Archive for the ‘The World Beyond’ Category

Out of the Loop

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

It was a quiet Friday Night at our house.  Only Tucker and Carol came over – neighbors bearing a bowl of delicious peanuts.  We offered “jumbo shrimp” (The ultimate oxymoron. Why aren’t they called prawns anymore?) and beverages, and the four of us munched our way through a rare opportunity for a companionable visit.  Our topics ranged from family news to the world situation and we speculated that most of our “regulars” were at the Town Hall Meeting in Long Beach.

I had actually learned through email and Facebook messaging that several friends were ‘abandoning’ us for the chance to attend a Democratic Town Hall with Jaime Herrera-Buetler – which sounded like another oxymoron to me.  I’m mildly interested in knowing if Rep. H-B appeared in person or if this was a video version of her telephone town hall the night beforehand.  We had received a phone call asking us to participate in that one, but we had declined.

I think we are burned out on the political scene for a while.  From the grass roots level right up through the world (and maybe interplanetary) situation, we are feeling out-of-synch and out-of-sorts.  And before the do-gooders and activists and rabble-rousers remind us of all manner of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and ‘don’t give ups’ let me say, “Been there.  Done that.  And probably before you were born.”

It’s not that I’m against staying informed.  Far from it.  But in this day and age I think I can manage much of the information-gatheriing from the comfort of my rocking chair.  I’m feeling like all those signs and banners and meetings and marches are up to others now.  I’d love to think that I’ve earned the right to be consulted for my wisdom but, of course, now that I’ve reached my octogenarian years, my ‘wisdom’ includes the knowledge that no one really gives a fig about it.  I wonder if that’s always been so.  Just lip service to reinforce the idea that experience and longevity have some value.

When in doubt, consult Google…  “influential elders in American history” I wrote.  Nothing substantive.  Just information about care for the elderly (say what?) or about influential Americans like George Washington who died when he was 67 (and don’t tell me that was ‘elderly’ then; many of my own ancestors from that time period lived into their 80s).  Nothing about revered little old ladies dispensing the answers to life’s problems…

So, probably this “wisdom of the elders” is just another hoax to keep us old ducks hoping and hopping.  Why am I not surprised?

Hopeless in Astoria?

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

FisherPoet Venues in Astoria

We spent the morning coffee hour trying to figure out the logistics of attending the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria tonight.  Hopeless.

With seven venues and three to five time slots per place and three poets per time slot… tonight’s schedule is more than daunting.  Factor in the parking possibilities, weather (icy cold, windy, 100% chance of rain) and our ages and conditions (old and infirm) and it’s a logistics nightmare.  Plus, we are wanting to see certain performers – Geno Leech and Mary Garvey and Irene Martin and Hobe Kytr and Patty Hardin plus The Brownsmead Flats and Spud Siegel – some of whom are onstage in different venues at the same time.  I don’t know how to choose.

The FisherPoets Gathering is always on the last weekend of February which coincides pretty closely with my birthday.  On stellar years – those with a 5 or a 0 – we often have a Big Birthday Bash and we have to miss out on the Astoria excitement.  But this year our plan has always been FisherPoets or Bust.  Or, it was until we started trying to figure out the where, when and how of it.

“We’ll have to eat dinner at three o’clock right before we go,” I said.  That did not go over well. (Did I mention the problem of being set in our ways?  That is one of the subheadings under the “old” category.)

“Or we could eat afterwards… a midnight supper,” was the counter-proposal.  That didn’t go over well, either.  It’s hard enough to stay up past my 8:30 bedtime.  Eating in the wee hours and risk the heartburn consequences?  No way!

Whatever happened to spontaneity and going with the flow? How did we get so locked into routines and ruts?  When did life begin to revolve around creature comforts instead of new and exciting experiences?  Sad.  Very sad.

As the plan stands now, we’ll bundle up, go early, try to park in place nearby one or two of our venue/poets of choice, and eat when we can.  Right now, at six in the morning, it does not sound like a good time.  Hopefully, my ambition and stamina will build as the day unfolds…  Or, we could wait for the movie.

In The Blink of An Eye

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill

Like millions of others who have been missing Gwen Ifill on the PBS NewsHour in recent weeks, I assumed she was off on another assignment.  It never occurred to me that she was actually on her final journey and that we wouldn’t be seeing her again. For several weeks we have missed her hard questions and her big smile and it’s hard to believe that she will never again be a presence in our lives each evening – explaining, clarifying, illuminating the big issues of our times.

I saw the news of her death, absolutely fittingly I thought, on Cate Gable’s FaceBook page.  Cate, as columnist and occasional reporter for the Chinook Observer, delivered the information in a large, bold-faced font and in words that caught the eye immediately:

  “OMG. Gwen Ifill dead at 61. What a f***ed year.”

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff

As is often the case these days, I had been working on a project that required some remembering and had gone to the computer for assistance.  What date did we remodel the kitchen in this house?  It was before we moved in 1999 but??? And so I went to look up a few things to nail down yet another piece of my failing memory.  Of course, while I was at it, I checked my email and my FB page…  You know the drill.  In the blink of an eye, the world seemed to tilt alarmingly. Once again.

When we watched the news last night, I was thankful for Cate’s message.  I think the PBS NewsHour Tribute to Gwen Ifill would have been too much to take in otherwise.

Time To Pull Up Those Big Girl Panties

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016


Gobsmacked is a good word for it.  But, I have to say, the feeling isn’t new.  After all, I’m a woman.  I’m a liberal.  I fall in the lower middle class income-wise.  And… I’m short.  Not the best credentials in the world for qualifying as an underdog but legitimate all the same.  I know how it feels to be bullied, to endure the ‘wrong’ people in charge, and to feel powerless.

It’s hard not to say “Welcome to my world” to all my social media friends who are in serious mourning mode this morning.  The fact that we’ve been in denial, especially for the year just past, is lamentable to be sure.  But, we have work to do, so let’s get on with it.

underdogPerhaps we should begin by doing the homework we should have done from the beginning.  What got us to this point and why didn’t we pay better attention?  One of the first things I saw on FaceBook this morning was the poignant question, “What will we tell our children?”  I think we’d be wise to turn that around.  What can our children tell us?  Especially those who have survived the playground bullies and have found ways to persevere with dignity in spite of being underdogs.

I do wonder, though, why so few people listened way back during the primaries when a few of the pundits said that Bernie Sanders would have a better chance than Hillary Clinton in a race against Donald Trump.  I believed it then and I believe it now.  Too late.  Sad but true.


Ready! Set! Hope and Pray!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

core-critical-thinking-skillsI believe I’ve connected all the dots:

  •   The purpose of public education in the U.S. is to produce a thinking electorate.
  •   We’ve dumbed down the K-12 curriculum with the excuse that no child will be left behind.
  •   We concentrate on basics and how to take tests.
  •   The teaching of thinking skills must now be deferred until college.
  •   College is unaffordable for 83% of our citizens.
  •   Voters with higher education levels favor Clinton.
  •   Trump leads among non-educated white voters.
  •   YIKES!

outline-mapI have my outline map of the U.S. at the ready.

My blue and red color crayons are in place.

crayonsReady!  Set!  Bring it on!

Better to Laugh Than to Cry

Saturday, November 5th, 2016
Jeopardy! Contestants 11/4/2016

Jeopardy! Contestants 11/4/2016

The final clue’s answer in last night’s Jeopardy! category, “A Spanish Inquisition,” caused the audience to explode into laughter.  Us, too!  And probably millions of others.  The clues were basic questions such as What is your name? and What time is it? written in Spanish  and requiring the contestants to translate into English.  It was the final question, though – “¿Quién paga por el muro?” – that caused  the spontaneous eruption:  “Who pays for the wall?” Even host Alec Trebek, usually so formal and dignified, had to laugh.

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

The night before last, the PBS News Hour had done a piece called, “Has the election season hurt the Trump brand?” – for decades associated with glitz, glamour, and luxury.  The answer to their question seemed to be “Yes,” but last night’s Jeopardy! question made me think that perhaps it’s just a matter of changing focus.  In my opinion, Trump’s brand has segued into the realm of Pop Culture and the ridiculous.  Perhaps he needs to change his marketing strategy.  (Or, perhaps he has and this is all yet another merchandising strategy… Yikes!)

Take the statues that were unveiled around the country last summer!  Surely, no one could have taken them seriously.  Not like the Greek and Roman statues of yore.  (Even though there is now evidence that those statues were brightly colored once upon a time.  It’s time that has caused them to pale – or is that peel? – down to bare, white marble.) But surely the statue placement is branding of yet another sort?

Time Magazine Covers, 2016

Time Magazine Covers, 2016

And how about the two Dali-esque Time magazine covers by Edel Rodriguez?  In a way, they were beyond humorous.  To me they were clear evidence that Mr. Trump had entered the realm of Pop Culture.  Right up there with Sarah Palin.

It’s all a sad commentary on whatever someone might make of the “Presidential Brand” in the United States – if there is one.  As my sainted mother used to say, “It’s better to laugh about it than to cry.”  Only a few days now until we see whether laugh lines or tearstains will mark the next four years.

Loonies on the Loose in Pennyland

Monday, September 26th, 2016
On Our Way!

On Our Way!

Several Louise Penny fans have written me asking about our recent trip to ‘find’ Three Pines – the purely fictional setting for her series about Inspector Armand Gamache.  Questions cover the gamut:  Was the trip a packaged tour?  Did we have a serious guide who was an expert?  Were we able to identify any of the places she mentions in her books?

The answers to the above are “no” “partly” and “yes”.  Five of us in our Mystery Book Club (well… four plus Nyel: Bill and Sue Grennan, Kitt Fleming, me) decided to go to Quebec Province, specifically to the area known as the Eastern Townships, to absorb the ambience of Ms. Penny’s books.  As we made our preparations, Bill wrote to the author, telling her of our plans and asking if she had any ‘advice’ for us.  He got an immediate and thoroughly enchanting response from her assistant which included a “Three Pines Inspiration Map.”

Part of Louise Penny's 'Three Pines Inspirations Map'

Part of Louise Penny’s ‘Three Pines Inspirations Map’

On the map there were five locations indicated by small black pipes – the licorice pipes that Gamache fans would instantly ‘recognize’.   Accompanying the map was a list of eleven locations, also familiar (at least in name): Abbey, Bistro, Bookstore, Boulangerie, Church, General Store, Hadley House, Jane’s ‘Fair Day’ painting, Manoir Bellechasse, Mill, School House.

After each of these listings was an address and an excerpt from one of the books mentioning the site.  For instance, after “Mill” was the notation:  Still Life – Chapter 2: An old stone mill sat beside a pond, the mid-morning sun warming its fieldstones.  Around it the maples and birches and wild cherry trees held their fragile leaves, like thousands of happing hands waving to them upon arrival.

We flew into Montreal, rented a van to accommodate ourselves and luggage and followed the map, staying at small hotels or bed-and-breakfasts along the way.  Bill had found that in Quebec City there was an actual guided tour regarding Penny’s “Bury Your Dead” book but the timing didn’t work out for us — wrong days.  So he arranged with the guide to meet us separately and we had our own personal two-hour tour with professional (fabulous!) guide Marie Legroulx.

La Rumeur Affanee (the boulangerie)

La Rumeur Affanee (the boulangerie)

This description is purely bare bones.  We did, indeed, visit the Abbey – on a Sunday morning for the Eucharist service.  We stayed one night at the Manoir Hovey upon which Ms. Penny modeled her Manoir Bellechasse of The Murder Stone and and and.,.

Our one cautionary note to wannabe trekkers – plan early!  We made our reservations a full two months in advance and, even so, couldn’t always find accommodations in the same place.  Bottom line:  Did we find Three Pines?  You bet!

A Test and a Quest: Passed and… Found?

Friday, September 23rd, 2016
Following Marie, Our Guide to Three Pines

Following Marie, Our Guide to Three Pines

We arrived back in Oysterville at 9:40 yesterday morning – just in time for Dobby Wiegardt’s Schoolhouse Talk and also in time to be greeted with open arms by one of the crowd who said, “Oh!  I thought maybe you were dead.”  As it turned out it was the ten-day absence of my blog that had prompted that remark.  As far as I know, there had not been a funeral held at the Oysterville Church – not in my name or otherwise.

But, I’m happy to report that not only are we alive and well, we had a wonderful trip to Montreal, Quebec City, and the Eastern Townships.  It was the first out-of-the-country jaunt for Nyel and me in more than a dozen years and, frankly, I didn’t know if we were up to it.  As I’ve known and said from my first trip abroad in the 1950s, “traveling is hard work.”  And that was in the days of traveling ‘across the pond’ on an ocean liner which was, in actuality, far easier than these days of lines and lines and lines of baggage checks, body checks, ‘wanding’ and food-not-included…

In Three Pines

In Three Pines

But, I digress.  We passed all the traveling tests with flying colors.  Maybe we were a little slower walking up and down those cobblestone streets in Quebec City but in all other respects we held our own with our three (younger) traveling companions – at least as far as I know.  Sue and Bill Grennan and Kitt Fleming were fabulous friends to be with and, for us who have never traveled in ‘a group’ before, it was all (as Kitt would say) “delightful.”  International Travel Test: Passed!

As for our Quest… whether or not we were successful in locating Louise Penny’s fictional village of Three Pines we’ll leave to our Mystery Book Club members to decide when next we meet with them and talk in detail about where we went, what we saw, and who we spoke to.  I think it might come down to how literal a reader of fiction (and, in particular, a lover of Armand Gamache & Company) our listeners might be.  As for me… I write non-fiction…  I search for facts…. And  I say, “Our quest was an unequivocal success!”

When did it all get so difficult?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Europe here we come! 1957

Europe here we come! 1957

Reservations made.  Bags packed.  Passports and travel documents at the ready.  House-sitter/poultry-guardian in situ.  We might be ready for a journey to a foreign land… or not.  Crossing t’s and dotting i’s these days when it comes to taking a little trip is not like it once was.

I was trying to think when it became so difficult.  The first time I went to Europe back in the oughts (actually, 1957) it was all about having proper immunizations, a passport, and five dollars a day.  I don’t remember stressing too much over what to pack or what would happen to pets and house while we were gone.  There were no TSA or KTN protocols to think about.  We didn’t even worry about leaving any emergency contact information for anyone; we didn’t know where we’d be.  If necessary, get in touch with the American Embassy (somewhere) I told my parents.  And we were off!  For a year!  And with an 18-month-old baby!

Charlie, 1958

Charlie, 1958

Aaaah!  To be young!  But also, the world was less crowded, making travel plans was simpler and Rick Steves was just a year older than my son!  We were just on the verge of world-wide travel for the masses.  The cruise ship industry wouldn’t get going for another nine years and, among the wealthy there were still echoes of ‘taking the grand tour.’  Europe on a shoestring was a new concept and we were right on the cutting edge!  It was easier then, no doubt about it.

Part of the current travel stress, of course, is that old bugaboo, TMI.  Gone are the days when you buy a book, get the information you want, and go.  There’s the internet with all of its informative and educational possibilities.  And the various devices you may want to have with you in order to stay connected.  It’s megawhomping!  We used to say, “If you wait for all the lights to be green between here and New York, you’ll never begin the journey.”  I’m not sure that applies any more.  In any case, we have begun!

The Days of Infamy

Sunday, September 11th, 2016
9/11 - AP Photo

9/11 – AP Photo

I woke up this morning remembering the September 11th of fifteen years ago.  It was a Tuesday and we were ‘sleeping in’ after a big weekend celebration for my mother’s 90th birthday.  A phone call from North Caroline woke the household.  It was Frances Mitchell’s pilot son who had received an early a.m. standby alert.  He was calling to tell his mother to stay put.

Too late.  Frances and her friend Dick had left the day before to drive down the coast.  “Something has happened,” he said.  “Turn on your television set.”  And so we sat with Charlie and Marta and watched the horror of the day unfold.  Charlie decided to drive his rental car back to L.A. despite the contract he had signed to return it to PDX.  Marta stayed an extra day and then went up to the San Juans to visit friends as previously planned.  I’m not sure what we did.  Only that first part of the day is forever etched in memory.

FDR Delivers Pearl Harbor Speech, 12-08-1941

FDR Delivers Pearl Harbor Speech, 12-08-1941

It was “a date which will live in infamy” as President Roosevelt had said of December 7, 1941 and, like Pearl Harbor Day, 9/11 would be forever etched in our minds.  I was five when Pearl Harbor was bombed and I remember clearly sitting in front of our big console radio with my mom and dad, listening to FDR’s speech.  If I didn’t exactly understand the words, I fully realized that something terrible and important had happened.  My dad’s tense expression and my mother’s anxious insistence that I sit in her lap while she held me tight told me more than the tinny-sounding words coming from far, far away.

The other date that is clearly etched in the minds of my generation, of course, is November 22, 1963 – the day President Kennedy was shot.  I was in the middle of teaching a math lesson to my second grade class at Southgate School in Hayward when the principal came to the door and beckoned me into the hallway with the news.  At that point, JFK was still alive.  Teachers were informed but we were cautioned not to tell our classes…yet.

November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963

I’m sure there are people far wiser than I who could tell us why those days of shocking uncertainty stick in our minds so vividly – more clearly defined than most joyous celebrations that we’ve also experienced over the years.  Why do we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when Martin Luther King, Jr was shot and then, not two months later, when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated?  Not that I’m am regretting those memories… We need to remember.  Just as we need to redouble our efforts toward peace and harmony and understanding.  Now more than ever.