Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Columbus Day and Other Stuff We’ve Ruined

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Christopher Columbus Day

Tomorrow is Columbus Day.  In the parts of California where I grew up – Alameda in elementary grades and San Rafael in middle and high school – October 12th was school as usual.  But it was a holiday complete with parades and no school in nearby San Francisco, a fact that we kids always felt was unfair.  We were told it was because of the large Italian population in The City which, of course, made no sense at all to me and my friends.

So, if the October 12th fell on a weekday, we who were school-bound were provided with forty minutes or so of activities centering around the old rhyme “Columbus sailed the ocean blue, In fourteen hundred ninety-two.”  Somehow, the teachers managed, through skits or stories or bulletin boards, to give us a sense of pride in our  country’s beginnings.  I, for one, loved Columbus Day and all the history that went with it.

Indigeneous Peoples Day

Little did I know that the history, or at least the versions of it we were taught, was all wrong.  Now that more than 500 years have passed since he sailed the ocean blue, Columbus is disparaged as much as he is praised. Beginning in 1992 in Berkeley, California, cities started renaming the second Monday in October “Indigenous People’s Day” to shift focus from the conqueror to the conquered.

And, of course, the new awakening of our consciousness did not stop with Columbus. In 1995, James W. Loewen’s book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, reviewed the common misstatements and misrepresentations in the retelling of American history in high school history texts. Not only did Loewen, a sociologist and history professor, point out the often deceptive and inaccurate teachings about America’s history, but he criticized the texts for a tendency to elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, unintentionally giving students the impression that these figures were superhumans who live in the irretrievable past.

Wonder Woman

Damn!  Who knew?  No more heroes like Columbus or Massasoit or Paul Revere?  Not to mention George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Sacagawea?  Next, they’ll be telling me that we have to turn those historical personages in for the ‘real’ superheroes like Spiderman or Wonder Woman.  I despair.

I’m still thinking about celebrating Columbus Day tomorrow… I wonder if Jayne is back to making sandwiches at Bailey’s Café.  I think having one of her fabulous “Italians” would be the perfect tribute!

Not Even Close!

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Thank Goodness

After the ‘usual’ depressing state-of-the-world discussion with friends yesterday afternoon, I re-read Shelley Pollock’s even more depressing column in last week’s Observer:  “Hold on to your hats… I mean your wallets! Painful changes ahead for Washington insurance customers.”

Her commentary was about health insurance for 2018 – in particular, individual health insurance and, even more particularly, individual health insurance for those under the age of 65 in Pacific County.  Her information in one word:  Scary!

I have long been grateful that, in addition to Medicare,  we have coverage – excellent, affordable coverage – under the Washington State Teachers’ Retirement System.  I am even more thankful that, during the many years I was a public-school teacher and was part of the negotiations process, our bargaining teams never lost sight of our retired teachers.  Otherwise…  But I can hardly bear to consider ‘otherwise.’

Thank Goodness Some More!

Shelley’s column was enlightening in other ways, too.  Take the income requirements, tax credits, and out-of-pocket maximums she talks about for two 64-year-olds.  Not that we are, or have been, that young for a long time.  But, I got stuck on the income amount in her example – “$6,000 a month combined.”  Say what?  I had to pause in my reading for a bit.  My mind just stalled out.  All I could think of was “not even close” and “thank goodness for all those years I taught and paid into our future coverage.”

We think of ourselves as ‘middle class’ income-wise.  If that $6,000 figure is what middle class incomes are these days, it would appear that we are not in that category.  So, I went to Google and asked, “What is middle class?’  Apparently, there could be as many as five qualifiers:  income, wealth, consumption, aspiration, and demographics.  I wish I could say, “Bingo!  Two out of three!”  But, according to the information Google had for me…’not even close’ remains the way it is for this household.

Tevye and Golda’s lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof” come to mind – It doesn’t change a thing, but even so…  Only, it’s not really very ‘nice to know.’  Not even close.

Excuses and Reasons and Cop-outs, Oh My!

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In Long Beach, WA

The front-page headline in yesterday’s Chinook ObserverFireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey.  The subheading:  Not a Ban, a Better Plan’s survey doesn’t sway Peninsula’s leaders.

Why am I not surprised?  Same old, same old.  Lots of rhetoric but no action by the leadership of our county.  Despite a 76.7 percent support for some sort of limits according to the informal survey by the local ‘Not a Ban, a Better Plan’ group, our leaders are not planning to take any action.

It seems to all boil down to the fact that there is “…no simple solution” according to one of our County Commissioners.  I don’t remember that the survey had anything to do with “simple.”  Once again, our leadership seems to be flummoxed by the complexities of ‘just say no.’

In Long Beach, CA

I am reminded of our County’s Comprehensive Zoning hearing that my folks attended back in the 1970s.  One of the proposals (which ultimately passed) was to number and alphabetize the streets on the Long Beach Peninsula.  My mother was appalled.  She hated the idea of getting rid of all the many traditional names like “Huckleberry Lane” and “Skating Lake Road.”  And she said so.

But, of course, our leadership prevailed.  “To make it easier for our EMTs” they said.  (That was in the days before we used fancy terms like ‘first responders.’)  “I just moved back to Oysterville from the San Francisco Bay Area,” my mom argued.  “San Francisco, as you might know, is quite a bit larger than the Peninsula.  They have never found a need to change their charming, old-fashioned street names, nor have there been any complaints from their emergency personnel.  Are you saying that our EMTs are not as smart as their EMTs?”

Successful Gun Amnesty Campaign, Austrailia

Well… there you have it.  The beat goes on.  Perhaps we need to wait until a real disaster occurs – like all the homes on the beach front go up in flames – for anything to change.  Although… maybe not.  Our national leadership certainly hasn’t pointed the way in the matter of disasters and law-making.  “1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days” here in America according to theguardian.  Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t passed a single piece of gun control legislation, beyond voting in 2013 to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms, which could potentially bypass security checkpoints at airports and other locations.

But, I digress.

When public pools were not an option…

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

FDR, October 27, 1944

I don’t remember if there was more than one public swimming pool in Alameda when I was growing up.  All I know is that I wasn’t allowed to go.  Not in all the years we lived there – from 1941 to 1947.  The reason I couldn’t go, no matter how hot it was in the summer, all boiled (ahem!) down to one word: polio.  Or, if you wanted to sound important, two words:  infantile paralysis.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was our president when we moved to Alameda, just a few months ‘before Pearl Harbor.’  (That’s how we marked time in those years:  ‘before Pearl Harbor’ or ‘during the Depression’ or ‘after World War Two.)  President Roosevelt was a polio victim and, in an effort uncover its mysteries and to lend a helping hand to Americans suffering from the disease, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938.

Football Fans in Indiana

Every school child knew of his Foundation.  We called it “The March of Dimes.  And until Jonas Salk, a grantee of some of the Foundation’s funding, developed his famous vaccine and it became available to the public in 1955, we gave our pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters to the effort.  And, in my case anyway, no going to public swimming pools.  That’s where (I was taught) you were most likely to catch the dreaded disease.

I thought about that a lot yesterday.  I wondered if our present-day ‘concert culture’ will change now that it seems to be a focal point for shooters.  I have never gone to a concert – never even been tempted. (Oh.  Maybe that’s a lie.  Maybe I went to a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in the 1960s.  If so, it wasn’t that memorable…) Nor have I gone to a football game since I graduated from college – or, indeed to any other venue where thousands of people gather.  I think I was adversely imprinted during my childhood – no public pools, no public gatherings. I wonder if I’m wrong not to feel deprived…

University of Michigan – Photo by Andrew Home

I’m also beginning to feel uncomfortable about going to malls, college campuses, government buildings and on and on.  And, I’m sick to the point of revulsion at the gun debates.  It took almost no time at all for the government and the airlines to put in massive security measures at airports all over the United States after 9/11.  Were there huge arguments then about our second amendment rights?  If there were, we seem to have gotten over it.  Why is it taking so long to solve the assault weapon problem?  There is absolutely no rhetoric/excuse/reason/argument that I’m willing to listen to anymore.  It’s no longer up for ‘discussion’ in my book.

Oh.  And BTW.  If you are tempted to tell (again!) ‘the other side’ of the gun story, do it on your own blog or your own FB site.  Not on mine.

Thou shalt not…

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Painting by Hunter Esmon

I know that this knot in my stomach is a shared condition.  It’s the knot I wake up with every morning.  The knot that gets bigger every time I see or hear any news about America and its so-called ‘leadership’.  The knot that may never go away in my lifetime.  It’s not exactly that it’s contagious, but it’s a condition that many of us are experiencing these days.

It is a dense gathering there in the pit of my being – made up of despair and horror, of disbelief and outrage, and… of hate.  Yes, hate.  That may be the worst part of it.  There is no doubt in my mind that hate is an unhealthy emotion.

Not that there is a commandment about it.  There are ten clear ‘thou shalt nots’ but there is no “Thou shalt not hate.”  Even so, I was taught that hating is wrong.  Trying to fix a bad situation is right.  Trying to understand another’s point of view is right.  But… hating is wrong. I grew up and grew old in the belief that hating is wrong.

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch, 1893

Hate festers I was told.  It foments and gathers and leads to nothing good.  I still believe that.  But that knot of hate in my stomach not only persists – it grows.  It grows with each mention of “investigation” or promise of “plan to impeach” or commentary on “disarray.”  It grows with each tick of my grandfather’s clock and with each new and darker dawn that arrives.

Psychologists tell us that the antidote to hate is forgiveness.  Really?  I, for one, have no desire to forgive the perpetrators and perpetuators of the evils in our current Other Washington Leadership.  I don’t know the solution and I don’t buy into platitudes about being part of the problem if you aren’t working to solve it.  Unless you believe that speaking out helps.  Which I don’t but will no doubt continue to do.

And FYI – perhaps you remember those those letters I wrote to Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on June 25th regarding the plight of our Hispanic neighbors (  I have never received an answer from either of those women.  Not from the Senator.  Not from the Representative.  Not a whisper.  Just sayin’…

Deferring Judgement

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Time and time again, I have found that my first knee-jerk impressions of things should be kept to myself.  And, time and time again, I have ignored that little voice in my head that says, “If you act on this impulse, Sydney, you will be sorry.”  I don’t know why I go ahead and act anyway.  It is a curse.

So… here I go again.  This time it’s about the invitation to an exhibition received a day or so ago from the venerable Washington State Historical Society.  I truly have no idea what the exhibit will be about beyond what the (to me) very startling announcement said:  “GLASNOST & GOODWILL:  Citizen Diplomacy in the Northwest.”

On the reverse, an explanation to “Dear Members and Friends:  You are invited to a special evening preview of our newest exhibit…an in-depth exploration of how citizen diplomacy in Washington and the greater Northwest contributed to the thaw of the Cold War.”

Say what?!?  They’ve got to be kidding!  I really couldn’t give a fig about the contribution of the NW or any other place to the thawing of the Cold War – not right now.  Not when things look to be pretty dicey with Russia.  What is this all about, anyway?  A plea for us Northwesterners to be diplomatic once again?  Is it a commentary on our present-day difficulties with our democratic voting process and it’s apparent interference by Russia?  What…?

Like most people born around the time of World War II, I lived through the Cold War years.  I remember the bomb shelter our neighbors built.  I remember the faculty meetings when I was first teaching during which we were told that if worse-came-to-worse during school hours, our place was with the children until each and every one could be collected by a parent.  Since my husband and I were both teachers… what of our own children?  Oh yes… I well remember the anxieties of the Cold War.  Years and years and years of wondering about that red telephone at the White House.

The invitation further says, “Join us for [a] presentation by special guest Dr. Richard Scheuerman,  Professor Emeritus at Seattle Pacific University, about the remarkable 200 year history of friendship between the peoples of Russia and America.”  All very well and good, say I.  But, what about that old standby, “timing is everything”?

I know I should go and see, first-hand, what the exhibit and the presentation are all about.  Will I?  Maybe.  It depends what else is happening on October 5th…  I’m not feeling very compelled to learn about our historic relationship with Russia.  Maybe later when we’ve managed to sort out a few pressing domestic problems.  Maybe.

Better Late Than Never!

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

At 9:30 yesterday morning, we were in the midst of an appointment with Nyel’s cardiologist in Portland.  We were listening to the cardio-team’s plan for the next few months which, all things being equal, will lead to a mitral valve replacement before Christmas.  The last thing on my mind was “Perspectives” – Joan Herman’s KMUN radio show which was airing at that very moment – the program for which Erin Glenn and I had been interviewed ten days previously.

I confess that the program has entirely escaped my mind until I did some “catch-up” in mid-afternoon. We had reached home and I was checking on phone, email, and FaceBook messages.  In the latter category was one from my friend Linda in Seattle:  ” I just listened to your interview on KMUN…well done! You’ve inspired me to get involved.”  Wow!

Joan Herman

It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I found time to go to the link and listen, myself, to what we had talked about on Joan’s show.  If you missed it, I highly recommend it, even though it is one of those “if I do say so, myself” situations.  The half hour show is well organized (Thanks, Joan!) and informative (Thanks, Erin!) and, despite my role as a participant, I thoroughly enjoyed being a listener!  You can catch it at:

I’ve been trying to find a way to also give readers links to my “Stories From The Heart” that are running weekly in the Chinook Observer but I could only locate a link that works for the current week’s story and sidebar:

Either my techie skills are too limited, or you have to be a subscriber in order for the links to the previous six stories to work.  Sorry about that!  I’d love for them to find a wider readership! The overwhelming positive response from many folks here on the Peninsula has been gratifying.  As for those who are not so positive – all I can do is urge readers and writers to research their “facts” before they embarrass themselves by responding publicly.  A robust dialogue on big issues is great, but perpetuating rumors and misinformation… not so much.

Never Say Never?

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Henry IV, Part One – OSF 2017

We leave Ashland in a few minutes with a bad taste in our mouths (literally!} and fairly strong resolutions not to come again – not to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, anyway.  It’s not just the smoke from the wildfires to the west.  It’s not just that our timing sucked and that all outdoor activities – Green Shows, performances in the Elizabethan Theater, Park Talks, and Backstage Tours – are closed. We have finally come to the conclusion that the Festival has outgrown and outpaced us; we no longer find the plays or the OSF experience user-friendly.  Not for us old folks.

It breaks my heart in so many ways.  I feel like OSF and I grew up together.  It began its ‘life’ in 1935; I, in 1936.  I first began coming to the plays when I was at Stanford (1953-1957) when most of the actors were also college students and the plays happened only during summer breaks.  We have matured together, OSF and I.  Now the foremost repertory company in the United States with performances almost year-round, OSF is an Equity Company, known for being on the cutting-edge with regard to diversity in casting and a myriad of other things.

Henry IV Part Two – OSF 2017

As for us… as we have aged, we haven’t quite kept apace.  I find myself lamenting traditions:  I miss the old Green Shows with acoustic music and contra dancing on the grass and I find my willing suspension of disbelief is only partially willing and not completely suspended. While the theater continues to experiment, I find myself longing for the comfort of old customs and rituals.

Once again, this year, when circumstances of fire (and now flash flood warnings) have limited the shows we’ve been able to see, we’ve run smack into the gender diversity ‘problem.’  Problem to us, that is.  We only saw two plays – “Henry IV, Part One” and “Henry IV, Part Two.”  Both are history plays – two of Shakespeare’s ten histories.  Though I commend OSF’s ability to pay no attention to gender in their casting, I cannot accept Glendower and Harry Percy being played by women.  Their acting was superb, as one would expect.  But I couldn’t wrap my head around the story, itself, with women portraying real-life characters from a history I’m familiar with.

Vilma Silva (left) as Julia Caesar, OSF 2011

A few years ago, Vilma Silva was cast in the title role of “Julius Caesar.  All other major roles except Julius’s were played as usual, as I recall.  But I could not accept Julius as “Julia.”  I’m sure the fault is mine. I just can’t seem to “move on” with an 82-year-old company that is still experimenting and changing while my own 81-year-old play-going desires lean toward constancy and tradition – at least in some respects.

So… Farewell, dear Ashland and beloved OSF.  You have both given us much joy and much food for thought over all these years.  May you long continue to provide a beacon to the world of theater, even though you leave some of us behind in your rush to innovation.  We are content with our memories…

Wow! Thanks a lot, Subaru. NOT!

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Under the Hood where the Bells and Whistles Live

Thanks to a bright-eyed FaceBook friend who read my blog yesterday, we have discovered that the reason for our dead battery here at the hospital lies not in our stars and not in any weird effects of the eclipse.  At fault is a design flaw in the Subaru, itself.

Apparently, because of all the electronic bells and whistles, the battery drains rapidly and continuously, even when the car is ‘parked and everything is off’.  In an article I read about the problem, the writer had found her 2015 Subaru totally dead after not driving it for two weeks.  We hadn’t driven ours for three DAYS and we have the same problem.  I am so angry on so many levels, it’s hard to be coherent.

Looks Good on Paper

Number One:  Why didn’t the Bud Clary dealership in Longview alert us to this problem before we ever bought the car?  Not a word.  Nor were we given a hint of this peculiarity in any of the promotional materials supplied to us.  And, wonder of wonders, not that we’ve seen in the various  Owner’s Manuals clotting up the glove compartment.

Number Two:  As I’ve been researching, I find that one of the suggestions is to make sure, as owners of a new Subaru, that we drive it every day.  Say what????  We replaced our dual fuel Prius with a Forester for safety reasons but we certainly haven’t given up our desire to use fewer fossil fuels.  Our resolve is to drive less, not more, with this vehicle – and certainly not every day.  As old, retired folks, we have the luxury of not driving every day if we so choose.

Number Three:   Not that this was a selling point for us, but we were told and we have read that, in addition to its superior performance on the highway,  the Forester is a good off-road vehicle.  So, I can’t help but wonder about the folks who drive into the outback to their favorite, isolated camping spot to get away from it all for a week or so.  Sounds like Trouble with a capital ‘T’ to me.  And they’re capital ‘F’d for sure.

Car Charger, Bud Clary???

Number Four:  Which brings me right back to now.  I wonder how busy AAA is right now charging batteries here in Oregon for all those eclipse-watchers who’ve been hanging out at their campsites for the last few days.  We may have some competition in the “start your engines” department if Nyel is released anytime soon.

Thanks a lot (NOT!) Subaru for the heads up.  And, no, I don’t want to buy an after-market ‘trickle charger’ for my garage…  With this three-day battery life failure, I think Subaru should be supplying trickle chargers at no cost for the life of the Forester!  Plus, compensation for mental stress and emotional anguish..

Shoes, Pennies and Portents

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Our Black Stove

Okay.  I think the shoe we’ve been waiting for has finally dropped.  Or is that a penny?  Whatever it is, it’s the third one, as in ‘things happen in threes.’  First it was totaling the Prius.  Then it was our garage door going belly-up.  Now it’s our kitchen stove.

I do have to admit that we’ve had both the garage door and the stove for a long time.  In fact, the garage door guy said that ours was at least 40 years old (which might have been twice as old as he was) and is not only unfixable, it’s not up to current codes.  Our stove, on the other hand, is only about twenty years old – clearly a case of built-in obsolescence.

The stove, a Jenn Air Dual Fuel, has been on the fritz for a long time – something to do with the electrical circuitry.  Our appliance guru has done as much as he can with it.  Now the oven and all the control panel ‘buttons’ have quit completely and, though we can manage with just the gas stovetop, we don’t really want to.

Or, how about red?

But, there are certain parameters for a replacement stove.  First, it has to be a downward venting stove; there is no other possibility unless we do a serious remodel to the kitchen, which is not an option.  Second, it has to have a gas cooktop; non-negotiable according to Chef Nyel.  Third, it has to be black; otherwise, say I, our entire kitchen needs to be re-done and that is impossible – see the first parameter above.  And, finally, it has to be affordable – which means mid to low price-range – none of these fabulous custom-built or imported models.

We’ve completed our online search and find that there might be one or two that fit at least three out of four of our requirements.  (It may be the color that is the sticking point – wouldn’t you know.)  I should also say that we’ve had lots of advice and heard many cautionary tales from friends.  We are probably on IGO – Information Gathering Overload.  So, today we are going across the river to see a few options up close and personal.

I am not hopeful.