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The Fish I’m Not Licensing

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Dateline: Tuesday afternoon, driving to lunch/errands. I change the radio (I cannot abide a certain Taylor Swift song unless it is the goat version) and land smack dab in the middle of an advertisement for Northwest Surrogacy Center.  A suspiciously animated-yet-serious female is talking about how fulfilling it was for her to serve as a surrogate for a gay couple.  Her story ends with a brief/odd comment on how handing over the baby was “…the easiest part.”  An official (male, ahem) announcer takes over, and talks about how the center is looking for women between the ages of 21 – 40 who have already had one “easy” pregnancy, and how surrogates can make “up to $27, 000.”

“HA!” I hear myself say, [1] as I pound the steering wheel.  “Like that’s a reasonable reimbursement.”  I must pull over to the side of the road and do the math.

Gestation is no 9-5 show.  It’s not even back-to-back swing shifts. When you are pregnant you are pregnant 24 hours a day (and during the last month it can seem like 48 hours a day).  Forty weeks of pregnancy = 5,720 hours; thus, being paid $27k for the gig works out to less than $5/hour, less than minimum wage.  Even less than that, when you factor in what the post-preggo Pilates [2] are going to cost. The never ending story, of how anything considered “woman’s work” is undervalued.

 My short story “Maddie is Dead” has been reprinted in a new book: Joy, Interrupted – An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.   The anthology is released…uh…just in time for Mother’s Day?  Rather peculiar timing, considering the subject matter.  From the book’s press release:

 Joy can be interrupted – but not lost. Most people think of motherhood as a joyous experience, but for some it can be an experience of interrupted joy. This anthology delves into the subject of motherhood and loss from different perspectives of authors and artists from all over the world. This anthology includes Short Stories, Poetry, Art Work, Essays, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and more. Contributors explore such topics as Adoption, Death, Infertility, Disabilities, Illness, and Estrangement. Various themes addressed include Coming of Age, Identity, Recovery, Connections, and Forgiveness.

 But wait, there’s more:

The internationally acclaimed contributors are: (snip snip of a whole lotta names that are not mine), Robyn Parnell, (more snip snip)…

Internationally acclaimed?  This is news to moiself.  But if it’s in writing, it must be true, right?

Still, I await the multilingual kudos.  Having heard none, I’ll furnish my own:

Συγχαρητήρια [3] Ole!   Felicitations! Chúc mừng! Pongezi! Gratulerer! Cestitke! Kung hei lei! Donadaliheligv! Comhgháirdeachas!

May 13 – 19 is Children’s Book Week.

Get ready to Get Mighty! 

The Mighty Quinn, that is.

The Mighty Quinn is available now at Amazon , Barnes & Noble  and other online booksellers, in both paper and eBook formats.  Starting May 14 it will be available at your regular brick and mortar bookstores.

Of possible interest to you locals (local as in Portland metro area): As part of the celebration for National Children’s Book Week I’ll be doing a reading-book signing event with another local author at Powell’s Books Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton) on Tuesday, May 14, beginning at 7 pm.  Another Local Author is Heather Vogel Frederick, who’ll be reading from her newly released book, Once Upon a Toad. [4]

After the reading and signing my family and I will be de-stressing celebrating at Peachwave Frozen Yogurt afterwards (Cedar Hills Crossing Mall, enter by the Starbucks) – stop and say howdy if you can!

“Caveman Matt” Chapter 5, The Mighty Quinn

*   *   *

From their halcyon days as America’s sweethearts to their current status as superstars who pioneered a genre, The Go-Go’s preside over an amazing three-decade reign as high pop priestesses….
(from The Go-Gos website, re their upcoming concert tour)

That is what I want to write, and get paid for doing so:  hyperbolized press releases.

I’m trying to imagine phrases like “halcyon days” and “amazing three-decade reign” – not to mention “high pop priestess” – being used in conjunction with my name.  Not to get all philosophical or nothin.’

I couldn’t find a High Pop Priestess Picture. But the green telephone is worthy of royalty, don’t ya think?

 You may remember [5] the Halibut That Ate My Daughter’s Brain (April 19 post).  I have been experimenting with halibut chowder/soup/stew variations every Sunday since, with the apparent approval or at least toleration of our regular Sunday dinner guest, the lovely and talented (and patient) LAH.  I have been tormenting son K, a lover of all things seafood chowder-y, with information re my culinary concoctions.  Next week is finals week for K, and he’ll be home from college for the subsequent Sunday dinner, the 19th.  There is enough halibut and fish stock left in the freezer to make him his very own tastefully-sized tureen trough-full of whatever version I shall deem as the best-est. [6]

*   *   *

Remember to get your pet halibut his fish license, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Actually, I hear myself say a stronger version of HA: the version that rhymes with, HORSESHIT!

[2] Or whatever exercise regimen you’ll undertake in a futile attempt to undo the damage done to your body in order to give someone else “the gift of life.”

[3] Acclamations are in Greek, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Swahili, Norwegian, Croatian, Cantonese, Cherokee, Irish Gaelic.

[4] I have read this book and recommend it, especially for fans of Fractured Fairy Tales.

[5] Or, like my family, you may be trying to forget.

[6] Not many footnotes in this post, eh?

The Baby Sloth I’m Not Wrangling

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Some pre-release book publicity for a good cause? Forgive the self-serving if ostensibly noble combination.

Oak Grove Elementary School in Milwaukie, Oregon is having an Earth Day/work-party day this Saturday, April 20th.  Tree planting, courtyard sprucing and other activities will begin at 10 am, followed at 12 noon by a pizza party, and a reading (for kids young and old) by yours truly, from The Mighty Quinn.  Check http://www.solv.org/get-involved/events/oak-grove-elementary-earth-day-beautification-project for directions and more details.

No matter what your plans, on this upcoming Earth Day weekend there are plenty of other ways to Love Your Mother (Earth, that is).

*   *   *

“There’s pretty much sloths everywhere you look around here.”

Does that quote sound familiar?  If you think heard something like it, perhaps from the HR person during your interview tour of your company’s cubicle land, then it’s time to look for a new job.  Here’s the title of my dream job:  Baby Sloth Wrangler, at the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary.

School spirit: Try to contain your enthusiasm.

I’ve occasionally received text messages from my offspring when they were stuck at a mandatory snorefest high school assembly.  Typically, they were bored out of their gourds by the blah blah blah from their school’s administrators and/or lame “artistic” presentations from fellow students.  I, on the other hand,[1] remember my high school’s assemblies with fondness.  The assemblies were rare and welcome breaks from routine, and were also, for the most part, entertaining, with little to no speechifying by adults/administration.

From what son K has told and now daughter Belle is telling me, their high school finds numerous reasons to have assemblies, often merely to disseminate school/logistical information that could have easily been relayed via the teacher, in the classroom…information that is forgotten five minutes after the assembly has ended.

There are those kind of assemblies.  And then, there are other assemblies.

Yesterday around noon I received the following text from Belle, during her school’s assembly, at which the choir and band were to perform.

OMG…this assembly is cursed.  The color guard did a performance, and one girl got hit with her gun in the face and bled everywhere.  Then ___ (Belle’s friend from the track team) passed out in the stands and had to be carried out.

Don’t think they’ll be forgetting this one so soon.

*   *   *

The Boston Marathon bombs.  At the time I’m writing this, those responsible have not been apprehended, nor identified.  Much has already been said about the tragedy.  One thing hasn’t:  that such horrific incidents only go to show, in this Bright’s opinion, how the most basic tenet of a certain theology gets it all dead wrong.

I’m referring to Original Sin and other such mental ass cheek flapping religious doctrines that teach of an innate, even inherited, fallen humanity.

There are seven bajillion of us on this planet.  If human beings were truly and inherently evil at the core of their being, we would have blown ourselves up – we would have torn each other to pieces – a long, long time ago.

Look for the good, the kind, the rational, the helpful.  You don’t have to look far. Yes, there are some incredibly sadistic asshats[2] fighting for slop space in this world.  And there are the others. They don’t usually make the headlines, because there are so many of them.

I saw footage and photos of people in Boston, from professional first responders and civilian bystanders, running to help their fellow human beings.  People were running toward the sites of the still-smoldering explosions, even as they had no way of knowing whether there were more blasts to come.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

(Fred Rogers)

*   *   *

One of my favorite dialog sequences from one of my favorite movies, The American President.

Janie (Presidential Aide) : The 10:15 event has been moved inside to the Indian Treaty Room.  

President Andrew Shepherd: 10:15 is American Fisheries?  

Janie: Yes, sir. They’re giving you a 200-pound halibut.  

The President: Janie, make a note. We need to schedule more events where somebody gives me a really big fish.  

Janie: Yes sir. [starts making note]  

The President: Janie, I’m kidding.  

Janie: [Stops and starts to smile] Of course, sir.

After a trip to our favorite market, the awesome New Seasons, I realized I needed to do more grocery shopping where somebody gives my daughter a really big fish. [3]

*   *   *

Dateline:  long ago in a galaxy far, far away. [4] It was a beautiful, Bay Area day, clear blue skies, mid-70s with no breeze.  A co-worker had called to trade shifts at Planned Parenthood, so my morning was free. I had work to do, but even a freethinker like moiself who scoffs at the s-word knew it would be a sin to work indoors.  It was the perfect day for one of my favorite drives: taking La Honda Road (highway 84) to the coast.

Sitting in my favorite spot under a sandstone cliff facing the ocean, I had the beach (San Gregorio) to myself.  Midway through editing the final draft of a story, I looked toward the water and saw a man and his golden retriever walking in the shallow surf.  Man and dog turned inland, headed in my direction, and attempted to make conversation. [5]

“Great day, thought we had the beach to ourselves….”  Man’s banter was neither interesting nor original, but also not (intentionally nor particularly) annoying.  He was friendly…and also sliding into flirtatious.  I was polite but not encouraging.  I made a point of petting his dog and shooing his dog away from my manuscript and shaking the sand off of said manuscript with my left hand, making sure that my wedding band was on display.

He soon got around to, “Whatcha working on?,” a question I’ve since learned how  to deflect [6] .  I thought if I answered him truthfully – if he realized that, indeed, I was not on holiday but was working – he’d half-heartedly apologize for the intrusion and be on his way.  Instead, I had found myself in what is a fairly a common experience for writers:  receiving unsolicited advice from a non-writer as to how, or what, a writer should write.

He incorrectly assumed that I was a novice, unpublished writer.  Wishing not to prolong our interaction, I did not disabuse him of that assumption.  “I hear fiction, for adults, is really, like, difficult to break into,” he offered, with a wide-eyed look that was obviously intended to be helpful.  “Have you ever thought of working your way up, by, uh, like, writing stuff for children, first?”

He seemed taken aback at my hearty guffaw, and his expression quickly morphed from helpful to confused as he found an excuse to return to his dog walking duties.

“If you write comedy, you’re sitting at the children’s table.”
(Woody Allen)

A common misconception among non-writers is that writing “for children” is somehow easier, and less prestigious, than writing “for adults.”  Authors who’ve been published across the various (and somewhat arbitrary) age groupings scoff at the former notion even as they grapple with the latter – that a “children’s author” is a second class citizen in the world of literature.

This snobbery sometimes comes from a select list of fellow writers, those who take themselves and their I Am an Author of Important Lit-ra-chure credentials oh-so-seriously.  These writers are invested in this alleged hierarchy of prestige, and wish to maintain what they see as the ghetto of being on the children’s list.  And yet, the children’s list is a relatively recent phenomenon.  It was only twelve years ago that the New York Times Book Review made the controversial decision to start a children’s bestseller list, separate from that of adult fiction.  This was due in part to the rumored complaints by some self-styled Big Boy writers who got their Serious Literary Underpants ® in a knot when they found themselves increasingly sharing (read: ceding) top rankings with Harry Potter  [7].

But, apparently, sharing list-space with Fifty Shades of Meh or the latest “adult” schlock literary sensation is reputable…enough.

When I was invited by local schools to do readings of my first children’s book, My Closet Threw a Party, the teachers usually introduced me (to their students, and/or to other school staff) as a writer, or sometimes as a “children’s writer.”  When it was the latter, I gently corrected the distinction…and then had to explain why I wasn’t objecting to it, but simply felt that it was inaccurate.

Although I write for all ages, the vast majority of my published works have been for an adult audience.  I’m just a writer.  I didn’t feel then, nor do I feel now, that being referred to as a “Children’s Author” is in any way depreciatory.  Quite the opposite.  If anything, I feel I am not deserving of the moniker.  I can’t think of a better kind of writer to be.  Think about it:  who – truly, deeply and loyally – loves a book more than a child?

*   *   *

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
(Groucho Marx)

Get your favorite book, for children of all ages (I’m partial to Green Eggs and Ham), turn on the light inside your dog, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] On the other hand…you have different fingers.

[2] Including the talking heads who insinuate the identities of the perpetrators when they have no reliable evidence.

[3] Our freezer is full of halibut filets, halibut scraps for fish cakes, halibut stock for halibut chowder….

[4] The Bay Area “peninsula,” 20+ years ago.  Is that long ago/far far away enough?

[5] The man talked.  The dog slobbered.

[6] People often have strange reactions when encountering a writer, writing. Sometimes I just say I’m an editor.

[7] By 2001 the top three places on the hardcover fiction list were held by JK Rowling titles, and a fourth Harry Potter book was on its way.

The Butt Cheeks I’m Not Cooking

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Lizards may not have lips, but fish have cheeks.  The former are imaginary; the latter, delicious.

I’d ordered fish cheeks at restaurants but had never found them available for purchase.  An Oregon coast fishmonger told me that the much-prized fish cheeks were sold mainly to restaurants and were rarely available in retail markets.  The first time I saw halibut cheeks on sale was over ten years ago, at the newly opened branch of a locally-owned organic market (a shout-out to our beloved New Seasons!).  I checked out fresh meats section of the store, passing by other patrons who stood in front of the beef, poultry, lamb and pork cases while the butchers took their orders. When I reached the seafood display case I nearly mashed my nose against the glass with excitement, and the fishmonger smiled in appreciation.

“Look what you have!”  I blustered.  “You have halibut cheeks!”

Butt cheeks?”  The woman to my right gasped and dropped a freshly wrapped package of New Season’s house-made chorizo in her shopping cart.  “They sell BUTT CHEEKS?”

I exchanged bemused glances with the fishmonger, who, I could see, was about to enlighten the aghast shopper.  Greedy moi launched a preemptive strike[1].  “Yes, they do.” I grinned at gasping sausage woman, and cheekily (sorry) patted my own behind.  “They are considered a delicacy in some Eastern European countries.”

I was able to buy ’em all: two pounds of halibut cheeks.

Sweet and tender, with a flavor and flaky texture that is often compared to with lobster,[2] halibut cheeks are so tasty on their own that IMHO, the KISS[3] doctrine applies to their preparation.  Here’s how we celebrated Little New Year’s Eve[4] at the Black Cat Café,[5] with dear friend and discerning dinner guest, LAH.

Yummers Halibut Cheeks (serves 4)
-1 pound Halibut cheeks (about 8 – 12 pieces)
-EVOO
-Sea salt
-2 ½ T unsalted butter, divided
-2T freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
-lemon wedges

Film two large cast iron pans with EVOO and heat the pans over medium-high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  Sprinkle both sides of the cheeks with salt; place cheeks in the pans (don’t overcrowd – give ’em plenty of gasping room). Sauté the cheeks for 2 minutes.  Flip them over, cook second side for 2 minutes.  Add the butter and lemon juice (dividing them among the two pans). After 30 seconds flip the fish again, so that both sides are coated with butter.  Cook for another 30 -60 seconds (do not overcook; depending on thickness, total cooking time for the cheeks should be a mere 5-6 minutes).  Plate and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze on top.

 

Don’t ask don’t tell

During this lovely dinner, I sniffed a cat turd. There’s no graceful segue; it happened.[6]

I heard something scuttling on the floor by my chair,  and with all the holiday goodies we’ve been given (including a package of chocolate goober things called “Moose droppings”) I assumed the cats had once again gotten up on the counters and knocked down some treats down….  And I screamed at K when he said, “Yeah, I was going to say to you when you picked that up, ‘I think it’s a cat dingleberry.'”

Don’t ask.  Oh, but you didn’t, did you?  I told, without being asked. And if you’re a Facebook friend of my daughter’s, you already know.

*   *   *

♫ So this is Christmas/And what have you done
Another year over/A new one just begun ♫ 

As much as I have always loved the Tweenolidays[7] I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  I have been to and hosted my share of entertaining New Year’s celebrations; still, more often than not, it’s a couple of days to tolerate, not anticipate. This is methinks, a combination of three factors:

1)  The Ghost of The Younger Years ® rattling its memory-chain of the Are We Having Fun Yet?! pressure:  It seemed to me that I did not have the kind of festive/bacchanal/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new adventures immortalized (and exaggerated, yeah, I know) in cinema and literature, and thought that I was supposed to do that, even if I didn’t want to, and that every other person on the planet was Having A Great Time save for moi;

2)  The gut-check of the Mature years:  I’ve passed a certain AARP- significant age, and that effin’ John Lennon song gets played over and over this time of year, the lyrics of which seem to taunt me with the reality of the insignificance of my accomplishments during the past 365 days  (“…and what have you done?…another year over….”)

3) There is no factor #3.

*   *   *

A new year.  Here we are, two thousand and thirteen. Fiscal cliff, schmiscal cliff.  We stared into the void.  Dutiful American © that I am, I am supposed to ponder…something. I believe it is my patriotic duty to declare, “No matter what else happens, at least my taxes might not go up.”

Not to be flippant, but the issue was so complex; I tried to find a study guide to help me understand it, but apparently they don’t make Fiscal Cliff Notes.

A New Year.  Here we are, two thousand and thirteen.  That bears repeating, because just like the intestinal gas bubbles caused by your uncle’s New Year’s Blowout Chili-dawg casserole, the boogeymen of yesteryear keep surfacing.

Despite the number of professional male athletes who spoke out in support of LGBT on rights in 2012, a recent Los Angeles Times article detailed how gay athletes still feel unwelcome in pro sports.  To come out as gay (which no active NFL, NBA, major leagues or NHL players have done) is considered a “career-ending” truth-telling, largely – gee, I’m just guessing here – due to attitudes like those of Detroit Tigers right fielder Torri Hunter.

The über-masculine named Torri told the Times that he believes an out gay teammate would make him “uncomfortable.”

“For me, as a Christian…I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it’s not right,” Hunter said. “It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

All his learning.  Okey dokey.  Has Hunter done any learning about how someone with his skin color[8] playing baseball alongside white teammates once made the majority of white Americans “uncomfortable,” because in all their teachings and learning, biblically, the “mixing of the races” was not right?

BTW, this isn’t the first time Hunter’s insight-free jaw flapping statements have gotten him attention.  In a 2010 interview with USA Today about the changing demographics in baseball, Hunter referred to dark-skinned Latino baseball players as “impostors.”

I look forward to Torri Hunter’s Detroit Tigers teammates addressing the question if being on a team with an ignorant religious bigot makes them uncomfortable.  In the meantime, without further ado-doo, Imposter of the Weekgoes to Torri Hunter, for his up-until-now successful imitation of a sentient human being.

The TMI Files

I subscribe to salon.com. I usually find their articles an equal mix of cogent, timely and provocative, seasoned with more than the occasional dash of WTF thinks this crap is news? But on Little New Year’s Eve, the article with the story line: “My Sexual Resolutions,” oh, really, salon?  I am so not going there (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

I hoped in vain the article would have a subtitle, something along with lines of “…which I vow to keep to myself.”  Alas, no.

*   *   *

This stupid day in history.

On January 4:

– 1649 – English Civil War: The Rump Parliament votes to put Charles I on trial.[9]
– 1885  The first (successful) appendectomy is performed by Dr. W. W. Grant, on Mary Gartside.
– 1974 – President Richard Nixon refused to hand over tape recordings and documents subpoenaed by the Senate Watergate Committee.

Notable births on January 4 included
– 1809 – Louis Braille, French developer of the touch reading system for the blind
– 1960 Michael Stipe, R.E.M. singer/songwriter

Two significant January 4 bucket-kickers
-1903 – Topsy the Elephant (died in America, born in India, ca. 1875) was electrocuted.[10] Yet another reason to hate Thomas Edison.
– 1999 – Iron Eyes Cody, Italian American actor (nee Espera Oscar de Corti) best known for portraying Native Americans (he was the “crying Indian” in the Keep America Beautiful PSAs).

*   *   *

2013.  I’m going to have to start those…how do you say #@!%& French tapes, en francais? There it sits on my desk, mocking me: Rosetta Stone Francais Level 1. I promised Belle that if she sticks with French for all four years of high school, she and I will travel to France after her graduation. It seems as though I may have to keep that promise, and my two quarters of college French seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Although I’ll have my own translator in the family, I’d like to reacquire some survival basics, other than being able to complain about the lack of TP in the WC (Il n’y a pas de papier dans la salle de bains).

*   *   *

My KenKen books are full, and this is not to be tolerated in a new year.  I’ve become quite fond of the math puzzles[11] and consider doing at least one of them, along with the NY Times Crossword puzzle, a daily, sanity-break necessity. My New Year’s present to moi was a shopping spree on Amazon, where you can (and I did) waste far too much time perusing their puzzles offerings.  I limited myself to three: Puzzle-a-day Kenken; Ferocious KenKen, and Crazy for KenKen. It was a tough call to settle for the third book, the full title of which is Crazy for KenKen: 100 Logic Puzzles That Make You Smarter.  I kept searching for its companion: Batshit Crazy for KenKen: 100 Irrational Puzzles That Blow Your Higher Reasoning Skills Right Outta Your Nostrils.

 

The New Year is here; hilarity ensues.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There weren’t many halibut cheeks in the display. I wanted them all.
[2] Not by me, but by people who like comparing things to lobster.
[3] Keep It Simple, Sweetie.
[4] The eve before New Year’s Eve.
[5] Aka our dining room.  So named for the painting, titled, “The Black Cat Café,” that hangs on one of its walls.
[6] Or, shit happened, as the saying goes.
[7] the days of between Christmas And New Year’s day, briefly mentioned in last week’s post.
[8] Jackie Robinson couldn’t help but be “out” about that.
[9] Some historians believe Charles got a bum deal.
[10] Topsy, a circus/amusement park elephant, had killed three men, including a trainer who tried to feed her a lit cigarette. Although the sadistic trainer was not considered a threat to elephants, Topsy was deemed a threat to humans by her owners and killed by electrocution after the cyanide-laced carrots she was fed failed to do the job.
[11] KenKen is way better than Sudoku, which, IMHO is like watching grass grow while the paint dries.