Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Portland’s finest? Maybe not…

Monday, August 6th, 2018

From “Envisioning the American Dream”

I grew up secure in the knowledge that “the policeman is your friend.”  I had complete faith in the smiling men in blue uniforms who were occasionally directing traffic at busy intersections and I had no doubt that if I got lost or frightened when I was walking home from school, I could go to a policeman for help.

Though I spent almost forty years repeating those same platitudes to young children in my teaching years, I have to say that I no longer believe them.  Not as a general rule, anyway.  Never mind that I still love English mysteries involving the cheerful Bobby-on-the Beat and I am horrified and heartbroken when policemen are killed in the line of duty.  But, over the years, I’ve had some unhappy experiences with policemen that have made me feel… well, wary.

New Age Nightmare

Once was in the ’60s in Oakland, California, when my (then) husband and I were frisked and our car was searched as we left an artist friend’s studio that happened to be on the “wrong side of town.”  That experience resulted in an apologetic phone call from Oakland’s Chief of Police and a “we are so sorry” letter from Oakland’s mayor.  Unfortunately, neither letter nor phone call erased my lasting, negative impression.

A decade later in Castro Valley, California, I had occasion to call the police about a break-in attempt.  Their response was prompt and efficient but when one of the uniformed men came back a few days later, ostensibly to see if I was all right, and then asked me for a date (“Are you hitting on me?!!!”) my faith in the friendly boys in blue was shaken further.

Saturday evening in Portland we had a police encounter that was actually frightening and gave me just a tiny taste of the fine line many people walk these days.  We were driving west on Burnside following our GPS instructions for how to reach the Benson Hotel.  We were well aware of the protest activity down at Waterfront Park but there was absolutely no spill-over in the area where we were.  Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, was moving as usual.

The disembodied voice of our GPS told us to turn right at the upcoming corner which we did.  But before our turn was complete, a large uniformed policeman loomed toward us gesticulating and scowling and  shouting.  We couldn’t distinguish his words over our GPS and the air conditioner but the expression on his face left no doubt as to his intent.  Nyel put the car into reverse immediately but had to ease back into the stream of traffic we had just left.  Meanwhile, we felt totally threatened and vulnerable.

From the Portland Police Museum Collection

We saw no signage to indicate that the street was off limits – there were other cars parked on both sides, though at the moment, there was no traffic.  The policeman continued to snarl and shout.  Rolling down the window to explain or ask his directional advice was obviously not an option.  Our adrenalin levels?  Maxed!  The cop’s?  Apparently ditto.  If we’d been other than a little old gray-haired white couple, what might he have done?    It was a terrifying and mystifying encounter that made me more-than-ever sympathetic to all those who deal with that sort of overwhelming anger/fear/testosterone-in-uniform every single day.

We made our right turn at the next street over and proceeded the three or four blocks to our destination without further incident.  (And, I might add, no evidence of police presence along our route.  Was that guy confused about where he should be??)  My take-home memory:  the policeman is not my friend.  Not in Portland.

Forget what I said, please!

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

Raven by Greg’s Mom

“I ken eat crow, but hang me if I hanker arter it.” That line from James Swan’s The Northwest Coast has been hopping around in my mind for several weeks now but, in my case (and unlike Swan’s) it’s not the literal meaning of the thought.  In fact, sadly, the crow I’ve been eating has to do with the dreaded CenturyLink.

Not long ago, I notified the first alphabetical half of my email correspondents that we were giving up our landline.  I even wrote a blog, cleverly (not!) titled “Cutting the Cord.”  We made all the arrangements – no land line but keep the broad band connection because here in glorious rural America, we have no other option.  When push came to shove, it would save us $20 a month.  BFD!  But then saving money was only part of the point we told ourselves.

It would all go into effect at the end of our billing cycle which was still several weeks off.  So, I got busy notifying folks and expressing less-than-charitable thoughts about our dealings with the telephone company and about life since deregulation and how it was easier in the olden days when Ma Bell ruled.  Then, Nyel had one of those sudden epiphanies.

“We can’t give up our landline,” he said.  “My daily CardioMEMS report goes to the UW Medical Center though our landline.  And my pacemaker…”  Duh!  And double duh!  For those in normal parts of the world, those life-saving communications go by satellite.  Not so from Oysterville.  No signal.  So, without a telephone landline, Nyel’s life could be in jeopardy.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

We called CenturyLink and I must say they were very nice about it all.  “No problem,” they said.  And there was no penalty or extra charge for which I was inordinately grateful.  “Why should there be?” grumbled Nyel.  “All they have to do is flip a switch or press a button.”

“Why’s a hen?” as my mother used to say. Meanwhile, I’m back to those words to live by that I apparently had forgotten for a moment or two:  Never Say Never.  Not when it comes to the phone company.

Stilts, Statues, Mimes, and Buskers

Monday, July 30th, 2018

 

Living Statue, Paris

I am an unabashed fan of street entertainers.  It doesn’t matter if they are living statues in Paris, musicians in Seattle, or mimes at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.  Wherever I am that they are, they get my undivided attention and some of my hard-earned money.  I am full of admiration – for their talents, their hutzpah, and their plain old hard work.

On A Cobbled Street in Centralia

On Saturday, as we were headed for lunch at the Olympic Club in Centralia, we passed by a most unusual couple.  She was on stilts – the kind that orchardists use to pick apples — and he was walking beside her with his arm extended upward, assisting her balance along on her precarious footing.

It never occurred to us that they were street entertainers on their way to get ready for a day’s work.  Not until we saw them later in full regalia – she in a lovely black and white frock and he in the whiteface makeup of a mime and carrying his juggling pins.  “May we take your picture,” we asked.  She said, “Yes, of course.”  He simply smiled and nodded.  They were not only eye-catching but absolutely exuded friendly enjoyment.

Transformation: Stilt Woman and Mime Man

We were on our way back to our car; they were headed for the antiques street fair that we had just left.  It wasn’t until we were part way home that I realized I hadn’t offered them any money for which I am very sorry, indeed.  I guess I was dumbstruck by the idea of such an unusual sight in Centralia.

Buskers in Seattle

I don’t think I should have been.  Street entertainment has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years – especially stilt walking.  In the city of Namur, Belgium, two teams of locals dressed in red suits with white trim vie each year for the Golden Stilt, the highest honor (perhaps the only honor) in the sport of stilt jousting.  The contest has been held annually in that city for more than six hundred years!  Wow!  I had no idea!

Luckily, it’s a no-brainer.

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Some years I agonize over which bubble to fill in on my ballot.  Luckily, that’s not the case this time around, at least not for this primary election.  I’m totally clear about who I’ll vote for.  That’s because I’ve made a couple of very clear guidelines for myself – voting guidelines based on the way things are going for my own particular household in this specific political climate.

First and foremost, I do not intend to vote for a single incumbent – not at the federal level and not at the local level.  It’s not that I don’t think some of our elected public servants are doing the best they can.  Sometimes, I even agree with their positions on specific issues.

But, the bottom line is that I don’t see any evidence that they’ve been effective when it comes to getting anything significant done.  I’m tired of all the rhetoric and bluster, the stalling and the political posturing.  Enough already!  Let’s get some new faces in there to take the place of the career politicians. Let’s clean house.

Additionally, when given a choice among new faces, I’m voting for women.  I’m tired of governance by testosterone.  (Sorry, guys, but you’ve failed us on gun control, on health care, on immigration – on nearly every humanitarian concerns.)  I think we might get a whole lot farther on matters of importance if we could break out of our macho mold for a while and stop giving consideration only to bottom lines.

I imagine I’ll get a lot of blow-back concerning this blog.  So be it.  Each of us must follow our own conscience and our own heart.  But, in case you’re looking for a coupe of guidelines to help you through your ballot, feel free to follow mine.  Just sayin’…

I saw the news last night, oh boy…

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

There was an interesting segment on the news last night about truth-telling by American presidents, past and mostly present.  Although I listened closely, I don’t think I learned anything new.  I was hopeful that there would be a strongly suggested solution by some expert or other – like a clear set of procedures and consequences for public officials who lie.  Unhappily, no such luck.

As a child, I was taught, “When you speak, speak the truth; but don’t always speak.”  It was the second part that was hardest for me.  Still is.  But, like most of us, by the time I grew up I had learned that telling lies or even fibs was much too complicated and getting found out (which seemed inevitable) was much more embarrassing than whatever could have happened by being truthful in the first place.

Unhappily, as in every other facet of our lives, truth-telling has become complicated and the concept of taking personal responsibility for one’s actions seems to be evaporating.  Yesterday I received a telephone call from someone who purported to be from Medicare and who had a “solution” for my back pain.  “I don’t have back pain,” I said.  “Well, then, we can help with your knee and hip pain…”  I solved the pain of that phone call by hanging up.

I wish it were that simple to cut off the lies of our public officials.  But, in lieu of the simple hang-up-the-phone option, I’m marking my ballot very carefully today.  First and foremost, let’s rid ourselves of the known liars.  Perhaps we can start over on a more stable playing field – at least locally.

Looking for time to just… sit.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

A few years back…

Our friend Cate said that our place looked like “a home for old people.”  She was talking about our garden and the chairs that were lined up invitingly all in a row.  She said it jokingly, but still… That was a few years back – when we were a lot younger and I could laugh at her description.  Now?  I wish we still had those chairs!

Nyel never did like them much.  They were hard to get in and out of but, more than that, he had to sit with his head at a peculiar (and uncomfortable) angle because the high back of the chair was not compatible with his hat.  (Hats are imperative for old people in the summer, you know.)  He toughed it out, mostly for my sake, I think.  In line with my general philosophy, ‘appearances are everything,’ I loved those chairs.  They were colorful and inviting – to young and old, I thought!

The Hat Problem

We’ve had our eye out for suitable replacements but, mostly, we’ve only seen clones of those dangerous, collapsing chairs.  So, we’ve done without.  Then I had a bit of an epiphany.  We have in our back-forty, eight ancient (and very banged up) folding metal chairs – they went with the card tables that my folks had back in the seventies and eighties.  I think they got them second-hand.  They’ve been used and misused for half a century and are so ugly that I can hardly stand them.  If only they were pretty, bright colors thought I.

Cans of spray paint at Jack’s were my solution.  Yesterday Nyel painted the first four.  I love them!  They won’t be especially comfortable but they look terrific and will serve the purpose – sitting at the picnic table or just hanging out admiring the bay — without hat issues.  Or gazing at the the flowers.  Or schmoozing with Cate and the other old people that might be joining us… if we ever have time to just sit around!

Democracy Alive and Well at the Beach!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It was standing room only last night at in the high school cafeteria where Pacific County residents gathered to hear candidates tell about themselves, their views, and their reasons for running for office in the upcoming mid-term election.  The speakers were candid, civil, and, for the most part, well-prepared.  It was an impressive display of democracy in action.

In my opinion, the shining star was Pam Nogueira Maneman who is running for Pacific County Prosecutor.  If anyone went to that meeting last night with thoughts like “but she lacks the experience…” I’m quite sure that they left thinking differently.  She sat between two candidates with whom she has worked in the past and talked forthrightly about the problems in the Prosecutor’s Office – problems that she blamed directly on the policies and (lack of) procedures that have their origin right there in the workplace of her opponents.  The problems she described adversely affect how the law is administered in our county and how we, as taxpayers and residents, are impacted on a daily basis.  And lest you think otherwise, she expressed clear solutions to those problems – solutions that work in other counties across the nation and that work in neighboring counties where she has worked.

I listened intently during the presentations by sheriff candidates, especially to the questions about ICE.  Robin Souvenir got two thumbs up from me for pointing out that being an undocumented immigrant is NOT a criminal offense in our country.  Sean Eastham, on the other hand talked about being available in case there happened to be a shooting…  He lost me there.  I am not aware that there has been gun violence related to ICE arrests here in Pacific County.  I did not like the inference.

Some time ago, I made the decision not to vote for a single incumbent on a national level.  No matter how hard certain of our elected officials have “tried” to accomplish things in the other Washington, they have remained ineffective.  Impotent and ineffective for years.  Time to clean the closet and get new minds and hearts to work on our behalf, I say.  Last night, I found myself thinking similarly when it came to our county elections.  And, not just the incumbent office-holders, themselves, but anyone who has worked under them.  Last night’s forum simply underscored my resolve as far as the Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s offices are concerned.

For the other positions – PUD Commissioner and County Commissioner, there are no incumbents running.  While the candidates’ presentations last night shed a bit of light on their preparedness, I feel I must do a little more homework before I am prepared to vote.  Meanwhile, a huge shout-out to the AAUW for making last night possible.  Thanks to them, I know I am well on my way to becoming an informed voter this time around.

On the Road Again!

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

We’ve been on the road for less than twenty-four hours now and already our list is getting more than our ancient minds can remember.  First and foremost:  Do Not Attempt Under Any Circumstances to Stay in No Frills Accommodations!  Not even for one night.  Otherwise, it’s what? No Kleenex?  What? Pay extra for internet access?  What? No Coffee?  When you’re old, you need your creature comforts.

The assumption, of course, is that when you are old you either a) have money to burn or b) you are sensible enough to stay home.  Wrong on both counts!  And, I’m not even sorry.  Yet.  We are headed to California – but not the part of the current state that will stay California when the latest bit of legislation jumps through all the proper hoops.

There have been many proposals over the years to “do something” about California – even one that would have it secede from the United States and become one country.  Say proponents of that plan, it would become the fifth largest country in the world when considering its economic impact.  Other plans have based divisions upon water sheds, geography, who knows what all.  So far, none have gotten very far.

The current plan, which will be on California’s November 6th ballot, is a proposal by Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper and is based upon his belief that “political representation of California’s diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable.”  The state would be divided into California, Southern California, and Northern California. The population of each new state would be roughly 1.3 million to 13.0 million.

Pundits give it a slim-to-none chance of passing, citing the strong desire of Democrats to keep the Golden State intact.  Even if it does make it over the first hurdle, it would need the approval of Congress.  Constitutional lawyers say that’s not likely to happen for a whole host of reasons – a no-brainer conclusion given a political climate in which there is never agreement on anything.  Period.

In any event, we are going to Northern California to visit old friends.  In my mind, our destination (the Bay Area) has always been Northern California – it’s what we called it when we were growing up there and that new state would be perfect.  Not so much the other parts though.  To us Northern Californians, Southern California and L.A. were pretty much synonymous.  If Mr. Draper had consulted some of us old-timers, he’d have made some serious adjustments name-wise.  And, coffee-wise,  these for-the-budget-minded motels would do well to consult us old folks, too…

Yesterday: National Corn-on-the-Cob Day!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

At the market, the sign on the bin of corn-on the cob said, “Five ears for $3.00.”  I think they were missing a bet.  They could have had a huge promotion.  But when I asked the produce guy if he knew that it was National Corn-on-the-Cob Day, he just looked at me.  Oh well.

I could have been even more informative, had he shown the least bit of interest.  For instance, I could have told him the corn on the cob is also known in different regions as pole corn, cornstick, sweet pole, butter-pop or long maize! But, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned that it is a sweet corn picked when the kernels are still tender when it’s in its milk stage.  If he was any kind of produce guy at all, he knew that.

Most people, produce professionals or not, know that corn can be served boiled, steamed roasted or grilled.  If it’s really, really tender, it’s also good raw.  There are debates about whether to butter and salt, or not.  (Remember the scene in War Games when the dad slathered butter — actually, margarine I think– on a piece of bread and then wrapped it around the ear of corn to butter it?  Great idea!)  But there is no debate about the etiquette of eating corn on the cob – fingers on both ends is totally acceptable.  Eating round-and-round or back-and-forth — your choice.

Yesterday was also German Chocolate Cake Day.  Not our favorite, so we pigged out on corn and didn’t leave room for dessert.  But tomorrow is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day which sounds better.  (It’s also National Call Your Doctor Day… just in case.)  There are 1500 national days, apparently, and you can celebrate every one of them by checking out National Day Calendar at https://nationaldaycalendar.com/.

Bangs and Whimpers and Silence

Monday, June 11th, 2018

At the G7 Summit

“The world will go on without us,” one of my Facebook Friends wrote.  She was responding to another FF’s lament about the current political climate in the world – specifically, how our allies are perceiving us since the G7 meeting in Canada.

I think I understand what she meant – sort of a “this too will pass” statement.  But it was a statement that, for me, came hard on the heels of a very hard month.  Our community has been blind-sided by the deaths of three well-known and much-beloved people and we have recently learned of the serious health problems of two others of our friends.  “Without us” seems all too personal and imminent.

And, of course, I can’t help wonder if the world will, indeed, go on.  Yes, it always has – no matter what horrors humanity has brought upon itself – genocides and pandemics and holocausts going back to our beginnings.  But now, the very Earth, itself, appears to be in jeopardy – climate change, nuclear stockpiling, rampant environmental tampering.  And the list goes on.

North Korean Missiles

People my age worry (or at least say they do) about their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren in one breath and in the next say, “…but I won’t be around to see it happen.”  My parents and grandparents said the same and no doubt those sentiments came along with the first-ever human DNA.   But, it truly does seem as though the stakes are impossibly high right now.

The hard part is knowing what to do about it.  “Speak out!  Be involved!  Have difficult discussions!” is the advice we hear.  Or… we can just re-read “The Hollow Men” by T. S. Elliott and think about the final stanza:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

T. S. Elliott

Elliott wrote the poem in 1925.  I find it interesting that when he was asked, years later, if he would end the poem in the same way, he said “No.”   He said that while the association of the H-bomb is irrelevant to the poem, he felt that it would come to everyone’s mind.  He was not sure the world would end with either a bang or a whimper.  People whose houses were bombed had told him that they didn’t remember hearing anything.

So, perhaps we should revisit the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence.”  Especially the third stanza:

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence