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The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

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…except that I almost sorta kinda am. It’s later in this post.

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

…is what I could be saying, if I only I had written that one certain…thing.

But, I didn’t.

I wrote other stuff, and am currently on a fiction writing hiatus, after having published sixty-one short stories, one theatrical play, three books, various essays and anthology works and poems and children’s verse  [1] (and one Country/Western-type song, which mercifully remains unrecorded  [2]  ).

And then, there’s that thing I didn’t write. Listening to the local ham operated radio station that has recently caught my attention, I heard a Dead Teen Song ® parody with which I was hitherto unfamiliar.

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

Y’all are familiar with the genre Dead Teen Songs ®, even if you might not instantaneously recognize the label. Also known as teenage tragedy songs, death discs, splatter platters and the like, these ditties had their radio play heyday in the late 50s and early 60s. DTS are defined by shared literary clichés, including doomed/star-crossed and eternally devoted teenaged lovers kept apart by disapproving parents or peers, and tragic accidents  (usually involving motorcycles and cars) befalling those same reckless teens….  Think Teen Angel, Leader of the Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her.

Some of the best songs to come from the DTS craze were those that satirized the genre. Including, the send-up to which I refer.

I would feel artistically and culturally fulfilled, I could leave this world with my head held high, had I only composed this tender ballad, the mind-numbing heart-wrenching lyrics of which include:

My Johnny, oh how I love him
but he is caught in a teen age trap
he couldn’t turn down any drag race through town
and now all I have left is his hubcap

Chorus:
Please Johnny please, stay in my tender embrace
Please Johnny please, I don’t want you to drag race

My Johnny, oh I can see him
coming ’round the last lap
handsome and brave, if only he didn’t wave
I’d have more of him left than his hubcap

My Johnny, oh how I’ll miss him
and although he and my dreams lay in scrap
I’ll do what he’d expect and wear it around my neck
My Johnny’s, my Johnny’s hubcap

(All I Have Left Is) My Johnny’s Hubcap, performed by The Dellwoods

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

Department Of Why It’s A Good Thing I’m Not The Surgeon General
Nor Capable In Any Way Of Influencing National Health Care Decisions

Content warning: TMI

Las

t Thursday, after my routine annual physical exam, because I am Of A Certain Age ® my doctor suggested a screening colonoscopy. I bargained her down to letting me start with something less invasive, and thus I was sent home with the equipment to gather a sample for a Fecal Immunochemical Test[3] The next day, while out for my morning walk, I strode past a chunk of a dog’s bm, which an irresponsible dog owner had neglected to scoop.  My first thought   [4]  was, What if I pick that up, take it home and send it in – would the test be able to distinguish between canine and human fecal matter?

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

I met Jim Olwell during my sophomore year at UC Davis. Jim was a freshman; we lived on the same dorm floor (the legendary 3rd floor Bixby), and he became my adored and admired friend even before I saw him in the Herbivorous Man costume he concocted for a Halloween party. We kept in touch through the years; his emails and letters  [5]  were always a combination of heartfelt and hilarious, even – and especially – during the last ten years, when he was beset with multiple cancers.  His “ride to beat Multiple Myleoma” ended early last Saturday morning, April 15.

Anyone who knew and loved Jim (and if you knew him, you loved him) realized that this was coming; still, the news of his death was a boot to the gut.  Dearly loved husband to his wife and devoted father to his three young adult sons; loyal friend and brother; much-admired community charity activist; motivating math teacher to thousands of high school students…he’d lived and done so much. He was only 58.  Some people leave a big hole to fill when they’re gone.  Or big shoes to fill. Jim would have preferred the latter metaphor, especially coming from moiself, as I used to tease him about his really big feet.

Another UCD alum, Robin E., wrote a tribute to him Jim on FB that is so eloquent and touching I have forgiven her (yet again) for spelling her name wrong. I found this excerpt of RE’s tribute particularly affecting, in that years ago I had also used the George Bailey character as a comparison when describing Jim to my children:

Have you met anyone in your life that you would genuinely, authentically, say was kind of like the George Bailey character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Someone who made a difference in SO many people’s lives, cherished by everyone, loved deeply by his wife and children, who would do anything for him, humble, hard working, always sacrificing and doing for others, always a smile on his face, even through the worst of it? I haven’t either. Except for Jim.

People have offered sincere and kind words to me, for my loss of Jim as a friend, and also for what yet another loss represents. Even as I cherish these sentiments I realize that my loss is so little in comparison to Jim’s wife and sons and brothers….  I know it’s not a contest; nevertheless; Jim’s loss is anything but representational to his family.

I want to share more stories of him in this space, and I hope that I will have the energy to do so in the coming weeks, but right now, thinking about it makes me feel tired in ways I can’t quite express. Which is too bad, because Jim so loved to hear anyone’s and everyone’s stories. He was the best audience, ever.

 

*   *   *

May you find pleasure in novelty songs and their parodies;
May you never for one moment think of switching medical samples;
May you cherish the stories and memories of friends and family;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

[2] “If you Can’t Live Without me Then Why Aren’t you Dead?”

[3] Which consists of collecting a sample of just what it sounds like.

[4] Immediately followed by my second thought, Why do I think such things?

[5] Jim was a great letter writer, and, unlike so many others, did not eschew that form of communication once he discovered email.

The Culture I’m Not Promoting

Comments Off on The Culture I’m Not Promoting

Today’s theme – broadly interpreted (by this broad) – is Arts and Literature

That's funny! No, that's pathetic!

She’s funny! No, she’s pathetic!

*   *   *

Department of Things I Am Not Afraid to Confess

“Carefully orchestrated pandiculations follow a routine: Lips part, the tongue hunkers down, and muscles in the face, mouth and diaphragm engage as the head tilts back.”
(Laura Sanders, Science News, May 7, 2011)

I am a pandiculator; that is, I am one who pandiculates. And it has nothing to do with fantasizing after watching a certain Daniel Day-Lewis movie. [1]

You want to pandiculate. Admit it. And you already (probably) do, and don’t realize it.

Your cat pandiculates (just as you’ve always suspected), and so does your dog and your hamster.  Your snake?  Well, that might be stretching it (rim shot!).

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

Why do quadrupeds have all the fun?

*   *   *

Blast From the Past: The Domes Live On

“The trill of panpipes from a yurt wafted across the mulch hillocks of the Domes, a 1970s experiment in communal housing in which students live in igloo-like fiberglass domes….”

Thus begins Wednesday’s New York Times article about The Domes at UC Davis. I was surprised and pleased to see the article; I had no idea the domes still existed.

I was not a Dom-ie during my UC Davis years. My on-campus housing situation consisted of spending four quarters on the legendary 3rd Floor of Bixby, [2] one of the campus’ high rise dorms.  I had an acquaintance who lived in the Domes, and visited her there, once.  Although I admired the concept of the Domes I loathed the name students gave the complex (“Baggins End”). [3]

Still, they were – they are – kinda cute.

UCDDomes

*   *   *

Department of Theatrical Plays You Must See

We licked postage stamps…
we didn’t have answering machines, you had to call people back!

No one was more surprised than moiself to find moiself tearing up at a Christopher Durang comedy. Specifically, during Act 2 of Portland Center Stage’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Vanya’s poignant, digressive tirade – prefaced by the apology/declaration Boomers feel is necessary when expressing a longing for something from our past – contained two comments/observations that made me catch my breath in recognition and sadness.  I found myself mourning the validity of Vanya’s comments, then, an hour or so later I wondered,  does even recognizing the validity of those comments mean that I’ve gotten old?

I’m NOT a conservative!… But there are things I miss about the past.
We have no shared memories anymore!

Regarding the latter, I realize that you can’t miss what you’ve never had.  Nevertheless, I’ve tried to explain to my (now young adult) children the collective consciousness of popular culture that arose from the post WWII era, that began to fade with the advent of cable TV, and that no longer seems possible in these days of 24 hour broadcasts of 758 channels (not to mention the plethora of internet media outlets). Sure, many of the shows were lousy or just plain dull.  But we all watched them, and thus had the same references.  We all watched the same lousy shows.

...and we could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

We could all sing along to the lousy theme songs!

 

During the play I was seated next to two lovely [4] gentlemen, and struck up a conversation with them after the final curtain.  One of them has extensive experience in the performing arts and writes reviews of regional theatrical productions.  If you like live theatre, [5] check out his blog, DennisSparksReviews.

*   *   *

Department of, But, Really

Content warning: seriously petty snark ahead.

A known photo-phobic such as moiself has no right to criticize the unattractiveness of another person’s publicity shot.  That said, guess what I’m about to do?

It’s like this. I assume that when a musical group is taking or posing for a promo shot, they want to look “good,” whatever that entails for …well, for their individual egos, for the image the band is trying to project, for the fan base to which they are trying to appeal, their musical genre, etc. The elements that make for an “attractive” picture for The Dead Kennedys [6]

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

I feel pretty, oh so pretty….

 

…likely are significantly different than those of the promo shots commissioned by The Portland Cello Project.

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Do these ginormous violins make our butts look big?

Different strokes – yep. I get that.

Still… I could search the universe of inhabitable planets, other worlds, other species, both virtual and speculative, and it is hard to imagine that I would find a sentient being with a more homely, less attractive hairstyle and overall “look” than that borne by the sole female member of The Decemberists, [7] who is featured front and center in the band’s just shoot me now I can’t believe someone approved this shot photo on the cover of The Oregonian’s arts & entertainment section last Friday.

Decemberists

 

The male members of the band fare a smidge better, if you go for the Awkward and Slightly Bored Bohemian Accounts Payable Clerk ®  mode. As for the lady boho, nothing says Hipper-than-Thou-Indie-folk-rock-Darlings like musicians who project all the free spirit vibe of a runner-up to the Miss 1919 Frumpy Librarian contest crossed with your dowdy Aunt Erva’s it’s-five-o’clock-where’s-my-Jim-Beam-tumbler sneer.

I’m trying to think of an excuse.  Was there no one there to look through the photographer’s lens and say, whoa, Betty!?  Friends don’t let friends photograph drunk.

*   *   *

Department of But What Matters in the End Has Nothing To Do With Your Hair
Aka, Books You Must Read

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

 After reading this amazing, absorbing, provocative, compassionate, thought-provoking book, a certain thought kept coming to my mind:

When it comes to end of life medical care, safety – rather, the concern over/illusion of safety – is the enemy of happiness and purpose.

Anyone who has older friends and family members – or friends and family of any age who are facing mortal illness – should read this book. You who will, one day sooner or later, be older and in more frail health than you are today – you should read this book.

I think that covers it.

Well, what are you waiting for?!

What are you waiting for?!

*   *   *

☼   K Explains It All   ☼

“Do you know what this is?” I asked my son.

K had entered my office, attracted and bemused by the danger!-explosion!-chase!pow!-kablooey! coming from my computer screen. I’d clicked on a video posted on a friend’s FB page – a trailer for an upcoming movie I’d never heard of, based on a book I’d never read.

“It’s like the Hunger Games, only shitty,” K sneered. “Another YA book about another dystopian future, where everyone is evil or in peril until they are saved by the one special snowflake character.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

BOOM

*   *   *

May your special snowflake be there when it matters (packing serious heat, of course, and a fetching hipster hairdo), and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I will find you!

[2] Third floor Bixby had groupies – students living on other floors of Bixby, or even from other dorms, who came to our floor to hang out because we were way too much fun.

[3] There seemed to be no escaping Tolkien references in the late ’70s, which was torture for those of us who found the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books and their cultish fans to be an interminable, that’s-so-junior-high snooze fest.

[4] I adore being able to accurately describe someone in that way. I’m using my Masterpiece Theatre typing accent, in case you didn’t notice.

[5] And if you don’t, you should. No pandiculating required.

[6] Whatever happened to Jello Biafra, one of the great band member names of all time?

[7] Some of their songs I live very much, as much as I loathe the Portland Special Darling status they have acquired with some local critics (a status certain members of the band seem to take seriously) .