Saturday, October 16, 2021

Craftily Bespoken


I got a flyer in the mail the other day. Nice photo of a young man, a shiny fellow, or at least recently exfoliated, with the tag line "Crafting Bespoke Experiences." Naturally, I was all a-twitter.

I flipped it over. I suppose I should not be surprised he turned out to be a realtor. If you're branding yourself as a crafter of bespoke experiences, you could be doing dang near any obscure thing. As a letter carrier, I could have marketed myself as a purveyor of hand-curated postal dispatch. Probably couldn't have gotten away with "bespoke" because--spoiler alert here--a lot of that crap that lands in your mailbox actually went to everybody.

I was in my forties before I heard anyone say "bespoke" and I strongly suspected it wasn't really a word. It's not a great word, in my opinion. You can't slide it into a sentence without it sounding like the wrench that got left inside the engine. But it has earned a vintage quality, having first been used in its current meaning in the 16th century, and it has strutted Britishly about mainly in the field of tailoring until recently, when it got discovered by Marketing, and now it is used willy-nilly to mark the user as a precious sod.

"Bespoke" primarily and historically describes tailor-made suits and shoes. If an item was bespoke, it was spoken for; it was ordered, or commissioned. Another word for it, in this country, is "custom." By golly, if you got something bespoke, it was not off-the-rack. It was made for you. Just for you! So our realtor friend is promising to give you an experience not meant for anyone else. Something he has fashioned for you and you alone.

That means he's not going to sell you just any old house on the block. He's going to sell you the one you want. Maybe you even specified you wanted one with an eat-in country kitchen and a big yard and he didn't even bother showing you the kitchenette on the postage-stamp lot--that's how bespoke the experience he is crafting for you is. And if you're the seller, it's your house he's going to represent. Not your neighbor's crappy old place. Yours.

You want that kind of mindfulness in a realtor.

It's possible I am being too snide, or even cultivating snideness. For all I know, this realtor indeed excels in facilitating artisanal transactions. It's possible his is a heart-centered mission that supports homefulness. He may even empower his clients' self-empowerment. If he really can create an ideal customer journey map, I think I speak for all of us in saying I can honor that.

And in any case I shouldn't judge. Here at Murrmurrs we are a bootstrapped enterprise of ideation and snackable content inputting. I'm mindful of that.

On the other hand, if he's just signaling he's gay, that's not going to make him stand out in real estate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

SOL at the DMV


Way back last July, I got a notice from the state that my driver's license was going to expire on my birthday, which wasn't until late September. Smashing all previous personal records, I got right on it. This is not my normal operating procedure. I was kind of proud of myself.

What with one thing and a virus, they said I needed to make an appointment at the DMV rather than just walk in. So I popped online to do that. Eighteen screens later they had a calendar of available time slots to pick from. Every hour of every day was booked for two months out. But sometimes, they said, slots opened up and those would be posted Monday evenings.

The next Monday evening I popped online and eighteen screens later they had a calendar of available time slots to pick from and there was nothing for two months out. I sensed a pattern here. And I booked for the eighth of October, at which point my license would have been expired two weeks. If I'd waited until the week before my birthday, of course, I'd be looking at sometime in 2022. 

This time I was going to get a Real ID. It was about time, since that fake ID is over fifty years old now. The Real ID is a much more strenuous assertion of your existence than the previous versions. At some point, they promise, you won't be able to fly without it, although of course I can barely get off the ground now.

Quite a set of digital rabbit holes later, I was able to determine what current ID I needed to get the Real ID. It was serious business. They don't just take your word for it that you're a citizen in good standing, even if you're white. I would need either a passport or a birth certificate, both of which were in my safe deposit box, which I visit once a decade just to stamp myself as a grownup.

In order to get into my safe deposit box I needed my driver's license. I presented my driver's license. The teller squinted at me. "Are you aware your license has expired?" Yes I was. That's why I need to get into my safe deposit box. To get my birth certificate, without which I can't prove I ever hit air. The teller wasn't sure he could let me through the big iron gate with an expired license. 

Are you serious? I said.

He wasn't sure if he was. He had to check with somebody.

How about if you let me in there for now and I get my birth certificate and drive over to the DMV and get my new temporary license and come right back here with that and we'll put it back in the box all legit-like?
 
He told me I really shouldn't drive without a license.

I drove over here, I said. His face was unreadable but not reassuring. He also said I didn't look like my driver's license photo. I said Thank you.
 
I see what's happening here. I'm Charlie on the MTA. I can't get my license without my birth certificate and I can't get my birth certificate without my license. I'm in the lobby of the Wells Fargo on Sandy Boulevard, people--somebody heave in a sandwich!

I don't know how to prove I exist. But I am hungry. Therefore, I think I am.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Getting To The Bottom Of Things


The other day I got two big boxes delivered. The contents Required Some Assembly, and inside one of the boxes was the instruction to open that box first. That is because it was the box with the instructions (including Open This Box First) and the square screwdriver. Naturally, the other box was the one I opened first, just by chance, the one with no instructions and no square screwdriver, and went to the hardware store to buy the screwdriver, and now I have two square screwdrivers.

But I did succeed with the assembly, and was feeling mighty, so I decided to tackle a new project. I am going to fix my feet. I have all the parts and all I need to do is get them hooked up right.

My feet aren't much trouble. They're kind of little, and don't prevent me from tipping over, but nothing hurts. I'm super aware of my feet because I know how important they are for everything else. A long time ago I had all kinds of pain; I'd gotten used to it. My back sometimes went out, my knees creaked, and my neck shot out thunderbolts of neuralgia from a childhood injury on my good days, and locked up entirely on the bad. My chiropractor told me (before climbing into her Bentley) I was in for a lifetime of Advil, ice, and adjustments. I put it all to Old Age: after all I was nearly forty.

But when my perfectly fine shoulder went out for no reason, I felt betrayed. That's when an old gentleman I knew told me he had cancelled his hip replacement surgery after using the exercises in Pete Egoscue's Pain Free book for one week, and I might want to give it a shot. I'd been doing therapy for a half a year by then to no avail. But after ten days of these simple exercises my shoulder was fine again. And my back wasn't stiff anymore either. I was stunned. It took me a full month of doing the neck exercises to eliminate thirty years of neck pain, but then I was pain-free, smelled nice, didn't rattle much, and was totally obnoxious at parties.

Not in the old way. I became an authentic flaming evangelist. Because apparently not everyone has heard the Good News. That little light of mine? I was going to let it shine like the Republican neighbor's security light through your bedroom window. Everywhere I looked I saw people with duck feet and bow legs and knock knees and a life of misery just around the corner, but I knew how to fix them. I chased people down trying to save them. Total strangers, even. They just needed to get The Book. I was indistinguishable from a Jehovah's Witness.

So obnoxious was I, in fact, that dozens of friends have told me, enunciating, they Got The Book. They didn't open it, or use it, but they had it, and hoped that was enough to make me go away.

I know the feet are really important. In fact, if you want to do Egoscue's carpal-tunnel hand exercises, you're going to end up on the floor with one foot up on a stool. It seems like cleaning the gutters by clearing out the trap under your kitchen sink. But if your feet are the slightest bit askew, it throws off your whole skeleton. You can get away with it for quite a few years but eventually you're going down. You'll be approaching forty thinking you're supposed to have pain by now.

Anyway, my foot strike is better than most, except my right one is a little squashy, but since I had no pain I never really addressed it. Then the other day I looked and saw a bump near my big toe. Was that there before? I looked it up online. It's a gol-durn baby bunion. A bunion. Some old-lady bullshit. Land sakes. Next thing my ankles are going to puddle over my black orthopedic shoes and I'll be wearing my nylons rolled down. I didn't even know what a bunion was. Evidently I can expect the piggy that went to market to start barging in on the one that stayed home. Oh, no, you don't. I can fix you.

So I'm finally doing my Egoscue Foot Exercises. It's supposed to take three weeks. I expect my bump to disappear even though it feels bony. I really do. One day I'm going to look down and that sucker will have been raptured.

I may get bruises from a stiff breeze now and I can't sleep on my back in case my own neck pleats up and strangles me in my sleep, but my feet are not about to take me down. I've got beer for that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My Cherryot


When they notice the paint is exuberantly jumping off of their car, normal people consider it might be a good time to buy a new car. But this, of course, is my car. It's older than my blog. I'd say it was older than dirt, but some of the original dirt is still on it.

I was surprised to notice the paint vanishment, though. I figured if you just left your car at the curb and never bothered it with soap or wax or anything, the paint would just stay put out of loyalty if nothing else. Or if it was inclined to wander, it would be sealed down with all the bird poop. I mean, otherwise, what is the point of parking under the power lines?

Actually, I was a little set back by the bird poop accumulation, which has far exceeded previous efforts, and was beginning to develop some topography. In my usual deductive fashion, I thought it was evidence of my efforts to attract more birds to the garden, or maybe evidence of a new digestive enthusiasm on the part of the regulars. Took me a few days before it occurred to me that my standard car hygiene--God's Car Wash--had pretty much shut down for the last year. We did get two inches of rain a couple weekends ago but that was by far the most we'd had since last January. If you've been dissuaded from moving to Oregon because it rains all the time, fear no more. Now we're the land of smoke and dead trees.

So after the rain a lot of the car looks a little neater now, not that I was inclined to get a new one anyway. It would be fun, and if I did it would be all-electric, but even an all-electric car has nothing on mine, virtue-wise. Mine's all-gas but it's parked. And there's a significant cost to the planet of manufacturing a new one. And the electricity for a car might come from coal. So. No new car for me, unless someone creams this one. Have at it.
 
Besides, there's a lot to be said for mine. If someone scuffs it up, as someone apparently just did last week, I don't really care. That's a freedom. My curb-feelers work great, and will until a little more rubber is scraped off the sidewalls. My blind-spot protection is second to none, as long as I have a passenger with a good set of lungs. Thanks to the hole in the floorboards that Dave created with his imaginary brake pedal, we've got a good auxiliary Fred Flintstone power boost system, or good enough--he's seventy now, so he can't keep up highway speeds for long like he used to.
 
The sound system isn't all it could be, I'll admit that. We still have a thumping bass but the treble is way out of practice and both of us have trouble with the lyrics of everything except Build Me Up Buttercup.
 
It might be nice to be able to unlock the doors from a few feet away, but you don't really need them unlocked until you get there anyway, even if it's raining, which it isn't anymore. We do each have to roll our own windows down by hand. But that's fun. It's worth it just to put a young person in the seat and watch them feel along the side panel for the button like they're trying to find the spot that makes the bookcase wall turn around in a mystery movie.
 
I'm sure I could get used to one bell or one whistle if I had it. I'd probably get to where I couldn't imagine doing without it. But there's also a lot to be said for keeping the number of things you can't live without to a minimum.
 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Human Bean

Sure is a lot of talk about abortion these days. There has been all along, of course. I remember when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. I said something laudatory about it and was shocked when someone pushed back on my enthusiasm, and kind of hard, too. Well, shoot. I was nineteen and not accustomed to imagining other people had different opinions.

People still do, no surprise. I don't see a lot of point in arguing about it. Feelings run strong. And it's not just a matter of deciding when a human being arrives on the scene. That's too fine a line to tease out. Heck, there are people who believe it's a sin to try not to get pregnant, so we're all across the board here.

Right now we're rolling back abortion rights for women carrying six-week-old fetuses, at which point the items in question aren't even the size of a normal bean. A small lentil, maybe. But I'm a small person who was a small baby and I don't think size is much of a metric of worth. What is more to the point is whether the lentil is human. It's a tiny bean, but is it a human bean? Does it have more substance than a thought or a prayer?

Opinions differ. But it gets more tangled than that. I'd say a bean with human DNA probably is human. But does its humanity matter to me? Not all that much, frankly.

There's a tremendous conceit involved with the obsession over fetal human life. There's clearly a conviction at work here that not only is the human bean's humanity entirely evident at every stage, but that it is even more precious because of its presumed state of innocence. It's more important than the grownup variety of human that, since birth, has been demonstrating its sinful ways and relative worthlessness for all to see. The human bean is in a state of perfection and must be brought into the light, and when it disappoints us later we'll jail it or execute it or diss it on the social media.

I got a problem with that. I got a problem with the whole premise. I don't think human beings are all they're cracked up to be. I like a bunch of them, and I am horrified by the thought of murdering them, in an alley, or in a war, or, especially, in cold blood by the offices of the State, but I consider our species to be one among many, with some interesting attributes such as a certain kind of cleverness that destroys as often as it creates. We are admirable and we are deplorable. What I do not believe we are is chosen, or special. Or in short supply.

But we will be.

Because we clevered ourselves onto an existential precipice with our wish for dominion and our disregard for the clear consequences of our actions; and we've already been pushed over that precipice by our greed and callowness. If there is a ledger being kept on our value to the universe, which I doubt, we may finally be held to account. In the meantime, anyone with any political aspirations who is not devoted to trying to back us out of the hole we keep digging will never get my vote. I don't care what they think about abortion.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A Pig In Lipstick And Satin Ballroom Attire


First off, I'm not even sure pigs look any better with lipstick.

And besides, the name attached to this latest Oregon House Bill goes way beyond putting lipstick on a pig. This is formal satin ballroom attire with pearls, corsetry, cage crinolines and a bustle. Somebody else's whole job is to stuff you into it.

It's not the legislation itself. I'm fine with that. Oregon has just passed a law requiring public schools at all levels to provide free menstrual pads and tampons to students, no strings attached. Plenty of people put in a plug for it. This bill was in the works for quite a while, but then it got wings, and finally gushed out in June. The problem is that many students cannot afford to purchase sanitary products and might even stay home from school rather than leave their home toilets.

All this is well and good. But calling it the Menstrual Dignity Act is just plain trying too hard. Menstrual and Dignity do not belong in the same sentence. I know, I know, every generation since the '70s has seen an effort to dress this situation up and waltz it across the stage, but all such efforts fail in the face of stark reality, and that is that although this biological circumstance should not be shameful, there's really no hallelujah about it either. Period.

The language involved has undergone the usual modern torture. One of the beauties of English, I maintain, has been its spare quality, its efficiency, its flow if you will, such that our pronouncements don't have to get larded up with clauses like we're French or something. Until recently we could refer to "homeless people," for instance, although now that has become "persons experiencing homelessness," which means exactly the same thing, except it purportedly suggests some kind of temporary condition and not an innate character flaw, which (for my money) "homeless people" never implied in the first place.

So now we all have to be French about it and can't get to the end of our sentences in a timely manner without causing an uproar. Sure enough, the text of the Menstrual Dignity Act refers to "people who menstruate," and just as I was getting my eye-roll going, I saw the following sentence from its proponents: "One in five menstruators in the United States cannot afford the price of menstrual products."

Clean, spare language be damned! Maybe the sentence has a certain flow, but I can't say I love the word "menstruators." Like "educators" or "legislators," it suggests a degree of calculation I do not believe exists. Nobody signs up for this crap.
 
Absolutely, we should provide free tampons and pads in schools. Sure, some Republican-run school board in Wisconsin is going to rag on that kids getting free tampons, what a treat, are going to be spoiled. That's a stain on them. But I don't want to call this the Menstrual Dignity Act unless there are reparations involved. In which case, sign me up. As I've mentioned before, this crap was forty years of pointlessness and laundry.
 
"Not so," they'll say, terrified of owing reparations to so many. "There was a point to it. You were being entered into a monthly lottery for a brand new human being." Hell. I've met lots of human beings. They're not all of them the big prize they're made out to be.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Thanks, Gladys


City living! Within two blocks of my house, I can find four restaurants, a whiskey bar, a shoe store, book store, coffee roaster, computer repair shop, two art galleries, a barbershop, theater, essential-oil emporium, and a bicycle shop named Gladys.

Given the many options, I took my bicycle to the bicycle shop named Gladys. "Just spiff it," I said. "Do whatever it needs. I haven't had it out of the basement in a few years." I went home.

A couple hours later, Spiffer Miranda wrote me an email. Wanted permission to sell me a new wheel. "Also, your chain and freewheel have become very worn. I have a replacement that is compatible but it is a 6 speed instead of 7, and has a wider range of gears. Let me know how to proceed," she wrote.

I wasn't entirely sure what I might be getting with the new gear cassette. I started to type a message back with my questions and then thought: I could hit Miranda with a tennis ball from here if the buildings weren't in the way. I'll just walk over there.

A minute later I'm in the shop, which, even in this age, is a pretty zippy email response. "So," I said, "this new gear thingy. Are you saying you want to sell me a granny gear?"
 
Words were not minced. "Yup," she said.

A granny gear is a very low gear in which you can spin your pedals very fast whilst creeping up the hill like a big sissy. I've never had one. I'm not even sure they were available when I bought my first good bike in 1968. By the time a bike mechanic offered me a granny gear, I had too much pride for it. I preferred to muscle my way across the landscape in the highest gear I could. "That's bad for your knees," he told me. "Ideally, you should be spinning at 80 rpm."

Poo on that. My knees are fine. What I had going for me--in the absence of lung power, quick reflexes, good balance, stamina, and athletic ability--was a massive set of quadriceps. At one time, the only wrinkle I had was just above my kneecap, below the bulge of glory that was my thigh muscle. I had to floss it regularly for road dust so seedlings wouldn't take root. I was very proud of my thighs. It looked like porpoises were hanging out of my shorts.

Besides it just felt all wrong to me. I'd power my way up the hill like a big girl and pass some guy pedaling his fanny off, and sure, he could converse with his buddy the whole time, and probably eat a sandwich, but empires would rise and fall before he tootled to the top.
And more than once in heavy bicycle traffic I've been stuck behind someone on a hill centipeding along at a rate I had no gear for, and had to bail out of my pedals to keep from falling over. Screw the granny gear.

Miranda again. "Most bikes just come with this now," she said, evenly.

"Bikes come with motors now," I said back, and then suddenly realized that any kind of gear cluster would be manlier than a bike with a motor.


Miranda waited patiently for my decision. She was far too nice to point out the obvious. Or even glance down at my 68-year-old quadriceps, which have long since slumped past porpoise and into flounder territory. I looked at her open, friendly, competent face.

"Granny me, baby," I said.

After all, I don't have to use it.

I'm probably totally going to use it.