Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember What Memorial Day Is About

I got an email from a friend this morning that reminded me what today was all about. I am copying some of it here. I don't know the copywrite laws on duplicating emails but I hope I'm not breaking them. When you are thinking about your appliance sales and barbecues today, please take a moment to reflect on why the word "Memorial" comes from the word "memory," and remember the brave men and women who gave their lives so that I could write this blog and you could read it.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to add pictures to this so if you want to see the cartoons, you'll have to go to to see the complete blog, but below is the poem that was in the email. Even though a picture says 1000 words, I think this verse says it all.

It is
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is
not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is
the VETERANwho salutes the flag,
and it is ALL VETERANS who we salute today.

Thank you, dear veterans, for giving your freedom so that so many of us could have ours.

How a Morning at Starbucks Helped to Define the Dictionary

My last blog was about people turning out like their parents and how you had to struggle all through life if you didn’t want to adopt their bad habits. I implied that I had risen above all my parents’ bad habits by being spunky.

However, I had something happen yesterday that caused me to look up the word spunky. Merriam-Webster online said it meant, “full of spunk.” I don’t know about you, but if I’m looking up a word, it’s usually because I don’t know what it means. Having the word’s meaning explained to me by the word itself is going to leave me scratching my head and other parts if no one is looking.

But this is what dictionaries do, and for good reason. A dictionary in the library that tried to contain a complete definition of all words and their derivatives (called “inflected forms” because they often carry communicable diseases) would have to be hauled around on a forklift. Even the ones that don’t have all the words in them are so big they can’t be picked up except by Sumo wrestlers, and have to reside on their own lazy Susan, a device that allows the curious to spin the book around really fast so the dictionary flies off and knocks out the kid sitting at the first table on the right. And, FYI, that device was NOT named after me because my name is SuzANNE, not Susan, even though many, many people here in the Northwest think I’m saying ‘Susan’ because they don’t understand my Southern accent and just nod politely and say “uh-huh” when I talk, lest I repeat myself.

When Merriam and Webster got together to come up with their dictionary, Webster knew what had to be done. He said to Merriam, “Look, there are a million ways you can use every word. Take the very simple word ‘winter.’ Other words you can make with it are winterize, wintered, wintering, wintercation – the list is endless. So here’s what let’s do. We’ll define ‘winter’ and then make everyone refer back to that word when they look up all these other words.”

“I don’t get it,” Merriam said.

“It’s simple,” Webster grinned, sipping a cup of coffee and taking a bite of the pumpkin bread, the house specialty at this Starbucks. “Chew fake do nerd…”

“I hate it when you talk with your mouth full,” Merriam said. “Finish chewing. I’ll wait.”

Webster took another huge bite of banana bread because he secretly loved tormenting Merriam. Merriam knew this, so he got up and said, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Webster didn’t chew the whole time he was gone; just sat there like a chipmunk with both cheeks puffed out, filled to capacity with date-nut bread.

Merriam knew what Webster was up to, so he took extra time in the bathroom. This was easy because they had one of those cool soap dispensers that turn the pink gooey liquid in the clear glass pump into a nice round ball of puffy white foam that smelled like roses, daisies, and hollyhocks. He washed his hands several times, looking at himself in the mirror and smiling a rakish grin, knowing that the cinnamon roll was still in Webster’s mouth and he would start choking on it if enough time passed.

Back at the table, Webster felt a tickle in his throat but hoped that if he just relaxed and stayed calm he could weather it out, although he knew Merriam would wash his hands over and over because he was a clean freak. The tickle got more persistent, and sent a message to Webster’s brain that said, “Scratch me.” Webster ignored them both. The tickle decided to bump it up a notch, and sent a message to Webster’s brain that came through as a shout. Webster tensed up, ready for battle. The tickle was not backing down. It knew it would win over time, as long as Webster didn’t pour scalding black coffee all over it, in which case it generally retreated. But today it was digging in. Today it said, “Bring on the coffee. Bring on the ice water. You can’t expect to hold food in your mouth and not swallow and get away with it, sucka. Not on my watch!”

Mirriam, squirting another fun ball of foam, heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Crap,” he said. He dried his hands slowly under the electric hand dryer, not rubbing them together so it took longer. He started the dryer again. The noise of the dryer drowned out the insistent pounding on the door, no doubt by someone full of Starbucks coffee and in desperate need to get in there.

Finally the dryer stopped and Merriam opened the door. A lady with her legs crossed nearly knocked him over as she rushed past. “Humph,” Merriam said to let her know how rude she was.

Webster, seeing Merriam approaching, pleaded with his throat, “Please just hold on for another couple of seconds.” The tickle was not having any part of it. It started agitating so that Webster felt like his larynx and windpipe were being assaulted by an octopus waving feathers.

Merriam, sliding into the booth, said to Webster, “I see by your cheeks that you are still eating.”

Webster tried to grin. At this very second the tickle brought out the big guns.


*As with all historical fiction, the people may be real, but the places and incidents are made up or else the story would be boring. Not that I’m making any of this up, but I want to cover myself just in case. If the law comes after me, don’t tell them I’m hiding under the dictionary.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little Clones

Have you ever noticed how some people are carbon copies of their parents? I’m not talking about looks, but the way they act. I have a theory about this.

If you are an observant person, and I know that you are, then you can look at what your parents are doing and make judgment calls. I noted, for instance, that my mom spent a lot of time sitting around without really having too much ambition. I also noticed that, when I got older, I wanted to sit around. I loved many, many things about my mother, but sitting around wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I decided to lay around instead, which I considered a change for the better.

Same with my dad. He was old school with the attitude, “Do it because I said so.” Normal kids don’t want to do things they’re ordered to do because it’s usually something unsavory like cleaning your room or kissing your Aunt Jane. If the person would explain why, like: “Clean your room so that the Boogie Man won’t want to move in under your bed because he only hangs out in dirty rooms,” then I’d be in there swooshing through the sticky jawbreakers on the dresser and crusty socks splayed all over like some kind of wild thing until my room was completely sanitized. But it’s no fun being on the receiving end of an authoritarian who won’t bother explaining, so even though it was tiresome, I tried to always explain things to my kids.

“Mom, why do I have to brush my teeth?”

“Because I said, err, because if you don’t spiders will crawl in your mouth at night because they love foul smells.”

The reason I thought about this is that someone I’ve known for years is turning out just like her father. He was always overweight and in his last years he didn’t have the energy to get out of a chair. She’s getting to be the same way. She says she’s “depressed,” but I think she’s just following the family tradition.

My theory is that all people are programmed as infants to be like their parents. The spunky ones take everything in, imitate the good things and fight the bad. The reason it takes a spunky person to do this is because climbing out of the mold takes a lot of energy. You keep sliding back down into that earlier learned behavior.

For example, my mom was an accomplished overeater, and so was her mom before her. I would watch the two of them shoveling food like they were trying to fill up a deep well, and decided that I did not want to be that way. I have their same appetite and I love eating almost better than anything in the world, besides writing this blog for you, my loyal readers, but I refuse to eat so much I get big.

If I were a lazy person, I would just give in to it. In fact, it wouldn’t occur to me to fight it. I wouldn’t even know there was a battle. I’d be glued to some trashy shows on TV and never notice anything except that the bag of pork rinds was almost empty and who could I get to bring me another one. That’s as far as my powers of observation would extend.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being like your parents. My mother was the best momma in the world. I do many things just like her on purpose. She had this fantastic laugh that I try to imitate. Hers was deep and throaty, like a hyena with a bullfrog’s voice. My dad had many good points too. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t hurt you to take a look at what your parents were like and see if the things you’re doing now are imitating their bad points. If that’s the case, then get off your lazy kiester and get your own pork rinds, and bring me a bag, too.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Growing Up Happy

I’m more in the mood to walk down memory lane than to do comedy, so if you feel like a little trip to the past, come join me. When I was a kid, we had the advantage of living in a working class neighborhood, which meant that no one really had much money. I don’t ever remember being jealous of anyone as a kid. When someone got something new, we didn’t want one ourselves, we all just sponged off of them.

Lisa Cain had an outside, under-the-carport ping pong table so there were always five to ten kids (or more) playing ping pong. The Armbrusters had a croquet set, so we’d all migrate en masse to their big back yard whenever that was set up. At our house we had a pole vault and high jump pit, and a homemade ping pong table out in the back yard, so we always had kids hanging around.

If someone was home, we went to their house and started playing with whatever they had to offer in their yard. Sometimes the kids didn’t even come out. The whole neighborhood belonged to us, and we played outside every day the weather allowed. Since this was Tennessee, most days were outdoor days, even during the school year – until it got dark.

In the summer, we played under the streetlight at the intersection of two streets. One street butted into the other – it wasn’t a thru street so you had to either turn right or left. If you went right, it was a dead end, so no one really drove on our two streets except the people living there, which made the intersection perfect for playing softball in the summer. A manhole cover served as home plate. 1st and 3rd were storm drains, and 2nd base was the intersection of two cracks in the concrete. The only down side to this was when the ball rolled into the 3rd base storm drain. A strong, older kid would have to remove the grate and a little kid would jump in and retrieve the ball. They were only about 3 feet deep and never had any water in them, so it was never anything more than an inconvenience. I got to be the little kid who jumped in and grabbed the ball sometimes, which made me a 5 second hero. Then Phippy Sams pulled me out like I was no heavier than a doll, which was as fun as a carnival ride.

A couple of summers Sandra Mead got together the older kids and put on a variety show. She and the other stars draped blankets over clotheslines to make a long curtain. All the parents attended and we were treated to corny skits and off-key singing that delighted us because most of us had never seen “live” entertainment.

I had one best friend in the neighborhood, Christine, and I spent most of my time with her, but we spent most of our time hanging out with all the other kids. The Gallagher’s yard had a chin-up bar in back that we’d have contests to see who could do the most pull-ups. The Gallagher’s kids were already grown and gone but Mr. Gallagher, who we called Poppy, liked to taunt us to do more by saying, “pull, pull, pull, you can do it!” My older brother could do a bunch of them, and when we’d all finished Poppy would grab the bar and the muscles in his lean, tanned arms would flex into hard balls as we counted off his pull-ups. He’d do about 50, maybe more, and the girls would get bored and drift away. Poppy and his wife lived on the corner by 3rd base, so everyone hung out in their front yard when we weren’t chin upping in the back. We did handstands and cartwheels for hours, and sometimes brought a blanket to lie on and have a picnic.

My family was the poorest on the street, I suppose, but that made us creative. My brother made the pole vault pit by digging holes in the ground and putting in 4 x 4’s with nails hammered into them at one-inch intervals to hold the crossbar. He worked delivering newspapers on a bicycle to buy the fiberglass pole, and boys from miles around came to use it. They didn’t go much higher than 9 or 10 feet because the poles didn’t bend in those days. They’d land in a pile of sawdust. Girls came, too, but we high jumped.

He also made the ping pong table out of a 4 x 8 piece of plywood that he painted green and put on two sawhorses. It worked pretty well except there were a couple of knotholes that disrupted the ball and sent it in odd directions, but that just increased the challenge. If people wanted a real table, they could walk over to Lisa Cain’s. That’s where we held the ping pong tournaments.

Rocky and Stone Maddox (names we thought were silly but would fit right in today) had a big area to play basketball in their gravel driveway. Kids and younger fathers got up lively games there all the time. The Sams’ who lived a couple of doors down had a tetherball and we’d get tired of basketball and go over there. Sometimes there were upwards of 20 kids and adults hanging out at any given time.

Well now, we’ve come to the end of our journey and wasn’t that a fun little stroll into the past? I don’t know if anyone else had a magical neighborhood like we had with all the adults accommodating the kids in yards with no fences, and everyone with plenty of time on their hands. It wasn’t all perfect, and there was some crazy crap going on here and there, but we had everything we needed to enjoy our childhood. Did I mention the gigantic, outdoor pool about half a mile away, and the grocery store a block down the street with a glass candy case full of every sweet a kid could ever want? Oh, and I have to mention the carnival that came for two weeks every summer and was about a seven minute walk away. I never thought about it until just now, buy my childhood was at the vortex of the universe when it came to opportunities for a good time. There was a park about eight minutes away with tennis courts, and, best of all, we got to go anywhere we wanted without having to check in or even say where we were heading.

All things considered, it was a virtual. Wish you could have been there.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Suzanne's Law

Do you remember Murphy’s Law? It went something like, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I have invented my own law, called Suzanne’s law. This is a law of the universe that says, anytime you want someone to do something, they will either: not do it, do it but not do it well, or do it but not when you want them to.

This law is proved by my daughter on a regular basis. Here’s an example. I asked her for weeks to get the oil changed in her car. When she finally did, she brought the receipt in the house to show me all the add-on things they talked her into adding on. After I looked it over and heard her explanations (this was her very first oil change), I said, “Put that oil receipt in you glove box to show you’ve been maintaining the car.”

“I will mom.”


“Yes, I just don’t want to walk out there right now.”

If you apply Suzanne’s Law, you know that the oil receipt is still laying in the bonus room floor days later, and will continue to stay there unless ants carry it off or I plant myself in the middle of the room with my hands on my hips, tapping my toe, and watch her pick it up and take it out to her car, at which time she’ll come back into the house scowling and go straight to her room, slamming the bedroom door to let me know how unreasonable I’m being.

My dog has Suzanne’s Law down to a science. If she does something really cute, like cock her head to one side and look up with the whites of her little black eyes showing, and it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your life so you want to share it with someone, it’s guaranteed that she’ll cease doing it the second the other person looks at her, no matter how fast they turn their head.

Another version of this same thing is when she sits or rolls over on demand all day long, but if someone says, “Does your dog do tricks?” and you say, “Yes, watch this,” and then say, “Roll over,” she will just look at your like she’s deaf and not even acknowledge that you are speaking to her. If you say it again and again, she waits patiently, looking at you and maybe cocking her head as if to say, “What up, dog?”

Now that I’ve discovered this new law, which is akin to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in its scope and application, I see it happening all the time. We had a leak in our roof and the roofing contractor was supposed to call this morning by 7:30 to say when he was coming. I called him at 8:00. He said he was coming at 9:30. I called him at 9:45. He got there eventually, but not when he was supposed to – again proving Suzanne’s Law.

Curiously, now that I’ve coined this law, I feel more forgiving toward my daughter. She’s only following a pre-ordained, scientific model of teenage behavior patterns that are consistent with 99.9% of the teenage population.

I feel so much better. I’m going to get a lot of use out of that law until she goes to college. Feel free to use it as well. It may save you from pulling all your hair out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Can You Keep a Secret?

I wonder how people manage to keep things secret. I haven’t had much luck with it. Once I threw my husband a surprise birthday party and two different friends of his called him to ask, “How do I get to the place where your surprise birthday is going to be?”

Granted, both of these guys have been stoners for years, but you’d think that even in a stupor people would realize that an invitation with the words, “SHHHH – IT”S A SURPRISE!” would know not to mention it. It’s one thing to let something slip, but there was no excuse for that, and it caused me a lot of misery.

Since my husband knew, but I didn’t know that he knew, he thought it would be funny to torture me by driving down to the beach that day with one of his friend’s to go crabbing. They left early in the morning and while they were on the water, his friend kept trying to get him to leave, but Esso said things like, “It’s such a nice day, let’s just hang out some more. You don’t have anything planned for tonight, do you?” When they finally left to come back home, he wanted to stop and eat, stop and buy beer, etc. Julius, the friend, sneaked off and called me to report that they were still in Tillamook and he didn’t know WHEN they’d be home.

I was, of course, a nervous wreck, because we hadn’t made “plans.” We’d talked about going out to eat with some friends but hadn’t firmed it up. I thought this would make things seem less suspicious. Esso finally called and said he was too tired to go out, and that he’d rather just stay home and order a pizza.

The inability of those two friends to keep a secret caused me a whole day of torment and agony. One of them had the gall to show up at the party pre-intoxicated. He parked himself in front of the microphone when it was time to roast Esso and rambled incoherently about who knows what until I bitch slapped him. Not really. I politely nudged him to the side and announced that they were going to take the food away, but he certainly deserved a hefty smack.

The reason I thought about this subject was because I was watching Biography and it was about Paul Newman. Some gossip columnist back in the day kept saying that there were rumors of trouble in Newman’s marriage to Joanne Woodward. For those of you who don’t know who she is, I can tell you that she’s this gorgeous, very classy actress. By sheer coincidence, people have told me I look like her. However, I think she looks like me.

Newman and Woodward got fed up with the rumors and took out a full-page ad in some newspaper saying their marriage was just fine and the gossip columnist needed to go bungee jumping without a cord. They didn’t say that because Joanne would have been way too classy, but they said something, believe you me.

Movie stars have the paparazzi and everyone else watching them, so I can’t imagine how they keep secrets, but they certainly try. When they get discovered doing something like having an affair with the nanny, they first deny it over and over. Then evidence starts piling up, for instance the nanny shares intimate text messages from the alleged perpetrator. Still the star denies it, though not quite so forcefully. “I did not have sex with that woman,” they say, then add, “not that I can remember.”

Another thing that’s interesting, when I was younger everyone thought I looked like Sally Field. People told me that all the time. Now she looks older than me, so I’m glad they’ve changed to Joanne Woodward, who is, as I’ve already mentioned, quite a looker.

Pssst – Can you keep a secret? I didn’t think so.

Why Scratching Is Bad for the Environment

I went at the crack of dawn this morning to Starbucks to hang some of my photos for a little show I’m having and I listened to NPR news on the drive back home. Actually, it wasn’t the crack of dawn, I slept right through that because I don’t use an alarm clock. The rain, jabbing persistently and vehemently on my roof, awakened me to a dark, dreary, milky-grayish light that informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was standing on the platform watching the train carrying the crack of dawn fade off into the sunrise (if there had been any, which there wasn’t).

Oh that felt good to write, like a nice long, dog-like stretch after a good night’s sleep. But I am not here to wax poetic. Nor am I here to wax the furniture. Or your car, for that matter. I’m here to try to write something amusing. NPR was telling us about the BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is not in any way, shape, or form amusing. My heart goes out to the millions of fish and fowl that will lose their lives as a result of this tragedy, as well as the millions of people who will lose their livelihoods.

I will try, however, to write something humorous about the oil companies, which some might say is no laughing matter either, but I have to write SOMETHING. The story this morning on NPR was about oil companies scrambling to avoid expensive safety regulation that is sure to be the government’s way of slapping them for being naughty and having yet another massive oil spill. I was grumbling about “those stupid oil companies” when I realized I was, in fact, at that very moment, driving a vehicle that depended on oil to operate (albeit only SOME oil because it is a hybrid which can go two to fifty times farther on a tank of gas than the average car on the road today, not that I’m trying to rub your nose in it).

Then it occurred to me that I would drive a non-oil based car if someone would make one and give me convenient places to re-charge or re-fuel it. I’m going to hear from people in California saying that, in fact, GM made a prototype electric car 20 years ago that ran great and everyone loved, but when the executives at GM met with the executives at BIG OIL (BO) – apt initials, aren’t they? – they decided, after much head and crotch scratching, that it would be in their best interests to NOT have people LOVING the EV1 (their electric vehicle) because it would put all their service departments out of business (electric cars don’t need oil changes), not to mention oil refineries, gas stations, Lava soap and similar products to get mechanics’ hands clean right down to the fingernails, and a plethora of other industries that depend on oil for the lifeblood of their bottom line.

These scratching executives decided that a certain California legislator who had the power to throw out the clean air standards probably had an itch as well, and so they all reached into each other’s pockets and scratched until they were all satisfied that in the end, their mutual bottom line was far, far more important than clean air or, for that matter, innovation, Yankee ingenuity, state of the art technology, or a really cool vision for the future.

These executives snatched back all the EV1’s (they were on loan to 400 consumers to try out), and they crushed them into a mass of metal you could fit into the palm of your hand (although it weighed 8 trillion tons) in order to remove all trace of the vehicles. Instead, they started pushing Hummers (army vehicles seen in old WWII movies), which take two parking spaces and get -4 miles per gallon, and, coincidentally, you can buy from GM.

Small world, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, other companies with Yankee ingenuity (that happened to all be in Asia) started making electric cars and hybrids. These soon became the world’s most popular vehicles. GM responded by building bigger and bigger SUVs and, in a miracle of marketing, sold them because they convinced the general public (who also has the word “general” in their name – it really IS a small world) that their toddlers would not be safe in any car except one that gets single-digit fuel economy.

This marketing strategy worked so well that now it is nearly impossible to find a parking space because, to be safe, these vehicles also need to have one wheel over the line on both sides so that only cars with the dimensions of a two by four can fit in there.

If we fast-forward to the present, we see GM crawling to the Government and grabbing millions of dollars in bailout money with that very same hand that was scratching oil companies and legislators not so long ago.

What has this got to do with the Gulf of Mexico? I would explain it, but I’ve run over my word limit. I apologize for leaving you to scratch your head and figure it out on your own.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finding the Perfect Card

My brother’s birthday is tomorrow and I forgot to buy him a card. So I went to look in the box of cards I bought just for this contingency. A neighbor of mine years ago gave me the idea – she used to buy cards on sale so she’d have a card on hand for anything that came up.

I thought it was a good plan, so I went to Hallmark and bought some cards that I thought were pretty funny. I also picked up a bundle of cards when my girlfriend dragged me to a garage sale.

I still have most of these cards, even though this was years ago. The garage sale ones were pathetic. Here are some of the sayings (you’ll notice a couple are based on very old commercials):

“How do you spell relief?” (open) “J-A-N-U-A-R-Y! Happy Holidays!”

(Two frogs on a wedding cake) “Two words come to mind on this momentous occasion.” (open) “You fools!”

“How about…” (open) “…a nooner?”

“Double your pleasure, double your fun…” (open) “run your paycheck through the copy machine!”

“Meet me later….” (open) “in your birthday suit?”

Who bought those cards in the first place? Or have they just made the rounds from garage sale to garage sale, picking up new bad cards along the way like snow tires pick up gravel?

The Hallmark cards are funny, but now that I own them, I have a hard time giving them to actual people I know. Many are about aging, and when I think of a friend opening them and reading the message, it seems a little cruel, so even though I love them and laugh each time I read them, I haven’t been able to pass them on. Here’s a sampler:

“You aren’t getting old” (open) “Hell, you were old last year.”

“Don’t let them tell you what people your age can and can’t do!” (open) “That’s what your knees are for.”

“It appears that sucking in your gut like that…” (open) “has blown the hair off the top of your head.”

If someone is really bald, AND has a gut, could I make fun of them by giving them a card pointing this out? Sure, we’d all get a laugh, but it’s a cruel joke on the birthday girl.

At what age does humor about aches and pain turn into a vicious reminder that you are getting old and it’s all downhill from here? People like me who have a sense of humor can see that this is tongue in cheek, but can the one being honored on his birthday? I’d much rather get a card that talks about getting old as being like fine wine – comparing aging to a process in which a sweet, juicy grape is turned into a dry, fermented beverage that’s one step away from being vinegar.

Wait a minute, no I wouldn’t. I DO NOT want to be reminded that I’m “getting older” on my birthday. I want to pretend it’s just another day and I will continue to be immortal. The aches in my joints are temporary inconveniences that WILL NOT be worse tomorrow.

So once again, I’m going to leave those “old” cards in the card box and go buy a new one that will tell my brother how much I appreciate him even though he used to beat me within an inch of my life when we were kids. I hope Hallmark has one that says that – and I’m betting they will.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Sometimes life deals us a good hand and we are in the right place at the right time. Meeting Mary Morelock at the Legion Pool in 8th grade was one of those times. I knew who she was but didn’t like her because in 8th grade all I wanted was to fit in. She, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care what anyone thought about her, and she said and did anything that crossed her mind.

On that day at the Legion, there were several girls our age there, and we were hanging out together. Some of them went to lie in the sun, which left just me and Mary in the pool to hang out together. “Want to touch the bottom?” she said. “Sure,” I answered. Then we started doing flips off the low diving board, and I discovered I liked her because she was willing to try anything, and she laughed a lot and made jokes out of everything around her.

We spent a lot of time hanging out after that, and when I met her family, I felt like I’d found my second home. They were outspoken, or as we’d say today, not politically correct, but in an honest, and humorous, sort of way.

Mary’s dad, Demp, hung in the background, completely aware of everything going on but preferring to be an observer. Mostly his interactions were a few polite questions, and frequent offers of Little Debbie cakes, which must have been his idea of hospitality. “You want a Little Debbie cake? There’s a whole bunch of them out there in the freezer.” And then five minutes later: “You sure you don’t want a Little Debbie cake?”

When I first heard him say Mary’s name, he pronounced it, “Murry,” and that’s what I called her from then on, which I later shortened to “Mur.” When we were in high school, Mary had the only car, a Jeep – one of those utterly cool, real Jeeps with a removable tan nylon top like you see in African safari movies. Since she was the only one who drove, we all called her first whenever we wanted to do anything, either alone or as a group. She had tons of friends, so she’d get a lot of phone calls. Demp saw what was going on and started answering the phone, “Morelock Cabs.”

I hung out at Mary’s house so much he nicknamed me, “The Boarder.” He’d say it, even with me in the room, when he talked to Mary about me, as in: “Murry, do you and The Boarder want some stew?”

Once a car full of hoodlums chased Mary’s little sister, Kathy (called Bunny), home because they thought she’d cut them off. When she pulled up to her house, they got out of the car and started cussing and trash talking to her. Demp came out with a shotgun and said, “Bunny, git in the house.” He calmly told the boys to leave, and when they defiantly stood their ground, he raised the gun and peppered their Mustang, shooting the hood ornament off. Word got around and nobody messed with Demp’s kids after that.

I loved going to her house because she had big speakers in the living room and they were always playing the best music nice and loud. Not ear-splitting, but way louder than anyone else’s parents allowed. At my house, we never got to have our own music in the main part of the house – we had to listen to it in our rooms. My dad always had some Charlie “Yardbird” Parker or Miles Davis music playing that embarrassed the crap out of me. At Mary’s, they had the Allman Brothers, and Demp would sit right in the middle of the speakers, reading his paper and apparently enjoying himself.

My favorite story of Demp was the time we visited Mary’s parents when my kids were about two and six years old. Every time I go to Tennessee I visit Mary’s mom and dad. They moved to a place in the country after their kids all finished college, and my kids have always loved going there. On this day, me and Mary and my kids arrived just after suppertime. Us girls sat on the back porch watching my kids chasing lightening bugs while Demp puttered around in the house. It was about 10 or 11 o’clock by the time we got ready to go. We found Demp in the garage, and we were saying our goodbyes when he offered my kids a pop. I told him no, they didn’t need a pop, but thank you. A couple of minutes later he offered them one again, just like he used to offer me Little Debbie cakes.

“No, Demp, thanks but they don’t need a pop.”

“Suzanne, why won’t you let them kids have a pop?” he persisted.

“It’s late, and if they drink a pop right now they’ll wet the bed.”

“Aw, hell, I wet the bed every night. That don’t stop me.”

That was hilarious on so many levels that it makes me laugh even still.

Demp just went to the Big Cab Company in the sky, and I know for a fact that he’s up there, cracking up Jesus, all the saints, and the apostles with his wit and shenanigans. And he’s probably standing next to St. Peter, offering the newcomers whatever Heaven’s version of hospitality is, over and over again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yo Blogist Is So Fat

I realize my last few posts make me appear to be a glutton. And I am. But I do work out quite a bit and have managed to stay in the same clothes for years. Yes, they are ragged and worn out, but that’s another blog.

I have to change my ways, though. I read that it’s unhealthy to overeat, even if you don’t get fat. All this talk about being fat makes me think of Yo Mama jokes, so I’ve gathered a few here for our entertainment.

Yo mama is so fat she looks at a menu and says, “Okay!”

Yo mama is so fat she had to go to Sea World to get baptized.

Yo mama is so fat you have to grease the doorway and hold a Twinkie on the other side just to get her through.

This last one is my favorite. I went online to get more and found this really awful. These are so bad I think someone from a non-English speaking country made them up because they aren’t funny and the person couldn’t spell. See for yourself – I copied these verbatim from the website:

Yo mama so fat she used a thin mashine to make her thin instead she became fatter.

so mama so fat her pansy size is is is ***** lose some weight.

I think some people set up websites just to make money from the millions of ads they have on there.

Here are a couple more I found on TIME Magazine’s website that are supposed to be the top 10 Yo Momma Jokes. These are really bad. TIME has no sense of humor:

Yo mama so fat she sat on a rainbow and Skittles popped out.

Yo mama so fat, she jumped up in the air and got stuck.

Does anyone even get this last one? If you do, please explain it to me, because I’m not seeing it.

Here’s a couple I like:

Yo mama is so fat, when she was diagnosed with a flesh-eating disease, the doctors gave her 14 years to live.

Yo mama is so fat, when she gets her shoes shined, she has to take the guy’s word for it.

Yo mama is so fat, she’s got shock absorbers on her toilet seat.

Someone once said, “Don’t criticize the way someone else does something if you’re not willing to do it yourself.” Actually, I just said that as a lead in to these Yo Mama jokes I just made up. They are no worse than some of the ones I’ve seen. Since I made them up, and since I’m complaining about being fat, I changed them to Yo blogist – get it – blog ist – someone who blogs. Do I always have to explain everything?!!!!!

Yo blogist is so fat they sound the tsunami warning every time she gets in the ocean.

Yo blogist is so fat her mobile home is a triple-wide.

Yo blogist is so fat her desk chair cowers when she comes into the office.

Yo blogist is so fat, when she jumps in bed her husband gets catapulted out the door.

Your blogist is so fat, when she sits at the kitchen table, half of her is still in the living room.

Pretty funny, huh? If I think of some more good ones, I’ll let you know. Hmmm. You know what? Buttered popcorn sounds pretty tasty right now. Or a carrot. Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Dog Ate My Blog Post

I didn’t do my blog yesterday because my dog ate it.

Actually, it fell out of my notebook and got wet and the ink all ran and the paper fell apart and I didn’t have time to redo it.

What really happened is that my daughter stuffed it into her backpack because she thought it was her homework.

Actually, my husband wadded it up and used it with a bunch of newspaper as a pad under a hot casserole dish that he put in a cardboard box to take to a potluck because he didn’t want to burn the seat of his car.

Really what happened is I got a massage yesterday by Helga the Swiss dominatrix, a friend of a friend who came highly recommended and was giving a good deal – I’m too cheap to get a massage unless it’s nearly free or a gift.

Normal women should not have this much strength, especially if they have spears for elbows. She planted the point of her elbow at the beginning of each of my muscle groups and bore down with all she had until she was on the verge of skewering me, then very v..e..r..y slowly dragged the elbow across the entire muscle. Ligaments and tendons ducked for cover as she smashed them down like a steamroller until the elbow eventually reached the other side.

I took it like a man because I thought it was supposed to be “good” for me. But she was enthusiastically sadistic. I’d made the mistake of telling her that I had a knot in my neck – probably from blogging – and she gave that area extra special attention. She “stretched out” my neck by standing behind me why I lay on the torture rack and pushing my head forward until my chin was pressing down into my sternum. I thought at any second my head would snap off in her hands and she’d turn the severed head around and hold it at her eye level and say, “oops!” with a wicked grin.

When I left, I was at least 3 inches taller and throbbing so much from head to toe that, seriously, there was no way I could sit and write.

Besides, friends came over and we had appetizers and wine to tide us over for the fifteen-minute drive downtown to get dinner. I was pretty full by the time I left the house because eating distracted me from the pain, and the wine was the perfect medicinal vintage to dull the shooting pains spiking every few minutes.

The restaurant we wanted to try was Toro Bravo. If you’re ever in Portland, you HAVE to go there. But expect to wait an hour and a half to get a table if you go at the same time as everyone else because they don’t take reservations. We killed the time by going to Afrique Bistro – pronounced af– freek by us but who knows what it’s actually called. There we had more wine and appetizers which were really, really tasty (cucumber salad and cheese spinach). I was starting to wish for elastic-waist pants.

When we were done there, we decided to check out Russell Street Bar-B-Que (all of these are on NE Russell Street). There we had pints of IPA beer and two orders of hush puppies. These were the real deal – the hush puppy was about the size of a chopped-off finger and cooked through. They were delicious with butter, and each order had 12 hush puppies, so doing that math, that gave us a total of 24, which meant that, since there were 4 of us, I got 12 and everyone else got 4. We also nibbled two pralines there.

They called us from Toro Bravo to say our table was ready, and we waddled back there and ordered no fewer than 10 appetizers (or tapas) because we wanted to sample all the flavors. And another bottle of wine, which unfortunately had the unpleasant side effect of causing a pain in my forehead, although the rest of my body had long since ceased complaining. Except for my stomach. It was yelling and screaming, “Stop, you freaking idiot. DO NOT put that fork in your mouth again. DO NOT!!!!! You are the stupidest human being in the world. No one has ever continued eating like this when they are COMPLETELY FULL and not regretted it. You will have to run 10 miles tomorrow to burn all of this off. Please stop. I’m begging you. P..l..e..a..s..e.” My stomach’s voice continued like this as I stabbed another potato, pickled beet, and cheese bread slice. It had pretty much given up by the time Julie and I shared a lava cake with ice cream for dessert.

By the time we got home, it was very late, I was very miserable, and I had a headache. And that’s when the dog ate my blog.

ADDENDUM (for extra credit): Speaking of dogs, let me explain about hush puppies. I’m originally from the South so I know that, when people here in Portland make hush puppies big and round, it’s not right. True hush puppies are corn bread batter dropped into hot fat. They fry until they’re browned on the outside and cooked through – and each one of them is like a snowflake – no two are alike. The big round ones can have wet dough in the middle because the heat can’t get in there quick enough to cook the center without burning the outside. If you want a good batch of fried okra, go to Miss Delta (on NE Mississippi), but don’t order the hush puppies there. They are okay, but they’re round and they don’t taste like a real hush puppy and you dip them in gravy, which isn’t bad, but it’s not the real thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sailing Trip Final Part

When we left Orace and Audrey’s place, we started heading back home. It took a couple of days to get back down to Smuggler Cove, and when we got there the place was full of boats. We found one of the last places to tie off, even though it was fairly early in the day. Everyone was sandwiched in there like a trailer park of sailboats. We had to anchor the back of the boat to make sure it didn’t swing out and hit the people beside us.

There were a million jellyfish everywhere in the water. Little ones the size of silver dollars all the way up to ones as big across as a Frisbee were layered from the surface all the way to the bottom. You could barely see a spot that didn’t have one whipping its tentacles to swim up and down.

We would be going back to Vancouver the next day, and we were in a very festive mood. We brought out the Spanish coffees right away and watched the jellyfish pulsating around the boat, and later stuffed ourselves on another of Esso’s feasts.

Since it was summer, and we were so far north, it didn’t get dark until practically 11:00 at night. We could see big rocks below the boat. The depth sounder warning alarm had been beeping this very annoying noise for the last couple of hours until we finally turned it off. We figured the jellyfish were setting it off.

After one last protracted game of Scrabble – the Spanish coffees made it impossible to think of words longer than 3 or 4 letters – we went to bed. About 3 a.m. I woke up, wedge up against the way. The bed was at a 45 degree. “Wake up you guys,” I hollered, “the boat’s tipping over.” We all jumped up and ran out on deck. The boat was listing way over to one side. The tide had gone out and we could see boulders sticking out of the water.

Esso started the engine and tried to drive us off the huge rock we were resting on, but we didn’t move. I yelled, “Jump up and down on one side.” With all of us jumping, eventually we “rocked” the boat off the rock, scraping over it as we went, and motored out into the cove away from the shallows. We dropped anchor out there and congratulated each other for being so smart and getting off the rocks. I bet we woke up everyone in the Cove.

When our adrenaline levels subsided we went back to sleep, and woke up the next morning surprised that everyone wasn’t heading out of there since boaters seemed to like to get an early start. We ate breakfast and shoved off, excited to be going home.

The boat rounded the corner of the protected cove and hit huge waves and wind blowing like a hurricane. Unlike the rolling waves we’d gone through crossing over the Strait the first day, these were coming from all directions. The boat would get smacked on one side, and we’d list way over. We tipped so far that the mast was only feet above the water and we had to hang on to keep from falling in. Then a wave would slap us from the other direction, and we’d tilt way to the other side.

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m a great swimmer, but I knew if I fell in that water, even with a life jacket, I probably wouldn’t survive. We were in a shipping lane, and a few gigantic ferries and tankers passed a couple of hundred yards away. Their wakes came all the way across and tilt us even more. There was not another boat our size anywhere in any direction.

“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed above the roar of the wind.

“We’ll be fine,” Eric hollered. “I’ve got to get back to work.” He had flown up to Vancouver from Portland, and I’m sure he didn’t want to miss his flight. I held on and kept my mouth shut until we rocked so far sideways I thought the boat would fall over.

“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed.

“We’ll be fine,” Eric said.

“Look, there’s not another boat out here. That’s why Smugglers Cove was so crowded – people were waiting out the storm. We have to turn back.”

Eric and I continued this debate for about another twenty minutes. Esso was busy trying to steer the nose of the boat into the oncoming waves, which was impossible, but he was making a good effort.

“If this boat tips over, we’ll all die,” I said after a really nasty wave had the mast practically touching the water. “There’s no way we’d could swim to shore.”

Eric argued, Esso fought the steering wheel with all his might, and I whimpered like a blubbering baby and calculated how many hours I could last in the water before exhaustion overcame me and I drowned.

Another ferry went by, and its wake pushed the boat so far on its side that the mast hit the water. I started crying and begging to turn back, “I don’t want to die, it’s not worth it, let’s go back before it’s too late.”

Either out of fear or pity, Esso turned the boat around. Eric was fit to be tied. “You can’t go back, I have to get to Vancouver today. Oh, man, don’t be such a wuss, you can make this!”

We went back like a coward dog creeping away from a fight to lick its wounds, and I was never happier. Eric, on the other hand, would have thrown me in the water if Esso hadn’t been there.

We got back to the little slice of mooring that we’d left – no one had come into the Cove since we set out. We spent the day there killing time because the storm never let up. We figured that’s why all the jellyfish were in there; they had enough sense to take shelter even if a certain member of our crew did not.

It was a long, antsy, uneventful day of passing the hours, listening to Eric lament not getting back on time and how we could have made it. If there had been a harpoon on the boat, his life would have been in danger. We didn’t play Scrabble that night, which was a relief because I know I would have slapped him.

Next morning the sun was out and we had smooth sailing all the way back to Vancouver. Esso was gone for a long time checking in the boat. “They dived under the boat to check for damage and said there was a big chunk torn out of the keel,” he said. “I have to pay them almost a $1,000 bucks to get it fixed.”

It was then we realized it would have probably been better just to let the boat stay on the rock until the tide came back in, but how did we know?

We took Eric to the airport, and we started the drive back to Portland. We got across the border with the three bags of oysters we’d gotten earlier in the trip, and had a party when we got home with some of the neighbors.

To this day, Eric still says we shouldn’t have turned around. “If wasn’t that bad,” he says, and we get in a good-natured argument. Recently, for my birthday, he blew up a picture he’d taken of me sitting in the boat. I looked like a whale. My face was as round as a beach ball, and my sleeve looked like a tourniquet around my arm. I’d forgotten about all the eating I’d done on that trip, and I was a little embarrassed that I made those guys look at me like that for so many days – they even saw me squeezed into a bikini a few times.

Oh well, they survived it. And now I’m done telling this tale. All is well.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sailing Trip Part 4

We finally reached Desolation Sound on the 7th day. The wind was blowing, and we hoisted the sail and the brightly colored spinnaker. Each of us took turns sailing the boat. The guys kept their eyes straight ahead and got the boat up to about 6 knots. I had learned in sailing class to watch the tell tales. You want them to go straight back - that shows your sails are getting the most bang for your buck out of the wind. I quickly had the boat going over 7 knots, and the boys were in awe.

When they wanted to drive again, I told them about the tell tales, but neither of them listened, they just kept looking straight ahead and trying to “catch the wind” by steering. Neither got the boat above 6 knots the whole day. This proves my theory about the brain of a man.

Desolation Sound was worth the trip. It had utterly spectacular views of jagged, snowcapped peaks straight from a postcard. There were other brightly colored sailboats leaning into the wind, and I quickly forgot the boredom of motoring all those days. We stayed there for a while, reluctant to leave the first wind of the trip, but it was time to find a place to tie up for the night.

It started getting dusky as we crept along scanning the shoreline for a place to stop. I’m not sure why we didn’t just anchor, maybe it was too deep. Fog set in, and the trees cast spooky shadows that made me think the woods were full of Sasquatches. I was getting a creepy feeling that led to goose bumps. I was also tired and hungry, among other complaints. We saw a couple of dim lights in the distance and motored blindly toward them. We came up to a dock literally in the middle of nothing and nowhere. There were no houses – I don’t even know what the dock led to – it could have just been free standing. It was obviously private property, with only one sailboat tied to it. Esso guided the boat next to it and Eric jumped out with a rope to tie us off. “You guys wait on the boat and I’ll see if anyone is home,” Esso said. I expected a shotgun report to crackle through the silent night.

Someone came off the boat and started walking warily toward us. I jumped on the dock, figuring I could turn on the Southern accent if I needed to – desperate to get some dinner.

“What do you want?” the guy asked like some moonshiner protecting his still. I couldn’t see his face but he was about my size and I thought I could take him if I had to.

“We need to tie up for the night,” Esso said.

“This ain’t a public dock,” the man said coldly.

“Ple-ease let us tie up here tonight,” Scarlett O’Hara said (that’s me). “We’re soooo tired and hungry.”

“We’ll pay you,” Esso added, “and we’ve got beer.”

“Oh well, now, if you’ve got beer, let’s pop one open. I’ll tell the Missus we’ve got company.” He hovered while Eric fetched him a Kokanee. He tilted the bottle up and drank half of it in four fierce gulps. “Ah, that hits the spot. Bring the six pack with you.”

“Give him a minute to tell his wife,” I said, grabbing a fistful of stale pretzels. After a couple of minutes he popped back up out of his boat and yelled, “You coming?”

We walked across about 50 feet of dock to his sailboat. He turned on some lights so we could see to climb on board, and we went below. “This here’s Audrey,” he said, pointing to a smiling, curly haired, squatty little woman in a sweatsuit, “and I’m Orace.”

“That’s an interesting name,” I said.

“Oh, it’s really Horace,” Audrey said, “he just don’t say the H.”

Their boat was a floating single-wide. Seriously, I have been in trailers in East Tennessee that were decorated exactly like this one with a lot of oversized furniture that they must have taken apart to get in the door, and plenty of pink gingham and mauve prints. And there were doilies and knickknacks. A floating white trash museum, but pleasant and homey and a very welcome port in a storm, as it were.

Orace helped himself to one beer after another. I whimpered about wanting to go and start dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He had company and he was going to damn well take advantage of it. Finally I said I’d go fix something and bring it back. That was welcomed by everyone, and I left Esso and Eric there as hostages. I made who knows what – probably peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips. Esso popped in to get another six-pack of beer.

“You guys drank that first one already?”

“Orace doesn’t even bother to swallow. He just pours them down like he’s putting oil in a car. And she’s pretty fond of beer, too.”

Orace had an appetite, and so did Audrey. For that matter, so did I, and the food vanished well before my growling stomach was ready to throw in the towel. I went back for more, and Esso went back for another six-pack.

They were delighted with everything we said, and wanted to know all the details of our trip. Orace told us slurry stories about being the mailman in these parts, and wintering over without seeing anybody for days at a time. He stood up most of the time, using his hands and arms to accentuate what he said. After awhile he became incoherent, which made the up to then jovial Audrey a little cranky. “You’re drunk,” she said, more than once. She’d stopped smiling.

We kept tying to leave he wouldn’t let us go. “What’s your hurry?” he’d say, and we felt compelled to continue being his audience. I realized that this party could go on all night, so I said, in my Scarlett O’Hara, “Audrey, you have been so kind to welcome us into your home and let us stay here tonight. We might have died out there in the ocean if it hadn’t been for you. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found you. Thank you so much for everything.” I got up and said, “Esso and Eric, we have overstayed our welcome and you need to get up right this minute and let these wonderful people get some rest.” They sprang up like prairie dogs and grabbed Orace’s hand, gushing gratitude. Esso handed him a greenback, which must have satisfied him for the overnight mooring because he grinned and stuffed it in his pocket.

“There’s no sense in rushing off,” he said, obviously befuddled at the sudden end of his party.

“Let ‘em go, Orace. You’re drunk,” Audrey said, sealing the nail in the coffin of his good time.

“We’re leaving the beer,” Esso said. “And thanks again.”

“We’ll make breakfast for you all in the morning,” I called down from the upper step.

It was fun for a while, but I was pretty to escape the clutches of our clingy hosts. We slept soundly in the perfect quiet of that deserted dock. In the morning, we got up, dressed, made breakfast, did our usual routine at our usual speed, and there wasn’t a peep from the other boat.

“What do we do?” I asked, wondering what sailboat etiquette was in a situation like this.

Esso took another six-pack of beer and put it on the dock beside Orace and Audrey’s boat. They would have come out if they’d been awake. I really wanted to say goodbye and thanks again, but who knows how long it would take them to sleep off that much beer? We started our engine and figured that would rouse them, but still no sign of life. It was a beautiful, green, hidden cove surrounded by mountains and lush forests, with a wispy fog still hanging close to the water. I drank in the scene as we pulled away from the dock, and hoped a Sasquatch didn’t get the beer before Orace found it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sailing Trip Part 3

Fast forward to four days later. We had settled into a routine. We got up and had a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and oranges (to ward off scurvy). Then we’d pull up anchor or leave the dock we’d tied up to overnight. We started our motors and puttered further up the coast, past scenery that was surprising exactly like we’d seen every day so far. Then we stopped and had a nice lunch of sandwiches, chips, apples, and pop before starting our engines back up and going further up the coast. Late afternoon we arrived at a new dock or place to anchor and prepared a feast of barbecued oysters or something Esso had prepared like marinated steaks with grilled toast, salad, and dessert. The wonderful meal was accompanied by beer and wine, with Spanish coffees as after dinner drinks that took us all the way to bedtime.

Sometimes, if we were lucky, there would be interesting rock features or little secret coves along the way that Esso and Pat knew about because they’d been sailing up this way before, but the sites didn’t last very long. We’d sit all day long, and then sit all evening. Out of boredom, I gorged on potato chips, candy, fruit, pretzels, cream cheese, string cheese, pork rinds, licorice rope, Tootsie Roll Pops, leftover bacon, trail mix, cashews, and the occasional carrot or celery stalk.

Boredom was making my clothes too tight, which made sitting around even less pleasant. The rest of the gang was delighted with the R and R they were getting. I was going nuts. About the third day I started taking the little dinghy out that was tied to the back of our boat. I’d row it around and around the cove just to get my circulation going and check stuff out. No one else had any interest in exploring.

I had how many more days of this? On the 5th day we went to a secret place Esso and Pat knew about that was full of oysters. We anchored about 500 yards away from the rocks and rowed our dinghy’s close in. Everyone got on the little rock islands and started filling bags with oysters. I didn’t have the heart to do it, so I rowed around in the dinghy. After awhile Eric needed to go back to the boat, I guess to use the facilities, and so I sat on the rocks and talked to Sue as they collected potato sacks full of oysters. Erick got back to the boat and neglected to properly tie up the dinghy. Oh boy, what excitement that was! We all yelled and screamed at him as the dinghy started drifting away, but he didn’t hear us. Finally he appeared on deck, gave us that “What?” look, and just kept raising his arms like he was trying to understand what we wanted. He held up a bag of potato chips and we all screamed and shook our heads frantically. The dinghy had floated past the front of the boat so he couldn’t see it from the back where he was facing us. He picked up a beer and pointed to it. We screamed some more. Finally he went to the front of the boat, probably to pick up the bag of pretzels, and noticed the dinghy, which was becoming a small speck on the horizon. He stared the sailboat up and drove it to the dinghy, where he jumped into the water to snag it. We were terrified he’d let the sailboat get away while he was fetching the dinghy, but he managed to retrieve the one without losing the other. I so appreciated the diversion and entertainment of that half hour of distraction.

I’m not saying that there weren’t good times. Evenings together were full of laughter and fun. But this was not what my vision of a sailing trip had been. We did try to put the sails up one day, but there wasn’t enough wind to get us going and we gave up quickly.

Pat and Sue were only with us for five days, then they headed back. We said our goodbyes and continued on. The first night alone with just Esso, Eric, and me, we decided to play Scrabble because it was the only game on the boat. Esso turned out to be the best Scrabble player in the world. He’d hold onto a bunch of X’s and Z’s until he could make a word on a triple word space, and then score 90 points.

In stark contrast, Eric would stare at the board for a solid ten minutes, until we’d lost all patience and told him he had to go or else, and then he’d spell the word “on.” Next time, same thing, and then he’d put down, “it.” You think I’m joking? If he got a three-letter word like “the” he was ecstatic. In any other situation I would have grabbed the board and flung it across the room, but I was desperate for any stimulation – even the most aggravating kind.

Lest you think Eric was a numbskull, he’s really quite charming and a handsome, 6 foot, slim guy who was a golf star in college and a successful architect. I think the Spanish coffees and who knows what else were fogging his brain.

I began wishing I’d brought a mu-mu, because waiting for Eric to move upped my appetite. I was wearing one pair of fat shorts pretty regularly – all the cute stuff I brought was still folded neatly in my duffle bag because I couldn’t get anything else to zip up. I knew I looked like a fat cow, and that made me want to eat out of depression.

I’ve got a couple more stories to tell, so this will again be continued. Hope you can stand all this excitement.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sailing Trip Part 2

This story is continued from day before yesterday. I was describing how I spent the first day of the sailing trip emptying the green contents of my stomach all over the walls of the little sailboat’s bathroom. That was a hard way to find out that I get seasick.

All the way across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Eric and I heaved. My husband to be, who I’ll call Esso which is a play on his initials, skippered the boat deftly through the huge swells, laughing that his “crew” were such landlubbers.

When we arrived in Nanaimo, we met our friends Pat and Sue. Sue is a nurse so she had a whole duffle bag full of prescription and non-prescription drugs to cover every situation, including bubonic plague. She gave me and Eric some miracle patches that she guaranteed would get rid of the seasickness by morning. “Until then,” she advised, “It’s best to just drink alcohol and forget your misery.” Eric and I thought this was sound medical advice and we were soon as rowdy as pirates and looking for someone to keel haul.

I honestly don’t recall what we did that night, but the next day I woke up feeling chipper and ready to sail the seven seas. “Arrrr,” I said, “Let’s hoist the mainsail and lift the boom!”

“We probably won’t be sailing today,” Esso told me. “There’s not much wind and we’ve got a lot of distance to cover.”

“Not sailing?” I said. “Isn’t this a SAILING trip?”

“Yeah, but you’ve got to have wind to sail,” Esso explained, looking up at the limp tell tales. “Tomorrow,” he added.

So we started up the engines and motored single file up the coast of Vancouver Island. Pat and Sue owned their boat, a 35-foot sailboat named, “The Winter’s Tale.” It was black and very sleek looking. Since their boat was bigger, they got to lead the way.

The wind never did pick up, but the scenery was quite pretty – a shoreline covered with trees and rocks to the left of us, and sparkling blue ocean on the right. When you looked straight down into the water sometimes you could see fish, and on occasion rocks. Esso and Eric used nautical maps to make sure we didn’t get too close to the bottom. I liked the little gizmo that showed if there were fish under us and how far down.

After a couple of hours, the excitement of creeping along had been replaced by a sore posterior and a desire to find some shade (there wasn’t any on the boat except in the cabin down below). It was like being on a road trip except there weren’t any roadside attractions to break up the monotony. Out in the ocean there aren’t Dairy Queens or “The World’s Largest Tennis Shoe” to stop and invigorate your brain. Plus the boat seemed to move very slowly. We could stand up and walk around the little circle from the front to the back of the boat – it was about the size of a jail cell so laps made you dizzy after just a few.

By the time we anchored that evening out in the middle of nowhere, I was as antsy as an ant on a hot sidewalk. I quickly changed into a bathing suit and jumped overboard. The ocean was cold and felt great, although I had never been in open water swimming and I soon got the creeps. What if there were sharks down there? I quickly climbed back up the ladder into the boat.

We roped our two sailboats together and had a feast – Esso had pre-prepared huge meals that he stored in giant coolers full of dry ice. We had marinated steaks and twice baked potatoes and sautéed vegetables. And alcohol. We made Spanish coffees because that’s what Eric liked, and drank them under a sky that looked like someone had shaken sparkling glitter over black velvet.

“We’ll sail tomorrow, right?” I asked Esso and Erik.

“If there’s enough wind,” Esso said. Soon we all hit the hay, and thanks to the patch and Spanish coffees, the rocking boat did nothing more than lull me to sleep.

To be continued…

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Amusing First Communion

It was First Communion at church, and all the girls were dressed in these darling white dresses (symbols of purity) with little veils. The veils are a carry over from when all Catholic women wore hats or veils. Cradle Catholics of a certain age (ancient) will remember this.

When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to go into church without something on our heads – and there was no exception. At a minimum, we had to have this little doily-like thing on our head. A doily is a round piece of lacey stuff about 6 inches across that old-timey people used for coasters, or, heaven forbid, decoration You still see these things in nursing homes. I never much cared for them, but that’s just me. Older women wore those long lacy things called matilda’s. Except I just googled it and they are actually called mantillas. All my life I thought they were matilda’s!!

The little bit of doily-like headgear we students wore was called a “chapel veil.” We went to Mass before school every morning except Wednesday, and if you ever showed up without your chapel veil, then your nun, who was as tall as the Eiffel Tower and wore a long black dress and massive headgear so you didn’t know what might be hiding under there, would bobby pin a piece of tissue to your head as she gave you a scowl that told you you had better not let it happen again.

Nuns back then were strict. They weren’t trying to be our friends, they kept us on the straight and narrow – they wanted us to be quiet and sit still while we learned and that’s what we did. We seemed to have a lot of fun, though, especially during the one-hour recess. But I’ve strayed off topic, which was the First Communion service I just witnessed.

The boys had on sports coats, slacks, and ties and the girls wore their white tea-length dresses with white, chunky-heeled shoes and ribbons and curls in their hair. They were paraded in front of the congregation as much as possible, which was delightful because they were really cute. So they came up to do the readings. They stood on a little platform, and put their mouths way too close to the microphone.

Which reminds me. I have to say one thing about the priest. After opening prayers, the priest, who was a substitute, asked us to spend a couple of minutes of silence to reflect on the topic of the day. We obliged by bowing our heads and the church got very quiet. At this precise moment, loud scritch, scritch, scritching came over the loud speaker. I finally lifted my eyes just enough to see what was going on. The priest had a determined look on his face as he fiddled with the microphone clipped to his collar. His fingers moving over its speaker was causing the noise, and surely he heard it too, especially when it got louder. Other heads lifted. By the time the “moments of silence” were over, he’d gotten it just the way he wanted. The only thing I had spent time reflecting on was what an id…. well, never mind.

So the first child, a girl, started reading and did an impressive job. She read such words as “Theophilus” as if it were Smith or Jones. A boy was next up, and he sounded like he had a mouth full of Corn Flakes. You couldn’t understand a word he mumbled. The third was also a sharp looking boy and he started off great but after a few words he paused, flinched, and then proceeded. This happened again, then again, and I realized he had the hiccups. The rest of the congregation caught on too, and we all chuckled softly each time he hiccupped. He’d swallow after each hiccup, which became more amusing as it went along. We were waiting for it, waiting and wondering if they had gone away, or if we’d imagined it, and then – pause – flinch – swallow. Don’t know why that was so funny, but there’s not much else happening in church so we, the congregation, would have been rolling in the aisles if not for decorum and sympathy for the little trouper and his parents. We kept our mouths shut to mute our laughs, and I saw several people with their hands over their mouths trying to hide their mirth. I almost applauded when he got done it had been such an entertaining show.

A couple of other things happened that I would share except I’ve run too long and there’s nothing above I’m willing to cut. Suffice it to say, the congregation en masse enjoyed this Mass.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ralph Visits the Sailboat

A couple of decades ago, when my husband and I were dating, he wanted me to go on a sailing trip with him. To prepare I took a sailing course on the Willamette River, and had so much fun. These were little sailboats that caught the wind and flew across the water. If you didn’t have them facing the right way, the wind would catch them and they’d almost tip over which was scary but exhilarating. I couldn’t wait until we headed to Vancouver, B.C. for a 2-week trip through the Strait of Georgia up to Desolation Sound. Little did I suspect what I was in for.

We stayed a night at Granville Island where we met our friend, Eric, who was going with us. We danced at the Cotton Club and roamed Gastown. The next morning I had this wonderful spinach quiche at a farmers market before we picked up the boat. I can’t tell you how excited I was! Little did I suspect – oh, I said that already.

We rented a 33 ft. sailboat that had two sleeping areas, a kitchen/dining room, and a little bathroom. By little I mean it was about the size of a port-a-potty, but very cool. The whole thing was a shower, too. The boat was trimmed in beautiful wood. I’d never been on a boat like that, and I felt so Jackie Onassis! Eric hadn’t either, and he felt, well who knows.

My husband had lots of experience so he was the Skipper. He popped the top off a brewski, lit a cigar, and stood behind the big steering wheel that was the size of a wagon wheel except not as thick since it was made of metal instead of wood. It was big, is the point I’m belaboring, and he seemed right at home. He was looking very America’s Cup.

We had to travel down this long, straight water alley before we got out into the open ocean. We motored along, the sun warming our faces, our hair blowing in the breeze, cigar smoke perfuming the air, feeling like rich folks.

Then we hit the open sea. I had never been on the ocean before. I’ve been IN the ocean, swimming and frolicking in the waves, but never on a boat. We were surrounded by water – a little sailboat island that dipped and rose 10 feet at a time without any sight of land in any direction. The waves came one right after the other – first we’d be facing down like we were on some free-falling carnival ride, then we’d be pointed toward the sky like we were on a roller coaster heading to the top. When we were in the trough of the wave, it looked like we were in a bowl of water – like we were seeing the parting of the Red Sea. It was frightening but exciting, and my husband-to-be had a grin that nearly went off his face, steering with one hand, his head periodically tilting up to drag on the stogie, and whistling some tuneless song like some happy-go-lucky pirate without a care in the world.

The motion of the boat made me feel funny, and I decided to go down below and rest my head. “Don’t do that,” they both said. “You need to stay up here and look at the horizon.”

“I need to lie down,” I said, and headed below. I stretched out and knew immediately that I wasn’t going to get any relief lying down. I felt queasy and thought I’d better check out the little bathroom. I opened the lid of the toilet to find that it had been made for Munchkins. There was a very small bowl, and just at that second I tried to fill it. Everything I’d eaten for two days decided it needed to be out of me immediately. Thanks to that lovely spinach quiche, it was all green. Just as the gusher left me, the boat dived down and the mini-toilet moved from where I’d aimed. A green wash spread all over the wall. I steadied myself and aimed the second volley more carefully, but the boat lurched upward I coated a different wall. I hoped these two blasts were the end, but was soon disappointed. One after the other gushers about the force you’d see coming out of a fire hydrant squirted all over the walls. Try as I could, not one single blast reached the preferred destination. Not even one drop.

Finally the heaving subsided enough that I thought I could venture out of there. The little room was like some Nickelodeon set where everything gets coated with green slime. By the grace of God none got on me, but I was so drained and disheartened I wouldn’t have cared if it did.

I went up to tell the boys that I was seasick. I found the Skipper still whistling and grinning. Eric, however, hadn’t benefited from staying topside. He was leaning over the rail blowing chips to feed the fishes. Seeing it made me run back downstairs to the green room, where the impossible happened – more blasts from a well I thought surely must be empty.

More tomorrow.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Sunny Pinata

I was up at the high school tutoring yesterday, in the second floor library. It was sunny and warm outside so the windows were open. I could hear a commotion coming from outside so I got up and went to see what was going on. A classroom full of students were standing around a blindfolded girl holding a stick and standing in front of a piñata hanging from a tree.

I could understand the class being outside and soaking up some rare Oregon rays, but I couldn’t figure out the piñata. What did that have to do with Economics or Health or French or whatever subject this class and their teacher were avoiding? It wasn’t even Cinco de Mayo, which is Latin for “Pass the Mayonnaise.”

The class was trying to get her to hit the thing, but she was being timid and wouldn’t even give the stick, which looked like a lacrosse stick without the basket, she wouldn’t even give it a full swing – she’d go halfway and lose her nerve. I supposed if you are worried about messing up, then you’d have a reason to hold back. However, the crowd was lusting for piñata guts and they were getting louder by the second.

Soon everyone in the Library was craning their necks to see out of those windows that you never see anywhere but in schools – the ones with the latch that makes the same sound when you undo it whether the school was built yesterday or in the 1920’s. Then they pull in so it’s really difficult to look down.


I have to admit; I couldn’t understand why she was so cautious. Even if the stick would have by some miracle made contact with the piñata, she would have been more like petting it than whacking it. What is the down side to swinging at a piñata and missing? She finally gave in to the mob and swung with all her might, and missed, so she turned and was facing the crowd with the stick raised high over her head. Kids scattered like cockroaches in a flashlight beam and she swung down and hit the ground SMACK!

NO TURN TO YOUR RIGHT! YOUR OTHER RIGHT! NOW HIT! HIT HARD RIGHT NOW! YOU CAN’T MISS! She could and did, but she had got the scent and she was going for blood – hard candy, that is. Her next slash through the air broke right across the little pink and orange pony’s back. It didn’t break, but it looked like the old grey mare that had carried one average American and ended up with a U-shaped bow in it’s back.

Giddy with success, she commenced to whack like someone trying to drive a nail with a giant hammer. She made many connections, but the pony danced on the string, trying to avoid the assault. Unfortunately for it, she delivered a solid deathblow that severed it right in two, and it spewed out cheap hard candy like a hotel fountain.

Cheers erupted, and then kids dived onto the grass like they were trying to catch a low-thrown football. They piled up on the girl, who was at ground zero, and snatched what they could. Some of the more dignified students waited until the others got up to try to get their fair share, but they came up empty handed.

With the show over, we spectators in the Library went back to our seats, shaking our heads. What was the lesson those kids learned? Well, they learned the social dynamics of mob rule. They also learned that nice guys finish last. And they certainly learned that, even though ancient hard candy has a squishy, sticky outer layer that causes the wrappers to stick like they are duct taped, the candy is all that much sweeter when you get it avoiding calculus.

Keeping the Peace

We’ve had quite the upheaval in Portland. Our police chief just got fired for a variety of alleged reasons. All I know is there have been some bad altercations between the police and citizens, and the citizens came out on the short end of the stick. 3 or 4 people have been killed over the past couple of years, and they generally turn out to be unarmed and/or mentally ill. One person had an X-acto knife. Oooo, dangerous! Whenever I read about these things, the first thing I wonder is why can’t the police just shoot them in the leg? That seems like enough to stop an unarmed person from doing too much damage. The second thing I think about is what the Italian police did to a guy in Rome.

My daughter and I were having breakfast at a sidewalk café across from a gigantic basilica (big church) that had a circular square in front of it (as opposed to a squarular circle). It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning and people were walking all around and going into the church. Marvelous people in flamboyant attire – one extraordinarily elderly woman was dressed very much like a bull fighter in red pants and jacket that had long slits at the ankles and cuffs with many layers of black lace sticking out. We watched an ancient priest in a white robe come slowly out of the church and start walking around the outside of the circle heading toward us. He moved at a steady pace but only covered a couple of feet a minute. It was like one of those Matrix movies where everything is moving at a fast pace except the person (or bullet) going in slow motion.

On the sidewalk about ten feet from us, a portly Italian man who was either schizophrenic or drunk started creating a ruckus. He was loud, ranting about something to himself. Almost immediately a little tiny car pulled up and four policemen got out. They surrounded the man, and I thought that my daughter and I had better run for cover before bullets started flying. But no one else was scrambling so we lingered at our table to see what was going to happen.

The police just stood there. A couple started putting on rubber gloves very slowly, and I thought they were going to throw him to the pavement and start hitting him and they wouldn’t want to hurt their hands. But they just stood there with the gloves on, forming this wide circle around the man. Passers by weren’t slowing down to gawk; in fact, no one was paying any attention.

The man started getting rowdy. He yelled Italian. The police just stood there, arms folded across their chests. He became more agitated and threw a set of keys onto the sidewalk with all his might. They bounced and skittered along. A rubber-gloved policeman bent over and picked them up and put them on the hood of the police car. The man gestured some more, gesturing with his arms to show his irritation like Italians do in movies, then he threw a bottle down that he had in his hand. It shattered. The two policemen with the rubber gloves bent down and picked up the glass.

I knew one of them was going to lose his temper any second and slam the guy up against the car and start frisking him. But it didn’t happen, even when his tirade grew more intense. Meantime the ancient priest had made it about halfway around the square.

This went on, literally, for at least twenty minutes. The police never tried to talk to the guy, never tried to calm him down or ask him to get in the car. They just formed this loose circle that grew as needed to accommodate the man’s flailing around and lunging. Finally, the little priest made it to where we were sitting. I expected him to go over and avail his services to help keep the peace, but he only watched the scene as he proceeded on.

I concluded that no one was paying any attention because people knew nothing was going to happen. The police were there in case the guy became hostile to others, but they obviously saw no reason to interfere with his ranting and raving. The guy finally started walking away, and one of them handed him the keys he’d thrown down. The four policemen watched him for a couple of minutes, then crammed themselves back into the tiny car and drove away. About that time the little priest rounded a corner and disappeared from view.

You know good and well what would have happened in America. The priest would have tried to save the man and gotten him worked up even more. The police, irritated that they’d been called away from Krispy Kreme, would have roared up in a big car with hemi, sirens blaring, and pushed the priest out of the way, grabbed the belligerent guy, thrown him to the pavement, kicked him a few times, tasered him, and then shot him a time or two just in case. There would be an investigation and the police would be exonerated because they had followed their training. I’d like to see that training manual and compare it to the one those Italian police must have been following. If I ever get drunk or go crazy, I hope I’m in Rome, where the police see their job as keeping the peace and not brandishing their piece.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Aren't Hospitals Great?

I was visiting my brother in law in the hospital and was impressed by the comedians coming and going. Practically everyone who came in the room had a comeback for any comment we made. You’d think they’d heard all our questions before.

While I was there I made up a riddle that I think is quite clever. Feel free to impress your friends with it. Where is the only place you can be in bed all day without getting any rest? A hospital.

I was there for about four hours, and it was a veritable freeway in there. We never did figure out who was who – people brought in water, pills, just stopped in to say “How ya doin?” The only ones we were sure about were the phlebotomists because they had long fangs and carried fat needles and said, “Excuse me, I vant to suck your blood.”

Which reminds me of an old joke that we used to love to say when we were kids. A man invited the Count to his home and asked, “Count, would you like some wine?” The Count replied with a wicked laugh in a thick, Transylvanian accent, “I don’t dlink vine, I dlink BLOOD.” We thought this was the funniest thing in the world, but I guess you had to be there. It doesn’t type out as funny as it sounded in person, especially when the Count swings his fake cloak in front of his face.

Speaking of kids, is there anyone who did not stumble across some Ex-Lax and think it was a chocolate bar when you were a kid? I found a “chocolate bar” on my grandmother’s dresser and ate a square. It was so good I ate another, and then another. Not too long afterward I was making chocolate syrup in the toilet.

The nurses gave my brother in law some stuff to relieve him. “Your goal is to go three times, and then we’ll talk about releasing you.” So he drank the stuff they gave him and pretty soon he went to the tiny, in-room restroom. When he came out, he was quite proud. “One down, two to go!” he said brightly. When the nurse came in, he couldn’t wait to tell her.

“What color was it?” she asked excitedly, as if he were telling her he’d just seen a unicorn.

Where else but a hospital can you talk about BM’s and everyone thinks it’s totally acceptable? Can you imagine being at work or at a party and having this discussion?

“Hey, where have you been?”

“In the bathroom. I’ve been a little plugged up, you see, so my doctor gave me some pretty tasty stuff and I’m very relieved to say that I’m flushing again after three days, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Bob and Carol, I want you to me Ben, here. He’s just taken a crap after a three day drought.”

“You must be so proud of yourself, Ben. Just out of curiosity, was it brown? The reason I’m asking is that just the other day I was reading an article in Bowel Health Quarterly that the color is very important.”

“You don’t say!”

However, even though we were in a hospital, I can tell you that today I was not comfortable with the direction the conversation was going. He might be my brother in law, but I do NOT need to think about him on the toilet. I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

But other than that, my visit to the hospital was quite pleasant. There is never a dull moment. When there was a small lull in activity and we were about to resort to having to watch the TV that was mounted in such a way that you’d get a crick in your neck after a couple of minutes, a man came in the room and asked if he could test the fire alarm. At first we said, “Absolutely NOT!” But when he started begging and I could see he was about to break into tears, I finally said yes. He put this long stick with a cone on the end up to the fire alarm and must have blown some smoke into it because the alarm went off. Woo, that was some excitement for a couple of seconds until he disarmed it.

At regular intervals of about 2.5 minutes apart, various staff members needed to know what my brother in law’s blood pressure was – and it was never the same or even close, even though he was just lying there. They also kept him hooked up to a monitor that beeped every thirty seconds for no other reason than to remind us that there was no peace and quiet to be found in this den of sickness.

Luckily, after his third trip to the john, they told him he could go home after he gave a play-by-play of the size, shape, consistency, and color of the intestinal discharge (or “poop” in lay people’s term). It was the first time on record that my brother in law was NOT full of sh--.

Truth be told, I’m gonna kindof miss it up there in Room 377D.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Miss My Satellite Radio

They say all good things come to an end. This is especially true with free trials. The satellite radio stations that came with my car were free for 3 months. Unfortunately I ignored them for the first month because there were so many new things on the car to try and learn. It’s a Prius and it doesn’t have a key. You just press a button and the engine starts. Weird, huh? Plus it has a navigation system that it took me at least a month to figure out. I kept trying to code in streets while I was driving, and it kept refusing to respond. I thought it was defective, so I’d push other buttons and whole new screens would come up with all kinds of things to play with. Satellite radio was way down the list of new toys.

Then one day I was somewhere where even the hardiest radio stations couldn’t reach and I remembered the satellite stations. I started pushing scanning and found a million stations in every category – country, easy listening, rap, polka, the All Accordion station – you can get anything on satellite. I came across one with people laughing. The digital readout said it was called, “Laugh USA.”

I listened, and the station lived up to its name, because I laughed, and laughed some more. I was in love. This was the best radio station I’d ever found in my life. There were little 2 or 3 or 4 minute bits of just plain funny stuff. A week or two later, while I was waiting for someone, I went through the stations and found 5 more comedy ones. My next favorite after Laugh USA was Blue Collar Comedy. This station had Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. Now that there is funny, I don’t care what you say, that there is funny. I looked forward to getting in my car. I often took the scenic route so I could listen longer.

Then I got a letter in the mail saying my 3-month free trial was ready to expire. Gasp! I did not want to PAY for these stations, even though they were reasonable – about $14 a month or so. I started talking myself into being glad that the time was ending. “After all,” I said to myself, “you haven’t listened to any news since you found those comedy stations. You don’t even know how many people have been killed in the Middle East wars, or where the latest suicide bomber is, or what leader has been assassinated, or what mud the Republicans are slinging at Obama, or what tea party Sarah Palin is holding. You are in a vacuum.” I told myself this and looked forward to the day when my comedy shows were gone and I could get back in touch with the real world.

On Saturday afternoon it happened. Right in the middle of a bit Jerry Seinfeld was giving about pilots talking on airplanes, the satellite was snuffed out. I brushed away tears as I turned to regular FM. Immediately I heard the “imma bee” song by the Black Eyed Peas and figured out they meant “I’m gonna be,” then I heard reports from NPR about tornadoes killing people in the Midwest and explosions that took 26 lives and about the fear of a grasshopper invasion in Oregon this coming summer. I switched from station to station and got imma bee and tragedy everywhere I looked.

Know what I decided? Imma bee buying dat satellite radio and be stickin my head all up in the sand and pretendin’ the world be a happy place where da people laughs at people who says stuff like imma bee. That’s what imma bee.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Climbing Mt. Hood, Part 2

After almost six hours of stair stepping, the final stragglers in the group (me, an 18 year old Japanese exchange student named Koz, a guy in his late 20’s, and the poor guide who had to stay behind for us slow pokes) arrived at the part of the mountain that made this an official “technical” climb – where being roped together would save our lives. It was a straight up sheer cliff of ice about 20 feet tall that we needed to plant our feet in the toe holes and hold on for our very lives. I was terrified. But I was roped to these guys and I had to go. It went fast because there was a line of people behind us, and the lead guy set the pace. This was Andrew, and he was as scared as I was. He wanted to get the heck done with it.

After we survived the Cliff of Terror, we had only a few steps to go before we reached the top. When we got there, we saw the other 20 people in our group, plus about 80 more crazy people. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and just shy of the point of passing out and already dreading the climb back down, plus I had to pee. All that stopping for drinks of water caught up with me. I don’t mean to be indelicate here, but next time you look up at a snowcapped mountain, see if there’s a bush or a tree up there. There’s not a one. I was in a panic, because as miserable as every muscle and joint in my body were, my bladder was worse off. I had to go.

In case you ever find yourself in this situation with a hundred people around and nowhere to hide, here’s what you do. You move a little down slope of the crowd. It’s about 15 degrees, but take your coat off anyway, lie on your back in the snow, arrange your coat discreetly over your midsection, wiggle out of the three layers of clothes that have not been enough to keep you warm (despite what the guides said) and relieve yourself for as long as it took Austin Powers when he was first awakened after being cryogenically frozen for 20 years. This may take a full ten minutes, depending on how many water/rest stops you’ve took. Breathe a huge sigh of relief, and then move a little sideways (remember, you’re still lying down on a fairly steep incline), struggle back into your clothes, put your coat back on, and pretend you don’t know a thing about the steaming yellow river cutting little snow valleys into the snow as it flowed down the mountain right beside you. I’m sure this information will come in handy for you someday.

After all the agony of getting to the summit, nobody stays at the top for long. It’s freezing up there! Plus, even though the view is breathtaking, you can only look out over the vast empty plains and mountain peaks for so long, and then it’s blasé. Seriously. You look at Mt. Rainier and The Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor for a few minutes; then you’ve seen it. I've noticed in movies that the people who reach the summit of Mt. Everest don’t linger around either, and I bet they can see more than we could.

Getting down, for the most part, was more fun than going up. Having a baby and getting a root canal at the same time without drugs is more fun than going up. Going down, you get to slide part of the way. It’s got a technical name, glaceeing, but it’s basically taking out the plastic garbage bag you put in your backpack and sitting on it. Gravity does the lion’s share of the work, but there’s danger in this simple act, too. I saw Kos go sliding at 250 mph straight toward a smoking, belching, stinking sulfur pit that probably went straight to the core of the earth. Luckily our guides had gone over “self arrest” where you roll over and dig your ice pick into the snow to stop sliding. Kos frantically did this repeatedly before he stopped on the edge of the foul pit, and then he had to climb all the way back up to the Hogsback, the narrow ridge we were on.

The guide who herded us slower ones to the top kept telling us we needed to hurry. We ignored him as we were trudging upward, but I found out why he was so insistent as we made our descent. When the sun beats down on the snow, even when it’s cold, the surface starts to soften and get slushy. Gravity and the slush duke it out, but the slush wins and you are no longer able to slide. Plus the snow gets so soft that you sink to your knees with every step. I can't tell you how difficult it is to walk like this, but it takes forever to pull a heavy foot out of a deep hole and then pull the next one out. This went on for about two days or the last half hour, it was impossible to tell the difference. Everyone else in our group was already at the bottom, and had been there for an hour or more. Even Kos and Andrew were there. Just the guide and I straggled back at noon.

Let me tell you this. I hated climbing Mt. Hood more than anything I’ve ever done. But having survived it, I have to admit I’m proud to be able to say I did it, especially when I’m around a bunch of jogging, weight-lifting, buffed-up people. It’s nice to ask casually, “Have you ever climbed Mt. Hood?” Like it’s something I do for fun on weekends.

But I wouldn’t advise anyone else to climb it, ever. If you’re too foolhardy to listen to me and insist on going anyway, I have one parting thing to say. Don’t drink too much water.