Monday, November 29, 2021

Murrmurrs 2.0

I don’t want to scare anyone unduly.

I’m fine with scaring people duly. The autocrats are demolishing human rights here and abroad. The wealthy are ever wealthier and more powerful. The Gulf Stream is petering out, with dire consequences for the climate and all life dependent on it. Children are inspired to vandalize through TikTok, and people’s hair is falling out in clumps. White ladies’, too.

So this isn’t that bad. The deal is, this blog is changing. At least the drapes and wallpaper, which smells like rose water and lilac, the sort of thing one suspects is masking an underlying old-lady hygiene issue. If we keep going at this site any longer, I’ll have to set out a dish of hard candies in the margin. I’ve been afraid for quite a while that if I keep my antique template and stick with Blogger for my host some horrible thing will happen. Like the whole thing will disintegrate from natural senescence and blow away like powder.

On the other hand, I’ve had reason to worry that if I do try to migrate my blog to something more up-to-date, there will be an explosion so serious that my words, every precious one of them for thirteen years running, will disappear altogether. Do you even know how many words I’ve jammed into this site? Hundreds. Maybe dozens. It would be awful.

On top of that, I have been solemnly advised that I need an Author Site. It’s sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it thing, maybe, but also I am told that literary agents will invariably seek out your Genuine Author site if they’re even remotely interested in you, and there’d better by gosh be something there, so now there is.

It’s a simple site. I didn’t want anyone to click on it and have to wait for a bunch of artful creative visual content to unroll before them. It’s a Just The Facts Ma’am site. And my blog has moved in there. So, this here post is on there as well as here, if you want to check out how it looks—clean and simple, like me in the latter respect. The next post will be exclusively on the new site, and if you’ve been so kind as to sign up for updates, weirdly emailed to you a day late—don’t ask me about that—they should direct you to the new site. If not, or if it doesn’t work, you can bookmark my new home, and I hope you do. At least one cool thing is ALL my archives are easily accessible from the new site, so if you want to read the very first one, you can! In fact you can order a box of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper and sit down and read the whole damn oeuvre in chronological order, if you’re a little backed up.

I’m sticking with this new platform, but I don’t know how everything works yet, so I want to hear from you if you have trouble commenting (do you get the irony, there?) so we can straighten it out. Wordpress, my new platform, is a little more precious than Blogger, my old. Wordpress’s default is to put a velvet rope around my blog and let in only the worthy or credentialed, and my default is to take y’all on no matter what, even if you’re nuts. So let me know if there’s trouble and we’ll see what we can do.

That’s the deal. I have been trying to attract the attention of literary agents and publishers for any of my six novels and one non-fiction work for a while now, and it feels like throwing spaghetti on the ceiling to see if something sticks. But although some pieces stick for a minute and then fall off the ceiling, mostly my pasta evaporates into thin air like a stream of urine in the Arctic. So I now have an Author’s Site. Is it like the Field of Dreams? If you build it, they will come? I do not have a corn field out there, just a field of standing spaghetti strands, but let’s just see. If nothing else, maybe Kevin Costner will show up. “Bull Durham”-era Kevin Costner, as long as I’m dreaming, not present-day.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Be The Leslie!

The Leslie!

I don't know if it's COVID fatigue or Climate Moroseness or something else, but I'm starting to fret and frazzle about doing things rather than doing them. I realize I need to get on the roof for something and suddenly I'm apprehensive about getting on the ladder. My printer is acting up and my sink drains slow. Rats have resurrected the bowling alley in my attic and Tesla has just emailed me that my solar panels have quit. And maybe none of these things is insurmountable but if enough of them pile up together, they gather emotional lint and torpor and suddenly I feel incapable of doing any of it.
I've never been a real go-getter, of course. Even if I was embarking on a new project using skills I already have, I would feint at it for a while before I got moving. I make a Christmas card every year and yet I circle around it for weeks before I finally sit down and make it happen, and it always happens, and I'm always surprised.
And it's not like I've ever been terribly useful around the house. Still, there are things I know how to do. I can paint. I know the techniques and I have a steady hand and I know what order to do things. I'm pretty good at it, too.
But then the other day I discovered one of the windows in our tower has rotted out at the bottom and I'll be dogged if it doesn't turn out the whole window needs to be replaced. Which is not cheap. And when someone came out to have a look, he noticed that all the south- and west-facing windows are looking a little vulnerable. The wood is bare in spots and just aching to rot out. No sooner had this been pointed out than  it commenced to rain absolute buckets for weeks on end.

Which, to be sure, we are very happy about. But.

In the middle of the night as I listen to the pounding rain, deep into my unproductive monkey mind, I can almost hear the fungi rumbling through my windows then and there. Like, if I don't do something about sanding and repainting them by noon the next day, my windows will sag into mush. But I have to be able to remember how to take the windows out. Set up sawhorses. Find the paint. See if any of my brushes still bend. Nothing hard, but at three a.m. it all seems too much.

Then I thought about my friend Leslie.

Leslie does everything. If there's something at her house that needs fixing, she fixes it. She'll spread seven yards of mulch in her garden between dinner and bedtime. She'll clear the downspouts before winter, not during the first downpour. If she doesn't have a tool, she knits it out of steel wool. Her to-do lists are all-done lists. Now that she's retired, her whole neighborhood is liable to be shiny and unbollixed, just from leftover energy. She doesn't dither. If she doesn't know how to do something, she knows she can figure it out. She's got skills and she's got gumption.

And that's when it came to me, at three a.m., in the celestial baritone voice-over of the Lord: Be the Leslie you want to see in the world! And when I woke up and had coffee, I got going.

Took the windows out. Set up sawhorses. Sanded. Primed. Painted. Repainted. Put them back in. Done. I beed the Leslie.
Of course, Leslie probably wouldn't have accidentally used the high-gloss paint on the satin-finish window. Leslie absolutely wouldn't have tried to put the window in backwards even though one side is white and the other side is red. And Leslie would have had it all done before breakfast. Five years ago.

But still. I beed the Leslie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Slow And Smooth

Dave and I love baseball or anything like it. Softball, Little League, beer ball, it doesn't matter. So when we saw a bunch of people on the field at the neighborhood park, we hurried over to watch.

Something about the structure of the game fits my interior life like a ligand on a macromolecule. Or an mRNA sequence on a viral membrane. You get the picture.

[No, we don't.]

Okay, baseball just plain matches up to my insides. I watch baseball and life snaps back into place and everything makes sense again. Don't ask me how. I don't question these things.

Anyway, once we got to the field, it turned out to be a distant cousin to baseball. "My word," I said to Dave, antiquely. "It's adults playing kickball!"

I hadn't seen a kickball game since I was in one. I loved that game. If one kid on the block had one of those big plastic dime store balls, you could play it in the street. You had to work out the baselines according to whose car was parked where. The adults who were assigned to any of us kids liked the game fine, because we were "out from underfoot." Unrelated adults were annoyed. They didn't like seeing all these greasy kids smearing up the fender of their Pontiac rounding third. And if they were actually driving, everyone was annoyed. We kids were annoyed because we were expected to step out of the way so the car could get through. The drivers were annoyed because nobody ever stepped more than three inches further away than they figured the car needed, and then the kids were annoyed all over again because the driver took so long to squeeze through, pounding his steering wheel and using language we weren't supposed to recognize. Then it was back to the game.

But I sucked at it every way you could. No skills at all, couldn't kick, couldn't catch, couldn't throw, couldn't run so's anyone could tell I was running.

My memory sucks too. I remember only the seminal moments of my childhood, in three categories: the humiliations. The triumphs. And the times I got in trouble when I didn't think I deserved to. (This third category is by far the smallest. Mostly, I knew I had it coming.) Kickball once furnished such a moment across two categories at once: triumph followed almost instantaneously by humiliation.
I was playing second base. And, in a plot twist, I was playing baseball, for the very first time. I was no more than eight and had never seen anyone play baseball--apparently, our television only got Huntley-Brinkley. But they said it was just like kickball. The batter swung and squeaked a dribbler out past the pitcher and to everyone's shock and amazement I corralled it somehow, and to my shock and amazement the runner on first was just then passing by on the way to second, and holy moly I threw that baseball and thudded it right into the runner's body even though I was fully four feet away from him at the time. I had never gotten anyone out in my life. I was a dang hero!

We've got trees in our parks...
For one second. The runner kept going and made it to third and all my teammates were howling and groaning and waving their arms and I was given to understand that in this game you do not get a runner out by whacking him with the ball, even though that's exactly how you do it in kickball. Presumably, a person could hurt someone throwing a softball at him. I couldn't, but a person could. I'd never successfully either caught or thrown a kickball but I'd certainly had them thrown at me. It was possible to knock me all the way off the base path into the infield and I do believe a number of the bigger boys rather enjoyed seeing how far I would carom, as though it were a game of human marbles.

Anyway, the young adults at the park were indeed playing kickball. I struck up a conversation with one of the spectators on the sidelines. "Wow!" I said, antiquely. "I used to play that when I was a kid!" 

"Huh," she replied, looking me up and down and lofting a thought balloon in which I could clearly be seen in knickers and a jaunty wool cap rolling a hoop down the lane with a stick.

I watched for at least ten minutes. I never saw one player catch a fly ball. I never saw one player throw anyone out. I never saw the other team take the field but they didn't run very well. They all kind of sucked.

They were my people.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The One-Hit Wonder

Early in our relationship, Dave and I had a little disagreement, and I got mad and punched him in the arm. No chance, I figured, I could do the big guy any harm, but it was not a playful punch, either. Just before I could get a second punch in, his hand stopped my fist cold in mid-air, and he carefully lowered it, and he said "We don't hit."

Oh, I remember thinking, That's another possibility.
There's been no hitting since. It takes a while, when you're still basically children, to learn how to disagree efficiently and with the least amount of emotional shrapnel. I have no idea why I did this shameful thing, although there surely was alcohol involved. I certainly never witnessed anything like that in my family. No one in my life has ever hit me, either. I think, to tell you the truth, that I saw it on TV, and that at the time of the argument it suggested itself as the thing to do. It was, as they say, "modeled" for me.

This embarrassing admission is brought to you by news of recent event at a local middle school. Boys are slapping girls on the ass in the hallways on what they call "Slap-Ass Fridays." Girls are speaking up and walking out. And for some reason, fights are breaking out all over the school. Lots of them. Nobody seems able to stop it. Innocent kids are being thrown around. It's chaos. They're bringing in the police. We're talking twelve-year-olds.

What the hell is going on?

I guess there were fights when I was going to school--grudges settled under the bleachers, that sort of thing. You always figured some kids just had it rough at home. Except for a couple boys brawling at the school bus stop once, which utterly terrified me--I ran away with my hands over my ears--I never witnessed any of it.

So this seems ominous. What is being modeled now?

Well, for one thing, all across the nation adults are storming school board meetings and town halls, bellowing and flailing like quarter-ton toddlers, complete with spittle. Grown men and women are surrounding private houses of duly-elected officials in gangs, with the specific intent to terrify. Profane death threats are piling up in the inboxes of anyone with the audacity to serve in government. Hit lists are being drawn up.

People are showing up in the public square bristling with arms. Like little Kyle Rittenhouse, they're looking for trouble, and they're finding it, proving to themselves they are right and righteous, even if they had to manufacture their trouble themselves. They're hauntingly oblivious of their part in the play. Everyone's on their own side.

And this is mostly a right-wing phenomenon. Sorry, that's just a fact. There is a small but deliberately provocative contingent of black-clad elements on the left, the challengers, the dumpster-burners, with a minor tally of victims, and an outsized reputation among those stoking right-wing resentments, but all are unwittingly in the same family: the family of the enraged. And all fight with rage and succeed only in making more and more rage.

Civility is now considered quaint and weak to the players on all the edges. But civility is not the same as acquiescence. Civility is the bare minimum of courtesy in the social contract that allows us to coexist. Civility is what gets us from here to there, and in its absence, hearts harden up, and we get nowhere, ankle-deep in casualties. We need to start pulling our punches.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Dolphin Coiffure

There isn't anything complicated about my hair. It's straight. You can describe it in linear units and you've pretty much got the picture. It's been everything from an inch long to three feet long, and gravity writes the rest of the story. Don't look for the strands to show any initiative or imagination. It's all just going to hang there to whatever point it's whacked off.

This means it's not much help to put in layers so as to give the illusion that I have a normal-shaped head. Most people's heads are round in the back to accommodate the standard Homo sapiens operating system, but my head is just flat. It's the size of an ambitious walnut. You cut layers into my hair in the back, they all hang straight. Layer cuts give me all the volume dolphin skin gives a dolphin.

This worked out very well for me at age thirteen when I had long straight hair that didn't even need ironing, not that I didn't iron it once or twice. Classmates who soldiered through fitful nights with their hair on soup cans would have killed for my hair, and that was my stock, because until the tits grew in I had nothing else to bank on.

And I've never been able to decide what linear dimension my hair should be. The last time it was real long and I cut it off, I thought it needed to be to my shoulders at least so that I could hide my pudding neck. But that doesn't work. My pudding neck considers itself a Feature and is somehow aware I'm never going to threaten it with surgery, so it just flops out there, shameless. Doesn't matter what angle you take the picture, my pudding neck photo-bombs my head.

Then I sheared my hair off to a nice stand-up crewcut in case that would volumize my head but that required Product and attention, and even then it was still flat in back. So I let it grow out and hoped at some point I'd know when to say "When."

And I have! My trusty barber has managed to take the limp shower-curtain look out of my head and it got to just exactly the right length and now I have a Look. Wrap a scarf around the pudding and I'm good to go.I went back today for a trim and asked her if she could cut it without making it shorter. English isn't her first language so she did not have a large bullshit lexicon to draw from. She just said "No."

Okay, cut it anyway, I said.

The fact is I would get my hair cut every week if I could. I would pay someone to just fiddle with my hair. Every follicle is attached to its own happiness nerve. Throw in a little electric-razor action at the nape and a light touch in the ear region and I will follow you home and roll over for a belly-rub. I still remember the feeling when Pastor Lange put his hand on my head during my confirmation as a genuine Lutheran. (They try to confirm you when you're still the age to be weirded out by Death and Eternity but before you get to the point where you're thinking, Now, hold on just a minute. What is that you want me to believe?) When the good pastor floated his palm over my hair, I would have told him I bought the whole story.

This is how I survived babysitting. I am not a natural babysitter. But girls of a certain age will happily play with long hair for hours as though you are their personal giant Barbie. And I will let them. I will even consider forgoing the 50 cents an hour, but think better of it later.

I'm sure I was meant to have my head patted. I was wired that way. And it's no trouble for anyone. This is why God made me short. I think that's what Pastor Lange was trying to convey.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Reigning Cats And Dogs

Here is a way you can tell you're a dog person. Several times a day you say "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit! Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Good BOY!"

Here is a way you can tell you're a dog. You are lost in adoration of your favorite person who is barking at you in a friendly way and after a good long while you pop your butt down on the floor for one second and back up again and your person is so very very happy! You did it! You made your person happy! Nothing makes you happier than making your person that happy and it only took one butt-pop! OH MY GOODNESS THERE'S A TREAT! It's a wonderful world!

Here is a way you can tell you're a cat person. You are, yourself, sitting, all of your own volition, and there is a cat on your lap, and you have to pee pretty bad, but you don't get up just yet because your cat looks so comfortable. You think there is something perfect about how very comfortable your cat looks, as though your cat has got everything figured out and is not given to worry. You are in a world where everything's going downhill on a greased sled at every level from the biosphere to your own personal craposphere, and if you could just feel as comfortable as your cat looks, for just a little while, you could manage to hang on. If you do anything to disturb your very comfortable-looking cat, you are toying with the mechanics of happiness in ways you might never fully recover from. Somewhere in the universe there are credits piling up in your favor for the amount of times you have not disturbed your very comfortable-looking cat, and some day, if there is any justice at all, you will be able to redeem them for a reward. As long as your cat is still in your lap and looking comfortable, you are not a failure. You have purpose.

Here is a way you can tell you're a cat: you're comfortable.

You're never not comfortable. Your head may be upside-down or cranked sideways and you've got one foot draped over an edge and the other sticking straight up and the third over your eyes and the fourth missing altogether, but you're comfortable. Periodically a portion of your pudding will quiver and twitch in pursuit of a dream mouse, but then it will settle back down into a state of even deeper satisfaction. You can be decanted into any shape space and fill it like a bag of beans. You are strenuously content, and any departure from that condition will be regarded as a tragic misalignment of the proper world order. You are boneless. At any moment you can rig up a functional skeleton for the purpose of self-maintenance or hygiene but as soon as your immediate requirements are fulfilled, you will soundlessly revert to custard. You will settle back down into the perpetual eye of all the world's storms. In a plush onesie.

And you will be comfortable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

To See, Or Not To See

My eyeballs are starting to get obstreperous, and it's really no wonder. The mystery is why it's taken so long, because I have treated them like crap since forever.
We all start out with little baby eyeballs made of rubber and goo and they increase in size dramatically after we're born. For most people, they top out in size in the teenage years. Mine peaked at age seven, leaving me with Bedroom Closet eyes. Age seven was also when my eyeballs realized I was never going to be tall and they started to squash down flat to fit in the available space, which really did a number on my ability to see anything more than a foot away.
So I got combat lenses when I was fourteen. Contact, I mean. That was about eighty years after the first contact lens was invented and no doubt an improvement on the original, which was made of glass and covered the entire eye. I'm not sure who volunteered for that or if they included any lubricating solution, but opium was widely available. Modern contacts are made of fun and frog hair and you wear them once and fling them into the air like Mary Tyler Moore's hat. My first pair were hubcaps and you inserted them with a drop of Tabasco. In a pinch you could pop them out and open a bottle cap with them, but in ordinary use they served to collect grains of sand to rake over your corneas. If I am not mistaken, they came with a little Dremel tool set to grind down your eyeball abrasions for a perfect fit. Even so, if you blinked too hard they'd travel sideways and embed themselves into the eyeball area Formerly Known As White, sometimes with enough suction that they needed to be pried out with a fingernail, leaving perfect bloodshot circle tattoos behind.

But I must report I could see really well with contacts unless there was dust in the air, when I would be paralyzed with my eyes shut waiting for a friend to come along and tow me away by the elbow.

One time, because for some reason I had not yet gone blind, I used my roommate's wetting solution, just to try it--the way you try other people's shampoo--even though she'd bought it in Mexico and the bottle was labeled in Spanish, and even though (as it turned out) it was not wetting solution at all, but cleaning solution, and boy howdy it got loud in that bathroom that morning.

Throughout all of this I became so comfortable with touching my own eyeballs that I did it routinely, licking a finger to scoop out eyebrow hairs and eyelashes. Thank goodness those have all fallen out by now.

Anyway. It's no wonder my sad little soldiers of sight are starting to squawk. After twenty years of success with trifocals, effortlessly navigating the three zones of correction, now none of the zones work all that well, and even new prescriptions are more of a compromise than a solution. And of course there is the matter of the piano glasses specifically prescribed for reading sheet music, which are not quite up to the task. I have discovered that if I pull my glasses out about a centimeter from my face, everything looks pretty good, although bringing the music that much closer does nothing at all. I do not understand this. 

But I can achieve just the right distance by wedging a tampon at the bridge of my nose. It's fine. It's not like I'm at the concert hall all dolled up in a long black gown. 
The string is a little distracting.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Scroll Bar Of Old Age

Baby Murr

Ironically, one of the ways you can tell you're old is you don't remember how old you are.

Last month I heard the COVID booster shot was going to be available for people 65 and older and my first thought was Oh, shit. Then I remembered that not only was 65 already in the rear view mirror, it was pretty far back in the block.

There are other signs. For instance, you can tell you're short when you cut off the bottoms of your new pants to hem them and you discover the remnants could make a tube top for a harbor seal. You always knew you were short, of course, but it can slip your mind because you can still see everything from where you're standing, as far as that goes. You're not going to know you're shorter until they mention it at the doctor's office, and then you can go ahead and argue with them over it. After all, your height, down to the quarter-inch, is a known commodity and a matter of record. Also, you're still eight years old.

So back to that.

It's a sign when you see a particularly tasty specimen of a 25-year-old man with brown eyes and silky hair and a hint of humor in the eyebrows and graceful movement of his splendid but not overdone musculature and the first thing you think is I wonder if he does ladder work? I could use my gutters cleaned.
It's a sign when you're watching baseball and someone named Michael Yastrzemski gets up to bat and you think Holy cow! I wonder if that's Carl Yastrzemski's son! Good old Yaz with the Boston Red Sox! Why, it was just yesterday I was living in Boston during the '75 World Series! GO YAZ!! and you look it up and the dude is his grandson.
It's a sign when you're trying to get your Alexa thingy to do something for you by calling her name and all you can say is Hey, Lady!
Old Bat Murr
But mostly you are wieldy with the internet and a thoroughly modern person, not at all old, until you navigate an online form and when you have to put in your birth year you have to spin that scrollbar twelve times like it's the Wheel Of Fortune.
All of this can come as a shock to you. And that is because you are the same on the inside as you ever were. Your packaging may have changed--maybe a lot--and your contents may have shifted but those contents are the same as they ever were. You are in the bridge of a tugboat that's still chugging and the view out the window is the same as ever, except the dock is getting closer.
But I guarantee when I pull up to that dock I'm going to be thinking Hey, I wasn't done yet and I was just about to get serious.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Halloween At The Crappersons'

They say that ignorance is bliss, although some of the most ignorant people out there seem to be pissed off all the time. Still, there's something to it. There are all sorts of things I remember enjoying more when I didn't know as much. And not just pâté de foie gras.

I used to be able to ignore ads for big-ass cars. But now when I see them ripping through a wetland or jolting up a rocky incline to pose like a conqueror on a precipice overlooking sacred scenery, all I can see is ruined habitat and squashed lizards and noise and clamor and poison, like a poster for everything that's wrong with humans.

And I used to like Halloween decorations more. I'm still all for it, old-school. I like when people go to the trouble of making little ghosts out of sheets and hanging them up. Or carving pumpkins for the front porch. The Halloween decoration industry has really revved up though. Everywhere you look there are gravestones, skeletons, and fake cobwebs. I approve of the sentiment. For one thing, it's all liable to scandalize Christians. Not the Jesus kind, but the kind you don't mind pissing off.

So while I generally approve of the effort involved, now it just looks like more consumption, with all that entails. It's a lot of oil. It's plastic. It's fun, and it's trash. Turns out the polyester cobwebs even snare birds. I would never scold anyone for it, but I wouldn't buy it either. Thirty years ago, if I'd seen a Tyrannosaurus skeleton, I might have wanted one, but I think twice about every such thing now. The kids' costumes are troublesome too. Lots of plastic masks. Glitter: microplastic. The coolest costumes I ever see are all homemade and have a lot of thought in them. Couple years ago we saw the most compelling pint-sized girl in a voluminous long white dress and prim collar, her hair bundled into a bun, carrying a small white book and a candle. I had to ask.

Emily Dickinson's ghost, as I live and breathe!

Well, one of the over-decorated yards in our neighborhood is at a house that gives me shivers all the rest of the year too. It's not haunted. It's just not nice. The people who live there make a point of turning away as you approach, when everyone else smiles or pauses to chat. Their lawn is an unholy green in August with the tell-tale brown patches that betray there is no healthy life therein and the only thing propping it up is frequent infusions from Chem-Lawn. Their dogs are out in a kennel. And the Halloween decorations that aren't completely plastic require power to inflate.

I mentioned the dogs to their next-door neighbor once and she told me she finally went over there one night around 11pm, in her pajamas, when their dogs had been barking non-stop. She knocked at the door, and the lady of the house appeared in the window, jutted out her lower lip and bobbled it with her finger--the poor-baby mime--and withdrew. Really? Holy shit.

When the gigantic Trump signs appeared in their windows on Insurrection Day, yes, that day, it was almost a foregone conclusion.

But they didn't have the courage of their afflictions. The signs were down the next day. They had to figure in this neighborhood someone was liable to leave a Public Radio tote bag full of shit at their door. Or seed their lawn with arugula.

Also? We know real witches.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

"I Am [In] The Way"

Have you heard the Good News? Religion is making a comeback! To those who cheer these things, it's a sign that goodness and morality will prevail over the forces of darkness. As a force of darkness myself, I'm a little irked.
The religious revival has closely tracked the requirement in certain areas that individuals get vaccinated against a pandemic-causing virus. And that is because one way out of the jab is to file for a religious exemption. Cue God.

How do you prove a religious objection to vaccination? Why, you declare a sincerely held belief. That's it--a sincerely held belief is all you need. I am not sure why the sincerely held belief of a person claiming the cloak of religion should have any more weight than my sincerely held beliefs, and I surely have some. For instance, I am appalled by state-sanctioned murders done in my name, such as executions or drone strikes. I am appalled by the rape and plunder of our mother Earth for profit. But all I know how to do is agitate and protest and vote.

God doesn't have my back on this. If there is a God who has my best interests at heart, lightning would already have obliterated the Republican side of the aisle and zapped Joe Manchin on its way out. But if you sincerely believe God told you not to get vaccinated, you've got your ticket punched.

God is always telling people what to do, not that he ever agrees with himself. So it's not hard to dig up something God said to suit your needs. God could easily have whispered to someone in London during the blitzkrieg that unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness, and things would have gotten real loud real fast.

Basically, we're letting the schizophrenics run the public health show.

So it is my sincerely held belief that public health is served by the judicious use of proven methods of reducing a deadly virus's available host population through vaccine--in fact it's a no-brainer of a sincerely held belief--and that we could thus save countless people from suffering and death across the globe, but my sincerely held belief will not even tip the scale against the sincerely held belief of someone who fully expects to shake Jesus's hand in the sky some day, as long as she promises not to use her brain.

I decided to look into these beliefs. The St. Thomas More Society offers four sample exemption request letters on its website. Here's one:

The vaccines act at a genetic level that invades the province of God. Our genetic physiology is His design, extraordinarily complex as only He could make it, and understood only as He can understand it. Our understanding is shallow. I cannot morally participate in tinkering with a powerful and dangerous thing, within this temple, that we poorly understand.
Dudes. Here's a thought. Unshallow your understanding, because we most certainly do know how this works. It doesn't diminish the glory of God in the least, if that's the way you want to look at it. But if you think this vaccine is tinkering in the temple, I don't want to see you eating a Twinkie.

Somewhat more persuasive a rationale is the notion that the vaccine was developed using fetal cell lines derived from an aborted fetus. This is true, or probably true. There are a few fetal cell lines that have been used to develop vaccines. Not very many actual fetuses have contributed. Human fetal cells obtained from two abortions in the early 1960s are still growing in labs and are used to produce vaccines for chickenpox, rubella, hepatitis A, shingles, and rabies. We effectively took out polio with an earlier line. But I get it, a cell line from a fetus aborted sixty years ago is one aborted fetus too many. Okay. Fetal Lives Matter.

But here's a thing. My sincerely held beliefs about our responsibilities to each other in a public health crisis are in strictly mainstream, love-thy-neighbor territory. Why are mine unimportant?

Go ahead and plant a moral flag for that sixty-year-old fetus. I can admire a sincerely held belief. But stick with it. You or anyone you love get Parkinson's? Alzheimer's? Arthritis? HIV? Keep suffering. Oh of course nobody you know has HIV. My mistake. Stroke? Spinal injury?

And if it's your sincerely held belief that aborted fetuses are ground up and put in the vaccine, you're just wrong. If you're determined to find a rationale to screw your neighbor, get your facts right. And understand that screwing your neighbor is what you're doing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

There's A Stat For That

Oh boy, it's World Series time again! I'm paying close attention this year because we have a real shot at a new major league stat. We could witness the first non-Dominican to four-hit in two consecutive games while Uranus, Neptune, AND Chiron, which is barely even a planet, are in retrograde, with the Dow above 35,000.
Baseball statistics. It's how you can tell a regular enthusiastic fan like myself from a serious fan who is pretty far along on the autism spectrum. The serious fan hoards statistics like a pika hoards hay. Statistics are the difference between Holy crap that big dude really crushed that ball! and Yankee slugger Giancarlo Stanton tied his own record for the hardest-hit baseball in history at 122.2 mph in a game against the Royals in August 2021 and retains the record for the hardest-hit home run at 121.7 mph.
We have this statistic courtesy the Statcast system, which has only existed for six years, and yet it is considered safe to assume that no one has ever hit a baseball  harder than Mr. Stanton for all of recorded baseball history. It is safe to assume that because it is demonstrably unsafe to quibble with a 6'6" 245-pound man with a big stick. How big his stick is might conceivably be of interest to a number of fans but that is not the sort of statistic we are now compiling.

The Statcast system employs two cameras to replicate binocular vision and that, apparently, provides death perception to easily distinguish between bodies on the field. Oh wait, that's the Civil War. Statcast provides depth perception.
I became aware of this new layer of baseball stats last year when the announcer blithely reeled off the induced vertical break of a particular pitch. Well. That turns out to be a measure of the amount a pitch sinks in relation to where it would have crossed the plate if it just came out straight from the pitcher's hand, taking gravity into account. In inches.
The inches and miles-per-hour thing is important because it underscores baseball as being a great American sport and not some sissy metric-ass lollygag-in-the-park.
Your serious fan might note that the pitcher had achieved an induced vertical break of over seventeen inches. Your casual but enthusiastic fan would just say he had a wicked curveball. Or something. There are all kinds of pitches. There's a slider, which is actually a sandwich. There's a cutter, which is a ship; a changeup, which will cost extra when you're remodeling, a forkball, which is just plain rude, or an eephus, and nobody knows what the hell that is.
Anyway, with this new Statcast system, you get all different stats like the Catch Probability. This is the likelihood a fly ball will be caught based on such things as how far the fielder has to run, how much time he has to get to it, and whether he's in any danger of smacking himself into salsa on the outfield wall. All of this is information readily available to the regular enthusiastic fan using her own eyeballs but now the serious fan can tell you Tampa Bay right fielder Margot Manuel is currently in Outs Above Average based on his cumulative catch probability stats; and somewhere in a dank basement a nerd wearing stretch corduroys and an accountant's shade is working out an ideal roster for the Boss and not watching any baseball at all.

It's getting to where baseball is entering the same territory as that one dang butterfly that causes a hurricane halfway around the world by flapping its wings. Can we quantify how much the weight of the second-baseman's tobacco wad pulls him aside in his initial step toward the ball in play? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, with Statcast, at least we know exactly how it's hanging. They're talking about a fly ball, but it seems promising.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Mycelium Mausoleum

I can procrastinate with the best of them--in fact, most of the time I'm just getting around to procrastinating--but there are things you can't argue with for long, and having a dead-rat smell inside your refrigerator is one of them.

You can let it go a day out of sheer disbelief. You can then imagine the smell is not coming from inside the refrigerator even though it wafts out only when you open the door; you can suppose there is a small deceased rodent behind the refrigerator, and that it will dry up into a cracker if you ignore it thoroughly enough.

You can suspect--if you're really good at this--it is not real at all, but instead is a neurological delusion of the olfactory centers in the brain, triggered by the sound of a refrigerator door opening, just like the one you used to store dead mice in when you worked in a toxicology lab for practically no pay at all.

You figure it's got to be one of those things, because the refrigerator in question is the beer refrigerator, and it's full of beer, which absolutely never smells like a dead rat outside of Iceland, where they make beer out of whale testicles.'s not completely full of beer. Ever since we took the keg out of it, forty years ago, because we found it attracted more friends than we really wanted, there has been room for a case and a half of beer and several blocks of cheese. I opened the door again. Same smell. But all the cheese is intact. Either swaddled in plastic or wax, every one.

Oh no.

The worms! The worms we kept for Studley have finally turned! We've got a million of them in there. We have four cottage cheese containers of mealworms all lined up to go to heaven in the form of a chickadee gullet, and we never seem to run out. (We haven't even opened containers two through four yet. It's possible we overbought.)

I withdrew a worm container and, with gingerly trepidation, pried open the lid. Worms. Live worms, mostly, that didn't smell.

And finally I saw it. A pound of maitake mushrooms rotting in the bottom crisper because there was no room in the Real Fridge. That was the culprit, all right, every bit as fragrant as a rat gone by, and it had been since the day after I bought them. Maitake mushrooms look like a puffball with a mohawk and they're made of mycelium and money, and I was intending to introduce them to some garnet yams, oil, and feta cheese.

But now I'll have to wait until I save up again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A Visit From Beyond

DooDah is a mess

Ever since Studley Windowson faded out of our lives, I have become a backyard nuisance. I am a pest. I need another personal bird. Every bird out there can sense it and most find it alarming.

The crows are coming along nicely. Dickens and DooDah, along with their occasional companions Auxiliary Dickens and Ancillary DooDah, are accustomed to us and, I'd like to think, well-disposed. They're still a little skittish, but they're no longer so skedaddlish. Without question they show up when we do and project thought-images of peanuts in our direction. That's not the same as landing on us with delicate chickadee teeny-feety perfection and a pure heart, but crows are larger and stabbier, so it's probably for the best. Anyway, we're working it out.

But I can hear a single chickadee chip-note from anywhere in the house. I'll pop right up and run outside with mealworms. My mealworms are getting senile. I've had them for well over a year in the refrigerator and the ones that are still alive might very well be stringy or tough or morose, but they still move around a little. The chickadees hang out in the hibiscus. I approach them like a total creeper. And they don't exactly fly away. They sit in the shrubbery as I approach, and until I get my hand all the way in there they'll stay put and look at me.

Out of pity.

They think about it for a minute, and the first one says to the other, You know, that's getting a little aggressive, and the second one goes Oh, that one's okay, she used to be friends with my dad, and the first one says Kind of stalkerish, though, and the second one is all What's the matter, you scairt? and they discuss it among themselves, and then the first one says Suit yourself, I'm outa here, and the second one, who has held out just a little longer than he really wanted to anyway, says Oh, okay, if you're going, I'll come with you and make sure you're all right.
I know at least one of them knows what I've got. I think he is one of Studley's more recent kids. Once last summer I was feeding Studley in the hibiscus and this kid kept getting a little closer and watching very carefully. When he got within a foot of my hand, Studley ran him the hell off. So I'm figuring now that he's not being supervised, he's going to go for it. Any day now.

After all, Studley took a little time at first too. It was breeding time, and he needed a boatload of grubs because of all the beaks to feed, and at first I put a few out on the windowsill. Once he spied them and started looking for them there, I put one on my hand and edged it out. He was wary and then finally went for it like the big brave buttonheaded beauty he was. After that, the clip was off the chip bag. He landed on me, he landed on Dave, and eventually he landed on everyone we knew. Any friend of ours was a friend of Studley's. The man was a total ambassador.

So what I'm thinking is if I can just get this one fellow to give it a whirl, I'll be in 'em. Or a nuthatch. I'd totally be fine with a nuthatch buddy. All of which means I am now spending an unconscionable amount of time standing under the seed feeder like a statue with a hand full of worms, waiting.

Studley was easy to tell from the others. I did get to where I could tell Studley and Marge apart from the back--one of them had a slightly wider white edge to the wings, but I could never remember which was what. Mainly, I knew Studley was the one that landed on me and had a bum foot, and that left Marge for the other.

So now I have at least two standard chickadees loitering around. They're identical. But now there's a new, third kid in town. A distinctive chickadee. It's almost all white on the back. Oh my god.

It's Ghost Studley!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Craftily Bespoken

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

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

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

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

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

You want that kind of mindfulness in a realtor.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

SOL at the DMV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you serious? I said.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Getting To The Bottom Of Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My Cherryot

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Human Bean

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we will be.

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A Pig In Lipstick And Satin Ballroom Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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