October 21, 2012
Members of my family invade countries, capture brutal dictators, face down suicide bombers, challenge the IRS, Christmas-shop the Beltway.
Given what happened Saturday night, I suspect I’m adopted.
September 24, 2012
You ain’t no kinda candy lover if you don’t live for The Black.
You want a great candy? Smooth, supple, grab-your-socks candy? Candy that sends your mouth to heaven, darkens your tongue, brightens your outlook and pulls out your fillings?
Screw chocolate. You want The Black, my friend. Black licorice.
August 29, 2012
You’re looking at this blog’s 1,000th “official” post.
I almost didn’t notice, but now that I have, I’m thinking I should make this a ‘specially profound, think-piece kinda thing. Or maybe an over-the-top-weird humorous look at….blogs? Cats? Wacky glass misconceptions?
August 15, 2012
It’s Monday night and I’m undulating like a stadium-ful of spectators doing The Wave, except they’re horizontal and I’m vertical, scrabbling to stay in a massage chair doing its best to hurl me to the floor.
I find the button on the remote marked “deep tissue rollers”–it’s highlighted with the only giant red LED on the remote, probably to signal extreme danger–and flick it off. Instantly, my pedicurist gives me a stern look and switches it back on. My sudden urge to spend an hour pampering myself has granted this woman permission to dip my feet in scalding pink wax, attack my heels with pumice, nip and tuck and grind and slap and tickle things half to death…and apparently pummel my spine.
This isn’t the way I remember pedicures, but it certainly spices up an already varied week.
August 2, 2012
Friend of mine, out running in her neighborhood, was attacked by a pair of pitbulls. Or rather, they attacked her dog, a huge, fierce-looking beast who runs with her and may be the world’s largest pussycat.
The pitbulls grabbed her dog by the neck; she threw herself over the dog as a human shield, screaming. Six cars slammed to a stop and the drivers, all strangers, leapt to the rescue. They drove off the pitbulls and quite possibly saved the lives of the dog AND my friend.
She told me this a few hours later, shaking as the reaction set in. “Six cars stopped to help. SIX. Six cars,” she kept saying.
“Same thing happened to me in New York, in a dog park, and NOBODY came. They all just watched. Six cars. Six.”
Yeah. We’re like that here. [Read more]
July 29, 2012
My friend, buddy, co-president, rescuer, artist and just-all-’round good guy, Dennis McConnell, died Saturday afternoon. His family sent notice of his death in typical Dennis fashion:
The McConnell family wants to let you know that Dennis has received his halo on Saturday, July 28th, and is currently enjoying some wine and making glass up in heaven. Plans are underway for a memorial service in a couple of weeks in Vancouver, WA and another in Appleton, WI at the beginning of September, with more details to follow.
Thank you for all your love, support, prayers and good thoughts.
Sharon, Sean and Hailey
July 10, 2012
The albino guy at the counter was nearly blind and almost deaf, so naturally the government put him in charge of answering the phone. They gave him a larger-than-life phone straight out of the Roaring 20s, sporting a big red light where the dial should be. Whenever someone called, the phone would emit a soft brrrrring and flash its light.
He couldn’t hear its ring and could barely see the light, so periodically he’d pick up the handset and shout “Hello, HELLO?” Nothing there of course, so he’d slam the handset back into its cradle, then pick up the whole phone, peering anxiously at the light. In the hour I watched him, the phone rang twice. Both times he missed.
Right about then I coined a word for such things: Bureaucrass.
A colleague at work bought a house that needs extensive renovations, so he spends nights and weekends tearing down, framing in, and dealing with contractors. A county inspector came out to review the wiring–which took about 5 minutes and a wave of his hand–but noted that some esoteric plumbing also needed inspection. My colleague, he said, must call the county and order yet another inspection.
He called, an appointment was made for today…and so today the very same inspector showed up, glanced at the plumbing and waved it off.
He also noted a couple of additional things that needed inspection. “Can YOU do that right now, so I don’t have to call again?” my colleague asked.
“Nope, that’s another department.”
I’m not tarring all those hard-working public servants out there with the bureacrass brush (else I’d have a LOT of friends and relatives mad at me)…but do you ever wonder how bureaucrassies come about? Has anyone ever figured out how much each bureacrass COSTS the folks who pay taxes?
I happened across the albino guy at the Immigration & Naturalization office in Baltimore, several years ago. My housemate needed to file an INS change-of-address form which for some reason couldn’t be mailed or faxed–we had to make the hour-long drive to Baltimore to pick it up. Parking was scarce, so I volunteered to “run up and get it.”
Famous last words. What I ran into was straight out of an Ionesco play. Or maybe from the movie, Brazil.
When I lived in Maryland I had the great misfortune to have leased a car in another state. Every year, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) would require me to obtain a fresh signature from a “ranking executive of Toyota Motor Corporation,” authorizing me to register the car.
Obtaining it, and the necessary Maryland state waivers, required a full day–sometimes two–at an MVA office. I’d stand in line after endless line, telling my story over and over, and waiting for my number to be called. After four hours of this, the first year, I broke into tears.
One year I watched the MVA bureaucrass handling my case move a stack of papers 10 feet down the counter. She picked up the top sheet and–in slooooooow motion–shuffled to the end of the counter, dropping it in a clear space. Then she slowly made her way back to the stack and picked up the next sheet. She kept this up until the whole stack–maybe 20 sheets–had been transferred.
It took a half hour, while I waited for her to get back to me.
The INS offices in Baltimore were dark and grimy, filled with hard wooden benchesful of the saddest bunch of folks I’ve ever seen. A sign flashed “Now serving 98,” but these folks were staring mostly at their hands. Even the babies were quiet.
I took a number–63–and realized that the sign only went up to 99. 64 people would be served before my number would be called. A half hour later the sign still flashed, “Now serving 98,” and I got tired of waiting.
I stood up, ignoring frantic shushings from my fellow benchwarmers, and stomped up to the counter. I saw a box marked “Change of address forms,” and pointed to it.
“Excuse me,” I said firmly to the guy behind the counter, “I just need one of those forms.”
He ignored me, so I tried again.
I’m not going to bring up the time the state of Indiana sent my dad a refund check for six cents–six cents that my father informed them he wasn’t owed, to no avail. Two years later they demanded we return the “funds” with loanshark-like interest when it turned out Dad was right.
Or the time the Oregon unemployment office required that I call in to tell them that I wasn’t supposed to call in.
“EXCUSE ME!” I said, “Will someone please just hand me a change of address form? That’s all I need.”
Without even looking up, the man waved me off. “Wait for your number to be called. Failure to wait for your number to be called could jeopardize your status in this country.”
For the next 15 minutes I roamed the INS counter, trying to get ANYone to pay attention to me (the albino said “What? I don’t work up there” which was at least an acknowledgement). The people on the benches–apparently mindful of the “jeopardize your status in this country” bit–gave me surreptitious glances of awe but mostly stared at their tickets.
Is there a reason that I receive notifications from the insurance company about notifications I’m going to be receiving from the insurance company?
I pounded the counter. I said “excuse me” about 50 times. Nothing. I got mad and pulled the press card.
“DAMMIT!” I cried, “I was bloody BORN in this country, I could care LESS what you do to my @#$&*)(!@ status and I’m a REPORTER in Washington DC. If SOMEbody doesn’t give me a change of address form in the NEXT FIVE MINUTES I’m going to write a #@)*(&@# story about this hellhole and you will ALL be in it. And I am taking NAMES, people!”
(I didn’t mention that I worked for a computer magazine, which might have been slightly less intimidating)
The first bureaucrass reached back, picked up a change of address form and slid it across the counter. “Now get out before I call the guards,” he growled. He never did look up.
I grabbed my form and fled, getting a thumbs up from a man on the bench, and a hello HELLO from the albino.
I have no bloody idea how you solve the bureacrass problem, but I sure wish somebody could figure it out.
July 10, 2012
How can I reach thee? Let me count the ways.
Needed to retrieve a message to day, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where I’d put it. And after a bit of searching, I felt just like those people who can’t remember where they parked their car in the Mall of America: Doomed to forever wander the endless stalls, looking for the right vehicle.
–begin oldtimer alert–
I remember when email was an expensive, chancy novelty called MCIMail. We reporters were given MCIMail accounts when we traveled, and sternly warned not to waste our precious message allocations. The service was so rickety that we carried instruction sheets for Backup Communications Plans B through E, for when MCIMail died:
- B: Hook up the modem and acoustic coupler to your 14-pound laptop, dial up CompuServe and upload the text to a file. Then call us and tell us where to find it.
- C: Find a printer (or write out your story longhand) and fax it back to the office
- D: Call the copydesk (or nighttimes, your editor at home) and dictate the story
- E: Find the nearest Western Union office…
That was it. Note that only the first TWO involved actually communicating online. Once, in rural France, I got all the way down to Plan F: Federal Express.
–end oldtimer alert–
So…fast forward to June 29, 2012, when my lost communication could be parked in any ONE of these:
- 8 different email accounts (personal and work)
- Facebook private mail
- Facebook statusing
- Twitter @messaging
- Private messages at 9 different online forums
- Public messaging at those same forums
- iChat, Googletalk, Yahoo Messenger chat accounts
- Smartphone texting
I now have 33 different ways to connect with someone online… and I wonder why I can’t find a message?
Obviously, some consolidation is in order–I’m already doing it with SMTP and IMAP mail accounts but the rest of it’s, well… I’ll get back to you as soon as I figure it out.
In the meantime, send me an email.
July 5, 2012
Our family did the usual 4th of July BBQ, then settled in to watch the neighborhood explode. Vancouver takes the whole rockets’ red glare thing very, very seriously and at times the fireworks displays provide as much light as the afternoon sun.
My beloved Portland restricts home fireworks displays to the non-airborne (it’s apparently illegal to shoot off anything that travels more than a foot vertically or six feet horizontally).
But Vancouver, the city just across the state line, takes a different approach: As long as the firework doesn’t actually produce a mushroom cloud, enjoy.
June 28, 2012
Been a week of Bs here, starting with “Bumper.” As in, I bumped the bumper. Badly.
Woke up Wednesday morning and found Lola huddled downstairs, not saying much. (Generally she wakes me with a caterwaul, demands a cuddle and playtime, then leaps to the clerestory windows to watch birds fly over the sunrise).
She felt warmer than usual and her fur looked a bit greasy, so I called Dr. Brian. “Bring her in,” he said, and diagnosed a minor bug with some dehydration. “We’ll pop in a little fluid and she’ll be right as rain,” he said cheerily.