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The Style Points I’m Not Getting

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Dateline: last Thursday, ~ 7:30pm, Trivia night at MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar, Manzanita. It is round two of three, and my neighbor/friend/trivia partner JK and I are in a fierce battle for first place.

The category is Greek mythology, and the question is, “Who was the wife of Hades, god of the Underworld?” When I call out, “Melania!” a competitor on another team suggests I should get at least two points “for style.”   [1]

*   *   *

Department of SEE – IT’S NOT JUST ME!

From the Chicago Tribune review of, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (my emphases):

“Key non-human players in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” include Godzilla, whose head remains touchingly small for his body…

 

Godzilla, from the original movie.

 

Godzilla Shin,  from the 2016 film.

 

The latest. Why is his head shrinking?

 

*   *   *

Department of Complisults

Last week I hear the word used on a podcast, and it sent me down Memory Lane, so to speak: Complisult.

You know what it is, even if your first thought was that it’s just my spellchecker on vacation. You’ve likely had a complisult flung your way a time or two, by a frenemy [2]  or (more likely) a well-meaning, we-just-want-you-to-be-happy parent or other relative. They start out giving you a compliment, or at least saying something positive…which quickly morphs into critique, or even insult.

 

“So good to see you, my little sweetie! Let’s ask Mommy where your older, prettier, smarter sister is.”

 

Both of my parents, despite their otherwise loving natures, were adept at giving me complisults[3]  Two examples immediately spring to mind, even though these happened decades ago.   [4] 

Example the First

Dateline: unsure (the following conversation happened twice, once in person during a visit with my folks at their home, and once during a phone call.  Dialogue almost identical in both instances).

In answer to my parents’ How-is-it-going/anything new being published? query, I said I was happy to have a story of mine accepted for publication in a journal I’d long admired.

Complisulting parents: “That’s nice! Is it something we can actually find…how can we get a copy?”

Moiself (laughing):You should appreciate this – unlike my last six or seven stories, this journal has a national distribution, so you can go to a local bookstore that carries literary journals and ask….”

Complisulting parents: “Hey, did you that Connie Washington had a story in the Reader’s Digest? It’s so great that she’s writing for Reader’s Digest!”

“Connie Washington,” is the daughter of my parents’ neighbors.  I’ve known Connie since junior high school – she is also a writer, in a different field (journalism/nonfiction; mostly science reporting) from mine.

Like 99% of the pieces which appear in Reader’s Digest, Connie’s was an edited reprint, of an article she’d had previously published in a science journal. This is how RD has worked since its 1920s inception: its founder thought it would be a good idea to collect articles on different subjects from a variety of monthly journals, edit and/or condense them, and combine them into one magazine. The RD staff consists of editors; no writer technically “writes for” Reader’s Digest, as in, pens original material for them. No matter how many times I’d remind my parents of this fact, they never seemed to get it.

Moiself : “It’s great that her article is in there – I hear they pay well!  But, you do know Connie’s not actually writing for Reader’s Digest. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s currently a staff writer for Science Weekly and…”

Complisulting parents: “Well, now people will actually read what she’s written. Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”       

Moiself: “Okay; one more time:  no one writes ‘for’ Reader’s Digest. Also, RD doesn’t accept original short fiction….”

Substitute Saturday Evening Post, or other old timey magazines – or even Time and Newsweek – for Reader’s Digest in Have you ever thought of writing for Reader’s Digest?”

With every publication of a story of mine, my parents would offer congratulations, then find ways to remind me that the venues publishing my works weren’t a part of their world (translation: not important).

Complisulting parents: “You really should consider sending stories to Reader’s Digest. And what’s that big magazine we saw at the market the other day – with the glossy cover pictures – Omni or something? That looked interesting.”

My parents were the last people from whom I’d even consider seeking where-I-should-be-sending-my-work advice: their knowledge of the publishing world was bupkis, and their familiarity with literary fiction even less. Naturally, therefore, they were generous (surprise!) with unsolicited ideas as to where I should send my work, suggesting venues which were always inappropriate (and sometimes, unintentionally, amusing non sequiturs)…forcing me to reply with a never-ending series of reality checks:

“Uh…that magazine went out of business five years ago.”

“That journal no longer publishes fiction.”

“That magazine publishes genre fiction; you know I don’t write ____ (sci-fi; Harlequin Romances; vampire murder mysteries….)

“That journal only publishes staff writers or agented writers – no unsolicited material.”

“Holy crap for not paying attention  [5] – since when, as in, never, has US News and World Report  ever published fiction?!”

 

“Yes, honey, Winnie-the-Pooh is a nice story, but if the author was a real writer he’d have chapters of it in Reader’s Digest.”

 

Example The Second

I was a single adult for a long time (I was 31 when I married MH).  Despite having a couple of mostly great beaus along the way   [6]  I thought being a singleton would be my permanent state, which was fine by moiself.  When my parents observed that my goals in life seemingly did not include finding a partner in life, my father took every opportunity to mention to me that his marriage and children were his greatest joy and achievement.

Although they never directly criticized my remaining single, during our weekly phone calls it became evident that such a status – one I viewed as fitting and natural for moiself – was somehow seen by my parents as a loss (or even aberration).

Complisulting parents: “And what did you do this weekend?”

Moiself: “Saturday I went to the San Antonio Wilderness Preserve, and saw….”

Complisulting parents: “Another hike? That sounds fun. We saw Margaret Denton’s parents in church. Did you hear that Margaret and Tom Crocker are engaged?”

Moiself: “I didn’t; no surprise, though. Congratulations to them.”

Complisulting parents: “Have you thought of doing something different with your hair?  There were so many boys who admired you in high school….  [7]

My parents (of course), saw themselves as nothing but loving and supportive, and well-meaning…and they mostly were – moiself was fortunate in that regard, I know. Still, the doubts/insecurities inherent in complisults managed to lodge in a corner of my brain, and came back to haunt me in later years.

Is it something in the parental DNA, a gene for undermining one’s offspring? I imagine Vincent van Gogh   [8]  showing his parents his Sunflowers paintings:

Oh, Vinnie, how nice – so colorful…have you ever thought of trying this and sending it in – you could get into professional art school!

*   *   *

Department Of Firsts

Dateline: Tuesday 6-14-19, 2:41 pm. I got my first Mandarin (or Cantonese?   [9] ) voicemail on my cellphone.

Can you tell this has been an exciting week for me, or what?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [10]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Café Paradiso Seasons, By Denis Cotter

Recipe:  Rigatoni with arugula, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh cheese

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher    [11]

*   *   *

 

May strangers offer to give you style points (but leave no Mandarin messages on your phone);
May your head stay in proportion to your body, should you become a monster movie star;
May your complisults be few, but memorable;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] The correct answer was Persephone, which none of the teams got. JK and I took second place, losing by only one point….so those style points would have come in handy.

[2] “Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” – an oxymoron noun meaning a person with whom you remain somewhat friendly, despite said person acting  competitively with you and/or cutting you down, betraying and/or insulting you at  any opportunity.

[3] I can’t speak for my other siblings, but I’m sure they have received at least a few.

[4] Seeing as how both of my parents are deceased, there are no recent examples. But if either were still alive and somewhat cognizant….

[5] Okay, I left that comment out.

[6] And one neurotic headcase… I thought I had escaped that fate which seemed common to so many of my peers, but it seems that there’s always at least one toad you have to kiss….

[7] Those mystery admirers remained unnamed, but I’ve little doubt that, in my parents’ mind, they included the ones who would telephone me in the early evening and have hour long conversations about how they had a crush on one of my friends.

[8] One of the most influential artist the world has seen, who sold only one painting in his life – and since it was his brother who bought it (this was so that van Gogh could honestly say, as per the requirements an art show he was trying to get his works displayed in, that he was a “professional” artist) that doesn’t count.

[9]   Where is my sister-in-law – a native Cantonese speaker – when I need her to translate?

[10] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[11]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character in The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The X(Y) Factor I’m Not Ignoring

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An Immodest Proposal   [1]

In the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights there have been several proposals, by activists, publications and public figures, for both famous and unknown (as in, non-celebrity) women to state that they have had an abortion. Ms. Magazine made history when, during its inaugural issue in 1972,

… it published the names of 53 women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. Notable signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron.   The petition noted that roughly one in four American women had had an abortion, in spite of it being illegal in most of the country at the time….. the Ms. petition was inspired by the Manifesto of the 343 that had been published the previous year in which 343 French women publicly declared that they had had an abortion….
(Ms. Magazine, Wikipedia)

Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled “We Had Abortions,” accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.
(“Ms. Magazine names women who had abortions,” NBC news 10-5-2006 )

“…nearly 50 years ago, the actress Catherine Deneuve… joined…more than 300 women in signing Simone de Beauvoir’s Manifesto of the 343, a petition for France to legalize abortion…. In doing so, they not only began being referred to as one of “the 343 salopes,” the French word for “slut,” but also risked facing criminal prosecution; abortion was illegal at the time that they came forward to share that they were among the women in France—at that point, one million each year—who’d had the procedure.”
(From the article, “The Celebrities Who Have come Forward About their Abortions, and Why,” re actor and talk show host Busy Philipps’ recent Tweet urging women who’ve had abortions to share their stories: “many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”    (wwd magazine,  5-17-19)

The call for women to “out” themselves re abortion is strategically analogous to the tactic used by gay rights advocates in the 1970s-80s who began insisting that gays must come out of the closet  [2]   in order to claim their civil rights. The idea – which proved to be correct – was that anti-gay stereotypes would not only continue to exist but would flourish as long as a majority of heterosexuals could say, “Gee, I personally don’t know any gay people, so maybe what they (the religious right and other homophobic fear-mongers) say about the homosexual agenda is true.”   It is much more difficult to malign and/or discriminate against your colleague, your friend, your neighbor, your cousin’s son, your own daughter, than against those amorphous gay people – who are apparently out there, somewhere – whom you (think you) don’t know. 

In wake of the antediluvian legislative shit-show of the past few weeks (e.g. Alabama and other backwater states passing abortion laws to start the judicial crawl toward SCOTUS ), many reproductive rights advocates are once again calling for women who have had abortions to say so publicly (or, at least, to their own family and friends).

Moiself disagrees with this call. I don’t think it’s a bad thing;
rather, I think it doesn’t go far enough….

I am so very tired of beating my head against the wall re this issue.

The call for women to go public about their abortions ignores, once again and completely, what is arguably the most vital factor in the abortion equation.

Why is it so easy for our legislative bodies – and the grown-ass men and women who want to criminalize abortion – to ignore the XY Factor: the fact that girls and women don’t get pregnant by themselves? Aside from pregnancies terminated for medical reasons… [3]

Every Unwanted/Unplanned Pregnancy – Every Single One – Is Caused By
A Male’s Ejaculation Into A Female’s Vagina.

 

 

Thus, I propose the ICAPT! Movement.
(y’all can pronounce it Aye, Captain! for that certain, Star Trek or nautical vibe).

ICAPT! = I Caused A Pregnancy Termination!:

Every man whose wife/girlfriend/partner(s) have ever had an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy should out themselves as having caused that abortion.

Gentlemen, your country needs you to enlist in ICAPT!

CALLING ALL MENFOLK

 

Men we gotta man up now!
She got pregnant, we know how!
Sound off, one two
Sound off, three four
One, two three, four
Won’t deny it – NO MORE!

 

But wait – there’s more! If you’re feeling particularly realistic courageous, every man who has had unprotected PIV   [4]   intercourse with a woman, wherein his intent was not to get her pregnant, should out himself – if only to himself – as having had the potential to cause an abortion.

Trust me, guys, y’all will find strength in numbers…and, moiself hopes, in the simple yet profound act of Doing The Right Thing ® and no longer letting women shoulder this burden alone.  You may know it as that quaint practice called, Telling The Truth.

Speaking of which, part two of my proposal is addressed to women who are considering going public in the latest We Had Abortions/YouKnowMe calls for action. This is going to be controversial, but moiself thinks it’s long overdue, especially since the likelihood of menfolk doing the right thing with respect to this issue is…like…zero.

Sorry, dudes, but y’all don’t have a good track record here. Maybe this’ll help you along:

CALLING ALL WOMENFOLK WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ABORTIONS
AND ARE CONSIDERING SO DECLARING:

Name yourself if you must, but do not say, You Know Me unless you also say, OhYeahAndYouKnowHimToo. In other words,
name the man who fathered your pregnancy.   [5]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (9th edition © 1950), by…well…by Betty, of course.

I keep this cookbook in my collection for sentimental and cultural reasons.

Sentimental: the book is signed “To mother from Gwen.” The book was a gift to my maternal grandmother, Edna Gertrude Moran Hole, from her second daughter (and my middle name namesake), my aunt Gwen.

Cultural:  As George Takei might say….

 

From the book’s intro blurbs…

(“…let’s go into the gay Polka Dot Kitchen where appliances are tested….”

…to its illustrations

My culinary vibe is so inspiring, my stove vomits with anticipation when it sees me waltz into the kitchen!

 

…to its “nutrition” ahem and meal-planning tips

(hint: butter and margarine get their own Food Group)…

…to its inspirational prose

The poem below…expresses beautifully just what we would like to say…. [7]

An ancient rite, as old as life is old:
A woman baking bread above a flame…
wholesome as the summer sun
That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat….

…to the recipes their presentation suggestions, such as this, from the section advocating serving appetizers before a meal

“The entire atmosphere brightens when food appears. It may be the simplest fruit juice cocktail – for a tired husband just home from work….”

…this book is a cultural artifact more (much, much more) than a cookbook.

The stated aim of my Epicurean Excursion ® is to make at least one recipe as-is (sans alternations/substitutions) from each of my cookbooks, each week.  As I declared when embarking on this excursion, I was not intending to write reviews, but would merely list the book’s name and author, the recipe(s) I made and the rating(s) I assigned to them.  But, here was the dilemma moiself faced after thumbing through every page of Betty’s book – I saw nothing I wanted to cook, much less eat.

In the book’s “Supper Dishes” chapter there is a recipe for Kaedjere, which Betty describes as an “American Indian version of a fish-and-rice dish from far-away India.” One of the recipe ingredients is a 7 oz can of tuna. Because, you know, cans of tuna and Indians, both near and far-away….  How many examples do you need?

 

 

I briefly toyed with the idea of making, Rum Tum Tiddy (“Often served in the Boston Athletic Club…this is a nice easy Sunday supper dish for busy mothers”), if only because then I could say I made a Rum Tum Tiddy.  Upon further reflection, it sounds to moiself like a term parents might use to get their reluctant toddler through toilet training: (“Ok, buddy, if you make a rum tum tiddy in the potty, Mommy will give you an M & M!”).

I went through the book a second time: yep, still nothing that looked remotely appealing to plant-eating pescetarians such as moiself who do not think butter deserves its own food group.   [8]   Vegetables?  According to Betty, you boil ’em (then slather in butter) – her main concern is which meats they go with. Seafood – bake or fry with mo’ butter. Oh, look, it’s a lovely (read: not) Salmon au gratin, sprinkled with grated cheese and then topped with WHEATIES (yes, in all caps).

Still. It’s a cookbook, in my collection. So, for my excursion, I’m going to make…

YIKES!  I’ve made it all the way through a third time, and I still can’t pick one recipe which I could make as-is (without substituting for the things I don’t or won’t eat).

Here’s one recipe I’m really not making. Translation: I’ll threaten MH with it, if he gets too cheeky (he took great delight in teasing me about my Betty CrockerEpicurean dilemma).  It is called, Wedgies.

Really; that’s its name (page 50, appetizers section). The recipe, in its entirety:

“Spread 4 slices of large bologna or minced ham with softened cream cheese seasoned with onions or chives and mustard, place slices together (like a layer cake). Spread cheese over top and sides, decorate with sliced olives. Chill. Cut into wedges. Now go kill yourself.

Okay; so there may have been an editorial comment inserted (ahem) at the end.

Recipes:  None. I didn’t make a damn one. Nevertheless, my rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9]

         *   *   *

Department Of What A Difference An o Makes

Posthumously, or post-hummusly?

I’d take the former, because, really, is there life (worth living) after hummus? And guess what the Betty Crocker cookbook does *not* have a recipe for?   [10]

*   *   *

May you stop urging women to tell their truths unless you are willing to tell yours;
May you never serve your (nor anyone else’s) husband a fruit juice cocktail;
May you find your own excuse to enjoy Betty Crocker’s Wedgies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

[2] And sometimes, controversially, outed their closeted gay peers who were reluctant to do so themselves.

[3] Pregnancies that, in many if not most cases, were planned and wanted by the mother and father involved, and the reasons for termination include but are not limited to saving the life of the mother and fetal anomolies that are not compatible with life.

[4] penis-in-vagina.

[5] IF it is safe for you to do so. I do NOT wish to burden the already burdened – rape/incest/abuse survivors (some of which do not know the name of their abuser). I also I realize my proposal gets into the tricky area of telling another person’s secrets, along the lines of people who outed closet days without the gay person’s consent (a tactic which is still contentious).

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7] Betty Crocker’s “signature” is beneath this intro to the poem.

[8] Looks like 1950s Betty has not heard of olive oil – the lone butter alternative is bacon or other animal fat.

[9] Recipe Ratings:

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (as character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] And if Betty C. did have a hummus recipe, she’d somehow find a way to add butter to it.

The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling

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The real reason behind the total ban on abortion in Alabama and other backward misogynist shithole legislatures states, or so political strategists on both sides of the aisle tell us, is to set up a challenge in SCOTUS for Roe v. Wade. State legislators know their draconian laws will be struck down by state judges as unconstitutional; thus, the hoped-for trip to up the judicial ladder to SCOTUS chambers.

But so-called real reasons often leave real people and their real stories in the dustbin of history.   I will share some of those stories in this post: a series of vignettes, in no particular chronological order, from my time working in women’s reproductive health care. The stories I have from those years are legion; I’ll attempt both restraint and discretion in relating a just few of them.  [1]

The last one still blows my mind, all these years later. If I were to write it up as a short story I’m sure literary journals would reject it (“Contrived plot,” the editor’s notes might read), but trust me, I’m not a skilled enough writer to have made it up. Once again, reality trumps fiction.

TheBackground

 

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for a Planned Parenthood (“PP”) clinic in a SoCal county, a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area, and Planned Parenthood clinics in a Bay Area county.

PP clinics provided services determined by geographic need.  Example: because there were several other clinics in the county which performed abortions, the SoCal PP clinic provided a range of health care but referred patients seeking an abortion to those other clinics. Because there were few options in that same county for women needing colposcopy exams,  [2] that PP set up a colposcopy clinic, the patients mainly coming via referrals from the county public health system.

The Doctor (“Doc”) at the OB-GYN office where I worked (“The Practice”) shared the practice with a nurse practitioner (“NP”). Their patients ranged from Silicon Valley execs to welfare recipients (but skewed toward the higher end of the economic spectrum). Doc infrequently performed first trimester abortions (~ four per year), at an offsite day surgery center (he was aware that many more of his patients had abortions, but went elsewhere for the procedure). He told me he didn’t like performing them (“It’s a sad situation, all around”), but what he didn’t like even more was the idea of abandoning his patients when they needed help.

The Bay Area county PP had four clinics in the county, three of which offered abortions services, one to three mornings per week. I worked initially at the main site’s STD screening clinic,  [3]  then at their abortion (AB) clinics.

 

 

The Stories

We (The Practice’s Doc, NP, and I) developed a personal relationship  [4]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….   [5]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [6]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court. He snorted with disgust as he recalled how a grown-ass adult woman had to grovel and reveal highly personal information to male strangers who held power over her life.  Doc re-filed the chart, the ever-present twinkle in his eyes absent as he said, “Don’t ever let it go back to that.”

 

*   *   *

The R- PP clinic site (Bay Area) performed abortions on Friday mornings. The R-PP had two recurrent anti-abortion protesters who hung out on the sidewalk by the clinic parking lot. They were an odd pair: an older woman with an imperious air, always impeccably dressed in a woolen suit, designer handbag matching her designer pumps, her chin-length white hair sprayed into a Doris Bay-type bob, and a tall, lanky young man with wild eyes and a shock of Conan O’Brien-ish, unruly red hair. I called them Snow White and Big Red.

Dateline: A Friday am; the clinic had just opened, patients were in the waiting room filling out forms. One of the four clinic aides motioned for me and the other aides to follow her down the hallway. Looking out the clinic’s rear window, we saw “Consuela” outside, approaching Big Red.

Consuela, a native Mexican married to an American, was R-PP’s AB clinic manager. She was committed to providing reproductive care for Latinas, even as she admitted struggling with her work, due to her harsh Catholic upbringing. Consuela was kind and sweet-tempered, admired by PP’s staff and beloved by PP’s Latina patients, about whom she would tolerantly (but never patronizingly) educate us “white girl” clinic aides. She told us about the vagaries of the male-dominated culture Latina women had to endure, and the stories of her patients who’d had a horrifyingly experience common to impoverished Latinas entering the US were truly heartbreaking. The template: a woman’s husband summoned her to join him in the US after he’d found a job. He’d wired money to pay a coyote  [7] to escort her across the border, and during the journey the coyote raped her. Coyotes often assaulted women and girls with impunity and threatened their lives, knowing they’d be too frightened to tell the authorities or their husbands (sadly, Consuela said, even loving husbands were steeped in their culture’s machismo code, which cast a wife’s rape as a stain upon her husband’s honor…or as a cover for an affair).

Consuela would be in a certain mood I learned to identify – anger muted by melancholy – after working with a woman impregnated by coyote-rape. I often saw her, as her patient was leaving the clinic, slip the patient some money (“For bus fare,” Consuela would whisper in Spanish).   [8]

Back to the sidewalk: Sweet, warm Consuela was also very, very shy. Thus, we (her fellow clinicians, staring out the window) were amazed to see her approach Big Red, speak to him for a few minutes, return to the clinic…and holy crap, Big Red is leaving the parking lot! When the clinic was finished (~ 1 pm) Consuela told me what she’d said to him (paraphrased here):

I know you are here because you think you are doing good, but there is something you need to know. Three weeks ago, there was a no-show at our clinic – that older Latina woman you thought you had talked out of having an abortion. Actually, she left when you confronted her because she was afraid of you; she speaks only a little English, and didn’t understand everything you had to say, only that you were a stranger, who knew nothing about her, trying to intimidate her into not having an abortion.  She returned last week and had the procedure.

She may be poor and illiterate, but she is not stupid. When a woman makes such an important decision she considers all her options, and when she makes up her mind she is going to do whatever it takes.  All you did was make her wait another two weeks; she had to be sick and stressed and distraught for another two weeks. That may not have been your intention, but that is what happened. You caused even more grief for her.

For several weeks after Consuela spoke to Big Red, Snow White was the lone protester outside the R-PP clinic.

*   *   *

I’m glad those days (when abortion was illegal) are passed. But I fear the younger generations have no memories of what happened and take their rights for granted, and those of us who lived in those times are dying out, and our stories will die with us.
(paraphrased, from a conversation with Samuel Greenberg, M.D., PP-M physician)

Dr. Greenberg was an older gentleman, retired from his longtime OB-GYN practice, who worked several days a week at the PP main site (“PP-M”). “Dr. G” was the doctor I most often worked with at PP, and I came to admire his expertise, experience, humor, and compassion.

We talked often; Dr. G was concerned that when he and his peers died there’d be no one left to tell about The Bad Old Days, and that people might forget….  Sound familiar? Like many Jews of his age, he’d lost loved ones to the WWII concentration camps. His family’s experiences as Jews in non-Jewish cultures was one of the reasons, he said, he felt so strongly about his work at PP  –– he knew first-hand what can happen when people have their rights abridged by those of differing beliefs.

When Dr. G was a young doctor in the 1950s, doing his OB-GYN residency rotations in two different urban Catholic hospitals, he saw and treated many women who showed up in a the hospitals’ ERs, gravely ill and/or dying from botched illegal or self-induced abortions. Yet he never *once* saw the attending physicians list complications from illegal abortion as the cause of death for a patient who had indeed died from that.  On one such occasion, when Dr. G had the unhappy task of writing the “cause of death” on the patient’s chart, he challenged the doctor in charge who’d instructed Dr. G to write that the patient died of sepsis from an incomplete miscarriage. But, that’s a lie! Dr. G protested. – How can we, as doctors, lie about such a thing – people need to know, and the public health statistics will never reflect the reality…

Dr. G’s boss grabbed Dr. G by the elbow and steered him to the ER waiting room, pointing toward a sofa where the dead patient’s bereft husband and children sat.  He then led Dr. G to an empty hallway and spoke to him, privately and sternly, about the hospital’s non-official policy re reporting abortion-related deaths:  This is a Catholic hospital, with a mostly Catholic clientele. The truth will only bring further anguish, and shame, to a grieving family; also, since abortion is illegal, the police will have to be notified, and the hospital does not want its staff to get dragged into criminal investigations….

I will never forget the patience and kindness Dr. G showed toward all of the women we saw in the clinic, but in particular, to one recovering heroin addict.  Like most addicts, she was hypersensitive to pain, and howled as if she’d been stabbed when I did a simple finger prick blood test to check her iron level. She’d asked for additional analgesics for her procedure, which less than 5% of patients requested and which the doctor had to approve and then administer intravenously. Due to her years of junkiedom, Dr. G couldn’t find a usable vein to inject the medication.  I waited with an impatience I tried not to show, thinking thoughts for which I was later ashamed (What a whining wimp – suck it up lady, this is all from your own doing… you’ll be out of here in 10 minutes, and nobody else begs for drugs….), while Dr. G searched and searched, and searched again, and finally found a usable spot between her toes. After her surgery Dr. G spent additional time with her, holding her hand and encouraging her not to get down on herself or let this be another setback on her road to healing and sobriety.

*   *   *

In the PP clinics I saw a variety of women, from a wealthy Señora from Guadalajara whose IUD “slipped” while she and he husband were vacationing in the US, to a mother of four, in her late 40s and going through a bitter divorce (who’d had been told by a doctor that she’d gone through early menopause and couldn’t get pregnant), to the proverbial teenage girls who seem as if they can get pregnant just by standing downwind from a boy.

As per the coyote story,  rape/incest victims were the saddest cases to see. Those included a preteen holding onto her mother with one hand and her stuffed animal with her other hand (accompanied by a police escort, to retrieve “evidence’ of the assault, evidence they hoped to use to prosecute the family member who’d raped the girl); a woman forcibly impregnated by her estranged, abusive husband (she was told  [9] by a police officer that she couldn’t press rape charges because she was still married to her rapist), girls abused by their brothers/cousins/stepfathers/mom’s “new friend”/youth pastors….

And then there were those who’d been assaulted by non-related acquaintances – scenarios given a term I despise for its downplaying of the trauma it inflicts:  Date rape.

During a patient’s intake procedure we reviewed her medical history, and one of the questions we asked was, What kind of contraception were you using when you became pregnant? That question was not posed to known rape victims, and was a particularly cutting one to hear for sexual assault victims who’d not yet told anyone what had happened to them.  One patient, her tough chick attitude failing to mask her nervousness, threw her hands up in the air and laughed bitterly when I asked that question. Nothing; I was using nothing!  Can you believe that the guy my friend set me up with, the guy who choked me until I passed out, didn’t have the decency to put on a condom before he raped me?!   [10] 

*   *   *

Big Bad Wolves are not always so obvious, Little Red Riding Hood.

 

She was not my patient; I’d finished my first intake and was on my way to place my patient’s chart in the surgical queue. She stood in the hallway outside the clinic’s bathroom, holding her urine sample cup, fidgeting in a way I’d come to recognize as a woman trying to convince herself to pee when she didn’t have to go. She was dressed like a 1950s secretary, with a pleated plaid skirt and a faded, rose red cardigan sweater. She looked sweetly anachronistic, nervous, and shy.

“Let me guess,” I pointed toward the empty cup she held.  “It seems like you have to go every five minutes, then when you need to go, you can’t?”

Exactly!  She flashed me a puppy-eyed look of gratitude. Kelly, my, uh, intake lady, left me here; she needed to talk with a nurse or something.  It might take awhile before I can… she looked askance at the empty cup in her hand. I shouldn’t have gone at my mom’s, before we came here.

I offered to get her a glass of water, and as I walked her back to her intake room she told me how out of place she felt.  I can tell I’m the oldest girl here. It’s so embarrassing. She lowered her voice. I’m twenty-seven.

“I’m thirty-one,” I said. “I win!”

She blushed, and told me she hadn’t meant the age of the staff, but rather “the girls” she’s seen in the waiting room, whom she assumed were, like her, there for an abortion, but unlike her, were probably not virgins… I mean, were virgins, until….

I stopped before entering the intake room, where her mother sat.  Sweet Twenty-Seven-Year-Old-Former-Virgin looked at me imploringly. Can you come in and talk with me?

I said I’d love to, and asked if it would be okay to talk in front of her mother.  She assured me it was.  I sat down with the two of them, and STSYOFV began to spill her guts. 

STSYOFV had flown out from Kentucky, where she’d gone to college and where she lived now. Her mother was helping out, paying for the abortion –  STSYOFV didn’t want to have it done where she lived, in case any of her friends and especially her church friends found out…well, I  really don’t have any friends besides church friends…

As STSYOFV told it, her  life revolved around an evangelical church where she was a member of the choir. STSYOFV ‘s mother discretely shook her head and gave me a look.

STSYOFV said she loved choral music; her church choir met for practice several times a week…and what they would think of me, if they knew where I was now.  I know what I’m doing is wrong in their sight, but my they’d disown me if I was pregnant out of wedlock and I know all my options and everyone here is so nice about reminding me but I wish they’d stop asking I don’t need adoption or pregnancy referrals I know what I’m doing and I can’t bear being pregnant it would destroy me and how could I be was so stupid and ignorant and naïve to stay a virgin until 27 and then get pregnant the first and only time…I feel felt guilty but I’m going to do it anyways, I tried a few home remedies, even thought if I threw myself down the stairs…

My eyes widened at the remark, and STSYOFV’s mother gasped. STSYOFV assured us both that she’d chickened out; I made her laugh when I told her that a miscarriage caused by falling down the stairs only happens in the movies.

Lawdy, Miss Scarlett!

 

My eyes flitted back and forth, from STSYOFV to her mother, who mostly remained silent while her daughter talked.  The mother’s unwavering love for STSYOFV was evident to me, as was her disapproval of the church her daughter had gotten involved with.

STSYOFV said she hadn’t even intended to have sex… I hope god will forgive me but I am going to do this, or if he can’t forgive me, at least I hope he won’t hate me.   If they only knew…they all think I’m a nice person….

“Then that’s one thing they’re right about – you are a nice person.” I placed my hand over STSYOFV’s. She grasped my hand with both of hers, her eyes moist with gratitude. Although a (closeted, at that time) non-believer, I attended a liberal Christian church, and knew what STSYOFV needed to hear. I assured her that her god, that no one, could ever hate her.

STSYOFV smiled at me through her tears. I wish you would be doing my intake, and be with me during the procedure. Kelly is nice, but she’s so young.

Actually, Kelly is 26, I thought to myself.  I also thought about how STSYOFV, with her gentle, desperate naivete and high voice, seems like a 12 year-old in a 27 year-old’s body.

I told STSYOFV I had another patient to help, but promised I’d check on her after her procedure. She hugged me, and said she’d like that.

STSYOFV was the last patient to see the doctor, and when she was out of the recovery room she, her mother and I had a heartfelt conversation before they left the clinic. I assured STSYOFV re how much she had going for her – she was young, strong- spirited and good-hearted, with a wonderful mother who loved and supported her…

She is the best. STSYOFV gazed lovingly at her mother. And she says she won’t let me pay her back, for lending me money for the plane tickets and everything.

“Speaking of which…” I hesitated. “What about the guy who got you pregnant? Why isn’t he helping you with this, or at least paying?”

Oh, no, that would ruin him. STSYOFV shook her head, sadly yet vehemently.  While her mother’s mama bear eyes blazed with rage on behalf of her daughter, STSYOFV told me that the man who’d seduced her was her choir director. He was older, married and with children, and active in the church’s pro-life demonstrations. When she went to him with news of her pregnancy he warned her to not to tell anyone, and told her to “take care of it,” and so STSYOFV had swallowed her pride and telephoned her mother….

*   *   *

Department Of This One Takes The Cake
Aka If I Hadn’t Seen It With My Own Eyes….

I lost track of how many times an AB clinic patient laughed and said, “Until it happened to me, I was against abortion. That” – the patient would indicate the clinic’s entrance, referring to the protesters outside – “might have been me a couple of months ago.” I’d smile, say, “We hear that a lot,” and do my best not to reveal that I didn’t find her admission – that she’d have supported taking away other women’s autonomy until “it” happened to her –  to be amusing.

PP-M had a semi-regular group of protesters who demonstrated outside the clinic’s front entrance. (I never saw them; I parked in the employee lot at the back of the clinic and entered and left through the back door.) Other PP-M employees became quite familiar with the protesters, who were part of some Catholic group led by a perky blond in her mid-thirties. The Vice President (“Veep”) of PP-M went out of her way to befriend the protesters. Veep was an ex-Catholic, and would go outside and chat with the protesters during her coffee breaks, sometimes joining them in reciting The Rosary. On sweltering summer days Veep carried cups of water out to the protesters – one day she even brought them lemonade – and on more than one cold winter morning I heard a fellow clinic aide good-naturedly grouse about how She ( meaning, Veep) is out there, serving them hot cocoa, can you believe it?

Dateline: one memorable Monday, ~ 8 am, at the PP-M AB clinic. As I reached for the first chart in the intake pile, “Cindy,” the clinic’s assistant manager, whisked the chart out of my hand. “I don’t believe this,” Cindy hissed. She motioned for me to follow her to the reception office, where she and the receptionist stared through the  bullet-and-sound-proof plate glass window to the waiting room, and traded incredulous remarks back and forth:

I don’t believe it – can you believe it? That can’t be her…no, it is her…this is got to be a joke…a plant…a set up…no – look at the chart, it is!….

I asked, What’s up? Cindy told me that Perky Blonde Anti-Abortion Protest Leader was in the waiting area, with her 15 year old daughter, whom she’d brought in for an abortion.

I am doing this intake,” Cindy announced. As her WTF ?!?!  expression morphed into that of Compassionate Health Care Worker, she opened the door to the waiting area and called PBAAPL and her daughter back to an intake room.

It was a busy morning; I didn’t get to talk with Cindy until after the clinic was over, when all four of us clinic aides gathered around Cindy to ask, What the heck….?  Cindy told us that she’d started the intake as usual – she led PBAAPLW and her daughter back to a private intake room, then asked the daughter to give a urine specimen. While the daughter was in the bathroom, Cindy introduced herself to PBAAPL, and the following conversation (paraphrased) ensued:

Cindy: I need to tell you something. I recognize you, from the protesters outside. If this makes you or your daughter uncomfortable, you can request another…

PBAAPL:  Oh no; thank you. You’ll be fine.

Cindy: Okay. Uh…now I’m speaking for me, personally, not on behalf of Planned Parenthood.  I can’t help but wonder, what are you doing here?

PBAAPL:  Well, my daughter got in trouble, you know?  And you people here are all so nice, I knew you’d take good care of her.

Imagine, if you will, the sound of four jaws simultaneously dropping to the clinic’s tile floor.

PBAAPL skipped the protests for the next two weeks (there were a few demonstrators who showed up, and only for one day, during PBAAPL’s absence). After she brought her daughter in for the girl’s post surgery exam, PBAAPL returned to leading the protests, trying to deny other women’s daughters the “good care” she’d sought for her own.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [11]

 The excursion returns next week, having been temporarily grounded this week, due to the appetite-quashing political upheavals which prompted this post.

*   *   *

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1]  We didn’t have HIPAA laws then; still, I’ve altered all names and a few geographical details for privacy’s sake.

[2] A colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine a woman’s cervix for signs of disease, using a special instrument (colposcope). The procedure is most often done due to the woman having an abnormal pap smear, and may be followed by a cervical biopsy.

[3] I worked primarily at two PP clinics  in the county, and twice at a third PP clinic.

[4] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[5] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[6] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a third time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[7] A coyote is a man who makes a living smuggling migrants across the US-Mexico border.

[8] Consuela and her husband ( who was still in college) were far from wealthy, and had two children of their own to support. It probably violated some kind of clinic policy to give money, even your own, voluntarily, to patients; I always saw her look around furtively when she did so.

[9] Erroneously, I believe, although I don’t know the status of the marital rape laws in California at that time.

[10] I stopped the intake immediately and got the patient to speak with someone from PP’s counseling/education department. She was over 18; we couldn’t force her to go to the police, and she refused our advice to do so (she said she’d known someone that had the same thing happen and “was raped again by the cops” (i.e. they didn’t believe her ). After her procedure we set her up with referrals for individual counseling and a rape crisis center…I have no idea if she ever followed through with those contacts.

[11] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

The Commandments I’m Not Keeping

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Department Of What Almost Makes Having Seasonal Allergies Worthwhile

That would be having an excuse not to tackle the enormous dandelions (with the size and temperament  [1]  of a rabid Rottweiler) infesting our yard.

 

I’d love to do some weeding, honey, but (sniff sniff sneeze wheeze….)

*   *   *

Department Of Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Dateline: Monday; morning walk; circa 7:05 am; listening to the latest This American Life podcast. The episode begins with the host listing of the variety of ways “The Ten Commandments” label has been used to brand lists of qualities, suggestions, actions or requirements considered essential to certain professions and/or activities:

* The Ten Commandments for Gold Miners
* The Ten Commandments of Umpiring
* Ten Commandments of Tractor Safety
* The Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette
* The Ten Commandments of…Bilingual Blogs; Working in a Hostile Environment; Communication with People with Disabilities; Being a Math Teacher….

As with all TAL episodes, this intro segues to stories which will be related to the episode’s theme/title. This particular episode’s stories illustrate, as the host says, situations “…where people are grappling with these old, primal rules for life. With that in mind, we’re devoting today’s program to the Ten Commandments, the real ones.”

As soon as I heard the phrase, the real ones, I realized moiself was in for a hair-pulling moment. Is it too much, I wondered, for me to expect the show to at least mention if not genuinely address the fact that there are no “real ones” when it comes to (what people think are) the so-called  Ten Commandments?

 

“Yes, that is expecting too much of a culture which has supported 23 seasons of ‘The Bachelor.'”

 

 

“Now different denominations attach different numbering schemes to the commandments, to which commandment goes with which number, though the commandments are always the same….”
(Ira Glass, narrating This American Life podcast The Ten Commandments)

 

 

WRRRRRRRONG!

Now then.  Ahem.  I realize this particular show’s premise is not The TC per se; rather, the TC is meant to be a unifying theme to the wacky stories presented within.   [2]  Still….

Ira, dude – your show has a staff of writers and investigators. You can do better than this. You could have at least given a nod to accuracy and reality, and said something like…

“There are in fact three different versions of The Ten Commandments found in the scriptures used by both the Jewish and Christian religions – and here they are ( either citing the biblical books and verses or reading them aloud)but for the sake of familiarity, we are going to use this particular set of ten.

…and continued on with your stories.

But, nooooooo.

 

 

There are three versions of the TC in the Jewish scriptures (referred to by Christians as The Old Testament) which are used by both Jews and Christians (all references here use the KJV translation).

It takes time to plow through this, but plowing through this is the point: the point being that almost no one actually plows through this, including religious believers – for how else to account for their ignorance what the TC actually say, or that there are different versions?

Version 1 is found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image,
or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath….

Etcetera, etcetera. This version is likely somewhat familiar even to those who are neither Jewish nor Christian.

Version 2 is found in Exodus 20:1-17

This differs slightly from the Deut. version, in phraseology and “explanatory text” (most evident in commandments #5 and #6). This difference, however, is ( or should be) highly problematic for those fundamentalists who believe and preach in their scriptures being the literal word of their god, for if that were true, there should be no textual difference at all. 

Then we have the gift to Skeptics, Freethinkers, and Atheists everywhere: Version 3.

 

Version 3, from Exodus 34, begins with the Hebrew god’s instruction to Moses:

Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

Okay; a claim of straight dictation from the Almighty…except that these commandments are vastly – and in some cases, weirdly – different than the first two versions. Although, like the first two versions, the writing claims it is “the LORD” speaking.  Christ almighty, guess “the LORD” forgot what he’d said the other times?

It’s interesting – imperative, even – to note that this version of the TC is never cited when what I think of as the Unholy Trinity of Ps (priests, pastors, politicians) cite The Ten Commandments[3]   And yet this version is the only one referred to in scripture as the “ten commandments.” (my emphases, from the last verse. Have fun with the rest).

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;

 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.

 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.

 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in shearing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

 Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.

 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.

 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.

 The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

 

And some of y’all want to us in the 21st century to heed this Iron Age hog twaddle?

*   *   *

                              Department Of Things I’m Supposed To Like But Don’t                                    

Take, for example, the Hulu series, Shrill.

Here is the show’s website intro:

From Executive Producers Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks comes Shrill, a comedy series starring Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) as Annie, a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body. Annie is trying to start her career while juggling bad boyfriends, a sick parent, and a perfectionist boss.

It sounded promising to me: three names I associate with quality comedy, and the teasers I saw and read hinted about an amazing premise (for a TV show): a fat heroine who refuses to be fat-shamed…

Except that she doesn’t.

Half way through the first season (episode 3 of 6) I realized I’d been expecting/hoping for just a wee a bit more…empowerment? gumption?…from the protagonist.  And I was surprised by how…sad…it made me feel.  How long do I want to watch her flounder in an emotionally abusive relationship? Oh, yeah, that would be, NOT ONE MORE SECOND.

*   *   *

I may be anthropomorphizing (vego-morphizing?) here, but a cauliflower always looks to me as if it is keeping a secret and can’t wait to tell you about it.

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe: 

The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters

Recipe:  Spicy Cauliflower Soup

My rating:

Recipe Rating Refresher   [5]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

*   *   *

Department Of Great Moments In Publishing

Dateline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  [6]   I am having lunch with a writer friend who is dissing the Twilight  book series, at least one of which she actually has read all the way through. She asks if I am aware of the series; I confess that although moiself is aware of their existence I’ve no idea who the author is nor what the books are about, other than…maybe…teen vampires in the Northwest?

Writer Friend giggles as she begins describing the books’ unbelievable sucky-ness.  She particularly loathes the author’s liberal use of adverbs (” ‘he chuckled darkly ‘ ?!?!?! “). Our ensuing conversation goes something like this:

Moiself“Okay, so they’re poorly written.  But, what are they about?  In a nutshell (which is where they probably belong), what’s the story?”

Writer Friend:  “Teenage girl falls in love with a hundred-plus year old vampire; lots of steamy scenes of longing but no sex before marriage as per the vampire’s wishes, so she marries him when she’s 18, gets pregnant, and gestating the half vampire fetus almost kills her but she refuses to have an abortion….”

Moiself (interrupting with derisive snort): “What is this – Mormon soft core porn?!”

Writer Friend (giving me an incredulous look): “Uh…the author is a Mormon.”

 

*   *   *

May you be aware of how many assumptions you make when you think you and another person are discussing the same thing;   [7]
May you never pretend to like the things you think you are supposed to like
(but which you in fact do not like);
May you anthro- or vego-morphize to your heart’s content;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, dandelions can have a temperament. And if you take issue with this assertion you obviously haven’t spent enough time weeding.

[2] And the first one – about a Jewish boy attending Hebrew school who faces the dilemma of having one of the Jewish god’s alleged 72 names (the boy’s name is Shalom) and thus, according to his Jewish teachers, he cannot write his own name without “taking the Lord’s name in vain” – is quite entertaining.

[3]   You think they wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the phrase, “go a whoring,” or talk about the religion and political ramifications of boiling a kid (baby goat) in its mother’s milk.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] Actually, circa 2008.

[7] See part about the ten commandments.

The Maturity I’m Not Developing

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Department Of Existential Questions That Cannot Be
(Or Perhaps Are Best Not) Answered

Why didn’t this song get more airplay in its day?  You gotta love almost anything by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, one of the pioneers of psychobilly   [1] (and the writer of perhaps one of the most misunderstood love songs of that genre, “I’m Standing In A Trash Can (Thinkin’ About You).”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Adventures In Maturation
Sub-Department Of Better Late Than Never

Dateline: Last Saturday morning. MH and I are descending the (not-so) “secret” hillside trail in North Manzanita. He stops to take a picture of a flower, which takes several minutes; moiself continues on ahead of him. I hear fast footsteps coming from behind, step to the side of the trail, and look back to behold a man in his late 70s or so – older looking; very trim and fit – running downhill.  He is wearing something like this on his chest…

 

 

…which appears to be a runner’s hydration vest – a short, lightweight vest with two symmetrical water bottle pockets in the front. Olde Running Man’s vest looks akin to the contraption the above picture, only his has water bottles on both sides, giving him   [2] a glorious approximation of…well…of jiggling man-boobs.

As he passes by, I am ever-so tempted to say, “Nice jugs.”  BUT I DIDN’T.

You’re welcome.

Yes, maturity is a life-long journey for some of us. A few years ago (say, in my late 50s), who knows what moiself would have called out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Realities That Are Almost To Dreadful To Contemplate

“As horrific as this president is, he is a symptom of much deeper problems. Even foreign influence plays on [national] wounds that we refuse to address: income inequality, racism, corruption, a willingness to excuse bigotry,” she tweeted. “He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020. But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified and reanimated.”
(From a tweet by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- NY),
as reported in Newsweek)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mystery Solved
Sub-Department Of I’m Not Sure Why This Came To Mind, But It Did

So: in every photo I’ve seen of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II wherein she is making a public appearance, she is holding a pocketbook.  It’s always a discreet little handbag – not festooned with the Crown Jewels or anything equally ostentatious – but, still. Why does the Queen of England – the Queen of anything – carry a purse?

 

I have more pressing matters to attend to, but your query is appreciated.

 

She doesn’t pay for anything; she has no need to carry her id and credit cards in case she wants to visit an ATM, ya know? She has attendants to see to her every need, and it’s not like the dignitaries and various heads of state she meets for tea expect her to whip out her wallet and say, “I’ve got this.”

A couple of Curious About The Inscrutable Ways Of The Universe ® friends and moiself pondered this very question, several years ago. [3]   After applying due diligence, we came up with the only logical assumption: Pragmatic and experienced monarch that she is, QEII’s pocket book contains two items: a flask of Jack Daniels, and a six-pack of condoms.

 

Well, that might explain the enigmatic smiles.

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions, by May Bsisu   

Recipes:

* Musaka Betinjane (Eggplant in Pomegranate Syrup)

*Salatat el Malfoof (Shredded Cabbage Salad)

* Mudardara (Warm Lentils with Rice)

My rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

See footnotes for Recipe Rating Refresher.  [5]

 

           *   *   *

May you carry only the essentials in your royal handbag;
May you never even think of commenting on what is on an old man’s chest;
May our frightening political realities inspire you to do something other than go through your cookbooks;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Psychobilly, as per Wikipedia’s explanation, is “…is a rock music fusion genre that mixes elements of rockabilly and punk rock.”

[2] In my observant mind, at least.

[3] Yes, we were sober. And employed.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this (Kevin, a character from The Office, would eat anything.)

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Poop I’m Not Scooping

Comments Off on The Poop I’m Not Scooping

Content warning: this is going to be a crappy post.

 

It may even qualify for the coveted Golden Turd award.

 

But first…

*   *   *

Department Of How To Make Your Dentist Guffaw   [1]

Answering truthfully usually works for me.

Dentist: “So, are there any teeth that are bothering you?”

Moiself: (emphatically and enthusiastically) “Yes! The entire Kennedy family – it’s been bothering me for years! What is it with their teeth?! Those massive front incisors – it’s like one of their ancestors mated with a beaver…”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Dog Owners – What’s Up With This Shit?

Dateline: last Friday, ~ 8 am. My post on Facebook, along with the following picture.

This dog waste receptacle, provided as a convenience, is filled to the brim, and it is locked. Locked as in, Don’t add any more, there is no room, it needs to be emptied. So what have people done? They’ve continued to leave their dog’s poop bags on top of it and some of the bags fall off and burst open. Dog owners, take your bags home with you. It is *your* dog.
Unbelievable.

 

 

 

What is it with (too many) dog owners?  Yep, I shouldn’t generalize. And I’m fortunate to know kind, responsible and respectful dog owners who are equally angry at/frustrated with capricious pooch poop pitchers who seem more than willing to just drop their doggie’s droppings anywhere and let others deal with it.

A beach friend of mine is a proud and conscientious owner of two cute canine companions. She shared my post on her FB page, commenting that that  (irresponsible canine feces discarding) is one of her pet peeves.   [2]  The post also caught the attention of the Manzanita Visitors Center, which shared it on their FB page…and took it down 20 or so minutes later, after some man made an emotional (and inaccurate) comment about how my original post was typical of “dog haters.”

I didn’t see Emotional Inaccurate Man’s remarks – MH brought it to my attention, and before I could check it out, the Manzanita Visitors Center had removed the post.  Guess they didn’t want to start a comment war?   [3]  Moiself likely would have responded, with something like this:

Dear Emotional Inaccurate Man,

When you come across statements that get your knickers in a knot, you should re-read such statements several times before responding to them.

I am not a “dog hater,” and there is no evidence of such in my post. I do not mention dogs as being accountable in this matter – dogs are not the responsible agents.  When animals gotta go, they gotta go. I do specifically criticize those dog OWNERS who do not properly dispose of their dog’s droppings. So, because I call out the actions of dog owners who are disrespectful of public spaces by fouling said places with their pets’ waste, you make the leap to, I am a dog “hater”?

Re your comments to my post, not only did you resort to using an ad hominem fallacy, you failed basic reading comprehension.

One more thing, Emotional Inaccurate Man. About those “Pet” waste bag receptacles (read: dog waste receptacles – they have a picture of a dog on them, and it’s not like people walk their llamas or cats or ferrets on the beach): they are not a “right,” they are a convenience supplied by the city (or state park or other municipalities). Translation: the bags, disposal containers, and workers who empty and maintain the containers are provided by us, your fellow taxpaying households, only 38% of which own dogs and more than 43%  of which   [4] own no pets at all.  So, how’s about a humble thank you?

If you’re incapable of that acknowledgement, just be responsible for your own shit: take it home with you and put it in your own trash can if you can’t dispose of it properly when you and Fido are outside your home, ok?

 

*   *   *

Department of I’m Not Quite Done with Dung….

Stories, that is.

One of my favorite family stories involves my father’s lifelong war on dog shit – a noxious substance which he (with one notable exception) more genteelly referred to as, “dog dirt.”  Specifically and oh-so-understandably, Chet Parnell could not abide dog dirt that was not from one of our dogs but that somehow ended up on our property. He could not understand how neighbors could let their dogs poop on someone else’s property with impunity.

One day many years ago, when I was visiting my parents at their SoCal home, I asked about the latest neighborhood news. I received the following story, separately, from both Chet (my father) and Marion (my mother).  Their accounts (save for certain exclamations and sound effects) were almost identical.

A bit o’ background: for several months prior to the ensuing narrative, someone had been walking their dog in my parent’s neighborhood and letting it defecate on their property. My father was determined to catch the culprit, but who was it? He’d seen many dog walkers in the ‘hood – some he recognized as living nearby; there were others who probably lived several blocks away but included my parents’ street in their daily walks. Some kept their dogs on a leash, others let their dogs walk off-leash, and my father noticed how the off-leash dogs would walk all over people’s property while their owners just stood by. Chet was a friendly guy; if he was outside he’d greet the dog owner and, depending on the situation, either praise the owner for their handsome, well-mannered dog, or kindly request that they keep their dog on leash and not let it roam on his lawn and under the shrubbery, etc.

But he’d not been able to espy the Phantom Pooper.  My parents’ guess was that it was someone who walked their dog either early in the morning or in the later evening. It seemed to be one specific dog leaving the mess, as the “evidence” was always the same color/size/consistency (my parents expressed regrets for the fact that they had become experts in dog poop identification).  Whatever dog it was, it was obviously a large creature, from whose cavernous rectum would drop massive “links” the size and shape (but, unfortunately, not the consistency) of a bunch of brown bananas.  Chet and Marion had found piles of that distinctive dog-do on their front yard, their side yard, their sidewalk, their driveway, under the trees by the kitchen sink window….  Most egregious of all, one morning when Chet went out to water the new flowers he’d planted in the kitchen sink windowsill flower box, he reached under a hydrangea bush for the hose spigot  and plunged his hand into the pile of freshly “applied” dog poop which covered the garden hose.

 

That illustrates why one must always insist the servants do the gardening.

 

Now Chet was really on the warpath.  He increased his vigilance, and he finally spotted her.  Chet was up early one morning, washing the dishes which were left over from the previous night’s dinner. When he looked out the kitchen sink window (which faced their side yard) he saw a woman walking an enormous dog.

It was a warm SoCal morning; the woman was dressed in pocketless shorts and a tee shirt and carried no purse or any other object in which there might be implements to scoop and contain her dog’s poop. Her dog was on leash, and it sniffed around the sidewalk past my parents’ driveway, then around their birch trees, then led its owner to the grass by the curb, then back to my parent’s lawn, where it paused and assumed the CPE (Canine Poop Ejection) position.

“Hey! Chet pounded on the kitchen window. “Stop that!” he yelled to the woman.

The woman looked around, as if she didn’t know where the voice was coming from.

Chet opened the kitchen window and yelled again.  “Get your dog off our property! Right now!”

The woman just stood there and let her dog continue to do…what it was starting to do.

The commotion attracted the attention of my mother who, still in her nightgown, scurried into the kitchen just as my father ran out the back door which led to the driveway. Looking out the kitchen window, Marion saw her husband stride toward the woman who, frantically pulling on the leash, attempted to drag her dog – still in squat mode and beginning to expel one loop of what was sure to be a massive poop strand – away from our house.

“Lady, you get back here and CLEAN UP YOUR DOG’S SHIT!” Chet snarled.

The woman’s eyes widened at the approach of My Father The Crazed Poop Vigilante . She began to run, dragging her dog with her. The dog continued to drop hunks of poop, leaving a trail from my parent’s lawn to the sidewalk to the street to the house across the street…until the woman and her dog turned the street corner and were out of sight.

Marion was mortified.  [5] She called out through the kitchen window, imploring Chet to come back inside and not chase the woman. “Oh, what will she think of us?” she gasped.

Moiself was bemused by that part of the story, and wondered aloud to my mother why she (or Chet…or anyone) should care about the opinion of a person who flagrantly and repeatedly let their dog crap on someone else’s yard?

As for Chet, he (of course!) got a kick out of telling me that story. He said he wanted that disrespectful person to think that he was a madman, and was proud of the fact that she was apparently so rattled by his confrontation that she altered her dog walking route. My parents never saw her (nor had to clean up her dog’s poop from their yard) again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just One More Story And I’m Done With This Shit

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (make that Northern California, 1988). I lived in a rental cottage on one of the residential streets of downtown Palo Alto, just a block away from a street bordering the winding San Francisquito Creek . Another block away from my abode was a high rise condominium building which, at that time, housed wealthy/elderly retirees.

During my morning walks around the streets by the creek I would often see a certain woman either exiting or entering that condo building. She was waif-like thin, ala Joan Didion…

 

 

…and when I saw Wafer Thin Elderly Woman she would always be walking her equally thin, equally elderly dog, which appeared to be some kind of Chihuahua mix. Every time I saw WTEW she was dressed as if headed for a tea party, wearing nylon stockings and closed-toe heeled pumps, the color of which matched her slender, fitted, pocket-less woolen (winter) or linen (warmer weather) pastel skirt and suit jacket, and carrying a (color-coordinated) petite clutch purse.

One morning I was returning home from my walk when WTEW was beginning hers. Her dog stopped on someone’s lawn, its quavering legs barely holding itself up as it paused to squat.  WTEW carried nothing save for her ubiquitous, teensy, snap-open clutch purse.

 

Similar to this, sans the rhinestone affectation.

 

As I approached I saw no evidence that she carried doggie waste procurement and disposal equipment of any kind.  Oh dear, I fretted to moiself, Am I going to have to shit-shame an old lady?  [6]

WTEW patiently waited for her dog to complete its business. She then opened the snap top of her tiny purse, from which she removed a thin tissue. She leaned down, delicately plucked her dog’s poop balls from the lawn, dropped the tissue and its contents into her purse, snapped the purse shut, and she and her dog continued on their way.

*   *   *

Department Of, To Use One Of My Father’s Favorite Expressions….

“Well, that’s enough about that.”

*   *   *

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe(s):

The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent,  by Jessica B. Harris

Recipes:

* Irio (Stewed vegetables – Kenya)

* Mashed Eggplant a la einab (Sudan)

It – both recipes – well, I found them to be just…blah.

My rating:

 

 

 

(See Footnotes for further ratings info  [8]  )

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

*   *   *

May you appreciate a good dog poop story;
May you never be the subject of someone else’s bad dog poop story;
May you not let successive poop stories ruin your own Epicurean Excursions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Nine out of ten doctors agree: nine out of ten dentists prefer guffawing to laughing, chortling, cackling, tee-heeing or roaring with glee.

[2] Pun oh-so-appreciated, intentional or otherwise, CK!

[3] Or have outsiders think that, gasp, their lovely beach village has a poop problem? Ah, the things that pass for controversy in a small town.

[4] As per the American Veterinary Medical Association, which keeps statistics on such things.

[5] It’s hard for moiself to come up with stories involving my mother’s husband and/or middle daughter that would not include the phrase, Marion Parnell was mortified…”

[6] Good Citizen that I was, I was determined not to let it pass without comment, if she with impunity let what her dog passed remain on someone else’s lawn.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[8] Recipe Rating Refresher
* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (from The Office) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

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