Home

The Car I’m Not Decorating

Comments Off on The Car I’m Not Decorating

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

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 Lye-soaked Cod I Am Not Eating

4 Comments

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.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

*   *   *

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.