]

Thanks to the podcast Curiosity Daily, moiself  has learned that there is a classification for the nostalgic lens with which my mother viewed the stories of her childhood. In the podcast’s August 13 episode, one of the topics was nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations…..
Nostalgia’s definition has changed greatly over time. Consistent with its Greek word roots meaning “homecoming” and “pain,” nostalgia was for centuries considered a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition expressing extreme homesickness. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that many people experience often. Occasional nostalgia has been found to have many functions, such as to improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning.
( excerpts from Wikipedia entry on nostalgia )

Specifically, the podcast focused on the fact that the folks who study such things (nostal-geologists, as I like to think of them) have classified nostalgia into two types: restorative versus reflective nostalgia.

Restorative nostalgia is when you feel like things used to be better in the past, and you long to relive or even reconstruct the way (you think) that things were.  Reflective nostalgia involves recognizing your wistful feelings about how things used to be, and admitting you sometimes long for the old days even as you accept the fact that the past is past and that your perceptions of that past are probably biased.

 

 

I had an immediate, visceral reaction to hearing the names and descriptions of the two types of nostalgia;  Moiself  felt like I’d won a jackpot of sorts, in having a spot-on term for the kind of “looking back” my mother preferred to do.

My mother was quite willing to share her stories of growing up in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  I frequently asked my parents about their childhoods, as I found their stories entertaining, fascinating, and ultimately revealing (even as I later found out about all of the concealing that was going on).  My father was the more skillful storyteller, both in the entertaining way he presented his stories and, as my siblings and I discovered in our adulthood, in his deftness at deflecting or avoiding talking about certain times of his life.    [2]   But this space, today, is for my mother’s restorative nostalgia.

As a child I’d observed that adults had this thing for “the good old days.” Although my mother didn’t present her stories with that introduction, the forthright manner in which she presented How Things Were Back Then ® made me astonished by the idea that anyone would pine for the olden days.

Restorative nostalgia: even as that kind of rose-colored-glasses/longing for the past is understandable, I’ve come to believe that it is ultimately not helpful, and can even be damaging.  Besides being unreal – you can’t and go back and make things the way they were – restorative nostalgia is, or should be, undesirable, for any rational person. When I have met people who really and truly seem to wish for “the way things were,” I sometimes want to bitch slap them into reality…

 

 

…and ask them, Have you fully considered the totality of that “safe space” you think you long for…and would you be willing to take everything else that came with it?

Those “simpler times” for which many people wax nostalgic included the not-so-simple realities of massive (and oft-times life-threatening) racial, gender, and sexual orientation repression and discrimination.

“Wait a minute, Mom – I remember you telling me…”  became my unintentional mantra, when it came to listening to my mother’s restorative nostalgia.  And after I had pointed out what, in my opinion, needed pointing out, she would respond with a somewhat conciliatory, “Oh yes, well, there was that….”

One day when I was visiting my parents back during the first Gulf War, I brought up the subject of current events.  My mother began telling me about how she found herself “pining for” the days of World War II, aka, “The Good War.”

Uh….Mom…those were days when the WORLD was at WAR.

“Oh yes, well, there was that… but, she continued, everyone knew each other in the town, and they all pulled together, and there was a feeling of solidarity….

I tried to validate that for her, then gently asked her if the pulling-together part made up for that awful day when the news came about the small town’s Bright Shining Hope:  the Cass Lake High School star athlete and recent graduate, beloved by all and engaged to a local girl, was killed in combat in Europe. The news devastated the town.  And didn’t she remember telling me about how horrible it was when the “telegraph truck” drove down Main Street, and when people saw it coming they ran into their houses, as if they could hide from the bad news, as if their shut doors would mean that the notice of a husband/brother/son/cousin who was KIA or MIA or wounded would pass on to another family….  And didn’t she remember telling me how “sick to death” she was by the adults who used the war to excuse their incompetence and blunders that had nothing to do with wartime circumstances, but if you tried to bring it to their attention or ask them to correct their mistakes, they’d sneer at you and say, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?!” and you’d be accused of being unpatriotic if you said anything after that?

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But things were “simpler” back then, in the old town/small town days, she declared. 

Well, maybe, I said…but “simple” doesn’t always equate to better, or even good.  And it seems far from simple – it seems complicated, even frightening, to me – to ponder much of what people had to navigate back then.

What would that be, she wondered?  She said she liked to remember the simple days, like the time when she and a friend walked back to their respective homes late one night after a school activity – they thought nothing of walking home after dark because they were safe from danger in a small town, and she’s thought of that over the years, when she couldn’t sleep until her own school-age children were home because she worried about us being out after dark….

“But wait a minute, Mom….”   you had so many dangers back then that we don’t have now. Maybe you felt safe walking home at dark, but I remember the rest of that story you told me:  the very next morning, when you went to your friend’s house to walk with her to school like you did on every school day, you saw the frightening QUARANTINE! sign on her front door.  Your friend had been stricken – overnight, seemingly out of nowhere – with polio and was being kept alive by an iron lung, and your parents were almost frantic with fear, thinking you might also be infected.   And over the years I’ve heard about children in your small town who were crippled, even blinded and deafened, by diseases for which we now have vaccines and/or cures….

 

Quarantine sign, Polio. 2005.3080.07.

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”  But still, she insisted, people were friendlier back then. They pulled together, and put aside their differences to cooperate as equals – being a good citizen meant something, back then.

“But wait a minute, Mom…. The “everyone pulling together” did not, in fact, include everyone.  Some citizens were more equal than others.  Don’t you remember telling me about “the Indian kids,” who were required by law to go to public school until age 13, after which they all dropped out, and how they all sat in the back of the class and the teachers rarely spoke to them and they never spoke in class?  You said, when I asked about their tribal affiliation, that you thought there were “at least two kinds of them,”    [3]  but you didn’t know what the “kinds” were – none of the whites did, because they weren’t interested and didn’t bother to find out, even though all the whites in town knew who was Norwegian-American and who was German- or Swedish-American…and that sometimes you felt bad for the Indians because you knew they had gone from being the majority to a minority in their own land….

And you told me about a high school girl who befriended the son of the only Chinese family in town – a family that had to constantly remind everyone during “The Good War” that they were Chinese, not Japanese – but this girl’s parents forced her to stop even speaking with him because they were horrified by the idea that their daughter might want to date “an Oriental”…. and when that Chinese family opened a grocery store because they couldn’t shop at the other stores in town during regular hours   [4]  no one patronized their store, and they were unable to make a living and moved to another town….

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”   Still, it was so much fun, the carefree high school days, she said, asking me if I remembered her telling me how she got to be lead saxophone player in the marching band (in such a small school in such a small town, if you played an instrument, you got to be in the band) and was valedictorian of her high school?  You know, back then, the teachers knew all the students and their families; they took a personal interest in their students, and everyone was so nice….

“But wait a minute, Mom…. What about the fact that your mother had to call the school principal and fight to get you into the physics class, because the physics teacher refused to “waste my time teaching science to girls”?  And then, after the principal forced the teacher to accept the two top students in Cass Lake High School – two girls, you and your best friend, Dorothy K – into his class, the teacher refused to speak to you or call on you when you raised your hand, and said openly to you and Dorothy on the first day of class that although it was against his will he’d been ordered to allow them in his classroom, and he grudgingly agreed to teach Dorothy because, “It’s obvious that she will have to work for a living.”

 

 

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

Then, without a modicum of introspection or self-awareness, my mother said, “Oh well, it turned out I never found physics to be very interesting….”

Well, of course not – why would you have?!?!?!  You were actively discouraged from being interested in it! The teacher paid no attention to you – he didn’t care if you learned anything. He had to give you an A because you read the required materials, aced all of the tests, and all the other students knew you had the top grade in the class.

And what about the way your best friend, Dorothy K, was treated?  Because she was “disfigured” – a botched forceps delivery damaged her facial muscles, causing the right side of her face to droop, as if she’d had a stroke – Dorothy was raised to accept the “fact” that because she lacked the most important feminine asset – a pleasing face – no man would ever want to date, much less marry her, and that she would need to make her own way in the world…in a world where the same men who would not consider her romantic partner material were also predisposed to not consider her their intellectual or professional equal….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….” 

And that job you had, after your junior college graduation: you worked as a secretary at the post office, and you said it drove you nuts, how the clerk was so incompetent and you often ended up doing his duties (but of course you didn’t get paid for doing so), and you knew you could do the job better but when you asked the manager you were told that, as a woman, you weren’t eligible to even apply for such a position…and how you were saving up your money to buy a car, but as soon as you were married you had to quit your job, because a married woman couldn’t work at the post office….

“Oh yes, well, there was that….”

and that…and that…and that…and that….

The incidents – read: life – my mother told me about…how do I explain this?  She never told those stories as examples of hardship or discrimination.  She presented them matter-of-factly, and often seemed to be befuddled by how gob-smacked I was to hear them.  To her, that was just the way things were; I heard the between-the-lines details – hardship and fear, racism and discrimination – that didn’t even, technically, require me to read between the lines, as they were, to me, glaringly overt…even as those details were, to her, not the point of her stories.

 

 

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Department Of Dorothy Is Not In Kansas Anymore

I met my mother’s friend, the afore-mentioned, legendary (to moiself ), Dorothy K, only once.  I was in college, home for a visit, and my mother excitedly told me that her friend Dorothy was returning to the States after her latest overseas trip, and had arranged to take a flight to LAX. My parents picked up Dorothy at the airport and brought her to their house, where she stayed overnight until she caught a flight back to her home.    [5]  

I was somewhat enthralled with the idea of Dorothy: over the years, I’d heard about how she was a chemist, made good money, and spent her free time travelling around the world.  When I finally met her I remember thinking how attractive I found her to be – she had “good bones,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how her life would have been, sans that incompetent doctor forceps mishap.

Part of my enthrallment came via comparing her life to my mom’s.  Moiself  (ungraciously, I know) saw my mother as a staid homemaker, someone who worked all day but never got paid and who had never been anywhere except for Cass Lake and Santa Ana. And here is her friend, with a career in science, who travels the globe….

I later thought of the ironies of Dorothy’s life, including the fact that the characteristic which made her “damaged goods” in the eyes of her culture is also what allowed her to go to college and work in fields that were closed to women in that time.  Her disfigurement essentially neutered her in the eyes of males; thus, she presented no threat of “distraction” (i.e., of them being sexually attracted to her).  Although I’ve little doubt that she faced discrimination (she shared a few stories with me, about always being the only woman in her department), it was as if she were a third gender: since men didn’t see her as a woman she was less of a threat to male colleagues, in terms of them having to consider that they were being equaled, or even bested, by a woman.

My mother (privately, years after Dorothy’s visit) admitted to me that she sometimes wondered what it would like to be Dorothy, whom she saw as independent and carefree.  And I wondered, is that how Dorothy saw herself?  Considering the culture she was raised in, instead of fully embracing her life – her career and the intellect she was allowed to develop – did she ever compare herself to, say, my mother?  Did she in any way envy my mother for having a husband and children – for having the life Dorothy was told would not be possible for her, even as it was the only/ultimate/proper life to which a girl was supposed to aspire? Or, did she look at my mother’s life and find it…tedious, and limited?

Such questions haunt me, whenever I think of Dorothy.  I wish I could ask her, but she died several years before my mother did. I can only hope that whatever nostalgia Dorothy dabbled in, that it was reflective, and brought her satisfaction.

 

 

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Pun For The Day

You know what seems odd to me?
Numbers that aren’t divisible by two.

 

 

And I also vote for more nerd puns in this space.

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May your nostalgia be reflective;
May you live in the present with your eyes open;  [6]

May you change the damn lightbulb when it needs changing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Couldn’t find attribution for this old pun.

[2] In last week’s post, I mentioned a few of them. My father died not knowing his adult children had found just how poor (and dysfunctional) his family was, and that he’d never graduated (nor even attended) high school because his father forced all his children to drop out of school at age 13. And when I found this out, some missing pieces fell into place; I realized that all the stories Dad had told about his youth, to his children, were carefully told to hide those details.  For example, we’d made assumptions that the job he talked about having “after school” was part-time, when in fact he was working fulltime, when his peers were in school, and we never put the pieces together to realize that the school stories he’d shared were all pre-high school….

[3] The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were “two kinds” of indigenous tribes which had settled in the Cass Lake area, centuries before Europeans arrived.

[4] One grocer let the Chinese family shop at his store early, before regular hours, so that the other (white) families wouldn’t see them.

[5] …to wherever that was for her.  I cannot remember; it was in some larger city.  She’d left Cass Lake to go to college, and only returned to that small town to visit her parents, who remained there until their deaths.

[6] Even when it too often involves holding your nose (think: #45 and his primeval toadies) and wishing for a fast track time machine to the future

The Red Line I’m Not Ignoring

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Department Of Yet Another Thing We Should Have Learned In School, But Didn’t

As part of the ongoing ruminations, discussions, and revelations   [1]  re systemic injustice, I’m going to sharea couple of redlining and racial deed restriction stories.

 

“A middle-aged white lady with such a sordid tales – that cannot be!”

Keep calm and hold on to your crumpets, Countess. It’s not exactly what you’re thinking.

Redlining, as y’all may know, is the historically documented, illegal, discriminatory phenomenon, practiced in both Canada and the USA, in which there was/is an organized denial of financial services (by federal and local governmental agencies as well as the private sector) to certain geographic areas of a community, based on demographics. The most common form of redlining is via banks, mortgage lenders and/or insurance companies “drawing a red line” around areas where they would avoid investments, most frequently inner-city neighborhoods with a majority black population.

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, two of my college roommates (LW and SG) and I made a day trip from UC Davis to the Bay Area, to see our former roommate who and was living and working in Palo Alto.  We had directions to her apartment but no map of the area, and when we took the University Ave. exit from 101, driver SG turned the wrong way – she went east, instead of west.

A police car pulled up alongside ours (the cop car was in the left lane of the two lane eastbound road), matching our speed. There were two officers in the car: Driver Cop was white, Passenger Cop was Latino.  Passenger Cop rolled down his window, signaled for SG to roll down hers, then called out, “Are you girls lost?”

We didn’t think so, until he’d asked us that.  SG said that we were going to Palo Alto.  “You’re headed the wrong way,” Passenger Cop replied. “You need to turn around; you’re headed toward East Palo Alto.”

I immediately thought,  Wait – this is strange. He doesn’t know us or where we’re going. One second after SG thanked the cop, from the back seat of SG’s car I called out, “How did you know we were headed in the wrong direction?”

“You’re the wrong color,” Passenger Cop replied. I could see the smirk on Driver Cop’s face as he punched the accelerator and their car sped on past us.

We were was flummoxed…and knew nothing about East Palo Alto (including, prior to that encounter, that it even existed.) When we got to our friend’s apartment and shared the story, she told us that East Palo Alto (“EPA”) was definitely *not* Palo Alto; it was an unincorporated (at that time) community on the other side of the tracks, so to speak – a high crime area with a majority Black and Latino population.

I didn’t then (and still don’t now) fully know how I felt about our encounter with the cops. We were, in fact, lost, as in going the wrong way. No GPS back then; all we had were our friend’s directions.  We’d have figured it out, eventually.  If it had indeed been dangerous for three white college-aged “girls,” two of them blonde,  [2]  to drive through EPA, then sure, we were grateful…but also, we were somewhat creeped out, both by being the subject of the cops’ assumptions, and that such assumptions could be accurate.

Fast forward, approximately one and a half years (post college graduation). I am living and working in Palo Alto, and living in the same apartment complex as the afore-mentioned former roommate.  Palo Alto was an expensive place for renters (still is, and exponentially more so), but the apartment complex I was in had reasonable rents. Turns out that that (the affordable rent) was because that particular apartment complex was in a buffer zone of sorts, between Palo Alto and EPA. Although my mailing address listed Palo Alto as my city, my zip code indicated that buffer zone, which followed the San Francisquito creek on its meandering way, paralleling and then crossing the freeway.

Living in the EPA-Palo Alto buffer zone but working in Palo Alto “proper,” I became aware of the many improper attitudes Palo Alto residents had toward those residing on the other side of the creek. On my daily morning runs I would head down the street of my apartment complex and take a pedestrian bridge across the creek, a bridge which, I learned, was referred to as “the butthole” by some of the Palo Alto residents on the other side. I enjoyed running through those residents’ neighborhoods; the houses were gorgeous, the streets wide and clean…so different from those on “my side” of the tracks.

Not long after I moved to Palo Alto from Davis I went to a Palo Alto Bank of America to give them my address change and order new checks. I filled out what seemed like too much paperwork for those basic changes. The Very Friendly Young Bank Teller scanned the various pages, asking me twice to confirm my new address and contact information.  As she began collating the papers, she gave me a conspiratorial wink. “It’s a good thing you’re just ordering new checks,” she giggled, “and not applying for a mortgage.”

Say what?  Sure, I was a bit young to want, or be able to, apply for a home loan, and even if I wanted one my meager salary would not have qualified me for such…but she didn’t know my salary, or anything else about me.  Could she tell by – what, the the way I was dressed? – that I couldn’t afford Palo Alto real estate?

“I don’t get it. Why is it good that I’m *not* applying for a mortgage?” I asked her.  She pointed toward my paperwork and said that, “with that zip code,” I would be unable to get a bank loan. Of any kind.

While often incorrectly assumed to be part of the city of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto has always been a separate entity since its founding as an unincorporated community until its incorporation in July 1983….The two cities are separated only by San Francisquito Creek and, largely, the Bayshore Freeway….
In 1990, 43% of East Palo Alto’s residents were African Americans, which was the result of redlining practices and racial deed restrictions in Palo Alto.
(from the Wikipedia entry on East Palo Alto, history)

 

“Good afternoon. What services may I deny, er, help you with today?”

 

At least two more times, while living in the buffer zone, I heard references to redlining, a practice I’d hitherto had no knowledge about.  Reference #2: out for drinks one night after work with a co-worker and his friends, one of whom was a Stanford MBA student.  MBA dude, after discovering where I live, gave me the nudge nudge wink wink  and “joked” about the fact that I couldn’t get a loan if I continued to live in “that area.”

Moiself  recently told these stories to friend RB, who’d moved to Oregon from the Midwest after retiring from her job at a bank. We were having a COVID-safe lunch in a park, talking about the Black Lives Matter concerns. I told RB I was gobsmacked by comments from so many white people who seem to know nothing of our nation’s history of systematic racism, particularly re wealth acquisition.  Specifically, I’d recently read several remarks by people who said they understood that redlining and other discriminatory practices had existed, but that that was “long ago” and “mostly in the South.”

From the vantage point of my physically-distant picnic blanket, I saw RB’s eyes roll in disgust. “Yeah, right.” She laughed bitterly, and said that in the 1980s her bank, like most banks in the US, did a paperwork audit and removed any traces of redlining and/or discriminatory language from their loan guidelines, but that “everyone” (as in, the bank’s employees) knew that the practice still existed…only then, it became harder to prove.

 

Well, that sucks.

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Department of Racial Deed Restrictions

The first house Bay Area friends LPH and DH bought was an adorable cottage up in the hills.  When it came time for the paperwork, their real estate agent  [3]  rather sheepishly pointed out a passage in the deed that she wanted them to be aware of, before they came upon it themselves. It was a certain clause that houses built before the late 1960’s used to have in their deeds, and it was still in there, but they could have the deed redone to remove the embarrassing relic….

The clause stated that no “colored person” could reside on the property, except in the capacity of a maid or household help, and then only in separate quarters built for that purpose.  Such clauses were known as a racial covenants.  LPH’s and DH’s initial reaction was to keep the original wording, to show later to their children…or anyone who might say that such discrimination belonged to a bygone era or another geographic location, and not the “enlightened” West Coast.

“What’s In Your Deed? …. Look deep in the fine print. Many residents…have this clause in their deeds: “No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property.”


Racial deed restrictions became common after 1926 when the U.S. Supreme Court validated their use. The restrictions were an enforceable contract and an owner who violated them risked forfeiting the property. Many neighborhoods prohibited the sale or rental of property to Asian Americans and Jews as well as Blacks. In 1948, the court…declared that racial restrictions would no longer be enforced, but the decision did nothing to alter the other structures of segregation. It remained perfectly legal for realtors and property owners to discriminate on the basis of race.


( “Racial Restrictive Covenants: Segregated Seattle,”
Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project )

 

 

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Department Of Meritocracy, Schmocracy

Americans are, compared with populations of other countries, particularly enthusiastic about the idea of meritocracy, a system that rewards merit (ability + effort) with success. Americans are more likely to believe that people are rewarded for their intelligence and skills and are less likely to believe that family wealth plays a key role in getting ahead.…
….one company study…examined almost 9,000 employees…at a large service-sector company. The company was committed to diversity and had implemented a merit-driven compensation system intended to reward high-level performance and to reward all employees equitably.


But analysis revealed some very non-meritocratic outcomes. Women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees received a smaller increase in compensation compared with white men, despite holding the same jobs, working in the same units, having the same supervisors, the same human capital, and importantly, receiving the same performance score. Despite stating that “performance is the primary bases for all salary increases,” the reality was that women, minorities, and those born outside the U.S. needed “to work harder and obtain higher performance scores in order to receive similar salary increases to white men.”
( “The False Promise of Meritocracy,” The Atlantic” )

When people talk (in both education and work settings) about rewarding merit, what they forget – what they don’t even think about – is that people often tend to equate merit with access to resources. Consider the children who had access to all kinds of experiences which make them look “well rounded” in school and job applications: dance, sports, music lessons from an early age, Scouting, summer camp and other extracurricular and cultural activities.  Yes, perhaps at a certain point those kids had to motivate themselves to practice the violin, but the thing is, their parents could afford music lessons and instrument rentals in the first place.

That idea of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps implies that you (a), have boots, and (b) the boots have straps on them.

 

 

At my father’s retirement party, a Black co-worker spoke about how my father had taken “under his wing” (championed and mentored) people who hadn’t traditionally been promoted in their agency, such as “minorities and women.” Before he retired my dad told me about a female co-worker – a secretary, whom he’d noticed had qualities which would be well-suited to the position of field agent. To the bafflement of his male peers, he recommended her for the agent training program.  Dad said that, in his opinion, prejudice against women being promoted was more unconscious than overt: it wasn’t that, when looking to promote from within, managers evaluated the available pool of talent and realized, “Sue has the mathematical, investigative and organizational skills to be a good field agent – oh-oh, Sue’s a woman, never mind.”  It’s that they didn’t even think of evaluating her in the first place, because she was a woman

My father’s mentoring of female and non-white agents was his contribution to affirmative action, although he probably didn’t think of it in those terms.

I’ve no doubt that my father, at some point in his life, used that bootstraps expression, in terms of overcoming his background of crushing poverty, under-education and family dysfunction.  [4]  Judging from other conversations we had over the years (and the fear-mongering literature from conservative religious and political organizations that I was sad to see on their coffee table, when I was visiting my parents at their home), I’m sure my father also fell for the conservative party line that affirmative action was bad and people who need aren’t qualified or don’t know how to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” like he considered himself to have done.

Except, of course, that he didn’t.

The myth of the self-made man is just that – a myth.  Everyone who “makes it” has been helped, either actively (e.g. having mentors and opportunities) or passively (being born into an advantaged class, or at least, *not* being born into a disadvantaged class).

My father’s father was illiterate; he never completed grade 2, never learned to read.   My dad and his siblings were forced by their father  [5]  to drop out of school at age 13 (“They don’t need schooling to farm”) and contribute to the family resources.  My father had no high school diploma, and was only able to go on to school after The War   [6]  because he was eligible for the GI Bill.  He had no bootstraps to pull himself up by (except for his paratrooper boots), but that was ok, because the GI Bill gave him some.

President Bill Clinton declared [the GI Bill] “the best deal ever made by Uncle Sam,” adding that it “helped to unleash a prosperity never before known.”


For white people, that is.

The lack of access to a family home meant a long-term loss of wealth for black Americans. A family home purchased in 1946 in a good neighborhood with a strong tax base and solid schools, became financial wealth to pass onto family members, borrow against to start a business, or to send kids to college….


Historian Ira Katznelson has documented how and why black Americans received far less assistance from social programs than white Americans, and argues that the G.I bill was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow laws. He cites a study declaring it was “as though the GI Bill had been earmarked ‘For White Veterans Only.’ ”


Thousands of black veterans were denied admission to colleges, loans for housing and business, and excluded from job-training programs. Programs funded by federal money were directed by local officials, who especially in the south, drastically favored white applicants over black….
(“How African American WWII Veterans Were Scorned By the G.I. Bill”
The Progressive 11-10-17)

 

 

Despite my father’s background, he was able to go “back” to school, get an education, and apply for the kind of jobs that non-white GIs with similar (or worse, or better) backgrounds were not.

After getting a good job thanks to his GI Bill-enabled education, when my father and mother applied for a mortgage they were not subject to the discriminatory lending practices, redlining, and racial deed covenants which Black job applicants and prospective home-owners faced.  If my parents were alive I’m sure we could have many “interesting” conversations   [7] about these things, about the ways our society has been structured to promote and maintain the kind of systemic inequality that most of us (white) folks don’t think about, or even know about, because…well, because we don’t have to.  It’s not in our face; it’s not part of our day-to-day experience. Sure, there were times when money was tight and my folks worried about paying the mortgage, but they were able to get a mortgage in the first place.

As a child, my father compared his circumstances to that of other tenant farm families, and the last thing he would have called himself was advantaged or privileged.  But despite his family’s griding poverty, he was white and he was male – which in that time and place gave him a one-up over all females, and over any equally ambitious boy who may have even  been better educated but whose skin was black.  The poorest white boys was at least a white boy, guaranteed that there’d be someone (non-white or female) below him.

A (male) cyclist once offered this metaphor on privilege:

When a cyclist goes uphill against the wind, he is conscious of those obstacles. With every breath he takes, with every rotation of the pedals, he is aware that he’s going uphill against the wind. When he turns the corner, going downhill with the wind at his back, after a while he stops appreciating the advantage – he stops even noticing it. He just enjoys the ride…and eventually may even think, “Hey, I’m really fast.”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I got fired on my first day as a bank teller.
A customer asked me to check her balance, so I pushed her over.

 

*   *   *

May you pull someone else up with your bootstraps;
May you never have to be (or live in) a buffer zone;
May we all enjoy a ride downhill with the wind at our backs;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Well, to some white folks. Others have known about this for hundreds of years.

[2] Yes, this is an important detail, or was to me at the time.  I had noticed that in the “racially-charged” incidents at my high school, which was majority Hispanic-surnamed by the time I graduated, blonde females seemed to be particularly targeted for harassment.  More than one Chicano friend confirmed my suspicions.

[3] They do not have the original paperwork anymore, so I may not get the exact wording correct, but the story they told me was burned on my brain.

[4] that we didn’t find out about it until his kids were well grown and in fact he died without knowing the extent of what we have come to know

[5] His mother finally stood up to his father with regards to the youngest child, and said, “This one gets to stay in school!” and so my Aunt Lucille got to graduate high school. 

[6] He told us it was a college, but really, it was an accountancy trade school.

[7] At my behest, ahem.

The Cartwheels I’m Not Doing

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Department Of One Person‘s Cool Fact Is Another Person’s Bloodcurdling Nightmare

I count myself fortunate to be in the former camp, as per moiself’s reaction when I learned about the phenomenon known as spider rain.

Moiself  had heard about spider “ballooning,” which is the way some hatchling spiders migrate and disperse.

 

 

But I didn’t know that a bunch of spiders ballooning at the same time is called a spider rain. Ain’t nature grand?

“Ballooning is a not-uncommon behavior of many spiders. They climb some high area and stick their butts up in the air and release silk. Then they just take off…. This is going on all around us all the time. We just don’t notice it.”  (Rick Vetter, UCR arachnologist)

The reason people don’t usually notice this ingenious spider behavior is that it’s not common for millions of spiders to do this at the same time, and then land in the same place….In these kinds of events [spider rains], what’s thought to be going on is that there’s a whole cohort of spiders that’s ready to do this ballooning dispersal behavior, but for whatever reason, the weather conditions haven’t been optimal and allowed them to do that. But then the weather changes, and they have the proper conditions to balloon, and they all start to do it.” (Todd Blackledge, biology professor, University of Akron in Ohio).

(“Cloudy with a Chance of Arachnids?
Spider Rain’ Explai
ned” livescience.com )

 

She’s ready for the spider rain; are you?

*   *   *

Department Of Celebrating That Which Also Needs Mourning

Thinking about the torturous path to women’s suffrage. As the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment approaches, I’ve been listening to podcasts ( e.g., She Votes! Our Battle for the Ballot) and watching TV shows (e.g., American Experience: The Vote  ) detailing the long history.  Some of it I already knew, via college classes and independent reading. And, some of it I didn’t…and, as with many civil rights issues, learning the history is both illuminating and nauseating.  The latter because of why there had to be a 19th amendment in the first place.

Two other amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th  – specifically, its first section, aka The Equal Protection Clause – and the 15th amendment in its entirety, should have taken care of that.  Here are the referenced texts (my emphases

14th Amendment:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

15th Amendment:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The reason the 19th amendment was needed to give women the vote is because gender/sex needed to be mentioned specifically…because, until it was,  the14th and 15th amendments would not be applied, to women, by male jurists and lawmakers. The only conclusion possible for as to why, given the gender neutral language of the above amendments, is because women were not considered to be included in the terms “people, or “citizens.”

All together now: 

 

Moiself  has also been ruminating on the broader implications behind one of the more common arguments which was presented against women’s suffrage: the idea that the awesome responsibility of voting would take women “out of the home.”

This idea was accompanied by the usual horseshit arguments re a woman’s supposed “delicate feminine nature/sensibilities,” which might be jostled by the strain of voting and civic engagement. That is an interesting juxtaposition with the argument that the importance and rigors of child-reading and household maintaining were such that only women were qualified to do them, yet no one argued that *those* particular rigors were too much for the delicate female nature.

Education; employment; political action – anything which might distract (read: unshackle) women from what was considered to be their primary sphere – taking care of home and husband and children – was threatening to most men.   Some folks even used the lame argument that granting women equal voting rights to men would be a “come down” from women’s “superior” position  That absurdity argument held that the raising of children made women the fictional proverbial power behind the throne, and that by raising future (male) leaders and voters women could more effectively influence public policy than by actually voting themselves.    [1] 

 

 

Really; they used that argument.

All of the emphasis on The Home ®- that a loving, stable, well-run household and the rearing of children are the foundations of civilization – guess what?  No argument from moiself  on that account – although I strongly differ as to the relegation of such important work to only one gender.

But using that reason – the paramount importance of household management and child-rearing – as an argument to deny voting to half the human population holds about as much water as a cheesecloth catheter bag.

 

Yep, I’m proud of that one.

 

The thing is, men truly didn’t believe the argument themselves, or they would have taken over the management of home and children.

Yes this is so incredibly important- the most important thing in the world, actually!…but we want someone else to do it, and we want them to remain mostly invisible, and have no political power.

History shows us that anything patriarchal societies deem to be of upmost importance they also declare women as being incapable of, and/or forbidden by “nature” (read: religion), of successfully doing.

If the preparation and maintaining of a household and the raising of children were indeed considered to be of supreme importance to society, where was the remuneration for doing so – then, as well as now? Child-rearing and household management, for women at least and for the most part, continue to be all-encompassing “jobs” which have no independent financial recompense, professional status, or safety net.   [2]   

So, yeah.  The 100th anniversary of MORE  THAN  HALF  THE  CITIZENS  OF THIS  COUNTRY obtaining the right to vote…a mere ONE  HUNDRED  FORTY FOUR YEARS after their country is founded…is noteworthy, and the struggle for our country’s universal suffrage should be better known and taught.  But the more I learn about what the struggle entailed, the less cartwheels I feel like doing.

And besides, mine would look something like this.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Hate The Fact That The Analogy Is So Apropos

Friend JWW’s disturbingly astute observations, shared on Facebook, after the first presidential   [3]  debate:

I am afraid of this president. If this is how he comports himself in front of the whole United States of America on national TV….

He was threatening and says if he does not win the election then things will not end well. What is that supposed to mean? If he doesn’t win what is he going to do? This makes me very frightened about what the future holds for the USA.

I am also afraid because I am a woman and this president sounds like an abusive husband or boyfriend. I am afraid because if a woman wants to leave a guy like that, she has to be afraid that if she does leave, he will come and hunt her down and kill her and her children. There is no way out. Restraining orders don’t work. So many women are killed even when the guy has a restraining order against him.

We need to vote him out. Vote him out. Vote him out.

And even then we are not sure he will leave.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

 

Why hasn’t #45   [4]   ever finished a novel?
Because he always gets stuck in Chapter 11.

 

*   *   *

 

May you remember to vote him out;
May you remind everyone you know to vote him out;
May you convince total strangers at the grocery store to vote him out;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] There were some women making the same argument, which should not be surprising, considered that they as well as men were subject to the same cultural mythos, forces and expectations.

[2] Other than via financial dependency upon a spouse, which can disappear at drop of a hat (as in a divorce decree or death certificate).

[3] There was nothing presidential about #45’s deportment.

[4] Aka Little Chief Bunker Bitch, and other assorted monikers employed by those of us who love our country and thus cannot bear to use the given name of the man who shits all over it.

The Pumpkin Spice Loincloth I’m Not Girding

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Department Of Autumnal Abuses

As delighted as I am to be able to wish y’all a (belated) happy autumnal equinox, as we enter this, my favorite season of the year, I am girding my proverbial loins for the onslaught of pumpkin-spiced products which flood the market at this time of year (and which one day may include nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon scented, loin-girding cloths).

Yo, y’all marketing types: Are there no other scents or flavors or ambiances associated with autumn – falling leaves? bales of hay? football cleats? – which can be exploited?

It seems you can’t spit (and moiself  has tried) without hitting a pumpkin spice candle, room deodorizer, latte, coffee creamer, soap, lotion, shampoo, syrup, dried pasta, yogurt pretzels, dinner mints, liqueurs…but wait – there’s more.

If the devil   [1]  came to your autumn housewarming party, his host gift to you would be a bottle of pumpkin spice vodka, and this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of 2020 Has Been Bad Enough, But…
I  REALLY  DON’T  NEED  THIS  IMAGE  IN  MY  BRAIN,  OKAY?!?!?!?!

Dateline: last Saturday; early afternoon. I eject the exercise DVD I’ve been flailing about to working out with, and my TV reverts to…some old western movie.  As I return the DVD to its holder and begin to take off my shoes and socks, it’s apparently time for an advertisement break.  The images on TV change from Men on Horses ®  to a series of sad/frustrated/dispirited-looking men holding up various curved/sagging vegetables:  a curvy carrot, an arced cucumber, a badly bent banana….

It’s an advertisement for a treatment for Peyronie’s disease.    [2]

All together now: “I’m no prude, but….”

I find moiself  longing for the days when advertisements for undergarments couldn’t even mention which portion of the body the garment was for.

Remember when the makers of bismuth subsalicylate and other GI tract elixirs assumed that the public knew what their products were used for and did not reinforce the idea by showing us line dancers doing routines demonstrating which symptom they represented (e.g., Pepto Bismol’s Diarrhea Dame clutches her derriere)?

 

 

On second thought, more line dancers grabbing their butts!  Less bendy bananas!

*   *   *

Department Of It Was A Phenomenon Looooooooong Before It Had A Name

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence…..

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

(Rebecca Solnit, in her essay,
Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way.”)

After hearing yet another friend’s story of Yet Another One Of Those Workplace Encounters, ® I’ve been thinking of the origin of mansplaining.  As in, thinking that the woman who originated the term should get a Nobel Prize for Explicative Clarity.    [3]

The term “mansplaining” was inspired by, but not specifically used in, the 2008 essay by author Rebecca Solnit, which I’ve excerpted above.  Definitely a recommended read for anyone – make that, everyone –  whether or not you’ve ever mansplained, or have been on the receiving end of a mansplaination, or don’t understand what the fuss is about.

 

 

My friend’s story reminded me of another story, one that returns to me now and then, ever since I read it,  [4]  which was at least three decades ago.  The story, a brief recounting of a specific incident, was included in a writer’s longer magazine article on fatherhood.  I don’t recall the entirety of the article, but the gist of that one incident the Writer/Dad shared is forever burned on my brain.

Writer Dad (WD) was working in his home office one weekend when his five-year-old daughter, “Junie,” came inside to see him.  Junie had been outside with “Johnny,” a neighbor boy who was her frequent playmate. WD noticed that Junie seemed annoyed, yet also, oddly, thoughtful. 

“What’s up, Junie-girl?”  [5]  WD asked his daughter.

“I’m mad, Daddy-man.”

“I can see that.  Why are you mad,  Junie-girl?”

“I don’t think I’m going to play with Johnny anymore.  I don’t think I’m going to play with *any* boys anymore.  I don’t think I like boys.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they tell you things you already know.”

 “Oh…  Um…not all boys do this, right?”

Junie nodded.  “All boys.”

 WD tried to placate her with his best Daddy-man smile.
“Even me?” 

She paused before responding with a resignation beyond her years.
“Even you.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mansplaining ‘Splained

On July 19, 2018 writer and designed Kim Goodwin came to the rescue on Twitter, with this post, followed by her brilliant diagram on the subject.

“I have had more than one male colleague sincerely ask whether a certain behavior is mansplaining. Since apparently this is hard to figure out, I made one of them a chart.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought, “That’s the last thing I need.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past Which In Some Ways Reminds Me Of The Present

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; 1998), I was visiting my parents at their home in Santa Ana (CA).  On top of the pile of periodicals suffocating their coffee table was the latest issue of a popular weekly news magazine.  [6]   Bold, fiery red letters announced the magazine’s cover stor, which was along the lines of,

“1968 – The Year That Shook The World.

At that time, every other magazine and news outlet were doing stories on the 30th anniversary of 1968. I’d read several such stories, and was happy to see that magazine at my parents’ house, as it provided me with the opportunity to engage my mother in a conversation about 1968, which had been a pivotal year for people all over the world.

My mother wasn’t much for talking politics; even so, she sat down with me and began to reminisce.  She remembered the morning in early June when I came out of my bedroom, groggy-eyed and complaining about a very disturbing dream I’d had in which Bobby Kennedy’s helicopter was shot down in our backyard…  And I remembered how I looked up into her red eyes, realized that she’d been crying, and then she told me she and Dad had just learned that Senator Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the previous evening.

What with the assassination of MLK two months earlier, the nascent second wave feminist movement, the ongoing Vietnam War and student protests and civil rights protests and unrest around the world….. I recalled 1968 as the beginning of my political awareness, even as I recall my parents saying little if anything whenever I brought “things” up.

Mom admitted she’d used the “changing the subject” strategy when I’d wanted to talk about current events.  She said she thought it was her duty to protect her children from depressing information over which they had no control (although she didn’t protect us from reading the newspaper or watching the TV news).  Thus, even though she herself was very concerned about “everything that was going on,” she thought she had to maintain a sunny outlook for her kids and act as if everything was okay.  “But sometimes…” Marion Parnell shook her head. “That was such a difficult year.”

I remember, it was as if a shadow had crossed over my mother’s face, even though the So Cal sun shown brightly through my parents’ family room window.

Sometimes,” she murmured, “it felt as if the whole world was on fire…

 

 

What made me think of 1968 is some of the streaming I’ve been doing, of episodes of a particular classic television show.  History shows us that chaotic times often lead to the rise of dictators and  fascist supermen, who promise security in exchange for liberty.  As we presently deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and world economic insecurity, as well as the ramifications of *not* having every dealt with our country’s legacy of slavery and systemic racial injustice, and of having essentially ignored global warming with the resulting magnifying of wildfires and other “natural” disasters, all of this and more compounded by the political and personal corruption and gruesome lack of leadership by a puerile, tyrant-toadying excuse for a president and his sycophantic enablers, I’ve been seeking a nostalgia solace by watching reruns of a sketch comedy show which was launched during the chaos of 50 years ago.

Laugh-In (officially Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) ran from 1968 – 1973; episodes are available via various streaming platforms, and I’m working my way through the seasons. Even as I’m (re)loving the episodes – for as much as the memories they bring back as well as the content of the episodes themselves – I’m well aware of the catch inherent for shows which strive to be topical: as you look back, the material is (of course and by definition) dated, and in some cases, even arcane.  But, that’s part of the fun, for moiself.

 

I’ve no doubt that my young adult children would be somewhat confused (even bored), in the And just why is this funny? vein, by the show…and I must admit that many of Laugh-In’s slapstick schtick, gags and punchlines fall flat in 2020.

My offspring have grown up in a time when TV shows announce what MH and I call The Five Major Food Groups ratings (MATURE SUBJECT MATTER- SEX – VIOLENCE – FEAR -ADULT LANGUAGE).  It is difficult if not impossible to have someone who wasn’t there appreciate the era in which Laugh-In began its run.  How do I adequately impart to them what simple, naughty fun it was for a 12-year-old, taking turns watching Laugh-In with her friends at each other’s houses, giggling over the fact that the show’s sex and drug references are going right over our parents’ heads (and probably ours as well)?

In each episode I’ve seen there are several sketches/jokes about political or cultural hot button issues at that time, which make me stop and try to remember the references (“Ooh – that guy was a Nixon cabinet member…?”).   Also, Laugh-In was not only topical culturally, but locally:  it was shot in So Cal (in legendary “Beautiful Downtown Burbank“), and the writers inserted regional references into their skits.  MH is  5 ½  years younger than moiself ; although he does recall watching Laugh-In it was the show’s regional references, and not its sex & drugs jokes, which confused him, as a seven-year-old Minnesotan.  Even today, watching the reruns with me (which he does only as a last resort; i.e. when I’ve commandeered the TV), why would he get – or care about – decades-old jokes about Sam Yorty (Los Angeles’ mayor during Laugh-In‘s run)?

It’s been fun getting reacquainted with my favorite recurring sketches and characters.  The Joke Wall; the Party; Tiny Tim, Wolfgang the German soldier (“Verrrrry interesting…”) ; Uncle Al the Kiddies’ Pal; Joanne Worley’s operatic complaints about chicken jokes and “Bo-oooooring!” and her never-seen boyfriend, Boris; Big Al’s Sports (and his “featurette tinkle”); Goldie Hawn’s giggling, vacant-eyed, Dumb Dora persona; “Here Come Da Judge,” The Farkel Family; Judy Carne’s Robot Theatre and “Sock-it-to me”…

 

 

Have there ever been a better-named pair of characters than Gladys Ormphby and Tyrone F. Horneigh?  [7]   And the worlds of television, cinema and theatre are forever in Laugh-In‘s debt for introducing us to Lily Tomlin.  Her best known Laugh-In personas are Ernestine and Edith Ann, but my favorite of Tomlin’s characters was The Tasteful Lady.

 

 

Re-watching these episodes decades after they were broadcast, it’s amazing to realize that, despite the show being considered progressive, bawdy, and outrageous for its time…how do I put this?  There’s no getting around how sexist much of the material was (but then, so was the country).  And Laugh-In was only slightly less dated on much of its racial and cultural content (the few references to Native Americans were especially, stereotypically, cringe-worthy).  But, that was then and this is now.  I’ll forgive the show almost anything, because it gave the world arguably my favorite comic dialogue, from Tyrone’s and Gladys’ “hereafter” sketch:

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never contract a disease which can be represented by a droopy vegetable;
May we soon live in a world where we don’t have to ‘splain mansplaining;
May you always know what you’re here after;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Of course, the devil would not come to such a party because he doesn’t exist. Those who know moiself realize that the supposition of devils and/or evil spirits is something in which I do not believe.  Human behavior covers the spectrum – we do not need the supernatural to explain (or excuse) acts of cruelty…or kindness.

[2] As per those upright citizens of the Mayo Clinic, “Peyronie’s (pay-roe-NEEZ) disease is a noncancerous condition resulting from fibrous scar tissue that develops on the penis and causes curved, painful erections.”

[3] There is no such Nobel Prize, but maybe there should be.

[4] I think it was in Esquire magazine?

[5] As he recounted the story, he and his daughter had affectionate nicknames for each other (I made these up, as I can’t remember what they were).

[6] Time; Newsweek, US News and World Report were the big three – I think it was a copy of Newsweek.

[7] (pronounced “hor-NIGH”, to befuddle the censors)

The Guerilla Prank I’m Not Pulling

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Department Of Irrefutable Evidence

Now I know I’ve given up:  I put away the St. Patrick’s Day dinner decorations.

Moiself and MH had a dinner party planned for Tuesday, March 17, an event that – surprise! – got…suspended.  At the time, I told would-be attendees that we were, in an act of delusion optimism, not cancelling the invitation but merely postponing it, and that I would be leaving the dining table decorated.  And I did, for two months.  Then, gradually, the napkins and plates were put away, and I put the table décor, such as it is/was  (think: an eight-year-old’s idea of festive holiday dining), into its long term storage bag but did NOT transport it to its shelf in the attic.  It remained on the table, until three days ago.

Instead of deleting the reminder I had on my computer calendar (“Rsch St. Patrick’s day dinner when COVID shit is over”) I have reduced its occurrence from weekly to every other month.  The computer prompt, initially a hopeful harbinger of a return to normalcy, came to be a dispiriting reminder of physical isolation: I miss the company of dining and conversing with friends, both long time and recently met, all treasured, and groaning at each recitation of a dreadful (but occasion-appropriate) joke and pun.   [1]

All apologies to the centerpiece: Good Lady Spud, your time shall come again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up

…I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet…
because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.”
(inventor Simone Giertz, in her TED talk)

Dateline: Monday; listening to a TED Radio Hour episode, titled “Pure Joy.” A description of the episode, as per the TEDsite:

More than ever, we need to make time for joy. This hour…(we)…explore talks that surprise, inspire, and delight.

The first talk excerpted was one given two years ago by Simone Giertz. Twenty-nine-year-old Giertz, the creator of the toothbrush helmet,  [2]   is a Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast. She’s also, and perhaps most prestigiously for her generation, that which most generations never imagined would be a thing: she is a YouTube celebrity ®.

In her talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things,” Giertz apparently advocates for inventing devices which are “useless at solving the problem they are attempting to solve,” but which serve a higher purpose of overcoming your fear of failure (by working hard at something you know is bound to fail) and teaching you engineering and design skills.  I say “apparently” because I was unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to the rest of her talk, after hearing the podcast curator describe Giertz as

“…the queen of useless robots.”

Overcome with both admiration and envy, moiself  completely lost interest in listening further.  I figured it was better to let my imagination take the wheel as I envisioned the perks and responsibilities of that particular kind of royalty.

“…uneasy is the head that wears a crown”    [3]…unless of course that head belongs to The Queen of Useless Robots.

*   *   *

Department of The Neighborhood Guerilla Prankster Strikes Again…
In Her Dreams

There’s a house a couple of blocks away from my street with an attached, two-door, three-car garage set up:

 

 

An older couple lives in said house.  Depending on the route I take, I often walk past the house in the morning, and I’ve seen it with either or both garage doors open; thus, moiself  knows that the smaller, one-car garage is not used as a garage but has been turned into the workshop space of the older gentleman.  When the workshop/garage door is open you can see the tool racks and radial saw and other workshop equipment; when the workshop/garage door is closed, you can see a sign on it which reads, MEN ONLY.

When I first saw the sign, and then every time I walked past the house, moiself  had the almost overwhelming desire to take a picture of it, then take the picture to a signage shop and order a self-adhesive sign in similar lettering, color and size that read: GIRLY.  The plan:  early one morning, I would post GIRLY above MEN ONLY.

Alas; the time for that prank has passed.  I recently noticed that the exterior of the house (including the garage doors) has been painted, and the MEN ONLY sign has not reappeared on the garage door.  Still, I think of it when I pass that house, and remind moiself of the ultimate reason I decided against enacting my prank: the ubiquity, nowadays, of cell phones and home security cameras.  Ending up on someone’s YouTube shaming video is not something I crave for moiself , even in the performance of (what would have been) a public service.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Due to the wildfires plaguing the West, I am checking the Air Quality Index several times daily – even though a cursory look out of my house’s (all tightly closed) windows tells me all I need to know about whether or not it’s safe to go outside.

How quickly I and my friends have adapted to using yet another acronym:

“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”

This is so surreal. The air where I live has been smoky-jaundice-colored; the pictures I’ve seen of the Bay Area’s midday, sci-fi/Martian orange skies have a certain, apocalyptic beauty, even as I realized the horrific reasons behind them that had nothing to do with a more benign reason, such as a particularly flamboyant sunset or sunrise.   [4]

 

 

In my early morning walks (the ones I used to do before our AQI was at Hazardous level – the carefree mornings before I even knew what an AQI was) I pass by several houses where I often see a smoker out on his front porch, lighting up his first deathstick cigarette of the day.  Actually, I smell the smokers before moiself  sees them – even from across the street.  I’ve come to know which houses they live in and cross to the other side before passing by. (Most smokers seem to not know – or care – how far their effluence travels and how long it lingers.)

From having exchanged pleasantries with them over the years, I know that the main reason these folks are lighting up on their porches is because they are the only smoker in their household, and they’ve been forbidden by their spouses and/or other family members from polluting their domicile and have been banished to puffing in The Great Outdoors ® .

I haven’t done a morning walk since the AQI reached the first level of Unhealthy…even though I didn’t know it had done so at the time.  I’d gone out earlier than usual and wore a mask; it was the first morning where the sky looked…suspicious.  I decided to end my walk after 30 minutes, and thought I probably shouldn’t walk outside again until I figured out what was going on. On my way back I passed by two of the Porch Smokers, the glowing ends of their cigarettes providing an eerie impetus for me to get back home.

Our current situation: we’ve been warned about the wildfires near and far, spewing particulate matter in the air which, at an AQI in the upper ranges (which we’ve been having in the Pacific NW for days), can aggravate or trigger serious respiratory conditions in otherwise healthy people, even with relatively short exposure.

 

 

So, when smokers awaken, and eagerly or furtively inhale the day’s first fumes into their lungs, moiself  can’t help but wonder: what’s being circulated in the organ between their ears?  Amidst the reports of the wildfire’s devastation – it’s been all wildfires, all the time, for local news reporting – including the loss of life from burns and smoke inhalation, do they consider even for a moment the fires’ victims?  Do they find their eyes tearing up with compassion as they think to themselves, “Oh, how awful! Those poor people!” as they suck in their own mini-conflagration?

While we live with the warnings to not go outside even for short periods of time because breathing the air could sicken or even kill you, and smokers continue to expedite that process by lighting up their cigarettes.

We humans are experts at compartmentalization and denial…and, yeah yeah yeah, nicotine is one of the most addictive substance on earth, and addicts are not known for rationality and or introspection thoughts….  Still, it boggles my mind.

The Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s  annual “quitting campaign,” is on the third Thursday in November.  The Not-so-Great American Smoke-In is happening as I type.  Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh.

*   *   *

Department Of, Of All The Things To Be Thinking About….

 

2020.  The year that, on a national and global shitstorm level, has brought us:

* COVID-19;

* Year three of criminally negligent governance by a musty scrotal hair of a human being (#45) and his soul-sucking sycophants;

* the Murder Hornet ;

*  Too many Americans determined to focus on someone looting a 7-11 rather than face the centuries of systemic injustice which have prompted the (majority peaceful) displays of civil disobedience;

* the apocalyptic wildfires in the US, yet another testament to the consequences of ignoring of global warming…

 

Thank you, and please demoralize us further.

 

On a personal level,   [5]  my concerns include a friend who fled the wildfires (her town is essentially gone; her neighbors have lost nearly everything); my daughter Belle who, recovering from foot surgery, has developed an allergy to medical adhesives holding her bandages in place; MH’s “sister/cousin”  [6]  and her protracted recovery from the heart surgeryand kidney failure after she and her young adult daughter discovered they both have a genetic disorder which has given them, among other conditions, aortal defects; learning that the son of my MIL’s longtime friend and business associate has just lost his son to suicide….

Two days ago, amidst all of these woes and more, I found moiself  thinking,

I really hope Mel Brooks doesn’t die right now.

The beloved comedian/writer/screenwriter/playwright/songwriter/director and WWII vet has seen so much in this world, and contributed so much to our culture…and now here’s this shitty year in which Mel had to mourn the death of his best buddy – another national comedy treasure, Carl Reiner

I just want Mr. Brooks to be able to survive this year.  I would so look forward to his commentary on all of this, you know?

Two of my favorite scenes from my favorite Mel  Brooks movie:

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense!   [7]

 

*   *   *

May we work for the best (even if we suspect the worst);
May we return to the privilege of not knowing our AQI;
May we all be deserving of even the most obscure royal title;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] “What do you call an Irishman with an IQ of 100?  A village.”

[2] A device which you have never heard of because it is “recommended by zero out of ten dentists,” the inventor admits.

[3] Henry IV, Part 2.  I don’t imagine Shakespeare imagined just how heavy – or silly – crowns could get.

[4] Ash higher in the atmosphere turned the Bay Area skies orange, as opposed to around me, where the smoke was lower.  If I can remember some basic physics/light refraction, I think this has to do with the high ash/smoke particles scattering blue light & only allowing certain wavelengths of light –  yellow-orange-red light – to reach the earth’s surface.

[5] It must be time for another footnote.

[6] This not some Mormon polygamy term; rather, she is cousin who is more than a cousin but not technically a sister – she came to live with MH’s family when she was an adolescent, after both of her parents died.

[7] I’m sorry, but there is no room for a seventh footnote.

The Karma I’m Not Accruing

2 Comments

Department Ah, Morning, With The Delicate Aroma
Of Horseshit Wafting Through The Air
Sub Department Of Yet Another Reason Not To Check Facebook Before Breakfast

A wise and witty friend recently posted this on her FB site:

 

 

Right on!, moiself  thought. I began to read one of the comments on her post, one which started with a teensy provocative sentence, and then, there was that blue more

I should have left it at that, but, noooooooo.  I had to click on more, and there was more. And more, and more, and more – and did I mention, *more*?

*More* turned out to be a multi-paragraph treatise of Buddhist proselytizing, starting with how we should remember that there are also poor and downtrodden white people  [1]   who don’t feel particularly privileged (which should have clued me in – it’s the, “But, all lives matter!” equivalent of deflection from the issue), and how people’s choices and actions in life lead to their circumstances, plus many other Buddhist tenets….  [2] 

 

At least it wasn’t pimply-faced kids half your age showing up on your front porch, calling themselves, “Elder.”

 

I thought about privately messaging Wise and Witty Friend, something along the lines of, Hey, WWF, would you allow someone to post a fundamentalist Christian tract on your page, because some Karma fundamentalist has just done the equivalent.   It turns out WWF was way ahead of me, and deleted the comment soon after it was posted.  Dang. Now I have to slag it from memory.

BTW, be it the Christian version, or Buddhist/Hindu/Karmic fundamentalism, I call BS on all of ’em. So, let the specific slagging begin.

The Buddhist Evangelical Fundamentalist Commenter (BEFC) quoted a Buddhist adage:

 

 

Sweet, and harmless, right?

Wrong.  Especially as per the issues of privilege and systemic racism that the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing to the fore…as well as a host of other life situations.

As I read BEFC’s proselytizing prose I flashed back to a bar conversation I’d had many years ago,   [3]  with a friend who’d emigrated to the USA (with his parents) from India when he was an adolescent.  We were  [4]   talking religion; specifically, his refutation of his religious background (although, in part to please his family, he kept up with a few of what he considered to be non-religious, cultural practices).  He simply could not overlook the damage done by the concepts of karma and reincarnation (central to both Hinduism and Buddhism).

Karma…though its specifics are different depending on the religion… generally denotes the cycle of cause and effect — each action a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future. This rule also applies to a person’s thoughts and words….
With karma, like causes produce like effects: a good deed will lead to a future beneficial effect, while a bad deed will lead to a future harmful effect….
Importantly, karma is wrapped up with the concept of reincarnation or rebirth, in which a person is born in a new human (or nonhuman) body after death. The effects of an action can therefore be visited upon a person in a future life, and the good or bad fortune someone experiences may be the result of actions performed in past lives.
What’s more, a person’s karmic sum will decide the form he or she takes in the next life.
(LiveScience, “What is Karma?”)

To summarize an hour-long discourse, the gist of my friend’s opinion: Besides being superstitious nonsense physically and intellectually unsubstantiated, karma essentially credits people for their successes and blames them for their failures. Your success is justified because it is either something you have achieved yourself in the here and now or it is the result of your good deeds in your previous life – the fact that you happened to be born in a powerful class/caste/gender/time period can be conveniently ignored.  As for that poor Dalit (aka, “Untouchable“) man you sometimes run across, who does your laundry, sweeps your streets, unblocks your sewers with this bare hands and does other “unclean” work out of economic necessity? Yeah, that’s unfortunate for him, but who are you to interfere with his experience of cause and effect? It’s his karma; obviously, he did something bad in his previous life and/or has something to work out in this one….

There are so many Life Factors we humans don’t – or don’t wish to – understand (or even acknowledge), including those of luck and circumstance.  In particular, people who are happy and successful are often hesitant to attribute their well-off circumstances, even in part, to the happenstance of their birth into the “right” (or at least more opportunity-providing) society/class/ethnicity/gender. People can be reluctant, even nervous, to admit that not everything is in their own control. This reluctance paves the way for religion/supernaturalism to step in with, “Don’t worry – here’s the answer!” or, “Sure, there *is* an answer, but it’s too much for mere mortal minds to comprehend so just trust in what we tell you and one day in the future/heaven/your next life you’ll get it….”

As to BEFC’s presentation, certainly the attitude embodied in the Buddhist saying (about the journey from blaming others, yourself, and then no one), has some merit, in the positive mindset/know thyself realm.  But to avoid the fact that some things are mostly or even entirely out of your hand, and that sometimes other people and/or social frameworks and institutions *are* to blame – ignoring reality is not how we combat injustice.

The karma concept has always reminded me of a much-loathed – by moiself , at least – allegedly inspirational phrase from my own culture, which states that it is admirable and possible to Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  The thing is, in order to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you have to have a pair of boots in the first place – you either can afford a pair of boots, or someone has given you boots. With straps.

 

Although I’m onboard with RuPaul pulling up any boot with any kind of strap.

 

A Black American family, working and saving diligently to be first-time home owners, can have the most positive attitude in the world, but when their mortgage application is denied, their “blaming no one” will not help them “arrive” on their journey to financial security when that loan denial is due to reasons out of their control.    [5]   “Blaming no one” will not alleviate the injustice when the family has been redlined, due to their skin color and/or the neighborhood in which they currently live and/or the neighborhood where the house they wish to purchase is located.

The concept of karma arose and survived because, like all religious philosophies, it tries to explain the unexplainable, and many of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Life is complex; there is much we don’t understand, about the physical world around us and the inner world of people’s thoughts motivations, and humans evolved to see and seek patterns even where none exist.  But worldviews which admit to this reality – “Hey, this stuff is complicated and no one has all the answers” – don’t get many followers (and even fewer collection plate donations and tax credits).

Ah, karma. “What goes around comes around“…if only.  Don’t we all know too many people whose actions merit shit pie, yet Life keeps serving them Crème Brûlée?

 

“For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action”

Karma and other religious principles are sometimes quoted as if they were one of Newton’s Laws of Motion, yet they are not even close to qualifying as laws of physics, let alone testable hypotheses.  The karmic premises of cause and effect –

“each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and
“like causes produce like effects”

– are

(1) presumptuous;
(2) not borne out by objective data, and often refuted by experience;
(3) antithetical to the reality of injustice and systemic bigotry;
(4) aren’t the first three reasons enough?

Most abhorrent of all, whether you call it karma or one of those other, “You can do whatever you dream/You make your own reality” philosophies, such concepts lay the foundation for victim-blaming.

 

“… the accused had entered the West Delhi residence of the minor with the intent to ransack, but attacked (a 12-year-old girl) after she spotted him….
Besides the sexual assault, the girl was hit on the face and head with a sharp object. She was found lying in a pool of blood by her neighbours….
The girl has multiple head fractures and bite marks all over her body. She has been brutally assaulted to the extent that there are injury marks on every part of her body….”
(“Two days after 12-year-old beaten, sexually assaulted, one held
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the hospital, said the brutality inflicted on the girl has “shaken is soul” and the government will hire the best lawyers to bring the guilty to justice.”
Indianexpress.com)

Two disturbing facts of life are that (1) sometimes people chose to do bad things and good people can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time;  and (2) cultural/gender privilege and systemic bias exist.  But people won’t try to change that which they won’t acknowledge as existing…or which can be explained away by concepts like karma.

The white 16-year-old by pulled over by a cop for a minor traffic infraction (then let go with a warning) has the privilege of escaping violent stereotypes associated with his race, in a way that his 16-year-old Black classmate – pulled over for the same infraction yet subjected to an unwarranted drug test/vehicle and body search by the suspicious cop – does not.  Neither boy is experiencing the “karma” – or “cause and effect” –  of their own relatively short lives; rather, their immediate circumstances are determined by the biases of others who hold power over them.

Nothing that 12-year-old girl (in the above news story) did or could ever do is responsible for or related to the brutality which was done to her. Anyone who would even entertain a mindset which would allow for that possibility needs to wash out their mind with soap.

*   *   *

Departments Of Exceptions To The Rule

Moiself  is, however, grateful for whomever dreamed up the concept of karma, if only for the fact that it (eventually) led to one of the best “The Far Side” cartoons, ever.

I wasn’t able to find the cartoon itself, so use your imagination.  First, picture the silhouette of a classic Far Side Woman. ®  

 

 

The cartoon consists of a single panel: two flies are on a refrigerator door. Looming over and behind them we see the shadow of Far Side Woman ®, her upraised arm holding a fly swatter.  One fly says to the other,

“I guess I should have been nicer to my wife when I was alive;
this is the third time I’ve been reincarnated as a fly in her kitchen.”

*   *   *

Department Of Idiocy Makes My Brain Hurt
Sub-Department Of Let’s Just Cancel those Pesky Qualities of Imagination And Empathy, Part 102.7 In A Contemptibly Long Series
Adjunct to the Sub-Sub Division Of Why My Own Profession
Has Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth For Years

 

One of the worst things for writers is not to be censored, but to self-censor in fear of crossing the sensibilities and preferences of others.

 

 

I’ve written before of my frustration with and loathing for the “cultural appropriation” tribalism/mob mentality that has infected the world of literary fiction…and I’ll doubtless have cause to lament about it again.  The latest instigation was a Fresh Air interview (a rerun, which I heard for the first time, this week) with actor/producer Kerry Washington.

Washington has been nominated for Emmy awards for acting in and co-producing the series, “Little Fires Everywhere,” which was adapted from the bestselling novel by Celeste Ng.  Washington is Black; in the novel, the ethnicity of Mia, the character Washington plays, is never mentioned.  Podcast host Terry Gross asked Washington how changing the character’s race changed the story and the story’s subtext. Washington said that casting herself in the role was the idea of her producing partners.

Washington (my emphases):

“…They had the idea to call me up and send me the book and ask me if I wanted to do it. And I thought it was an amazing idea. Of course, when I read it, I was reading it through the lens of Mia being Black because I’m Black. I think the novel is so much about identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world. So we knew that adding this layer of race would add to that complexity in an exciting way.
Then when I met Celeste Ng, the writer, for the first time, she actually admitted to me that she had always thought of Mia as a woman of color and that she had been drawn to the idea of writing Mia as a Black woman. But she didn’t feel like she had the authoritative voice to do that in the right way.”

I felt sucker-punched to hear that…yet I was hardly surprised.  I’ve little doubt that author Ng’s hesitation about her “authoritative voice” was due to her anticipating charges of cultural appropriation (and the very real possibility of being boycotted by publishers, who would fear such a backlash): as in, how dare Ng think that she, an Asian (read: non-Black) writer, could create a full-blooded, multi-faceted, Black character?

So:

* Although the Asian-American author imagined a Black woman as this lead character, she couldn’t bring herself to actually write her as such;

* Nevertheless, this Asian/non-Black writer was so successful in creating a compelling story about “identity and how the roles and the context of our identity contributes to how we live and relate to others in the world” that a Black actor could identify with this lead character as Black;

* And it was acceptable for the series’ casting director and other lead actor and producers to suggest casting the character as Black, and the Black actor allowed herself to take the role (“an amazing idea”), which was created by an Asian, non-Black writer….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Worst First (and last) Date Ever

Dateline: an early morning walk, listening to a Curiosity Daily (“a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news”). One of the podcast’s topics was how male angler fish fuse with their mates without risking immune system rejection.

Narration: “… (the) male angler fish latches on, and begins to dissolve. As his tissues and circulatory system meld with the female’s, eventually most of his body parts and organs disintegrate, leaving his girl with only a pair of reproductive organs to remember him by. This is called sexual parasitism, and it’s totally unique to the anglerfish…”

Moiself” ‘Sexual parasitism is unique to the angler fish’ ” – really? ‘Cause I’ve heard stories from friends that would curl your hair (or dissolve your organs)….”

 

 

I’m thinking, is there a Barry White song which could possibly make this kind of coupling bearable?  Nope; nada.  Gotta be something more post-punk….

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of News Stories Like This Make Moiself  Struggle With My Humanity…
Because I Am *So* On The Side Of The First Victim

This post, earlier this week on Facebook, from an Oregon Coast news bulletin board:

HUNTER KILLED BY ELK
” (Man, name; age, residence) was archery hunting on private property…. Man  wounded a 5X5 bull elk but was unable to locate it before dark.
Man and the landowner attempted to find the wounded bull on the morning of (the next day) at approximately 9:15 A.M., Man located the bull and attempted to kill it with his bow. The elk charged Man and gored him in the neck with its antlers. The landowner attempted to help Man but he sustained fatal injuries and died.
The elk was killed and the meat was donated to the Tillamook County Jail….”

The lead sentence (which I omitted) in the post was, “Please send prayers for the family!”  Moiself’s  instinctive (if admittedly unsympathetic) reaction was, “F*** no; he got what he deserved!  The elk was tortured, wandering for over 12 hours with a grievous wound….”

It was nice (? perhaps moiself  should seek another word) to realize, as per several comments on the article, that I was not the only heartless judgmental bastard person concerned with the issue behind the issue:

* for the elk, this was literally a matter of life and death

* for the hunter, it was sport, and maybe some tasty elk steaks for the freezer   [6]

Along with the posts saying, “Prayers to the deceased and his family”, I spotted several comments along the lines of, “Prayers for the poor elk’s family & friends.”

 

Whaddya think – would I look just as majestic decapitated and mounted above someone’s fireplace?

*   *   *

May you enjoy the exceptions to the rules;
May you cherish the simple windfalls of life, like not having an angler fish for a mate;
May you never give an elk (or any other animal) cause to think, “It’s him or me!”;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Nothing about the concept of white privilege claims or implies that there are no poor/struggling white folk….arrrrrrgh.

[2] With which I was mostly familiar, although there are several streams of Buddhist thought, and without the original post I cannot say for sure if the post-er was referencing Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana, or modern variants and “branches” of the those streams.

[3] As in, Wine and Deep Thoughts ® were involved.

[4] Part of our conversation included the fact that, by even acknowledging the Indian caste system, he might be creating “bad karma” for himself, as many higher-caste Indians who now live in America – and if they have the means to come here they are from the higher castes – surprise! – would rather pretend, in front of non-Indian Americans, that such a thing goes not exist. The social stratification of Indian society – including the emphasis of skin color and the bias against dark skin – is seen as an embarrassing cultural relic, yet, since it benefits them…why work to change it?

[5] Reasons which will be couched in other terms – the real reason will *never* be admitted to by the loan officers because although redlining is technically illegal, it is still practiced

[6] With the emphasis on sport.  Subsistence hunters don’t go for elk with bows and arrows on their landowner friend’s private acreage, and don’t care if it the animal they hunt, out of absolute necessity, is a “5×5″( a ranking system which refers to the points in each side of the antler rack).

The Saga I’m Not Ending

Comments Off on The Saga I’m Not Ending

Notice to new (or returning) readers: Welcome!


This week’s post will make a lot more sense…

 

 

Excuse moiself ?  I am not saying it will make *total* sense, so I see no need for the sarcastic intrusion….

I’ll begin again.

This week’s post is the second of a two-parter. It will make a lot more sense  [1]     if you read (or reread) last week’s post (here) first. That said….

 

 

I was in the fifth grade. One day my classmate Kelly told me her said she could invite me to her house after school to go swimming. I usually wriggled out of invitations which involved spending time inside Kelly’s house, which was…disheartening. It was dark, even in the summer, even with the lights on, and it was – I cringe today to think it, just as I did back then, but there’s no way around it – just filthy.  It reeked of old trash and cat urine; the one time I’d had a sleepover there I spotted cockroaches in the kitchen when Kelly’s older sister showed Kelly and I how to make fudge from scratch.

Kelly’s widowed mother, whom I liked (she was kind to me and told funny jokes, and knew all the words to my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs), worked long hours as a hospital nurse. She apparently had neither the time nor inclination to clean house, and was unable to convince or command her three children to do so, either.  But Kelly’s backyard consisted of a swimming pool!  She was the only friend I knew who had one, and I eagerly accepted her invitation. I’ll need to go home, check with my mom, and get my swimsuit and a towel, I told her. Kelly suggested she ride on the back of my bike with me to my house to get my stuff, then we’d go to her place.

I peddled us toward my house, with Kelly perched on the bookrack attached to my bike’s rear axle. As we reached the main part of Martha Lane (ML) I updated Kelly about the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks.

“That’s them,” I said, pointing to the Wagners’ house, when we were about 100 feet away. “The brown house up there on the left.”

“Can we sing it – let’s sing The Song!” Kelly begged me.  But without my ML crew to back me up, I was too chicken hesitant.  Then when we were about forty feet from the Wagners’ house, I noticed that their ever-present Cadillac was not in their driveway. I figured they were not home, and it was safe.

I slowed down, and told Kelly we could sing The Song, but not loudly.  Kelly teased me for my lack of vocal enthusiasm (“That’s not singing, that’s practically whispering“) as I peddled us past the Wagner house.

♫  We hate you Wagners/
oh yes we do….♫

When we got to my house my older sister, already home from her school and engrossed in homework, informed me that our mother had gone to the grocery store.  I decided not to tell her what Kelly and I had done. I wanted her approval, but thought Kelly would rat me out for being chickenshit and only singing The Song when I thought the Wagners weren’t home.  I told my sister to tell Mom that I was going to Kelly’s house. I put my swimsuit on under my clothes, Kelly hopped onto the back of my bike, and we headed off.

As I steered my bicycle out of our driveway a brownish-gold sedan crossed Pacific Ave into our cul-de-sac.  It caught my attention because it was not any of the neighbor’s cars (that I recognized) and was driving very slowly.  The sedan circled the end of the cul-de-sac, then drove right up alongside my bicycle as I stopped to check for cross traffic at Pacific Ave.

The driver was clad in a suit and hat which matched the color of his car.  He rolled down his window and signaled with his hand for me to come closer. I stood stock still, my feet planted on either side of my bike’s frame. He’s probably one of those perverts who tries to kidnap kids, I thought.  I began to calculate how long it would take Kelly and I to hop off of my bike and run back to my house.

“Are you the girls who rode a bicycle down this street a few minutes ago?” Sedan Man pointed up Martha Lane, in the direction of the Wagner house.

Kelly mumbled something to me. “Don’t talk to him,” I shushed Kelly.  I looked the man squarely in the eyes, trying to appear as savvy and tough as possible.  “He’s a stranger; we don’t know who he is.”

Sedan Man repeated his question. I could feel my bicycle frame shaking, and reached my hand back to reassure Kelly, who was trembling.  “Go away,” I said to him, “or we’ll call the police.”

“I *am* the police.” Sedan Man pulled a wallet from his suit breast pocket and held out an ID card which had his picture on it and a Santa Ana Police Department shield.

“That’s not a police car,” I said to Kelly.

“I’m a detective.”  Sedan Man waved his ID card.  He said was investigating harassment charges brought by the Wagners, and needed to speak with my parents. I should return home *now* he insisted, pointing toward my house.

“He saw where we came from,” Kelly whispered. She pleaded with me to return home.  We both got off my bicycle and walked back to back to my driveway as the man parked his sedan in front of my house. I was determined *not* to let him inside; I leaned my bicycle against the massive Japanese elm in our front yard and led Kelly up the front yard walkway to sit beside me n the concrete steps of our front porch – the entry no one in the family (and no one who knew us) used.   [2]   Sedan Detective Man followed us to the porch. He stood over us, with one foot on the walkway and the other on the porch’s bottom step, and began to question us.

He wanted to speak with my parents; where were they?  Would I go get them, or should he knock on the door?  I told him my father was at work and would be home after 7 pm, my mother was at the store and would be back any minute, and my older siblings were inside watching TV (I only had one older sibling but I wanted him to think there were a lot of people in my house). He asked the same questions of Kelly, who said nothing. She sat beside me, silently staring down at her shoes.

The Wagners were being harassed by the ML kids, Sedan Detective Man said. The police knew all about it, he added, and Kelly and I were “in serious trouble.” He demanded to speak to my parents; I replied as before: “My dad’s at work; he’ll be back after 7. My mom’s at the store;  she’ll be back soon.”

Sedan Detective Man turned his gaze to Kelly and asked about her parents.  I began to explain that Kelly didn’t live in this neighborhood; he jabbed his long, bony index finger in my direction, silenced me with a glare, and repeated his question to Kelly. She was obviously frightened as he pressed her for information.  She managed to squeak out that her mother at work. She was a nurse, and wouldn’t be back until her shift was over, around 11:30 pm…. her voice trailed off.

“What about your father? Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you. Tell me how I can contact your father – I need to speak with him.”

Kelly briefly raised her head.  “My dad…” she lowered her eyes. I could see her chin begin to quiver.

“‘My dad…'” The detective mocked Kelly’s high-pitched, quavering voice.  “Your dad, what? You have a dad, right? I need to speak to him.”

Kelly hugged her knees to her chest and shook her head, almost imperceptibly, as if she had a nervous tic.

“What does that mean – I can’t speak with your dad?  Why?  Is he out of town?  Did he leave you and your mom – are your parents divorced?”

A tear dribbled down Kelly’s cheek and dropped onto her knee. I thought I might explode with suppressed rage, and just for a moment wondered how much time I would get “in juvie” for head-butting a detective’s nutsack.

“Stop it,” I muttered to Sedan Man, through clenched teeth.

Like a school bully or a shark smelling blood, the detective homed in on the perceived weaker target. He kept pressing Kelly, who was visibly shaking at this point.

What about your father – when is he available? I can’t wait until midnight to talk with your mother. Tell me where your father is – why won’t you look up, are you ashamed of him….

Kelly let out a low moan, and began pinching the skin of her forearm with her thumb and index finger.

I interrupted the detective with all of the, *none-of-your-fucking business,* fifth-grade gravitas I could muster.

“You can’t talk to her father. He’s dead.”

Several years earlier Kelly’s parents had separated, and her father moved out of the family house to an apartment.  The day after Kelly’s mother went to his apartment and confronted him with proof of his infidelity, Kelly’s father shot himself in the head.

The detective, of course, had no way of knowing this.  Even so, Kelly’s distress was evident, and he continued to badger an anguished child.

Well, why didn’t you say your dad had died?  Why didn’t you just….

At that propitious moment, our station wagon pulled into our driveway. My mother left a sack of groceries in the passenger’s seat and walked toward us, a look of polite confusion on her face as she beheld a strange man standing over her daughter and her daughter’s friend – all three of them on the front porch, where *nobody* went.

The detective’s entire demeanor changed with an adult present, which made me despise him all the more.  His malevolent mien morphed into one of professional solicitude, and he introduced himself to my mother with a smile and a doff of his hat.

I inched closer to Kelly, wanting to comfort her without embarrassing her – I could tell she did not want my mother to know that she’d been crying. Meanwhile, the two adults talked, at first as if Kelly and I were not present. The detective informed my mother of the situation; she listened, then asked me if Kelly and I had sung The Song. I looked her in the eye and said that we had, but we thought the Wagners weren’t home, and…. She put up her hand, motioning for me to stop talking. She told the detective that yes, the neighborhood children had perhaps taken their pranks too far, but did the detective know what the Wagners had done to egg them on? And Kelly did not live on Martha Lane, and had nothing to do with….

I was amazed to hear my mother speak to the detective.  She was a shy person, introverted with strangers, particularly male authority figures – and back then all males were authority figures (or acted as if they were) to all women.  My mother had heretofore never displayed anything I would have mistaken for a spine; it must have taken a lot for her to stand her ground with that man.  He asked more questions of her, all of which she politely but firmly deflected. She told him that he needed to speak with her husband about the matter, and if he’d give her his business card she would have her husband call him.

The detective left his card with my mother and left our street with me throwing silent curses at his butt-ugly, doggy-doo-colored sedan.  My mother asked me to take the groceries inside and set the table for dinner, and said she’d give Kelly a ride home. I never found out what, if anything, she and Kelly talked about on the ride; the next day at school both Kelly and I pretended that the previous day had never happened.

That evening, mere minutes after my father got home from work   [3] and had spoken with my mother, I stood with my back to the living room wall, listening to my father as he spoke on the kitchen telephone   [4] with the detective. 

My father prided himself on his diplomacy, which was in full force that evening. He was firm and reasonable, considerate but not quite conciliatory. What follows is his end of the conversation, from memory, as paraphrased by moiself . He started with introductions and personal chitchat, deftly and swiftly gleaning that the detective also had teen and preteen children.  He told the detective that

“the neighborhood teenagers”  [5]  had taken things a bit too far, but the police likely did not know all the facts.  I will declare the Wagners and their house off-limits to our family and will spread the word among the other Martha Lane parents, but I also need you to realize something:  the children’s behavior is immature to say the least, but these are *kids.* What is Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s excuse – who are the “adults” in this situation?  It is unlikely the Wagners have admitted to you their *years* of harassment of the neighborhood (both children, and their parents).  The Wagners played an equal part in this vendetta – in fact, it began with them.  If you would interview other families in the neighborhood you would find out about that. And both you and I, as parents, know that when adults hassle kids past a certain point, even good kids will fight back.”

After speaking with the detective, my father telephoned Mr. Wagner.  He told Mr. Wagner that the kids were in the wrong; Mr. Wagner told my father that Mrs. Wagner was suffering health effects from being harassed by the neighborhood children, and agreed that things had gotten out of hand.  It was interesting to listen to my father saying something that, if you didn’t know the context, would sound nonsensical:  the children should “stop their singing their songs” and that perhaps everyone, the children of Martha Lane and the Wagners, could just steer clear of one another?

After an unusually silent dinner time my parents excused my younger sister from the table and asked her to take our toddler brother to the living room to watch TV. My parents remained at the kitchen table, and spoke privately with my older sister and I.  My father did most of the talking.  In a serious but not angry manner, he told us what had transpired with his phone calls (I said nothing about my eavesdropping).  We were to stop all contact with the Wagners, and inform our friends that the Wagner house was a demilitarized zone – off limits to all; no exceptions.  The Wagners agreed to drop their harassment charges, but were prepared to reinstate them if there were any more “incidents” (the detective told my father that the case would remain open for a couple of weeks to “see how things go.”).

Later that evening my father phoned several of the neighborhood children’s parents and explained the situation to them. He asked them to spread the word to other parents: the children of Martha Lane are to act as if the Wagners do not exist.  And, that was that, my parents said.  It’s over.

Except that for me, it wasn’t.  Unbeknownst to my parents or siblings, I cried myself to sleep that night, and for weeks afterward.

 

If only she’d had a baby sloth to hug.

 

It’s funny to me, in retrospect, how adults neglect to explain How Things Work ®  to children, because their adult minds don’t go down all the paths that a child’s mind will take.  I thought I had a criminal record! And that it would follow me the rest of my life!  That made me feel frightened, anxious, hopeless…and fence-kicking, hornet-spitting, furious.

I feared my parents were disappointed in me, and me alone. And I was steaming angry about the fact that the majority of the “harassment” tactics had come from the older kids  –  teens, like my sister, The Consummate Good Girl/Model Child ®.  My sister and her friend made up that damn stupid song, had sung it with their friends “at” the Wagners, then taught it to me and my friends and urged us to sing it whenever we could….and guess who got caught?

In my family’s script my older sister was The Good Child ®  –  polite and obedient and respectful of authority, while I was the imp/rabble rouser/mischief-maker.  But family roles and labels (“this is the smart one, and this is the clever one, and this is the sweet one…”)  are always far more complicated than surface perceptions.  *I* knew, from personal experience, that my sister was not the goody-two-shoes her teachers and parents thought she was.  But the fact that she and her friends could “get away” with what had happened while I was implicated – that was typical.

There is nothing like the righteous indignation of a wrong adolescent. I avoided fully considering my own culpability in the Wagner harassment by focusing on (what I thought was) the colossal injustice done to me – and poor Kelly, by association.

But, I digress.

 

 

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after the visit from Undercover Detective Asshat.  My throat would tighten and my fists would clench whenever I saw a sedan that reminded me of that detective’s car – and every such vehicle was, to me, potentially an unmarked police car… and, BTW, unmarked cars for police?  How unfair?!?! Detectives must be a slimy bunch, to sneak around like that….

My reaction was only slightly less volatile when I saw a regular, black and white police car cruiser; I held a silent but deadly   [6]  grudge against cops.

How that plainclothes detective had treated Kelly – those memories and feelings stayed with me for years.  However, time eventually did what time eventually does, and by high school I had gotten over my indignation.

But here (yes, after all this) is what prompted my telling of this My Encounter With The Police ® story:  judging from the reactions of many (white) people to the Black Lives Matter movement, some folks just don’t seem to understand the simple yet profound idea that people’s experiences color and inform their perceptions.

I got over what had happened with that vile, abusive, unprofessional detective – I was able to navigate through the world and let go of my anger – in part because during the ensuing years I had few if any encounters with “law enforcement officers.”  I was able to see the incident as just that – an incident; an aberration.

I was a white girl.

All the “players” in the My Encounter With The Police ®  story were white.

What if I had been Black, or Latina?  Would the detective have shown as much deference to my mother if she were Mexican-American?  Would he have been as respectful and agreeable to my father, who argued for considering the perspective of the “harassing” children, if my father had been a Black man? What if all of the neighborhood children had been a different “shade” than the Wagners – would the detective have agreed to drop the investigation?  What if the Wagners had been Black – would their complaints have been investigated, or even given serious consideration?

Knowing what I now know now, the answers to all of those questions would be a regrettable but accurate, Are you fucking kidding me?  No.

As I passed from grade school  [7]   through junior and then high school, I slowly came to realize that my darker-skinned peers had many more negative experiences with the police, and for matters far more trivial than “singing that song” and with far different outcomes than my family had experienced (“It’s a crime, you know, to drive while Mexican,” my “cruiser car” buddy GS, a Chicano, once joked to me).

Your experiences shape your perceptions.  Too few white people are beginning to consider that idea, vis-à-vis Black and Brown people and the police and other governmental forces; fewer still are able to summon the introspection necessary to examine their visceral reaction to the complex ideas and realities behind concepts like, Defund the police.

And for those of us in this better-late-than-never category, I’ll apply my dinner party analogy. Specifically, how I feel about guests whom I looked forward to seeing (that’s why I invited them: I don’t ask people to dinner if I don’t like them), and they showed up…eventually:

Welcome to the party y’all!

You’re hours late; you missed the appetizers and first courses
and the entrée and we’re halfway through dessert…
but it’s great to see you and we’re happy
you showed up in time to help with the dishes.

*   *   *

May you be a helpful voice in the Defund the Police conversation;
May you discern when to use your voice and when it’s better to listen to other’s voices;  [8]

May you always arrive in time to help with the dishes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If you don’t know or remember the significance behind the phrase “the ML kids’ war with the neighborhood cranks” then there’s no point in reading further without reading the previous post.

[2] Friends and family used the side entrance to our house, which led to the kitchen. If someone knocked on our front door that was a giveaway that it was a stranger, or a solicitor.

[3] About 5:20p and not after 6p, like I’d told the detective. Yep, I lied to the creep.

[4] Which was, at the time, our only telephone.

[5] my dad’s words. Although Kelly and I were preteens, it was the older kids who had instigated the anti-Wagner campaign,

[6] You knew I had to get a fart reference in the story,  somewhere…somehow.

[7] A story like this should have more footnotes. Or, less.

[8] As in, the voices of other people, not the voice you may hear in your head that sounds like your demon uncle ordering you to vote for anything wearing a MAGA hat and then strangle a baby hamster.

The Fond Childhood Memories I’m Not Reliving

1 Comment

 

Department Of Now I’ve Seen Everything

Dateline: Wednesday, circa 4pm, outside a grocery store.  A woman who exited the store ahead of me scurries to a spot around 30 feet from the store’s exit door. She pulls a cigarette and lighter from her purse, pulls down her mask and lights up.  She proceeds to take several long, desperate drags of the cigarette, pulling her mask up inbetween, in a bizarre ritual: lower mask; suck on her death sticks; exhale; raise mask; wait five seconds; repeat.

Lady, just take down your mask, go into a filthy public restroom, run your bare hands over every surface and then touch your hands to your face and mouth and rub your eyes. Get it over with.

Celebrities like Ben Affleck won’t let a pesky pandemic stop their slow suicide, so why should she?

 

*   *   *

Department of Yep, This.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Defund The Police Story

In the ongoing Defund the Police ® debate, some folks declare that an alternative phrase for police reform is needed. It seems that too many (white) people read or hear “defund” and lose their shit react defensively.  They interpret “defund” as doing away with police forces entirely, instead of the how the term is used by reform activists: as shorthand for reallocating funds from police departments to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, (e.g. social, mental health, housing and education services).

Moiself  has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:

White people get defensive and even frightened at that notion (doing away with police) because white people associate police with security, in ways that communities of color, because of their collective history with aggressive and discriminatory policing, do not.

Sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I read a feature article in a So Cal newspaper about police officer recruitment.  Police chiefs were just starting to realize that for community policing to be effective the police force needed to be representative of all members of the community.  Given the rising number of Vietnamese immigrants in So Cal, local police departments were trying, and mostly failing, to recruit Vietnamese-Americans.  The reason for that failure was not apparent to the majority white police staff, until a cultural liaison enlightened them:

The police forces in Vietnam, and several other Asian countries, were considered to be corrupt, and the average Southeast Asian immigrant’s contact with them had been unpleasant.  Thus, young Asian men   [1] who might have been interested in being recruited were discouraged from doing so by their parents, who thought policing a dishonorable profession.

There’s a very basic lesson here: your experiences color your perception.

 

 

Yep, that seems evident on a Psychology 101 level. Moiself  thinks it’s a bit more far-reaching than that, and ties into the Black Lives Matter movement in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives…including the one I am about to share here.

Little known fact about moiself :  from about my 5th to 8th grade years, I hated and feared the police. I held particular fear and loathing for men I suspected were undercover cops in unmarked cars. This is because of an experience I had….

Translation: there is a story to be told.

Key elements of this story (“The Wagner Incident”) became much beloved by my family as the years past.  My parents in particular loved for my older sister and I to recall the tale, and I always obliged.  However, most of my family never knew that I was actually quite traumatized by what happened.

There is (unfortunately or yee-haw! depending on your enjoyment of background information) stage-setting to be done, for this Drama of Shakespearean Importance.   [2]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my family lived in a house on Martha Lane in Santa Ana (CA).  Martha Lane extended west from a major thoroughfare down to a cross-street (Pacific Ave.) which led to the local community college.  [3]  Across Pacific Ave., Martha Lane continued as a cul-de-sac, where my family’s house was located.    [4]

The Wagners were an older couple   [5]  whose house was on the main part of Martha Lane (ML).  The Wagners had gained a reputation – not a good one – among the other denizens of ML.   Mr. Wagner, occasionally accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, walked their massive dog twice daily around the neighborhood.  They made of one or two loops around the main portion of ML (they did not cross the street to the cul-de-sac), and they let their dog defecate on other people’s lawns. They made no attempt to pick it up the droppings or at least “curb” their dog; they let him go where he wanted to go.   [6]  

Some of the neighbors began to come out of their houses and speak to Mr. Wagner as he made his rounds.  At first they politely suggested – then, as time passed and the poop accumulated, they increasingly and more frustratingly demanded – that the Wagners’ dog should do its doggie business at their own home, and not foul other people’s property.  The Wagners ignored all such requests, with Mr. Wagner on a couple of such occasions responding with strongly-worded suggestions as to what the other homeowners could do with his dog’s “business.”

Petty, inconsiderate neighbor shit, so to speak, right? Nothing either novel or earth-shattering.

 

 

There were other actions the Wagners took that, looking back, seemed almost intentionally aimed at making them the scourge of the neighborhood.  It was as if the Wagners got some kind of petty pleasure in taunting their neighbors, in particular, the Young People ®.  I can find no other explanation for their behavior.

As a Girl Scout, moiself  had the twice-a-year fundraising duties (which I loathed) of going from house to house in my neighborhood, peddling Girl Scout Cookies in the spring and Girl Scout Calenders   [7] in the fall.  The Wagners did not have a no soliciting sign on their porch; nevertheless, the first time I rang their doorbell on behalf of the Scouts I received a very snooty dismissal from Mrs. Wagner, when a simple, “We’re not interested” would have sufficed.  The second (and last) time I approached their house as a Girl Scout (having forgotten about the first incident, since six months had passed), Mrs. Wagner apparently saw me coming, and couldn’t wait until I set foot on her porch to reject my sales pitch.   Before I’d taken three steps from the sidewalk to her driveway her front door flew open and she came barreling out of her house.  Her voluminous bat wings shook along with her index finger, which she waggled at me while she bellowed about how she didn’t want to buy anything.

I fled the Wagner driveway with as much dignity as I could muster.  Later, I compared stories with other neighborhood kids, whom, I discovered, had experienced similar treatment when they were seeking donations for, say, a school paper drive or other charities.  The next time I had to do my GS soliciting I remembered my lesson, and as I left the porch of the house *before* the Wagners’ I proceeded on to the house *after* the Wagners’.  As I did so, Mrs. Wagner once again came charging out of the house into her driveway – how strange, I later thought, as she must have been sitting by her front window, just waiting for…what?  For a youngster to yell at? – and proceeded to berate me. Apparently, I was a stand-in for all the neighborhood children, as she began her rant with, “YOU KIDS….”  I hadn’t even made the slightest indication of stopping at her house – I was just walking past it, on the sidewalk!

 

At least she wasn’t armed with a garden hose.

 

Sharing and comparing stories – that’s what kids in a ‘hood do. As the years passed the older kids began to compile a hefty dossier of Wagner Incidents, many of them involving the holidays.  A few neighbors told about “Christmas incidents,” stories I cannot now recall,   [8]  and every July 4 we heard about how the Wagners did their own fireworks in the street in front of their house, then loudly complained if their next door or across-the-street neighbor’s – in particular, their neighbor’s children or grandchildren – did the same…or just yelled at teens who were walking on the other side of the street, on their way to a friend’s family’s fireworks party.

October 31 seemed to bring out the worst (or weirdest) in the Wagners. On Halloween night the Wagners always turned their porch light on and hung Halloween decorations on their front door, then were randomly and mystifyingly rude to the kids who rang their doorbell.  In our neighborhood the trick-or-treaters tended to go in groups of four or more children; the Wagners would often single out someone in your group, make disparaging remarks about a costume they didn’t like, then give candy to some kids and not to others.  Sometimes, as if on a whim, they would answer the doorbell, refuse to give candy (from the big jar they had on display) to anyone, and shoo your entire group off their porch.   [9]

 

 

Like many grade school-aged children, I found the world of adults both baffling and boring. Unless a home contained children of my or my siblings’ ages, I didn’t pay much attention as to who lived in what house on my block. It took a couple of years for it to sink in:  you don’t go to the Wagner‘s house for Halloween…or anything else.

Can you guess what kind of attitude among the neighbors, in particular among the youth of Martha Lane, was engendered by the Wagners, toward the Wagners?

 

“I knew you could, boys and girls.”

 

There were many more incidents that my older sister and her friends shared with moiself and my friends. Slowly but surely, a vendetta arose. The older kids in the neighborhood had had it with the Wagners, and conspired to tease them at every opportunity. 

My older sister and her friend rewrote lyrics to the tune of, “We Love You Conrad,” (a song from the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie): 

♫  We hate you Wagners
Oh yes we do
We don’t hate anyone
like you
When you are near us,
P.U.!
Oh Wagners we hate you.  ♫

 

 

Yeah; I know – hardly cutting-edge satire. Still, I thought my sister and her friend were so clever when sang me that song, and they were obviously proud of themselves.  They taught the song to all the neighborhood kids, and made us all vow to sing it at any Wagner-sighting opportunity.

Things escalated, as they say, from there. 

Early one hot summer night a bunch of us ML kids were hanging out on the corner of Pacific and ML, negotiating which chase/tag game we would play that evening (Green Monster? Hide n’ Seek?)  We spotted Mrs. Wagner up the street, identifiable from even 200 feet away by her towering, glow-in-the-dark white beehive hairdo and imperious, waddling stride.  She was walking her dog, and one of us in the group – I can’t remember who but it might have been me or my older sister – had the brilliant idea to begin humming the Miss America theme song:

♫  There she is…Miss America…
There she is, your ideal…. ♫ 

Silly stuff – hardly the material of celebrity stalking lawsuits.  Even so, it apparently put a burr under Mrs. Wagner’s saddle (or that ridiculous beehive).  Unbeknownst to us kids, when Mrs. Wagner returned home she told her husband what we kids had done, and he called the police and insisted they open a harassment investigation.

We hummed the Miss America song  – that’s what put them over the edge?  We didn’t even sing the words.

 

 

Also unbeknownst – to me, at that time – were other incidences of kids taking revenge on the Wagners.  Some older teens who lived on the main section of ML had, with their parents’ knowledge and approval, saved some of the “droppings” the Wagner’s dog left on their lawn.  After accumulating several days’ worth, the kids delivered shovelfuls of feces to the Wagner’s lawn.  When this failed to deter Mr. Wagner from his dog walking/dumping, on July Fourth one family’s teenage son played the proverbial, flaming-sack-of-poop prank on the Wagner’s front porch.  [10]  

That and other incidences enabled the Wagners to convince the police to open a harassment file…or a case…or whatever it was.

 

“Martha Lane Kids v. Wagner” ? – what is this bullshit, Danno?

 

So.  This “case” was going on, without my knowledge.

Then, one day….

 

 

I’ve always wanted to say that.

The story continues, in next week’s post.

*   *   *

May you get to say something you’ve always wanted to say;
May you be mindful of how petty neighborhood disputes can escalate;
May you bear with me until next week;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And it was only men who were being recruited, at that time.

[2] A slight exaggeration.

[3] The imaginatively named, Santa Ana College.

[4] Those two portions of Martha Lane no longer exist. Under eminent domain, the community college took over the properties in the early 1980s. In archetypical, SoCal development fashion, the area where my family house once stood is now a parking lot.

[5] In their late 60s – early 70s?

[6] Do people still use that term?  For the young ‘uns who may be unfamiliar with it, to curb one’s dog involved pulling it off the curb – away from someone’s  lawn or sidewalk – and making it poop in the street gutter.

[7] Anyone remember those?  The Girl Scouts stopped selling them in 2008.

[8] The Wagners scared off Santa’s reindeer with a shotgun?  Nothing would surprise me.

[9] But they would leave the porch light on – the universal sign of “open for business” for trick-or-treaters – and answer the doorbell when the next group of kids came by.  Yep, we watched, to see what happened.

[10] He filled a brown paper bag with the Wagner’s dog’s droppings, put the bag on the Wagner’s front porch, set it afire, rang their doorbell, and hauled ass up the block.  And yes, when Mr. Wagner answered the doorbell he attempted to stamp out the flames….

The Future Vice President’s Campaign I’m Not Consulting On

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Department Of Yet Another Silver Lining

The Democratic convention’s pandemic-mindful/physical distancing states’ roll call (in its entirety, here ) – how delightful was that?   The usual political party convention roll call, with the delegates dressed basically the same (we can wear three colors – can you guess what they are?) and wearing those ridiculous straw boater hats, some of which look to be made of styrofoam….it’s beyond boring.

Well hellooooo, ladies.

 

Moiself  sez let’s do it this way from now on, pandemic or not. We got a brief glimpse into the states’ – and US territories’ – terrain as well as character,  [1]  with a few surprises, too.  Rhode Island calamari – that’s even a thing? Who knew?

*   *   *

Department Of Which Is The More Accurate Adjective?

What the radio podcast host said:
” (name)…is a board-licensed professional counselor.”

What moiself  heard;
“(name) …is a bored, licensed professional counselor.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Given My Druthers, I’d Like To
Leave The Civics Lesson To Someone Else

What, BTW, are druthers?  In the various idiomatic expressions which use the word, it does seem to be a positive thing. Do I have to wait to be given them, by someone else, or can I get or earn them on my own?   [2]

If it were in my power, I would give all of you your druthers. Wouldn’t it be great if druthers turned out to be something like this:

 

 

Once again, I digress.

Moiself  is thrilled with Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate.  During the Democratic debates, a California friend (MM) and I were exchanging ideas/compliments about the various candidates. In MM’s opinion Sen. Harris, besides being experienced and intelligent and a razor-sharp questioner during Senate hearings, was also not the kind to put up with crap or betrayal – “She’ll put a shiv in you,” MM wrote admiringly.  We both agreed that was a talent sorely needed when dealing with the petty viciousness and mendacity of the Republican congress.  [3]

One of the many, many other things I like about Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris is that I don’t know a thing about her religious/spiritual and/or worldview beliefs.  And I’d like to keep it that way.

Except of course, the Republicans will not stand for that. Even the (secretly) religion-free among them must grovel to the altar of right-wing Jayyy-suuuus  lovers.   #45 figured this out when he was laughing all the way to the bank (or golf course), passing church after church along the way, metaphorically thumbing his nose at them even as he was snickering about how easy it was to bamboozle the congregants.

 

 

The Republicans will look for every opportunity, during the election and debates,  [4]   to play their piety cards and jab Biden and Harris about their beliefs.  Biden has already fallen into that trap –of talking about his own faith rather than telling those who ask that it’s none of their business as the USA is not a theocracy, and let’s get back to the issues….

Thus, I humbly offer my advice to Ms. Harris – the advice she didn’t solicit from me   [5]  but which I hope she takes:

Don’t fall for Pence’s religious rhetoric claptrap, and make him sorry if he even asks. I know you’re capable of going all prosecutorial on his ass…even though that tactic, if you employed it, would make your advisors reach for the smelling salts as the white evangelicals would clutch their pearls and gasp in horror at The Angry Black Bitch Atheist (whether you are or are not the fourth, you’d definitely be pegged as the first three).  So, yes, I understand how you must go for discretion.

I also hope you don’t mumble platitudes about respecting everyone’s faith journey (although I understand there will be pressure to do so). When – not *if,* as religion will definitely be an issue – the subject of a paticular candidate’s religious beliefs are brought up, don’t ignore it.  Instead, candidly and assertively steer away from the subject, every time it happens, and every time reminding us of why you are doing so:

We are electing presidents and vice presidents here,
not popes and pastors and vicars and decans – or rabbis, imams or mullahs, Zen masters or Lamas, pujaris or gurus….

 

I know, this is important…I’ll ty to stay alert.

 

American citizens hold a diversity of religious opinions. The candidates elected will be the President and Vice President for all the people, including the growing percentage of atheists, agnostics, humanists, Freethinkers Brights – aka, to pollsters and scientists, as the “Nones,” as in, we Americans who are religion-free and/or claim no religious affiliation.

Polls and studies reveal that 23 to 26 % of the US population – approaching one out of every four people – claim “none” for their religion, despite facing open hostility and discrimination from religious believers (and incurring a political liability as well, if they run for office).  And scientists note that these 23-26% figures are conservative estimates.

“…psychologists…contend that there may be far more atheists than pollsters report because “social pressures favoring religiosity, coupled with stigma against religious disbelief…, might cause people who privately disbelieve in (god[s])  to nonetheless self-present as believers, even in anonymous questionnaires.”


To work around this problem of self-reported data, the psychologists employed what is called an unmatched count technique, which has been previously validated for estimating the size of other underreported cohorts…. (Using a) Bayesian probability estimation to compare their results with similar Gallup and Pew polls of 2,000 American adults each…they estimated, with 93 percent certainty, that somewhere between 17 and 35 percent of Americans are atheists, with a “most credible indirect estimate” of 26 percent.


(“The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising,”
Scientific American, 4-1-18 )

As a former prosecutor you, Senator Harris, are aware of the average person’s cognitive capacities, so I’ll trust you to condense those statistics into something debate-attention-span appropriate.

After doing so, please give a brief reminder – more like a civics lesson, considering how many Americans know next to nothing about the history of our country’s secular roots – that the USA was the first country to have a totally god-free constitution.  “God” – anyone’s god  – is not mentioned in the US Constitution (nor is Jesus, nor Christianity), not even once.  Religion is only mentioned twice, and then in exclusionary terms: in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), and in Article VI, which declares that “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

And do this – remind folks of the facts – Every. Time.

 

 

There will be some ignoramuses (most likely your debate opponent), even among otherwise seemingly articulate members of the press, who will confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, and will quote the former:

“But wait, what about the part where it says,
‘”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’….”

Here is, yet again, another opportunity for education. Remind the populace of the difference between the two: The Declaration of Independence (an “apology” and call to arms for the American revolution);  and the Constitution of the United States (the new nation’s governing document).

You may also want to be prepared for when some idiot sputters about how his dollar bills say, “In God We Trust”…which he probably doesn’t know was not added to our currency until 1957, during the Commie/Red Scare era:

 

 

…and then he may continue on as how the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, “Under God”…except that until relatively recently, it didn’t:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy… (who) had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.  In its original form it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.
Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration.
(“The Pledge of Allegiance,” Historic Documents, usdocuments.org)

You will likely also encounter shade from the historical yahoos who will crow about how the USA was formed as a “Christian nation.” Not only does Constitution make no such claims, we have the confirmation to the opposite, declared and signed by the very founding fathers of our country and the framers of the constitution, in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoly – which was sent to the Senate (by President John Adams).  The entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor (including the (in)famous words in Article 11; copies were printed for every Senator; the treaty was ratified by a unanimous vote of all 23 Senators. They knew what they were doing:

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”   [6]

All this history should be enough.  Of course, it won’t be.

So, please, get the message across…in your own astute, succinct way.  Perhaps, a more prime time-palatable version of the following?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Fun With Nature’s Wacky Reproductive Scenarios


“Some sharks give live birth from two uteruses — and that’s not the weirdest part.”

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to a Curiosity Daily podcast. CD is one of my favorite podcasts.  As per their website:

The award-winning Curiosity Daily podcast will help you get smarter about the world around you — every day.
In less than 10 minutes, you’ll get a unique mix of research-based life hacks, the latest science and technology news, and more.

I’m not sure how much smarter CD has helped moiself  to get, but I’m certainly entertained, and armed with interesting trivia facts, by each episode.

A recent segment on sharks which have dual uteri caught my eye (ear?).  The takeaway: many shark species have multiple uteri and give birth to live baby sharks, which hatch from eggs in the uteri.  Before being expelled, the baby sharks which hatch first swim between the uteri, and eat the eggs of their un-hatched siblings, so they can grow faster. In one species, multiple free-swimming baby sharks hatch at the same time and fight to the death inside their shark mom’s uterus.

 

“Congrats, Mom, it’s a boy…I mean, a girl…uh, make that, a cannibal.”

 

For some petty reason, I enjoy the idea of anti-choicers – most of whom hold a conservative religious dogma which says that their god creates and directs all life (so guess who’s responsible for this preborn carnage?) –  cringing at these facts…even though sibling predation – “siblicide” –  is not unknown in other animals (e.g. the newly hatched chicks of some bird species will attack and eat their smaller siblings, or push them or any unhatched eggs out of the nest).

As with every CD episode, at the end of this one the two hosts recapped what they’d learned.  The male host, whose wife is pregnant, said that he’s been feeling his wife’s belly when the fetus kicks her, and now he’s thinking how “…that is really mild, compared to what sharks do.” He then declared, “I’m glad I didn’t marry a shark.”

 

“Oh, honey, can you feel them fighting to the death?”

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Presidential candidate Scissors was forced to withdraw from the race
after failing to find anyone who would run with him.

 

“Do you see what humor they have to put up with, in a so-called ‘free’ society?”

 

*   *   *

May you support politicians in remembering and upholding our country’s secular foundation/roots;
May you have yet another reason to detest that insipid “Baby Sharks” song;
May someone surprise you with the gift of druthers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] But California should have had a surfer boy standing between those two women.

[2] I could Google this, I know, but sometimes, it’s just more fun to wonder.

[3] Then added that, as much as he admired President Obama, “that was a talent Obama lacked.”  (moiself  ageed).

[4] Are we even going to have debates, this year?

[5] Or, maybe she *did* and her email got caught in the spam folder.

[6] At the time of the Treat, Mediterranean Sea traffic was largely controlled by pirates from the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast.  Many European seafaring countries paid a tribute to the Barbary Sultans in exchange for safe passage through the Mediterranean. After the American Revolution, the US was no longer covered by British tribute treaties. The U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary States, and given the history of The Crusades, assure the sultans that the US was not going to use the excuse of Christianity vs. Islam to go to war with them.

The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

Comments Off on The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

Department Of Even Yoga Teachers Need To Be Careful What They Ask For

Backstory: A couple of months ago, when we were all new to this streaming business, my 9 am yoga class teacher held a pre-class video chat for us streamers. She told us a “yoga joke,” then said that if anyone else knew any yoga jokes, she’d love to hear them.  

Dateline: Monday; circa 9:30 am; doing a vinyasa (yoga) class via streaming. The regular teacher is on vacation.  As the substitute yoga teacher leads the class into Triangle Pose, my mind wanders – which *not* the point of a yoga class, I realize…

 

 “Bad yogi!”  [1]

Ahem.

…my mind wanders to ponder the many different yoga pose names, both their English “nickname” and the Sanskrit names and translations, and as I do this, a joke begins to develop in moiself’s un-mindfulness-practicing mine.  There are a few twisting yoga poses which are notorious for producing, in certain people, a certain bodily response – in fact, the Sanskrit name for one such pose translates as:

 

 

My joke is a play on the Sanskrit name for Triangle Pose, which is Trikonasa (TREE- kone-ah-sauna).  I will ask my yoga teacher if there is a yoga pose known for inducing bladder leakage, and if so, would that pose be called, Trickle-asana?

 

My guess is that Trickleasana would look something like this

 

*   *   *

Department Of Extending The Metaphor

Yeah, hipster, since you obviously don’t care about trashing your own lungs, go right ahead and give no thought to trashing your small portion of the planet, which happens to be shared by everyone else.  That’s the true American Spirit.    [2]

 

 

*   *   *

 

Actually, not. Not something *completely* different, that is.

Instead, a smooth segue into….

Department Of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… And Nowhere Else, If You’re Lucky.

MH and I have two fireplaces in our house.  One has never been used; the other has been used once, not long after we moved in (~ 26 years ago), and never since.  This is because of moiself’s killjoy spirit  high livability standards.

I have been the family spoilsport when it comes to wood fires, be they fireplace fires or beach bonfires or campfires.  When on vacation, burning wood is “permissible” only if necessary – e.g., if your accommodations have a wood-fire stove as the only heating source.  You see, I am one of those annoying I-can’t-pretend-to-not-know-something-once-I-know-it kinda people, and cannot justify sitting around a pollution source sans a more compelling reason than my personal entertainment.

 

 

 

And yes, I have fun, sitting-around-the-campfire memories from childhood.  And yes, I have been pooh-poohed for my anti-wood fire attitude (“Oh, c’mon, it’s not really that bad…“).  And yes, I am thanking someone else for doing the legwork on the It Really Is That Bad ® statistics I once knew but have forgotten and was too lazy to look up.

That info via Someone Else ®  was provided in yesterday’s Ask Amy column, wherein Amy dealt with a woman’s am-I-right-to-be-disturbed-by-this question. This (nonsmoking) woman has been accused by her (non-smoking) husband’s “big smoker” sisters of over-reacting because of the woman’s concerns about the fact that when she and hubby go for “chats and s’mores” to the sisters’ place, the sisters toss their butts and partially smoked cigarettes into the fire pit: 

“…since we don’t smell any cigarette smoke as the fire burns, (the sisters claim that) second-hand smoke isn’t an issue.
I feel this is second-hand smoke and a very real health concern.”

Amy lays it on the line (my emphases):

Cigarettes aside, the backyard fire pit itself presents risks to lung health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov), “In addition to particle pollution, wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants, including: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).”

Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, which is a finely spun plastic (not cotton, as I had always assumed). Burning plastic sends off toxic fumes. The leftover tobacco on the spent cigarettes will also release “second-hand” smoke.

So yes – this bonfire is basically a flaming pit of toxins.

 

The Scoutmaster says we’re only two requirements shy of earning our Flaming Pit of Toxins merit badges!

 

Are you lost in the forest in the dead of winter? Ok; build a fire. You and your friends just wanna sit beside a pile of wood and watch it burn for…oh, that warm, glowy-feeling, or whatever?  There are other ways to enjoy each other’s company that don’t involve needless production of toxic waste.  How about playing charades, or that game where you find clever ways to trash your hypocritical friends who make you feel guilty about, say, things like polluting for your own pleasure?

Or how about this: re-purpose some old holiday lights, and if you put them on twinkly-mode you can pretend it’s flickering flames.  Imagination is good for the body and spirit.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Could The Editor Have Cut The Movie To Give You All At Least Five Minutes Before Contradicting Yourselves?

Dateline: a week ago, this evening; watching The Go-Go’s documentary with MH. One of the Go-Gos was doing a voice over about the early 1980s Los Angeles punk scene (from whence the Go-Gos was spawned); specifically, about how accepting the punks were:  it didn’t matter if you were gay or straight, white or black, male or female etc. you were welcomed for however you were/whatever you were.

 

 

 

This kumbaya declaration was made literally seconds before the band went on to recall how the other Go-Gos demanded that their new drummer, Gina Schock, an import LA from Baltimore, undergo a makeover when she arrived – they cut and dyed her frizzy blonde hair to short and dark, to be more suitable to the punk scene.

Confession:  the picture of Gina’s “Baltimore” hairstyle that flashed onscreen during that recollection…it *was* really, clownishy, wretched, even by 1980’s hair standards.  [3]  Open and accepting only goes so far; I guess even punk rockers have standards.

 

Yep; it was worse than this.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Stopping Moiself  In The Nick Of Time

Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, walking north along the beach at Manzanita. There are few people on the misty beach.  About 200 yards ahead of me I see three creatures walking south – a man, a woman, and their dog. The man and the woman each hold a large takeout coffee cup in their respective right hands.  The dog, walking between the two, is looking up at the man.  Dog pays the woman no attention; dog’s eyes stare up at the man.

As the trio gets closer I notice that the dog’s laser focus is on the man’s left arm, which the man has tightly clenched to his left side, and I get a glimpse of the halves of two brightly colored orbs the man is carrying between his upper arm and armpit/chest.

As our two groups (well, moiself  is a group of one) we both do the polite, COVID-appropriate thing, moving to the side and smiling in acknowledgement and greeting. The woman says a few words to the dog, which gives no indication it has heard her – it never tears its gaze from the man and the toys he has “hidden” under his arm…and the woman sees that I have noticed this.  As she gives me a “What am I – chopped liver?” look and shrug of her shoulders, I stop myself at the last minute from pointing to the dog and to the man and saying to the man,

“Oh, I get it – you’re the one with the balls!”

 

“In a just world, I’m the one with *all* the balls.”

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory – all I did was take a day off!

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy the simple pleasure of wasting precious brain wattage on composing a bad joke about your favorite form of exercise;
May you be the coveted one with the…uh…balls;
May we all hope that the nostalgia for pre-pandemic times does not presage a return to 1980s hair;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] No no no – not *that* kind. A yogi is anyone who practices yoga.

[2] Can you make out the cigarette carton brand?  Do ya get it, huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?

[3] I can provide no still picture of that hair, from the documentary – I think it would have burned the camera lens to even attempt it.

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