I think most of my blogs are reaching the end of their not very necessary life. At the moment, I think I will write one more series of posts, about the people I call the “Friendly Neighbors,” and then I will shut down all my blogs except a new one that I will post under my real name, called “Collapse of Civilization.”

Then I met Maria. She was a social studies teacher; she was very interested in international relations; she traveled the world. She was intelligent, and dark and pretty in a Southern European sort of way. Her parents were from Croatia.

She was also a fierce feminist. Neither Kip nor I were over the top sexist pigs, but occasionally we would make piggy joking remarks, and Maria would take us severely to task.

However, Maria also had a charming, wry, self-effacing sense of humor. She told me once about going to the Portland Zoo with her mother and father. The lions were “getting it on,” at the time. She was telling me about how conservative her Croation mother was.

“My mother turned to my father and me in bewilderment, and asked what the lions were doing,” she said.

I didn’t ask if she knew how she was conceived with a mother in such denial about the facts of life.

In high school, Maria told me, the quarterback of the football team had chosen her to be his girl friend. To me, Maria was attractive enough that I could imagine that happening, but Maria indicated she was surprised and shocked when football star woo’ed her. In any case, apparently, after that experience, Maria had decided she was oppressed by dominant males.

At the time I met her, she had a gentleman friend, named John. John was very intelligent. He was a professor of Internation Relations at a university in the Portland area. He was distinguished. He specialized in the Middle East. When Henry Kissenger was Secretary of State, he hired John to be Assistant Undersecretary of Something.

Maria told me, “Every so often, John has an ‘audience’ with Secretary Kissenger. He hates these meetings.”

She told me, “I picked John for my boyfriend because he is not very demanding. In fact, I picked him because he just doesn’t give me any shit.”

Maria also made it clear she was not big on the institution of marriage, as it was mostly a way for men to oppress women. Maria’s sister was married, and she made it clear she did not particularly think much of that relationship. She indicated she had no intentions of marrying John or anyone, ever.

The next summer, Maria and John went on a trip around the world. They were serious about not being “tourists.” Every so often, I would get a postcard or a photograph from a country such as India. They rode as regular passengers with ordinary Indian citizens  on trains with the people across India. They did not want to be seen as “ugly Americans” by riding in separate compartments with the other American tourists.

A few days before Maria was due to return from her trip around the world I accidentally encountered (new to me) somebody who knew Maria. During the conversation, she said, “Maria and John will be arriving at the PDX (Portland airport) in a few days. I am going to meet her there. I am looking forward to meeting her husband.”

I said, “Maria is not married.”

She said, “Yes, she is. She got married on the trip.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “Maria told me that she intended never to get married.”

She replied, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Maria and John got married on the trip.”

When Maria actually got back, she wore no wedding ring and said not a word to me or Kip about being married for a least a month or more. I think we never said to her, “I thought you were never going to get married.” Somehow she “merged” the fact that she was married into our working relationship without every making it apparent that her views on marriage had changed.

Eventually, she and John had a couple of children, and bought and remodeled a large house in Portland. I believe my daughter and her partner and I visited them once at their house and met their children.

While I haven’t kept in touch with her, I have looked her up on the web a couple of times. She has become president for a while of an organization promoting international relations in the Portland area. Apparently, she and John are still married. (Happily, I hope.)

To this day, I remain bemused and rather entranced by the memory of the woman who was such a strong feminist that she kept it a secret when she got married.

Candor ends at 6?

November 4, 2010

Recently, David Rochester wrote:

Last night I had occasion to attend a Celebration of Autumn party which was heavily attended by the under-six crowd. In watching and listening to these children, I was struck by their directness; they asked for what they wanted, and were clear about what (and whom) they did and didn’t like. And I thought about the fact that we spend most of our adolescent and adult lives trying to recapture the honesty and candor we naturally had as young children. Most of us, I think, never do get back to that place of being really honest with ourselves and others. Yes, some of that is good boundaries, but a lot of it is fear-based. And I wonder what we’re afraid of … usually the consequence of honesty would be to part us from people and circumstances dragging us down and making us inauthentic.

Random Granddaughter is now six years old. We received an invitation from her private school, which she attends with children of a famous SW billionaire (for whom I would probably have to eliminate you with extreme prejudice if I named), to observe her in first grade during “Grandparents and Grandfriends Day.”

Does she really want Grandma and Grandpa to observe her? Her Mommies say, “Yes, she does.”

Or is she just saying that because she thinks she is supposed to? Well, probably she really wants us to attend. But by second grade she may just be acting polite.

Right now she throws a hissy fit when asked to eat something she does not want to eat, and she is direct in saying what she likes and doesn’t like. But pretty soon she will learn to eat what her parents and grandparents say she should eat, and pretty soon she will learn to hide the honesty and candor she had at two, three, four, and five years of age. Comes with the territory, I’m afraid.

I’ve put away most of what I’ve written about her in my blog with instructions for it to be given to her when she is fifteen years of age. If she hasn’t already run away from home by then or started a revolution somewhere or living in a commune in San Francisco or Washington, D.C. or Chicago.By then she will deny she ever knew me…or the child I described in her infancy and toddleracy.

Pet Escalation

July 9, 2010

The Friendly Neighbors have an old cat, ducks, and quite a few chickens. Random Granddaughter and her mommies have Sylvie, the world’s most extroverted and adorable cat. After 44 years with no pets, Mrs. Random and I have three hens: Big Mama, Moll of the Bad attitude (who pecks our fingers frequently), and Little Peep, who is small,  spunky, and clucks to a different metronome than the rest of the flock.

I once complained about chickens not purring. However, they do have a sound that seems to fill a similar ecological niche: compelling humans to become their slaves. Every once in a while, our three hens will all freeze and make a little “chirring” sound. They all do it together; they all seem to be frozen (as if they are taking a little nap); and after a few minutes they will return to going about their business.

The other day, we heard them clucking in alarm. Looking up, I saw a large owl (I believe the variety is called “barred owl”) gazing speculatively at the chickens from a tall fir tree. It was watching the chickens intently. However, after a few minutes they stopped alarming.

Today, the owl landed on our bird feeder and later landed on our porch railing. Owls are probably mor e interested in chipmunks and squirrels than in birds. The chipmunks are pests who eat our strawberries and our peas. I will see if I can train the owl to eat a chipmunk out of my hand.

Hmmm…one person is reading this blog, a kind sweet gentle person, Karen O. Shall I try to protect you from yourself? I appreciate that you read my other blog, and I do not hold you responsible from the traits and characteristics of worldmagblog that offend me.

Nevertheless, while I regard you as a pleasant, admirable, and intelligent person, you and I disagree on very basic issues. If you consider continuing to read me is likely to a) convert me to Christianity, or b) converting me if you did would scratch your existential dilemma itch for more than a moment of relief, or c) would make you any happier than you are now (and for all I know, perhaps you are quite happy and filled with joy at this moment), than it is your responsibility if you continue to read this blog.

On the other hand, you could encourage the worst people of wmb to come and read this blog. After all, what would Jesus do?


July 3, 2010

Just as the Garden Tour was finishing, the Barely Extended Family arrived. They had stopped at some of the other gardens on the way in, and at a playground for Random Granddaughter to have a break from adult pastimes.

After visiting the Friendly Neighbors Garden after it had closed they came over to our house. I feed the chickens sow bugs as a treat, but I had been warned that RG collects sow bugs in little houses, so I wasn’t sure if having her help me feed some to the chickens would be politically correct.

Gingerly, I mentioned, “I feed sow bugs to the chickens as a treat. Do you want to help me collect some for them?”

She looked at me with a blank look. Eventually I discovered she did not know the term, “Sow bug.” She calls them, “rolly pollies.” Once the linguistic difficulties were overcome, she enthusiastically helped me turn over rocks and put the rolly polly bugs into a plastic dish and feed them to the chickens.

I think RG’s position at the top of the food chain is safe, unless we discover grizzly bears living in our woods, or a great white shark living in the Friendly Neighbors’ duck pond.


In New Zealand, sow bugs are known as “slaters.” If Australia and New Zealand are at peace, they may use that term as well.

It’s a Tough Job…

June 17, 2010

Mrs. Random is obsessed with everything in our house being neat, tidy, in its proper place, and looking “respectable.” Mrs. Friendly Neighbor is somewhat the same way, but not quite so much. Her comment: “Mrs. Random is more like I am than I am.”

When Random Granddaughter was about two years old, she began to indicate disgust at bugs, slugs, and other little creepy things. I thought she was too prissy for a little kid. I would touch slugs to indicate that she should be less fussy. One of her first complete sentences to me was, “Grandpa, I would really like you not to slugs anymore.”

Although I am a feminist sort of guy, I came to the conclusion that some differences between men and women are inherent and not the products of socialization.

However, I warned Mommy (daughter’s partner and birth mother of RG) that when RG next comes to visit and see our teenage hens (aka the “juvenile delinquents”), she would have to help me collect sow bugs to feed chickens. The chickens regard sow bugs as the equivalent of candy. They like grass, but if it has multiple legs and scuttles, it is better than anything else, they think.

Mommy told me that RG has taken to collecting sow bugs, playing with them, and creating little houses for them to live in. [I guess this is how a kindergartner plays with dolls now.]

Worried that I might offend or traumatize RG by feeding darling little sow bugs to chickens, I told Mommy I would feed the chicks only a vegetarian diet for one day.

Mommy replied by email, “RG knows that humans eat chickens [even though some keep them as pets]. So if she is all right with that, she should be able to handle the chickens eating sow bugs.

“It’s a tough job being at the top of the food chain, but somebody has to do it.”

Decade of the Chicken

May 13, 2010

Three chick babies have survived. They have just started fighting for pecking order, but for the camera yesterday, they looked innocent.

Part 5

When we got home, RG’s pre-K teacher had arrived. She whined about how menopause was ruining her memory for names, but she looks 20 years younger than menopause. Like RG’s kindergarten teacher, pre-K teacher is positive, upbeat, and full of enthusiasm. She puts her arm around RG and calls her “Girl Friend,” and treats her like a chummy pre-teen. Which I guess what RG is at six years of age.

Pre-K confirmed a new social trend I have noticed: parents adopting their children’s spouses and significant others. My favorite computer dealer’s daughter divorced her husband and moved to the East Coast. He now runs their store with them and they call him “our son.”

Pre-K teacher talked about her daughter in college. Apparently, there is no split, but I sensed a little coolness and distance. The teacher said, “She [daughter] broke up with her boyfriend of five years.”

Teacher then began telling us about how wonderful ex-boyfriend is and how much she likes him.

We are inventing a new culture.

RG Rummages

May 8, 2010

Part 4

After lunch Random Granddaughter and I went with Mommy back to RG’s house. RG’s favorite preschool teacher was invited for dinner and a post graduate reunion with the “pre-K” girl now in actual kindergarten and Mommy invited me to stay.

I had RG call Grandma to tell her Grandpa was staying for dinner. Grandma always thinks I am imposing myself on the family, when I only do so some of the time.

Mama made a brief appearance and returned to her enchantment by the calculus sorcerer. Mama prepared chicken shish kabob on the grill. The Lutheran private school behind the Mommies’ house was having a Rummage sale. The Mommies are very fond of rummage sales; many of the furnishings and much of the library come from such sales, so RG has become an active rummager at the age of 6.

Mommy: “I don’t think you have any money.”

RG: (rummaging in her bank): “I have thirteen cents and three dollars.”

Grandpa and RG walked to the Rummage sale. The Rummage Sale closed at 4 pm. It was 3:45. I said, “I don’t know how much stuff they have this late.”

Silly Grandpa. The Rummage sale was full of…well…to put it bluntly…full of junk.

Several adults were lined up at the check out tables with huge piles of junk, bargaining.

RG looked at the dolls. She grabbed two small dolls. She asked me to hold them. While I held them, she found a small china piano, about three inches high. [RG takes piano lessons.] RG said, “For Mama.” I didn’t understand, as my daughter has never touched a piano.

[Earlier, Mary from Peru had told us that she would like to take violin lessons. Mommy majored in violin. Mary said she had found violins very expensive to rent. Mommy sometimes gives violin lessons. She recently had her violin appraised. Its value came to many thousands of dollars. Mommy did not offer to give Mary violin lessons or to rent her a violin.]

RG did not find a bargain violin at the rummage sale. While a (I think Chinese) woman called her husband and gave him directions in perhaps Chinenglish of how to find the rummage sale location so he could meet his wife so he could pay for and to pick up her spectacular collection of jummage, the volunteer turned to RG and her booty. The total should have been $3 by the sales tags, but as it was five minutes to closing, RG got the entire stash for $2. I foresee great finances or perhaps a great collection of junk, and perhaps a Chinese spouse in RG’s future.