Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Rubber Rainbow

Some enterprising teenagers invented a new condom that turns different colors if you have a sexually transmitted disease. Isn't that festive? My guess is that it is not the condom-wearer but the condomee who would insist on this particular brand. "Put this on," he or she will say, "and let's have a look-see before we take this sucker out for a spin." This just builds on the natural tendency of a person about to be on the receiving end of a penis to want to check the item for odd coloration or accoutrements. One might not know what one is looking for specifically but it's like examining leftover meat in the refrigerator. If it's a little green or bumpy, you might want to skip it.

There are all sorts of possibilities for the condom, if you think about it. They could add a little sticky strip at the base for lice. It might turn pink for chlamydia, say. Or green for the clap, or yellow for herpes. If the condom turns black and the dick falls off altogether, you could be dealing with a zombie. If the condom bursts into song (and it's always going to be Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me), you've got a Baptist on your hands. But if nothing happens (and the condom doesn't fall off, which is a bad sign all its own), you're good to go.

Puts me in mind of the Mood Ring. This was a cheap ring with a fake stone in it that turned colors and was supposed to reveal the mood of the wearer. If the ring turned red, the person was hot to trot. Mood rings were purchased only by girls younger than 13 who wanted any excuse to giggle and point at each other and shriek. No male ever bought such a ring. Male teenagers had a much more reliable indicator of horniness. It worked something like the buttons that pop out on your Butterball turkey when it's ready, only, in many cases, a little larger.

There were all sorts of color-related things we were supposed to keep track of back then. The various colors of roses were all supposed to have specific meanings, and you'd better know the code before you buy flowers for someone. And there was a thing about wearing yellow on Thursdays, which meant you were--you know. I never knew, but I nodded as though I did.

If the boys' condom invention pans out, there's a much broader market to tap out there. They could develop party hats that turned colors. Everyone is issued a hat when they walk in the door, and folks could mingle accordingly. They could turn one color for Amway distributors. Another color for people who want to know if you've accepted Jesus Christ as your savior. A third for people with a phoneful of photos of babies, dogs, or vacations. And a fourth for folks who've had recent knee surgery.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bottling Money

Bull Run

There's a company that's advertising its bottled water as "the best stuff on Earth." And it is. People are starting to realize that. There are a whole lot of things that are turning out to be not quite as important as we thought they were, but water is not one of them. People have known that forever. They used to distribute themselves in a reasonable way across the landscape in the olden days. If there was a spot that had water, that's where they parked their fannies. You've got a confluence of rivers, that's where the cities were.

We've got it pretty good around here. We've got a big lake up in the foothills and over a hundred years ago some folks had the bright idea of protecting the entire watershed that feeds it, and not building on it or sticking boats on it or pooping near it or anything, and they ran a big pipe from the lake to Portland. Then they dammed up another area downstream and got themselves a new reservoir and between the two of them we've got enough water to waste, even with a much bigger population. And it's delicious. Even the water that goes down the driveway is delicious.

Original water pipeline
It's pretty low-tech. Nothing but rain and gravity. No one is allowed to set foot in the hills that drain into the lakes. It's a big mass of unobstructed green up there. There are some places along the water pipeline where a few unobtrusive chemicals are added just to take care of random bacteria from elk poop but it's a very simple system. Sensible. This is exactly how people should come together to provide for the common good. Lots of folks think socialism is a dirty word but it's a lot more efficient than giving everyone a bucket and a gun and wishing them the best of luck.

You'd think we could all agree that water is a resource that should be cherished and protected because none of us can live without it, but no. The very fact that it's necessary is a lever that can be used to pry up a bunch of money. So companies are diverting public water into petroleum-based containers with a half-life of forever and marking it up by a factor of thousands and successfully selling it to people who actually have access to the same stuff coming out of their own tap. It's a mystery why they buy it, but they do.

Right here, up the Gorge a ways, they're talking about giving the Nestle Corporation the rights to some of our super-clean water so they can put it in those bottles and make us pay a ransom for it, and they're doing it because it will mean fifty people in the small town of Cascade Locks will get jobs. Shoot, we would all agree to jump in a mass grave if it meant we were fully employed digging the sucker first. It makes no sense to privatize a necessity like water, but we give wealthy people a lot of leeway. We even mistake wealth for virtue. If you've got enough money, you can buy your own vocabulary and teach it to the masses. You're not a leech, you're a job-creator, and even without any evidence, people will believe it.

If you and your friends are rich enough, you can even buy the terms of a new conversation. You can get ordinary working stiffs to believe there is something called a Death Tax, as though you can be taxed when you're dead, and not your pink, entitled heirs, with their smooth hands, who are the feckless recipients of your slab of cash.

You're in control of the lexicon. Nobody even talks about "pirates" anymore.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm Tripping, Man

There was a knock at the door. It was the Fuzz, but I didn't cheese it.  I'm a white girl, so cops don't scare me.

"Come on in. What can I do for you?  Ooooo, don't shake that hand. It's pretty sore. What? Oh nothing. Just a bruise on my palm, and, yes, now that you point it out, there is a little abrasion there. Nothing major. You should see my elbow!

"What? No, I just fell down again. I fall down a lot. At least I didn't hit my head this time! Nothing to hurt there! That's what my husband says! Ha ha! So what can I do for you?

"That? Oh. I didn't realize I was that loud. Which neighbor called? You're not allowed to say? That's all right. I was just trying to tell my husband to let go of me, but he wouldn't listen. He was taking a washcloth to my elbow, here, trying to scrub it clean, and I guess it's pretty bruised too, and I might have screamed a little. But that's what you want. You want a guy who won't listen to you when you tell him to stop, if you're ever going to get cleaned up properly.

"No, no, like I said, I fell down again. Right in the street! I fall down a lot. Ask anybody. I even blog about it. There was the time I whacked my head falling on the frozen lake. And the time I fell face first onto the sidewalk when I tripped. And the time I fainted and knocked myself out hitting my head on the wall of the bedroom. I could show you the divot. And all those times in the woods. I just don't pay attention where I'm walking, I guess. I'm such a clumsy ninny!

"Oh, and crazy stuff. Like when it was Leap Day and for some reason I decided to demonstrate Leaping in its honor and tried to do a 360 twirl in the air. But I can only jump about three inches and came down about 270 degrees short and landed wrong and bam I hit the pavement again. That one was hard to explain to people! Ha ha! We joke about it all the time. 'It's a good thing you're so short,' my husband tells me. 'You don't have that far to fall.' And that's true. Sure go down like a ton of bricks though. Hey, we even had 'Short People' as the first song we played at our wedding. No, really! It was my husband's idea. You know it? 'Short people got no reason, short people got no reason to live...'

"Huh? No, I wouldn't say that's how he really feels. I mean, it's just a joke. He's a big joker.

"How big? Well, I don't know--about 6'5" and
200 pounds, I guess. So, sure, he's big, but not like football-player big. Pardon me? Like Ray Rice? Don't know him. No, not really. He played a little in grade school but he's not really the football type.

"I take your point. He's a lot bigger than me. Who isn't? Ha ha! But he would never hurt me. Not on purpose. Well there was that time I got a split lip when he picked me up and turned me upside down to shake the change out of my pocket, and he lost his grip, but it was no big deal. And I totally deserved it. He kept winning in cribbage, and I'd never pay up. What? No, I wouldn't say he was angry. Just going after what was rightfully his. If I'd just paid him he would never have dropped me on my face.

"Sure, wait just a second. He was right  here. Dave? Dave, could you come here a minute?


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pudding, Steak, and Cake

I've decided to devote mornings to priming the rental house. It's been close to a hundred degrees for forty-five days this month alone, and it may not pay to put off painting until it cools down, because it's possible it will remain this temperature until approximately 100,000 years after the death of Sen. Mitch McConnell (Rep--Kingdom of Coal). But it's been horribly warm in the mornings too, and that is how I discovered the precise temperature at which primer turns into pudding and slides off the house.

It's always something, with pudding. You put in all the ingredients and then you stir and stir and stir over low heat and nothing ever seems to be happening and you re-check the recipe and sure enough it does say "over low heat" but you start to lose confidence and you crank up the burner a little and start casting a longing eye toward the drawer with the cornstarch in it, and then all of a sudden, BAM, pudding. In fact, pudding that can stand up and march out of the pan. So it's all very temperature-dependent. And the primer on the rental house turned into pudding at precisely 10:38am, and when I checked the temperature graph for the day I found out that it was, at that moment, a bazillion degrees. So mark that down.

If I'd waited until afternoon, I could have stuck my paintbrush in the can and pulled out a can-shaped block of primer on a stick. It's fucking hot, is what I'm saying. Dave, as usual, went for a long walk and when he came back he was brown all the way through and his juices ran clear. I spent some time outside also, and by mid-afternoon I'd started to pull away from the sides of the pan and spring back lightly when pressed in the middle. I was a little flat, but that's because I don't have any eggs anymore. I should be presentable with a nice topping of the little crisp, crumbly bits that used to be my garden. So we're totally ready for company, if they should happen to be cannibals.

I've had some experience with this nonsense. I grew up in what would have been the shadow of Washington, D.C., if it had any shadows in the summertime. We coped. We opened up the house at night and exhausted the air out with a fan and then sealed it up tight in the morning and drew the shades, and usually we could get all the way to early afternoon before having to lie down on the linoleum in front of the little round black oscillating fan, breathing shallowly, waiting to die, and dreaming that some day someone would invent air conditioning.

And someone did, and we all love it. Even though it is helping make everything hotter, we all love it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lipstick In A Caulking Gun

Yes, Dave chose this angle.

I've heard it said that painting an old house is like putting lipstick on a pig, but it's not true. Pigs don't need lipstick.

It was time to paint the house, so that's what we set out to do. Not a big deal. It's a bunch of work, but there's nobility in that. In fact, the more annoying the work, the more nobility it has. It's straightforward: muscles and ladders and time-in. We're both in our sixties so I guess we could get a pass, but hey--if it's time to paint the house, we paint the house. That's who we are.

Not our house. That's a job. The last time we thought it needed paint, it had metastasized into this giant thing (actual quote heard while under construction: "Is that going to be a Montgomery Wards?"), and it was daunting. Following a suggestion from a friend who said we could probably accomplish the same result with money, we hired mercenaries. People who could dangle from a dirigible to get the top bits of the tower. People who didn't have an active acquaintance with their own mortality. People who, hell, didn't lose consciousness every time they cranked their neck up to climb a ladder. Young people.

But this house, our rental house, is only a one-story. You just scrape off all the paint that wants to come off, you prime, you caulk, you paint. And if there's one useful thing I know how to do, it's prep and paint. In fact, that is the one useful thing I know how to do. I learned from the best. Actually, I learned from Dave, but he's my best. He taught me how to decant a portion of the paint into a bucket and do the whackety-whackety with the brush to offload the excess; he taught me how to dry off a newly washed brush by slapping it repeatedly against my butt. In fact, I think that was his own idea. I am mindful of the drips. I feather. I mitre the corners of the window-frames with my paintbrush strokes. I'm careful. None of which really comes in handy with the rental house.

Its south side is a complete mess, but the same could be said of a lot of us. With this place, you could be scraping merrily away when a chunk of petrified paint and caulk comes flying off, followed by a bluster of attic bats. After a while you don't even want to be doing that good a job. You're afraid the structural integrity of the place owes a lot to modern latex paint and cobwebs. You're afraid of cutting loose a strip of fossilized goo and seeing all the clapboards slide off. There are boards up in the attic area that are relying on rodent carcasses to remain wedged together. First thing we did was get rid of some wasp nests but we probably lost some valuable biological adhesive there, too.

I'm afraid we're bothering the tenants, of course. Scraping is nasty, loud work. It can set your teeth on edge. But on the other hand, who really "works" from home? As if. Pssh. Young people. It's not a job unless you punch a clock and your boss is an idiot. And the rest of the neighbors probably got used to the rumbling of the truck that came to cannon in the fresh caulk.

Even though it's a little house, it's a lot of work. But I can't see not painting it myself. I'm just not that person.

I will be in another week.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Off The Grid

Photo by Walter Henritze

A friend borrowed our cabin for a few days and, as she was amused to report later, her teenage daughter spent a considerable portion of her time there hanging out of the bedroom window with her arm craned out as far as it would go, trying to get reception on her cell phone.

I think you can get reception sometimes when the wind is right and the planets are all in a row if you walk out about a hundred yards and waggle your phone at the highway. You might need to swing a chicken too, I don't know. I don't know how any of this works. I don't know how the internet gets through the plasma in the air or if the cell phone system is vibrating in ether, or, really, which humors are involved at all. Because I don't understand any of it, I don't take it personally. Even at home, I can't count on being able to summon up a given website at a given time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don't.

But here in the cabin it don't. Guaranteed. We got a land line for emergencies. Like if one of us drops dead, or forgot to water the cat. It's a Princess Phone. It works unless a tree falls over the wires, which does happen kind of often.

This place even has antique air. I don't know what the components of Cabin Smell are, but they surely include mildew, and maybe the aftermath of a mouse social. We bring Pootie up here because he likes to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life as much as anybody, and when he comes back home he smells a little fusty, like the cabin.

But if we decide to come up to the cabin for a few days, we can expect our email to pile up. We can expect voice messages to pile up. There's no way to let people know that we're not responding because we didn't get the message, and not because we're hammered with messages and haven't gotten around to it yet and might never. I put in my blog posts in advance, but what if my commenters suddenly conclude I don't love them anymore because I'm not replying? Can they wait a couple days before dumping me altogether in a snit? I wouldn't have believed it if, 25 years ago, you'd told me one day I'd get fifty letters a day, and a bunch of them would be people wanting me to
Like something. I used to get, like, one letter a year from most people. If I wasn't home to answer the phone, I never even knew it rang, and there was no answering machine. Communication used to have patience built right in.

Now I find myself concerned that some little cyber-snippet has gone unacknowledged. It's fretty.

Pootie is an expressive guy. "Pootie wants to know," Dave will say, as the Poot nods enthusiastically, "if there's any more chocolate." Nod nod nod. "Pootie wants to know," Dave will interpret, "if the basketball game is on." Nod. When we get home, I will press Pootie's head to my nose to inhale that rich, dear, complex aroma of dust and mildew and ferny woods. It makes me happy. Pootie is a great communicator. It's just that he has to be right there with you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hot On Hood

Basically, if at some point on a hike I say "it's just up here around the bend" and Dave says "you do realize we could actually die," you know the Price and Brewster family has had a normal adventure. Dave likes to anticipate the worst so that anything short of death seems like a bargain. I don't care if we die as long as I don't have to be aware of it beforehand.

In this case, we'd come up to Mt. Hood in order to get away from the heat. It was slated to be 100 degrees in town and theoretically the idea of being 6,000 feet higher, where in a normal year we might have snow, back when we used to have normal years, sounded cooler. I think the way most people do it is they drive up to the Timberline Lodge and slug beers inside where, if it's not actually air-conditioned, it is at least a massive enough building that it maintains an even temperature. We didn't do it that way.

No. What we decided to do was see about a few little trails we hadn't been on before. It's getting harder to find those. But we discovered a little nest of them at the end of a dead-end road and we started exploring. It was hot in the shade. But the trails all interconnected, and weren't long. Which gave us plenty of options to bail out. There was a little lake with salamanders in it, a very good sign. The network of trails was like an overturned bowl of spaghetti, and we figured we'd noodle around until we'd exhausted them.

And then we came upon a sign at an intersection. One trail said: "Timberline Lodge 2.5 miles." Really? Dave looked at me. I looked at Dave. Done deal. We can do 2.5 miles on our hands without shaking out pocket change. There's beer at the Lodge. Off we went.

Well, up we went, at a dead trudge. The trail was boulder-strewn and dusty and there wasn't any shade on it anywhere. It was like a spa for scorpions. If it wasn't a hundred degrees, it was one whisker-on-a-desert-rat shy of it. We had water, but salt began to crust on my face. That's about when Dave began to talk about death. He doesn't have a good sense of direction, and it's easy for him to imagine that the trail will go on for fifteen miles and they'll have to send out trained corpse-sniffing badgers to find our papery remains.

And yet, we did paw our way to the top, and Timberline Lodge was there as advertised, and they still sold beer, and the nice waitress allowed as how we could supersize it for a buck, and sure enough a crane came in and lowered a couple massive glasses onto the table for us. And Dave had a second one just to check quality control, and we went outside, where it was still possible to bake a pizza on one's backpack, and, with almost no forethought, and for the first time in forty years, we stuck our thumbs out and got us a ride to the bottom of the mountain.

Took all of thirty seconds. Evidently we don't look very menacing anymore. "Or," I said to the nice snowboarder who picked us up, "maybe after all these years I've still got it." Actually, I don't know if I've still got it, but I admit I did stick it out a little.

"Or maybe he's still got it," the man said, hooking a thumb back toward Dave. God bless America. Everybody's a little more relaxed. It's all good, as long as someone's still got it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Red, White, Blue, and Dust-Colored

So they're going to redesign the Postal Vehicles again. Probably a good idea. Mail carriers deliver mostly packages now and their vehicles are set up to deliver antique letter mail from twenty years ago. But they used to change the vehicles every now and then just to rattle the crew.

I personally preferred the ones we started with in the '70s. They were little right-hand-drive Jeeps and you could reach everything you needed from the front seat without dislodging a butt cheek. Each one had its own idiosyncrasies. If you were a lowly sub, you'd get to choose something particularly quirky from the bottom tier of the fleet. It took a certain amount of mental agility to switch from the one with the window that wouldn't go down to the one where you had to stand on the gas and the brake at the same time to modulate your speed. I hadn't been working there too long before the day I tried to save time by sliding open my door as I was coasting up to a stop, and it slid clear off its rails and cartwheeled down the street behind me. Fortunately no bystanders got decapitated but I do remember looking in my rear-view mirror and thinking: even without a decapitation event, this isn't ideal. I could probably get in trouble for this. But I backed up, hauled the door off the pavement, and stuck it back on the rails good as new, making a mental note that Jeep 998 is the one where you have to be careful of the door, and if I had a choice, I'd try to get the one where the engine didn't turn off even when you took the key all the way out. Because that one had a stellar emergency brake.

A tidy bunch
Big change after the first couple years. The Jeeps were repainted WHITE red and blue from the former BLUE red and white. The extra paint gave the rivets a little more integrity. We got used to the white. Everyone liked to use Route 532's Jeep because the carrier, a neat dresser with aviator shades and a lounge-lizard beard, had it tricked out with wall-to-wall carpeting. For me, it didn't make up for the cigar stench or the fug from the pine-tree deodorizer.

The Jeeps were troublesome but entirely too useful and soon enough we had them all swapped out for Ford Pintos. The big hump running down the middle for the power train proved to be a pain in the ass to arrange mail trays around, but worse, Pintos were already famous for blowing up whenever someone tapped them on the rear bumper, which is probably why the Postal Service got them cheap. And whenever we drove them up to a stop sign, we could hear an ocean of fuel sloshing back and forth underneath us like an ominous tide. It was like straddling a low-tech rocket. For the first time, we had three-point seat belts, too, so we wouldn't be able to bail out immediately when we were set on fire. Nobody missed them when they were towed away.

A few forgettable station wagons (K-Car? Aerostar?) were trundled out and abandoned and then they
came up with the first vehicle specifically designed for us, and not whacked together out of an existing fleet with extra trays bolted on. The LLV was supposed to last for twenty years, and maybe it would under the care of someone who had purchased it for personal use, but the best of us sought only to keep the daily damage to a minimum. The LLV required actual training to operate. It was an opaque box. There would be no looking over your shoulder to back up. Instead, it was decked out with dozens of mirrors on all corners, some of which were aimed at other mirrors so that you could make out what you were about to back into, as long as you knew which mirror to check and as long as it wasn't raining; and some of the mirrors were purely there for extra jazz. Most of us were never sure if we were looking at traffic coming up on our left, traffic behind us, or a video of little toy cars. We each had half-day training on the LLVs and were pronounced good to go as soon as we could drive five minutes without crushing an orange cone.

Within a few months all the predictable problems were solved by a new edict from Management that we were no longer allowed to put our vehicles in reverse. This meant we couldn't get in or out of the garage. The edict was altered slightly so that you could put your vehicle in reverse if no one was watching, but if you hit something, it was totally your fault because they warned you.

These are the vehicles that are being phased out now. The new ones will allow you to stand up in the back and have lots of room for packages. The mirror situation probably won't have improved. If you have to track the trajectory of your sliding door as it goes sailing down the street now, you're probably out of luck.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Getting To Know You

In a number of states it is now an official position that you should get to know your fetus before you have it evicted. And that is why it has been suggested that a doctor should conduct an ultrasound of the fetus and describe it in detail to you. Democrats, in general, don't see the point of this, although actually they do. So there have been other suggestions.

Taking a page from the elections department, where hanging chads are examined by a member of each major party, some legislatures are proposing that a Democrat and a Republican should be in attendance during the ultrasound, since it is assumed that a woman who has already had to get used to having one extraneous being in the room is not going to mind a committee.

The Republican doctor will begin by remarking on the length of the fetus's fingers, and exclaim that he has the hands of a violinist.

The Democratic doctor will point out that this is also a good attribute for a pickpocket, and that in any case the Republicans have eliminated funding for music education in the schools, leaving the accordion, drum kit, and boom box as the only choices readily available to children.

The Republican will say that although the little tiny soul is not actually visible in the ultrasound, probably because it is being blocked by the elbow, it is most assuredly there and has been since before the blastocyst stage.
4. Little tiny soul

The Democrat will note that the image is cloudy and there is no feasible scientific way of determining for certain whether or not the fetus is already on the path to becoming a meth dealer, but there is no way to rule it out, either.

The Republican will comment that the child with all its perfect components parts (listed) will, if given the chance, be born into the Land of the Free.

The Democrat will say, clearing his throat, he doesn't know about Free, but it costs $241,000 on average to raise a child to adulthood, adding, however, that it is not at all unusual these days for that adult child to remain in the basement playing video games, whacking off, and getting Cheeto dust all over the furniture until he is well into his forties.

The plan has been implemented on a trial basis in a number of counties in Texas resulting, in every case, in bloodshed or the threat thereof, with the unarmed Democrat considered to be at a distinct disadvantage.

As a result, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a.k.a. Notorious RBG) weighed in on the issue, proposing that the single Republican doctor should indeed be the only one in attendance, just as soon as he finishes reading Where The Wild Things Are to a million frozen embryos.