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The Ancestors I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of Sourdough Analogy
Hint: An Acorn Is Not An Oak Tree

My sourdough starter, “fed” and bubbling, plus the right proportions of flours, water, salt, an autolyse period, an initial rise, a final shape and rise followed by baking in a properly preheated oven, usually/hopefully (but not guaranteed every time – ask any baker) will yield a loaf of sourdough bread. But the sourdough starter and flour and water and salt, separately or combined, are not a loaf of sourdough bread.

Picture this: At one of MH’s and my dinner gatherings, a friend/guest/family member expresses anti-reproductive choice sentiments just as I am about to pass the basket of homemade sourdough bread.

Yeah – someone getting all anti-abortion-y at a dinner party hosted my moiself? The scenario is a stretch to imagine,  [1] but bear with me:

 

 

 

bearjpg

Well, okay.

 

 

 

Depending on the vehemence of their sentiments (on a scale running from “I’d never have one or be the cause of one myself, but I’d never try to butt in on other people’s medical decisions,” to “A fertilized ovum is the equivalent of a person,” to  “Citizenship for sperm!”) they will be served some combination of the following: the raw sourdough starter, flour, water, salt, the pre-risen bread dough, the risen and shaped but unbaked bread dough – while the rest of us enjoy the actual bread.

 

bread

bread2jpg

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Almost Worth The Potential Global Destruction
And/Or At Least Worldwide Humiliation Regarding The Functioning Of Our So-Called Democratic Electoral System…

…to have someone like Cheetos Hitler be #45, so that someone could come up with One Of The Best Acronyms Ever ® .

It is a given that most sentient beings with moral compasses larger than a fleck of bellybutton lint refuse to refer to #45 as POTUS. Now – thanks to/may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless The Internet – we have a most fitting option:  SCROTUS.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents; [3] flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church [4] for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over a decade ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor veneration, not worship. For the love of the FSM, get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
1.  [with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith” [5] – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their imaginary friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees ,[6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts,  ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then. By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

 

candles

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

*   *   *

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind. A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the bestest, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.  [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, hejab –  to a full-body, Bro burqua, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended diety;  protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts –  must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

 

 

hejab

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

*   *   *

Department Of Factory Fail

For some reason I’d prefer to think that it was an assembly line glitch, rather than a human judgment call, which was responsible for putting this spice shaker style cap on a bottle of bay leaves:

 

 

bayleaves

*   *   *

May you choose the appropriate cap for your container;
May you acknowledge if not esteem those who blazed your family trails;
May you continue the resistance and gram ’em by the SCROTUS;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I do not know each and every political belief of each and every  member of my family and circle of friends. I’ve some anti-choice family members, who have yet to bring up the topic at a dinner table gathering.  With my friends I either know or surmise we are on similar pages re The Big issues .®  

[2] So Called Ruler of the United States.

[3] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking, It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[4] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who for whatever reasons are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

The FB Question I’m Not Answering

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Life can be hard. It can be lonely. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of who we love, what we love, and why we love them. This post is a love-fest. Who makes your days worth living? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you smile even though/even when everything else is falling to pieces?

I rarely respond to such Facebook question-posts, even one phrased as contemplatively as the above, which was posted by the (adult) daughter of a friend. For some reason, I was in the mood to respond:

Who makes my days worth living: All the kind, witty, intelligent people I know. Also, some of the assholes – I want to live long enough to see them get their due.

What gets me out of bed in the morning: the dang cats – I mean of course the adorable kitties – need to be fed.

What makes me smile even when everything else is falling to pieces: the knowledge that, if I hold on long enough, I will, eventually, read or hear a really bad pun and/or fart joke.

Yep, she got me. Not only did I respond, I…wait for it…began to think (gasp!) about the possible responses to those questions.

I thought about how complaining is easy…not to mention, sometimes fun.  [1] Also, with The Way Things Are These Days, ® if you’re not complaining about the terrorist/politicians/greedmongers, it’s likely you’re not paying attention.

Then I thought about how kvetching about the world being full of/run by asshats is easier than noticing or remembering how many remarkable, fantastic people are out there, wearing a different kind of hat.

And I don’t mean remarkable as in curing brain cancer or discovering a renewable, non-polluting energy source. [2] Remarkable as in the quiet and consistent kindnesses from, and perseverance of, seemingly unremarkable people.

 

 

 

I was thinking specifically of those people who, without announcement or fanfare, without seeking publicity or credit or even recognition on behalf of a religious or business institution, regularly and consistently help other people.

“I am a humanist, which means in part that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”
(Kurt Vonnegut, in his essay collection, A Man Without a Country,) 

I continue to meet humanists and Freethinkers who devote a good portion of their lives to helping individuals and the larger society – they seek to fill what gaps need to be filled, not because they are motivated by any kind of punishment/reward dogma, but because it’s the right thing to do.  They do good for goodness’ sake, often helping, for example, the Hungry Old Man who would gladly accept a free meal and then turn around and just as gladly condemn the driver of the home meal delivery van to some kind of unpleasant afterlife if Hungry Old Man found out the driver was a “godless atheist” who does not profess any religious creed.  

It’s also incredible to truly consider the ramifications of  people going about their day, trying to live simply, do good, minimize harm, and live out their rational, Freethinking beliefs, when they are a minority, [3]  surrounded by superstition and irrationality, in a world which often seems to champion ignorance and obedience over knowledge and free inquiry.

I see these people; I am lucky to meet and know them. And I read about those who live in other countries and pursue the same goals, doing good and fighting for the right to live Bright, in societies and cultures where it can mean death to disbelieve or even question…and I am humbled and grateful.

And I think to myself, like the song says, what a wonderful world.

Let’s all pause for a moment, as unicorns of peace, harmony, happiness and appreciation fly out of our butts.

 

th-th-that's s-s-s-oooooo b-b-b-beautiful.

th-th-that’s s-s-s-oooooo b-b-b-beautiful.

*   *   *

May you elevate yourself from off of your haunches on this beautiful spring day;
May you deem the day beautiful no matter the weather and get yourself outside;
May you be fortunate enough to hear the call of the red winged blackbird,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

  *   *   *

[1] And also life extending: the more you complain, the longer you live. Or rather, it just seems longer to everyone around you.

[2] Not to discourage such efforts – if you’re working on solutions to those problems, yee haw and keep at it!

[3]The fastest growing minority, but a minority still.

The Back I’m Not Talking Behind

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Department Of If Vegetables Could Talk

This one might say, “I’m Not A Crook!… but I am the Third [1] Memorial Richard Milhouse Nixon Eggplant.”

 

eggplant

*   *   *

Department of Succinct Advice On How To
Handle Today’s Cutthroat, Back-stabbing Social and/or Business Culture

 

If someone talks about you behind your back, just fart.

 

 

Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.

Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.

 

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L. [2]

Remember to involve your children in age-appropriate party prep and hosting tasks.

 

tdayhiny1

*   *   *

Department of Ugly Pretty Things

Two days ago my morning walk listen-to was the Fresh Air podcast of a recent interview with American singer/songwriter Iris DeMent. Dement was raised by a Pentecostal parents and had a very conservative religious background – beliefs that for the most part, she has since left behind. Still, her music, which critics have variously labeled in the folk/country/gospel/bluegrass genres, reflects her roots.

Early on in the interview FA host Terry Gross asked Dement to play a song that has “stayed with” her and influenced her. Dement chose a gospel tune, Pass Me Not:

DEMENT: (Playing piano, singing)

Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.
Savior, oh, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

 GROSS: That was beautiful. You know, I…

 DEMENT: That’s a pretty song….

(from the Fresh Air Transcript)

And I’m thinking, seriously? You call that beautiful?

 

REALLY

 

I had to turn off the rest of the interview to keep my stomach from turning over. I’m just not as good as I used to be when it comes to pretending I don’t hear things.

Yes, the song’s piano melody had a lyrical, almost haunting simplicity, as did Dement’s high lonesome vocal styling…but, in classifying the song as “beautiful,” did either the host or guest actually pay attention to the lyrics?

I enjoy many bluegrass-influenced songs and musical groups, but that Pass Me By song crystallized my objections to much of religious/gospel-influenced bluegrass and country music. Such “beautiful” melodies and instrumentation are ruined – for moiself, anyway – by lyrics depicting a world of obsequiousness and fear-mongering – a world extolling the “beauty” of people kept on their knees with their eyes blinkered; a world where humans must continually assuage the ego of an insecure, capricious and petulant deity; a world where people question their own worth and “salvation” and plaintively beseech a so-called loving savior not to pass them by….

 

Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.

Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.

 

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., The Continuing Saga

Don’t waste valuable menu planning time fretting over your home’s appearance.

 

 

hint2

 

*   *   * 

Department of Bad Halloween jokes

Consider yourself warned.

 

badcostume

 

What is a ghost’s favorite Halloween party drink?
Ghoul-aid

What is a Mummy’s favorite music genre?
Wrap.

Why do female ghosts diet?
So they can keep their ghoulish figures.

What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?
Mas-scare-a.

Why couldn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He had no guts.

Why Count Dracula use a mouthwash?
Because he had bat breath.

Why do ghosts patronize bars and pubs?
They go for the boos.

What happens when ghosts have too many drinks at those pubs?
They get sheet-faced.

Told ya.

 

derunk ghosts

*   *   *

Who’s in Charge of Feasibility Studies for Aphorisms?

I hear on the radio that old cliché about someone preparing to run for political office, and so when I got home I tried to toss my hat into the ring. It doesn’t work.

 

*   *   *

Department of Almost Random Thoughts Almost Apropos of Nothing

Or perhaps simply another scary thought that I can blame on Halloween time.

A while back I was cleaning up my home library and found a book a friend had lent me over 10 years ago (ahem). [3] I had fond memories of reading it way back when, and flipped through the book’s forward, which noted that the author had died at a relatively young age. This led to me googling said author and finding out he’d died of AIDS.

Whenever I read something about the historical aspects of the AIDS outbreak, I come across recitations of one of the few positive aspects of the epidemic – stories about how the gay community came together and took care of “their own.” During the early years of the outbreak the medical and scientific establishments were confused about the disease’s etiology and transmission, and medical personnel often acted indifferent, even hostile, toward the afflicted.

I’ve read touching stories of dying gay men, many if not most of whom had been abandoned or shunned by their biological families, being tenderly and courageously cared for by gay friends, neighbors, and even strangers – lesbians in particular. Although the AIDS epidemic in this country was initially almost exclusively confined to gay men, a high percentage of the caretakers were women (sure enough, the afore-mentioned author was, at the end of his life, nursed by his ex wife).

Any cynical – or would that be realistic? – moiself  couldn’t help but wonder then (and still wonders now): if the AIDS epidemic in America had, for whatever epidemiological reasons, struck lesbians instead of gay men before spreading into the general population, would there have been the same stories of care-giving?  Would gay men have organized to care for their dying gay women friends?

Methinks not.

There is no way for me to “prove” this. Except for extrapolating from that pesky thing called history.

 

policy

 

Gaymen, schmay men – they are still men. And no matter their interest or lack of interest in women for sexual or other reasons, men grow up with the culturally induced expectation that women will serve and care for them.

I remember reading [4] a history of the “lavender menace” as recalled by a lesbian activist, who wrote of her disappointment in the early 1970’s with both the feminist movement and the gay rights movement. Straight feminists didn’t want to take up what they saw as the “distraction” of lesbian rights. Gay rights organizations were dominated by gay men, who discounted or ignored the lesbians’ opinions when the women tried to organize and speak out, showed little interest in getting to know the women personally but still “…expected us (women) to bring them coffee.” To paraphrase the author, “The (straight) women broke our spirits, but the gay men broke our hearts.”

 

“If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”
Rita Mae Brown

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., Die Hard with a Vengeance

Welcome your guests with a hot beverage and a smile that says, I’m so glad you’re here.

 

hint3

*   *   *

Happy Halloween!

Bright pumpkin

*   *   *

May your Halloween Night be truly fit for a Bright, [5]
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yes, more than once in my years of vegetable procurement I’ve returned home from the market/farm to discover that my produce basket contains an eggplant with a profile resembling that of our nation’s 37th President. I have led a charmed life.

[2] Holiday & Entertaining Labor-saving Lists.

[3] Yes, I returned it.

[4] In Ms. Magazine? Rolling Stone? ‘Twas way back in the 80s, I think. I remember the article, but not the source.

[5] SCM will be upset if there aren’t at least five footnotes.

The Riposte I’m Not Stifling

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Department of I Just Didn’t Want To Go There

Dateline: Tuesday, on my morning walk.  Three blocks from home, I turned a corner and detected the stench of tobacco.  Fifty feet ahead of me, holding a lit cigarette in his hand, a boy who looked to be about 14 years old was checking a curbside mailbox.  As I crossed to the other side of the street to avoid walking through his smoke, the boy turned around to look at me. He gestured at my Nordic Trekking poles and called out:

“Why are you ski-walking?” 

“Because it’s more fun than regular walking,” I replied.

I’d stifled the riposte that sprang to my petty little mind – Why are you smoking? – but as I continued toward home, I found myself wondering, what if I hadn’t?  What would have been his reply?

“Because it’s more fun than regular breathing.”

smoke

*   *   *

Diamonds Are Forever [1]
But Porcelain Crowns Last Twenty Years, If You’re Lucky

 Aka, Department of Causing Your Dental Hygienist to Declare
“In All My Years, I’ve Never Heard That Answer Before.”

For some reason, Sean Connery had entered the rinse-and-spit conversation [2] between the dental hygienist and moiself.  A brief discussion of James Bond movies ensued as we waited for the dentist to finish up with a patient in the adjoining room.  The hygienist said she liked the Connery-era films but was not a fan of Roger Moore in the role. I told her I’d never been a much of a Bond movie fan, until the easy-on-the-eyes Daniel Craig was cast in the role.

When the dentist entered the room we exchanged our usual jest-filled chit-chat before he lowered the exam chair and began his inspection of my cheap whiskey and fine Cuban cigar-stained chompers pearly whites. [3]

“So, how are things going?” he asked. “Any complaints about your teeth?”

I raised myself up on one elbow, grinned at the hygienist and said, “Only that Daniel Craig hasn’t licked them.”

"About those fluoride applications...."

“About those fluoride applications….”

*   *   *

Department of, If You Have to Ask…

Prologue:
So, what do you do?

I’ve never liked that question, when used as part of an introduction or conversation starter, and try not to ask it myself when speaking with a new acquaintance.  One of the many things I’ve noticed and enjoyed in my [4] travels abroad is that Other Peoples of the World ®  (i.e., not Americans) don’t care so much what you “do” – they’d rather hear about who you are in terms of where you choose to live, where you’ve been and where you’d like to be (travel-wise), and what you think about _____ (insert favorite political or cultural interest).

Also, there’s the published author thing.  If I answer the what-you-do question truthfully, I often receive some chunk of cringe-worthy (and totally unjustified) adulation –   “OMG, you’re an AUTHOR!” [5] – accompanied by obsequious expressions of admiration…or, worse, the “Really!? That’s fantastic; you know, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Maybe you’d like to look at some of my story ideas?”

Friend/fellow writer SCM has suggested I answer the WDYD question with, “I’m an editor.”  Which would be a deflection but not technically a lie (I do edit my own work).

And now, the anecdote:

Last Saturday MH and I participated in an educational and tree-planting volunteer event at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  Volunteers were divided into six units and given name tags stamped with a picture of our unit’s “mascot” – one of the many animals that can be found at the JB wetlands.  MH and I were sorted to unit #2, the Canada Goose group, which I accepted after some mild grumbling about the irony of having the mascot of the #2 group be the planet’s most prolific producer of…well… #2.

"You got a problem with that?"

“You got a problem with that?”

As we trudged over the muddy wetland trails on our way to the tree-planting area, a woman in our group made small talk with MH and I. She volunteered the fact that she is an OR nurse at a local hospital, then asked, “So, what do you do?”

Using my oft-times-literalist interpretation, I replied, “When?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Well, at this moment I’m volunteering at the….”

“No, I mean, as in work.  For money.”

I momentarily considered using my friend’s suggestion, but our fellow volunteer seemed nice and level-headed, and I bailed. “I’m a writer.”

Her eyes lit up like a venti-chugging lemur.

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

“A writer!? she gasped.  “What kind of writer?”

“Mostly fiction.”

“Are you famous?”

(Ay yi yi). “Are you?” I replied.

Her blank look resurfaced.

“You know – when you walk into the OR, do the other people there say, ‘I know her!’ ”

"If that woman is famous, the terrorists have won."

“If that woman is famous, then truly, the terrorists have won.”

*   *   *

Department of Bright Ideas

The Brights are an international internet constituency composed of individuals who have a naturalistic worldview.  This is the organization’s logo:

brights_icon_100x100

Their motto: “Illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview.”

I was stuck for pumpkin-carving inspiration this Halloween, until I got a Bright Idea.  I emailed a picture of my creation to the directors of The Brights, along with my best wishes for a “Happy Halloween from a Bright (if not so talented) jack-o-lantern carver.”

"Illuminating the natural world...and the porch, for trick-or-treaters."

“Illuminating the natural world…and the porch, for trick-or-treaters.”

*   *   *

My Work Here is Done

On Wednesday I received the following email from daughter Belle:

“Happy post-election day!
Don’t forget to set your clocks back 40 years in honor of the new senate!”

While we’re on the subject, the following is suitable for a few laughs, even if not quite SFW:

*   *   *

 

May your teeth be white and your celebrations Bright, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The last of the original James Bond films to star Sean Connery.

[2] As in, is he still alive, or what?

[3] Which, while neither whiskey nor cigar-stained, are not even close to being pearly white. In case you were wondering.

[4] Comparatively or relatively few (at least, compared to some people I know).

[5] Sometimes accompanied by squeals of excitement. Really. The squealing…it’s just…embarrassing.

The Birds I’m Not Strangling

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I am, really and truly, trying to keep shiny happy thoughts in my head about our neighborhood’s avian inhabitants. But they start singing outside my bedroom window at 4:10 in the morning, and WTF’s with that, tweetie pie?

♫ I know you're in there.  Get up and feed the cats. ♫

♫ I know you’re in there. Get up and feed the cats. ♫

 These Kids Today

Dateline, July 3:  The University of Puget Sound  sent its Class of 2018 students a list of dorm supplies the students need to bring with them.  Belle asks me if I would go with her tomorrow to shop for items on the list.

Moiself:  “Sure. But remember, tomorrow is July 4th.  Have you checked to see if the stores you want to visit are open?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Belle looks confused.  “It’s not as if it’s a national holiday or anything.”

Huh

SPOCK

*   *   *

Total Surprise of the Week
aka, Mum’s the Word

I’m sure you were as shocked – shocked! – as I was to learn that another conservative politician [1] who champions Abstinence-Only “education programs,” and also opposes the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, now has to do the I-supporter-my-daughter-who-will-be-facing-many-challenges tap dance; i.e., the announcement of his 17 year-old (unmarried) daughter’s unplanned pregnancy.

"That, like, so never happens!" 

“That, like, so never happens!”

When I worked at Planned Parenthood, some of us snarky experienced clinic worker bees had a term for the Abstinence Only gals. We called them MUMs [2] in the making.

 *   *   *

It’s Still Working

The sound of footsteps at the front door is accompanied by the sound of muffled voices in consultation, followed by the sound of…nothing.  Yet another knock and/or ring of the doorbell was averted.  I can only guess that they, who/whatever they are, saw The Sign.  And they took The Sign as a sign, and did the right thing. [3]

I work out of a home office, and have come to loathe the interruptions from door-to-door salesfolk, proselytizers and petitioners.  Even so, I never wanted to post one of those NO SOLICITING signs by the front doorbell.  This is FAVOR, [4] including

*  such signs seem hostile, or at least unsociable, and I want my neighbors to feel welcome to stop by;

* several friends and neighbors who have posted No Solicitors notices told me that their signs are often unheeded; [5]

*  in My Ideal World ® , such signs should be unnecessary.  Why should I deface my house because some presumptuous blowholes think my family needs their opinions as to which imaginary friend we should worship and/or which political issue we should support?

MH and I vowed that we would not harass our neighbors when it came to underwriting K’s [6] and Belle’s school and extracurricular activities.  I can count on the fingers of one finger the times we allowed either of them to participate in those dreadful fundraising drives.  Suffice to say, we were not the most popular family amongst the school fundraising organizers. I discretely but firmly explained to a series of teachers, administrators and PTA Nazis (make that presidents) that while we while we supported ___ activity (if, indeed, we did support it) and would contribute the expected per child amount for our own child to participate, we would not send our children door to door, imploring our neighbors to purchase toxic-to-pets-and-infants, Go Team USA! made-in-China plastic water bottles and unrecyclable gift wrapping paper to finance the school’s lacrosse team mouth guard fund.

nosoliciting

Many other families apparently held no such sentiments. Thus, over the years there were a series of disappointed kiddie solicitors leaving our porch.  We were kind to the children, even as we were irritated to be put in the position of honing our gracious, “Oh, sorry, no thanks” response on wide-eyed eight-year olds. [7]

I wanted to get the point across, firmly and directly, but with humor.  My first solution, several years ago, was in the form of a topical Non Sequitur comic strip.  I was so pleased when I saw it (this is perfect!) I contacted the strip’s syndicating organization and paid the fee to receive a copy of the panel, which I laminated and posted under the doorbell.

The panel has long since been destroyed by the elements. I can’t find a copy of it online (how can this be?!?!?!?), so a description will have to suffice.  It was a single panel comic: a couple of solicitors pause on the sidewalk, outside of a house which has a sign on its front yard gate. The sign, which read something like, “Welcome, we love solicitors! Please, do tell us why your religion is better than ours!” is posted above an iconic coroner’s chalk-mark on the sidewalk that outlines where a body has lain.

After we posted the comic strip sign we let certain families in the neighborhood know of our policy (and the rest, I think, caught on). For families we actually knew/liked/recognized, [8] their children were welcome to pitch us their fundraisers, and we would support the activities if such activities were in line with our interests and values (e.g. nothing in which plastic swag was involved, nothing promoting religion or divisive politics, nothing where money would be funneled through non-legit “charities,” and nothing just plain lame-ass stupid).

As mentioned previously, I work at home, and used to get a lot of visits from the door-to-door crowd.  The comic panel sign worked…but only for about 50% of solicitors. The rest would smile broadly as I opened the door, and would immediately point out that sign and say, “That’s great!” or “That’s really funny/cute!”

To which I would respond, “And you think it doesn’t apply to you, do you?”

Most people would sheepishly and graciously retreat at that point. However, some did not, and would attempt to get in their spiel about how they were not actually selling anything – oh no! – they were giving away good news, for free!  I was surprised by the sheer lack of self-awareness and brass balls persistence of those who believe they have something their gods/political gurus/10,000 Friends of Oregon want them to share to people who have specifically and repeatedly said, no way/go away.

So.  I came up with the following.  The graphics, used with permission (and even encouragement) are the logo for The Brights. The text is my own.  And, it works. [9]

brights_icon_100x100

Welcome, friends and neighbors!
All others:  No doorspam, please.

Translation: No soliciting.
Nope, none at all, be it
political, religious, or otherwise.
(Yes, this means you)

*   *   *

The Future Is In Their Hands

This week Belle and five of her high school friends (two boys, three girls) [10] went on their first no-adults overnight trip. [11] They drove up the Columbia Gorge, stopping at Multnomah Falls and Hood River before crossing the Columbia to head for their final destination, a cabin in the mountains belonging to one of the girl’s parents.

Belle was quite conscientious about providing MH and I with Required Parental Details ® , including the names of the cabin owners, [12] the location and phone number of the cabin, the names of the other attendees, their departure and return plans and time frame, and the description of the vehicle they’ll be riding in.  Belle didn’t know the vehicle’s license plate, so when her friends arrived Tuesday morning to pick her up, I went outside to say hello/goodbye/have fun, and wrote down the license number.

Contemporary, non-vanity Oregon driver’s licenses consist of three numbers and three letters. “You’ve got an easy one to remember,” I said to the driver and another passenger, who stood outside the vehicle while Sadie squeezed her duffel bag between back seat passengers.  I pointed to the minivan’s license plate.  “DDE – those are a president’s initials.”

The two girls looked at me blankly, their eyes only lighting up in comprehension when I followed up with, “Eisenhower – Dwight David Eisenhower.  You know, the WWII general; the one with the ‘I like Ike’ campaign slogan?”

“That poor man,” Passenger Girl laughed.  “His parents probably named him Dwight David ’cause they thought, ‘Who could ever make an embarrassing nickname out of that?’, and he ends up being called, ‘Ike.’ ”

*   *   *

 May your nicknames be campaign-worthy and your proselytizers be mock-worthy, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] This time it’s Bill Cassidy, state congressman, Louisiana.

[2] More Unmarried Mothers.

[3] i.e., they left skidmarks as they fled our porch.

[4] For A Variety of Reasons.

[5] The proselytizers say, “Oops, I didn’t see it until I’d already rung the bell….”

[6] Our kids turned out to be like-minded, imagine that. One of the first intentional profanities I heard son K utter had to do with his declaration that he wasn’t going to do any of that “@#!& fundraising #$!?^.”

[7] And had we said yes to a mere fraction of the solicitation the financial outlay would have been substantial.

[8] It’s amazing, how many of the kiddie funraisers were not from our neighborhood, but trucked in from miles away. Yep, I asked if I did not recognize the kids, and yep, they told.

[9] Except in the case of about 4-5 people who have said, as I opened the door, that they were going to leave  when they saw the sign but really wanted to tell me how much “I really love the term ‘doorspam,’ ’cause you know exactly what that means, and I’m leaving now, I promise….”

[10] Revealing the mixed gender makeup of the group prompted a totally unsolicited reassurance, from Belle to her bemused parental units, that there was no kind of romantic interest amongst any of the parties.

[11] They’re all eighteen, so legally adults, but…really. How many adults take Disney animated movies with them to sleepovers?

[12] Who will not be there, as it’s a kids young adults-only vacation.

The Baby Sloth I’m Not Wrangling

Comments Off on The Baby Sloth I’m Not Wrangling

Some pre-release book publicity for a good cause? Forgive the self-serving if ostensibly noble combination.

Oak Grove Elementary School in Milwaukie, Oregon is having an Earth Day/work-party day this Saturday, April 20th.  Tree planting, courtyard sprucing and other activities will begin at 10 am, followed at 12 noon by a pizza party, and a reading (for kids young and old) by yours truly, from The Mighty Quinn.  Check http://www.solv.org/get-involved/events/oak-grove-elementary-earth-day-beautification-project for directions and more details.

No matter what your plans, on this upcoming Earth Day weekend there are plenty of other ways to Love Your Mother (Earth, that is).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

“There’s pretty much sloths everywhere you look around here.”

Does that quote sound familiar?  If you think heard something like it, perhaps from the HR person during your interview tour of your company’s cubicle land, then it’s time to look for a new job.  Here’s the title of my dream job:  Baby Sloth Wrangler, at the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary.

School spirit: Try to contain your enthusiasm.

school-assembly

I’ve occasionally received text messages from my offspring when they were stuck at a mandatory snorefest high school assembly.  Typically, they were bored out of their gourds by the blah blah blah from their school’s administrators and/or lame “artistic” presentations from fellow students.  I, on the other hand,[1] remember my high school’s assemblies with fondness.  The assemblies were rare and welcome breaks from routine, and were also, for the most part, entertaining, with little to no speechifying by adults/administration.

From what son K has told and now daughter Belle is telling me, their high school finds numerous reasons to have assemblies, often merely to disseminate school/logistical information that could have easily been relayed via the teacher, in the classroom…information that is forgotten five minutes after the assembly has ended.

There are those kind of assemblies.  And then, there are other assemblies.

Yesterday around noon I received the following text from Belle, during her school’s assembly, at which the choir and band were to perform.

OMG…this assembly is cursed.  The color guard did a performance, and one girl got hit with her gun in the face and bled everywhere.  Then ___ (Belle’s friend from the track team) passed out in the stands and had to be carried out.

Don’t think they’ll be forgetting this one so soon.

*   *   *

The Boston Marathon bombs.  At the time I’m writing this, those responsible have not been apprehended, nor identified.  Much has already been said about the tragedy.  One thing hasn’t:  that such horrific incidents only go to show, in this Bright’s opinion, how the most basic tenet of a certain theology gets it all dead wrong.

I’m referring to Original Sin and other such mental ass cheek flapping religious doctrines that teach of an innate, even inherited, fallen humanity.

There are seven bajillion of us on this planet.  If human beings were truly and inherently evil at the core of their being, we would have blown ourselves up – we would have torn each other to pieces – a long, long time ago.

Look for the good, the kind, the rational, the helpful.  You don’t have to look far. Yes, there are some incredibly sadistic asshats[2] fighting for slop space in this world.  And there are the others. They don’t usually make the headlines, because there are so many of them.

I saw footage and photos of people in Boston, from professional first responders and civilian bystanders, running to help their fellow human beings.  People were running toward the sites of the still-smoldering explosions, even as they had no way of knowing whether there were more blasts to come.

humanist

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

(Fred Rogers)

*   *   *

One of my favorite dialog sequences from one of my favorite movies, The American President.

Janie (Presidential Aide) : The 10:15 event has been moved inside to the Indian Treaty Room.  

President Andrew Shepherd: 10:15 is American Fisheries?  

Janie: Yes, sir. They’re giving you a 200-pound halibut.  

The President: Janie, make a note. We need to schedule more events where somebody gives me a really big fish.  

Janie: Yes sir. [starts making note]  

The President: Janie, I’m kidding.  

Janie: [Stops and starts to smile] Of course, sir.

After a trip to our favorite market, the awesome New Seasons, I realized I needed to do more grocery shopping where somebody gives my daughter a really big fish. [3]

fish

*   *   *

Dateline:  long ago in a galaxy far, far away. [4] It was a beautiful, Bay Area day, clear blue skies, mid-70s with no breeze.  A co-worker had called to trade shifts at Planned Parenthood, so my morning was free. I had work to do, but even a freethinker like moiself who scoffs at the s-word knew it would be a sin to work indoors.  It was the perfect day for one of my favorite drives: taking La Honda Road (highway 84) to the coast.

Sitting in my favorite spot under a sandstone cliff facing the ocean, I had the beach (San Gregorio) to myself.  Midway through editing the final draft of a story, I looked toward the water and saw a man and his golden retriever walking in the shallow surf.  Man and dog turned inland, headed in my direction, and attempted to make conversation. [5]

“Great day, thought we had the beach to ourselves….”  Man’s banter was neither interesting nor original, but also not (intentionally nor particularly) annoying.  He was friendly…and also sliding into flirtatious.  I was polite but not encouraging.  I made a point of petting his dog and shooing his dog away from my manuscript and shaking the sand off of said manuscript with my left hand, making sure that my wedding band was on display.

He soon got around to, “Whatcha working on?,” a question I’ve since learned how  to deflect [6] .  I thought if I answered him truthfully – if he realized that, indeed, I was not on holiday but was working – he’d half-heartedly apologize for the intrusion and be on his way.  Instead, I had found myself in what is a fairly a common experience for writers:  receiving unsolicited advice from a non-writer as to how, or what, a writer should write.

He incorrectly assumed that I was a novice, unpublished writer.  Wishing not to prolong our interaction, I did not disabuse him of that assumption.  “I hear fiction, for adults, is really, like, difficult to break into,” he offered, with a wide-eyed look that was obviously intended to be helpful.  “Have you ever thought of working your way up, by, uh, like, writing stuff for children, first?”

He seemed taken aback at my hearty guffaw, and his expression quickly morphed from helpful to confused as he found an excuse to return to his dog walking duties.

“If you write comedy, you’re sitting at the children’s table.”
(Woody Allen)

children's table

A common misconception among non-writers is that writing “for children” is somehow easier, and less prestigious, than writing “for adults.”  Authors who’ve been published across the various (and somewhat arbitrary) age groupings scoff at the former notion even as they grapple with the latter – that a “children’s author” is a second class citizen in the world of literature.

This snobbery sometimes comes from a select list of fellow writers, those who take themselves and their I Am an Author of Important Lit-ra-chure credentials oh-so-seriously.  These writers are invested in this alleged hierarchy of prestige, and wish to maintain what they see as the ghetto of being on the children’s list.  And yet, the children’s list is a relatively recent phenomenon.  It was only twelve years ago that the New York Times Book Review made the controversial decision to start a children’s bestseller list, separate from that of adult fiction.  This was due in part to the rumored complaints by some self-styled Big Boy writers who got their Serious Literary Underpants ® in a knot when they found themselves increasingly sharing (read: ceding) top rankings with Harry Potter  [7].

But, apparently, sharing list-space with Fifty Shades of Meh or the latest “adult” schlock literary sensation is reputable…enough.

When I was invited by local schools to do readings of my first children’s book, My Closet Threw a Party, the teachers usually introduced me (to their students, and/or to other school staff) as a writer, or sometimes as a “children’s writer.”  When it was the latter, I gently corrected the distinction…and then had to explain why I wasn’t objecting to it, but simply felt that it was inaccurate.

Although I write for all ages, the vast majority of my published works have been for an adult audience.  I’m just a writer.  I didn’t feel then, nor do I feel now, that being referred to as a “Children’s Author” is in any way depreciatory.  Quite the opposite.  If anything, I feel I am not deserving of the moniker.  I can’t think of a better kind of writer to be.  Think about it:  who – truly, deeply and loyally – loves a book more than a child?

*   *   *

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
(Groucho Marx)

Get your favorite book, for children of all ages (I’m partial to Green Eggs and Ham), turn on the light inside your dog, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] On the other hand…you have different fingers.

[2] Including the talking heads who insinuate the identities of the perpetrators when they have no reliable evidence.

[3] Our freezer is full of halibut filets, halibut scraps for fish cakes, halibut stock for halibut chowder….

[4] The Bay Area “peninsula,” 20+ years ago.  Is that long ago/far far away enough?

[5] The man talked.  The dog slobbered.

[6] People often have strange reactions when encountering a writer, writing. Sometimes I just say I’m an editor.

[7] By 2001 the top three places on the hardcover fiction list were held by JK Rowling titles, and a fourth Harry Potter book was on its way.