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The Car I’m Not Decorating

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Indeed, the season is upon us. If you need further evidence, let The Dropkick Murphys explain it to you.

Ah, but the season unfortunately includes you-know-what. I’ll get this rant out of the way. 

Ban assault weapons! No, ban violent video games! No, it’s the combination of mental illness and access to weapons! At least have the discussion about gun violence! Discussion, schmussion – arm every sixth grader in America!

The enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy is almost beyond comprehension. Our society, for a slopbucket-load of historical and social reasons (that moiself shall not address at this time), is increasingly called to make even a few baby steps toward comprehension…and consistently fails to do so. Instead, we end up lobbing verbal grenades at one another, occasionally pausing for a moment of silence at yet another memorial service for “the ____ victims” (insert latest shooting locale).

And then of course, there’s Mike Huckabee[1], former Arkansas guv, part-time Republican presidential candidate, ordained Baptist minister and Fox News (surprise!) blowhole. Huckabee is highly regarded in scholarly circles for…well, for nothing. Nothing, that is, that has ever leaked from his lips, although he does get credit for jettisoning something like 300 lbs several years ago. Recent pictorial evidence shows that much of his bulk is returning to the mothership, and his recent rhetoric evinces that most of it is settling between his ears.

In his latest self-serving spewfest exploiting a national catastrophe pronouncement, MH attributes the “violence in our schools” to what he describes as the systematic removal of religion from our schools. Oh, Mike, Mikey Mike, you Hucka-hucka burning…something. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the brain train isn’t coming.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before the Huckster and other religious righties brainstorm knock their empty coconut noggins with the NRA and come up with a plan to place AR15-packin’ preachers in every classroom.gunpriest

There has been much religious speechifying about the Sandy Hook shootings, to which my reaction is: ick, and ick again.  But, it’s more than just ick-worthy.  Many of us who are mythology-free find the public prayers/religious invocations that typically accompany such incidents to be almost as galling, and ultimately more perplexing, than the incidents themselves.  The rhetoric and rituals are so ubiquitous, oft times it just seems like background noise or white sound, like the distant rat-a-tat-tatting of automatic weapons fire.

Okay.  Perhaps another analogy might be more…appropriate? Perhaps not.

Of all the mumbo jumbo about “keeping the victims in our prayers,” “pray for the families of Sandy Hook,” “our prayers were answered when we found out ___ had survived the shooting…” most mind-bogglingly ridiculous to me is when the political talking heads called upon to Respond To This Tragedy ® end their statements with the seemingly obligatory[2] – what is it, invocation? plea? command? suggestion? – “God bless America.”

I do think God Bless America, ala Keep me in your prayers/I’ll pray for you, is one of those phrases that, like much public god-talk, is almost always employed without the benefit of reasoned contemplation. It is used as a reactive response to certain situations – the intellectual/rhetorical equivalent of Gezundheit.  But to those who would claim to employ GBA etc., in all sincerity, what are you thinking?  I don’t expect an answer, but, really: What particular, magical word combination or incantation do you believe will appeal to your celestial, imaginary friend, whom you apparently believe “is watching over us” and has the ability to intervene in human affairs (to “bless” you) and who may, somehow, someday, do that, despite the fact that if said celestial being exists, on December 14 it was watching over a madman entering a grade school and then twiddling its divine thumbs while six year old children[3] were being slaughtered?

Human beings – in the form of a sad/lonely/alienated/angry/deeply disturbed young man, with – God bless America! – access to high-powered firearms, carried out this vile act. Human beings in many forms – including the principal who died trying to thwart the gunman as he forced his way into the school, the teacher who hid her students in cabinets and cloakrooms but stayed visible to deter the gunman and told him her class had gone to the gym (after which he shot her, and moved on to another location), the teachers who risked their own lives guiding their students to safety, the emergency responders, the community who reached out to friends and strangers alike with generosity and compassion – human beings rushed in to help in whatever way they could.

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*   *   *

Writing this week’s post from Southern California, I’m as close as I get to being a Foreign Correspondent.

Trust me, you do not want to spend several hours of your holiday-season birthday online, trying to book the last seat on a flight that leaves in less than 24 hours. But this is what you’ll find yourself doing if, after making a pre-birthday phone call to your elderly mother, you decide to do A Good Thing ® and surprise her [4] with a visit.

All together now: “What a gooooooood daughter.”

On second thought, hold your applause. I am hardly worthy of such magnanimous regard.

I had a (mostly) enjoyable childhood, growing up[5] in Southern California, to which my increasingly furrowed, sun-blotched skin now attests.[6] Still, I headed north as soon as I could. Although ’tis good to visit with the kinfolk, I get in somewhat of a funk when I travel to the Land O’ My Birth. There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which I may mention in a much later, much less sober post. For now, suffice to say I find the area to be crowded, grimy, desiccated.[7]

As per the latter, considerate Oregonian that I am, I brought some precipitation with me. The mere hint of a light shower elicits the obligatory, “Oh, we need the rain!” from the locals.[8]  Out for a walk on Tuesday morning, I experienced a mild epiphany of sorts: I find SoCal almost tolerable in the rain. Even a moderate drizzle functions ala Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak – it serves as a mask or shield, temporarily veiling the area’s aridity, and…well…dirtiness.  This place looks, feels and smells different (better) when it’s wet.

THE APOCALYSE IS NIGH, AND IT’S WEARING AN ELF HAT.

Oh, oh oh oh oh, before I forget – another story! Pick me, pick me!

As I returned to my mother’s house after my walk, I spied with my little eye a Hummer parked in her neighbor’s driveway.  My self-righteous, what kind of person still has that gas-guzzlin’, manhood-mocking[9] behemoth snort was diverted when I saw something that made me approach the vehicle for closer inspection.  The Hummer’s armor was fortified by what appear to be an oversized pair of Mr. Spock ears…no, they’re…elf ears?  Plus, an elf hat was wired to the Hummer’s grill.

Soooooooooooooo, I sez to moiself.  Last night was not a fluke.

rudolph car

I’d notified older sister NLM (who lives ~ 15 miles from our mother) about my spur-of-the-moment visit, and she’d graciously offered to act as my airport shuttle transport. As was pre-arranged, I called her when my flight touched down Monday evening. “Look for the car with the antlers,” she said, as I was headed for the passenger loading zone.  I stood outside the airport terminal, in the dark, repeating “What?” into my cell phone as she in turn repeated her auto antler identification spiel. Sure enough, a red Lexus with antlers attached to the passenger door windows and a red fuzzy nose wired to the front grill pulled over to the curbside in front of me.

“The grandkids love it,” she explained to me. “It’s Grandma’s Rudolph the Red Nosed….”

Well, of course it is.

*   *   *

But I digress.  I was walking.

Walking around my mother’s neighborhood, I crossed the bridge over Santiago Creek (as usual, the “creek” bed was totally dry, even after the rain), to do The Loop.  The Loop is a secluded residential circle, composed of two of the nicer (read: most expensive houses) streets in the city. It’s been several years since I’d walked the Loop, but little seemed to have changed. The house’s front yards were, as always, buzz-cut short and impeccably manicured (do lawns have cuticles?).  Leaving the loop via the bridge, I walked up and down a series of streets which had apparently been visited by one of those Neighborhood Holiday Beautification Czars, who had intimidated threatened extorted convinced each household to participate en bloc.  Every one of the curbside sycamore trees on Ladidah Lane had green plastic wreaths wired to their trunks. I rounded the corner to Decorous Drive, where every curbside pepper tree had oversized, red felt gift bows wired to their trunks.  The next street over had multi-faceted, red and green, mini disco glitter ball-style jingle bells affixed to red, green and white ribbons which were…wait for it…wired around the trunks of every house’s curbside Icky[10] tree.

Just as I was starting to get creeped out by the uniformity of the arboreal embellishment I received a text from Belle: Goooood morning!! And by the way – it’s snowing!!

Snow is a rare and generally appreciated weather wonder in the Portland metro area. I phoned my daughter, anticipating the delight I would bring to an old woman when I returned to my mother’s house with the news that it was snowing in Hillsboro and Belle had a day off from school…except that a somewhat disappointed Belle told me that it was a light dusting of snow and school had not been cancelled.

pdxelk

My mother, who spent the first 18 winters in Northern Minnesota, has a kneejerk response whenever I share news of what typically happens after a snowfall in Hillsboro. She trots out a litany of scornful clichés concerning the wimposity of those who let half an inch of snow close the schools and paralyze the freeways and major roads of a major metropolitan area.  Every time she launches into her spiel my knee jerks in response, and I trot out my Litany of Justification (LOJ):

a. Unlike Minnesota, snow is not a regular/seasonal occurrence in the major metro areas west of the Cascades Range (Portland & Seattle).

b. Because of (a), the cities and towns of said NW metro areas cannot justify the expense of having and maintaining fleets of snow removal equipment.

c. Due to the geography/altitude and other climatological conditions that make (a) our default winter weather, it is not consistently cold enough in the Portland Metro Area to maintain snow, as snow, on those rare times when it indeed does fall. It will typically either rain a bit after a snowfall, or warm up enough to cause a brief melt, the temps drop overnight…

d. and we wake up to ice. Not fluffy powdery, stomp-worthy snow, but a slick, traction-resistant, accident-causing, coating of ice. Over everything.

And every time I do this my mother reacts to my LOFJ as if hearing it for the first time, and concedes the points I make in our area’s defense. The next time we participate in this ritual I should mention the upside to (d), which is that the phenomena of a thin but determined coating of ice makes for jolly entertainment for so many of us wimpy Pacific NWers.  We cup our hands around a warm, foo-foo beverage of choice, huddle by our TVs, and enjoy the petty, smug pleasure that can only be found by watching the local news channels air footage of the idiot hapless drivers whose vehicles are spinning out and sliding down the hills on The Sunset Highway and other major roads leading in and out of Portland.

*   *   *

Dateline: just about now.  Back up in Oregon.  I counted at least seven more variations of the Rudolph/Santa’s elf – decorated vehicles while I was in So Cal.  I’ve yet to see one up here.  Maybe I just need to get out more?

Hilarity ensues.

Happy Holidays nd Thanks for stopping by.

Au Vendredi!


[1] Rhymes with Fuckatree; how portentous is that? Must be a sign from a god.

[2] For American politicians, lest they be perceived as commie/atheist/homo-loving/socialist/Kenyanappeasers.

[3] Many of whom, if they came from religious families, were likely calling out to their god(s) to save them even as they were being gunned down.

[4] and your husband, and children, and Mastercard balance

[5] Or just living. The “growing up” part is still up for debate.

[6]  Waaay too much time spent at the beach. Before the concept of SPF.

[7] A years-ago trip to see my folks, our plane descends toward the Orange County airport, K and Belle have their noses pressed against the windows, their eyes widening in alarm: “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?” K asks. “Down here, they call it ‘air,'” I explain.

[8] Although it’s obvious they resent the need, or any interruption to their cloud-free, brown/blue skies.

[9] Nothing says overcompensation (read:  I have a small penis) like an oversized vehicle. ..or firing guns at a group of children — make that firing guns at anyone, any thing.  Except a block of wood.

[10] Mea culpa, botanists –  no fauna is in fact “icky.” Since I can’t remember the name/genus of these trees whose prolific, tiny, elliptical leaves are shed year-round, I resort to the moniker bestowed upon them by my Aunt Erva  (“they make such an icky mess all over the sidewalks.”)

The Cough I’m Not Suppressing

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Yes, I know it is months before the book’s real-time release, but there is a FB fan page for The Mighty Quinn.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mighty-Quinn/314422698666956

Like it.
You know you want to.
Please don’t make me beg.

*   *   *

Now that Santa’s left the proverbial pile of coal in select stockings,[1] it seems fitting to haul out the Asshat of the Week award.  I don’t want to be stingy, especially at this time of the year, but really, so many asses, so few asshats.

The Iowa Supreme Court seemed to be a slam dunk, what with their ruling that a woman could be fired if her boss finds her “irresistible.” I’m looking forward to benefiting from the legal wisdumb of the Big Minds in such matters, when  the inevitable lawsuit find its way to the SCOTUS, allowing them to rule on the workplace hazards of those deemed to be too fabulous.

As I was saying, the candidates for the award were legion. And during this Solstice season, with its focus on charitable feelings toward one’s fellow human beings, it seems only fitting to list a few of the other contenders.

It seems the Big Daddies of Catholicism spent a good portion of their holy season getting their rhetorical man-panties in a knot.  The Imbeciles of Italy’s chief blusterhole spokesman, Joseph Ratzinger [2], used his annual Vatican Christmas message to diss marriage equality and other gay’s civil rights advancements as a “manipulation of nature” and an “attack” on the family. Meanwhile, the gentle folk of Ireland were privy to the gibbering of another pontificating baboon, this one taking the form of Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate[3] of all Ireland (I jest not; that’s his official title).  Brady, one of Ratzinger’s fellow pedophile apologists, used his Cardinal’s holiday soapbox to exploit the death of a pregnant woman in a Galway hospital.[4] Brady misrepresented the proposed content of Irish Constitutional legislation while he urged the Irish people to protest plans for legalized abortion (the medical treatment that would have saved the afore-mentioned woman, who suffered an agonizing death from septicemia).

But wait, there’s more.  Just days before the RC dudes chugged their Kool-Aid, another public figure was caught after indulging in too much eggnog.  I refer to Mike Crapo, the aptly named Republican Senator from Idaho who was DUI’d after a cop caught him blowing through a red light.  Crapo, a Mormon who has said he does not drink alcohol,[5] was a member of last year’s “Gang of Six” budget committee and is was considered a candidate for the top Republican spot on the Senate Banking Committee.  It wouldn’t surprise me, should Crapo play the penitent, that his party would keep him on their list for the committee.  Because there’s nothing our country needs more than a teetotaler drunk Mormon Republican kicking the crap-o out of our nation’s fiscal policies.

Oh, hell’s bells, let ’em all share it.  Supreme Courts, Popes, Irish Primates, Crapos – this asshat’s for you.

AHat640

*   *   *

This week, the days I think of as the Tweenolidays, are some of my favorite days of the year.  Dec 26-31; the pressure is off while the fun still lingers; there is still another major celebration on the horizon; the seasonal fatigue hasn’t yet set it.

‘Tis also the season to be jolly judgmental.  I had the opportunity to refine this art yesterday, while waiting in the checkout line at a bulk/discount grocery store:

The Woman In Front Of Me, whose cartload of items was being scanned by the checker, was going through her wallet and pockets, counting her cash while her way-too-old-to-be-sitting-in-the-shopping-car-seat son dangled his feet from the shopping seat’s legholes. The boy loudly spewed wetness in my direction; TWIFOM occasionally/half-heartedly admonished her son to cover his mouth when he coughed.  He ignored her. The next time he coughed I got his attention, smiled at him, and mimed covering my hand over my mouth, indicating he should do the same.  He stuck his tongue out at me.

The checker was waiting. TWIFOM apologized for not having enough funds to cover her purchases (“I need to pay in cash”), even as both the checker and I could see that TWIFOM’s checkbook style wallet was bulging with forms of plastic payment.  TWIFOM directed the checker to remove and reverse-scan certain items, to get her total down to cash-on-hand.  While the checker did this I passed the time by silently critiquing TWIFOM’s choices:

 (“No; keep the low-fat mozzarella! Your son does not need that box of Red Dye #2 Krusty Sugar Puffs for breakfast. And neither of you needs that processed lunch “meat,” which, BTW, costs twice as much and has 5 times the fat, half the protein and 100 bajillion times the sodium as the carton of eggs you’re subtracting…Thank you, Sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, at least she’s removing the Summer’s Eve box – wait,WTF?!  She’s changing her mind…she’s directing the checker to rescan the va-jay-jay douche?).

I shut my eyes and took a brief trip down memory lane, back to when I was a health educator in an OB/GYN practice. I had a spiel for the traveling corporate reps who had the misfortune to try to convince me to stock free samples of their “cleansing wash”:

The vagina, like other bodily organs, is self-cleaning; douches are marketed as part of the primitive cultural baggage that teaches women that genitals are icky. Not only is douching unnecessary, the practice is associated with serious health conditions, including bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. My boss, Dr. B—, says that your “Summer’s Eve” should more accurately be named, “Summer’s Deceive.”  Only a douche would try to promote douching…

It’s one of my fondest memories, that of Fleet Laboratory salesreps leaving skid marks trying to flee our office.

But I digress.

I kept my diatribe to myself and seethed in silence. Meanwhile, TWIFOM placed her V-be-gone product next to a jug of blue-colored sugar water in her “keep” pile and removed – this was so painful to watch, my eyes almost bled – a bag of navel oranges, a second carton of eggs, and a gallon of 1% milk. 

Excellent parenting choice. Pay for your lady parts to smell like morning at the bakery while your son’s only breakfast option is to lubricate his Type II Diabetic-inducing cereal with high fructose gel.

WT food

After finally settling with the checker TWIFOM bagged her groceries junk. The checker began to scan my items, and I noticed TWIFOM hds left her open wallet (the thing had so many credit cards into its slots it couldn’t be folded shut) on the checkout counter. I hoisted the wallet and managed to catch TWIFOM before she left the store. “Whoops, you don’t want to forget this,” I said.  I handed her the wallet; she lamely joked about forgetting her head if it wasn’t on top of her neck, but offered no “thanks.”  Nor did she apologize when her son launched one last, obviously intentional, spittle-laden cough in my direction as they exited the store.

On my way to my next stop, the market where I was to purchase the organic produce I am fortunate to be able to afford, I pondered the differing perceptions of, and the relationship between, having good luck and making good choices. I’ll notify the Nobel Prize committee when I figure it all out.

*   *   *

 An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn, American author and newspaper columnist.)

Until next year, when hilarity ensues.

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Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] It’s too early for a footnote, don’t you think?

[2] Bear in mind that “Pope Benedict XVI” ad nauseum are made-up monikers – attempts to confer an aura of authority to the theology-thumpers .

[3] A fitting label in so many ways, although the RC poobahs would remind you that “Primate” is a title of honor denoting ceremonial precedence in their church.

[4] I blogged about the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in my November 16 post.

[5] But he supported a federal bill to cut taxes on small beer makers (Mormon farmers in Idaho raise barley for Budweiser and Negra Modelo beers).