Saturday, March 6, 2021

Getting The Jump On Panic


I hear they're about to roll out a warning system for earthquakes around here. It's called ShakeAlert. Apparently this will give you three seconds' notice.
 
This is already in operation in California, where it might conceivably be of some use. They schedule earthquakes all the time in California. They're like zoom meetings: there are too many of them and nobody really enjoys them anymore, but at least everyone knows how they work. In California the ground goes sideways so often that people have their protocols memorized. 
 
Here, we get an earthquake every three hundred years. It's a doozy, but it's hard to anticipate.
 
So I imagine in California everyone has scoped out the safest place to hunker down during an earthquake, with the awareness changing from room to room as they walk through the house, and given three seconds' warning they can actually change their personal outcomes. They've rehearsed.
 
I have no idea what I would do with three seconds' warning. Pull a Q-Tip out of my ear, maybe. Or grab the toilet paper, if I could, since that's the first thing I'd need after the quake. Supposedly you should be able to get a warning from the birds and animals, even your own personal cat, although ours would have to wake up first and can't even get a whole yawn out in three seconds. And really, the birds are no help either. If all the birds fly away at once, it's going to be a Cooper's hawk just about every time, and an earthquake every three hundred years. So.
 
Now when I was working at the post office, there could have been some merit in a warning system. Everyone had a big metal sorting case they stood at, and if we make the charitable assumption that everyone is in fact working, and not wandering around with a football pool, that means everyone has something solid they can duck under during an earthquake. In theory. In reality, we had all sorts of things stashed underneath our cases where our bodies might have otherwise fit. Trays of vacation-hold mail, for instance. It's considered bad form to deliver someone's vacation mail after you've pooped all over it. Not unprecedented, but still poor from a public-relations standpoint.

There's another problem with the ShakeAlert warning system. It comes over your phone. I don't even know where my phone is. Everyone else has a phone in their pocket so I guess I should take it as a warning if everyone stopped suddenly and went "WAH! WAH! WAH!" Does it give me enough time to evacuate? In my shorts, maybe.

Let's just say I'm going to need more than three seconds. If you gave me two days' warning, I could probably assemble a proper bug-out bag of groceries, clothing, extra glasses, TP, and a tent. Maybe I could do that right now, but it would interfere with my mental-health policy of reducing anxiety through applied ignorance. And so far, that has served me very well.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Scoring the Dose


We got our first COVID vaccinations the usual way. There was a rumor that a kilo of Pfizer had landed on the east side and we went to meet some guy behind a warehouse, and he flashed open his trench coat, studded with open appointment slots. I was dubious, and when I feigned disinterest, he said "All right, sweetheart, you got me--but if you want the real deal, go to the dumpster behind the CVC and ask for Vinnie."

Vinnie's collection of appointment slots was obviously fake, just magic marker on pieces of masking tape, and we weren't falling for it, but he got his cousin on the phone and I will be damned but he totally had slots, slots for days. He only operated between midnight and 2am, but if you could stay up that late, he had it all: Walgreen's, Rite-Aid, and a jackpot at the Convention Center. We signed up right away and told all our friends, and they all got appointments too, until the third day when the velvet rope went up, and the latecomers were sent back out to work the alleyways.

It ain't easy. One couple we know found a scalper on the corner of Fifth and Hallelujah and got all signed up, and when they got to the vaccination site it turned out to be a pitch for time-shares in Florida, plus the cookies were stale.

So screw them, right? We got ours, and that's what matters. They had a slick operation there at the Convention Center. They're running six thousand people a day through there, moving them through the cordoned aisles as smooth as corpuscles in the bloodstream. We never stopped moving. There were mazes of aisles, and ushers to insert us into them, and at the end everybody got the cheese. We sat for fifteen minutes so someone could scoop us up if we keeled over, and then we were out of there.

It was an easy shot. Four hours later I got a nasty case of shoulder flu. No other side-effects, but I was dragging knuckles on one side like Quasimodo and had to lift my right arm with my left arm just to put it on my lap. This, I am assured, is a good sign.

It means my body is putting up some kind of fight and should be commended at the earliest opportunity. My body, in theory, has gobs of white blood cells whose chief occupation is defense and homeland security. Some of them find invading germs and eat them. They spit out the icky bits, called antigens, and then others produce antibodies to attack the antigens. It takes a while to stock the armory but with any luck your body will be able to get ahead of the germ before you drop dead.

Vaccines are designed to rev up the whole system. They simulate an invasion and muster your white cells to get off their duffs. Some are "live attenuated" vaccines; they use a disabled germ, like sending in an invading army of quadriplegic soldiers with spears. Inactivated vaccines, such as our new friend the COVID vaccine, are armed with Nerf spears and Whiffle-cannons. You need a booster a few weeks later because your body doesn't take it as seriously at first, but by the time the second surge begins, it's plenty annoyed by all the Nerfing and Whiffling and it's had a chance to stock up on antibodies and complain to the condominium association abut kids these days.

The other thing your body does after encountering a vaccine is it assigns some of the white blood cells to be Memory Cells. They're responsible for neighborhood watch patrols and they get on the two-way if they spot any of the germs they've got antibodies for.

This is the part that worries me. If I develop any memory cells, they're just going to wander all over the place. They'll bunch up around the kneecap and say "Now what is it I came in here for?" and then they'll have to make another trip around to remember. And if they do bump into any germs, they're going to waste time trying to trick the germs into telling them their names again. "We've got a situation down here in the trachea," they'll call out. "It's that old whatchamacallit virus, the one that looks like an orange with the cloves stuck in it? No? The one that was married to that other one that used to play the neighbor on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Yeah, well, shit, I don't know. Just send over the whole kit when you get a chance, I guess."

This is why old people are in more trouble.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Wattle It Be?


I won't speculate why my facebook page is showing me so many ads for cosmetic neck creams except to point out that there is a camera on my laptop, and who knows where it goes at night? One of the ads promises to give you a "neck that turns heads." It's called Système 41. The Système makes it Frenchy, and the 41 makes it sciencey.

You'd think turning a head would be the bare minimum we should expect out of a neck, but there's no guarantee of it, and I know that first-hand. The family still remembers that camping trip during which my sister had to extract me from my own sleeping bag like string cheese from a wrapper because my neck had completely locked up. That was the most acute episode of the story, but the problem persisted for a number of years that can be measured in chiropractic bills. I did finally fix my neck, but not in a way anyone else would notice.

This particular ad was for a product that could make my neck lovely enough to attract favorable attention. My head would float like a wine goblet on a delicate stem, and heads would, presumably, turn.

Heck, they turn anyway. My neck is an anatomical wonder. My head bobs around on it like a cherry on a bowl of tapioca. Over time, it has developed interesting topographical features including crevasses and pillow lava and, dead center in the throat region, an awesome sinkhole. Under magnification, face mites can be seen fleeing its vortex. (This is visible with the naked eye during a Zoom meeting.)

All of this was easily predicted. Whatever my finer physical attributes may have been, my neck was never among them. It's as if God wanted me to have a tiny but dense head and gave me a handy cushion to rest it on. At this stage my neck is merely fulfilling its destiny.

The particular cream that promises to turn heads is made, it says here, of four different manufactured peptides, or protein fragments, plus a bonus ingredient made of stem cells from a grape. They excitedly note it costs far less than $150 neck creams, but, I contend, it costs a whole lot more than a homemade protein patch of Spam stem cells derived from the goo layer at the bottom of the can.

There really is something to be said for plant stem cells in cosmetics. Plant stem cells are good at regeneration; if you cut a stem, you'll get new buds. Liberally applied to the neck, they might produce a crop of energetic skin tags waving like sea anemone fingers at low tide. Stem cells in general are capable of turning into almost any kind of cell. Grape stem cells do not have to worry about turning into livers or hearts or urinary tracts but can concentrate on becoming miles and miles of grapevine. I hesitate to apply grape stem cells to my neck in case I fall asleep in my recliner and my neck puddles up, crawls over the chair, and vaults onto the computer desk.

Human stem cells would probably work even better, but the industry has focused on plant cell technology because an economically significant percentage of consumers balk at using embryo bits, even for such a desirable result as turkey-neck improvement, although market studies show that resistance is largely overcome if we throw in the possibility of thicker, more luxuriant hair.

In any case, the development of an effective neck cream is a laudable use of resources now that we've got world hunger, disease, and environmental degradation under control. As for me, I have my own beauty regime for my neck. I discovered it last year.




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Minus Cotinus


I didn't know what it was, but I did know when it was.

It was at 12:30 a.m. Woke me right up. I didn't rule out earthquake for the first couple seconds. Rumble crack shlump crackle crackle thunk boom. But no actual shaking. It sounded like a tree coming down just outside my bedroom window. The trees just outside my bedroom window aren't really substantial enough to have made that much noise. The only tree that would conceivably be a threat is in Anna's yard next door, and if it goes down, it could take us both out. Anna and I think that would be an acceptable sacrifice if the alternative is taking down a massive old Western cedar with a lively clientele of birds and mammals in it. That tree was big when we got here and we've been here 43 years. Anna's a tree person. I am too, now that we got rid of that dumb scarlet oak I never liked. Now I'm all on board for the trees. As it were.
 
Anyway, I popped right out of bed and looked out the window, and everything looked totally normal, except for several tons of ice on everything. My power line was bouncing a little, and I concluded a big shelf of snow had slid off the roof. I went back to sleep.
 
What's that word for taking pleasure in someone else's pain? Skunkenfrond? Fritzenshizzle? It's not nice.
 
I'm not always nice.
 
The next morning, as we blundered out in the sunshine to the sound of general artillery as the neighborhood shook off its ice, the mystery was solved. As it would have been the night before if I'd put on my glasses. A large tree had fallen down, across the street. On a car.
 
The tree, a 40-year-old Cotinus, was the last tree left in our neighbor's small front yard, after he'd had two massive, beautiful, healthy conifers taken down, ostensibly because he worried they might fall on his house. They were never going to fall on his house. The Cotinus that he left behind, however, came down upended root-ball and all, no longer having any support from the root system of the murdered trees. Oops!
 
Sadly, it did not fall down on any of that neighbor's oversized gas hogs, but instead on his neighbor's car, which was not much of a car, but it was all he had. So I feel bad for him. Sort of. He did use the car to run the occasional errand, but mostly he used it as a sound system. He has a fondness for insanely repetitive thumpa thumpa music with autotuned singing and naughty lyrics, and apparently that cannot be fully appreciated unless it's at a volume that dissolves kidney stones in the next block. Sometimes, in fact, it's best appreciated at one in the morning. Some of the individual songs are so dang appreciatable that they need to be played over and over again for an hour.
 
And now, there's a tree on all that.
 
Not only that, but there was a large squirrel's nest in that Cotinus that I've been noticing for a while that looked like it contained some items that previously belonged to me, and I couldn't quite get the angle with my binoculars to make sure, and now it's a foot off the ground near a left fender. It sure looks like it was a comfy nest. That is because sure enough it is lined with a brick-sized piece of Poly-Fil stolen from our chair cushion, a bit of thievery that the little shits like to engage in when they're not stripping insulation from our wiring or assaulting our bird feeder. Sure hope none of them fell on their little punkin heads when the tree came down.
 
Heh heh.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Anogenital Distance, Rabbit Holes, And You


Neanderthal sex!

I love science. I'll read anything. I will maintain stoutly that I did not click on this particular article to find out what sex with a Neanderthal was like. I don't even speculate about people I know. Far as I'm willing to go in my imaginings is that Neanderthals probably had to tip their heads sideways to kiss in order to avoid eyebrow-ridge abrasion. If they kissed at all.

No, I clicked on the article to find out how anyone has been able to hypothesize about Neanderthal sex. The things people have been able to figure out from the tiniest clues absolutely blow me away.

I mean, it wasn't too many years ago someone found a molar tooth and a finger bone and discovered a whole new kind of human, the Denisovans. And since then they've found a bone fragment--a fragment--that they've confidently identified as belonging to a young girl with a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father. (They named her Denny, but her real name was NeAnn. She was a Pisces and liked flute music and long walks on the beach.)

The article was specifically referring to sex between Neanderthals and modern humans, however, and doggone if they didn't conclude they did kiss. Because a scientist found a microbe calcified in Neanderthal tooth crud and recognized it as a modern human oral bacterium. The two species of human wouldn't have been expected to be freighting the same mouth bugs, so she ran some numbers and carried the one and determined the Neanderthal and modern versions of the little bugger drifted apart not all that long ago. If they'd both started with the same bacterium it would have happened much earlier, so she concluded there had definitely been mouth-on-mouth action.

Cool.

So, were Neanderthals promiscuous? One would fervently hope the answer could be found in cave paintings. And one would be right, inasmuch as stenciled hand paintings have revealed the artists' Digit Ratios. The what-now?

And this is why I read articles like these. You get sent down all these rabbit holes. I didn't even know Digit Ratios were a thing, but evidently people have drawn all sorts of conclusions from the ratio of the lengths of a person's index and ring fingers. The Neanderthals' lower ratio corresponds with less allegiance to monogamy, shall we say. So now I'm looking up Digit Ratio. Mine is relatively high. I don't know what Dave's is--and now I kinda want to--because we can't straighten out his ring finger. (But I do have a mallet.)

Digit ratio turns out to be a reflection of the available hormones the person was exposed to in the womb, with consequences all down the line. For instance, various digit ratios have been used to predict prostate cancer, aggression, masculinized handwriting, empathy, lesbianism, video game addiction, fear of spiders, and susceptibility to that Sarah McLachlan song about the arms of the angel. Digit-ratio studies have also been done on mice and pheasants.


Mice, and pheasants.
 
All right. I dunno. I was starting to lose interest until I read that digit ratio also correlated to anogenital distance (AGD), the distance between the center of your anus and your vagina and/or scrotum. I will be damned. There is such a thing as Taint Research! It's not a field I ever thought to explore, except at a layman's level, but I'm not about to poo-poo it. I'd think all the fun would be in the actual measuring process, with diminishing returns thereafter. However, Taint Science has given the world stunning sentences such as the following:

"Women who had high levels of phthalates in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to sons who were ten times more likely to have shorter than expected AGDs."
 
Well! I do not know my anogenital distance, offhand, and have no plans to find out, at my age. The only thing I know for certain is that neither my ring or my index finger is quite long enough to be able to play Schumann's Toccata. I blame my Mom.



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Tower Of Flower


I never had my own amaryllis. Nobody ever gave me one, and I wasn't likely to buy one for myself. Whenever I buy an indoor plant, all the other plants in the shop pitch in for the funeral luncheon.

But this Christmas someone gave me a bulb. And a kit. There was a little pot and a hard little puck of soil that magically fluffed out to fill the little pot, and then you set the big bulb in the little pot so that it sticks partway out. It looked like soup from the Middle Ages, the kind that's mostly boar's head poking out of a little moat of broth. Meat joints are flung to the mongrels and serving wenches overfill their dresses. It was a big-ass bulb, is what I'm saying.

You toss in a dab of water and stand back.


Now, I have sung about an amaryllis. Our madrigal group used to hack through that one. Not much to the lyrics: Adieu, sweet amaryllis, For since to part your will is. I like making rhymes, myself, so I'm familiar with how clunky a lyric can get when you're trying too hard to make a rhyme work. The composer John Wilbye was looking at his amaryllis, and all he came up with for a rhyme was "Willis," but he didn't know anyone named Willis, so he tried out Do tell, sweet amaryllis, you know where Mother's will is? but that didn't make sense, so he ended up with "since to part your will is" and then he had to say good-bye to it. Anyway, the song was a hit. Then he went on to write Farewell, my dear bergenia, For soon we won't be seenya, and Alas sweet marigold, You old.
 
The big bulb didn't do anything for a few days and then a little green knob poked up. Well, I'm familiar with the miracle of plant growth. I have seen entire gardens fur up with weeds if you turn your back for a few hours. My Echium "Mr. Happy" shoots out a ten-foot spire of flowers audibly. If you don't yank a holly at the two-inch-tall stage you'll have to take a chainsaw to it. Plants are amazing.


But that's the thing about amaryllises: people like them because they grow in the dead of winter when nothing else botanical is happening. So they really stand out. You can't look away. My amaryllis thrust itself straight up, a big, turgid, meaty thing it was, and there was something fleshy swelling at the top, and ultimately four fat, lusty flowers exploded out of it and presented to the world like baboons at a sloth convention. I stared in wonder and embarrassment. What in the natural world pollinates such a thing? I visualized a big bumbly bee lumbering in there like a fat old dude manspreading in a sauna in a tiny towel, his entire reproductive apparatus swinging among the stamens.

It's rude, especially in the winter. There should be pajamas on that thing.

And if it were not cocky enough, lo, a little batch of strappy leaves yearned below it like an entourage. 

I know what comes next, because I sang the song. To part its will is. It's going to fold up and go away. If it takes longer than four hours, I'll have to call the doctor.






Saturday, February 13, 2021

Farrelly's Folly


I am now hot on the trail of the story of our house. Remarkably, it appears to have been occupied continuously since 1906 by someone in the family of the original builder, until we took over in 1978. There was an owner in between, but that was just the guy who bought it to flip, after spraying Navajo White all over the wallpaper and disciplining the floors in a deep rust shag, and he ended up getting murdered in a trailer park in California. So.

But I have a family name now! Miss Jane Farrelly, plucky conqueror of tall mountains, and the never-married sister of Florence Farrelly Kraxberger! An Amazon, she was! Or if she's anything like her younger sister Florence, a teeny tiny Amazon. Even better!

Unfortunately, the trail went cold there. I found nothing on the free genealogy sites about Miss Jane and Florence, or any Portland Farrellys. Except that Miss Jane's obituary mentioned a funeral at St. Charles Catholic Church--at the time, about five blocks from our house--and burial in Mt. Calvary Cemetery. I wondered if I should pay her bones a visit, and checked out the cemetery website. Which led to a photo on FindAGrave of her stone, and the information that she was buried next to her brother Joseph. There were other Farrellys at rest there too. Don't know where Florence went, but other names turned up, including a mother, Anna Agnes Boylen Farrelly, and a father.


Peter Philip Farrelly. The clueless but determined builder of our miraculously still-standing home. There  you have it, Dave!

Feeding some of this information back into the genealogy sites, I discovered more siblings. Not all at once, tidily, but in dribs and drabs, with spellings and birthdates varying slightly from one record to another. By the time I unearthed the 1910 census, it had occurred to me that the father simply couldn't remember exactly when they were all born. And left one out. And there were at least nine. Philip, Joseph, Jane, Stephen, Florence, Francis, Frances, Clair, and William. Six of them were born in Pennsylvania. The oldest was born in New Jersey in 1890, a chaste 14 months after his parents' wedding; the youngest in Kansas in 1908. I am hereby assuming he dropped out of Mrs. Farrelly en route to Portland where Dad had been getting the house ready for the big move. Miss Jane was born in 1895, and appears as "Jennie" in the census. She was no older than 23 when she climbed Mt. Hood, stood atop, ice axe aloft, and thundered I am JANE!
 
I'm not sure if there were any children after William. In my research, they just kept showing up one by one, and I'm sure Mrs. Farrelly felt the same way.

But Pennsylvania?

Our fine local neighborhood historian, Doug Decker, once looked into the story of our 15-block plat, the Foxchase Addition. He discovered that it was filed on April 1, 1889, five months before the Farrellys got married, by a land speculator named J. Carroll McCaffrey. A Philadelphia native, he lived and traveled between Portland and Philadelphia frequently. Advertisements for lots in his new plat, located on a high ground of fields, forest, and dirt roads, began to appear in The Oregonian--and presumably back in Pennsylvania as well: "FOXCHASE: BEST BUY IN PORTLAND, $100, $5 down, $5 a month."

Fox Chase was a fancy neighborhood of mansions in northeastern Philadelphia, and McCaffrey's name choice was designed to entice prospective buyers. One of whom was the newlywed Mr. Peter Philip Farrelly, who purchased his Western dream. All but two of his children were born in Woodbourne, Pennsylvania--fifteen miles from Fox Chase. The hopeful Mr. Farrelly snapped up our two lots, bless his soul forever, and hove out to new territory with nothing but a dream and way too much confidence in his building skills.

Meanwhile Mr. McCaffrey, the speculator, was convicted and sent to prison after having been charged with fraud enough times he couldn't afford a bondsman. His wife filed for divorce. When he won an appeal on a technicality, he fled back to PA, sprayed his wallpaper Navajo White, installed dark shag carpeting, and ultimately took his own life.

Why do I care? Why have I spent hours on this endeavor? We want to draw a line through our own lives. A tether to somewhere. The future is opaque, and the only thing that we know will happen for certain is something we'd rather not think about. So we throw a line and a hook into the past, hoping it snags on something. And then we hold on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Florence On My Mind


People like to remark on our house. It's unusual, for our neighborhood, especially since the addition.

"Say, you'd know," a young woman said once, passing by. "What did this use to be? A house?"

We might have gone a little overboard on our addition. We were young. But the new parts were only a few years old at that point, and already our house was shrouded in mystery. As most are. Unless you've scooped up a historical house built by a 19th-century lumber baron, you probably don't know much about your house, even it it's not that old. Somebody once knew all the answers, but their knowledge has vaporized. Like a virus without a host, it just died out.

That's why it was so much fun to meet Mrs. Kraxberger soon after we bought the place.

We knew the Kraxbergers lived here. We still got some Kraxberger junk mail, and the neighbor lady said it was the Kraxberger place. You don't forget a name like Kraxberger. Tiny Mrs. Kraxberger was chauffeured here by a bored and sullen grand-nephew "to visit the old place," and we'd invited her in.

All we knew about our house was it was built in 1926 in a plat called Foxchase Addition. Wrong, said Mrs. K. It was a one-room house her father built around 1906, and added onto later, finally getting dormers on the second floor in 1926. The kids, she said, lived in a tent in the front yard until there was room for them. Her father had never built anything before, she said, with some pride.

At this point, Dave had been drilling judiciously at likely points in the kitchen wall, looking for studs. Some were inches apart, some yards apart. When he couldn't find a pattern to the construction, he took a SkilSaw to the whole wall in search of studs. Or it might have been a chainsaw, which would have better suited his mood at the time. The windows were truly "hung:" nothing supported them underneath. Wasn't too much later he noticed the dog's ball rolled toward the center of the house from every direction. He went into the basement and came up horrified. Evidently Mrs. Kraxberger's father had decided to put stairs to the basement inside as an afterthought. He'd cut them in but didn't support the joists afterwards, which were just hanging out, open-ended, with two stories of  house on top of them. Dave got some lumber and went to work. The wallpaper ripped as he jacked up the house; there was a vertical displacement of nearly six inches.

So it is a tribute to Dave's finer qualities, which include courtesy and respect for his elders as well as building skills, that he merely smiled, if rigidly, when Mrs. Kraxberger said that her father didn't know anything about construction.

Not Miss Jane
Well, we never got the photographs she said she might have had, and when, fifteen years later, the internet became a thing, I decided to try to find out more about our house. It would be nice to put a name to the gentleman responsible for vexing my husband, which is usually my job. It wouldn't be Kraxberger; that was his daughter's married name. I didn't get too far. Until recently.

The old address of our house, before the Great Renumbering, was 1072 E. 29th Avenue N. If you put that address into the googles, you get one good hit. Miss Jane Farrelly, of that address, is listed as a member of the Mazamas in 1918. The Great Librarian--see previous post--confirmed that a Farrelly was the principle, or possibly only, resident of our house in the 1930 directory.

A Mazama! In order to be a member of the Mazamas, a mountaineering club which lent its name to the massive volcano that blew up 7700 years ago and left Crater Lake behind, you have to have bagged at least one major glaciated peak. The club was founded in 1894 and welcomed women from the outset, which was highly unusual at the time. Miss Jane Farrelly probably started by climbing nearby Mt. Hood. In a dress.

Devil's Punch Bowl
There's a bit more online about Miss Jane: her obituary. She had moved to Alaska Territory and worked in Skagway and Juneau before landing in Fairbanks, surrounded by mountains. I am already, at this point, in love with Miss Jane Farrelly, and have mentally placed her on top of Mt. McKinley, her ice axe raised in victory, but Denali records indicate that between 1930 and 1941 only nine people attempted to summit and four succeeded, all in 1932. But I'm giving her all the other mountains. In fact, Social Notes in the local papers refer to her as one of the "hiking girls" who climbed to Devil's Punch Bowl in Skagway. Unfortunately she developed a heart ailment and died at age 46, a day after arriving in Portland by steamer from Anchorage. She died in the home of her sister. Mrs. Florence Farrelly Kraxberger.

Our home.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Librarinator


This is about Librarians. Stand, and salute.

Some years ago, I read about the Great Renumbering. The Great Renumbering sounds like something out of the Book of Revelation. Something awful a vengeful God is planning to smite us with. But it's not. It refers to a time in Portland when all the addresses got swapped out. Up until 1933, every little neighborhood numbered their houses independently of each other. One community would start at the richest person's house and number their way outwards in a spiral, and the next community over would pull numbers randomly generated from a box of dice and hamsters. Mailmen, then as now, were savants. There was no grid.

The Great Renumbering enforced discipline on the territory. It was sensible, but no longer special. Now any dang fool could find a house without being a mailman.

Which means if your house was built before 1933, as ours was, it used to have a different address.

Forty years ago, we watched a car roll up to our house, and a tiny little old lady leaned out the passenger window and snapped a photograph with a Kodak Instamatic. She said she used to live in our house. We invited her in; she clutched the kitchen counter while Dave slumped against the far wall, so she didn't have to crank her neck up too far. "Did you know," she said, "my father built this house in 1906, and he didn't know a thing about construction?"

Dave nodded weakly. He'd been attempting some renovations, with growing horror.

Mrs. Kraxberger--that's the lady--also told us that our kitchen was the original  house, and that the kids lived in a tent in the front yard until her father could scab on the rest. Everyone had assumed the kitchen was a one-story addition to the two-story house, but it was the other way around.

We let Mrs. Kraxberger go on her way and looked forward to some old photographs she thought she could drop by. But we never saw her again.

Recently I decided to try to find our old house number. This is the internet age. After several hours, the only thing I came up with was a PDF of the Great Renumbering with no search capabilities. It was 243 pages long and the old streets didn't show up in any particular order. I tried to slog through it hoping to get lucky and then I got the nifty idea to bring in the Cavalry. I wrote an email to the Multnomah County Library. Could they point me in a more fruitful direction?

I sent the letter before noon. An hour and a half later, with the clatter of galloping hooves, a response zinged into my mailbox.

First, Library First Class Baron thanked me for my letter. Then he commiserated about the clunky website I'd found. However--he went on, employing full sentences and paragraphs in flawless English--an alternative site is the Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. He included a link, but also mentioned my address was in Volume 5, Sheet 553. He then freaking told me my old address and the name of someone who lived there in 1930. He attached a copy of the 1950 map showing both addresses and the 1924 map showing just the old address. He went on to say the information is verified by the Ancestral Library Edition featuring old city directories including the 1930 version of Polk's City Directory with listings by occupant and address. All these resources are available digitally, he wrote, although that's only temporary for the Ancestry database because of the pandemic, and he was sorry, but I might need to visit the library in person for that, once things return to normal.

"Again, this is a print item," he wrote. "We could look up your address in this book. However, that would require asking a colleague to search for it at Central and get back to you." He hoped this had been helpful. If I have additional questions, I should feel free to contact him again.

Attached were copies of the pertinent pages of the 1924 map, the 1950 Fire Insurance map, and the City Directory.

Holy shit.

All this on a Sunday morning. I'm sure he was sorry to have kept me waiting, but he had to iron his cape and pull up his tights. Librarians! I swear to God.

Why, yes, Baron, I do have additional questions. Can you locate a colorized high-res photo of the original 1906 hut? Does the family mule show up in a census? What is my password for online banking again? Where do we go when we die? Do you like cookies? Can you fly?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

On Following Instructions


There was a time the mailman was who brought us packages. Quaint as anything. Not only that, but you could count on him showing up about the same time every day. I know this because as a new letter carrier I would occasionally substitute on a route and be informed I was "ten minutes late." Isn't that dear?

It's a weird thing, this new gig economy. The opportunity to work without a pension or benefits or decent wages has been recast as a chance to work for yourself! and be independent! and set your own hours! which is a very fine deal for the companies that used to pay people to do things. Now, if we want to, we can ride that spiraling economy right out of the middle class and into a choice tent spot on the median strip. And for those of us who were fortunate enough to retire from one of those antique union jobs, it means we can hear packages thwacking onto our porches all day long and into the night, except for the ones that end up on someone else's porch because nobody's in charge of knowing who lives where anymore.
 
Recently, over the course of twelve hours, we received four such items, originating from the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company, sprayed out into a community of desperate but Independent citizens, and hurled onto our porch from moving vehicles. Two were gifts. One was a Device from our new TV service, ATT. And one was a festive stool sample kit from Kaiser. 

I'm familiar with the stool sample kit. I get one every other year. My tradition is to move it close to the toilet and remember it just after I've already taken a dump. That gave me a couple weeks; I decided to have a look at the TV Device. It came with a Safety & Care brochure. Herewith safety instructions one through four, which I am not making up:

1. Read these instructions.
2. Keep these instructions.
3. Heed all warnings.
4. Follow all instructions.

So far, I thought, I had things well in hand. Things deteriorated rapidly after that. There was an explanation of a symbol ("Danger of explosion") and another symbol ("For God's sake whatever you do, do not block the vent sluices"). Followed by the instruction to line up the flux capacitor with Arcturus during the full moon between 11pm and midnight using the splice modulators in the little plastic bag at the bottom of the cardboard box I already flattened and put in Recycling.

Plus a warning to Never move the device, and also to See important safety information on the bottom of the device.
 
And another little bit about voiding the warranty.


Which made me think about the Stool Sample Kit. I decided to buck tradition and get right down to it. This package also contained an instruction sheet, but I knew the drill and almost didn't give it a glance. But I did, and noticed that there was something new. Instead of laying the tissue paper on the water in the bowl, I was to stretch it across the top of the bowl and pin it down with the seat, which brought the whole transaction a little closer to my person than I felt I could trust, because I can void a warranty with the best of them. Fortunately, my concerns were moot, because I torpedoed that tissue paper in one shot, resulting in my bowel movement, which I was to "allow to fall onto the paper"--let's hear it for gravity!--floating majestically in the water. 
 
Ten percent of that icberg remained aboveboard, however, so, aware that I'd run through my one sheet of tissue, I got out the Sample Probe and proceeded to twiddle it, but that caused my Sample to roll like a frolicking sea lion and water got in everything, and there was nothing to do but jam the probe back in the collection container and hope for the best. I wrapped it in the provided hankie and sealed it up in the return envelope (let's hear it for the mailman again!) and visualized the eye-rolling in the poop lab. I figure everything will either be okay or I'll get another kit in the mail along with a referral to a dietician. And I sent it along.

After which I noticed the first instruction, which was to write the collection date on the container.

In my defense, there was nothing in the instructions about reading the instructions.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Left At The Cock And Balls


You know that thing where they take down a house in your neighborhood and a day later you can't even remember what was there? It turns out if they do a good enough job of it, they can take away your ability to find your way home. They can knock out your entire navigation system.

One of the good things about living in the same place for forty-three years is you can find your way home in the dark. With your eyes shut. Three sheets to the wind with an off-key song in your heart and a flat tire. Anyway, that's what I've heard.

You don't have to creep down the avenue looking for the cross-street signs. You know where you live and you don't have to think about it, which is an advantage in any situation, and getting to be more important all the time. In my case, when I'm driving home, I don't have to think about it. I hang a left after the cock-and-balls and just before the jacking-off monkey.

I did not notice the cock-and-balls originally but once it was pointed out to me there was no other way to see it. It's a sign for a Mexican café, a proud, rigid column with a big round flower on the bottom. The tacos are just fine, no need to examine the sauce. The monkey from the coffeehouse has to answer for himself. He knows what he's done.
 

 
Anyway this is all something you tuck away in the periphery of your vision. But apparently the entire intersection is involved. Because when someone takes off all the siding on the building on one corner and then whisks away an entire large concrete building on the other and replaces it with a smooth coat of gravel, you can shoot right by your own street and miss it altogether, even after 43 years, dead sober. If you're a certain kind of person, you can then travel several blocks before it occurs to you to wonder where you're headed and why. You might even, if you're a certain kind of person, keep going hoping something will pop into view that will remind you why you're in the car. Maybe, for instance, you were going to the hardware store. If a hardware store shows up, then you can park and wonder what it was you wanted.
 
Certain kinds of people are afflicted with such a rich interior life that they are able to sail through their days on cruise control, oblivious to suffering, woe, other people, or one's own personal whereabouts or coordinates. There are quilt blocks to design, novel scenes to write, and music running in a loop. Such a person probably should not be driving. But definitely, if such a person is not to get lost or mislaid, buildings should not be whisked away, willy-nillly. 
 
I'll tell you what, it didn't take too long to bring that big concrete sucker down. It had been vacant for at least 43 years. It was just a place for dogs to pee and kids to express themselves with spray paint. In one day a massive backhoe knocked it down and scooped it up and then it was 1600 square feet of level gravel, without even a memory attached.
 
It's alarming to realize how much of our daily life doesn't require paying any attention at all. An entire nation can blunder along without having to notice what keeps us safe, what we stand for, the civic contract that doesn't exist except that we all agree to it, the frailty of the scaffolding of our civilization, until it's threatened or gone. With any luck and some time, we'll still find our way home.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

This Is How We Verb


Don't know much about history. But I am always interested in the history of words: etymology (unless that's bugs). I want to know where a word has been for the last thousand years. And often, the derivation seems a little far-fetched. In fact, the word "derivation" itself either comes from the Latin for drawing out pus, or from the Vedic Sanskrit for tickling a water buffalo. Either way, you're left feeling kind of skeptical.

But maybe you shouldn't be. All bets are off in a language in which you can coin the word "pizzagate" and everyone knows it means "child molestation sex ring scandal involving Democrats operating in an imaginary Deep State." I mean, what the hell. From "pizza" meaning "pizza" and "gate" meaning "the third syllable of a Washington DC hotel that got burglarized by Republicans fifty years ago." A hundred years from now nobody looking up the derivation would believe it.

Derivations don't have to make sense. Take "homophobic." Some guy coined it in the '60s. We know what it's supposed to mean. I would quibble over "phobic" meaning "to be afraid of" since many so-called homophobes are not at all afraid of people they're pretty sure they can beat to a pulp. But also, "homo" comes from the Greek for "same." By rights, homophobic people should be people who insist on things not being too matchy-matchy, but that's not what it means. So we're left with someone who's afraid of homos. And I think that's kind of rude.

Or take "friendversary." Versus means "a turning." Anniversary is a year ("anno") turning (over). Friendversary should mean "the act of flipping your friend over" or "swapping out your shitty friends for whole new ones." But it doesn't. It comes from "friend" meaning someone you met through Facebook, and don't know, except that they have a cute cat. And "versary" means short for "anniversary." So a friendversary is a commemoration of the calendar date you moved into a virtual relationship with someone who has a cute cat.

While we're at it, that might have been the beginning of the wildly out-of-control new way to verb. Now you can "friend" someone and nobody bats an eye. I remember noticing it for the first time a few years back: "Let's festival!" the poster read, announcing the Gay Pride parade, featuring street-wide banners reading "THIS IS HOW WE PRIDE." And I thought: oh boy. This isn't going to be the last time we see this, especially in advertising. Sure enough, now you can also pizza, meaning eat a pizza. (It doesn't mean "molest a child like a Democrat" yet.) There's a pharmaceutical firm that likes to say "This is why we science." You can "brain better." I've also learned there is at least one way to "woman," and several wrong ways to "feminist."

There are definitely several wrong ways to feminist.

Sure, people have been "wintering" in Palm Springs for years, but things are getting out of hand. Is this vogue really something to celebrate? Should we cake?

It's all a little much, and irksome, as novelties can be. It is viewed by many as silly and contrived. And if you believe I am speaking less than forcefully, tough. That is simply how I passive voice construction.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

My Apologies To The Albatross


There's a whole lot of packaging in the world.

I'd already ramped up my quest to avoid packaging, plastic in particular. I'm not moved by packaging that purports to be biodegradable. I suspect that it is biodegradable in certain conditions it is unlikely to encounter in real life. People are going to buy it greenily and it will still end up in a storm drain on its way to an albatross belly. I'd prefer to not have it in the first place.

First step was to ditch my Costco membership. Man, is stuff cheap there. But it's all wrapped up in plastic. Some of it is plastic stuff wrapped in plastic and shrink-wrapped to several of its closest friends. I can get all the same stuff at other stores for a little more money. Olive oil in glass bottles. Tonic water in glass bottles. I bring cloth bags for my vegetables and bulk foods, and if the only way they sell mushrooms is in Styrofoam with plastic wrap on top, I look for a different recipe.

All was going well. Many people do a much better job of avoiding waste than I do but my own personal midden shrank considerably. I could even go to small-can once-a-month garbage pickup, except that I know I would forget to put it out at least half the time.

And then some virus showed up and although some things did get better (less traffic, less noise), some things did not, as you may have heard. In my case, I decided to keep my elderly respiratory apparatus out of the grocery stores and get curbside pickup. Which works splendidly well, but it blew my packaging diet all to hell. Vegetables come in plastic baggies. Nothing comes in butcher paper. Feta cheese comes in a hard plastic shell. Okay, it always did.


They run out of stuff, though, and ask if they can make substitutions, and I say "sure." But then there are surprises. (Seltzer is not a substitute for tonic water, Petunia.) I ordered one (plastic) bottle of 600 Benadryl tablets to hold me for the next thirty years and instead I got a tower of little boxes with 600 individually-wrapped tabs in plastic bubble-packs. It took me five minutes to excavate just one. I'd rather have hives.

And of course so much is ordered online. Last month seemed like a package thunked onto the porch every day. I thought it was over and then a big box showed up. It didn't weigh more than a bag of chips. "What is it?" Dave asked, and I said "I think it's for the cat," except our cat doesn't sit in boxes, or, frankly, do any other normal thing. (Her own packaging, however, is first-rate.)

What the hell.

Inside the big box--which you could ship a Labrador Retriever in--were three more boxes. All empty. It was like God's Nesting Dolls Of Waste. I pulled everything out and found one small scrap of paper. Oh! My internet "provider" sent me the boxes so I could send back any old devices of theirs I wasn't using anymore. They'd just installed a new router. I sent back the old device and a couple random cables. They would have fit in a Kleenex box with room to rattle. But there was no preprinted label as promised. I contacted the company and they said they'd send me a new label.

Guess what fluttered out of a big box on the front porch a few days later?

Meanwhile Dave and I are fluttering around in a 2700-square-foot home in a town full of homeless people. A hundred and fifty years ago people routinely jammed all their kids, including the spares, in a small bed like a pile of puppies, in a one-room shack, and not without joy. But I can hardly bear to think of inviting more people to live here even though they'd still rattle. Best I can say for myself is I don't put a lot of heat in the place. I sweater up, and wait for the rest of my heart to thaw.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day


In the summer of '78 we had been in our house for a few months. We were a good team. One of us had a down payment and a steady job, and the other knew how to fix stuff. I was hopeful we would have a good garden someday, but at that point I was still waiting to see what was already in the ground. What would pop up. All kinds of stuff popped up.

There was big stuff too: a locust, a hawthorn, a couple dogwoods, a Norway maple, and on the alley side, a mature ornamental cherry with big floppy flowers. Also, there was one of those structures charitably referred to, in the neighborhood, as a "garage." It was thirty years past dilapidated. The kid across the alley liked to climb on it. I figured we were one growth spurt away from him going through the roof and straight into a lawsuit. It was a mess.

One weekend we took off for the coast and didn't get back home until well after dark. We fell into bed and the next morning Dave got up first, as usual. He tromped downstairs to the kitchen and gazed out the window, perplexed. Gazed some more. And then came back and sat on the bed.

"You know that garage you were worried about the kids climbing on?"

I did.

"You don't have to worry about it anymore. They burned it down."

It was the damnedest thing. The garage and the cherry tree and half of the hedge were so completely erased that they didn't even register as missing. In fact, my first thought, upon looking out the window, was only that there was a lot more sunlight out there. There wasn't even any debris. Just a flat, blackened moonscape.

First thing I did was go knock on some doors. I'd avoided meeting the neighbors. I don't remember what experience led me to that sorry attitude, but I lived in fear of having a close neighbor who drove me nuts but I couldn't get rid of, and I thought the best thing to do was just lay low. Now, it occurred to me that whatever happened in our yard was probably pretty exciting and maybe someone would want to tell us about it.

We met a bunch of neighbors including the fireman who lived across the street and later became a city commissioner. He was a real hero that day. Everyone agreed it was highly exciting. Boy howdy! Sucker went up like a bomb, it did.

It was a shame about the cherry tree. It's not coming back. Some things don't. But nobody was going to miss the garage. It would be hard to overstate how ugly it was, how dangerous. It was filled with old newspapers, a neighborhood shopper that some child was probably paid to distribute once a week, and dumped in there instead. It was pure fuel, ready to roar, just ready for a child with a cigarette. Even with it finally gone, we didn't have a clean slate: half the yard was charred. The maple dropped most of its leaves. Bits of debris, old nails and hardware, would keep turning up for years. But neighbors had turned into friends. We learned people need each other. There was so much more sunlight. So much possibility. We could almost see, now, the form a new garden could take. It would be a lot of work, but we were up for that.

And new green was already poking up from the ashes.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Eeek! Communists!


Poor Debbie Lesko! Some mean people wanted to keep the Republican congresswoman from Arizona from bringing her gun into the Capitol. She is outraged. We don't know what kind of scene she makes at the airport, but in the Capitol, where she and her colleagues are routinely kettled for the convenience of armed mobs, she's stamping her little feet. "We now live in Pelosi's Communist America!" she tweeted thunderously. Yes, you can tweet thunderously.

Ah, that old chestnut! It brings me back. When I was a kid that's what you called other kids on the playground if you wanted to rile 'em up. They were commies! Specifically, dirty commies. Just like Miss Debbie, we didn't know what we meant by it. It was another word for asshole. 

So Miss Debbie doesn't really mean "Communist" when she complains about being detained at a metal detector. What she's really hopped up about is governmental overreach. Authoritarians are the worst, unless they're Russians or North Koreans or some other repressive, crushing regime that we kind of admire, right, Miss Debbie? Authoritarianism is awesome if God's on your side.

"Communist" is just one of those big-basket words that scoops up many different people indiscriminately. It's a broad brush. It's like calling all Republicans "Nazis," when a lot of them are just self-dealing assholes.

I like to keep an ear open for the language being used to perpetuate the plutocracy. It evolves. For four years now "socialist" has been the slur of choice, but now we're hearing more about communists. Hardly anyone can define the terms, but that's irrelevant. Every now and then you will hear someone elucidate what is so awful about being a socialist, and it usually comes down to "they want to take all your hard-earned money and give it to the lazy people."

Sounds bad! But weirdly, they are fantasizing something entirely different from having all their hard-earned wages, pensions, and benefits taken and given to the indolent rich, which is what has actually happened over the last forty years. Someone should look into that.

In any case, I have a lot of commerce with the motley Left Wing and can report that very few of us consider ourselves socialists. There are a few socialists, and an anarchist/anti-capitalist contingent, but the vast bulk of us would align with Democratic Socialism, which aims to maintain a market system but strip it of its worst excesses and failures. A bit more like Eisenhower's America, in other words, without all the racism and sexism and homophobia and xenophobia and...well, we'd like to polish things up a bit, and try to save the planet in the bargain. It's not really scary at all. Make everyone's lives a little better, without making the billionaires' lives worse. Because above a certain income, you shouldn't be able to notice how rich you are. You can drown your soul in a bathtub of money just as easily as in an ocean of it, after all.

There's a lot not to like about our current economic system, in which profit for some is sacred and the true costs of it are paid by the rest of us. Let's look at the results. Our planet may soon become uninhabitable. Extinctions are accelerating. Our resources have been stripped and turned into cash for the few. Legions of us are impoverished, homeless, sick. Entire populations all over the world are on the move for their very survival.

We would like to not be ruined by medical expenses. We would like to not be ruined by fossil fuel consumption. We would like clean water and a range of basic services. We would like to support small farmers. We would also like maybe some bullet trains, please.

"Communist America!" Poor Miss Debbie doesn't mean anything by it, not really. She's just using it as a phony label to instruct the masses who they're supposed to hate. You fling that word out enough and it fails to mean anything at all--it's just a stain in the brain that will hopefully remind you what Debbie wants you to do in the voting booth.

What she doesn't want you to do is think.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

I Have Cash

 
This is all true.

My Uncle Bill was unusual in a number of ways. The ways that pertain to this story are: he was quite poor. His meager savings went chiefly to alcohol. And he was old.

So when he showed up in Montana to attend my father's funeral, there were a number of things about being in a small middle-class home he wasn't accustomed to. And when he asked my mom if he could make a long-distance call from her phone, she smiled him into the kitchen,  introduced him to the wall phone with the curly cord, and returned to the living room with the rest of us. None of us could make sense of the ensuing clinky noises coming from the kitchen and when we went in to investigate, there was Uncle Bill with a big pile of quarters trying to find someplace in the phone to stick them, and dropping them on the floor.

It's just an extreme version of that old common experience of waiting in a long grocery line behind an old woman who springs into action only after the clerk rings up the total, and then she begins to root through her purse for her checkbook, while eyes roll all the way back in the line. Old people!

And now that I are one, it's all just as embarrassing as my younger self might have guessed.

All righty then! Hand the clerk your credit card to run through the machine zzzip-clank. No? I run it myself? On that little box? How? Oh. The little slot along the side? I just slide it through there? Okay. Which way?

The side with the magnetic stripe goes this direction. No, the other direction. See, there's a picture of it right there. Right there. There. Here, let me help you.
 
I begin to squint at the machine every time to make out the picture of the card with the stripe so I'll be ready but for some reason it's never as clear as you'd think. And then the slot disappears altogether. I hover at the side of the little machine and frown.
 
No, here, you just stick the card in the bottom and it will read the smart chip. At the bottom. No, the other way. Just shove it in. A little farther. Here, let me help you.
 
Then I get accustomed to that but there's always a holdup. You have to push enter. The green button. Okay. Then sign. Sign? With what? You can use your finger. That doesn't look anything like my signature though! That's okay. It is? Okay. Thank you.
 
Then I get accustomed to that and I try to get in and out expeditiously but the machine isn't responding. You have to put in your phone number. I do? Okay. And then hit enter. The green button. Oh! Ha ha! Of course. Whoops! Okay thank you, see you next week! Ma'am? Ma'am? Don't forget your card. Whoops! Thanks! And also, it wants to know how you want your receipt. How do I want my receipt? Yes, paper or email? Or no receipt? Oh. No receipt, I guess. Bye!
 
As I make my exit the clerk laboriously twists around the machine and hits an appropriate button for me to end the transaction.
 
The next time nothing is working. Can't even find the slot. Just tap it, the clerk says. I tap the machine with my finger. No, the card. Tap it with the card. Where? Just...the clerk reaches around the machine for my card and taps it and hands it back. Or you could just use your phone.
 
Oh honey. I'm pretty sure I couldn't.
 
Did you know eye-rolling is audible if there are enough people in line? It sounds like the window shades rolling up in the old cartoons. Flap-flap-flap. Listen. I'm sorry. Nobody's sorrier than I am that I am now that dumb old person. But it will happen to you. I have no idea what form it will take, but it will happen to you.
 
Shamwowa? Could you come out here? My thing has arrived but the stupid drone won't drop it until I pay for it. How do I do that?
 
Oh, Grandma. We've been over this. You just think at it. You just think your full name really hard followed by your PUTZ number.
 
I did that.
 
This time don't think about an elephant. It's a security step. If you think about an elephant it won't release. You're doing it again. Here, let me.
 
Shamwowa glances into the sky and the package floats down. Grandma snatches it off the delivery port and huffs away, red-faced.
 
When the multiple duplicate charges generated by her flatulence show up on the invoice, she can always get Shamwowa to straighten it out. 
 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Revolting


I really don't enjoy this.

What I want to do is publish the post I already had scheduled for today. Old fart meets credit-card reader, and hilarity ensues. I want to explain why spider bites are usually on your fanny because spiders object to being sat on. I'd like to tell you that my new shampoo smells like Pine-Sol and now I get out of the shower wondering if I've been scrubbing the toilet bowl with my head.

But I can't, because we can't go three days in this country without a lunacy grenade going off. We're all collateral damage, and the shrapnel is by now lodged in all of our hearts, and half of us are trying to pluck it out and half are happy to let it fester.
 
Nearly half cannot comprehend losing an election, because everyone they knew voted the same way they did. They cannot visualize their opposition, even though they've been mocking us for four years. Did they, too, believe we were fictional bots?
 
And some of them answered the call, when the call came. They were standing by, an army ready for their leader to deploy. Still, it was shocking. At first it almost looked like men were gaining the Capitol by scaling its walls, but surely that can't be--walls keep people out. Don't they?
 
But no, there they were, a faction of fat fascist fucks playing dress-up, and no, I'm not fat-shaming; I'm merely describing; they are shaming themselves. Just look at those fat white fucks. Where is Lorena Bobbitt? Get her on the phone.

These are described as "mostly white males," although that is a nod to their tattoos: this group is all about white power, and meanwhile, while we fantasize about where they can jam their rebel flags, Black power is alive and well a few states to the south, extracting the monkey wrench from the gears of the Senate with grace and peace. This is a day for the books.

But no sooner do we all bear witness than the Mostly-White-Males' operating system begins planting new seeds of deceit and broadcasting them into the soft spongy soil of the brainwashed: Antifa did this awful thing. That we totally approve of.
 

Sure. Those are definitely anti-fascists dolled up in raccoon underpants and traitor's flags. But it has come to this, that if I read a headline about vandals leaving a severed pig's head at Nancy Pelosi's house, I do not immediately know what group is responsible. Because the radicalized left and right occupy much of the same territory, where the politics of confrontation erases civility, and defense of freedom erodes freedom, and war is proclaimed the path to peace.
 
I do not equate the two. Neither by extent, or intent. I understand that the left musters in the cause of justice, and the right in the cause of a toddler's notion of liberty. But I have seen both sides attack an assault-weapon ban for the same reason: the need to fight our own government. I'm horrified to hear it from the right. It breaks my heart to hear it from the left.
 
After a while, the soldiers at the fringes start to look the same. Rage is its own fuel. Fury is all-consuming, and obliterates reason and dissent. Can it be quarantined? Set up a tournament, a jousting match. Duels: penises at ten paces. Make it ten inches, they still won't touch each other. Make it pay-per-view, and we can buy ourselves some nice health care, reparations, solar panels for all.

As for the shameless architect of our ruin, I do not want to see him harmed. I do not want to see him hanging upside-down in the town square. I wish to see him escorted into a court of law and delivered without ceremony to a secure location, wearing horizontal stripes and as long a necktie as he wants.

 



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Adventures In Service Providination

 
We have crappy TV service. There's nothing on, although there is a whole lot of it, and even the remote control is tragic. If you accidentally hit the wrong button there's hell to pay to get the TV screen back in the proper corral, and it's easy to hit the wrong button because you have to hold the remote over your head to make anything go. Also? We can't turn the TV off without getting off our asses and walking over to it, and what century is this, anyway? What are we, acrobats?

But we don't want to change it, because we do not like change.

CenturyLink made us change anyway. They said they're no longer offering our crappy TV service and we should look over their many fine alternatives. Really, there's nothing I like better than calling a Service Provider on the phone, because I so rarely have anything to do for any given four-hour period. 

The fine choices boiled down to having a dish bolted onto our house, which we reject on aesthetic grounds, and ATT. ATT wanted twenty bucks up front to get the ball rolling and that took a couple hours because something went wrong with the nice lady's computer and it kept ralphing up my credit card. The nice lady was distraught and whimpery, because, I believe, she is accustomed to being screamed at, and I kept reassuring her that I was fine. I was so happy that she spoke English that I wanted to luxuriate in the experience. I don't want to be that person who complains about people with accents, but I admit to a strong preference for it in my Service Providers. Anyway I told her I could happily listen to her all day long, and then I did.

I could have walked a twenty over to their office faster. It was my idea, ultimately, to plug in my landline and try to get the transaction through that way, and it took me a while to find the cord. It has been unplugged for four years although we still pay for it because evidently taking the landline out of the Internet-TV-Phone Bundle doesn't make it cheaper. Basically, our landline is serving as packaging twine for our Bundle. I plugged the old workhorse in, the very same lady called me back on it, and we were in business.

Then all I had to do was wait for a new device to thud onto my front porch and plug it in, plus they were going to send over a Service Technician. I wasn't clear what the Service Technician was going to do, but I said okay. "Okay," the nice lady said, brightly, clearly relieved that ATT had my credit card number now, "how does Tuesday work for you?"

Quite well, thank you.

"And what time of day is good for you?"

This, as it turns out, is a little Service Provider joke. They are howling in the break room.

"Anytime after nine would be fine."

"All right, we'll set you up for Tuesday, with a Service Window between 9am and 5pm."

"That's some window," I said.

"But no later than 7:15," she continued.

At this point I am laughing myself snotty. I'm not sure the nice lady is used to that, but I think she wanted to keep the conversation going so she didn't have to talk to someone mean.

The service window between nine and five but no later than 7:15 reminds me of our newspaper service. When The Oregonian went digital, they offered a sort of hybrid deal: they would deliver papers some days, and the other days would be digital only. They trumpeted this change as "Newspapers Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a bonus paper on Saturday!" Awesome! It's not like we went from seven papers down to four; we get a bonus! Whoever in Marketing came up with that probably still gets a bonus just thinking about it.

Anyway, the "no later than 7:15" Service Window proved to be a bust. Tuesday came and went with no Service Technician. Two days later I got another call explaining that the technician never made it to my house but they'd be happy to send one out Monday if I wanted. Sure! When?

She had a window between nine and five. But no later than 7:15. I can't wait. Actually, I can.