The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department of Just Sayin’
Aka, Is It Over Yet?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Always have. Correction: there have been breaks in the “always.”  Including the years my family celebrated with neighbor/friends, sharing a dinner-and-games night.  But mostly, it has always been a strange, awkward(t) kind of evening – an I should be having fun dammit/why am I not light-hearted and care-free kind of night. Instead, it’s a reminder of how quickly the last year flew by, what was intended and what fell through the cracks, one more reminder of dreams gone by/deferred, one more year closer to admitting dreams that were never to be realized….

Cry me a river. Pass the popcorn; it’s 12:24 am, is the last yahoo done banging the damn pot lids/setting off the mortars and can I go to sleep now and wake up and pretend it’s March already?

“Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?”

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

MH’s attention was drawn to a certain object on the dish air drying rack. I waited for the inevitable comment.

“What’s this?” he asked, with a Twinkle in His Eye ® . He picked up the object, turned it back and forth in his hand, and attempted to unscrew its top.

“It does not take batteries,” I smirked, “and no, it’s not what you’re thinking.”

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

*   *   *

Start the New Year clean with this “detoxifying” dietary supplement, transdermal patch, kidney-flushing herbal tea, colon cleanser….

The come-on email that somehow escaped my spam filter, caused me pause for a moment to consider the quackery that is not just particular to the holiday season.

“Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam.
It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

I generally hold and/or bite my tongue when otherwise seemingly intelligent (or obviously dense but well-meaning and nice) folks uses the Important-And-Sciency-Sounding-Poison-Language ©  with me.  The young man who, after finishing giving me a blissful foot massage advised me to drink a lot of water in the next few hours to help my body “flush out of toxins” stimulated by the massage?  I just smiled dreamily.  I was under the spell of the massage’s endorphin rush; I didn’t have the energy to mouth a simple, if sincerely incredulous, Dude, really? What are you saying, and who told you that?

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?


I often wonder if the purveyors of toxin-speak even know the definition of the word they use so heedlessly yet authoritatively?

A toxin (from Ancient Greek: τοξικόν toxikon) is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.

So, you’re saying, without blood test results or other evidence to back up your claim, that there is poison in my body?  What, someone slipped rattlesnake venom in my tea?

When I ask for evidence of specific toxins that are lurking, unflushed, in my body, [1] I receive analogies.  The toxin-believing crowd can’t exactly describe what the toxins are, nor what the detox process is, so they resort to analogies.  False analogies.  “Just like we wash our hair and brush our teeth…”  My favorites are the ones having to do with a machine:  “Just like we must periodically flush our car’s coolant system…”

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

As much as it may seem to have a mind of its own, [2] your Honda Civic is not a living organism.  Machines have no way to clean themselves. The crucial systems of the human body evolved to do so.  The kidneys, liver, bowels –  the organs most frequently cited by the Toxin Touters – all are self-cleansing.  When they fail, due to disease or injury or abuse, medical intervention is necessary.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

Like all fast fixes – from miracle diets to wrinkle creams – the idea that we can wash away our lifestyle transgressions with a pill, a drink, a gargle or even an “internal cleanse” [3] is an attractive idea to some, and much easier than making changes to nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. [4] And most of us seem to hold some vague ideas that we are doing something wrong, or that our modern, technologically dependent life contaminates us with…well, with bad things. [5]  And we need to get rid of these bad things.

Harriet Hall, aka “the SkepDoc,” is a retired physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who researches and writes about medicine, so-called “alternative and complementary medicine,” and quackery and critical thinking.  According to Hall, the detox industry’s rhetoric is “… reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites (Jewish mikvah, shamans using smoke, American Indians sweat lodges). It’s mysticism, not science.”

Our bodies come equipped with livers, kidneys, stomachs, intestines, enzymes and metabolic processes that deal with toxins efficiently with no outside help. When kidneys fail, we use dialysis.  In certain cases of poisoning with large amounts of heavy metals, we may use chelation therapy.  In addiction treatment, “detox” is achieved by simply abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a few days.  …..  there is no medical evidence to support any other methods or benefits of “detoxification.” [6]


*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

As of January 1, 2015, Scarletta Press, publisher of my middle grade novel, The Mighty Quinn, is no longer Scarletta Press. The Publisher Formerly Known as Scarletta is now Mighty Media Press. And they have this to say about that:

Mighty Media Press delivers captivating books and
media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination,
social awareness, and sense of adventure.
Mighty Kids. Mighty Minds. Mighty Future.
Be Mighty!

Although I like the name change, I be mighty skeptical (if just a bit less mighty hopeful) as to how this will impact their promotion efforts for one of their Scarletta titles…even though, one might reasonably think, The Mighty Quinn, ahem, hello, can you say, “tie-in?”  I knew you could.

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

Dateline: New Year’s Day.  MH and I, out for a walk.  MH asks if I’m taking him to Sports Look, a local restaurant/sport bar, for dinner.  “For dinner?” I am confused.  I know he’s referring to being able to watch The Rose Bowl game (it’s only being broadcast on ESPN, and we are the holdouts who don’t have cable), which is mildly important to us this year, lukewarm college sports fans that we are, because an Oregon team is playing a Florida team. But the game starts at 2pm, I reminded him, not dinner time.  Also, it’s New Year’s Day, and, remember, I always make Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

I picked up that tradition – serving black-eyed peas and rice, green and some cornbread concoction “for luck and prosperity in the New Year” –  from my Tennessee-raised father.  I maintain the tradition partially because I like my version of Hoppin’ John, and partially in memory of my dad.

Besides, I explained to MH, I want us to benefit from the folk wisdom of poor people who ate beans and rice every year, believing it would bring them good luck and prosperity, who then again the following year were too poor to serve anything fancier than beans and rice on New Year’s Day.

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

Driving home from lunch, Belle pointed out a rainbow grazing the horizon.  “Now, if there were two of them,” I wondered aloud, “would the first one be the rainbow and the other a rainbro?”

*   *   *

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)

Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that.
(Judith Crist)

*   *   *

May the happiness you seek be bile-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] And I have done this, with those who have used the toxin jargon.

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

[3] It’s only two days into the new year and I just don’t want to type enema.

[4] Why give up my bi-weekly craft beer six pack & cheesecake fest when I can do a bi-yearly liver cleanse?

[5] I actually think this is likely true, but want evidence before I put any purported “cleanser” up my hoo-haw, an organ which evolved to expel, not intake.

[6] Detox Quackery (Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, Skeptic, v. 14 #1 2008)

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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Dateline: Wednesday, Tuality Hospital, taking MH to get a colonoscopy an amazing procedure we are so grateful to have in this golden age of preventative medical care. In his dressing/waiting/prep room there was a sink and, of course, a motion-activated soap and paper towel dispensers. Which got me to thinking. [1]

I’m all in favor of motion-activated dispensers (and wish they were all this cute):

But I long for a more impressive, ground-breaking innovation in substance allotment.  I want an emotion-activated dispenser.  I want a device that intuits when my hands aren’t feeling their freshest; I want a dispenser that senses when I’m too sad or embarrassed or enervated to wave my arms in front of it…and because it cares, so will I.

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

The Indies are coming!  The Indies are coming!  Actually, they’re already here: Independent bookstores.  And the Saturday after Thanksgiving, traditionally an important day for businesses of all kinds, is especially vital to independent bookstores, including Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA).  Vintage Books, along with independent bookstores nationwide, will be celebrating Indies First Day on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (read: authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. [2]

I’ll be at Vintage Books, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Vintage books specializes in hard-to-find/out-of-print and rare books, so stop by and browse for that copy of Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan[3] you’ve been dying to find for your Russophile uncle.

Another holiday shopping opportunity comes courtesy of Scarletta Press.  Scarletta, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn and a slew of other entertaining and provocative, vampire-less and Fifty-shades-of-any-color-free, fiction and nonfiction books, encourages one and all to give the gift of books this holiday season – and if you order through Scarletta’s website and you’ll receive 20% off your purchases.

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

One day I shall blog
exclusively in haiku
Wait for it; you’ll see. 

Or, I’ll use tanka
A Japanese verse form: five
lines: the first and third
composed of five syllables,
the other lines of seven

*   *   *

Was Is This a Stupid World, or What?
(Another Chapter in the continuing saga)

A few weeks ago my friend received an email from her daughter P’s 1st grade teacher, about an “incident” wherein three older (2nd grade) boys pulled up their shirts in front of P, in class, [4] then asked her to reciprocate.  P allegedly declined to do so but showed them her superhero underpants instead.

I’m fairly certain my parents did not receive a phone call or note from my 4th grade teacher regarding the isolated incident wherein many times I and my uppity female comrades purposefully showed the boys our underwear.  I was old enough to “know better,” but was organizing a feminist protest (years before I understood the f-word) to prove that the sight of JC Penny cotton underpants would not cause the boys to go blooey.

That such silliness could even be an issue was due to such pathetic facts as:

*  a long long time ago in a grammar school far far away, pants and/or shorts were verboten for girls, who were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.
*  thus, when girls climbed up on the jungle gym or did twirls and stunts on the gymnastic bars, their undies were sometimes in view.
*  thus and thus again, there were five possible ways to solve the Appalling Undie Viewing Predicament:

(1) ban girls from certain playground equipment
(2) ban boys from certain playground equipment
(3) designate separate playground equipment for boys and girls
(4) there was no fourth way
(5) yes, the most sane and/or logical solution is always the last one listed:

let girls wear play-appropriate clothing for fuck’s sake.

My protests and the resulting disciplinary actions (getting “benched” – having to sit out lunch and recess play times as punishment) were not for naught. [5]  In the latter half of my fourth grade year the school administration released a Playground Procedures/Dress Code announcement: girls would be allowed to wear shorts, over their underpants and under their skirts or dresses, IF the shorts were worn because the girls intended to play on the jungle gym, monkey bars, etc.

I always wondered how, or if ever, the IF provision was enforced:

“Heads up, Jenny – here comes the playground supervisor and you’re wearing shorts under your skirt but you’re only playing foursquare.  QUICK! Get your girly parts to the uneven parallel bars and hang upside down!” 

*   *   *

Thanksgiving approaches, which means that all across This Great Nation of Ours ® people will soon be flipping the bird with family and friends.

This year MH has been assigned eagerly volunteered to be our Turkeymeister.  He’s unsure as to how he will prepare his gourmet gobbler, and has turned to the cyber cooking world for suggestions. Internet search wise, you can’t spit [6] without hitting a elaborately illustrated food blog, resplendent with elegantly styled phtographs of the preparation and presentation of the ultimate holiday meal.  But I quickly tire of looking at the picturesque perfection – I wonder about the castoffs, the flotsam of meals prepared.  Are not the scraps and scrapings of plants sacrificed for our gustatory gratification (e.g. my simple yet most beloved autumn “side dish” – roast delicata squash) worthy of documentation?

May you and yours celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, the visual presentation of which is paparazzi-worthy, [7] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] An admittedly dodgy activity, but not much else to do while waiting for them to take my man to The Procedure.

[2] You can read Alexie’s wonderful letter here .

[3] An illustrated book on the vanishing art of the tattoos found on women in the Islamic Russian Republic.

[4] Where was the teacher during all of this, you may ask? As did P’s parents, and the non-answer to that and many other questions they had about the school is why it is now P’s former school.

[5] Hot damn, that was fun to type.

[6] And I have tried.

[7] Placing life-size cutouts of George Clooney and Beyoncé at your dining table may also guarantee attention.

The Door I’m Not Opening

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Last weekend while working at the zoo, Belle dropped her iphone in the toilet. Her Facebook account of the eventIn these trying times, please, send your prayers and keep us in mind.

I had to remind her that whenever the Lord closes a toilet lid he opens a port-o-potty door.

*   *   *

MH and I went Tree hugging last weekend, with, apparently, a Guinness World record setting number of fellow huggers, ion an event organized by Hoyt Arboretum.  I normally avoid those kind of affairs [1] (“most false moustaches worn by a crowd in the city plaza”), several of Hillsboro’s The Committee In Charge of Spontaneous Wacky Fun Planning city has organized the past couple of years to do once a year (let’s set the record for most false noses….”), as I find the forced jocularity of it all rather discomforting.  Hey, but this was for the trees – and for the editor of a Journal That Shall Not Be Named, who, many years ago, requested an author’s photo from contributors with the specific stipulation that the photo not be of the author “hugging a tree.”

There was much organizing at the meeting spot, with participants allotted into groups of 50 or so. We hiked a ways up in the arboretum; our fearless leader led us to the designated section for the “L” group.  Which was a slope.  A steep one.  The more accessible trees on the slope were quickly claimed, and it was quite the climb for MH & I to find an unoccupied, hug-worthy tree (we gave up our spot on a lower tree to a couple who were having a hard time ascending the slope).  On my way up, grasping at nearby stumps and praising the traction of my Keen sandals, I saw something bright shiny cobalt blue amidst the pine needles and underbrush.  It was a condom wrapper, intact.  “I am so relieved,” I said to our leader and MH, “to see that we’re going to practice safe tree hugging.”

We huggers assumed our position, a signal rang out, and we had to hug our trees for one minute, during which the groups’ leaders had to scurry about their sections and video all members in their group. The resulting documentation would be turned over to some dweeb resentful summer intern responsible person at Guinness for world record verification.  Oh, and for the record, the tree and I were just good friends.

I am writing this instead of doing what I should be doing, which is packing for my Quickie to Palo Alto, an overnight trip I scheduled when I recently reconnected with friend JK.  JK and Belmont friend LH and I are meeting for dinner at the Flea Street Café .  I was delighted to find the café is still in business, and still with the coolest chef/founder with arguably the coolest chef name ever .[2]  The Flea Street Café was a favorite special occasion/splurge spot for JK and I, back in our days as co-workers in a medical practice.  Also, San Francisco buddy LMW and I had a couple of marvelous meals with the Fleas, toasting each other and commiserating re how much we hated Valentine’s Day…and then MH had to go and propose, on Valentine’s Day, at the Flea Street Café, which put an end to that particular celebration.

The trip was scheduled too quickly to schedule TMQ “events”, or so I was told, so I’m schlepping a copy of The Mighty Quinn plus sell sheets [3] from Scarletta Press to give to three bookstores.  You gotta love Palo Alto – and I do, even though I left it 22 years ago for Oregon – if for no other reason than, as independent, fiction-stocking bookstores across the country are struggling and/or closing, within a 1.4 mile radius of downtown Palo Alto the city has three excellent ones: the venerable Kepler’s Books (no longer hosting Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead gigs,[4] but still hip),  Books, Inc. and Bell’s Books .

*   *   *

The Return of the Lone Asshat

No, it’s not yet another over budget, overblown, underwhelming Disneyfied movie (although if I had a paquillion bucks lying around I’d pay Johnny Depp to star in it).  There have been so many worthy nominees among those occupying the current events venue, I’ll just go for the one I find most entertaining:  summer isn’t over yet, there is still time to get your legs in beach viewing shape with Rep. Steve King (R, Iowa) and his Drug Mule workout.

As per this article from The Atlantic Wire, the colorful conservative politician has this colorful comment re immigration reform:

“In a recent interview with the conservative site Newsmax, King said that sure, some kids who would be able to stay in America under the DREAM Act are upstanding citizens brought into the country by their parents — but just not enough to make the law worth it. “Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in,” King said. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Calves the size of cantaloupes.
Binders full of women.

There are some images that are made to last.  Rep. King, may this Asshat be a perfect fit for your (melon-sized?) head.

*   *   *

Apropos of nothing: I love this song.

Still do.  It meant a lot to me in the 70s, and I played the album over and over.  My friend Steve Glasser (RIP my dearest, “minty” buddy) [5] also confessed – and for a guy, it was a confession – to loving Helen Reddy’s entire album (we both especially enjoyed the under-rated track, “Peaceful“).

And not exactly apropos of nothing; there was a catalyst. Scarletta Press was preparing to nominate The Might Quinn for an Amelia Bloomer Project booklist, [6] and their publicist asked for my input on this question on the ABP application: Please explain why this nomination represents significant feminist content.

My kneejerk reaction: Because I am woman (hear me roar).

Happy weekend to y’all, and may the roaring never end [7] and the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] My city has, for some reason, really gotten into in the past few years, with attempts at setting the “Most Groucho Nose & glasses masks work by a crowd” and other such records,  Hillsboro, you’re trying too hard.

[2] Jesse Ziff Cool

[3] A sell sheet is a one-page document providing all the details about your book – an announcement from the publisher, comparable to a blurb you see on the back of a book, but with illustrations and info about  sales and marketing aspects of your book’s release.

[4] The store was founded in 1955 by peace activist Roy Kepler.

[5] “minty” – of course, there is a story behind that adjective.  Tune in next  week.

[6] If you don’t know about this list, you should. The ABP creates an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18.

[7] I never have a footnote at the very end, do I?

The Muse I’m Not Mastering

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Tonight, June 7, I’ll  be at Downtown Beaverton’s First Friday, the city’s monthly celebration of art and craft and live entertainment and food that takes place in Beaverton’s core downtown area.  Look for me (and two other local authors) at Beaverton Sub Station (12248 SW Broadway) from 5-8p, selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn, trying to be heard above the surrounding bands, or just chucking it all and joining the “improvisational, neo-tribal belly dance troupe” Mandala, who will be entertaining, educating and empowering the sisterhood of undulating torsos (and scaring the old folks barbequing at the Beaverton Masonic Lodge) from 6-7p.

No, I don’t know why we’re doing this at a sub shop, except for the inherent connection in most people’s minds between fine sandwiches and fine literature.

*   *   *

Department of Your Tax Dollars At Work

Unless in the past couple of days you have been driven mad by the cellular-disrupting touch of a Kalandan  or caught between dimensions in Tholian Web, it’s likely you heard or read something about the Star Trek parody video that the IRS produced for a 2010 training conference.

I’m all over anyone producing any kind of Star Trek parody for any reason, but using taxpayer’s money?  And really, for 50k, couldn’t they at least have gotten a better Spock wig? [1]

*   *   *

 I am driven by a wonderful muse called alimony.
Dick Schaap 

An e-versation[2] earlier in the week with the delightful Desiree Bussiere, Scarletta Press’s Director of Publicity, was a spark for one of my I haven’t thought of this in years memories. Further fanning the spark was one of the questions submitted to me by a reporter for the Hillsboro Tribune reporter, who is planning to do a story on The Mighty Quinn.

Whether you’re a writer who does 20 interviews per month or one Q & A every ten years, you will, always and eventually, be asked some version of, “How do you write?” or “Can you describe your inspiration and/or writing process?”

The response to that kind of question, if answered truthfully, will likely be…well…not very interesting.  Writing fiction involves little drama, no wand-waving…how many cinema-worthy images are there of someone thinking, and then moving their fingers rapidly across a keyboard?  The translation of a story from imagination to page, while often exhilarating for the writer, is a snorefest to watch.  Thus, I think, the tendency to embellish the response.

I’d like to hitch a ride on a Star Trek-worthy time warp device of some sort that would transport me back in time so that I could slap the first pretentious author who decided to like the concept of the Muse with that of literary creation.  As in, a True Author one must follow The Muse, or wait until she Muse calls or “strikes” before one can be inspired to write.

For those of you needing a Greek mythology, primer, The Muses were the daughters of Zeus [3] and Mnemosyne [4], who presided over various arts and sciences.

I was inspired to compose a list of alternative muses one day, after reading a precious interview with a precious author who complained of the agonies of being enslaved to the Muse and thus was unable to write, seeing as how Ms. Muse had not deigned to inspire him since he’d written his bestseller. [5]

Yes, a “real” author writes only “when the muse” strikes…and makes sure the Muse strikes every working day, just after breakfast.

Greek Muses

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Erato                                             love poetry & mime
Euterpe                                         lyric poetry
Calliope                                         epic poetry
Clio                                                 history
Melphomene                                 tragedy
Polyhymnia                                   sacred song
Terpsichore                                   dance
Thalia                                            comedy
Urania                                           astronomy

Robyn’s Modern Literary Muses 

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Callosene                                      hardened buttocks
Egonia                                           “no simultaneous submissions” policies
Emotia                                          romance novels
Ennuinia                                        free verse
Erratica                                         copy editors
Dyspepsia                                     the submissions process
Hyperbolene                                 writing workshops, seminars and “how to” classes
Monotonene                                  political correctness (anybody’s)
Polymorphia                                  M. F. A. programs in Fiction/Creative Writing
Twerpsichore                                writer’s support groups

Here is an icon of your muse:  a picture of your butt in front of your desk.  That’s what it takes.  Your muse is showing up and doing the work.  Park your bonbons in your chair (or better yet, stand at your ergonomic adjustable desk ) and get to it.  You are the Muse, you are the Master…hmmm. Does that make you what kind of master?

Whatever the realm over which you preside, may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] For a mere ten bucks worth of taxpayers blood, sweat and tears you can get a Spock wig with hair, not a plastic toupee, geesh.

[2] as in a conversation via email.  You knew that.

[3] El Queso Grande of the Greek Gods.

[4] The goddess of memory, a realm that must have sucked for the wife of a Greek God who loves them lady-gods – and select mortal women – every chance he got.

[5] The drinking problem he’d developed on his book tour had nothing to do with it.

The Candelabra I’m Not Hearing

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I like things made from felt. Colored balls of felt strung together make the best necklace.[1]  When I’m really playing dress-up[2] I prefer neckties, but although there are a quajillion felt crafters in this world (try doing a “felt” search on etsy), none of them made felt neckties.  And then I found her: LeBrie Rich.

LeBrie Rich is the proprietor and felt artist (feltrist?) of Penfelt.  Once I saw the variety of hand-crafted felt items on her website, from wearables to objects d’art, I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “this crafty craftsperson may be up to a custom order.” And indeed, HRH Ms. Rich, the self-titled (and deservedly so) Duchess of Felt, was game for a challenge.  As per my input she designed for me a skinny, pumpkin-orange felt necktie.  Adorned with little orange felt balls. My happiness knows no bounds.

You may say I’m a dreamer….

More stories like this, about river otters returning to formerly uninhabitable habitats ,  is what I want to see in 2013.

*   *   *

Holiday detritus

♫Peace on earth and mercy mild/goddamned sinners reconciled♫
Ahem…that would be,
Peace on earth and mercy mild/god and sinners reconciled.  (Hark the Herald Angels)

While scanning radio channels a couple of weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a program that had apparently featured a Holiday version of Mondegreens.   You know what a Mondegreen is, even if you’ve never heard that particular term.  A Mondegreen is a malapropism of your ears. Instead of mis-saying the wrong word or phrase, you mis-hear it.  The neologism is attributed to writer Sylvia Wright, who in a 1954 Harper’s column wrote about her chagrin at discovering that as a young girl she had misheard the last stanza of one of her favorite Scottish poems, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray.”

What Wright heard: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual line was: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray/And laid him on the green.

Love the experience, hate the name.  Mondegreen?  Such a delightful oops phenomenon, the kind that makes us certain we heard John Fogerty giving an antsy concertgoer helpful directions on where to recycle his beer:

“There’s a bathroom on the right”

when he was actually singing, There’s a bad moon on the rise,  is deserving of a more interesting appellation.  Suggestions, anyone?

My all-time, personal favorite Mondegreen in personal to me in that I might be the only person alive who swears she heard the song this way.  A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I thought rocker Billy Squire was singing an ode to the love that dare not speak its name – that of Liberace for his favorite lighting fixture.

 Turns out Billy Boy was not crooning, “My Candelabra,” but rather, My Kind of Lover.  Yeah, suuuuuuure.  Take a listen for yourself , and then tell me I was mistaken.

I’d love to hear your favorite aural mishaps.  Here are some of mine, listed by “Mondegreen,” accurate line (song/recording artist)

♫ “Midnight after you’re wasted.” Midnight at the oasis. (Midnight at the Oasis/Maria Muldaur)

♫ “The girl with colitis goes by.” The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds/The Beatles)

♫ “I got no towel, I hung it up again.” I get knocked down, but I get up again. (Tubthumping/ Chumbawumba)

♫ “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.” ‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky. (Purple Haze/Jimi Hendrix)

♫ “Let’s pee in the corner/Let’s pee in the spotlight.”  That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight.  (“Losing My Religion”/R.E.M.)

♫ “She’s got electric boobs/her mama, too…” She’s got electric boots/a mohair suit… (Bennie and the Jets/Elton John) 

♫ “Are you going to starve an old friend?” Are you going to Scarborough Fair? (Scarborough Fair/Simon & Garfunkel)

♫ “Baking carrot biscuits.” Takin’ care of business. (Takin’ Care Of Business/Bachman-Turner Overdrive )

♫ “Four-headed woman.” [3] More than a woman.  (More Than a Woman/The Bee Gees)

♫ “Ham on rye.” I’m alright.  (I’m Alright/Kenny Loggins)

♫ “I’ll never leave your pizza burning.” I’ll never be your beast of burden. (Beast of Burden/The Rolling Stones)

♫ “I’m the god of Velveeta.” In the garden of Eden. (In-a-gadda-da-vita/Iron Butterfly[4])

♫ “Pretty Woman, won’t you lick my leg.” Pretty Woman, won’t you look my way. (Pretty Woman/Roy Orbison)

♫ “Secret Asian man.” Secret agent man. (Secret Agent Man/Johnny Rivers)

♫ “Since she put me down there’ve been owls pukin’ in my bed.” Since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head. (Help Me Rhonda/Beach Boys)

*   *   *

Holiday detritus: The sequel

Despite having abdicated my presidency of the National Sarcasm Society,[5] I have sometimes been accused of viewing the world through jaundice-colored glasses.  But my inherent skepticism re sentimentality goes on hiatus for Misty River‘s poignant, Don’t Take Down the Mistletoe. Even a reputed cynic like me can become teary-eyed when I hear this song, with its beautiful harmonies and the theme of appreciating that which so often seems unnoteworthy – the simple joys of what is (and who are) right in front of you.  It gives hope to Old Married Farts® like moi.

*   *   *

That’s enough for a heart-warming interlude.  Leave the mistletoe up, sure, but it’s time to get re-pissed about something.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, former astronaut Mark Kelly phoned his wife, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who as we all know was gravely wounded in the 2011 Tucson shooting.  As per an interview with the Washington Post, Kelly said to her, “Gabby, we can’t just put out a statement anymore….If we just talk about it, things won’t change. We need to try and help.”

I applaud Giffords’ and Kelly’s launching of an anti-gun violence organization to take on the NRA and pro-assault weapons lobbyists and push for legislative changes in America’s gun laws.  This is a pathetically long-delayed baby step[6] in addressing an incredibly complicated issue[7]…but all the legislation in the world won’t make a difference until there is a critical mass of attitude adjustment. This country needs a movement to change awareness and perception re firearms, ala MADD.

I’ve heard it said that the slack jawed and simple-minded good-hearted denizens of Droptrou, Alabama will never understand the benefits of regulating civilian ownership of military weaponry, and will cling to their guns like cheap, zero-ply, recycled environmentally-friendly toilet paper to a dingleberry.  But there are reasons for hope.

Can you picture today, in 2013, someone bragging about how he consumed three six-packs at ____ (Thanksgiving dinner; Joe’s Bar; his mother’s bat mitzvah), then drove home and took out his neighbor’s lawn jockey when he tried to park in his own garage but ended up on their front porch?

Uh…you can imagine that?  Yeah, me, too.

Okay, there are still yahoos like that, and probably always will be.  But the number of fatalities related to DUI has been declining in the past 30 years and continues to fall.  This is due in large part to a radical change in societal attitudes towards DUI since Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980.

It may be hard to remember that prosecuting attorneys used to defend themselves for not pursuing drunk drivers because they could rarely get a conviction. The P.A.s (and the drunk’s defense attorney) could count on at least a couple of jurors thinking to themselves, “Gee, I’ve driven ‘under the influence’ and I’m not a bad person – besides, the defendant didn’t mean to crash into the station wagon and kill that woman and her daughter and injure her husband and two sons[8]….”

Society needs a MADD-style movement applied to guns.  We’ll never be fully able to reason with a truly deranged person; I got that.  But I think that the alteration of the association of machismo and even patriotism with civilians having and using guns for anything other than sport shooting and subsistence hunting[9] is possible.

Many hunters hold nothing but scorn for their so-called peers who use semi-automatic or other assault style guns.  They consider it ungallant, unsportsmanlike[10] to say the least, and note that no “true hunter” should need – or want – an Uzi to bag a deer.

The drunk driver, once an inspiration for comedy and boys-will-be-boys type excuses, is now an object of revulsion.  In addition to the criminal penalties and civil liabilities resulting from a DUI conviction, I think the vast majority of Americans would be horrified, ashamed and humiliated to be known as someone who drinks and drives.  Imagine the change, if the same could be said about guns.

Dude, you bought an AR15?  What’s the matter – the Viagra not working for ya?

 Disclaimer:  my support for the attitude-adjusting work of MADD is in no way intended as a slight against a related organization, D-DAMM (Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers).

“Speaking personally, you can have my gun, but you’ll take my book when you pry my cold, dead fingers off of the binding.”  ― Stephen King

*   *   *

One of these days I’ll gripe blog about yet another fiction writer’s dirty little secret: the lack of time to read other people’s fiction.  Here’s a recent read I’m glad to have found time for:  Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers by Pendred Noyce .[11]

(I loathe the “age range” rankings common to the (American) book selling biz, and although both Amazon and Barnes & Noble put this book in their 9-12 readers category I recommend this book for adventurous readers aged 9 to 90.)

It doesn’t seem right to be at a loss for words when describing a book with “Lexicon” in the title, but that’s where I find myself after reading Noyce’s unique tale. Nevertheless (however; even so; all the same; as Emily the llama might suggest) I’ll give it a try.

Cousins Daphne and Ivan get more than they bargained for when, attempting to relieve their boredom on a rainy day, they embark on a treasure hunt that takes them from a magical cupola in their Great Aunt Adelaide’s barn to and through the enchanting, mind-boggling and sometimes frustrating Land of Lexicon.  As with all remarkable treasure hunts, a quest is involved: all of the children are missing from the various bordering, bickering villages of Lexicon, and their disappearance has something to do with the extraordinary, shimmering lights in the sky. The cousins must keep their wits (and nouns and adjectives and verbs…) about them as they traverse the peculiar, charming worlds of Lexicon, where they must solve a succession of puzzles involving imaginative syntax and math mysteries …

Gotcha, you sneak! – you might say at this point – this is a book adults want kids to read.  As in, give ’em an alleged adventure story to stealth-bomb them into absorbing some grammar and algebra lessons? Yes, it’s fantasy with “educational elements,” but the learnin’ stuff is expertly woven into the story (it is the story), and there’s nothing sneaky about it. Occasionally the narrative is too clever for its own good (if that can be considered a criticism) and the cast of village characters can be hard to keep track of, but it is refreshing to find a book that entices, rather than insults, the intelligence of both its characters and its intended audience.  Plus, you gotta (okay, I gotta) love a cast that includes Emily the loyal, thesaurus-ical llama, the verb-loathing Noun Man, the Mistress of Metaphor, bee-keeping witches, Mr. Prosaic, and other quirky characters prone to spouting lines like, “These lands exist as theoretical constructs, not tourist attractions!”

Oh, and the kids save the day and survive getting stung by grammar-sensitive bees. Hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Because I say so, that’s why. Also, whenever I wear a felt ball necklace someone always asks if they may touch it, which gives me the opportunity to graciously reply, “Yes, you may fondle my balls”.

[2] And for me, it is playing.  Anything other than my workout clothes or tie-dye t-shirts is dress-up.

[3] There needs to be a special award for this one, because a four-headed woman would be more than (just) a woman…wouldn’t she?

[4] The band themselves, drunk during a rehearsal in 1968, botched the lyrics, and decided to keep them this way. That is, the in-a-gadda way, not the Mondegreen, cheese-product way.

[5] official fundraising motto: “Like we need your support.”

[6] Paging Congress: report to Giffords and Kelly to be fitted for your testicular implants.

[7] Is anyone willing to substantively address the failure of deinstitutionalization?

[8] Which is what happened to friends of my family, 11:30 on a Sunday morning, on their way to church.  A drunk driver blew through a red light. The surviving sons both suffered permanent brain damage.

[9] And those rare cases of real and specific threat to one’s self or family (e.g., being stalked by a gun nut)

[10] Until you arm deer or quail or whatever you target with equal weaponry, I consider all sport-hunting of animals to be the ultimate definition of unsportsmanlike.

[11] Disclosure: although I’m no relation to the author and have never met her, my book The Mighty Quinn is forthcoming from Scarletta Press, Lost in Lexicon‘s publisher.

The Lye-soaked Cod I Am Not Eating


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.

*   *   *

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.

*   *   *

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.

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


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.

*   *   *

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.

The Classic Songs I’m Not (quite) Dissing

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   ♫ Chipmunks chestnuts roasting on an open fire…. ♫

‘Tis the season, oh yeah.

Belle has a pear tree in our front yard.  She purchased it, many years ago, using her allowance and babysitting money, and planted it (with MH’s help). Last Saturday she discovered, to her delight, that her father had wrapped the tree’s trunk and branches in green and blue lights.

Not to be outdone in the parental décor department, and because nothing says Happy Holidays like pranking your offspring, I gave myself a decorating project this week. Monday afternoon, walking home from the school bus stop, Belle was greeted by this festive site:

Yes, now she has a ____ in a ____ .  I can hear you, humming to yourself.

Belle’s response to my arboreal embellishment was the archetypal teen’s determined-to-stay-cool non-reaction. Part of what made her non-plussment so genuine was that, in a very basic way, she truly didn’t “get it.” MH and I had to explain the Partridge family reference.  Seeing as how we are the Cretins Without Cable TV ® family, if Nick at Nite or whatever has the reruns, we’re out of luck.

“Maybe we can check Netflix?” I wondered aloud during dinner. “Or, we can probably find a song or two for her, probably on YouTube.”

Her looked at me askance as she shuffled the cards and passed the deck to her father.  MH dealt the next round of Thirteen[1] and said, with possibly the greatest forced nonchalance known to humanity, “I think there might be a Partridge Family album up in the attic.”

After 24 years of marriage, you think you know the man….

Earlier this week I received the preliminary copy of the Marketing Plan my publisher, Scarletta Press, has drawn up for The Mighty Quinn, my middle grade novel. Reviewing the plans was both an exciting and gut-churning, where are my blood pressure pills? task for me. Although I can be the life of the lunch table (or lefse party, as attentive readers will discover next week) I am a pathetic excuse for a self-horn-tooter.[2]  The readings and book signing appearances I’ve done for past publications have been ordeals for me.[3] Ah, but who knew that watching a Partridge Family video could be so reassuring? No matter what happens in any public appearance I may have to may be fortunate enough to make, I figure it is highly unlikely I’ll look or act as dorky as the Laurie Partridge character does when she mimes playing the keyboards by robotically flicking her wrists as if she’s trying to dislodge some exceedingly sticky boogers from her fingertips.[4]

*   *   *

“I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah.” —President George W. Bush, at a White House menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001.

That was a truly historical stinker of a Presidential quote.  And (how’s this for a segue) some folks think any dish made with Brussels Sprouts is a stinker. Some folks are occasionally right, but mostly, they are wrong. This week, I had some leftover BS – whoa, the judge’s ruling says that acronym has got to go. This week, I had some leftover B sprouts (just lying around, you know, keeping the house safe from bed bugs and Libertarians), and came up with the following for Wednesday night’s dinner.

Let Them Eat (BS) Cakes
– 3 medium shallots, peeled, stemmed & halved
– Brussels sprouts (~ ¾ lb before trimming), stem ends trimmed, outer leaves removed
-3/4 c low fat ricotta cheese
– 2 eggs
-1 t baking powder
-sea salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 ½ t or more ground cumin (toasted and freshly ground, if possible)
– ½ c chickpea flour, plus more, if needed
-EVOO (extra v olive oil) or canola or grapeseed oil, plus cooking spray or oil-mist-thingy

1. Place sprouts & shallots in food processor, pulse until shredded, or until evidence of Brussels-sproutness is camouflaged.  You should have ~ 4 c of shreds.

2. Use a fork to mix ricotta, eggs, baking powder & spices in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add shredded B-sprouts and shallots to bowl, stir until incorporated.

4. Sprinkle chickpea flour into the bowl and stir.  Add more flour if necessary, 1T at a time, until you have the desired consistency.

5. What is the desired consistency? Reflect on this, for a sec. Perhaps recalling those petty but entertaining family spats over the inadequacy of the Thanksgiving gravy[5] will help.
5a. If you’re going the fritter route (ala pakora[6] style) and like using a bucket o’ oil in which to fry foods because you don’t give a bodybuilder’s ass[7] about your arteries, you’ll want the mixture more moist.
5b. For “cake” style (think crab cake texture) you want the mixture just moist enough to hold together but not so dry that it falls apart.

5c. there is no “c” option. Make up your mind.

6. Line a large platter with a piece of wax or parchment paper.  Using an oiled or sprayed measuring cup, or just your lightly oiled hands and keen sense of proportion, scoop out ¼ c of the mixture, form/press into cakes, and place on the platter. Place platter in frig and chill at least 20m or up to several hours.

7. When ready to fry ’em up, film a large cast iron pan[8] with oil, heat pan over medium for two minutes, then add cakes, flattening them with the back of a spatula.[9] Sauté 5-7 cakes at a time (depending on the size of your pan), for 3-4m each side, until browned. Spray or mist the tops of the cakes w/oil before you flip them (quickly remove the fry pan from stovetop; do the oil-spraying thing over the sink, never near an open flame, unless you support the Firefighters Full Employment Act).  When cakes are done transfer them to a clean platter and keep ’em toasty warm in the oven while you cook the remaining batch.

Served with heaping dollops of nonfat Greek yogurt thinned to a sauce-like consistency with a whole lotta lemon juice and spiced with a pinch or so of cayenne.

Dateline: the last weekend in October.  MH and I had driven up to Tacoma, to visit son K for the University of Puget Sound’s Homecoming/Parents/Alumni weekend revelry.  On Saturday morning, MH participated in the UPS 5k Fun Run while K partook of his idea of Saturday morning fun (sleeping in). I made my way to one of the campus’ cafes, where I sipped the foo-foo drink of the day (pumpkin spice chai; foo foo is sometimes quite yummers), listened to KUPS  and read the local (Tacoma & Seattle) alternative newspapers.

Skimming through the events section of Seattle’s The Stranger made me feel young again and older still, all at the same time.  We were headed back to Oregon on Sunday the 29th, which meant – damn! I would have to miss the Zombie Speed Dating event scheduled for the 30th:

“All (undead) singles 21-39 years old are welcome”…

Oh, never mind.  Zero for three.

Scanning the newspapers’ lists of upcoming gigs made me want to extend my visit for another weekend.  Surely, I thought, I could talk MH into driving up to Seattle see an amazing triple bill: the bands Bruce Willis’s Smirk and Septic Flesh opening for Bitch Magnet. Or we could trot on over to an adjacent club and catch their house band, Diarrhea Planet.  But wait—there’s more.  Across town the joints are jumping with the mellows sounds of Truckasauras, White Coward, Bigfoot Accelerator, Laff Hole….

In my college Days of Yore[10] I spent way too much time in my dorm’s lounge, allegedly taking study breaks, which oft-times consisted of my fellow dormies and I dreaming up band and/or song titles of our own. Composing clever band names was easier than actually forming a group or writing songs, and much more practical, given our utter lack of musical talent.

I’ve always had an attraction for song titles that are a story unto themselves. The much (and often rightfully) maligned Country-Western field arguably leads all other musical genres when it comes to evocative titles. “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” – with a title like that, you don’t even need to hear the lyrics, do you?  What I would have given[11] to have composed the inspirational choruses of:

– If My Nose Were Full of Nickels I’d Blow it All on You
– Help I’m White and I Can’t Get Down
– Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart
– Who Bit The Wart Off Grandma’s Nose?
– My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don’t Love Jesus
– The Pint of No Return

*   *   *

Twenty years ago, driving home from an yet another unnecessary errand I’d undertaken to keep me busy busy busy on the day I was expecting amniocentesis results,[12] I was aurally assaulted by my car’s radio. Good thing I’m not superstitious, or I might have considered it a bad omen when, two times in a row, I switched the channel because a station was playing my most detested kind of song (“Oh baby come back, I’ll be lower than worm dung if you leave me“), only to find that the subsequent channels were also out to get me.

There I was, driving on a public highway, yelling a How the hell should I know?  answer to Michael Bolton’s plaintive (read: screeching) rhetorical entreaty, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?

Okay; cleansing breath; punch the radio dial instead of the steering wheel.  Punch punch.  Oh yeah, just what the doctor ordered: Laura Branigan’s version of the same damn song.

Punch punch punchity-punch. No. This cannot be happening. I’d punched myself right into Harry Nilsson’s plaintive, wailing, “I can’t live/if living is without youuuuu…”  Once again I found myself smacking the steering wheel, this time screaming, “Excuuuuuuuse me, but if you can’t live without me then why are you still alive?”

As soon as I returned home I wrote down the lyrics that were swirling through my festered mind. I borrowed an electronic keyboard from a neighbor and painstakingly, one-fingeredly, came up with a suitable tune. I figure the subject matter cried out for a country-western, full-twang treatment; thus was begat my one and only foray into songwriting, the mercifully unrecorded[13], “If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead?”

Attention, Garth Brook’s manager:  if the Garth-man is looking for that next big hit to lure him out of retirement…[14]

And they say nobody writes love songs anymore.

Hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1]  A card game we often play at dinner. We’re the geeks at the restaurant who pull out the mini-deck of cards after the server has taken our order.

[2] That sounds like some vaguely naughty, self-abuse practice. Not the kind of thing to be mentioned in the same paragraph as a children’s novel. See? I told ya I sucked at self-promotion.

[3] I’m of the writers should be read and not seen school of thought. Not a good fit for the prevailing attitude that everyone should want to be a celebrity, or at least in the public eye, for their 15 minutes.

[4] I hope I’ve redeemed myself for the earlier quasi-sexual reference.  Boogers are kid-friendly!

[5]  Aunt Erva wanted you to make it soupier and Uncle Anus prefers it clam chowder thick.

[6] An Indian snack or appetizer of almost infinite variety, typically composed of shredded veggies dipped in a gram or chickpea flour batter and pan-or deep-fryed.

[7] Probably not any smaller than the average girly man’s tush, but the musclemen’s gigantamous torso and thighs do give that illusion.

[8] You’re not still using nonstick cookware, are you? That stuff will kill you. Or give you herpes, or shingles or axillary lymph node tumors, or club feet. Whatever you’re afraid of.

[9] I love that word. Spatula.

[10] insert The Waltons theme music.

[11]  Well, okay, not much.

[12] Procedure performed due to maternal age, rather than family history of genetic disease, disability or malformation. Unless you think a family tendency to deem The Lawrence Welk Show the height of entertainment qualifies as a disability (and I do). But they don’t have a test for that. Yet.

[13] So far.  Hey, the century is young.  Any takers?

[14] He just may have to keep on looking.