Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Cough Drop Of My Dreams

In the 1950s, every child in America had their tonsils taken out, until I came along, and evidently I was Dr. Martin's inspiration to try leaving them in to see what happened. Dr. Martin was our family doctor. He made house calls with his black bag and called my mom "Mother." Sometimes he'd just poke his head into my bedroom and take a good sniff and then write out a prescription. What the heck, Dr. Martin is said to have opined, those tonsils must be in there for a reason. Family lore holds that Dr. Martin said mine were "as big as hamburgers" in their normal summer state. In the winter they were often a raging mess of fire and pus-pockets. Everything infectious that came down the pike landed in my tonsils, and yet no one offered to remove them for me.

I wasn't even that bothered by sore throats because I was so used to that particular kind of pain. Once, as an adult, I went in to the doctor with some sort of strepto-crud, and he sent me off with antibiotics and offered to prescribe something for the pain. I was incredulous. Pills for sore throat pain? Ridiculous. I told Dave about it when I got home, without the prescription, and he about jumped out of his chair. "You never, ever, ever refuse painkillers," he drilled into me. Just as I was known for blown-up tonsils, he was famous for having his teeth blow up deep into a Friday night on a holiday weekend.

What I did hate was the awful cough that came in after the throat started to heal up. The kind of cough you could split your head open trying to suppress, and then once you gave in it was all over, and you coughed yourself into the dry heaves. And there was one thing and one thing only that could give you a fighting chance, and that was Parke-Davis Medicated Throat Discs. Major licorice flavor, which I hated, but oh boy did they work. They were a miracle. I've tried to find them since. I Googled them. Guess what? Someone is selling them on Etsy. Not the discs, precisely, but a "Vintage Box [EMPTY]" for $12.99."

I began to suspect they are truly unavailable.

And on the box is a hint why. They contain "not more than one-half minim of chloroform."

The Food and Drug Administration evidently drew the line on that in the '70s. A minim is one-sixtieth of a fluid dram, or about three-fathomsth of a cubit. In case you were wondering.

Well, shit. Somewhere around the same time it was determined that the pharmaceutical and advertising sectors were insufficiently profitable and so then we got TV advertisements for drugs to replace the cigarette ads. Up until then doctors were presumed to be the experts on what pills we should take but now we get to help them out by asking if such and such is right for us. "How about the Pill That Starts With F?" we say, helpfully, and our grateful physicians slap their foreheads and say "Boy howdy! I'd forgotten all about that one," and off we go with our pills, and off the advertisers go with our money. And this is why we now know exactly what we're in for, with warnings about everything from death to anal seepage, and whatever's in between.

So I'm not sure why we don't get to have the good stuff anymore. The cocaine in Coca-Cola, the chloroform in throat lozenges. How bad could they be?

Also, who saves forty-year-old cough drop boxes? That degree of speculation eludes me. But not my friend Walter. I remember he saw me with a metal Chapstick container in 1973 and said "Save that! They're making them out of plastic now." I've still got it somewhere, I think.

I wonder what Walter's got in his drawers. As one does.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Save The Billionaires!

Hey friend. Again with the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez meme? That's getting to be a habit with you. I know I asked once, and you said you just don't like her. I'd rather have more to go on than that, but okay, fine, you don't like her. I think maybe the only things you think you know about her are on these little propaganda hit pieces you keep posting, brought to you by the same folks who said Obama is a foreign-born Muslim terrorist. I don't know if you bought that too, but if you did, I'd say you're ripe for the picking.

This meme at least has a bit of substance to it, and isn't just trying to make AOC out to be a daffy uneducated bimbo. She's about as far from that as you can get, but evidently all you have to do is mock someone like that and people will gleefully spread it far and wide as though it were true. Just like you did! But this one cites a complaint about her involvement with a political action committee. The Federal Election Commission is looking into it, and I'd wait to see what they find out, myself--but hey, you go ahead on, and post the meme.

It's rich though. Really rich. The PAC she's involved with deliberately courts small donors. It's harder to come up with the millions it apparently takes to run a campaign when you're doing it that way, instead of tapping the billionaires, but it's the principle of the thing, and a fine principle it is for a working democracy, in my opinion. And the people ultimately responsible for ginning up the propaganda you lap up aren't bothering with the small donors.

They're probably starting with DonorsTrust,  through which they can make unlimited philanthropical (wink-wink) donations anonymously. And those untraceable billions, a.k.a. Dark Money, go to little grassroots (wink-wink) organizations like Americans For Job Security and All Votes Matter and Right To Work and other blatantly political outfits, many of which the original donors designed themselves. It's by far the biggest slush fund the world has ever seen, and look what it has accomplished! The defeat of universal health care in favor of the for-profit insurance industry, the rollback of taxes on the super-wealthy, and--most impressive of all--they were able to turn the tide on any effort to curb global warming, by paying off a few scientists, submitting a new script to their propaganda arms, planting irate citizen-actors in town halls, conducting focus groups to learn what particular line of bullshit would appeal to Mr. and Mrs. America, and good old-fashioned threats to pull funding from legislators--that sort of thing. Thus they were able to secure enormous private fortunes for another twenty years or so while threatening the future of every man, woman, child, fetus, and wombat on the planet. Bless their stony hearts, they may well have killed us all.

So. This is the group infiltrating your social media feed. This is the group working so hard to bring down this young freshman Ocasio-Cortez. And it's easy to see why the billionaire boys' club doesn't like her. They hate everything she stands for: Democratic Socialism, through which they might be relieved of the grossest excesses of their wealth in order to make life substantially better and more secure for people like you and me. And support for unions and a livable wage, both of which cut into their profits but which produce the actual job-providers. (You didn't buy that bit about the billionaires being the job providers, did you? Oh honey. It's normal people with enough security to live modestly with dignity, and pay each other to paint their houses or their nails. We keep each other afloat. And unions used to make sure we could, even those of us who weren't in one.) And, most urgent of all, she stands for getting us the hell off of fossil fuels and into the economy of the future before we have no future at all. Fast. Too fast, too extreme? As someone recently said, we're not in charge of the deadline: physics is. Ocasio-Cortez knows how imperative this work is, and how disruptive, and is working to make sure the poor and the shrunken middle class don't bear the brunt of it. She is not extreme. She is absolutely right.

So that's who's behind all this nastiness and mockery you like to spread around. I know exactly why the billionaires want to destroy this young woman. What I don't get is why you want to carry their water.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Yellowing Up

Speaking of things I should know but don't, and I was just about to, here's a thing: there is a bird called a Lesser Goldfinch that I never heard of until about five years ago, even though there are a billion of them at any one time in our very yard.

There is nothing like birding to distinguish the people who notice things from the people who are too busy jamming their thumbs up their butts. I have been both of those people in the same day. "Oh, it's a lesser goldfinch," I heard someone say on my first Birdathon, and I was duly puzzled. Goldfinches I know. This sounded like a slight. Get to know that goldfinch, I wanted to say, before you start casting nasturtiums.

But in fact a Lesser Goldfinch is considerably smaller than an American Goldfinch, somewhat greenish on the back, a bit less show-offy, has an extra comma on its wing bars, and says "peww, peww. Peww?" I know all that now because apparently, all this time, they have been slathered every which way in my yard. And they're there all year long. Not noticing them is the very definition of a character flaw.

And so it is I had another smack-my-head observation the other day. I used to notice when the American ("regular") Goldfinches came back for the season. Hard not to. They're ridiculously bright yellow. It's spring, the scent of daphne is in the air, and all of a sudden your tree is filled with sunshine on the wing. It's like the swallows coming back to Camp Castrato, or wherever, except in your very yard.

But what I finally noticed is they've been back for a while, or never left. They just haven't been yellow. And now they're yellowing up. That's what they do. It's a work in progress.

Birds molt at least once a year. All of them. They have to. They can't go whackety whackety with those wings all year long and not need to replenish. And many of them have a spring suit and an autumn suit. The males' nesting season duds are frequently more eye-catching. No particular point in being both eye-catching and tasty in the winter, so then they tend toward dull.

But when they molt, most of them don't just drop their drawers and haul on a new outfit. It happens feather by feather: the old one gets pushed out, and the new one grows in. And so that nice even beige color of the male winter goldfinch goes spotty and mottly for a while before it's finally all Hey-Baby yellow.

Even the dashing goldfinch has dark wings, though. The darker pigment adds strength to the feather, and the tail and wings do the most whacketing, so they need to be able to hold up. You look around. Dollars to donuts your birds are liable to have dark wings and tails too, no matter what other colors they are.

I feel privileged to have finally been able to notice my birds yellowing up. It's probably because we moved the bird feeder a foot away from the window. That is a real boon to the near-sighted person. Turns out that you can cut down on bird-window strikes by putting your feeders that close. I'm not sure why, but it seems to have helped. The cat-window strikes from the inside are through the roof, but the birds are doing great.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Getting Sloshed

Dave and I are both pretty good noticers. So when he stands at the front door and says "Huh. Now that's something you don't see every day," I will haul my butt over and have me a look. It could be crow antics. Could be a cool bug. This is Portland: it could be a naked woman juggling hamsters on a double-story bike.

"Huh," I agreed, standing at the front door.

"Ain't that sumpin'?" Dave said.

Yes it is. It's a blog post, is what it is.

A river was running down our street. Canoeable. There was police tape at the intersection. And firemen all over the place. Global warming promises to deliver extreme weather events, but they're not usually this localized. A party atmosphere prevailed. The couple across the street had bundled up their infant and were headed south, or as we refer to it now, upstream. "Going to check it out?" I asked, and they said No. They were going around the corner to T. C. O'Leary's for a beer. Before noon. As they reasoned it, St. Patrick's Day was only a day away, and there was no point risking the water would rise and they'd miss it.

I put on my leaky rubber boots and headed out. I don't own any boots that keep me dry in two feet of water anyway. If I did, I'd dance on a stage.

All up and down Alberta Street, the consensus was that this was an even better show with a beer in hand. Galleries were empty, bars were full.

A thirty-inch water main had busted up at 23rd and Skidmore and was busily mapping out the relative elevations of the Alameda Ridge. I knew we weren't quite at the high point--in fact the water main probably was--and if you continue north about four miles you hit the Columbia River, which is, by definition, the low point of everything. That was another thing Dave noticed once. We'd lived here a few years by then, and he was standing in the middle of our street and said how cool it was that you could see sailboats going by. He wasn't on any meds at the time that I could adjust, so I joined him in the street and I will be dag-blasted if tiny boats weren't sailing by in the distance. (He was also the one who noticed the day it was pouring rain in the front yard and sunny and dry in the back, and now, because of those two observations, he gets to pull my leg as hard as he wants, because every ten years or so he's right.)

Before I gave up and submerged my boots--it only hurts for a bit--I asked one of the nice firemen for a hand up onto the relatively shallow sidewalk. It's not like they were doing anything. Five thousand uniformed firemen and nobody offers to pick an old lady up off the street? He frowned at me. "Is there somewhere you need to be, Ma'am?"

In your arms, sugar. In your big meaty fireman arms.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Poop On Joe The Plumber

You know, if it weren't for the occasional meme that gets tracked into my Facebook page on a right-wing shoe, I wouldn't know that Denver has just legalized pooping on the sidewalk in order to protect illegal immigrants from deportation at the behest of Democrats who need their votes in order to continue their march toward socialism and the destruction of freedom as we know it. I had been unaware of this, but it makes sense.

Liberals are rightly concerned because it is well known that homeless illegal immigrants are particularly drawn to city sidewalks for their defecation activities, in many cases passing up clean heated restrooms for the opportunity to drop their drawers in public. This is a long-standing tradition among peoples who are expected to clean other people's toilets but not use them personally. It would be culturally insensitive to force them to use the public toilet facilities most American cities don't have any of.

In fact there are credible reports that illegal aliens, like dogs, have scaled the border wall just to drop a deuce in our yard, and be back home in time for din-din.

But even we liberals believe they should clean up after themselves, so we are pressing for legislation to provide Baggies & Ballots in street dispensers along with absorbent American flags to wipe with.

Illegal immigrant homeless poop is considered more of a public health threat because it takes the jobs of regular homeless poop. Worse, evidently there is a thousand-foot-long turd oozing toward our southern border. Much if not most of the illegal drugs passing into the United States have been shown to be passed first through illegal immigrant rectums. Pooping on the sidewalk does make the cocaine retrieval a lot easier.

Wait a minute. A quick fact check revealed that Denver did not in fact just make sidewalk pooping legal but instead lowered the penalties to sixty days in jail per turd, and they did it two years ago.

So why is this meme making the rounds now? This particular story has been brought to us on an annual basis (or as needs of rage require) courtesy Joe The Plumber, who was never a plumber and cannot be expected to help with the waste management situation. In fact, he puts out a lot of shit himself.

I don't know. Poop is a problem. I think we need to build a stall. A big, beautiful stall.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Beer From Here

Every year I scour my annual credit card statement looking for hidden items my tax preparer might be interested in. You never know. I'm forgetful. I may have suffered an involuntary donation. Or had a dependent child all this time. Or went blind. Or maybe the cat can be depreciated. She's not getting any younger.

What really struck me this year is that if my credit card is any reflection on my discretionary spending--and that's pretty much what it is--all I did with my pension was (1) piss it away and (2) turn it into shit. That's right. I didn't buy any things. No new furniture. No clothes. No car. No gadgets. Dave got some shoes but that's to keep him from wearing his feet down to little ankle stumps. He walks a ton. Nope: everything we bought we either pissed away or it turned to shit.

Grocery stores. Restaurants. Brewpubs. And repeat.

We love great food and great beer. And we happen to be in about the best town in the world for it. I will re-use Kleenex and save seeds and stick extenders on my pencils but my wallet shoots wide open for really nice food and beer. I like that it employs my fellow citizens too. Our money goes sideways and around and around, and not to Jeff Bezos.

Beer has been really good here for about thirty years. With your first swallow you can tell that your beer is instantly embarking on a search-and-destroy mission to locate and eliminate pockets of unhappiness. There are many people who think this is a bad thing. They say, in fact, that alcohol has many untoward effects such as shriveling your brain, enblobbening your liver, shredding your stomach lining, making your heart all stretchy, pitching a tent in your pancreas, and ruining your relationships. And all of this is even egregiouser if you're a small female. But they're basing this on nothing more than rigorous scientific inquiry, exhaustive longitudinal studies, and peer-reviewed medical research, whereas I hold that it is entirely possible I am the "exception that proves the rule"--a sound principle that I know is scientific because it has the word "prove" in it.

Besides, it's not all about the buzz. I don't drink Budweiser--I'm not an animal.

We were quite taken with Bridgeport IPA when it came out in the 1980s. In fact, it seemed to solve almost everything. Bridgeport was a pioneer that put hoppy beers on the map and won a bunch of international awards with them, too. They were kind of the Big Daddy that got it all going. But then smaller breweries started up. Roots Brewery was a revelation: their organic IPA solved problems I didn't even have yet. Then one day we showed up at their pub and the place had just folded up. No warning. It was awful.

But soon after came the Burnside Brewery, which made tremendous beer AND food (smoked trout deviled eggs with flying-fish roe and dill vinaigrette? Come on.) AND was located in the exact right spot to get refreshment on a twelve-mile city hike and still leave a nice contemplative hour for walking home. If we only wanted to go a couple miles we could pop into Alameda Brewing. And of course even if a place doesn't brew its own beer it still maintains a zillion taps for people like us--there are probably seven such establishments within three blocks of our home.

But cue the shark music. You know those stories where a bunch of people are stuck on a moving train and one by one they either (1) disappear or (2) get really nervous? We're getting really nervous.

Burnside Brewery just up and closed, lock, stock, and deviled eggs. Their employees were as surprised as anyone. They've still got a silo of beer out front. Alameda Brewery just shut down. And now Big Daddy Bridgeport is closing too. Suddenly this town is awash in unemployed barkeeps.

I'm mentally prepared for invasions of climate migrants. The collapse of fisheries. The insect die-off. The end of air travel. Extinction. It's not easy, but in the face of all this I am able to keep breathing in and out because of a few key tricks of perspective: (1) the insignificance of our globe in the universe, and (2) my own imminent demise. I can keep my cool.

But it's going to be a lot harder without beer.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The House Guests

Well, shoot, something must've been in the air, because yesterday we got our first ants AND our first raccoons of the year. The ants were rolling around snickering on the roof and the raccoons were marching in a purposeful little line from the back door. Or maybe it was the other way around.

I don't have a big quarrel with the raccoons. We can even go a few years without seeing any, although I suspect they're around even then. It's remarkable how elusive they manage to be whilst being so substantial. If a really large cat swallowed a basketball and it got hung up just at the rectum, it would look like a raccoon. Cats can't swallow basketballs, of course. You're thinking of Labrador Retrievers.

Dave did have a big quarrel with the raccoons once. He was peeing behind the tool shed, as one does, with his business well in hand, and turned to find a committee of raccoons watching him, and wondering if he had anything he wanted to share with the class. He did not. It was a bit of a standoff and obviously he negotiated an exit, but you know there had to be that moment in which he was reviewing just how much of a threat a raccoon is. They never seem to come after you directly, and you've never heard of anyone with personal raccoon damage, but there's something deeply untrustworthy about them. They just don't fear us enough. If I had my hand on a private portion of myself I was particularly fond of, I'd be alarmed.

I do keep a compost pile, and have yet to observe anything untoward rooting around in it, but that's probably because it's guarded by attack scrub jays. You'd have to be a complete idiot to take on a scrub jay, because they'll stab you in the head as soon as look at you. So I don't know where these large mammals are hanging out when they're not doing the moonlight dance on our roof. I do see their poop. It could be opossum poop, but raccoons are said to use latrines, and this poop tends to be all bunched up in the same place, under our grape arbor. If you spend any time online looking up raccoon poop, and who hasn't, you will find yourself strongly advised to remove your raccoon poop latrine, so as to avoid getting raccoon roundworms. I'm not real worried about that. You get raccoon roundworms, it says here, by ingesting raccoon poop, and that wasn't anything I was planning to do. You're thinking of Labrador Retrievers.

I'm doing the regular thing with the ants. I give them a couple squirts of ant poison in a sweet gel and they scarf it up and take it to their nests, in the form of themselves, and then drop dead, are briefly mourned by their colleagues and are, themselves, eaten. It seems disrespectful but it's tidy and efficient, I suppose. I should probably feel bad about my treatment of native fauna but I understand that there is no ant shortage.  In fact, there are more ants than there are anything else. Besides, they eat their dead. Who does that?

Labrador Retrievers, probably. They'll eat anything. Or they'd at least roll in it. Which is fine, as long as they don't do it on my roof.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ivanka: The Moral Leader We've Been Waiting For

Attention please: First Daughter Ivanka Trump has just made an important pronouncement.

By the way, does Tiffany get to be a first daughter too, even though she's farther down the line of success, I mean succession, and needs more plastic surgery to make standard? No matter. We'll go ahead and call Ivanka the first daughter, although there's probably no way of knowing at this point how many there really are, either fleshed or flushed.

Anyway, back to Ivanka's important pronouncement. She really isn't getting enough credit for it. She is now in a high enough position she can look right down into the hearts of Americans, most of them anyway, and she likes what she sees. She says:

"I don't think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. People want to work for what they get. So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want."

And she is absolutely right. Most people not only want to work, they also want to be paid for it, and not at a wage that has been driven down over the years by employers' willingness to exploit a vulnerable immigrant slave class for their personal profit. I'd go so far as to say most people who put in at least a forty-hour work week would like to be able to rent some kind of shelter and feed themselves, and it would be super awesome if they didn't have to worry what would happen if they got sick, too. You know, they'd like to be able to live modestly with some security, like they do in those backwards countries like Sweden and Denmark.

And all that is totally possible as long as we listen to our First Daughter, The One That Counts. Because if it is true that most Americans want to work for what they get, things are about to change for the better around here. This means Americans like little Ivanka and her peers--and who knows them better?--must be totally on board with a maximum wage. You make a million a year, five million, fifty million--we should be able to decide on a reasonable limit somewhere--that really ought to do it for you, assuming you want to work for what you get.

We could even cross our fingers and pretend everyone in that range has worked hard to make the world a better place. Ha ha! But there's got to be a certain amount above which we can all agree that, no matter who you are, you cannot possibly have earned it. Then we scoop up your soul-corrupting excess, everyone else gets a decent minimum and health care and a modicum of support and security, and you still get to be rich as all fuck. Nothing but winners here.

And, Skippy? You might make a case that you've earned all your money, up to a point, but once you've started just piling it up instead of paying your workers decent wages or safeguarding the environment, it's time for the grownups to take over. We don't let the entitled brats run the show. They'll get spoiled, and we want them to be civilized members of society.

It doesn't even have to be tied to merit. A generous society can even reward those who haven't worked a day in their lives, if we want to. It would be nuts not to confiscate most of the utterly unwarranted millions they got from dear old dead dad, but we can let them have a real nice start without penalty, a bit of a boost, and after that it's all up to them.

There is such a thing as a "self-made man," but of course Ivanka's daddy isn't it. If you were going to make a man, would you make one like that? Of course you wouldn't. But we can let folks like him get that nice good running start before we start relieving them of their unearned excess. What we can't do is abolish the estate tax altogether. That would be morally corrupting, and sweet Ivanka wouldn't hear of it.

Because we're Americans. We all want to work for what we get.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

R.I.P. Lester Boyd, Falcon Sex Pioneer

I guess everyone knows by now that the falcon sex hat is a thing. It's been making the rounds on the internet. It's old hat, as it were. Smelly old hat, but nonetheless.

The most disturbing thing about the falcon sex hat is not that someone might want a falcon to have sex on his hat. In fact, I'd guess a fair portion of people surveyed might say they'd at least like to try it once, and a lot who swear up and down they wouldn't might act very different in private. Guaranteed, if some guy is railing about the evils of falcon hat sex on the floors of Congress, he should be checked for feathers on his way out of the bathroom stall.

No, the most disturbing thing about the falcon sex hat is that someone had a good idea it would work in the first place. The object here is to take your captive hand-raised falcons and make more falcons with them. The difficulty arises when falcons introduced in a mixer to not show any interest in each other, but rather to the humans who raised them. At that point if you're going to get the pertinent fluid out of a bird, you need to make yourself attractive to him. He's got to want you.

My first thought wouldn't have been to make a sex hat. If anything, falcon sex underpants. That seems to put things more in the ball park. So if sex skivvies weren't the first idea out of the box, that must mean they had a pretty good hunch about the hat. Which means peregrine falcons were already trying to mate with their heads. Dollars to donuts, the hat inventor was a guy with a bald spot.

The business portion of a female peregrine falcon looks more like a guy with a bald spot than anything else. So when spring was in the air, the falconers probably took to wearing hats just in the interests of personal hygiene. I know I would, and I'm not really a hat person. And then somewhere along the line, the light bulb went off--just after the falcon did, in all likelihood--and he said, hey now, if I make this hat such that it would be easier to scoop up the spunk, I'd be halfway to a new bird.

So that's what he did. It's a rubber hat covered with little shallow cells: a twat-waffle, if you will. It's Jizz Bingo: you can't know which of the cells your bird is going to whack off into, so you put them all over and then locate and collect your specimen neatly with a syringe. No muss, no fuss, no need to haul out the rubber spatula. Oh, there's also a nice turned-up brim, just to give the bird a good purchase, and maybe keep the overflow off your neck.

The hat has been around since the early 'Seventies, when peregrine falcons were on the now-familiar brink of extinction. Lester Boyd, a legend in falcon sex, invented it. He wasn't bald after all. Balled, sure. He died last month at the age of 77, and we salute him. It's probably time for a new hat.

As far as transferring the donation to the females goes, a certain degree of consent is required. But that's only right.

                                  Be sure to turn up the sound for this.