Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Friday, March 30, 2012

Heads Up Helicopter Parents: It Might Be Time To Land

So here's the setting: My cousin Judy was maybe 10 or 11, I was maybe 8 or 9. Judy lived on a farm down the road from my house, a farm bursting with things for two energetic and curious kids to do. There was the cow barn, the horse barn, the corn crib, the hay mow. There was also the hill and the swamp, trees to climb, roller skates to roll, newborn kittens to nudge. The farm was a wonderland, a place where I went every day of the summer. I'd wave a cheery goodbye to my mother and set off, after which Judy and I would wave a cheery goodbye to her mother and not be seen again until we got hungry or the sky got dark. There was no cell phone, of course, what is nowadays being dubbed the longest umbilical cord in history. There on the farm it was just Judy and me, on our own, pint-sized Magellans with eyes wide open.

One day we decided to walk up some nearby railroad tracks and spend the day exploring outside our usual stomping grounds. We came upon the river and floated pieces of bark along frothy, shallow water. We watched an owl lift off and flap by overhead and rabbits dart into leafy underbrush. We walked and talked and imagined and bonded and had a fine time, a couple of little though savvy country girls going boldly where they had not before.

After several hours -- or maybe more than several, I'm not sure I remember correctly but it could have been as many as five or six -- we started hearing something in the distance. A sing-songy sound, like "EEEEE-eeeee." Over and over, but faint. We couldn't identify the sound, but thought maybe it was time to head back. As we retraced our steps toward the farm the sound got louder. "EEEEE-eeeeee." Suddenly, there on the tracks ahead, we saw a man in the distance walking toward us. Our brains whispered "railroad tramp!", a not uncommon sight back in those days. We hid behind a bush, waiting for him to pass and hoping he hadn't seen us. He did pass by, at which point his face came into focus.

It was my father. My very angry father.

I didn't wet my pants (I don't think), but if I ever was going to, it would have been at that moment. My dad was not a guy you wanted to hang with when he was mad. And the EEEEE-eeeee? Well, that was two sets of parents yelling "KAAATH-EEEEEE" and "JUUUUUUU-DEEEEEE" over and over as they searched for us.

I guess we got in trouble for our escapade, but honestly I don't recall. If we did it wasn't a big deal, not when we explained we'd seen owls and rabbits and sailed tiny bark boats, although I do remember my mother blanching at the word "river." There was some stern talk and finger-wagging about drowning and if I didn't say it, I know I thought these words: "Aw Ma, it was shallow there. We aren't stupid."

Now some might say our parents were a bit loosey-goosey when it came to keeping track of their children. Certainly these days if parents let two young girls wander off into the mist for hours, child protective services would be knocking at the door. For us, all of us, it was another day in the life. Kids explored alone back then, and while the folks weren't too happy that we took flight that day, everything settled down once we were found. And in fact, we weren't ever lost. We knew where we were, and like I said (or probably thought), c'mon people, we may be kids but we aren't stupid, ya know!

Helicopter parents, a term coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in their 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, describes parents who "hover" over their kids, paying close attention to their child's experiences and problems whether their kids need them or not. Helicopter parents -- also called lawnmower parents because they mow down any troubles that might pop up in front of their kids -- are determined to resolve problems for their children rather than letting the children resolve problems on their own. There seems to be a desire to keep the kids happy at all times, which translates into never letting them fail (everybody's a winner! here's a trophy just for showing up!). This bizarre phenomenon has now escalated to mothers and fathers interfering in educational institutions, insisting their precious child should have gotten a better grade or into a better school, and -- preposterously -- is popping up at the workplace. Human resource departments are reporting that parents of grown, employed children are calling offices and becoming involved in salary negotiations.

Helicopter parents have been around for awhile, but have come into keen focus recently as a result of the ridiculous story about a 2011 Colorado Springs Easter egg hunt, canceled this year because parents last year jumped over rope barriers and rushed in to be sure their tot didn't go home with an empty basket. There's some speculation that the hunt was poorly organized. This does not, however, take away from the fact that hovering parents didn't stand back and let their children figure it out. They charged in, one father saying "You have all these eggs just lying around, and parents helping out. You better believe I'm going to help my kid get one of those eggs. I promised my kid an Easter egg hunt, and I'd want to give him an even edge."

I can't help but wonder what will become of these children in adulthood, the children of hovering and interfering helicopter moms and dads. Will they turn into brilliant thinkers and leaders, blazing innovative trails in math and medicine? Will they write books and persevere even after manuscripts are rejected over and over again, never stopping until they succeed? Will they shun convention and paint heart-stopping masterpieces, even if it means they have to do so as starving artists? Will they forge ahead in business and politics and make the world a better place? Will they, in fact, go boldly where no one has gone before? Or will they crumble at the first inevitable wall, not knowing how to get around the roadblock because they've never had to before, because, until now, their parents have been there to bulldoze the wall down?

My folks were the antithesis of helicopter parents, thank god. They allowed me to explore the world. They were always there in the background, but trusted me to make the right decisions. Of course I failed, and when I did they told me so. Likewise, when I succeeded, I got a deserved pat on the back. I didn't get a trophy unless I earned one, and when I did, when I really did do something accolade-worthy, nothing felt better. I have a friend whose son once said, "Life's a bitch. Get a helmet." Indeed: life can be bumpy and failing hurts. But if you never lose, how can you possibly know how good it feels to really win? 

Helicopter parents, check the lab. You may think you're creating an Einstein in there, but it's possible what you're doing instead is setting loose another fellow, the type of whom Mary Shelley was so fond.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Calling All Artists: The Sherburne Art Show Returns!

As a former band and color guard member, a writer, and -- when the spirit moves me -- a painter (albeit not a very talented one), I appreciate the importance of art in the life of humans. So much of our every day is taken up with work and cleaning and dog-tending and financial maneuvering that I think we often forget that sometimes we need to set all the necessary chores aside and just let creativity flow. 

On Saturday, June 9, 2012,  The Sherburne Public Library will host an art show in our village. Plans for the event include the showcasing (and sale) of art and crafts by local artists, photography, student exhibitions, food vendors, music, and a children's interactive tent, where youngsters will be invited to express their artistic creativity in a make-and-take format. The Sherburne Arts and Crafts Family Festival is a reincarnation of the art show once enjoyed by our town, and will be held, as that one was for many years, in our sprawling and beautiful Gaines Park. While the show will be a fundraiser for the library, our long view is to bring back to Sherburne an annual family-oriented, community festival where kids of all ages will be encouraged to shut off their computers and their cell phones and stroll the Gaines Park sidewalks to admire, purchase, and make art.

If you are an artist, crafter, musician, food vendor, or sponsor who would like to take part in what promises to be a fabulous day of imagination, innovation, and good old-fashioned fun, please email me at kmyasas@aol.com or comment below. We're putting together our list of participants now, and we want you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

You Can't Hide From The Man

I got a letter from the Nassau County Department of Motor Vehicles the other day about two tickets. One was a parking violation and the other was for an outdated inspection sticker. The letter was sent to notify me that I was late in paying the tickets. Seventeen years late.

According to what is clearly a poorly-run motor vehicle department on Long Island, I was issued these tickets (I guess, who can remember?) in January of 1995. They listed a license plate number that was vaguely familiar. After some studying and thinking, I realized the plate with that number had been affixed to an Altima I once owned. 

Since January 1995, I've moved twice and had three other cars, each with different license plates from the one listed in the letter. I've also had my hair cut about a hundred times, written a couple of novels, decorated 17 Christmas trees, bought and renovated a house, sold an apartment, sold a house, become the godmother of a baby who is now a senior in high school, and had four cats die of old age. 

I admit that I'm not the best when it comes to paying tickets, having a tendency to toss them into a pile of papers on my desk and then jerking awake in the middle of the night months later, remembering. Ultimately, though, I always pay. With that said, I find it hard to believe that I didn't pay these tickets, and as I read through the notice I became outraged that now, of course, there's no way I'll ever find proof that I took care of these. My filing system, like my desk, is neither tidy nor accurate. This is not to mention that since 1995 I've not only moved homes, but my office as well. I remember well chucking mountains of old personal files thinking "Hey, I'll never need these again!"

After getting the letter I immediately talked to my sister, who works for an attorney, and screeched for awhile about this travesty of justice, the spirit of the conversation revolving around the concept of you snooze you lose (the motor vehicle department being the one snoozing in this story). They have some nerve, I announced loudly, to threaten me with "additional penalties and/or NON-RENEWAL OF YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION" (their capital letters, not mine), most particularly since these alleged tickets have been languishing in their computer system for almost two decades. I waved the letter around in front of Pat, made a copy, and asked her to in turn wave it around in front of her lawyer boss, imagining his getting on the phone and giving some Long Island civil servants a piece of his legal mind.  

Then I read the notice more carefully.

The fee for the uninspected vehicle ticket was $40. The penalty for nonpayment was $15. The parking ticket fee was $30, again carrying a $15 penalty. Total due: $100. That means my only penalty payment due was thirty bucks, or roughly $1.75 per year. 

Now I know states are in trouble financially in this country, so I'm figuring that somewhere, in some gurgling network of humming boxes, there were thousands (or who knows, maybe millions) of tickets listed in an unpaid ticket file. I'm also figuring that some bean counter in New York State sent a snarling memo to the departments of motor vehicles and told them to get busy and start collecting on these deadbeats, of which I am apparently one. What's really quite fascinating about all this is the tiny penalty. Maybe the bean counter said if they popped us deadbeats with a big penalty we'd all contact our lawyers and screech into telephones. 

I have since calmly told my sister to forget the whole thing. I will happily write a check, not that I'm thrilled about sending off $100 but because the situation is so stupid and minor that I don't feel like aggravating myself, an attorney, or quite frankly the people in Nassau County. As for their being a poorly-run department...well, they did track me down two addresses, three cars, and four dead cats later. I guess I have to give them kudos for that.

Congratulations New York State. You won this time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Climate Change: When Nice Weather Isn't So Nice After All

I played my first round of golf of the 2012 season on Sunday. Beautiful day, 77 degrees. In times past having such temperatures on March 18 in this part of New York State would have been cause for yips of delight and joyful conversation about an early spring. Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled at the nice weather. Still, there's an undercurrent of unease about sun and warmth this time of year. This is snow country, where it isn't unusual to see flakes -- and sometimes snowbanks -- in March and April. On Sunday on a relatively dry golf course, perspiration trickling, I turned my face skyward and wondered: Is this just an unusual spring, or are we in the midst of that dark specter, climate change?

There was a TV program on the other day about global warming. My flat screen was full of dire predictions and depressing images. "The polar bears are finished," the narrator said while cameras panned across crumbling glaciers from which huge chunks of melting ice crashed into arctic seas. Others, deemed experts, warned of oceans rising 20 -- even 40 -- feet, essentially putting places like Florida and Manhattan underwater. For long years there has been talk of the lost city of Atlantis. Centuries from now, will our great great great grandhildren contemplate the lost city of New York?

I decided to take a peek back in time, dipping again into the lives of the ladies who once lived in my house. Ida, bless her heart, was ritualistic about providing the weather report at the beginning of each diary entry. One hundred eleven years ago, on March 17 here in my hometown, Ida reported that it snowed all day. On March 18, however, she said it was "real warm and spring-like," and that the snow was melting fast. Two days later, on March 20, she said again the weather was like spring, noting that the temperature had reached 40 degrees. For the next 47 days Ida describes the weather as snowing, raining, blowing, and cold. The first time she uses the word "hot" to describe the weather was on May 7.

There's no telling what this means other than in 1901 in Sherburne, New York, spring did not come early. I haven't yet gotten to the diary entries of years after, and for all I know March in 1902 was warm and glorious. I can say that my memories of growing up in these parts are more similar to Ida's than to what I experienced on Sunday. And last year, of course, we were buried, having had a major storm in early March after which snow was up to tall hips in my driveway.

Climate change has become a hot topic. Former Vice President Al Gore has raised his voice about the potential and frightening results of the warming of our planet. Then there are those who say it's "a hoax." A hoax? To what end? I realize I'm not much more than a tick on donkey's behind in the big scheme of experts who argue on both sides of this issue, but it seems to me that if in fact we are experiencing climate change, and if this isn't just the Earth going through a natural cycle but instead is something in which we humans with our oil burning and forest cutting have played a part, it's at least worth considering instead of waving a dismissive hand that a melting ice cap is nothing to worry about. If each of us taking ownership of little things might make a difference -- like walking more and driving less, or planting a tree -- why not try? And if global warming is someone's politically-motivated agenda...well, okay. So we'll get some exercise and have a nice maple to come home to. But if climate change is a legitimate threat to our world, how good to know that we didn't go down without a fight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Musings

An odd month, March. Sixty degrees, no snow, snow, mini-blizzard, snow, no snow, sixty degrees. Crocuses up in the yard, feathered things tweeting in the trees. Neighbors were out with rakes today, more indicative than robins. Spring is here.

I'm reading No Country For Old Men at the insistence of certain rabid fans with whom I am acquainted. Can't watch the movie with its visual violence, and even the book is nudging my imagination down dark avenues. As I read I think I hear stealthy footsteps, or doors creaking open somewhere. Harry growls and I raise eyebrows, expecting Chigurh to appear. The author's prose is odd. Staccato. Abrupt sentences. Minimal punctuation. Cant. Doesnt. Dont. Unnerving to read, which I suppose was the goal. 

The cat peed on my throw rug, the one I carried home in my suitcase all the way from Greece, tempting me to remove a feline head with the hatchet that leans against my firebox. Instead I stuffed the rug into the still-fabulous washing machine and dialed "Sanitize." The cat senses my displeasure and has been skulking all day. She is wise to avoid me. 

A friend informed me mosquitoes hibernate in cellars over the winter. I know not if this is true but the image has triggered fear and loathing of a place I already consider troubling. The mosquito is my arch-enemy. Last night I lay in a silent bedroom and imagined I heard them beneath me, waking, gathering, their high pitch skree sub rosa conversation about the food source above. Maybe I'll send the cat down.

It's possible the high-pitched skree of Republicans is driving me mad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sex, Lies, and Kangaroos

Back in 1980, when I was living in Arkansas, I met then-governor Bill Clinton. To make a long story short, a company in the town where I lived had filed for bankruptcy protection, which was a big deal because 400 people or so from Blytheville worked at the company. I was a newspaper reporter and as such was invited with the rest of the area press to the county courthouse, where Governor Clinton was scheduled to appear to talk about the situation. Mr. Clinton arrived, shook hands with each member of the press, then told us and the gathered audience about what he would do to solve the problem of a large business potentially departing this small town. I took photos of the governor and wrote a story about the event, both of which were run in the paper the next day. Oh yes, after he spoke, Bill Clinton and I went to the Ramada Inn and had a wild night of sex that included toys, kangaroos, and a good portion of the hotel staff.

Uhhh...hang on a second. That last sentence isn't the truth.

Some guy, some ex-gas station attendant, ex-Marine, ex-Hollywood hanger-on, has written a tell-all book about old Hollywood. Apparently he provides lurid specifics about how he had sex with lots of A-list stars -- both men and women -- and also how he was responsible for running a prostitution ring for the movies' biggest legends, all accomplished by way of his gas station job. This person, 88-year-old Scotty Bowers, told The New York Times: "I've kept silent all these years because I didn't want to hurt any of these people" and claims he's "always been reticent to reveal details about what I have done, mainly to respect the privacy of those whose lives have intersected with mine."  He further claims that he's written this book not because he needs the money, but because "I'm not getting any younger and all my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can't hurt them anymore." The "them" to whom he refers includes people like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, George Kukor, Rita Hayworth, Vivien Leigh, Desi Arnaz, Walter Pidgeon, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

I haven't read (and will never read) Bowers' missive, nor do I have much interest in reading his interview with the Times in its entirety. I do wonder, though, what his real motivation was to "open up his little black book" if not to stuff his pockets full of cash. To make fans feel...good about these stars? To make stars' family members still living feel...proud of their parents and grandparents? I'm thinking...not.

Bowers has his supporters, one of whom is his publisher, Morgan Entrekin. About his client, Entrekin said: "You don't get the sense that this guy is trying to exploit his experiences" in spite of the fact that the tome is described as ribald, bawdy, juicy and, on the book jacket, jaw-dropping. Another supporter, a Mr. Tyrnauer, says he "believes" Bowers. Of course, Mr. Tyrnauer also recently cut a deal to make a documentary about the guy. Not surprisingly, Scotty Bowers also has detractors. James Curtis, who wrote "Spencer Tracy: A Biography," summed it up nicely:  "Bowers is full of glib stories and revelations, all cheerfully unverifiable."

That would be the key, wouldn't it? That Bowers' accounts are unverifiable. Like Scotty, I could take my own story of meeting Bill Clinton and fill it up with lots of true (and verifiable) statements like I met him at the Blytheville county courthouse in 1980 when he came to speak about a local company going belly-up. Then I could spin out a manuscript of 90 percent truth and 10 percent kangaroos, send the titillating pages to a publisher with an ailing bottom line and, after some vetting by lawyers who could prove all of the story but the behind-closed-doors particulars, get a big book contract. In these days when you can say anything about anybody and get it published in about five seconds on the Internet, we've entered a world of disgusting he said/she said. Even more distasteful is that publishers print this stuff and slap it on bookshelves with no other motivation than to make a blessed buck. I suspect Bowers' accounts do not, as his book proposal to Grove/Atlantic claimed, reveal a tale about "the complex and conflicted psychosexual history of America's soul." Instead, the accounts more likely reveal the true character of a Tinseltown-fascinated bi-sexual gas station pimp looking for his 15 minutes of fame in order to fatten his bank account.

Some say Bowers' tell-all does not seem mean-spirited. Well I'm feeling a little mean-spirited this morning, so let me say this: I hope the book tanks. I hope nobody reads it, and I further hope the publisher loses its shirt on this deal. That way, maybe other publishers will start thinking outside the box and come up with ways to stay in business that are less despicable than spreading stories that may or may not be true about people who can no longer defend themselves. Sadly, one veteran entertainment lawyer pointed out the facts when asked what recourse family members have about such writings: "They might be in tears, but there's nothing they can do about it." Then again, there's something we the readers can do about it: we can say we're mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore by boycotting books and publishers who seemed to have been absent from school the day teachers offered definitions of good taste, ethics, and privacy.

Finally, Bowers said this about his "tricks":  "So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?" Indeed, Scotty. Who cares? If that's how you really feel, why'd you write the book in the first place?

Friday, March 9, 2012

When Just Deserts Are Humble Pie

Comeuppance seems to come along when we least expect it.

My mom died suddenly in 1992, when she was only 69. Of a heart attack or stroke, we were never sure. At any rate, after the funeral the family gathered at her house and it was the usual: food and tears and seeing relatives that we hadn't seen in a long time. I'm one of 22 first cousins and dozens more of the shirttail variety, and most, with their spouses, were there to pay respects to my sister and me, and to my mother.

One of my cousins, who I'll call Hector for the purpose of this post (Hector wasn't his real name) was married to a girl named Sheila (also not her real name). I wasn't close to Hector or his wife, for no real reason other than we lived in very different worlds. Hector and Sheila were sort of poor, and sort of backward. I was living in New York running with business types, building a career, traveling. Hector was a bit older than I and lived here in central New York. I don't know what he did for a living and never thought to care. I considered Sheila of even less interest. In fact, whenever I was home for a visit and Hector and Sheila stopped by to see my mom, I managed to slide out the back door while they were coming in the front. I think it's accurate to say I was a bit of a snob when it came to this branch of the family.

The day of my mother's funeral, as I mentioned, there was a houseful. Hector and Sheila were there, in a corner someplace I guess, I honestly don't recall even seeing them. After several hours of chatting with family and paying absolutely no attention to Hector and his wife, Sheila approached me. Up to that point, I don't think I'd ever said more than three words to the woman. She was slow mentally and not terribly clean. And hey, I wasn't going to waste my time with Sheila. I was a big shot New Yorker, living a big shot New Yorker's life.

Sheila wanted to speak with me. In private.

We went outside and in her very country way Sheila began talking about my mother's will. Asked, in fact, if the will had yet been read. I recall standing there with arms crossed, scowling at poor short Sheila and thinking she'd watched too many episodes of Murder She Wrote. I was aghast that this bumpkin, who wasn't even a blood relative, had the nerve to discuss my mother's estate (such as it was) and imagined that Sheila was looking for a handout. Peevish, I informed her there would be no "reading" of my mother's will, that my mother hadn't had much to leave behind other than the house, which technically belonged to me, and about two hundred Tupperware bowls with mismatched lids. As I stared her down there in the driveway, eyebrow raised, Sheila said this to me:

"I'm asking because, well, I was wondering if you could give me something, like a doily or a blanket she crocheted. Whenever Hector and I came over she made us feel so important. Like we were, you know, somebody special. I loved your mother very much."

I'm not sure there are enough adjectives to explain the emotions that ran through me at that moment. Humiliation. Discomfort. Remorse. Guilt. Profound shame. I was so ashamed of myself. Here I thought Sheila was going to ask for money, and all she wanted was to own something that my mother had crafted with her own hands. Sheila wanted to take away a piece of my mom because mom, unlike her arrogant New York daughter, had made this girl feel special when nobody else ever did.


I hugged Sheila and we both cried. Then we went back to the house and I gave her an afghan, one of the granny-square types that used to be so popular for ladies to assemble while watching TV. Sheila went away smiling, clutching those granny squares as though I'd given her a trunk full of gold.

There are so many reasons, of course, that I'm sorry my mother is gone. The biggest reason, though, is because I can't look in her blue eyes and tell her that the greatest lesson she ever taught me was to treat every person like they're someone special. Because in their own way, even though we may not see it, they probably are.

My mom would have turned 89 this week. A great lady. I miss her every day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Good News: I Did Not "Tremble Considerable"

I went to the dentist today. It's been far too many years since my last visit, even for a cleaning (yeah, I've been naughty), so when I made an appointment for December at my new dentist in upstate New York, I arrived with a nervous stomach, expecting the worst. The news was pretty good all things considered. No cavities, but funky gums. They recommended quad cleanings, which is where the hygienist digs deep below the gumline as a preventive procedure against periodontal disease. A decision was made that these super cleanings could be accomplished in two visits instead of four. Today was the first of my super cleanings.

I've always considered myself to a bad dental patient, but in fact it turns out I'm quite a good one and that I'm "bad" only in my head, where I grapple with my great fear of needles, drilling, picks, and that high-pressure water gadget. In the past, one or all of these dental necessities has caused me high anxiety and, at times, considerable pain. The fact is, though, when dentists get down to business I fold my hands in a tight knot and take it, opening, closing and spitting when instructed and generally behaving myself. Bad patients, I'm told, carry on. They stop the hygienist or dentist throughout the exam. They grab arms, grab instruments, cry, moan, complain, and, sometimes, freak out. 

There was another factor that made me arise this morning with disquiet bordering on alarm. In the last 25 years I haven't had a single advanced dental procedure without first being administered nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas. The truth is laughing gas ain't that funny. The stuff induces a state of extreme paranoia, at least for me, and many a time under the influence I've convinced myself that the dental staff was whispering about me, mocking me, making sexual suggestions, or doing things in my mouth like pulling teeth when they were supposed to be filling them. Of course I always emerged from the gas state dopey but reassured that the medical folks hovering around in masks and goggles had done their jobs. For years, I felt, the gas with all of its wacky effects was necessary for me to withstand the one prerequisite of anything other than a standard cleaning: the novocaine shot.

This time, having decided to buck up and forgo the gas, I arrived at the dentist's office flat out terrified. Looming before me were four shots of novocaine, all on one side of my mouth. I kept replaying a dental visit from my twenties when the dentist gave me a shot above my front tooth and tears projectile-squirted out of my eye socket and I ended up with an abscess on my gum that plagued me for months after and that ultimately resulted in a damaged nerve, root canal, and a cap. I sat down in the chair today and, wringing my hands, told the hygienist this tale. She reassured me the shots would be administered gently, and that this dental concern (as opposed to others) subscribed to the belief that novocaine delivered slowly added to patient comfort. A needle lingering in my gums didn't sound very comfortable to me, but I kept this observation to myself as I twisted my fingers and curled my toes, bracing myself as she came at me with gloved hands and the twinkling instrument. To my utter shock, when the needle slipped home, I felt almost nothing. Three more shots followed, one in the very front, and at this point I was stunned. I couldn't believe it. I felt no pain. None. Once the shots were finished I did in fact grab the hygienist's arm: I thanked her, and told her she was the most wonderful hygienist in the entire dental world. Okay, maybe I got a little carried away. But in those few minutes of having needles stuck in the soft tissue of my mouth, whatever fears I've had about going to the dentist were flushed away. Today's hygienist could have drilled every tooth down to a nub and I don't think I would have protested.

As I've mentioned recently on this blog, I've been reading diaries of the ladies who lived in my house a century ago. In one entry in 1901, diary-writer Ida wrote this: 

"The dentist came to the house today and pulled ten of my teeth. First he gave me a shot of cocaine in my gums, then he pulled seven teeth. He stopped for a few minutes, then pulled three more. I trembled considerable."

She "trembled considerable." I guess so.

I lay there in the dental recliner today with my face growing blissfully numb thinking about Ida hanging on for dear life to a kitchen chair and having ten teeth pulled at once a hundred-plus years ago. While this lovely and talented hygienist pecked away with pointy tools to extend the life of my ever-aging teeth, I thanked god and the heavens and medical researchers and progress and anyone and anything else I could think of to thank that I live in the year 2012. There are many things wrong with our world these days. Dentistry, I'm happy to say, isn't one of them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Feminists and Lesbians and Communists...Oh My!

Finally we have a hero! Someone who has cast illumination on that scandalous organization known around the world as radical maniacs...nay, demonized maniacs...maniacs who encourage the downfall of women and family. This group does not conduct its evildoing on foreign land led by men with unpronounceable names. They are right here among the clueless Americans, walking the streets, luring in members with promises of a future too terrifying to imagine. They wear uniforms and meet in church basements, and once a year their masses are sent forth with lists and pens and innocent expressions to knock on doors...and sell us cookies. They are (drum roll here): The Dreaded Girl Scouts.

So yes. Indiana Republican State Representative Bob Morris, the hero in our story, has denounced the Girl Scouts, claiming to colleagues that after "talking to some well-informed constituents" and conducting "a small amount of web research" he has determined the Girl Scouts are a "tactical arm of Planned Parenthood" that encourages abortion and "homosexual lifestyles." He also noted that the fact First Lady Michelle Obama has a role as an honorary president of the New York City-based group "should give each of us reason to pause before our individual and collective endorsement of the organization." He evidently also got crazy that of the 50 role models studied by the Girl Scouts, "only three have a briefly mentioned religious background; all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or communists." Try as I might, I couldn't find the list of fanatic role models to which he refers. Any researchers out there: if you find the list please comment below and provide a link. I'm interested to know who all these feminists, lesbians, and communists are that the Girl Scout leaders are insisting their cookie sellers admire.

Representative Morris has since apologized for the letter, which he says was meant for colleagues only (it was leaked to a local paper before going viral). He blathered a bit about his words being reactionary and emotional and went on to chat about God and The Pope and family and radical liberals and all the other favorite topics of the far right. In the end, he still refused to sign a resolution to honor the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, which is what set all this off to begin with.  

This news item, and this guy, make the inside of my skull itch. Maybe it's an aneurysm about to explode, or maybe it's just my brain trying to get out and away from the concept that Morris is a representative of the people, a person in our government standing alongside historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and Adams. How did this clown ever get into a position of power?

There is so much more to say. That vilifying the Girl Scouts is almost as ridiculous as vilifying Planned Parenthood, an organization I myself used when I was young and becoming sexually active and which gave me access to affordable gynecologic care, contraceptives, and, as needed, counseling (and no, I did not go to Planned Parenthood for an abortion, nor did any of my friends who also partook of PP's services). Or that claiming the Girl Scout credo includes sexualizing young girls so that...what? They'll run off and get pregnant so they can then run off and have an abortion at Planned Parenthood, thereby implying some deep conspiracy involving feminists and communists and Planned Parenthood making money on terminating pregnancy? The whole thing is so patently stupid that I can't even talk about it anymore, other than to say this: first the right goes after the Muppets, now the Girl Scouts. Mickey and Minnie, Daisy and Daffy, look out. You guys are probably next in the fundamentalist crosshairs.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum