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The Peasant Food I’m Not Upscaling

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Department of Not Surprised, But Still Sad

I recently read Junot Diaz’ acclaimed article in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma), wherein he revealed publicly for the first time his own history of childhood sexual abuse . [1]    It was a stirring account, to say the least.

I’ve never been fond of nor impressed by Diaz’s short fiction – and haven’t read but a few of his stories because the ones I did read left the proverbial bleech taste in my mouth, due in most part to the male-female dynamic found within. His style and themes reminded me of a more contemporary, multicultural Norman Mailer (and other acclaimed alpha male writers whose work I loathed, fiction writers who used their supposed hyper-realism narrative styles to impart their own loathing for women in any roles other than as their objects of sexual desire ). Ah, but for years Diaz was the new/exotic literary sensation in town, so who was this middle-aged white lady to judge?

Having undergone  sexual abuse seems particularly difficult for men to admit to; thus, my cynicism at his revelation shamed moiself. Cynicism as in, I thought that perhaps this (his essay) was his way of explaining/justifying (what I saw as) the sexism in his writing (a phenomenon too often explained/excused, for male writers, by literary “talent”    [2] )…

But that bit o’ skepticism was not my first response to the why reveal this now?-ness of his essay. My immediate, gut reaction was,  He’s laying the groundwork….  Translation: someone is going to accuse him of  Metoo conduct, and this (I did what I did because of what was done to me), overtly or implicitly, will be his defense.

And shame on me for thinking that.

I kept my opinion to moiself – now, there’s an admission you won’t often hear  – and was glad I did so.

 

 

yeahright

 

 

 

Then came the story in last Friday’s New York Times, wherein Diaz was speaking at a writer’s conference:

The writer Zinzi Clemmons stood up. Without identifying herself by name, she asked Mr. Díaz about a recent essay he had published in The New Yorker detailing the sexual assault he experienced as an 8-year-old boy. She then asked why he had treated her the way he had six years prior, when she was a graduate student at Columbia….

Ms. Clemmons said she believed that Mr. Díaz had tried to pre-empt accusations like hers by writing the autobiographical essay in The New Yorker last month 

Other accusations of his misconduct have since surfaced;  Diaz resigned his position on the Pulitzer Prize board as the allegations are being investigated.

I feel bad about this; I take no joy in having my cynicism validated. I am not questioning the validity of Diaz’s report of childhood abuse. And the thing of it is, and it could be true that he abused his power over women as a direct (or oblique) result of his own history of being abused.  Or, these could be separate issues. Either way, all ways, it’s just….sad.

*   *   *

 

We Interrupt The Ranting For A Moment Of Gratitude

Deep thought of the day: a rubber chicken does not, in fact, have to be made of rubber, to embody the essence of the rubber chicken.

Translation: Mere words cannot express my feeling that there is an ultimate rightness to the universe, when I am presented with evidence that some mahvelous people, when they encounter an object which reminds them of a rubber chicken, are reminded of moiself[3]

Thanks, JWW.

 

 

jww

Whaddya think, is she’s one of us?

 

*   *   *

We now Return To The Previously Scheduled Ranting

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Reason To Scream At A Screen
Adjunct Department Of  Yes, I Should (And Do) Know Better

My afternoon exercise sessions often occur around the time when the local Decades TV station runs episodes of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. If I am not working out to one of my exercise DVDs, I’ll tune in to the Laugh-In reruns. I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying the retro fun of it all, including memories of watching it when it originally aired.

 

 

tinytim

Can we ever forget – or forgive – the show that introduced the world to Tiny Tim?

 

 

 

I remember how moiself and my buddies would take turns watching Laugh-In at each other’s houses, sprawled on our stomachs on the living room floor, usually with our parents seated behind us, sitting in their armchairs, also watching the show.  Our fun was enhanced by the prideful, barely stifled giggles that can only be produced by eleven-to-thirteen year olds who realized that the grownups and were laughing for different reasons (and at different times) than we were. Translation: many of the naughty jokes/double entendre‘s Laugh-In was known for– and almost all of the drug references – zoomed over our parents’ heads.

Fast forward to the present, and I am finding that for every skit or joke I enjoy and relive, I also marvel at how dated much of the show’s humor is.  [4]  What is particularly striking to me is how Laugh-In  – considered ahead of its time by tweaking the customs and prejudices of society – trafficked in so much hackneyed humor that was beholden to its time, in many cases reinforcing (not critiquing) stereotypes of ethnic minorities and gays and (especially) women.

Once again, I digress.

 

 

DUH

 

 

So. The danger to television-as-backdropexercising is that I am often in the middle of, say, lifting a dumbbell when the show goes to commercial, and thus am unable to hit the remote’s mute button. The commercials for daytime TV shows can be particularly odious, as the demographic is obviously considered to be the target audience for Certain Products For Those Of A Certain Age (read: elderly/infirmity drugs and diet plans).

One particular/frequently running ad is exceptionally…oh, how can I put it? It frosts my butt.  The second time I saw it  [5]  I realized, between biceps curls, that I had begun yelling at the television screen, at the two perky, formerly in shape and now chunky, E list celebrities (a former actor married to a former football player)  [6]  reduced to hocking a snake oil potion enthusiastically promoting a weight loss product. With no sense of irony and a surplus of golly gee this seems too good to be true, but it is! pride, they actually recited the following dialog:

 

* We eat our favorite foods and still lose four times more weight!

*Nothing in your lifestyle needs to change!
(as a picture of the implied favorites, foods-that-once-may-have-been-many-different-colors-but-which-now-are-all-deep-fat-fried-yellow ®, flashes by on the screen.)

 

 

hearyourself

 

 

 

And there I am, screaming at a screen, at the asinine and totally bogus “promises” repeated, again and again, about how “nothing in your lifestyle has to change….

but it’s your fucking lifestyle that got you this way in the first place  — it’s that junk you’ve been eating that did this to you and but now you’re boasting that you can continue eating the same rubbish ?!?!?

And of course, the grammar cop in me is irritated by the ad’s claims that a person using the weight loss supplement can “lose 4 times as much/more weight!”

Okay…I’m waiting…but there is no follow-up. Excuse me, aren’t y’all forgetting something?  “As much/more” are comparisons, and thus require comparatives.

 

 

Grammarcop

Hold still and this won’t hurt as much.

 

 

 

“Lose 4 times as much/more weight!”!”  As much or as more as what, pray tell? As much as a person who’s never used the product but keeps scarfing their favorite foods faster than a hotdog-eating contest competitor on death row?  More than a herd of weasels on an all-kale diet?  More than twelve three-toed sloths on a treadmill?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of If Only You’d Had A More Interesting Childhood

My mother once told me that she viewed cooking as the least favorite of (what she considered to be) her duties as a homemaker. Although her family never went hungry, that attitude was revealed in terms of the variety (read: not much) of dinners she served to her family. She was the target audience for the advertising mad men – the  marketers whose mission was to convince 1950s – 1970s homemakers that the roles and tasks to which women were relegated were tedious and burdensome.  Convenient, an adjective heretofore not associated with food, became lauded — packaged meals and prefab  “food products” would save her from the drudgery that was cooking (and, these salesmen assured her, these food products were ultimately “better” – as in, more nutritious – for her family than anything she might be able to cook).

And she bought it –  hook, line, and Hamburger Helper sinker.

A recent Fresh Air podcast featuring an interview with chef Chef Lidia Bastianich made me think of my childhood culinary “heritage,” such as it is.  [7]  Chef Lidia is yet another foreign born cook of humble beginnings who came to the USA and made her fame and fortune (in both the TV cooking shows, cookbooks and restaurant businesses) by presenting the cuisine and heritage of her youth to Americans.

When Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Lidia about the ironies of serving peasant food in top-tier Manhattan restaurants, I wondered if I had missed my chance do the same. However, unlike Chef Lidia, moiself did not have an exotic Italian-Croatian background. What would be the peasant food of my SoCal childhood that I could make seem trendy – Tang? Cool Whip? Rice a Roni? Spaghetti-os?

 

 

 

swanson

With the right marketing Manhattan gourmands will pay $95 for this.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you realize the futility of screaming at screens;
May anything rubber chicken-related make you think of…someone you love;  [8]
May you maintain an embarrassed fondness for the peasant food of your youth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Raped at age 8, by a trusted adult.

[2] to wit, see Junot Díaz And The Myth Of Male Genius – How a male writer’s “brilliance” is used to explain away his obvious misogyny…

[3] Even better when they acquire said anything and present it to moiself.

[4] No surprise and to be expected, with any show that tacked political and social topical issues.

[5] The first time, I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing what I was hearing. And it was not an ad for hearing aids.

[6] To protect their privacy, I’ll call them Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.

[7] It isn’t, really.

[8] Betcha you thought, if only for a second, that moiself was going to write, “moiself.”

The College Graduate I’m Not Embarrassing

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As Belle prepares to graduate from college this weekend my brain has been pelting me with random memories, such as the following story (which Belle might categorize as you’re never too mature or academically successful to have your parents embarrass you.)

 

 

SadieMay15rugby

Belle, at her team’s “Rugby formal.”

 

 

 

Dateline: two years ago. MHN I have traveled to a small Southern Oregon college to attend one of Belle’s rugby games.  [1]   During the halftime break MH and I are tossing a rugby ball back-and-forth with Belle, who is showing us one of the team’s ball-handling drills. I make an errant throw to MH, who chases the ball downfield. One of the young women from a group of Belle’s teammates sitting by the side of the field looks at Belle, then at MH and moiself, and the proverbial light bulb appears above her head.

 

 

lightbulb

 

 

She calls out to me.

Young Rugby Woman: Hey, are you…you’re Belle’s parents?

Moiself: Indeed, we are.

YRW: Oh, I love Belle!  Thank you so much for making her!

Moiself: It was our pleasure.  Literally.

Belle:  Moooooooom !!

 

 

prom rugby

Prom Rugby game. Yep, it’s self-explanatory.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Would Never Happen At New Seasons

I ran over to the market closest to our house ( let’s call it Albertson’s  [2]   ), to pick up a couple of last minute items. There were two young men working in the produce department, standing beside carts loaded with boxes of lettuce and other veggies – items they were trimming and setting out on the various produce display shelves. One of the Produce Guys looked up at me, noticed the looking-for-something expression on my face, and asked me if he could be of any assistance.

I thanked him, and asked where I could find the organic basil. He pointed behind himself, toward the tomatoes stand, then asked me if there was anything else he could help me find. Why yes, as a matter of fact. I’d noticed there were a plethora of golden beets on display, but I needed three bunches of red beets, and there was only one.  Mighty there be more red beets in the back?

“Yeah,” Produce Guy grinned, “there’s another box of red beets in the back.” He continued to trim the lettuce from his cart. “But as you can see,” he glanced over at the Other Produce Guy, “We are in the middle of a pallet right now, so it’s going to be a while before we can get to it.”

 

 

REALLY

 

 

 

Yes, really.

I could see that he was busy, but why ask me if he could help me find something if he had no intention of leaving his precious pallet?  My kneejerk thought was, Yeah, right – this would never happen at New Seasons[3]

A rare kneejerk reaction that was spot-on. Any NS employee you ask for help will drop what they are doing to lead you to the proper aisle, or let you sample a new produce item you’re not sure about, even if they are doing something else or what you are asking about isn’t in their department.

 

 

 

NEemployee

That’s why she’s happy to spend the bulk of her shopping $$ here.

 

*    *    *

Addendum To The Previous Story

It is entirely possible that Produce Guy’s customer service fail was due to him being shocked by a heretofore unimaginable situation: someone wanted more beets.

 

 

skeptical

She said she needed three bunches of beets?  Nobody needs three bunches of beets.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Previews Of Coming Attractions

 

 

 

 

dragonboat

Here be dragons!

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Versed Mouth, aka

Department Of Things They Say You Said When You Were Under The Influence
Of Versed After Your Routine/Screening   [4] Colonoscopy…
And How Do You Know They Aren’t Lying To You?

 

* I have lazy mouth

* I like hummus, too (when asked by the nurse if I’d like saltine crackers)

* Why are there little dogs in the hospital?  [5]

* Where do we keep the shovels?

 

 

 

 

colonprepjpg

Be afraid; be very afraid.

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you never be too old to embarrass – or take pride in – your
soon-to-be college graduate;
May you experience nothing but the finest in beet-finding customer service;
May there be dragon boats in your future;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] She was on the team for ~ two years – we have the ER/Urgent care bills to prove it – until injuries sidelined her.

[2] Because, it is.

[3] Where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping…for many reasons, including their awesome staff.

[4] Yeah, they call it that. I don’t know about you, it’s just not part of my “routine” to have someone, even Qualified Medical Professionals ®  stick a tube up your butt and watch pictures of it on a monitor.

[5] Well, yes, a totally legitimate question, IMHO. And don’t tell me they were emotional support animals.

The Tulips I’m Not Tip-Toeing Through

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Do they still give out the Darwin Awards?

A 55-year-old man was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Monday after accidentally sparking a fire inside his downtown Portland apartment.  Lt. Rich Chatman, a Portland Fire and Rescue spokesman, said Rafael Borgos was smoking while using an oxygen machine, igniting the element and sparking the fire.

smoking

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers before its acceptance by Bloomsbury. Lord of the Flies was turned down by over 20 publishers, one of whom found William Golding’s manuscript “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was dismissed by one publisher with the curt counsel, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”

Besides talent, imagination, hard work and perseverance, you need thick skin to be a writer.  The good news:  if you are one of those Sensitive Creative Types ® born without a hide as substantial as a rhinoceros’s, there is help for you.

Not content to rest on their laurels as one of the most prestigious online literary journals, [1] Stoneslide Corrective also provides an immeasurable service to authors via their Rejection Generator project:

“The Rejection Generator rejects writers before an editor looks at a submission. Inspired by psychological research showing that after people experience pain they are less afraid of it in the future, The Rejection Generator helps writers take the pain out of rejection.”

 It’s really quite simple.  Give your email address to the Rejection Generator, and in a few minutes and you’ll receive a rebuff that is as random, dispiriting and annoying as a literary journal’s typical impersonal rejection, and you didn’t have to bother with formatting (or even submitting) a manuscript.

I was thrilled when I received an invitation from Stoneslide’s editor to provide “Guest Editor” rejection letters.  Don’t waste another minute of your valuable time trying to actually get some work done – get yourself to the Rejection Generator, and the next snide dismissal of your creative aspirations could be from moiself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More notes from the glamorous literary life.

Earlier this week I was researching A Certain Literary Agent, checking the agent’s listing on writersmarket.com and other writers’ resources.  I vet all agent and publisher listings against their citation on Preditors and Editors, an independent, clearing house-ish site wherein writers report their experiences with agents and publishing services.  “We’re hearing good things about this agent” is P & E’s remark about A Certain Literary Agent.  Perhaps this is due to ACLA’s list of Recent Salesto Publishers, which, among other intriguing tomes, includes the book How to Light a Fart.

My first reaction was, This is the agent for me!  Upon further reflection, an entire book on how to light a fart?  That was, at most, five minute tutorial at my grade school. [2]

*   *   *

 Speaking of students and their proclivity for and interest in emissions ignition, finally, a surefire way to get your kids interested in both science and history:

Passing Gas: a modern scientific history.

 *   *   *

I’m trying for a graceful segue to…something else.  Anything else.  Trust me.  It isn’t easy, once you’ve been bitten by the banana blaster bug. [3] Still, I shall endeavor to address more refined subjects.

Some of our most beloved literary works feature a disconcerting yet truthful depiction of the moral malaise of post-Industrial megalopolises. Brutally accurate renderings of the modern urbanite’s disdain for the ethical strictures of the bourgeois can be found in the novels of

Have you ever seen a cat fart on a waterbed?  It’s really funny.

No!  Stop!

Can you tell that my forthcoming book’s target audience is ages 9 – 12? [4]  Should my publisher and editors come across this blog post, they will no doubt heave sighs of relief to recall that The Mighty Quinn contains no references to characters piloting the posterior crop duster. [5]  Belching the Pledge of Allegiance, now, that’s another matter.

Yes, as per subject matter right now I’m in desperate need of an IQ elevation.  Where’s the Masterpiece Theatre theme song when I need it?

Much better.  Although I’m still in a mood.  Perhaps I’ve gone too long without seeing a new screaming goat remix video. [6]

Moving right along to This Stupid Day in Recent History:

April 12 is the birth date of Tiny Tim, American “singer” best known for his taste-free falsetto/vibrato renditions of vaudeville classics, and his many appearances on the 60’s sketch comedy program Laugh-In. T-Tim would have been 79 today had he not died in 1996 from stringy hair syndrome heart disease.[7]

Other notable/cultural April 12 milestones include:

1988:  Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs California.
1966: Jan Berry of the surf-rock duo Jan & Dean received severe head injuries when he crashed his Corvette into a parked truck near Dead Man’s Curve in Beverly Hills. [8]
1954 – Bill Haley & the Comets recorded “Rock Around Clock.”
1934:  Highest velocity wind broke all records at Mt. Washington, NH, 231 mph.

That last citation was NOT a thinly veiled return to fart references.  But if you insist.

Breaking (sorry) headline of the week

From a NY Times story about prospective New York City mayoral candidates discussing the possibility that former Rep. Anthony Weiner (you remember the I got a rocket in the pocket of my mighty tighty whitey dude? [9]) might join the race:

In Mayoral Race, Would-Be Rivals Weigh a Weiner Bid

Someone got paid for writing that headline.  Is this a great country, or what?

Let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Their astute literary taste was evinced by their publication of my novel excerpt, “The Aunt“)

[2] Talented and Gifted student that I was, I mastered the basics in three minutes.

[3] Banana blaster: a long, quick, loud fart with a curved pitch like the shape of a banana.

[4] What is known in the (US) lit biz as “middle grade” fiction.

[5] Can’t you just write, “cutting the cheese,’  you euphemistic show-off?

[6] Why aren’t there more footnotes in this post?

[7] His cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” is guaranteed to send Nancy Reagan to a meth rehab facility.

[8] The song Dead Man’s Curve, which included sounds of a car skidding and crashing, was a hit for the duo in 1964.

[9] In May 2011, the married 46 year old Rep. Weiner tweeted photos of his underwear-clad, I’m-so-happy-to-see-you naughty bits to a 21-year-old female college student who’d been following his social media posts. In the ensuing scandal, dubbed “Weinergate” by a grateful press, other such pictures to other women soon surfaced, and Weiner resigned his congressional seat in June 2011.