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The Album I’m Not Reviewing

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Because, although I’m always a critic, I’m not a reviewer.

However, as the name of my blog suggests, I can be a declarative liar.

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In light of her recent dumping by her husband of over 36 years divorce from husband Neil, it’s easy to read themes of melancholy, duplicity and loss into the songs on Pegi Young’s latest album, Lonely In a Crowded Room. Young’s low key, casual, bluesy, r & b country –tinged vocal delivery subtly intensifies the bitterness, heartbreak and yearning behind many of the songs, especially in the zinger of a final track, “Blame It On Me.”  There is also a wicked low-key wit in evidence behind several of her songs, in particular, “In My Dreams” and “Better Livin’ Through Chemicals.”

This is one of those collections that creeps up on you – it gets better with each listen, IMHO. Go ahead, click that purchase button.

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In last week’s post I included 15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself, which contained a content alert for name dropping.  The alert was related to two facts, one of which pertains to this post:

(9) I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child.

This was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was a health educator for a private OB-GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.  My employers were DWB and POM, a husband-wife doctor/nurse practitioner. The practice’s staff prided ourselves on developing close relationships with our patients, and over the months of pregnancy and post partum visits and childbirth education classes and new parent’s support group that met weekly in the office, we got to know and care for the OB patients in a deeper way than was possible with those we saw but once a year for annual exams.

Pegi Young, pregnant with her and her husband Neil’s second child, had been referred to our practice. She was of the nicest, kindest, most  good humored, gracious and warmhearted of our patients. Thus, Pegi became a favorite of the staff because of how she was, not who she was in some people’s eyes – the wife of a famous husband (I loved that my employer, the doctor who delivered the Young’s baby, had no idea who Neil Young was, other than the tall skinny shy guy with the holey jeans who sometimes came to appointments with Pegi).  I remember thinking that, although I knew little about Pegi’s personal life, it must be nice for Pegi to be the “star” in our eyes – as the pregnant patient she had our primary attention – when it was likely her husband who drew all the attention elsewhere.

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A few times a month I would treat myself to a break from sack lunches and skip across the street from the practice to The Stanford Barn. The Barn was (surprise!) a big, barn-like structure that housed several businesses, including a restaurant. More than a half a dozen times I’d arrived at the restaurant to see one of our practice’s patients waiting alone to be seated for lunch, either before or after their OB appointment. If the patient saw me, I’d suggest she join me for lunch (sometimes, they beat me to it and extended the invitation). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the patients outside of the office, and they seemed to relish the chance to talk to someone who was genuinely interested in their home and work lives, and who asked them non-pregnancy related questions.

One day in the restaurant, as I waited for the staff to seat me, in walked Pegi Young. We greeted each other, and for the first time I hesitated in extending the invitation I had so freely extended to our Stanford scientist patient, our Silicon Valley entrepreneur  patient, our self-identified “pilot’s wife” patient, our teacher patient…. You get the picture?

Considering the speed of neuron transmission, the thoughts going through my mind took less than a nanosecond to process, and I’m sure she didn’t notice my hesitation. I didn’t want her to think I was treating her differently than any other person or that I wanted to be around her because she was married to a famous man…but, if I didn’t ask her to join me for lunch I would be treating her differently for just that reason.

Damn the torpedoes; I figured she could just say no. I extended the invitation and she joined me for lunch.

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

We had a pleasant meal (which included really good fries, as I recall) and a nice chat, with me still feeling twinges of awkwardness when I realized certain questions I was about to ask, questions I had asked the other patients, questions that were related to what they told me about their lives and aspects I therefore found unique and interesting, could be taken as me trying to pry into a celebrity’s life.  I didn’t know at the time that Pegi, although not a “celebrity,” was a musician/singer/songwriter in her own right, and had been, years before she’d met her better known musician husband.

Like all the other “patient lunches” I’d had and would go on to have, it was an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes or so with an acquaintance…and that was that. We didn’t go on to be best buds or anything. She had her baby, [1] we (the office staff) saw her less frequently, I left the practice not long after.  I did continue to think of Ms. Young, occasionally and fondly, and still do, after all these years.

Oh, and Pegi Young’s album? I bought it because it’s really good.

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Just In Case You Were Wondering

Neuroscientist David Linden, in a fascinating Fresh Air interview on the science behind the sense of touch, reported this earth-shaking find:  he and colleagues have determined that no matter how sensitive you think your own…uh…parts…are, you cannot read Braille with your genitals.

You know how these things work – when you share a little-known fact like, “It is impossible for a person to lick their own elbow,” people immediately try to lick their elbows.  Seeing as how the majority of us do not have access to Braille materials in our home, Linden advises we not rush out to the nearest ATM to test that particular finding.

ATM

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Speaking of Lady and Man Parts (and you know I do)….

Dateline: Thursday morning, at the kitchen table. As I sat down with my avocado tofu scramble, MH read me the photo caption from a New York Times article:

“…. Park Slope, Brooklyn, experienced its second manhole explosion in less than 24 hours.”

“Yikes.” I shivered.  “That’s gotta hurt.

“How’s that?” MH said…or something (whatever he mumbled, it was the perfect set up).

I briefly explained that while I feel sympathy toward anyone with a manhole, I think the guys in Park Slope ought to lay off the chili dogs. [2]

SOLDIER FART

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The Dangers of Playing the Game

When you are not feeling particularly good about yourself in terms of future professional prospects among other issues, it’s rather irritating when the day’s Cryptogram word puzzle solution is the I-know-that’s-how-the-world-works-but-it-still-sucks, Aristotle quotation

“(Personal) beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.”

♫ I feel pretty... ♫

♫ I feel pretty… ♫

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Department of Civic Responsibilities

On Tuesday I responded to a Freedom From Religion Foundation Action alert by sending an email to Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson of Indio, CA, thanking her for deciding to end the Indio City Council’s practice of opening meetings with prayer.

“We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs,” Mayor Ramos Watson said, explaining her decision (as reported in The Desert Sun).

My email:

Thank you, Mayor Ramos Watson, for your decision to keep the government neutral on matters of religion by stopping the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer.

It’s a bit odd that I feel compelled to thank a public servant for doing what should be par for the course – upholding Constitutional principles and standing up for the rights of all of her constituents. However, these days it seems your sensible understanding of the issue is, unfortunately, not held by all of your peers.

One wee/small nit to pick – or rather, something to consider – re your thoughtful statement as quoted in The Desert Sun, “We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs.”  We who are religion-free – we agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, Humanists, Brights – are not absent of beliefs or principles.  We have many, many beliefs. The difference is, our beliefs are based on reason and the natural world, not supernaturalism.

Again, I thank you for doing the right thing, wish you all the best, and am, Sincerely yours,

When was the last time you praised a politician for doing the right thing? [3] I know for moiself, when it comes to civic affairs it’s so much easier – and, let’s face it, sometimes fun – to carp than to encourage, and I’m trying to change that.

thanks

*   *   *

Hold Your Applause

On Tuesday I woke up at 3 am with the following question on my mind: [4]

If the Director of the NSA has to leave a presidential briefing to take a pee,
does that constitute a security leak?

*   *   *

Department of this Explains A Few Things

Because my mother generally does better recalling the past than living in the present, during my weekly phone calls with her I try to follow the wise counsel found in Compassionate Communication With the Memory Impaired, and ask her to repeat stories of her childhood.

I cannot recall the prompt – something stormy weather-related – that made me ask my mother to tell me about the one time she and her family experienced a tornado in Cass Lake, Minnesota. I’d heard her tell the story several times before; during our last phone call, she provided more details.

Cass Lake was well north of Tornado Alley, and, according to my mother, rarely did the small town experience severe thunder or windstorms, and never tornadoes.  Still, a tornado warning came one day in the summer when my she and her parents were staying at their family’s small cabin at nearby Wolf Lake.

The tornado mostly spared the town, but the storm that hatched it packed some mighty winds. While her father went outside to batten down the hatches, [5] my mother’s mother (whom my siblings and I referred to as our “Bapa”), clutched her youngest daughter, my mother, and repeated, over and over, that her greatest fear was about to come true: the cabin would be picked up by the tornado “…we’ll all be dumped into the lake!”

“She said what?” I was aghast.  “Mom, that’s terrible! Bapa was a bad mother.”

My mother laughed at the epithet.

“I’m serious – that was a bad mother thing to do.”

My mother did not dispute my assessment. She noted that she hadn’t been all that concerned about the storm (in fact, she’d found it rather exciting) until her mother panicked.  “She was terrified; she was so scared.”

“Which means that you were, too, right?  She made you scared, too?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Parents are supposed to make light of the situation, or joke or do something, anything, to keep their children calm and make them feel safe. It doesn’t matter how scared the adults are; it’s their job to hold it together, for their kids.  I am so sorry your mother didn’t do that, for you.”

“No,” my mother said.  “She didn’t.”

*   *   *

Because it’s four days after Groundhog’s Day and four months until the summer solstice, let’s pretend it’s time to Shake Your Groove Thing ® and Get Down With Your Bad Self. © If you are of A Certain Age and can remember the television dance show that featured this song, you are a better Boomer than I.

*   *   *

May you do the right thing come political meetings or tornadoes, and find time for a little groove-thang-shaking, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Which had one of the cutest, most powerful smiles I had ever seen in a baby. I mean, that kid would laser you a grin.

[2] Yeah, I know, fart jokes. Like the Dylan song says, may you stay Forever Young.

[3] No cracks about how it might take a few years to think of such a praise-worthy instance.

[4] This existential moment brought to you by my Nocturnal Brain calls, also mentioned in last week’s post. Hakuna Fritatta, anyone?

[5] Or whatever you do in Minnesota when you get a tornado warning. Stock up on Jell-o-casseroles?

The Lye-soaked Cod I Am Not Eating

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Had you been so fortunate to be a local lady friend of mine, you might have received an invitation like this:

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 6:30 p – ?

Ladies hosting:
 -Robyn Parnell & Belle

Ladies Likely to be in attendance:
 -the lovely and talented you

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance:
The Lady (and the Tramp)
Lady Marmalade
Lady Antebellum
-Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan, or other Past and Present First Ladies
-Ladies Home Journal
The Bare Naked Ladies
-Lady Gaga

As always, your munificent, bed-bug-free hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive yet pepper spray-free environment

*   *   *

I am half-Irish, tribally-speaking (as are both of my parents), but residing within approximately 25% of my genes is a lefse-loving Norwegian.  My mother’s full-blooded Irish mother married a full-blooded Norski. Perhaps it was the fabled Irish love for potatoes that was partly responsible for Bapa’s[1] love of lefse.  It certainly wasn’t her love of all things Norwegian.  Although she adored her husband, Al, she refused to allow lutefisk [2] in her house. Every December Albert J. Hole [3] succumbed to the pull of tradition and purchased a chumbucket load fragrant batch of lutefisk atthe Lutheran Ladies ® Christmas bazaar, and every December Bapa would send her husband outside, in the Northern Minnesota winter, and make him partake of the lutefisk by himself, on the back porch.

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JR always has the best Lefse Ladies Party hat, which she custom designs for the occasion.

JR always has the best Lefse Ladies Party hat, which she custom designs for the occasion.

When I was a young–un my family’s one nod to honoring ethnicity or keeping The Olde Country Traditions ® was serving lefse and meatcakes for Christmas Eve dinner.  The feast would be prepared by Bapa and her eldest daughter, my aunt Erva,[4] who fled Spokane every year to winter in Southern California at Bapa’s house.  Although my mother loved lefse she never acquired the knack of making it.  Her children[5] have continued the lefse dinner tradition with their own families, though none with the panache and sartorial elegance as the lefse events hosted by yours truly, if I dare say so moiself.  And I just did.

*   *   *

Speaking of lutefisk and other things that stink like an eel monger’s morning breath, Oregon has once again garnered another fifteen minutes of the national news tragedy spotlight, after the mall shooting earlier this week.  TV media coverage of the tragedy saw the local stations engage in their typical, nuance-free, breathless blathering treatment (TERROR AT THE MALL!!!!) of anything they call a “breaking event.”  The news anchors’ and on-sight reporters’ desperation to fill air time, to say something (even when it’s just been a few minutes after the 911 calls came in and no one really knows what’s going on, therefore there is nothing to say) would have been comical, save for the subject matter.

An interesting sign of the times, methought:  a number of phone calls were made to TV news reporters from people who’d been inside the mall and had fled when the shooting started. Apparently, their first thought upon reaching saftey was to whip out their cell phones and share their story with the talking heads.  Several callers stated they’d seen the shooter, before they realized he was The Shooter ®.  The callers each described a young man wearing a load-bearing vest and a white mask, holding something long and rectangular (a semi-automatic rifle), running down a mall corridor.  Uh…didn’t that seem alarming, or at least noteworthy? the reporters asked the callers. “Sure, but this is Oregon,” one caller replied, “and you see a lot of strange things in Oregon.”  Another caller said he assumed the Masked Dude was running “…to join a flash mob,” or similar happening. Yep.  If you see something bizarre, assume the Portlandia crew (or Leverage or Grimm ) is filming nearby.

*   *   *

About ten years ago there was a series of events that got Oregon in the national spotlight.  There was the vacationing California family, on their way to the Oregon coast, who were stranded in the Siskiyou National Forest after the husband/father made the fatal mistake of trying to “shortcut” through a mountain range, driving a non-off road rental car on unfamiliar backcountry roads, in winter, in the snow[6]. Then there was the incident involving nine climbers on Mt. Hood who fell into a crevasse (three killed, four critically injured).  A military rescue helicopter, which had successfully plucked two of the injured climbers from the mountainside, returned for a third, tricky pickup at an altitude of over 10,000 feet.  The helicopter began wobbling – the wind had suddenly shifted, and the copter’s rotors clipped the edge of the mountain. A news crew covering the rescue operation shot spectacular the video footage, which played over and over on the national news (and which was later featured in a National Geographic Amazing Moments special), of the copter plummeting into a snow-covered ridge and tumbling down the mountainside.

By the third event, which I cannot recall, more than a few friends sent me teasing emails to the effect that my MH and I were raising our children in a hazardous territory (“what’s going on in that wacky/dangerous state of yours?”).  This prompted our son, K, to come up with a new state slogan[7]:  “Oregon – come for the thrilling recreational opportunities, stay for the rescue helicopter ride.”

*   *   *

There are several recipients deserving of the AssHat of the Week, in particular, yet another knowledge-free man in a position of power, this time a fucking judge, for the FSM’s sake.   Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson , who evidently thinks that eating paint chips is a required judicial practice, said that a rape victim whose attacker threatened to mutilate her face and genitals with a heated screwdriver didn’t put up a fight during her assault, and that if someone doesn’t want sexual intercourse, the body “will not permit that to happen.”

But all that all that lefse has put me in a more generous mood, and I’d rather salute something positive.  And so, without further ado or cursing, I promise, the Big-Hearted Big Nose Carrot Man award goes to Scarletta Press, whose awesome Director of Publicity, Desiree Bussier, is interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly about the publisher’s new emphasis on children’s literature, which will include my novel, The Mighty Quinn.

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The new nametag’s here!  The new nametag’s here!

Several years ago, MH received a particularly glowing annual performance review from Intel [8]. As happy as I was for him when he shared the news, it left me with a certain melancholy I couldn’t quite peg.  Until I did.

One of the many “things” about being a writer, or any occupation working freelance at/from home, is that although you avoid the petty bureaucratic policies, bungling bosses, mean girls’ and boys’ cliques, office politics and other irritations inherent in going to a workplace, you also lack the camaraderie and other social perks that come with being surrounded by your fellow homo sapiens.  No one praises me for fixing the paper jam[9] in the copy machine, or thanks me for staying late and helping the new guy with a special project, or otherwise says good on you, sister. Once I realized the source of the left-out feelings, I came up with a small way to alleviate them…sort of.

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About the nametag.  You’re at your office party, or a fund raiser for an animal rescue organization, or a neighborhood potluck, your spouse’s family reunion – you’re at an event that is primarily social and so the guest’s professions are irrelevant, and there are a bunch of people who probably aren’t acquainted with one another, so the hosts greet you with those Hello-my-name-is nametags and felt pens at the door. Summon your Andy Rooney voice for this next sentence.  Have you ever wondered, when you’re at the kind of party I just described, why some people just can’t leave their credentials behind?

Since I don’t plan on suing the guy who took the last cheese doodle from the appetizer platter, why do I need to know that you’re a lawyer?  Yes, you probably worked hard for your degree, as the other guests did for theirs, but in this venue your LL.D. is no BFD, and appending your name with those initials only serves to give the impression that your main credential is that of I.m.D. (imperious dickhead).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those attorney-haters.  Some of my best friends are lawyers.[10]  And while the legal profession is much (and often rightly) maligned and thus I chose an easy target for my example, in my experience doctors are the worst when it comes to the afore-mentioned nametag faux pas.  If the party has no relation to medicine, not even remotely, and I don’t plan on having a pap smear right here by the punchbowl, why do you think I need to know you’re a doctor?[11]

Hello, my name is

Dr. Pomp O’Ass

or

Richard Head, Ph.D.; M.D.

I custom ordered my own nametag from a local office supplies store, and it’s finally here!  As you can see, it reads Robyn Parnell, N.a.D.

As in, Not a Doctor.

Bring on the next party.  I am so ready.

Hijinka ensue.

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Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] My maternal grandmother, so nicknamed by my older sister, who couldn’t properly say “grandma” until she was in her late forties.

[2] Some ethnographers believe the preponderance of lutefish in the Norwegian diet was largely responsible for the Norwegian migration to America in the early 1800s.

[3] Yes, Hole. I wonder why my mother never considered keeping her original surname.

[4] I had an Aunt Erva.  So did you, although yours may have had a different name. Everyone has had an Aunt Erva.

[5] Her 3 daughters, at least. My brother, I dunno. Yo, bro, are you a Lefse Dude?

[6] The father died of exposure after setting out to find help. The mother and their two young girls were found alive, days later, by a helicopter pilot.

[7] Oregon’s state slogan used to be, “Things Look Different Here.” The Higher Ups ignored K’s suggestion, and in 2003 changed the slogan to, “We Love Dreamers.”

[8] He doesn’t actually work there, but they’d heard he was a good guy.

[9] Always left by the previous user, who loudly wonders who did this evil thing?!

[10] Okay, I have one lawyer friend. If only she were a lawyer-of-color, or lesbian.

[11] I like doctors, too. If only that friend of mine were a doctor, as well. A biracial, bilingual, pan-sexual, multi-cultural doctor and lawyer.