Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Can't


Back in high school (a loooong time ago...I'm surprised I can remember that far back), I submitted an essay in a writing class;  it was about depression.  I was listing the sad ills of my depressed state, one of which was:  "I can't write..."  My writing teacher scribbled in the margin--  "But you're writing here, aren't you?"  Touche. 

Then again, there's writing, and there's Writing.  When I scribble pages upon pages of my personal angst, that's writing.  What I want to create is "Writing:"  Polished essays about things that matter.  I don't do that too much anymore.  Partly because I seem to have lost the muse...and partly because the things that matter are so fucked up that I can't even go there.

The world is insane, and screwed up, and unbelievably damaged.  The USA has led it into a place of unfathomable decline; a place where bullying, crassness, chest-beating and ignorance rule.  Where education is disrespected (yet, we are all told we need a college degree get a job that earns better than slave wages;) where the desire for peace is labeled  weakness; where "leaders" guide legions of sheep-like followers wherever the politics of fear,  aggression and contempt for  "otherness" can take them. 

Our country is a mess; and it's been a mess so long that we are beginning to accept this hideous tangle of dishonesty, cyber-bullying, blowhard policy and collusion with unfriendly foreign powers as "normal."  We understand that our nation has become a tragi-comedy on the world stage; but we can't do anything about it, so we just retire studiously into our own little lives and do our best to ignore the insanity.  We are not Don Quixote.  We're too smart (too exhausted?  too disheartened?) to tilt at windmills.  So we just...don't. 

I don't find anything motivating about this state of affairs.  All it inspires is disbelief, then anger, then hopelessness.  That kind of muse makes for bitter, cynical writing.  Not only am I tired of dwelling in that place, but I firmly believe that it's the last thing anyone needs to read right now.  It only adds fuel to the fire that is consuming everything good, positive and hopeful about our society and our world.

So when I say "I can't write" these days, my reasons are sound.  And sad.                  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

One More Reason to Hate the Fourth of July




I belong to the “Concerned Citizens of Columbia County” Facebook page. 

Last Monday, one of my fellow “concerned citizens” posted this;


There will be loud fire works all night long tonight and tomorrow, probably really late or early lol, dont post 1000 things bitching about it,! Its America! Take your scared little yapper dogs and move to Russia if you dont like it!



…even though the “pinned post” that heads the page specifically mentions that “This page is not to be used for venting…[and] We will delete comments that contain bashing, unproductive arguments, or where there is childish name calling involved. If we continue seeing the same people doing it, we will simply delete/ban them.”  Inexplicably, this post and its 177 mostly ugly and ignorant comments stayed up for four days before Admin took it down…  I guess that last comment (mine) about how we should be kind and courteous to our neighbors when it came to our holiday celebrations was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

The private use of high-powered fireworks has gotten completely out of hand in the past couple of years.  Time was, here in Oregon, when people would purchase armloads of the legal fireworks sold at fireworks stands around the state for two weeks before the holiday, drag them out onto the driveway after dark on the Fourth, and light up the night for a couple hours.  And save the rest for New Years Eve.  You would be surprised at how awesome the legal fireworks are.  WAY better than anything we ever had as kids back in Illinois, where the only legal “fireworks” were punks and snakes.  Anything that sparked or flew was verboten.  We used to hide behind our garage to light the sparklers we smuggled over the border from Wisconsin.    

These days, more and more folks have jumped on the scofflaw bandwagon, toting crates full of high-powered rockets and bombs sold on the Indian reservations (because state laws do not apply on the reservations) back here to suburban Oregon neighborhoods.  Where they proceed to treat the rest of us to at least seven nights (and sometimes days) of explosions, shrieking, acrid smoke and panicked dog-barking. 

And since these fireworks are illegal, the law-breakers don’t set them off in the street or in open fields, where at least the neighbors could keep an eye on where they’re coming from and where they’re going.  These idiots set off their contraband in their back yards behind 6 foot wooden fences.  So all the neighbors can do is duck and cover; and wonder when a mishandled rocket might come crashing through the fence, land smoldering in their bark mulch or ignite their shake roof. Apparently, the local gendarmerie has neither the will nor the resources to control the situation.  So on it goes.  Bigger and badder every year.

For the most part, I have been happy enough to live and let live.  Batten down the hatches, keep the animals indoors, shut the windows and play the TV really loud.  But this year…this year broke MY camel’s back. 

Here is my story:

I have a five-month-old puppy.  Said puppy accompanied us to our working weekend/holiday at the beach.  She spent much of 72 hours on the leash or restrained in her crate.  She does okay under those circumstances, but enough is enough.  When we got home, she loved getting back to her place and her routine.

Part of her routine is to be taken for a walk around 11:00 each night, where she does her final business before bed.  For whatever reason, she can no longer be enticed to do this business in the back yard.  It’s outside, on the leash, around the corner, or no go.

When 11:00 rolled around on Tuesday night, we attempted to do the walk thing, only to be foiled by cracks and bangs and flashes and showers of sparks on every driveway—the legal fireworks; and louder, more ominous booms and explosions from behind the houses.  Dog was not having any of it.  Though she didn’t cower in terror and try to run away and hide, she was WAAAY too distracted to perform the task for which we were out on the street.

We turned around and went back in the house.

Half an hour later, the ear-splitting booming from next door was still going on.  Trying to resist the urge to fall down and cover my head  every time I heard the loud “Whoomp!!!” of one of those things leaving its launching pad, I finally hollered out the back window—“Can you just GIVE IT A REST already??!?!?” 

Wonder of wonders, all became quiet a few minutes later. 

So I grabbed the dog, clipped on her leash and headed out the door in a desperate attempt to get her to perform her late evening duty so we could both go to bed.

We tiptoed down the block, my head swiveling from side to side, on the lookout for people, sparks, smoke…anything.  No one was around.  Hallelujah.

We got almost to the end of the block when, from somewhere frighteningly nearby, a huge tumult of sparking, spitting, popping and booming ensued.  I turned around and saw that someone had dragged a gigantic can of repeater roman candles out into the road and lit it, maybe 20 yards behind us.  My next-door neighbors had decided to risk the non-existent law enforcement and take their show out into the street.     

One after another these things shot out of the can, flying fifteen or twenty feet in the air, and exploding—loudly—in a bright shower of sparks, practically right above our heads.  Dog freaked out.  I freaked out.  Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME???  

“You stupid son-of-a-bitch!!!  What the hell????”             

“What?  What’s wrong?  What’s your problem?”

“Oh my GOD!  You scared the crap out of my dog!!!!!!”  Let me get my dog in the house and you can light off all the goddamn fireworks you want! 

“That was not our intention…!”

“Whatever, dude…”

There was not a big fight after that.  I gathered my dog, stormed back down the street, past the assholes, studiously not making eye contact.  I was not proud of the way I had screamed at them.  Nor was I completely sure that I wouldn’t go back on the rampage if I even looked in their direction as I passed them.

So that is what our neighborhoods have become.  Holiday battle zones.  Isolated little bands of adversaries, aggressively doing anything the hell they want any time they want, and fuck you if you don’t like it.  Move to Russia. 

Should I still be proud to be an American? 

Just checking… 



Friday, June 30, 2017

Freedom to Sit Down


I was enjoying myself at the ballgame this evening.  Perfect weather, a nice wine cooler, fun company in the surrounding seats.     Then over the P.A. came the traditional downer: "Please stand for our national anthem."

And it just...bothered me. I hate the song.  I hate the ritual.  I hate the obligatory nature of the whole thing.

To me, to be required to stand and project a degree of fealty I might or might not feel,  to a scrap of cloth, to a nation in moral crisis, at a public event that has nothing to do with that aspect of life, is vulgar in the extreme.  Bordering on fascist. 

How does this differ, I thought, from children being forced to pray at public schools?  What is the difference, really, between religion and the type of group-think nationalism that masquerades as "patriotism" in 21st -century America?  Why is it perfectly okay--desirable, even--to require members of the public to demonstrate an "acceptable" degree of love and loyalty for the country in which they reside at any and every public gathering, political or otherwise?  How is this any different than requiring school children to gather and recite prayers at the beginning of the school day, to demonstrate proper subservience to a God in which they may or may not believe?  Why is one (properly) unconstitutional, while the other is not only acceptable, but very nearly compulsory?      

The degree of love, devotion, and/or loyalty I feel to the country of my birth is a very private matter; it's something that lives in my soul.  It's nobody's business.  I fail to see why "tradition" requires me to demonstrate rote patriotism before I can watch a ballgame in peace, or be the object of scorn, derision or worse.

It's so much easier to stand and stare at a scrap of decorated fabric, slap one's hand over one's heart and mouth the words to an impossible song with gusto...than to really study and understand the foundations of the nation we call our own; to require it to live up to its pedigree; and to be disappointed when it doesn't. 

Surely in this land of the free and home of the brave, we are meant to be free to do that? 
 

June Pupdate





Age:  Almost 20 weeks
Height:  18 inches at the shoulder
Weight:  28 lbs.
Eats:  3 cups kibbles plus 2 little cans wet food, innumerable pieces of hot dog (her treat for doing tricks) and many crunchy “bonios.”
Favorite food:  She really likes those hot dogs (she’s her father’s daughter, I guess…)

Commands she knows:  We have added “down” (as in “lie down”) to her list of “tricks.”  Now if we can just get her to do it for more than 2 seconds at a time.  I guess “STAY” has to be her next lesson…
Percentage of time she actually obeys commands:  Maybe 65%.  A little improvement in a month.
Favorite toy:  Still Bumble…and he’s still more or less in one piece.  Dirty and smelly, but in one piece.

Nicknames:  Devil-eye Dog, because of the look she gets—whites of the eyes showing half-way around—when she’s about to do something she’s absolutely sure she’s not supposed to do but is by damn gonna do anyway and you’re not gonna stop her.




Today’s story:  The dog has mastered stairs.  Finally.  It took awhile, because she’s not actually allowed to go upstairs in the house (where all the carpeting is…) and the stairs down to the yard are only two hops to the ground. 

When we go to the park, there’s a slide with wooden stairs leading up to it.  For the first several weeks of her life, we’d take her to the park and I would climb to the top of the platform while “Dad” set her at the bottom of the stairs.  I would then proceed to sweet talk and cajole and “C’mon Jo!” until I turned blue in the face…with her looking up at me as if I were asking her to climb on razor blades.  Dad would put her feet up on each step, then hitch her butt up, then repeat, until she got to the top.  She didn’t get it.  Didn’t look like she ever would.

Once at the top, Mom would position puppy to go down the slide, into the waiting arms of Dad at the bottom.  Then Mom would slide down meeting Dad at the bottom where we would then laugh and make much of the puppy.  She genuinely enjoyed the slide part…just couldn’t get a handle on climbing those stairs.
Last week, the light finally dawned;  Matt sent me a text while I was out of town saying she had, inexplicably, climbed to the top of the stairs all by herself.

And now, if we go anywhere near that park, she heads right for the slide, so she can revel in that “make much of the puppy” moment.