Monday, August 22, 2016
In case you ever wondered if the locals laugh at you behind your back and share your comments with their friends over coffee; yes. . . Yes, they do.
TOURIST: Excuse me, I thought this hotel had internet access?
HOTEL CLERK: We do. Do you have the wifi password?
TOURIST: Yes, but then it just says "Safari". Do I use that to search for the internet?
TOURIST ON CELLPHONE: What do you mean you're "next to the fish and chips place"? We're at the beach. That's like texting me from the bar and saying you're "next to the blond making poor life choices."
TOURIST #1 (at the Cape Disappointment Overlook): I'll bet you could see all the way to Hawaii from here.
TOURIST #2: We should totally drive there this weekend.
TOURIST #1: Umm, yeah. Except that Hawaii's, you know, an island.
TOURIST #2: So?
TOURIST #1: So, where the hell we're you during geography class?
TOURIST #2: Dude, I barely passed algebra, let alone geography. Besides, what does math have to do with it?
LOCAL: Hey, just so you know, the undertow is really strong on this part of the beach. The locals never swim here.
TOURIST: Thanks, but we're from out of town, so we should be fine.
TOUR GUIDE AT MARITIME MUSEUM: Ammonite fossils have been found at the mouth of the Columbia River, showing that they lived here some 880 million years ago.
TOURIST: Are they still living in the river?
TOUR GUIDE: No. Ammonite became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
TOURIST: Are scientists trying to bring them back?
TOUR GUIDE: I doubt it.
TOUR GUIDE: Because they're extinct.
TOUR GUIDE: Extinct is kind of a "forever" thing.
TOURIST #1: Is there anything going on in town this weekend?
CASHIER: There's the kite festival; and you may enjoy the lighthouse tour.
TOURIST #1: A lighthouse? How cute! Is that downtown?
CASHIER: Well, it's a lighthouse, so those are traditionally found on the beach.
TOURIST #2: Oh. I really didn't want to get all wet and sandy; maybe we should just go to the kite festival.
CASHIER: The kite festival is on the beach as well.
TOURIST #2: Well, do you have any beaches here that don't have water and sand?
WAITRESS: Would you like the soup or salad with your entree?
TOURIST: Ooh, that sounds great! I'd love the super salad!
TOURIST: Excuse me!
PARK RANGER: How may I help you, ma'am?
TOURIST (pointing at the Pacific Ocean): Who do I talk to about how salty the water is?
PARK RANGER: Umm... God?
Monday, August 15, 2016
When I told my family and friends that we were moving from the urban mecca of Portland, Oregon to a coastal town of less than 2,000 people; they were more confused than Ozzy Osbourne watching the MacNeil Lehrer Report. You see, when some people hear the words "small town", they picture a bucolic Fannie Flagg existence whereby I live in an ongoing montage of one-room school houses, cherry pies cooling in windows, and potlucks at the grange hall set to the theme from "Driving Miss Daisy". . .still others hear the word "small town" and immediately picture me bent over a sawhorse getting a back alley Pap smear from a sideshow freak named Zed while his toothless progeny pick banjos in the background.
Unfortunately, when one pictures the average small resort town denizen, the "hoot-n-holler', beer guzzling, crop top wearing yokel tends to come to mind. In truth, nothing could be further from reality. Of course, we do have the odd gene pool skimmings that remind us daily why cousins shouldn't marry...
*E.g., the mutants down the street who decided to 'stick it to the man' by building their house without electricity or running water. I'm relatively certain they shit in their yard... and may possibly have the odd dead hooker buried under the Mad Max-esque trash heap they call their driveway, but I digress.
But for the most part, the people in my community are bright, funny, unpretentious, and magnificently eclectic. Thusfar, I have met two published writers, four college professors, a third-degree black belt who once sparred with Chuck Norris... and WON, a retired soap opera star, two opera singers, a man who spent the summer hitchhiking with JD Salinger, and a multi-gazillionaire who built his own lighthouse, and five years ago, flew in Johnny Depp for a personal 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' party (in costume, natch) which culminated in him and Mr. Depp gettig snot-flying drunk on white rum and being drug off the sand by a park ranger at 3:oo am.*
*In my 'hood, the cops are either 18 year olds with acne and a taser, or they look like Charles Durning after all-you-can-eat night at the Olde Country Buffet. But our park rangers have full tac gear, semi-automatic weapons, and have arms that would make Jeremy Renner weep. Forget that Yogi Bear propaganda you THINK you know about rangers and pic-a-nic baskets... our park rangers don't play, yo.
Yes, the "hoot-and-holler" folks are still adequately represented here, most prodigiously in the summer months, but they are not our locals. No, by and large, the obnoxious, beer-swilling miscreants are not the small-towners, they are the tourists from the more "civilized" milieus such as Portland and Seattle who leave their worries, their responsibilities, and apparently their senses of common decency and decorum behind when they go on vacation to our sleepy beach resort paradise.
I would like to say that perhaps I'm just being judgmental...
*Because, let's face it. I'm judgier than Gordon Ramsey doing Jäger shots in an Applebees kitchen, but in the immortal words of the poet laureate Lady Gaga: Baby, I was BORN that way.
... but the fact of the matter is, like Dorothy so succinctly stated at the end of 'The Wizard Of OZ': "Dude...I've seen some shit."*
*I may be paraphrasing.
From the Sandcastle Festival in June, to a thirty-mile beach fireworks display in July, to the Kite Festival in August, to the Hot Rod Run in early September, my family and friends have witnessed behavior from our out-of-town guests that were so execrable they would make a German snuff film look like a Nicholas Sparks novel in comparison. To wit:
1) The young man racing his truck down the beach at 50 miles per hour, swerving so as to kill the fledgling snowy plovers flying along the shoreline. For those of you who don't know, the Western Snowy Plover is not only an endangered species, they are also cute A.F. When this man discovered he was unable to speed up their rate of extinction, he had to appease his grief by hurling beer cans into the surf. So. Much. Hate.
2) The family of five I discovered in my yard playing with my chickens when I came out to feed them at 6:30am.*
*The chickens, I mean, not the tourists. Like gremlins, one must never feed the tourists, lest they multiply.
Since most of you have never been to my home, allow me to elucidate the audacity of the situation. We are located off of the main road, down a short gravel path, and then one must cross a rather wide expanse of manicured lawn to reach our gate... our LOCKED gate. Then, one must unlock the gate, walk across our patio, cross in front of our porch, unlatch the gate to the chickens' field, and enter. Which they did. All five of them. Because... chickens. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
ME: May I help you?
MAN: No thanks, we're just looking at the chickens.
ME: Um, yes, I can see that. But may I ask why you're in my yard?
WOMAN: Is this your yard?
ME: Well, it's inside of my fence...adjacent to the house...so, yeah.
MAN: We just thought we'd stop in quickly. The kids have never seen real chickens.
ME: Have they ever seen a fence?
MAN AND WOMAN: ...
ME: Dude! Get out of my yard!
Pretty sure I shattered their illusion of the open-armed farm girl that day, but this Elly Mae still has a fair amount of city in her blood and the requisite amount of righteous indignation to go Britney-level crazy when provoked. Especially when it comes to my chickens. I'm oddly obsessed with my chickens.
3) The story told to me by my husband of a Washington State patrolman who stopped a man driving through town erratically. When pulled over, the smell of pot smoke emanating from his ride was apparently enough to anesthetize a small village, prompting the state patrolman to question the driver's activities for the day. When the query, "Have you been smoking marajuana today?" was posited, Tokey McBongenheimer succinctly replied, "Yeah, but it's okay, 'cuz it's legal here!" Why, yes... Washington is, in fact, all about the 420. It is absolutely legal to smoke weed here; it is also fully legal to drink alcohol when one is of age. It is not; however, legal to do so in public... and, you know, while DRIVING.
4) The woman walking down Main Street screaming her boyfriend's name repeatedly while waving a conch shell over her head. Hard to believe that "Jeffrey" was not responding to her siren's song of "Where the @#$% you at, mother$%^&*#!?!?", but to be frank, I was more baffled by the significance of the conch shell to question the integrity of her personal relationships. That's some serious 'Lord Of The Flies' shit right there, y'all.
5) The elderly couple in their RV who drove past me on my jog down the beach road last week, stopped at the end of the main drag, and promptly disposed of a stained mattress, two plastic bags of garbage, a deer head, and the contents of their septic tank in the dunes lining my once-pristine littoral neighborhood. Two powerful revelations struck me on this occasion: one, people suck like an Alaska Airlines toilet, and two: who throws away a perfectly good deer head? I may have been tempted to bring that one back home. Don't judge.
"Doh! A deer... a headless deer."
5) Do you ever wonder what those shirtless people you see getting arrested on 'Cops' do during the daylight hours? Well, ponder no more. I give you the den of iniquity known as the Long Beach Tavern (the LBT to the locals). Between the months of mid-September to late-May it is peopled with local fishermen and crabbers looking to assuage their stress-filled months at sea with some liver-pickling happy juice, but in the late-May to early-September months it is a panic-inducing melange of "Girls Gone Wild" and "America's Most Wanted". Heard about that fight in town last night?...LBT. Didja know some kid blew his fingers off with a bottle rocket?...LBT. Did anyone else see that naked woman wearing a cowboy hat and waving a machete outside the fish-n-chips joint last night?... you guessed it. All roads to iniquity begin and end at the LBT. That cozy little Peyton Place has seen enough deadly sins to make Dante wince. But while we all recognize the sheer debauchery that occurs within its stained walls, the locals have an odd fondness for the LBT, much like a mother does for her recalcitrant teen. We are disturbed by the things that occur inside, but its activities subsidize both our local economy, as well as the two residential alcohol treatment centers conveniently located at either end of the peninsula. "It's the ciiiiiircle of liiiiiife..."
I have tried to wrap my brain around how and why otherwise civilized people can come to a bucolic village and suddenly lose all sense of decorum and basic common sense. As yet, the best I can come up with is this: most people are self-centered, and exist in a constant state of solipsism. Therefore, if they are on vacation, then certainly all surrounding laws, ethics, and mores are obviously on vacation as well. To that, I say this: We are not living in a live-action rendition of "The Purge". There is no 48-hour reprieve from state and local legislation simply because you got some personal leave time from Intel. Laws are still a thing. Personal decency is still a thing. Are you apt to walk into your local Whole Foods and drop a deuce in the middle of the produce aisle? Doubtful. Therefore, for the love of all that is good and holy, DO NOT DO IT AT MY FARMER'S MARKET!!!!*
*I would like to say this didn't actually happen. I would like to... but sadly cannot.
Do you see those quaint beach cottages just west of town? They are managed by my friend Liz, a witty, self-effacing woman from Tacoma who volunteers at the local food bank. I saw you admiring that fishing boat docked in the harbor. It is for sale now, once owned by a man named Jack who bought it for the woman of his dreams who broke his heart and left him shattered. Those rhubarb stalks and apples you're stuffing in your bag at the street fair were grown by Autumn and Trish; two sisters who moved home to care for their ailing father after their mother passed away suddenly from cancer. And that man and his ebullient Jack Russell terrier walking along the shoreline picking up your beer cans and McDonald's wrappers from last night? His name is Stan; a retired college professor and multi-millionaire who spends his days refurbishing homes for Habitat For Humanity. They are people, all of them. Good, kind, hard-working people, and get this... they LIVE here. They sell you hoodies in the souvenir shops and clean your vomit off of the hotel carpets, and tolerate your drunken fumbling whilst serving you cocktails. They love this town with the ferocity of a mother bear, and while thankful for the influx of your dollars to float our local economy, are ecstatic when you pack up your toys and return to your homes in parts unknown so they can continue their peaceful existence.
If you're ever in my neck of the woods, please... come and visit. I, like most others in this town, am always happy and proud to show off our beautiful hamlet and extend some local courtesy and charm. All I ask in return is that you leave our town the way you found it: pleasant, pristine, and unpolluted. Treat your vacation destinations as you would your own home, because it IS someone's home. So, please, be respectful. And don't mess with my chickens.
Don't nobody mess with my chickens.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
For those of you who have stuck around during my rather lengthy hiatus...*
*Which I'd like to say was due to some major dramatic life event, but in truth I've been wallowing in a veritable mudbath of slack.
*For those who don't know, "Gil" is short for "Massengil" because my ex is such a tremendous bag of douche.
As such, I have heretofore referred to my twin sons as 'M' and 'J'. However, now that they are on the cusp of their fourteenth birthday, and proving to be every bit as self-aggrandizing and vainglorious as their mother, they have asked that I use their "real" names. So...I give you my children: Michael and Jack.
They're taller in person.
When Norm and I got married last year, we made the decision as a family to get the hell out the city and relocate to his little paradise by the sea. So, kids in tow, we loaded our trailer, tossed the kayaks on top of the truck, packed up our things and we moved to Beverlyyyyyyy. . .*
*Hills, that is. Movie stars. Swimming pools. . .well, actually, no. We're nowhere near Beverly Hills or its ilk, but I am never one to miss an arbitrary pop culture reference.
Part of our decision to relocate to a small town was to simplify, downsize, and finally put our money where our hippie mouths were and start living more organically; and part of it was so that I could "retire" and start homeschooling the short people, because frankly? The public school system was chewing them up and spitting them out like a bulimic at Thanksgiving dinner.
"But, Jen," I hear you cry, "are you not an educator? Did you not once work within the public school system?" First of all, stop crying -- it's not pretty. And secondly, I have no problem with public school. Public school was the shit for me and continues to be so for myriad children, but there are some that just don't "fit" the common core mold and two of those aforementioned children just happen to be mine.
Of course, homeschooling is not without its sui generis challenges; the first of which is that, while my short people are twins, they have dichotomous learning styles. Michael has autism, so his curriculum is more aural/kinesthetic-based, and involves multiple repetitions and "sensory breaks" throughout the day, and Jack. . .well. . .Jack is brilliant. I know every parent thinks their child is exceptional, but sweet Mother Mary in a mojito that kid is so freaking smart he makes Stephen Hawking look like a Kardashian after a quad-shot kamikaze. So, keeping the J-Man challenged and encouraging him to use his mental powers for good requires Herculean effort on both my and Norm's part. As such, we encourage him to research his passions with a healthy dose of independence, and shower the boy with learning opportunities at every turn.
This is Jack, teaching Mike DNA replication via an off-key rendition of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together" and a crap ton of Legos. See? Brilliant. But his taste in music sucks harder than an airline toilet. Boy needs to work on that shit, yo.
For those who know, my graduate degree is in Special Education, so when it comes to teaching Michael, I've got it goin' on like Chaka Khan. But Jack requires a slightly more gangsta touch, because despite his astronomically high IQ, the apple did not fall far from the smart-ass tree. . .may God have mercy on his soul. To better elucidate my point, I would like to share with you some of the conversations Jack and I have had in relation to his education over the past few months. Suffice to say, if there were ever any doubt that he was my son, ye may abandon that notion forthwith. . .
JACK ((reading Waiting for Godot)): OK, so, Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for this guy who is going to "save" them and they're worried that he might "punish" them if they make him mad. So, Godot is God. . .right?
ME: Maybe. Remember too, that they also offer Godot a "prayer" and "a vague supplication", so Beckett seems to be drawing a God-like parallel.
JACK: But nobody knows for sure who Godot is, right?
ME: Right. It's never stated outright, so no one can really explain it.
JACK: Like black holes. . .
ME: Or Anne Hathaway's career. . .
JACK: Or why bitches be trippin'. . .
JACK: Or why bitches be trippin'. . .
ME: Crystals -- like diamonds -- are formed when there is a combination of two elements: extreme heat, and extreme pressure.
JACK: So, it's a collaboration, like David Bowie and Queen?
ME: Well. . .yeah. . .pretty much.
JACK: So diamonds are formed ((singing)) "Under pressure! Do-do-do-doodoo-do-do...Do-do-do-doodoo-do-do...Under pressure...!"
ME: Wait. You're 13. How do you even know who David Bowie and Queen ARE!?!?
JACK: YouTube. I like to kick it Old School.
ME: What are you reading?
JACK: The Man In the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.
ME: Ooh! Well played! I love that book -- kind of a 1660's "Parent Trap" meets "Orange Is The New Black".
JACK: References I would most likely understand if we actually had a TV.
ME: Hey, I grew up watching TV. Am I not enough of a cautionary tale for you?
JACK: Fair point. Hey, wait a minute. . .how do YOU know about "Orange Is The New Black"?
ME: . . .
JACK: Why must you raise me in a den of Netflix and LIES!?!?
ME: Newton's First Law of Motion states that an object in motion will tend to stay in motion and an object at rest will tend to stay at rest. If one object is balanced atop a moving object, and the moving object suddenly stops or turns, the balancing object will continue to travel forward at the original rate of speed.
JACK: So, it's like that time you left our Starbucks order on top of the car and when you stopped it flew forward and made a smoking hot mess all over the windshield?
ME: Well, yeah, but if I'd gone all 'Fast and Furious' and hit the brakes at 120 mph the lattes would have totally cleared the hood!
JACK: Hashtag "driving goals".
ME: Well, yeah, but if I'd gone all 'Fast and Furious' and hit the brakes at 120 mph the lattes would have totally cleared the hood!
JACK: Hashtag "driving goals".
MY FRIEND DREW: I can't wait for your explanation of the second law of thermodynamics.
ME: Well, as it relates to displacement, I anticipate that it will involve the lyrics to Ludacris' "Move, Bitch, Get Out The Way".
DREW: I would think Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle" would be a better fit. "Man, I got bitches, man I got bitches..." Here, bitches represent disorder; the larger his fame, the mo' bitches. Therefore, the whole of his life, growing ever more closed and rarified, tends irreversibly to maximal bitches, aka. entropy.
ME: You realize that if you'd taught high school physics I probably wouldn't have skipped class every week to eat graham crackers and watch "Days Of Our Lives".
JACK: Yes, you would have.
ME: Yeah, probably. Because. . .priorities.
ME: Thanks for helping your brother study for his quiz, Jack.
JACK: Sure! Happy to help.
ME: So, Mike; describe an Emperor Penguin.
MIKE: They're the biggest. And. . .they live in the Antarctic.
ME: Good! How about a Crested Penguin?
MIKE: They have red beaks and yellow crests and they live in New Zealand.
ME: Way to go! How about an Adelie Penguin?
MIKE: They're the ones that are 'rollin' in the deep'.
ME: Seriously, J?
JACK: C'mon, Mom. It's not like I set fire to the rain or anything.
ME ((sigh)): Bless your soul, you've got your head in the clouds, you made a fool outta me and it's bringin' me down.
JACK: The games we play, I will always win, always win.
ME: Oh, I give up. But. . .never mind, I'll find someone like you.
ME: . . .
JACK: Hello from the outside.
ME: Well, at least I can say you tried.
JACK: . . .To tell you I'm sorry, for breaking your heart.
MIKE: Are we going to study penguins now?
JACK: Rumor has it.
The good news is, despite his propensity to belabor a point, discuss Minecraft until I want to bludgeon myself with a cinder block, and turn every conversation into an episode of "Epic Rap Battles In History". . .*
*Which I totally let him watch. Because...history. Besides, watching William Shakespeare drop a sick beat on Dr. Seuss? Magical.
. . .Jack is a kind tender-hearted, and joy-filled young man. He cares for both his twin brother and grandfather, started a community action campaign to clean up our beaches, recently joined a children's movement to require labeling on all genetically modified foods sold in the U.S., and is currently helping his stepdad build a chicken coop and plant a vegetable garden. He is my sunny little man-child: at times erudite and austere, but perpetually ebullient and carefree. The growth and maturity and strength of character we've seen since removing Jack (and Michael) from public school is astronomical -- as aforementioned, homeschool is not for everyone, but it IS for us.
As we speak, Jack is on the phone, discussing a collaborative project for the annual Science Olympiad. If it involves ballistics, this conversation never happened.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
I was actively perusing the CNN website the other day. . .
Well, maybe not "actively"; I guess it was more that I was scrolling through the local news alerts. . .
OK, fine, I was watching cat videos on Facebook; don't judge. In my defense, when streaming a particular news story about the crisis in the Middle East and a pop-up appears extolling the virtues of a site dedicated to cats that look like Hitler, then I can guarantee you the 'Kitlers' will win out every time.
Every. Damned. Time.
Anyhoo, my point is that I started
*My ex is magical.
I sat at my computer pondering what I could say to my old friend. What pearls of wisdom I could cast at her feet that would alleviate some part of her pain. What did people tell me eight years ago that kept me from going the full Sylvia Plath and jamming my head in the microwave oven? There are tons of Huff Post, Dr. Phil-y sites out there with "10 Things To Know When Divorcing" but sitting around overthinking my emotions and spanking my inner child has never really turned my crank, so this was what I came up with. It's paltry...even trite and formulaic...but in the immortal words of the great Iggy Azalea, "first things first, I'm the realest"; and this shit is as real as it gets. I hope it helps.