Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Choosing Sides

I heard on the TV that dogs really are good at reading human emotions because they spend more time studying the right side of our faces, and that's what we do with each other, too. I was startled to realize that I actually do look at the right side of people's faces, which present at my left, and that I'd never noticed this before. I also chew my food on the left side and slouch to the left and my left breast is--well, let's just say it's closer to the ground now, and it's no wonder I tip over so often.

The phenomenon is called "left gaze bias" and the explanation is that our eyes flick to our companion's right side (left to us) because that's where all their emotions are displayed. The theory is that the left brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side controls the left, in those people whose bodies can be said to be responding to a brain at all. And presumably the left side of the brain is in charge of feelings, and leaks them out the right side of our faces. If you have any interest in knowing what's on someone's mind, which can come in handy if they want to murder you, for instance, you're more likely to make the gene pool cut by looking at his right side. All the strategy, the ambush plan and the sharp rock and the alibi and the like, are being worked out on the right side of the brain, but the murderous intent is totally happening on the left.

So somewhere along the evolutionary line, dogs learned where to look on a person to find out what was on his mind, and that means they are now exquisitely attuned to our emotions. Most people like that about dogs. They intuitively feel that their dogs understand them and sympathize with them and offer themselves up for comfort. As a mail carrier, I too learned to appreciate that dogs were able to gaze into my right eye and determine that I looked chewy-crunchy, with a salty finish.

Supposedly we only have left-gaze bias toward other humans, and not (say) paintings of people, or monkeys. (I will, however, note here that I reflexively look at Pootie's right eye button, and leave it at that. No one wants to be ambushed.)

We had a dog once, the cutest dog in the whole wide world, and she was very good at reading our emotions, but then again we aren't complicated people. She would cock her little head to the right and think "you look like you want a beer" and nail it most of the time. We would look at her and get a mixed message. "I like you," she emoted, "but I need to go outside now and climb over the hedge and go over
to the neighbor's house and knock, and he will give me a plateful of biscuits and gravy." It was nothing personal. She didn't care for kibble, even after the 25-pound bag of it we bought when she was little had aged nicely. From time to time we'd give in and feed her from the table, but we made up for it by teaching her to take whatever we gave her into the kitchen before eating it. So when she knocked at the front door after visiting the neighbor's house, she would bolt to the kitchen before yarfing up a quantity of biscuits and gravy that could not physically have fit in her body. Boomer and I both operated on the principle that you're not done eating until all the food is gone. It was our bond. We gazed into each other's right eyes in perfect understanding, and then one of us went and got the paper towels.

I have learned to be attuned to other people's dogs, too. For instance, I know exactly what the neighbor's dog is saying every day. He's saying "IT'S 7AM! IT'S 7AM! IT'S 7AM! IT'S 7AM! IT'S 7:01AM! IT'S 7:01AM! IT'S 7:01AM! IT'S 7:01..."

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Dave and his sister are two years apart in age, and I used to watch them reconstruct their childhoods like two kids knocking each other's Tinker Toys down. "Remember when you broke your leg that time you fell off the horse at Uncle Ed's and cried for three days?" she'll start out. "That wasn't my leg, it was your arm, when you tried to hand me a box of hornets when we were camping in Alberta and you tripped over the moose," Dave will counter, and all the while their mother would stare at them as though they had fallen out of the sky and not out of her. Neither child had ever broken a bone, they'd never been in Canada, and they didn't have an Uncle Ed. There's no good anecdotal evidence they ever were in the same place at the same time, and if they didn't both have such a strong genetic ability to make shit up, you'd never guess they were related.  Still, at least they're coming up with something. My memory is gauzy at best.

Odd things percolate to the surface from time to time but I have no conviction they ever happened. I tend to remember my humiliations. There were a bunch of years I spent humiliating myself but, in what is no coincidence whatsoever, I've blacked most of them out.

Sometimes I think I remember something because there is a photograph of it. The photo either makes it easier to hold onto a memory, or I've concocted a story to go with it. Most of the things I remember aren't very important. We might have gone on a terrific vacation and seen monuments and waterfalls and splendors, but all I recall is watching Daddy strap an oiled tarpaulin over the suitcases on the roof rack of the Peugeot. Or I'll remember the knotty-pine interior of the motel rooms, where he always insisted on testing the mattress for firmness before shelling out the $14, but never rejected a room. Or the gift shops with the postcards of chipmunks, the critters made out of pine cones, and the itty bitty birch bark canoes. I have one photo of a day I do remember. I had found a feather and a headband and I belted my raincoat tight and crept around the landscape. I was certain that other people in the parking lot thought I was a real Indian because of my plaid raincoat and great stealth.
Stealthy Indian at the right.

But if something hops up and down on one of my memory neurons, there's no telling what's going to bubble to the surface. That's because, like many in my generation, for a lot of years I don't have memories. I have flashbacks. And that's really pathetic. Flashbacks are memories of things that didn't even happen. We are each the author of our own life, and I don't know if mine is fiction or memoir.

In fact, there are about fifteen years there when just about all I can recall is buying the next pitcher and sliding a quarter onto the pool table. Not a lot else comes to mind. Which, come to think of it, is probably a thorough accounting. If I'd had any foresight at all, I would have hung out with sober people so there would be a repository for my memories, even if it had to be in someone else's brain. But those people didn't like to hang out with me.

Oliver Sacks discovered that music was entwined intimately with the gooey memory portion of our brains. People who had been catatonic for years came alive and began to dance when the music of their youth was played. Some day my peers and I will be sitting around unresponsive in an institution and a future Dr. Sacks will get a wild hair and blast out "Gimme Shelter" from the sound system. We'll all dance, all right, but we weren't in the Cotillion set. The good doctor will think we are having a seizure.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Republicans as a group strike me as having a much better grasp of the Big Picture than their opponents. Not the really big picture--not the one in which all the consequences of their agenda come into view. But within their narrow, profit-centered worldview, their strategic view is wide. Once a threat is detected, say, the possibility that science-driven policy might dismantle the fossil-fuel economy, they band together as one, distribute the script, and read off of it in unison. And that is how meaningful progress toward sustainability is thwarted. The goal was merely to "create doubt" about man-caused climate change, and in that they were wildly successful. Successful to the point that even a thoughtful commenter on this blog was moved to say I don't know; maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle; maybe we can find something to agree on and go forward; surely things aren't as urgent as the scientists keep saying it is. That's all the doubt you need to maintain the status quo, because getting us off this train wreck is going to take a ton of sacrifice and cause a ton of disruption. Of course, the middle-ground solution is a sham. It's as though flat-earthers are battling the round-earthers, and they get the people to think I don't know. Maybe it's shaped like a bowl?

So now a slightly different script has been supplied to the conservative lights, and this one is aimed straight at science in general. Because there is useful science, the kind with the promise of great profit in it, the kind any company like Monsanto or Merck would pay for, and then there is basic science, and basic science is often not in the Republicans' best interest. That's why the Bush administration tried to scour it out of the EPA. And, after all, the budget for basic science would buy two or three perfectly good days of war in Afghanistan.

Fortunately for the enemies of basic science, there is plenty of research that lends itself to ridicule, like the snail sex research. Why, they ask, grinning, are the taxpayers asked to pay for snail sex research? (The question is rhetorical. Nobody wants to hear an explanation.) Or why should we pay to find out about duck sex?

But oh, they made a big mistake there. Because they totally need the duck sex research. Evolutionary Biologist Patricia Brennan has discovered that the duck sex act has aspects found in no other animal. The male duck has an amazing, lymph-driven, explosive, spiral-shaped penis. He does not erect it and find someone to put it in. No. He keeps it inside and makes the pertinent contact with a female duck and it detonates. It unfurls inside her in a fraction of a second. It's ba-da-boom without the ba-da. And because his penis is spiral-shaped, he is truly screwing, or trying to.

But we all know how hard it is to screw something in if the threads are off. And the female duck, as it turns out, has evolved an elaborate vagina designed to thwart any male she is not interested in. She has cul-de-sacs built right in, branches that dead-end, segments that are righty-tighty where  he is lefty-loosey. His penis begins to go off and that's when the twat thickens. It takes a sudden angle his amazing exploding duck dick cannot negotiate, and in no time his semen is sequestered in a dead-end far away from the egg. The female, if she encounters a male she actually is interested in, can relax the whole contraption to enable the desired mate to be more successful.

In other words, when it comes to over-aggressive drakes, the female has ways of shutting that whole thing down.

This surely bolsters the otherwise risible contention of Todd Akin that conceptions from rape are very rare and, by extension, that women wanting an abortion must have been asking for it, deep down inside.

Mr. Akin was running for office at the time. His position was rigid and he tried to come from behind but it was no use. He, and Richard Mourdock (R-IN), and others propounding their own personal science, were shut down in 2012 in their quests for public office, and polls showed that they were opposed by a tide of women. We don't know what they're doing now or where their views are being spewed, but at least it's probably some dead-end where they can't do much harm, and not the United States Congress.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Stumptown Stump

Rain, reigning with the Golden Hammer

We're fresh back from the first annual Stumptown Stump Tournament, the Honorable Margaret "Munny" Munford presiding. Stump is a game in which players attempt to drive each other's nails into a stump with a hammer that is first tossed in the air for a full revolution, caught, and brought to bear on the stump in one fluid motion. There is beer involved. The kids we know from Bowdoin College, most within hollering distance of thirty, are introducing the game here. Ah, youth! All we had was Twister. We didn't even have Pong.

I was an observer. Even if I were inclined to toss a hammer into the air, no one wants me to. I have too much of a history. I've hit my own foot trying to skip stones across the water, and nobody stands behind me in horseshoes. Like a pinball rattling into the drain, I always ended up as catcher in softball after cycling through the other positions and proving myself incapable of throwing the ball farther than I could blow a snot bubble.

And then there was the time Dave tried to do
some repairs on the roof. The slope was steep, and the roof was slick, and I was deputized to toss material up to him so he wouldn't have to keep climbing down the ladder. I'd stand just at the eaves. "Straight up," he said, in the tone of voice one uses to encourage a toddler to take her first steps. "No need to put too much muscle into it. Just loft it straight up, easy, and I'll catch it." I have a faulty release button. The tossed items took a different trajectory every time, and Dave repeated his instructions louder, and then really, really loud. After several ill-advised attempts to snag shit out of the air, he demoted me to cleanup crew. Demotion is the better part of valor.

Stumptown, incidentally, is an early nickname of our fair city, so-called because settlers in the mid-1800s whacked down the lush forest they found here as fast as they possibly could. (Our species' plan for the Earth when we're done with it is to just rename it Mars.) Because there is a beer element involved in Stump, I thought I might be a natural, so I did give hammer-tossing a whirl, in the friendly confines of our backyard. I'm not good. I flip it into the air and then duck, as though I've never seen it before and it's falling out of the sky like a rogue asteroid. Munny took a video of my efforts which,  she says, is capable of lifting her out of the deepest gloom. It's been making the rounds as both entertainment and a cautionary tale. I did not make the cut. I don't like to brag, but nobody could catch a hammer I've tossed.

I arrived in flip-flops, confident I would be required to stay as far away from the hammers as possible. There were three stumps set up and about two dozen players. Everyone had a nail, everyone had a beer. Odds were good something was going to get hammered. Everyone took a position on a stump and the tools began to fly. There are stylistic differences in hammer-tossing technique, but it is particularly important not to be caught cocking it, even a little. Nobody wants to be subjected to mild disapproval for a teeny cock. And failure to observe any of the rules subjected the
Heading into the finals.
player to mild disapproval. Dropping a hammer on someone's foot subjected the player to mild disapproval. Any of fourteen or so possible events could compel a player to take a drink of beer, be subjected to mild disapproval, or both. After about an hour everyone was pretty much out of mild disapproval.

It was the largest congregation of young people I'd seen in a decade who were not checking their phones. They were adorable. They reminded me of us, thirty years ago: attractive, easy-going, smart, and pretty likely to get laid at some point in the day. After a round-robin competition, play-off
and championship round, it was Rain who went home with the Golden Hammer. I don't know what anyone else went home with. It was way better than Twister.

The Honorable Margaret "Munny" Munford
We never actually played Twister, of course. That was for our parents' generation, resplendent in polyester stretch Capris, cone bras and beehives, Bermudas and polo shirts, all giggles and tinkling cocktails. We did something a lot like it, but we didn't need the mat.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Maxathon: Part Two

As we left our last installment, dawn had broken on Max's big day, Marathon Day, the culmination of months and months of hard work and training. The starting line beckoned, and we were ready to roll. What could go wrong?

"I don't have any shorts," Max said.

I'd booked him a session with my massage therapist for the day after. "Coach says no massage for a week," Max had said. I'd made sure our rental house had a hot tub. "Coach says ice bath, no hot tub," Max had said. I'd promised him a cold beer at the finish line. "Coach says chocolate milk," Max had said.

My guess was that Coach was going to insist on him wearing shorts, too.

But there stood Max in his wicking team shirt and wicking socks and special athletic shoes, and a jaunty pair of classic linen-blend pleat-front cuffed Bermudas with cuffs, belt loops, and a watch-pocket. "I forgot to pack my shorts," he said, miserable.

We all stood around in mild shock, visualizing our friend being the only person in the marathon with no pants on. It was an interesting picture, but not ideal from an aerodynamic standpoint.

"It'll be all right," Linda said, because that's what she does. "They'll sell them at the starting line, or we can buy some later in the day and meet you on the course." Max has known Linda as long as I have, over forty years, but in spite of the fact that Linda always makes everything all right, his misery was undiminished.

"Or you can try mine," I said, proffering a pair of loose shorts--unremarkable, but at least they were lightweight nylon.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Team In Training

Max put on my shorts. They were a little snug, but not as bad as they might have been. We were both surprised and a little taken aback that they fit. It seemed like one of us should have been insulted, but we couldn't figure out which one, and quickly moved on. He looked marginally less bleak.

But the shorts weren't optimal. It turns out that athletic shorts for boys have all sorts of cupboards and caches and architectural elements in them to keep things from flapping around and scaring the horses. My shorts had none of that stuff.

We made our way to the starting line and there, at the end of Linda's outstretched magic finger, was a booth selling running shorts. Dave had cash, the booth had a pop-up dressing room, and soon Max was suited up and ready to go. And off he went.
Linda and Dave and I went back to the house and had a leisurely breakfast. We followed up with a little hike. It was getting into the high nineties and the early breeze had sputtered out, so we retired to the house to sit in the shade and watch birds and relax. At the hour Max had hoped to be done, we were at the finish line with the chocolate milk, fanning ourselves, and by gum, there he was, motivating across the line in six and a half hours precisely. We'd had a fine, refreshing day, but just between us, Max looked a little frumpled and shreddy. A little like he'd let himself go.

It took a village, but Max mastered his marathon. Dude is totally on his own lancing those blisters, though.

Happy Anniversary to my sweet Dave. I'm in for thirty more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Maxathon: Part One

Six months ago my friend Max said he was going to train to walk a marathon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The "society" bit makes it sound fancy, but don't be put off--it's just an outfit dedicated to finding a cure for blood cancers, one of which had its way with Max for a while. We're all tickled that he has recovered, as evidenced by his willingness to tromp for 26.2 miles on pavement, and it also makes him an Honored Teammate. He'd trained for a half-marathon earlier and was quite taken with his teammates and his coach and the whole bust-your-balls-for-charity approach. It does seem like a weightier undertaking than, say, counting birdies all day for Audubon, and people who are donating money like to see you all sweaty with a number pinned to your chest. So for the past few months Max has been learning how to walk fast and walk smart and get the right shoes and the right socks and the right gait. I thought: good on you, Max! Way to go, you big dummy.

Because I'd done this before. I'm no runner, but when I got shanghaied into doing a walking marathon, I couldn't see a downside. I was in my thirties and could knock off thirteen miles walking in my sleep, and shoot, all you have to do then is start over and do it one more time. I got Dave to go, too. We didn't train at all and on the big day we showed up with old sneakers and cotton socks and took off like we were shot out of a cannon. Our first half was at a blistering 12-minute-mile pace, and our second half degenerated into a sludgy, screamy, pain-filled, I'd-jump-off-the-bridge-if-I-could-swing-my-leg-over-the-railing, puke-bucket of a slog, in pus-filled socks. A mile from the finish line spectators lined the route and clapped and cheered and told us we were almost there and I told them to go fuck themselves, but they couldn't hear me because I'd run out of saliva.


Anyway I assured Max he'd be just fine. We'd survived it, and if we could do that with no training, just think how great he'd be! Refreshed! Invigorated! He'd be a human bouquet of spring daisies at the finish line. He'd be a brace of big-eyed gamboling lambs in
running shorts. Sprightly animated Disney characters would float above his head playing trumpets and piccolos. He'd be just fine! And we'd be honored to be there for moral support. He'd knock it out of the park.

Dave got that squinty pained look he gets when he's trying to rein in his eyeballs before they roll back in his head, and said: you know. We were in our thirties and we thought we were going to die on the spot. Max is sixty.

Well! That is true. But he'd be just fine.

We got into it, actually. Max was doing all the work, and we agreed to scoop him up at the airport and drive him to central Oregon for the event. We talked our friend Linda into flying out from Boston just to cheer. We rented a house. We laid in a stash of celebratory beer. We practiced clapping so we wouldn't blister our hands on the big day. We got up at the crack of dawn to drive him to the starting line. It takes a village, and we were his villagers. Now it was all up to Max and his magnificent sixty-year-old calves. What could go wrong?

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Can't Lick The Beaver State

When you live in the Beaver State, you are attuned to state symbols. Ours are respectable, mostly: Douglas Fir, Oregon Grape, Western Meadowlark. Then you look over the list and notice that the state beverage is milk. The state beverage in the biggest and finest hop-producing beer-brewing territory in the solar system is milk. And you begin to suspect that dark forces are responsible for the naming of state symbols, sometimes. Like Big Milk. The poor sarsaparilla lobby never got a foothold. Some symbols, though, seem to have come about as a result of a class project. Mrs. Wormwood's fourth grade class decided to get a bill passed as a civics lesson. Nothing else can explain why our State Hamster is Mr. Fluffy.

We're used to states having symbols. All of them have a state animal, a state flower, and a state bird. But there's been symbol creep. Massachusetts has a state dessert (Boston cream pie), a state dog (Boston terrier), and a state bean (Boston baked bean). Oregon doesn't stand a chance in this contest. Our biggest city doesn't have anything named after it but Portland Cement. Our second-biggest city is no better off. We could have a State Conductor (Eugene Ormandy) or a State Socialist (Eugene V. Debs), but they're not from here.  Third-largest city, same problem. The only thing named after that is Gresham Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM.

A Boston Terrier of my acquaintance
And it would be silly to have a State Cement. Or it would be, if we didn't already have a state soil (the Jory soil). It's a special volcanic soil occurring in only a few legislative districts and is conducive to growing many iconic crops such as the hazelnut, but not necessarily good for crops in other legislative districts, and many senators were grumpy about giving it an official shine. But when the sponsor of the bill to name Jory soil the state soil pointed out that he was willing and able to hold up health care legislation, the virtues of Jory soil became clear to all.

Only some of the symbols are mandatory. You're supposed to have a state bird. Not a lot of thought needs to have gone into it. From what I can tell, small groups of legislators in each state talked about it over whiskey and cigars back in the last century. "How about a robin?" one would ask, depleting his personal cache of recognizable birds, and the others would demur, puffing thoughtfully. "Every other state is going to have the robin," they'd say, flicking ash onto the floor. "I know! How about a cardinal?" Smiles bloomed on the legislators' faces as they each realized they could recognize the natty, bright orange bird, if not his mate. "Cardinal it is!" Thus the cardinal was enthroned as the official state bird of everywhere east of the Rockies. Western states felt bereft. Oregonian legislators, unaware that there was such a thing as the Oregon Junco, punted. "We're in the west--western meadowlark?" Done. I've never seen one, but then again, we only have one Miss Oregon at a time, too.

There is some hope that we can overcome the Milk ignominy by the recent naming of our State Microbe. Right there, we've got something distinctive. No other state has managed a state microbe. Our state microbe is Brewer's Yeast. Streptococcus got no traction at all. The only problem with honoring brewer's yeast is that it is also a fungus, and we already have a state fungus (the chanterelle mushroom). It's like having both a state tree (Douglas fir) and a state leaf (Douglas fir needle). But this sort of dithering hasn't stopped other states. Mississippi has State Mammal #1, State Mammal #2, and State Mammal #3. Now they're bickering over a state gravy.

Here, when it comes to mammals, we have modestly confined ourselves to the beaver. Although we also have a state seal.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What Could Go Wrong?

As if it weren't bad enough I never get around to cleaning the shower, I was supposed to be polishing the cat all this time too, and all because nobody wants to buy cigarettes if they have to suck harder on them to keep them lit.

I'm not even sure about that last part. People who like cigarettes like them a whole, whole lot. They've already managed to get past the taste and the loogeys and the social stigma and the huddling next to the dumpster to get a fix, so what's a little sucking? Nevertheless, forty years ago the tobacco industry, already worried that customers might be put off by the cancer thing, were loath to tinker with the product, and when it looked like the government was going to try to make them do it, they sprang into action.

At the time, it would have been unthinkable to ask guests to light up outside. My parents didn't smoke but had ashtrays around for company; we all made ceramic ashtrays in school. But there were certain things we all learned were dangerous. Don't run with scissors. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't roughhouse in the back seat of the Studebaker when Daddy's trying to drive. And don't smoke in bed. Seemed like people were always smoking in bed and bursting into flames. If you died from something other than being an old fuck, you were probably smoking in bed.

So there was some talk of making cigarettes safer by making them burn out faster, so at least you won't die fast. And Big Tobacco got the notion that it would be SO much easier to just fireproof the whole house. It was like the NRA responding to a grade school massacre by calling for Kevlar gym shorts. Or the AMA combating diabetes by marketing stretchy pants. Boy howdy! Flame retardants for mattresses! Sofas! Carpets! Pajamas! Without them, you were one cigarette away from self-immolation. Big Tobacco got behind the campaign by drenching America's fire marshals with money and whipping up a frenzy of concern about fire safety. They ended up having to change the cigarettes anyway, but the manufacturers of flame retardants took the ball from there and ginned up the Citizens For Fire Safety and lobbied and advertised and leaned on legislators, intimating that a vote against their chemicals was tantamount to setting our children on fire. They got pounds of fire retardant chemicals planted in every house, in furniture cushions, TVs and electronics, carpeting, and, um, breast milk--and they have succeeded in keeping spontaneous breast combustion incidents at or near zero. The stuff is in our watersheds, our shellfish, and ourselves, and we're not sure what it's doing to us, but as long as we keep trying to set ourselves on fire with the cigarettes we don't smoke inside anymore, that's a small price to pay for safety.

Larry would be one such small price. My cat Larry topped out at about thirteen pounds of pure love and at some point she kept eating and dropping more and more weight until the day she went all
wobbly and perplexed, and Dave bought us an ice cream cone and we licked it together and went to the vet one last time. Fatal feline thyroid disease, once rare, has spiked dramatically with the introduction of flame retardants, which cats ingest while grooming themselves. Now they're recommending we sponge off our kitties once a day. I will say, Larry never did catch fire.

What else is small? Babies, sure! They also spend a lot of time on the carpet and furniture and put random stuff in their mouths. Dr. David Heimbach, a burn expert on the Citizens For Fire Safety payroll, is very concerned about babies. He gave dramatic testimony to the California state senate about a terrible death suffered by a baby whose parents put a candle in her crib, and setting aside for now the question whether those particular parents should have been reproducing, he was able to persuade the assembled legislators not to reduce the use of flame retardants. Fortunately, modern babies are way ahead of the game, sliding into the world already packed with the chemicals. If you did introduce some candle ambience into their cribs, the little guys would probably just smolder for a while and then go out. It turns out the good doctor's anecdote was entirely fabricated, but the truth is a small price to pay for the health of the flame-retardant industry. The Obama administration is looking into trying to ban some of this stuff, but everyone knows he hates American babies.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Making Up For Rain

Every Friday the newspaper has a feature on fashion! and style! that I always look at so that I can discover new regions of personal inadequacy, and then ignore them. Frequently they depict a few oddly-dressed people and point out how something--a scarf, a hat, a jutted hip--has "pulled their look together." Which is precisely my problem: my look is always coming unstrung.

I think they missed their market on the current article. Some editor on a deadline was given the job of coming up with an article suitable for the Pacific Northwest and she probably typed in "rain" and "style" and lassoed up an AP piece on looking your best when (God forbid) it's raining. Rain is explained as a bizarre meteorological phenomenon whose main function is to mess up one's look. "The key to looking your best when it does rain is taking a relaxed attitude. Don't try a complicated hairstyle or a dramatic smoky eye," the article cautions. No doubt someone at the paper, a newcomer who can't wait to make it big at the LA Times, thought this feature would be of service to the locals. If the editor  had typed in "rain" and "style" plus "people who give a rat's ass in Portland," she would have gotten zero hits. "The important thing," the piece goes on, "is to make your look seem purposeful, and not like you were caught off-guard." The concept of being caught off-guard by the rain in Portland is never explained.
But the article recommends going with tousled hair rather than a manicured, sleek style.

So it's recommending pre-tousling in a post-tousled town. I've lived here for 37 years and I haven't met one person who worries about what the rain will do to her style. Anyone who does got off the train too early. We all know just what each other looks like wet. We're way over it. The article recommends using special oily products on your hair to repel water. What we see a lot of here is your dreadlocks, constructed of a mixture of the person's own rooted hair and his or her former hair that is trying to fall out and keeps getting snagged up, and also some hay, all held together with secretions from various burrowing animals, and plenty of people find that repellent enough.

If an entrepreneur was inclined to "do something about" the weather, it's possible he could get some traction with a waterproof bicycle shoe with pedal cleats that can transform into a short, kicky heel, but probably not. This is not a vain populace. We've got two types: people with bicycle fenders, and people with muddy stripes up their backs. And most of the latter types, if they think about it at all, assume the muddy stripe has a slimming effect. We are just not this fussy. I'm probably a good example. I don't think much about my style until I go into Nordstrom's, and then I feel
inadequate because I don't have any clothes to wear that are good enough to shop at Nordstrom's in, so I wear my bike helmet into the store as an explanation.

Telling us what kind of foundation to put on so it doesn't streak or clump in the rain is like trying to sell a high-altitude cookbook to a marmot. Even if he did think alpine penstemons would be even nicer in a coffee-cake, he doesn't have the manual dexterity to pull it off. And we might give the latest style a passing glance, but we don't have the inclination to pull it together.