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The Slough I’m Not Kayaking

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Department Of Not To Be Disrespectful Toward
Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform ®

… but every time I walk past The Tacoma Fallen Firefighters Memorial I imagine that the second guy in the sculpture – the one tapping the first guy (pointing the hose) on the shoulder, is calmly but insistently saying, “Dude, put down the hose – nothing’s on fire.”

 

 

tacomafirefighters

*   *   *

 

I had yet another opportunity to pass by the above pictured sculpture during MH’s and my last minute/last weekend trip to Tacoma. Because when your 20 year old daughter hints and hints and hints again that she’d like to see you, you drop everything and go.

In late August Belle will start her junior year at the University of Puget Sound. She’s staying in Tacoma for the summer, working fulltime as a Zoo Camp Counselor at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  We’ve enjoyed hearing her talk about the camps, and comparing them with her stories from last summer, when she was a camp counselor for the Oregon Zoo. [1]

When we drove up last Saturday, Belle said she wanted to show us around the zoo. We’ve been to the PDZ & A several times over the past few years when visiting our offspring.  [2]  This time we got a brief “backstage” tour, courtesy of Belle, which consisted of being able to step inside one staff-only area:  the marine wildlife food preparation facility, which included a huge, walk-in freezer filled floor-to-ceiling with cases of various fish and shellfish (read: more frozen herring [3] than you can shake a walrus’s tusk at).

As a five year Oregon Zoo volunteer, a biology major, and a volunteer docent at her school’s Natural History Museum, Belle has amassed a good deal of information about fauna and flora. Still, as our daughter led us from exhibit to exhibit, MH and I were impressed by how much she knew about the animals in every habitat . [4]  I guess that’s what happens when you’re leading two camps per day, five days a week – you have to know your stuff.

And then there are the moments you just have to strut your stuff, as when Belle eagerly donned my Convertible Survival Kit ®  [5] when MH and I took her for a spin around town.

 

 

sadieconvertible7-16tacoma

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Screw The Slough

Because his company is weird that way, MH had July 5 off as a vacation day.  [6]  What shall we do, he asked? I suggested we take our kayaks out for the first paddle of the season. I wanted to try out one of the entry points along the Columbia River Slough, and so, with our Paddler’s Access Guide in hand we loaded up the car, drove to what looked to be the optimum entry point…and then on to the next, and the next, and the next….

The first entry point was strewn with trash and had other signs of being used as a homeless camping/partying area. It was devoid of bipedal presence save for one Sketchy Looking Man ® sitting on a bench by the camp/party area. We parked our vehicle and walked down to the slough’s boat dock, SLM watching us every step of the way.

The slough was…well, we knew it was a slough, but it was really in full slough mode (low water depth and tepid-to-nonexistent flow). Probably good for winter and spring paddling, but already too late in the season, at this particular entry point (~ 17 miles upstream), for a decent paddle. That, plus the area’s vibe, which was if you-leave-your-car-you-will-return-to-find-it-broken-into, led us into checking out other slough access points downstream.

 

 

columbiaslough_general

 

By the time we’d reached access point four or five MH said, “I suppose we can look at this as a scouting excursion for future trips.” As time went on it became imperative, first for MH and then also moiself, for us to find something resembling a bathroom.  Ninety minutes after we’d arrived at the first access point and were still not in the water, I said “Screw the slough.” I knew there were pit stop facilities at Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands, so we ditched the last slough entry point [7] and headed there.

I’d been kayaking at Smith & Bybee several times, including once with MH. I’d give it a solid 3 on the 1 – 10 whoopee scale; I wanted to try somewhere new, but our plans hadn’t worked out and it was getting late, so what the heck. After The Pause That Refreshes © we checked out the canoe launch ramp.  Ay yi yi. I’d never seen the water level so low. How dare they call it Smith and Bybee Lakes?

 

 

yeahright

 

 

We hiked around the S & B Lake wetlands for an hour before returning to our car and heading off to find lunch. At least the birds seemed happy with the conditions in the boggy-wetlands-which-no-self-respecting-limnologist-would-call-a-lake – we saw an astounding number of Great Egrets wading about in the muck.

It turned out to be a good, low key day, capped off by a delightful evening at downtown Hillsboro’s Tuesday Marketplace. MH and I got dinner and a bottle of wine from the various food venders, found a spot on the courthouse lawn which was close enough to see the music stage but far enough away to be safe from the blaring amps and pissing pugs, [8] and staked our claim with folding chairs.

 

I really wish I could say I was joking about this.

I really wish I was joking about this.

 

 

It was a perfect evening for being outside – that temperature where you don’t know where your skin ends and the air begins. We enjoyed listening to the classic and original rock provided by Hippie Love Slave, a band that, besides having an awesome name, has a guitarist/singer whose vocal stylings reminded me of Grace Slick. I encountered said vocalist between sets, and shared my opinion with her. She took it as the compliment I intended, and then I complemented us both on being old and wise enough to understand.

 

 

 

 

Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

Whaddya mean, old enough to understand?

*   *   *

Department Of I’ll Be Happy To Explain It To You

In the wake/midst of the Thunderswampfuckton of Crap ® that our country is experiencing (and will, no doubt ,keep on slogging through), in particular the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge followed by the allegedly retaliatory shootings in Dallas, I’ve been hearing and reading about (what I take to be) a misunderstanding of the activist movement known as Black Lives Matter.

 

 

SOAPBOX

 

 

The very phrase or concept itself seems to be, IMHO, misconstrued. So, attention, critics – be you well-intended or closeted/overt racists – I’m about to clear it up for y’all.

It’s like this: You don’t walk into an Nike footwear store and criticize them for not carrying dress shoes.

But what about the Florsheims!

 

 

Wingtips Matter

Wingtips Matter

 

 

I’ll try again.

My city has a veterinary clinic named All About Cats . The clinic’s founding veterinarian had a multiple animal practice (dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles, birds) for over two decades; now he has one specializing in felines. One of the reasons he got the idea of establishing a felines-only clinic was his observation, during his years of practice, that cats were more stressed in a vet clinic by the smell and presence of dogs than vice-versa.

When I first saw the clinic’s sign I did not feel obligated to point out to the clinic’s staff, “I appreciate your intentions, but, All About Cats – life is not all about cats!” But I do know someone who, when they were informed that there was a new veterinary clinic in town that sees only cats, had that kind of reaction:

Oh, yeah, well, what about dogs?
What about budgies, and hamsters – other pets need veterinary care, too!”

All About Cats does not equal And other animals don’t need/aren’t worthy of veterinary care. Establishing a feline-only clinic does not mean you dismiss or dislike other animals. It merely denotes a special area of concern or concentration, for which there is a reason.

Black Lives Matter is a special interest civil rights/activist group. It exists because…well, because there are, unfortunately, fucking good and sad/pathetic reasons for it to exist. Including the fact that when my son K told me, many months ago, about being pulled over by a cop because K’s car had a non-functioning tail light, I had the privilege to not think that K might have been in danger.

I’d had The Talk with both of my offspring about how to behave if, while driving, they were ever pulled over by a cop. Still, it never occurred to me to ask K if he’d been overly respectful to the police officer no matter how the officer had treated him; it did not occur to me to ask/remind K if he’d remembered to move very slowly, always keeping his hands in sight, when the officer asked him to product his license and registration….

 

 

 

privelegejpg

 

 

*   *   *

May you have the privilege of assuming your children will be safe;
May you be able to enjoy the moments that arise and screw the slough when called for;
May you stop and smell the roses (or the frozen herring – whatever is handy);
..and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What the stories have in common: she remains mystified by the immaturity and moodiness of the younger kids (in particular, five year old boys), who “…don’t listen to what you say and have a meltdown when they spill a cup of water.”

[2] K, Belle’s brother, also attended UPS.

[3] And herring doesn’t smell any better the colder it is.

[4] Including their names. I mean, two gorgeous tigers lying side by side (“The one on the right is Kirani and the other is her sister, Dari”), they looked identical, to me.

[5] Which I keep in our new car, for those top down moments. The kit consists of a choice of three Glamorous Sunglasses ® , a scarf, and a tube of bright red lipstick to complete the ensemble.

[6] Other holidays which most people get as vacation days, Like MLK day or Memorial Day, he won’t.

[7] Kelly Point Park, which might be a good entry point for future kayaking on the slough but which also had signs of sketchy-ickiness and people-camping-who-shouldn’t-be (including two recently burned-out cars –  as in completely torched, parked side by side, — in the parking lot. Yet another omen).

[8] Yo, dog owners: when you bring your dogs to the various Farmer’s Markets – and you seem to think there is a city ordinance which requires you to do so – please mind where they “go.”

The Dr. Seuss Book I’m Not Reading

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Department Of I Really Don’t Want Us To Be Those People…

…who end up on the nightly news, as video clips of their car spinning out plays over and over again, entertaining viewers safe and sound at home who congratulate themselves on staying put and smugly if rhetorically wonder aloud, What kind of idiot goes out on the road in this weather if they don’t have to?

Yeah, well. That would be, this kind of idiot.

Although Belle’s second semester classes at the University of Puget Sound don’t begin until after MLK Day, Belle had a job in the UPS bookstore that started on January 4. She’d taken the train down from school for Winter Break but didn’t think she could handle the return trip schlepping all the stuff she’d brought with her plus all the loot she acquired at Christmas (the cast iron frypan and a case of spinach linguini were her tipping points).

So. MH and I agreed to drive her back up to Tacoma on the January 3rd ….the morning a rare snowstorm hit the Portland area and moved north to Washington.

 

spinout

 

We passed way too many vehicles post spin-out (or rollover, ugh) on I-5, and the going was slow, but we managed to safely deliver our girl back to her on-campus house. After helping her stock up on groceries, we began the trip south at around 4 pm.

Things were getting ugly on the return trip, and by that I do not mean MH and I hallucinated the visages of Republican presidential candidates in the snow eddies on the freeway. ..although happy heathen moiself did have an experience worthy of a Catholic mystic in that for a moment I thought saw the image of Gov. Chris Christie on the side of a Target ® truck that skidded past us in the (not-so) fast lane.

 

Storm – you call that a storm? C'mon, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I'll show you a storm.

Storm – you call that a storm? C’mon, tough lady, try crossing one of my Joisey bridges and I’ll show you a storm.

 

Once again, I digress.

The radar [1]  said we had a bunch of ice to get through, so I used my Smart Device ® to find us lodging in the nearest bed-big-ridden fleabag comfy motel. It was a good decision; the roads were better in the morning. We had a relaxing evening after a stressful day of driving, and stomped carefully from the motel to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. The otherwise dark night was bright in the little town of Kelso, its downtown illuminated by streetlights reflecting off new-fallen snow, which can make the most mundane town resemble a quaint, magical, North Pole scenario.

 

 Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

Follow the bright star to the taco stand.

*   *   *

¿Cómo se dice WIMP en español?

Tuesday evening was supposed to be the first night of the “accelerated” Spanish One [2] class I’m taking this quarter at the local campus of Portland Community College. Tuesday was two days after the aforementioned winter storm. I noticed no unsafe conditions when driving to the PCC site, and one by one, would-be Spanish (and German and ASL and other “community education” classes) students entered the building and milled around our unlit classrooms until we compared notes and arrived at the same conclusion: although the building was open our particular classes were, apparently, cancelled…but why is there one occupied classroom, full of students speaking French?

Someone used his cellphone phone to check the PCC site, and that Someone reported that indeed, PCC classes were cancelled for the day. [3] Meanwhile, another Someone returned to the (unstaffed) site  information desk to check the small, a hand-written sign, which announced in barely legible Sharpie scrawl that any PSU – Portland State University, which, evidently, uses the PCC site for at least one French class – sessions would meet as scheduled… but all PCC classes were cancelled.

A few of the Accelerated Spanish One students, one of whom said she had lived in Buffalo (They think THIS is snow?!), shared our opinions as to the ridiculousness of the situation, and also bonded in that I-drove-all-this-way-for-THIS? way that only befuddled strangers can, as we groused about the inconvenience of the cancellation [4]  and the relative wimpiness of the PCC vs. PSU schedulers.

 

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

Not.Even.Close.To.This.

 

It wasn’t all for naught. While three of us aspiring estudiantes were waiting for what we hoped was the late arrival of the Spanish teacher, we shared our history/familiarity with speaking Spanish. When it was my turn I said what I remembered most were bits of rudimentary medical Spanish, or what I liked to think of as Planned Parenthood exam survival Spanish: e.g., Please remove your clothing from the waist down. The Woman Who Formerly Lived In Buffalo © grinned broadly, asked me to repeat the phrase, and thanked me. It might come in handy, she explained, seeing as how she’d recently started dating a man from Mexico.

 

*   *   *

My Mother’s Resumé

Last week my older sister forwarded a text she’d received from CG, one of our mother’s caregivers. The subject was, “Mom wants to pitch in.”

(It was a )Good day here. Your mom was making her resumé for a while in her office. She feels that she should be working. I didn’t want to dampen her hopes but we talked about being a volunteer which of course would be too much….

I got a kick out of it…for a moment. The image of my mother making her resumé –is cute, funny, sweet – make that, bittersweet. And now a part of me wants to know: did mom follow through, and what would be on it if she did? What would this 87 year old woman (who is not always cognizant of her own age [5] ) list on her resumé?

 

oldjobjpg

 

My mother was the youngest of four daughters – her parents’ midlife, “oops” baby. [6]

Like most women of her generation, my mother had little hope for independence as an adult and was, essentially, a sentenced to life with her parents until/unless she married.

She moved with her mother and father to Santa Ana (CA) after her father retired from his job in Cass Lake (MN), an event which coincided with Mom’s high school graduation.

Mom enrolled in the local community college, got an A.A. degree, and managed to land a job with the Post Office. I gathered from the stories she told me over the years that she loved her job. Although she still lived with her parents [7] she was thrilled by the promise of even a modicum of independence that arose from earning her own money – she was saving up to buy her very own car; she really liked the styling on the Chevy Bel Aire! – even as she was less than thrilled (read: downright resentful) to be privy to the status and higher salaries of her fellow Post Office employees, all older than her and male, whom she described as slack-off, ineffectual, Civil-Service-for-life “geezers” whose jobs she felt she could do so much better (and sometimes did, but without credit) but would never be hired for or promoted to.

And then she got married.

She transferred her savings into the account of he-who-would-be-my-father, and their joint monies went for the deposit for their apartment, and a couple of years later, after my older sister was born, the down payment for their first house.

Oh, and she had to quit her one and only “real” job after she got married.

 

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds...but married women give me the willies.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…but married women give me the willies.

 

 

What do you mean, you had to quit your job when you got married? Why?

No matter how many times I asked that question [8] I never received a satisfactory answer. This was because

(a) there can be no satisfactory answer to a rational question about an absurd situation;
(b) my mother, hardly the bastion of feminist consciousness and one of the least introspective and politically conscious persons I’ve ever known, didn’t understand the why herself.

When I’d press her, she’d say that she didn’t know if it was codified Post Office policy, but it was common knowledge that only single women were hired for such clerical work. Her supervisor informed her, when she told him she was engaged, that she could remain at her position “until that time,” but that she’d have to quit her job when she got married.

 

wow

 

It’s been 60 – sixty!? – years since my mother had worked for pay. She worked nonetheless and of course for all those years, in a job of total dependency – a job which wasn’t even called a job, and for which there was little-to-no recognition outside that from the family which “employed” her. She played by the rules; she heeded the porous platitudes from the male-worshipping culture which spawned, formed, defined and limited her:

We won’t let you be a scientist  [9] but you will have the-most-important-job-in-the-world-as-wife-and-mother!

That same ManSociety neglected to mention that, lofty rhetoric aside, it placed little value in that “most important” of jobs, which by the way and don’t you worry your pretty little head about this will leave you completely financially dependent upon your husband and without translatable, marketable experience and skills.

 

REALLY

 

And now, ’tis 2016. Seemingly apropos of nothing, a sweet, memory-addled, elderly widow-woman wants to update her resumé. If she were physically and mentally able to seek employment, what would she be qualified to do?  [10]

I won’t ask, in my next phone call with her, how her resumé is shaping up. It would only confuse and upset her; she’ll have no memory that she mentioned her project to CG. She will have forgotten; I can’t. It’s gnawing at me, in a wistful way that makes me think about the last book Dr. Seuss never wrote: Oh, the Places You Could Have Gone.

I’d like to think that, if only for a moment, when my mother was thinking about writing her resumé she was reaching for the proverbial stars, and genuinely if only fleetingly thought she had a chance at applying for something important and exciting. Astronaut camp counselor? Postmaster general? Chevrolet design engineer?  Hell’s bells, what good is a stalling memory if you can’t jump start it and take a joy ride every now and then?

 

1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire

1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire

 

*   *   *

May you learn survival phrases in the foreign language of your choice;
May your life’s resumé be the stuff of sweet dreams,
And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

 

[1] Do you have the Accuweather app? You should.

[2] “Accelerated” meaning you’ve had some familiarity with Spanish however long ago, and, like in my case, when you can remember bits of what I refer to as Planned Parenthood Spanish (please remove your clothing from the waist down”) you might want a faster paced class than one which begins with “Uno, dos, tres….”

[3] It hadn’t occurred to those of us who showed up to check the status of the classes. Monday, maybe, but things seemed fine on Tuesday.

[4] We had to provide email addresses to register for the class. Would it have been too much to send out a mass email notifying us of the cancellation?

[5] My mother suffers from a variety of age-related ailments, including memory impairments.

[6] And the fact that she knows the history of her “embarrassing” birth – that she was told by her parents that her “arrival” was an embarrassment to them – explains a lot, IMHO, about many aspects of her personality.

[7] Apartment complexes/landlords would not rent units to unmarried women.

[8] I stopped asking around the time when I was in high school, when, thanks to the Second Wave of Feminism, I “got it.”

[9] My mother’s high school physics teacher announced on the first day of class that he would not teach science to female students wanted them to leave the classroom. My mother’s mother intervened with the principal, and the teacher begrudgingly let the girls stay in his classroom but continued to slight them (including my mother, who would go on to be her class valedictorian). He never looked at them during his lectures and ignored their raised hands when he asked for questions…with one exception. He agreed to teach my mother’s best friend, Dorothy, because “It was obvious Dorothy will never marry ” and thus she’d need to be educated to support herself (Dorothy had been facially disfigured at birth by the inept, forceps-wielding doctor who delivered her).  This story was first told to me when I was taking physics in high school. I’d commented on something we’d learned in class, and my mother told me she’d never found physics very interesting. Imagine that.

[10] Please don’t say, Walmart greeter. Gawdammit, I heard ya.

The I’m Proverbs Not Quoting

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 Happy Half Birthday to MH!

Yes, we celebrate such things.

halfbday

*   *   *

Last week I saw the proverbial Woman Who Went Out In Public Wearing A Housecoat And Slippers, And With Her Hair In Curlers ® . She didn’t even bother to wear a hat or a scarf to cover the curlers – I didn’t know that there were women who still wore hair curlers, or that such curlers are still being made.  They seem like such a childhood remnant, of Something Old People Did.

curlers

This public place was a grocery story. Now, I’m not exactly known for my vanity (read: for having much about which I could be vain), but I can’t imagine what would prompt me to leave the house, looking/dressed like that. [1]  As I walked behind her I realized that there was something worse than walking around in public dressed in a tatty house-thingy and curlers, and that thing is this: I felt an urge to whip out my phone and snap a picture of her.

All together now:  Bad, non-compassionate person.

I was able to restrain my photo-urge, in part because I began to wonder about how the word proverbial; specifically, how it came to mean something so well known as to be stereotypical…along with its original meaning, which is something related to a reference in a proverb.

Have you read any of the biblical proverbs lately – as in, from the book of Proverbs? Some seriously wacky shit fun stuff.

19:24 A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.
(not sure what this particular piece of whackadoodery means, but it’s fun because, bosom.)

20:8 A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
(Those are, like, some serious laser eyes).

(22:15) “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
(Beating kids will make ’em less foolish. What time is it – have you beaten your child today?)

26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
(Well yeah, there’s that.)

(28:5) “They that seek the LORD understand all things.”
(which explains the glut of Fundamentalist preacher Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize-winning scientists.)

The Department of Graceful Segues has failed me. There’s just no way out of this one, except for an inspirational visit from the Farting Preacher.

*   *   *

Department of Someone It Would Be Easy To Hate Because He’s so Fucking Talented in So Many Areas But Damned If He Isn’tThey  Also Wise and Compassionate and Funny and Self-Effacing and….

…and doesn’t take himself too seriously, as per this photo of him rapping in a college [2]talent show.

Kim raps

 

That would be Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Ph.D., Korean-born American physician-anthropologist-Dartmouth College President, World Health Organization AIDS Dept. Director, MacArthur Fellows Genuis Award Winner, head of the World Bank, who  just likes to show up at my house every so often for tea and conversation about the world’s problems was featured guest on a recent Freakonomics radio show.

And he probably makes his own bread from scratch.

 

Actually, it's not bread – I make pasta from scratch. But, I'm working on perfecting a sourdough starter which will also provide the world with a renewable, carbon footprint-free energy source.

Actually, it’s not bread – I make pasta from scratch. But, I’m working on perfecting a sourdough starter which will also provide the world with a renewable, carbon emissions-free energy source.

*   *   *

Department of Spontaneous Trips to Tacoma

Because when you are doing one of the Portland Hill Walks with your husband on a late Sunday morning and your nineteen year old daughter texts you from college, saying she misses seeing her parents and would you consider making a “day trip” up to see her..

You gotta go, if you can.

I’d forgotten that the following day was a holiday, for MH at least (our offspring, K and Belle, did not have a day off from classes, nor did the rest of the students at the University of Puget Sound). MH remembered this, and said that if we really wanted to be spontaneous….  One point five hours later we’d returned home, thrown overnight necessities into dufflebags and were headed north on I-5, MH driving while I tried to make last minute cat-house-sitting arrangements, [3] procure overnight lodging, and coordinate Belle and K joining us for dinner that evening.

It turned out to be a whirlwind, great trip, [4] fantastic, spring-teaser weather, and a bonus parental reassurance of seeing our daughter with her wrist cast [5] and noting that everything is going to be fine.

 I heartily approve of Tacoma's Commencement Bay policy banning bicycling at low tide.

I heartily approve of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay policy banning bicycling at low tide.

*   *   *

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year –– to  my sister-in-law, JP, and to all Chinese-Americans, and Happy Lunar New Year to all Asian Americans.

The Lunar calendar designates 2015 as the Year of the Goat…or sheep or ram. There seems to be some disagreement as to the interpretation of the Chinese character yang, which can be translated to mean goat, sheep or ram in English.

Because of K & Belle’s years of ZooTeens work at the Oregon Zoo, our family has learned about and become fond of goats.  Thus, I will take the liberty of wishing everyone a Happy Year of the (cute screaming baby) Goat.

 

*   *   *

Belated Valentine’s greetings to everyone, in the form of this delightful, Darwin-inspired love song, It’s Only Natural, written by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s co-president Dan Barker [6] and performed by singer Susan Hofer.

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy what comes naturally, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] An emergency of some kind – you wouldn’t find me in a Safeway.

[2] He has multiple degrees, from both Brown and Harvard, of course.

[3] The amazing LAH to the rescue, once again!

[4] Although note to young people: there’s no such thing, for your decrepit parents at least, as a “day trip” that involves a 3.5 hour drive one way, which means a 3.5 hour return drive.

[5] Injury noted in last week’s blog post, Student vs. Brick Wall.

[6] Barker is a pianist and composer with over 200 published songs, and still receives royalties for Vacation Bible School musicals he wrote back in the ’70s when he was an evangelical Christian pastor (“Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” )…royalties he now donates to Freethought causes.

The Age I’m Not Guessing

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Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not Twenty-Six Anymore

Although I vary the routes for my morning walks, more often than not I include a few laps around the tree-lined paths of a local park.  I see other “regulars” there – mostly dog walkers – with whom I’ve developed the nodding, I recognize you, acquaintance.

One of the Regular Park Walkers ® is a woman with big (as in thick), almost waist-length, curly, fading-red hair. Big Red’s hands are always busy: one pushes a stroller occupied by a vivid-red haired baby boy, and the other clutches the leash of what looks to be a Bernese Mountain dog.

Wednesday morning I saw Big Red at the park.  She’d stopped on a path ~ 50 feet ahead of me to adjust the baby’s blanket; I slowed my pace as I approached.  We exchanged good morning’ s, and I made a comment about her son’s adorable smile.

Grand-son,” she corrected me.  Her tone, furrowed brow and gawking eyes – it was as if she’d reacted to a non sequitur I’d made about her triplet chicken sweaters.

chicken sweaters

I generally refrain from guessing people’s ages, for several reasons.  One reason involves me doing my bit to raise consciousness re the pernicious effects of ageism. As part of this noble cause, I generally try to deflect or “reroute” that rare [1] comment-meant-to-be-a-compliment “Oh, but you don’t look ____ (whatever age you in fact are)” when it’s been flung my way after someone has guessed young about my age and I’ve corrected them.  Another reason is simply because I’ve never been good at it.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, unless a person had drastic facial, verbal or postural indicators of either youthfulness or decrepitude, I thought everybody was more or less twenty-six.  When I myself was twenty-six, I was more or less correct about the ages of most of my peers, neighbors and co-workers.  It took many, many years, but someone [2] finally gave me the equivalent of a verbal face palm – How can you be so dense? He’s obviously twice/half as old as that! – and called me on my deficient age-estimating ability.

So. Yeah. Live and Learn. Nobody is twenty-six, anymore.  We’re all hovering around forty-four, aren’t we?

"We love being twenty-six!"

“We love being twenty-six!”

"So do we!"

“So do we!”

*   *   *

Department of They Meant Well

For the past few years hundreds of people [3] hoping for better economic and social opportunities make a dangerous crossing of Mediterranean, from spots along the North African coast, trying to enter Europe by boat.  Some of these boats capsize, and some of the migrants drown.

Last week I heard a BBC News radio story about one “side effect” of the sad situation.  The story concerned a wealthy couple who, while on a Mediterranean yacht cruise, became aware of the boat migrants’ situation and decided to get involved.  Their involvement has taken the form of spending over two million euros to purchase a yacht, outfit it with two dinghies and state of the art surveillance drones, and hire a crew which will patrol the seas near Malta (a common migrant destination), looking for boats in distress: 

When the ship comes across a migrant boat in international waters, the crew will contact the nearest authorities….. While they wait for instructions, they will use the dinghies to approach the boats, pass over food, water and lifejackets and offer medical assistance….. in case the boat is taking water or the number of the people [on board] is higher than should be, [the crew] will communicate that to the authorities and we will do what needs to be done. “If we need to take people on board we can, until Malta or Italy come to take them, and disembark them on land.”

This is one of those stories that make me feel good for a moment, until the wait a minute…. sets in.  Yep, I’ll be the curmudgeon who points out that short term acts of “heroism” often do nothing to alleviate long term misery and may even, unintentionally, contribute to the latter.

The Wealthy Yacht Philanthropists get the immediate satisfaction of assisting hungry and thirsty boat people – along with the irrational appreciation of alleged divine approval that only a misguided zealot would treasure feel-good-glow that comes from having a priest tell them they are on a “mission from God” [4] and present them with just what every boat rescue team needs,  “…a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes and a golden crucifix.”

"This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket."

“This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket.”

Meanwhile, the WYP inadvertently produce the possible (read: highly likely) side effect of encouraging more desperate people to make the hazardous journey (No worries, we hear someone with a big boat will rescue us and even drop us off where we want to go!).

How much better, IMHO, would WYP’s money, effort and influence be spent, were it to be invested in solutions to the economic, social and cultural problems that impel people to flee their homelands in their first place.  Pulling a few people out of the water and waiting for the next boatload to fall in – it’s like putting a finger cot on a wrist amputation.

*   *   *

Speaking of the dangers of the Mediterranean, here’s something you will never hear me say when I talk about my recipe for Mokh: [5]

“So now I do as Moroccan cooks do, and I think my brain salad dishes are better for it.”  [6]

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

*   *   *

Now Appearing in My Kitchen:

Cucumber avocado soup; quinoa, chevre, black bean, scallion and cilantro stuffed sweet red peppers.

YUM

Tasty distractions for getting used to having only two of us at the dinner table.

*   *   *

Empty Nest Chateau Report

My prudent admonition to my fledglings about dorm life – don’t expect or (even want) your dorm roommate to be a best friend; consider it gravy if you like your roommate or at least find him/her tolerable – is on the record.

Belle’s never been one for gravy.

K’s freshman dorm situation was benignly ideal: he and his roommate were considerate occupiers of the same space and socialized occasionally, but it went no further than that. They parted amicably at the end of the year; the roommate transferred to another college.

Belle adores her roommate, JFS.  Just loves her.  And (so far), so do we.  I know, it’s only been two weeks, but they are so cute together.

CUTEs

Really, almost this cute.

We met JFS’s family (parents and younger sister) on Friday of Orientation week.  I liked them immediately.  The UPS Orientation week organizers suggest that parents take their freshman offspring out to dinner on Saturday, and then, essentially, get lost go home and let the students dive into Orientation week activities.  Since Belle & JFS seemed to be getting on so well we asked Belle to pass along our suggestion that both families do the Saturday dinner together.

I felt comfortable enough around Belle’s roommate’s family to confess, during our mahhhhhhhvelous dinner at the Europa Bistro in the Proctor district of Tacoma, that I hoped Belle’s & JFS’s mutual admiration society wasn’t just part of the honeymoon stage and that soon they’d be fighting like siblings.  I shared that hope when JFS’s mother said that her daughter had been talking nonstop about how much she liked Belle.  I in turn told her that Belle had praised JFS to MH and I.

Belle and JFS stayed for a little over an hour at the bistro, then left to go back to some dorm social activity.  JFS’s parents, sister, MH and I stayed for almost another two hours, getting to know one another and sharing stories.

 

creme

The bistro was crowded with UPS families and service was a bit leisurely, [7] but we were having such a pleasant evening we really didn’t notice or mind.  We finished dinner, hadn’t ordered yet dessert, and out of the blue our waiter set two gorgeous ramekins of crème brûlée on our table.  He gave us the compliments of the chef and apologized for making “such nice people wait so long.”

JFS’s parents and sister exchanged mirthful looks and laughter.  JFS’s father explained to MH and I that crème brûlée is JFS’s favorite dessert, and oooh, just wait until she finds out what she missed by cutting out on the old folks!  Why wait? said moiself  At my urging, JFS’s father took a picture of the crème brûlées and texted the photo to her with a brief message about what she was missing.  He guffawed at his daughter’s one word reply, and hesitated only a moment before he showed the text to MH and me:

 

FUCK

 

This is a good match, I said to myself. Everything is going to be okay.

 

roommates

*   *   *

May your matches be picture perfect, your crème brûlées complimentary, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Well, rare for me.

[2] I cannot recall the name of the person who enlightened me, but whoever you are, I’m sure you look fabulous…for your age.

[3] An estimated 1600 people in 2013.

[4] A god who apparently can’t be bothered to help the migrants walk on water, or do whatever he might do to alleviate their situation.

[5] And this is because I am never going to make Mokh.

[6] Spiced Brain Salad with Preserved lemons. From Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco.

[7] Or, as I like to say, European.

The Nest I’m Not Emptying

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It started early this summer. Subtle hints dropped, direct and dire predictions [1] flung (“Those were the best times of your life, when your kids were at home; oh, you’ll look back on those days and wish….”), and everything in between….

I’d tried not to give it an inordinate amount of brain wattage, but people kept bringing it up.

Yep, son K is back to college for his senior year, and daughter Belle begins her first.  On the drive back home to Hillsboro, after we’d taken Belle to her UPS freshman orientation, I said to MH, “It’s not like we just dropped her off for summer camp, is it?”

 Anyone know what this is?

Anyone know what this is?

The She Meant Well  [2] award re this situation goes to my maternal unit, as per our Tuesday phone conversation.  We talked about MH and I taking Belle up to college for freshman orientation last week, and how K would be returning to Tacoma this week.  My mother asked me if I was going to miss my offspring.  I said something like oh yeah, big time, already, even though K is still at home (he caught the train to Tacoma on Wednesday).

 “I find it interesting [3] that you think you’ll miss them” she said.

 “Uh…really? Why?” moiself responded. “I like them.”

 “Well, you always seem to have so much else going on in your mind…”

Oh.  Yeah, right. It’s not like I’ll even notice that, for the first time in over 21 years, my two groovy and much-loved children are not around.

What does she think I am, a honey badger?

Honey badger

 honey badger don’t care.

*   *   *

MH has a sabbatical coming up, and we will be doing some traveling. Good timing, I think (hope). What with Belle & K both in college, the Dueling Banjoes of our elderly parents’ health crises [4], and my professional mid-life crisis, I find myself…unable to even pin down what I’m feeling. Floating, for lack of a better word.

Wise compassionate counsel from wise, compassionate friend SCM:

One of my Oregon Attorney Assistance Program newsletters talked about transitions—good or bad, they will always leave you feeling uneasy, and to give yourself time to get used to them, and to be forgiving of yourself if you feel badly (even for good changes).  You’re transitioning with writing (or making some decisions about where to go next) and transitioning with parenting children to parenting adults. Those are both big life changes.

*   *   *

BFAST PLATES

These are the breakfast plates I purchased for K and Belle, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  One section for scrambled eggs and/or my special recipe whole wheat vanilla soymilk tofu (!)  [5] pancakes, the other for fruit (bananas, seasonal berries, kiwi… they both loved kiwi).

Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine.  Just staring at empty plates. [6]

*   *   *

Something else on the plate.

C’mon out tomorrow to the Downtown Hillsboro Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Hillsboro’s seasonal open-air market is celebrating its 32nd year of operation, and features over 100 vendors and their fresh local produce food and garden products, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, live music, and more.

As for the more: wipe the fresh blackberry (mmm, yummers) stains off your fingers and stop by Jacobsen’s books for their summer author signing series, which is held during market hours.  This Saturday yours truly will be at Jacobsen’s, with The Mighty Quinn. I’ll be there from 9a – 1p, except for when I’m slipping out to one of the produce booths to sample some of the gorgeous fresh fruit, or drooling over the Pie Guy‘s wares.

The market is held on Main Street between 1st and 3rd.  Jacobsen’s Books is at 211 E. Main, on the north side of the street.

Be there, or …

SQUARE

*   *   *

 When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.
Bill Moyers

May you feel a little more comfortable in your nest – or fledge quickly and crap all over the nest next door, whatever floats your boat – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Mostly from my mother, with the implication that it’s all downhill after this.

[2] “Thank god kids never mean well.” – Lily Tomlin.

[3] The dictionary definition of interesting – “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity” – is not how my mother typically employs that word.  When she uses it, it is more along the lines of the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

[4] my SoCal mom has a myriad of physical and mental health problems; MH’s Floridian father is battling the progressive physical and cognitive deterioration of Parkinson’s Disease .

[5] One of those stealth-health things…and they loved them.

[6] It’s time for a lighter footnote. Pretend you’ve just read an outrageously funny fart joke.

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 Song I’m Not Editing

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Life’s a beach

Dateline: Sunday morning, seven a.m., walking at Seal Beach, CA.  Was it just yesterday morning that we (MH, Belle and moiself) arose way too early to catch a flight from PDX to Long Beach? And will it be just another ten hours until we fly back to Oregon?

We came down here to attend the wedding of my niece, the second of three daughters of my older sister.  I’m exhausted from the combination of yesterday’s 3:30 a.m. wakeup call [1] and getting little sleep last night.  But, we’re staying at the beach, which energizes me, and I’m up at six.  I can’t stay in bed knowing there is an ocean two blocks away; the sunny-salty air is calling.

The boogie boarders and surfers are out, and also a good many other early risers.  Standing at the base of the pier I see booths set up on the sand just north of the pier.  The booth’s banners advertise a Beach Cleanup event, sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation.  One hundred or so yards from the booths, forty Speedo clad bipeds, looking both eager and groggy, are lined up at the back of the lifeguard headquarters, which is a rather drab, blue-gray brick building adjacent to the pier.  Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tryouts April 13 7:30 am reads a sign posted on the headquarter’s garage door.

From my viewpoint on the pier, the lifeguard candidates, at first glance, seem to be very young and very fit, and very white and male.  Upon further scrutiny I notice about eight women among them, two of whom are not blond, and a couple of non-blond male Lifeguards of Color ® . A couple of the boy-guard wannabes are carrying extra poundage; the group as a whole does not exactly resemble Baywatch [2] material.  Of course, the Baywatch boys and babes in no way resembled the kind of people you’d expect would be capable of rescuing you if you were drowning (although at least two of the show’s female lifeguards – namely, Pamela Anderson’s chest – could evidently be used as emergency flotation devices).

Baywatch

I walk out on the pier. Looking to the south I see a series of solitary beach walkers, and a group of nine people standing in a circle in the sand.  The nine are all dressed head to toe in white flowing garments, and several of them also wear some kind of white cap.  In the shadow of an unoccupied lifeguard station ~ thirty feet behind the Group of Nine, a women dressed in colors other than white is performing tai chi-ish movements.

A trawler-style boat, whose wake I can trace to an offshore oil rig, is docking at the south side of the pier.  I am close enough to hear snippets of conversations from the boat’s passengers, what appears to be a group of rig workers who have been ferried from their shift.  And I realize, in all my years of hanging out at the beach, I’ve never seen a boat use one of those under the pier docking stations.  This excites me, for some reason.  My work here is done!

Or, maybe not.

Out near the end of the pier a pelican soars overhead, performing its leisurely, circling survey of the ocean beneath.  The morning light shines off of a salmon-colored streak on its beak.  I always thought pelicans were beautiful birds, somewhat ungainly on land and thus underappreciated.  I imagine a person watching a pelican gliding over the ocean for the first time. If you hadn’t seen a pelican’s fishing technique, its sudden, awkward plummet into the sea could take you by surprise.  Uh-oh, massive flight fail – look, honey, that big deformed goose just had had a heart attack!

PELICANjpg

On the north side of the pier a life guard is piloting one of those ski-doo watercraft thingies. A passenger on the back of the craft begins placing a series of orange buoy markers about 30 feet apart, as the craft turns and runs parallel to the beach approximately a quarter mile from the shore. I’m assuming the markers are for the lifeguard tryouts.

In the hazy distant north I can see the various docking rigs and equipment associated with the Long Beach harbor – an ugly sight, but if I look forward, to the pier’s end and the open sea, or to the right, or behind me to the beach, I can pretend it’s not there.

rigs

 I think I’d have to do a lot of pretending, to return to Southern California, where I was raised.  I used to tell myself I could live in So Cal, but only at the beach, where you can pretend the rest of it [3] isn’t there or doesn’t involve you. But I know the rest of it would not be worth it, for me.

Still, walking on the beach, hearing the gentle crash of the surf and feeling the salt air in my lungs, makes me feel…  I don’t know.  It just does.

corona

 I’ll never forget the sight of my father, and especially my more reserved mother, shaking their groove thangs [4] on the dance floor at my younger sister’s wedding reception, some 27 years ago.  They just couldn’t resist joining in the fun, when the DJ played a certain song, after they watched all “the young folks” having a good time.  My father requested the DJ play that song – what he and Mom came to call “The Yahoo Song” – at least five more times that evening.   Chet and Marion Parnell looked at the other dance floor denizens and mimicked the moves, raising their hands and shouting Yahoo! during the chorus of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.

 We gonna celebrate and have a good time
  It’s time to come together
 It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?

 Everyone around the world come on!
  Yahoo!
 It’s a celebration
 Yahoo! 

A year after my sister’s wedding MH and I announced our intention to marry.  One of the first things my father said to me was, “You have to have dancing at your wedding reception, and tell the DJ to play The Yahoo Song.”

At my request the song, dedicated to the memory of Chet Parnell, was played at my niece’s reception.  I may be somewhat biased, but I think it was the most enthusiastically-participated-in dance of the evening.

All over the country, parents of college-bound high school seniors are exhaling (and possibly retching) as the college notifications arrive.  Belle’s choice [5] turned out to be the college she fell in love with when she saw the campus several years ago.

UPS

 Next year Belle will join her brother, K, at, The University of Puget Sound.  K is currently a UPS junior, studying what he and others in his major refer to as “Tiny Bio” (Micro and Cellular Biology).

There are several advantages to having your child go to a college you already know how to “navigate.”  One perk in particular stands out.  When Belle gets homesick, and by that I mean catsick, [6] she’s just a 3 hour train ride away from seeing her beloved if brain-damaged intellectually challenged buddy, Crow.

CROW

Animal-related segue: or, a pet peeve apropos of nothing

I really, really, get my butt frosted by those oldies radio stations that rev my motor by playing the iconic, pounding, five-note intro to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4…until two minutes into the song I realize that they’re playing the abbreviated version.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!  The fact that they EDIT OUT the amazing electric guitar solo – which features a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath , about whom Jimi Hendrix said to another Chicago band member, “your guitarist is better than me,”  – is a waterboard-worthy offense.

May those who listen to the soundtrack to your life clamor for the long version, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] It was bad enough that 4:30 am was the set wake-up time, and then MH’s alleged “smart” phone did a dumb thing and decided to wake me up earlier.  MH, of course, slept through it.

[2] A cheesy ’89-’99 TV series about an improbably nubile group of lads and lasses who patrolled the beaches of LA County, keeping the beaches free of crime, drowning, and less photogenically endowed inhabitants.

[3] traffic, pollution; congestion; overpopulation of what is, essentially, a desert; Orange County Republicans….

[4] Or the AARP-approved version of such.

[5] made easier by the four year academic scholarship the school dangled in front of her.

[6] MH and I have few illusions as to which household member Belle will miss the most.

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

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.

MESS

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

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,

ASS

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

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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.

wright park

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.

nixon

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

Jesuseasterbunny

*   *   *

“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.

angry rubber chickenpng

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?

joy

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.

sloth

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

Comments Off on The Classic Songs I’m Not (quite) Dissing

   ♫ 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.

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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:

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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.

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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?”

lightbulb

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.

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