The Voices I’m Not Hearing

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Yet Another Reason To Go On Living

Someday I shall tell you my penis tattooing joke.  Not today, but someday.

Nine out of ten camels agree, it’s the best joke they’ve ever heard

*   *   *

Even more reasons to go on living: those fragments of conversation, heard in passing

MH, Belle, K and I, on our way out of a Fred Meyer store, pass a woman on her way in.  Cart Woman, a gritty, out-of-my-way look in her eyes, speedily pushes a shopping cart in which her bug-eyed toddler squirms in the cart’s child seat.  She hiss/whispers to the child:

“You are not going to pee your pants – we’re almost there.”

*   *   *

MH, son K and I made a trip to Tacoma earlier this week, while Belle stayed home and held down the proverbial fort. [1]  It was time to return K to the University of Puget Sound, for his junior year as a “tiny bio” [2] major.

My friend CC’s comment, after she’d heard we’d be helping K move into his first off-campus dwelling, a rental house he’ll be sharing with four or five other students: 

Good Luck with that!
Just don’t go into the bathroom, now or ever, for the well being of your health.

Wise words, but bathroom, schmathroom — the real danger was the enclosed back porch/laundry room, which is also where K’s housemates have decided to keep the recycling containers.  Apparently, the concept of rinse-and-recycle has not sunk in, much to the delight of the local Musca domestica and their various drosophilia cousins.  Also, there is the neglected litter box for the cat-the-boyfriend[3]-of-one-of-the-housemates-brought-in-violation-of-the-lease.

I must remind myself: what festers in Tacoma stays in Tacoma.

K’s room is one of the bigger bedrooms in the house, yee haw. It was also totally unfurnished and had no closet or shelves of any kind, which necessitated trips to local stores to procure some clothing and other storage devices.  Wednesday morning I drove us from our hotel to K’s house to pick him up for one of the shopping forays.  I stayed in the car while MH fetched K, and as my menfolk were leaving K’s house an older woman from the house across the street scurried out to her front yard and called to K:  “Are you going out?  Would you bring me back a Pepsi?”

K relayed the women’s request to me when he got in the car, and his eyes widened when I said it might be fun to actually bring her back a Pepsi. No, Mom, please…don’t.

K was concerned that he would become, in that neighbor’s eyes, an easy mark.   His housemates, who’ve been in the house since the summer, warned him about Pepsi Woman and her peculiar behaviors.  I asked them for more info when we returned from shopping:  Is PW mentally ill, a classic eccentric, or maybe just has a really big Pepsi jones?

From what K’s housemates have gleaned, Pepsi Woman suffers from a TBI, with the resulting cognitive and behavioral deficits common to such injuries. Her grown daughter checks up on her regularly, but PW gets anxious when her husband isn’t around (he works normal/daytime hours) and tends to “wander” during the day.  She wandered into their house one day – just opened the door and marched inside not long after the housemates had brought back boxes of takeout pizza and uttered the completely ordinary and yet situationally disturbing words, “Are you having pizza?”

It freaked them out, to say the least.

It will provide the housemates with some funny stories, I assured K, although the women’s situation is ultimately and profoundly sad.  Please, be kind to her, I requested.  And I wish I’d gotten her that Pepsi.

*   *   *

less than a week until school starts

A long time ago, long before children, I did not understand why a writer friend hated summer, to the point of cursing with great creativity the school district in which her children attended school, when budget cuts meant they had the shortest school year in the state.  Could not understand, because I didn’t have a school-aged child. 

Recently, I told her this and apologized if I seemed insensitive ten years ago. Because I get it. Summer, if you are involved and/or can’t afford help, means a stay at home parent’s life is completely derailed. Everything is on hold. If you are like me, you can’t get anything done because multiple interruptions make you crazy (there’s neuroscience to back me up–well, not on the crazy part…. 

I am the writer friend mentioned in the above excerpt, which is from the blog of the marvelous, wise and witty Attorney at Large.  ‘Twas funny, to read about that situation in a friend’s blog.  And I do not recall her reaction as being insensitive at all.  Only unfamiliar…with a situation which she, as a fellow writer and, now, fellow CHAW ,[4] now is.

(And since she is also, in so many ways,  a better writer than I, she can grimace over the construction of that last sentence.)

Once again, I digress.

The hating-summer thing is only in terms of work.  As in, being able to work on new stories, rather than just keeping up with the business end of things. [5]Scratch the “just,” there is nothing just/merely/simply about keeping up with the business end of writing.  The business end is the end I-most-don’t-want-my-face-near,

but it is essential, and takes up an incredible amount of time.

There have been a few summers when I have managed the dilemma well (read: lowered expectations re new work to absolute zero). I’m hoping this has been one of them.  I truly enjoyed spending time with K & Belle during their time off, as long as I was able to muffle the should be/could be haranguing voice inside my head, which for some disturbing reason sounds an awful lot like Barry White on helium.

I’ve heard people say that
 Too much of anything is not good for you, baby
 Oh no
 But I don’t know about that
 There’s many stories that we’ve loved
 You’ve shared stories and written stories
 It doesn’t seem to me like it’s enough
 There’s just not enough of it
why aren’t you writing more new stories
 Oh oh, babe….

Fun fact:  I read somewhere that when schizophrenics have auditory hallucinations, regardless of the gender of the person experiencing the hallucinations, the imaginary voices overwhelmingly tend to be male.[6]

Good to know.  Anyway, pretend there is a graceful segue.

Belle starts her senior year of high school next week.  Yee haws, and yikes abound. And I will start pawing through my notes on the next The Mighty Quinn book.  It’s not a sequel, but I found that although as eager as I was to get on to my list of a quabillion other projects, I wasn’t quite done with the characters, and my files contain enough notes on scenario and plot and dialog that I think I could have at least two more books in a…

Insert the appropriate s-word, I dare you. I can’t say it, or write it.  A series?  It was never my intention to write one, and I don’t think I’m going to.  But on to middle school/junior high – with all the weirdness that comes with the territory, including, may the Flying Spaghetti Monster be praised, puberty!  How can I deny myself letting Quinn and Neally et al wreak havoc in that bountiful setting?

Take it away, Barry.  Let the summer end and the hormonal (literarily speaking) hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] read: scooped all three literal litter boxes. Excellent job, Belle!

[2] Micro and Cellular Biology.

[3] Who is, apparently, becoming housemate #5

[4] Scrambled acronym for At Home Child Wrangler

[5]Bizness includes keeping up with the ever-changing publisher and manuscript/story submission requests and guidelines, querying agents and publishers, sending out manuscripts and tracking them when they return home to roost….

[6] Due to generally shorter vocal cords, smaller larynx, higher pitch, wider range of sounds and more melodious tone, the female voice is more “complex” than the male’s and thus, it is speculated by scientists (or hallucinated) a female-sounding voice is more difficult for the brain to conjure and replicate than a male’s voice is.

The Problem I’m Not Talking About


A woman clad in body-hugging, long-sleeve Nike shirt, Adidas leggings and New Balance shoes, [1] is running toward me.  She is pushing one of those baby jogger strollers. You know how a rhythmic, rocking motion can calm and soothe many a fussy infant?  Hers is not that kind of baby.

A lone seagull crouches in the grass, extends its necks and emits staccato, croaking calls, as if doing a series of vocal exercises to warm up for the squawking to come.  A man who looks to be in his mid 30’s places a duffle bag beneath the canopy of a large cedar tree and begins some kind of martial arts exercises. I hear a wheezing noise coming from behind me; I’m on “alert status,” as one must be when walking in unfamiliar territory, and stop at a fork in the path and turn around.  An elderly gentleman is about 20 feet behind me on the path.  He’s rail thin, looks as if a strong breeze could knock him over,.  He has a thick mass of shock white hair atop his deeply furrowed head, and he’s wearing a bright neon safety vest.  He pumps his arms as he strides past me, flashing a beatific smile and greeting me with a cheery, “Good moooooooorning!” I take the fork to the right, and soon I hear the familiar, shuffle shuffle crunch snuffle snuffle that heralds the approach of a biped and its dog, respectively walking and inspecting the twig-strewn gravel path.  Ahead of me to the south, a sleek black lab, let off its leash by its human, intensely and hopefully [2] streaks toward two seagulls resting on the grass by the duck pond.  The birds watch the rapidly approaching canine, waiting until the last moment before nonchalantly spreading their wigs and rising helicopter-like over the dog, which rockets beneath them.  The dog slows down for a nanosecond, glances back at its human, resumes its speed and slightly changes direction – reminding me of how a cat, when it somehow fails, begins to casually groom itself as if to say, Oh yeah, I meant to do that.

The simple sights and sounds of a city awakening to the assurance of a beautiful day.

MH, Belle and I are staying in an olde apartment building (ca 1912) across the street from the perfect venue for a morning – or afternoon or evening – walk.  Wright Park is a 27 acre arboretum with a series of gravel loop trails, a duck pond, a lawn bowling/bocce ball court, a botanical conservancy, several themed works of bronze statuary and one seemingly random memorial.  As my après-walk internet search later confirms, I’m not the only person to have wondered why, in the middle of a Tacoma park, is there a monument to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen? [3]

We are in Tacoma[4] for three reasons.
1. to return K to college (UPS).
2. Belle is interested in UPS,[5] and is doing campus tours and other activities UPS offers to prospective students. On our way back to Oregon we will stop at Evergreen College in Olympia, for similar check-out-the-school exploring.
3. there is no third reason.

K came home for his spring break last week.  At the end of the week we made a two day trip to Manzanita and then drove the scenic route [6] to take K back to UPS.  It seems as though all of Tacoma was out when we arrived on Saturday afternoon.  There is something about Tacoma on a sunny day that reminds me of San Francisco.  Perhaps it’s the city’s many hills, and the view you have atop them, to the north, east and west, of the bay (Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay, in Tacoma’s case).  In cities like Tacoma and San Francisco, which are known for their often overcast/inclement weather, a clear, bright sunny day seems to bring out the best in residents and visitors alike.

Just in case you were wondering, after reading that last comparison, I neither smoke nor inhale.  Apologies to San Fransiscoites: the afore-mentioned weather rumination is the only Tacoma characteristic that reminds me of The City.  Your beloved Baghdad by The Bay’s charm remains intact, and unique.

Saturday night, after dropping off K at his dorm, Belle, MH & I had dinner at Pomodoro, in Tacoma’s Procter district.   Not long after we were seated Belle removed her sketch pad and pencils from her purse. She and MH were seated across from me, and Belle looked in my direction as she began to sketch. I turned around to see if perhaps a cute waiter or bus boy was lurking behind me.  Nope.  This put me into a rather mild existential panic.  I tried my best not to sound like a bad Robert DeNiro imitation as I asked, “Are you sketching me?”

“Yes,” Belle replied.  “Hold still.”

I didn’t hold still.  None of us held still.  We were doing restaurant-things: eating, drinking, lifting napkins to our mouths, answering questions from our server, as well as allegedly conversing with one another.  Belle said nothing more, but from her heavy sighs and eyebrow gymnastics it was apparent that she was disappointed with my lack of stillness, and other attributes that render me unfit for sketching.

I do not translate well to photos.  I am not a still life, and loathe having my picture taken in any form and for any cause. The reasons for this are not particularly complicated or interesting; they are known to those supposedly closest to me, and in a kind and just world (calling Mr. Rogers) would be respected, even if not “understood.”  This is rarely the case.

From the POV of a fotografizophobic, [7] when people gaze at you intently and allegedly dispassionately, judging the contours (read: inadequacies) of your bone structure and other facial features, hearing them say, “Hold still so I can sketch you/take your picture” is the emotional equivalent of hearing, Hold still so that I may throw acid in your face.

Unsolicited, adult-to-adult advice: when any sentient being declines to have their picture taken by you, respect their wishes and move on.  Do not whine and wheedle, do not attempt any form of emotional blackmail (“The family reunion shot will be ruined if you’re not in it, and who knows if Uncle Anus will live long enough to attend the next one!”).  Unless I am renewing my driver’s license and you are the DMV camera dude, or you are the hospital’s medical photographer sent to document my Mayo Clinic-worthy bulbous axillary tumor, back off.  It’s that simple.

*   *   *
We interrupt this family travelogue to bring you a political rant.
Your regular programming will return shortly.

Department of I’m glad he didn’t live/I wish he’d lived to see this

My father had an inexplicable, embarrassing (to me) fascination with Richard Milhous Nixon.  He’d been to Nixon’s “Western White House” home in San Clemente on official (IRS) business and had met the then Prevaricator Commander-in-Chief.  To a man of my dad’s generation who began life as a dirt-poor country boy in a southern family of share croppers, meeting The President must have been seen as a pinnacle of the American dream.  Thus, I tell myself my father’s interest was a case of celebrity worship, or that all-too-human fascination with any personal brush with power, and not that he actually admired the lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid, commie-baiting, racist contender for worst president ever.

 I thought no new revelations about Nixon could ever surprise me, even though I knew there were more tapes and documents yet to be declassified.  Still, it was chilling to read the revelations contained in the LBJ tapes about just how low RMN would go to obtain power.  In 1968, fearing that the Paris Peace Talks would end the Vietnam War and thus his election chances, Nixon secretly intervened to sabotage the negotiations.  He sent his envoy to get the South Vietnamese to pull out of the talks, promising them “a better deal” if he were elected.  LBJ, informed of Nixon’s treachery by the FBI, felt Nixon was committing treason, but feared going public with the information for several reasons, including national security concerns and having to reveal that the FBI and the NSA were bugging the South Vietnamese ambassador’s phone and intercepting his communications.  Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, informed of the situation by LBJ a few days before the election, decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, especially if the Dems were going to win anyway (they were ahead in the polls).

What is that old saying, something about how all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing?

The peace talks collapsed, Nixon ended his campaign by promising an alternative to the inept Democratic strategy – look at them, they couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table! – and won the election with less than 1% of the popular vote.  His “better deal” led to the war dragging on until 1975…which caused the additional deaths of Twenty. Two. Thousand. American soldiers. [8]

Despite – or perhaps because of – being a fiction writer I’m a huge fan of reality.  A part of me wishes my father could have read the transcripts, and that he and I could’ve discuss the revelations, and that he would have been able to understand at least a part of my vitriol for RMN, which is best expressed by Hunter S. Thompson’s He Was A Crook.  Another part [9] wimps out on reality, and tries to embrace the idea that an old man went in peace, holding on to whatever fantasies he had, the Nixon one (oh….ick) included.

Richard Nixon…He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”
(Hunter S. Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, May 1, 1994)

*   *   *

More freethinker troublemaking:

“Leave No Stone Unturned” An Easter Challenge for Christians

*   *   *

“It’s the problem…that no one likes to talk about. No wonder they call it Silent But Deadly.”

How’s that for a commercial lead-in? But really, ladies and germs,[10] The same type of fabric used by the military to protect against chemical weapons can be yours, with the purchase of the intriguingly named Better Marriage Blanket.  Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking.  Or, maybe it is.  Oh, who cares – any product with the selling point “offending molecules are absorbed before anyone knows they’re there” is worth a moment of your attention, right?  Not only that, it’s given me the idea of how to solve the North Korea situation.  Get our Navy Seals to wrap Kim Jong-un in a Better Marriage Blanket, and it’ll be like he’s not even there.

Speaking of other problems no one likes to talk about, there are those family road trips that do not end in all sweetness and light and witty anecdotes.  Unsolicited adult-to-adult advice, revisited (the photography-free version): do not endure treatment from family members that you would find intolerable coming from anyone else.

Smarter people than us said this:

* Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Alexander Pope

* There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
– Martin Luther King Jr

* Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
– George Carlin

*   *   *

Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.  Hmm, not the feel-good title of the year, you say?  The collection contains some beautiful, intriguing, moving essays, poems and fiction on the subject of loss in the context of motherhood, including, in the last category, a story of mine.  Two years ago I read the editor’s call for submissions and submitted my story “Maddie is Dead.” [11] It was one of those made-me-shiver incidents when the editor contacted me to say that she loved the story and wanted to include it in the collection, and by the way, is the story indeed fiction (it is), and by-the-by-the-way, did I know that her deceased daughter was named Maddie?

The anthology should be in book stores later this year and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

*   *   *

One last gasp at the road trip story.  It was our first night in Tacoma, in the afore-mentioned apartment with Belle & Mark, and Belle was cranky due to a nasty, lingering cold and (gasp) no TV on site. She turned down any suggestion I had for playing cards, games, etc.  I passed the time doing an online search for…hmmm, parameters, hmmm. What would be a spirit-lifting image to see? How about sloths wearing onsies?

Best. Search. In. A. Long. Time.

An adorable Bradypodidae, dressed in baby clothes.  Hijinks are bound to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] The Clash of the Titans?

[2] Warning: anthropomorphizing zone ahead.

[3] A Norwegian-American artist sculpted a bust of Ibsen, his mentor and friend. Three bronze busts cast from the original ended up in places with large populations of Norski immigrants: St. Paul, MN, Wahpeton, N.D., and Tacoma.  Just because.

[4] The Tacoma narrative was written earlier this week, on Sunday and Monday.

[5] to her brother’s genuine if mild apprehension.

[6] Up the Oregon coast, crossing the Clumbia River at Astoria, following the Willapa Bay, cutting over to Olympia at the small town of Raymond. Which led us to wonder if there was a man in the town named Raymond, and if so, do all of the townspeople like him?

[7] Fotografizophobia is the fear of having your picture taken.

[8] .and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians soldiers and civilians.

[9] The part spelled “protective daughter,” no doubt.

[10] A lame popularized by Milton Berle in the 1950’s: “Good evening, ladies and germs.  I mean ladies and gentlemen. I call you ladies and gentlemen, but you know what you really are.”  It was funnier then.  Supposedly.

[11] Previously published in The Externalist, issue 4, October 7.

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.