Monday, December 30, 2013

To Those Who've Gone On, We Salute You

By Mike Nettleton
 They say a sign of getting old is knowing more dead people than those who are living. I don’t know if I’ve gotten there yet, but I find myself inexplicably drawn to the obituaries these days. 

The local newspaper just ran the yearly list of notable who passed away in 2013. Some of them, I knew about. Others came as a surprise. I’d either skipped reading the paper or watching the news that day, or it had slipped what’s left of my mind.(A regular occurrence)

Some of the deceased were important players on the world’s stage, like Nelson Mandela, a man of incredible courage, intelligence and capacity for forgiveness. Or, long-time UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas, whose blunt and penetrating questioning could make even the most poised world leader sweat bullets. But the names that caught my attention this year were somewhat lesser figures, but whose contributions had an impact on my life in some way, shape or form.

Annette Funicello. 70-Mouseketeer turned sex symbol. As teenaged boys, we flocked to the next “Beach Party” flick to see if she’d finally hear our psychic pleading and wear a two-piece swimsuit.

Andre Cassagnes 86-The guy who invented the “Etch-a-Sketch". Just one of the many toys, I never got the hang of, along with erector sets, Mr. Potato Head and paddle ball. (The rubber ball kept hitting me in the head).

Jonathan Winters 87-Wild man comedian who could, without fail, make me blow a recent mouthful of Coke up through my nose. He could take any ordinary object and improv on it with hilarious results.

Charles, “Chuck” Foley 82-The inventor of the game “Twister.” Genius, really, a way to legitimize groping one another in the name of good clean fun. An ancestor of twerking. 

Lou Reed. 71-He didn’t exactly sing, he just kinda talked rhythmically. Who can stop smiling when they hear: “and the colored girls sing doot-dee-doot-de-doot-de-doot-doot,” from “Walk on the Wild Side?

Peter O’ Toole. 81-One of my all-time acting faves. His scenes with Katherine Hepburn in A Lion in Winter rank as the state of the art hilarious on-the-screen most creative bitchiness ever filmed. Nominated 8 times for an Oscar and never won.

Honorable mentions include Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of the punk group Divinyls, famous for “I Touch Myself,” James Gandolfini “Bada bing-badda-boom," and C. Everett Koop, the Amish-looking surgeon general who helped nag me into stopping smoking.

That’s the list. I’m ready to stop looking back and leap into 2014. Chief among my resolutions, “stop procrastinating (a holdover from last year), Take singing lessons and audition for the Metropolitan Opera, and finally, master paddle ball and the etch a sketch.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Going Gray – Part II

August 29, 2013

 Carolyn J. Rose
December 8, 2013
"It’s not bad now,” my hairdresser said as she trimmed off split ends a few weeks ago, “but it’s going to get scary when you have more gray showing.”


Since my decision to stop coloring my hair cut into her income, I didn’t expect her to applaud and cheer me along.

But scary?

I found myself tipping my head to get a better view of the process underway since the end of the summer. Yes, there’s a definite line of demarcation. Yes, it’s obvious I haven’t been touching up the roots. Yes, it’s clear that there are strands and streaks of gray and even white.

But is that scary?

And if so, why?

Because we fear aging, fear the wrinkles and sagging and graying? Do we see those things not as symbols of wisdom and experience, but simply signs that time is passing and we’re no longer young?

If so, is that fear rooted in opinions about outward appearance? Is it based on what the makers of cosmetics and creams and diets and exercise programs tell us?

Or is the fear deeper, primal, coded into our DNA? Is it a fear of loss of ability and power and place in society? Is it fear about what comes next?

I have no idea. Do you?

Friday, November 22, 2013


I’ve always loved words. Early on, I would remember words I heard on television or radio, or from grown up conversations and try to work them into my own spiel at a later date. Several times, repeating words I heard my father’s friends say in “guy” bull sessions earned me a corner table at the Lifebuoy Soap cafe, with the entree delivered by my mother. If you catch my drift.

My enthusiasm for the sound of words may have contributed to my career choices: semi-professional radio pronouncer and disk-jockey (reinforced by my love of music) and later on, writer of stories, books and doggerel. To this day, I continue my life-long habit of incorporating fun-to-say words into my day-to-day speech. Words such as: marginalia, kumquat and brap-a-dap-a-dap-a-dap.

Etymology, in itself a fun word to wrap your lips around, sounds like it should be the be the study of someone’s dining habits as in “I et last night at Tommy O’s and the night before I et at that Russian sushi joint over on Maybe Street. But, as I’m sure you know, etymology is the study of word origins. 

The internet is a wonderful place, allowing us to dig for information on a wide range of subjects. Occasionally, the excavated facts are even true. This is a great boon to a dedicated amateur etymologist like me.  Here are a sampling of my current favorite words and a brief explanation of their roots. 

·       hornswoggle—meaning to embarrass, disconcert or confuse. Nobody’s quite sure, but  they think it was one of those farcified words settlers in the American West liked to invent to confuse the tourists.
·       bamboozle—A cousin of hornswoggle. To practice trickery—to take advantage of someone. Again, they’re not sure, but think it might have spun off the Scottish word “bumbaze.” If you’ve had a few “wee drops” of single malt and a mouthful of haggis, it’s easy to see how it could evolve.
·       Unctuousa favorite because it’s so perfectly descriptive. It means excessively smooth, suave or smug. With a side order of insincere. The word comes from Middle Ages Latin.
·       Wanker—This one is British slang. Used as a pejorative. Shows disdain for the person described.  It’s roots are 19th century British working-class and derives from a form (ahem) of self gratification. Thus the verb form “to wank.”
·       Snogging—another British slang tongue tantalizer. It mean’s kissing, cuddling and perhaps anything short of actually tummy bumping. The roots are uncertain but first turned up amongst U.K. hipsters in the late 50’s.
·       Pejorative—Expression of disapproval or contempt. Roots are Latin and adapted by the French because it was fun to pronounce through your nose. 
·       Loofah—sounds like it should be some sort of exotic sports chant, doesn’t it? Yes, the Samoans have scored again here at the exfoliation bowl and their fans reward them with their trademark cheer: “loofah, loofah, loofah.” It’s called the vegetable sponge and is the fruit of the Luffa plant. Arabic in origin.

So, now, it’s your turn to etymologize. Remember, if you can dazzle ‘em with footwork, baffle ‘em with B.S. Share a fun-to-say word or two in the comments.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Designing a Coat of Arms

Carolyn J. Rose

A few years before he died, I watched my father using a drill to shave away a sixteenth of an inch of plasterboard in a bathroom ceiling.

My father was a carpenter, so this wasn’t an act of born of ignorance. Rather it was an act of expedience. The exhaust fan almost fit. It was almost time for lunch. He was almost out of patience. Using the drill was quicker than going to the garage for a saw.
“If our family had a coat of arms,” I told him when the fan was in place, “it would have a picture of a man using a drill for a saw.”
“And a picture of a woman holding a drill behind her back while denying she’s done the same thing,” he shot back.

True. I had done that. Several times. I am, after all, my father’s daughter.

A few days ago I recalled that incident and started thinking about what would be on my coat of arms if I had one.
 I doodled a shield on a piece of scrap paper and traced the outline of the Catskill Mountains across it. I was born in those mountains, and they are ever in my mind.
I divided the shield into quadrants and, in the top right one, sketched a grove of white birches between a stone wall and a meandering stream.

In a second quadrant, I drew a camera and a television to symbolize my 25+ years in TV news.

In a third, I roughed out a stick figure holding a drill in honor of my father and to represent all the home repair projects I tackled—some successful and some downright disastrous.

Finally, I drew my husband, my dogs, and a pile of books. Then, in the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I added a sack of cheesy snacks.

I am, after all, still my father’s daughter. And we never met a cheesy snack we didn’t like.

If you had a coat of arms, what would you put on it?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A So-so Sewing Experience

Carolyn J. Rose

While subbing in fashion marketing class, I watched students creating designs for dresses and stitching them 
up using toilet paper instead of cloth.

If you think that’s difficult, you’re right.

Their frustrations and triumphs took me back to junior high and those then-obligatory Home Ec classes—or Home Ick classes as I called them—and the sewing projects that stood between me and a decent grade.

The first was an apron. (Note: this was back in the day when every woman I knew wore an apron, some all day long. Nowadays, if there’s no way to avoid cooking, I throw on an old T-shirt.)

The plan for the apron was to attach a small square of fabric to a larger one using a long strip that would tie around the waist. A loop attached to the smaller square went around the neck.

To make certain we all got a good foundation for the project, the teacher had us measure, measure again, pin, cut, pin, mark, baste, and sew. In my case, there were additional steps: rip out and sew again. By the time I presented it to my mother, my apron looked like something assembled for Frankenstein’s monster.

The second project was a skirt—a gathered skirt. It’s a fact of fashion that gathered skirts were designed for women with waists like Scarlett O’Hara and not too much in the hip department. It’s a fact of life that I’m not one of those women. I petitioned to be allowed to make a straight skirt and began another round of pinning, marking, cutting, basting, sewing, and ripping out.

With a week left in the semester, my skirt was still in pieces, ragged and frayed pieces, because of the many times I ripped out seams and darts. At the end of her rope, the teacher allowed me to take it home and finish over the weekend. At the end of my rope, I handed it off to my grandmother, the woman who made many of my clothes from the time I was born.

She had it completed and ironed by Saturday afternoon. With a smug smile, I turned it in Monday morning.

On Wednesday I got my grade: B-.

I was fine with that, but my grandmother was livid. “B-,” she raged. “That skirt was perfect. I’m going to complain to the teacher.”

“And admit you did the work?” I asked. “And watch her give me an F?”

Caught between the rock of getting her darling granddaughter in trouble and the hard place of swallowing the poison pill of that grade, she swallowed.

Looking back, I see that I learned larger lessons, lessons that had nothing to do with how to make an apron or cheat at making a skirt. I learned that love can trump pride. I learned that more patience would serve me well. And I learned that I wanted to have a career that paid well enough so I could buy clothes off the rack.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Loneliest Things

Carolyn J. Rose

Last weekend, during a wind-lashed downpour, I stared out the window at the soggy chaise on our deck. Just a few weeks ago, when the nights were warm and the air was soft and fragrant, I lounged on that chaise with a book in my hand, waiting for the tiny solar lights in our garden to beam on and the bats to emerge and flutter above me. Now the chair hunkers in the gray rain alone.

Yesterday I hunted through drawers and cabinets in search of a thermal sock, a Christmas gift from Mike and mate to one in the corner of a drawer. The search was in vain. The sock in the corner remains alone.

This morning a single goose flew over. Had it, like the sock, lost its mate? Mourning the loss, had it fallen behind the others in the chevron headed south? Would it ever catch up?

Unlike the last cookie on a plate or the last shot in a bottle, these are lonely things. I know that cookie will be eaten—probably by me—and that shot will be poured.

I don’t know if that goose will find its way. I don’t know if I’ll find the missing sock. I don’t know whether I’ll be here to lounge on that chair when summer returns even though it will wait for me through the dank days of winter.

What says “loneliness” to you?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Humming Right Along

My son called the other day to remind me that I’m getting old.

No, it wasn’t anything obvious, like “Hi, dad, you’re really an old fart, aren’t you? The conversation went more like this:

“Hey Dad, it’s Rob. How you doin’?

“I’m good. What’s up with you?”

“Listen, I didn’t just call to say hello. I had a favor to ask.”

Uh-oh. Now, in the old days those words would have started my antenna tingling. It usually meant he needed money or wanted to move back in with me for a time. But since he’s middle-aged, has a stable job and makes more money than I ever did, I doubted that was it. Actually, that particular telephone call will probably originate on my end if I tap out on my retirement money.

“A friend of mine has a song running through his head and he can’t remember the name of it. All he’s got is the opening riffs. So I told him I’d call my old Deejay father and hum it to him and he’d come up with it.”

Now it made me proud he had that kind of confidence in me. And old. Okay, okay, it’s true. I started doing radio gigs when we still cued up 45 rpm records by hand (ree-raw, ree, raw) and the turn-tables were kerosene powered. Rob spent his ankle-biter years sacked out on a sleeping bag in the control room of radio stations in small cities while his dad ran the “yawn patrol” morning show.

“Piece of cake.” I lied. After all, what were the chances he could hum it so I could recognize it? Or that the cranny of my brain that regurgitated that kind of information might have an “out to lunch” sign hanging from it.

“Dah, dah, dah, duddah, dah dah dah. Dah, dah, dah, duddah dah, dah, dah.” He hummed.

“Them Changes” I blurted out. “Buddy Miles. Late sixties, early seventies.”

Rob checked it on You-Tube, then whistled. “You’re the best, old man. Thanks. See you soon.” I’m sure the “old man” was meant with affection and not intended to rub it in.

What most amazes me is the capability of my brain to spew stuff like that. I often can’t remember the names of people I’ve met repeatedly, my social security number or whether or not I’m checking a book out of the library I’ve already read. Yet, I can hear the first ten seconds of almost any song I’ve ever played on the radio and name it. Often, I can give you name of the songwriter, the label it appeared on and how far it rose on the charts.

Selective memory, as handy as it may be in avoiding household chores can be scary. What if I find myself parked somewhere in Chehalis and can’t remember why I’m there? Will a time come when people around me will have to try to find diplomatic ways of telling me I’ve forgotten to wear pants? Is there some kind of memory trick I can use to recall peoples names?

Maybe I could get them to hum it for me. By the way, here's the link to "Them Changes."  


Friday, September 20, 2013


Carolyn J. Rose
A few weeks ago, scissors poised over an old towel destined to become dust cloths, I became a hostage to memory. Cutting the cloth was a simple task and one that should have taken less than a minute. But that towel was a gift from my mother, a gift made 21 years ago, 2 years before she died. So cutting into that towel involved slicing the warp and woof of memory and attachment and loyalty and love.

The towel, once a bright turquoise, was the last of several my mother bought for the guest bathroom in our house in Eugene, Oregon, a house we sold in 1994. She bought those towels to match one of the colors in a shower curtain I sewed. It was a perfect match and the towels brightened the room.

I loved them, but she never seemed satisfied with the choice. No matter how many times I told her they were just what I wanted, she sighed and said she should have kept searching for a color just a little more subdued.

Which says something about our personalities. I am seldom drawn to subdued colors. I liked the towels because they were vibrant, because they made the windowless room brighter, because they claimed their space, because they were there.

Did my mother wish I had been more subdued? Possibly. Probably. Definitely at times.

Ours was like many mother-daughter relationships—a little uneasy, a little explosive, a little as good as it gets.

The towels were among the last gifts she gave me, so they’ve stayed with me far longer than others, making the transition to hot-tub towels, to gym towels, and now to dust cloths. The next transition will be to the trash.

I tell myself towels are just things and that letting go of things isn’t the same as letting go of memories, letting go of my mother.

Somehow, though, I don’t quite believe it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


By Mike Nettleton

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology, despite the fact I tend to ignore a huge percentage of it. My wife and I may be two of the only human beings left on the planet who have never texted or tweeted. I have no desire to know what my phone is dreaming when I put it to sleep. We have no apps, other than the one that allows you to enter a number and push a button to call it. Our ring tone sounds like a (gasp) telephone. 

Have all the amazing developments in technology really enriched our lives? Is communicating in 140 characters tweets connecting us or allowing us to avoid  real human contact? And what’s with cyber-bullying? Can’t we go back to the day when the local  knuckle-dragger would simply punch you in the face and take your lunch money? 

Does this sound like a rant? Sure is. Here are my top five technology gripes: 

#5.  People posting their every movement, stray thought or facial blemish on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or any other social networking site. Okay, you’ve become a grandparent, I’d love to hear about it. Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale—terrific, let’s have the details. Your dog is licking himself in an embarrassing place—probably an overshare.

#4.  GPS golf yardage devices. Many of the old guys I play with haul these out before every shot they play.  A hundred-fifty three yards to the front of the green, one-sixty four to the back, and one-fifty seven to the pin. I’ll eyeball the tall, white 150 yard stake and gauge one-fifty five to the hole. Here’s the question I always ask the GPS wielder. Will you use a different club based on the two yards difference between your GPS and my guestimate? I don’t know about you, but most of the people I play with are lucky to even strike the ball with the front of the club. 

#3. Self-checkout devices at retail stores. Okay, okay, I agree, they’re handy sometimes and can save you time when you’re in a hurry. But every time I scan my own merchandise, I think “A human being used to do this.” Technology is wiping out jobs faster than we can graduate people from high school and college to start collecting unemployment. It’s a serious problem with serious consequences for the American (and worlds) way of life.

#2.  The simpering voice that drones: Press one for English, press two if you know your parties extension, press three if you have an annoying rash on your rear end, press four if you can only count to three, press five if you’re considering setting fire to your telephone. I crave the sensation of calling a business and having an actual human being answer  and ask how they might help me. Chances are, they’ve gained a customer for life. Part of this equation is the same concern as #3, but a huge part of it is feeling we’re losing our connection with each other. 

#1. “Hello, I’m Farley Harquar, candidate for U.S. Senate and I just called to tell you how concerned I am about whatever it is you’re concerned about. I’m not sure what that is, but, you can be assured I’ll propose legislation to either outlaw it or make it mandatory if I’m elected.” I know, I know, you can hang up on robo-calls as soon as you realize what they are, but they still annoy me no end. If you’re going to intrude on my privacy, at least have the decency to hire a human being to read from an intelligence-insulting script. What puzzles me is the idea that automated sales calls work. On any level. Has anyone you know ever bought anything from somebody who robo-called them? Why do they keep doing it? 

Okay, okay, I’ve vented. And, ironically (all of life is ironic, isn’t it?), this is going to be posted on our blog, to be read by people on the internet, or even on their hand held devices. Crap! I’ve just contributed to the problem.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Carolyn J. Rose


Recently Mike and I took a young friend to an animated movie about a snail who yearned to go fast. Like many books and movies aimed at kids, at its core were lessons about family, dreams, determination, discouragement, doubts, fears, and belief in yourself and your possibilities.

Those lessons seemed overly obvious to us, but perhaps they weren’t to kids in the audience who were caught up in the story and able to suspend disbelief.

Later, I thought about the movies of my youth and realized the same messages were there—messages about getting past ridicule, breaking out of loneliness, discovering the thing you can do and having the courage to try, again and again, to do it.

Those were all fine messages, even heroic messages. They prepared me to believe I could succeed. And the stories that contained those messages also prepared me for failure—but failure as a temporary thing, failure as a time-out before another attempt to reach the goal, not failure as the standard for the rest of my life.

The ones who failed in these movies were the characters who bullied or cheated or lied or attempted to harm the gutsy protagonist. In real life it isn’t always that way. The proof of that statement is on the nightly news and in your morning paper.

Sometimes the coyote catches the roadrunner. Often those mice don’t escape from the cartoon cat. Most of the time a snail wouldn’t win the big race.

But the lessons remain. You may not cross the finish line first. You may not cross it at all. But if you don’t get out there on the track, you’ll never know.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Carolyn J. Rose

Twenty years ago I passed in front of a mirror in a poorly lit room and saw my mother.

Actually, I saw myself, but in the dim light with short mousy brown hair sprinkled with gray and a blouse resembling one she owned, the resemblance was uncanny.

The next day I streaked my hair and vowed to let it grow.

Don’t get me wrong, my mother was an attractive woman and I admired her. But my gut reaction was that I was too young to look like that—“like that” meaning “old.”

Now I’m about the age she was when I glanced into that mirror. My husband’s hair and beard are gray-white and the wrinkles in my face are telling me I’m not kidding anyone—least of all myself—with the golden-brown dye job I have now. It’s time to stop the cover-up.
 I tried out the idea on some friends at the pool—some a little older and some a little younger. Comments ranged from “You seem to have lots of silvery white in there so I think it will look good” to “It’s your life” to “You can’t. You’ll look so old.”

My response? I am old. I’m started-on-Medicare-last-year old. Old enough that I don’t need to explain or defend a decision as minor as this.

Still, after two decades of dyeing, going gray won’t be easy. And it won’t be pretty. There will be growing pains. There will be moments when I reach for the phone to dial my hairdresser. There may even be tears.

But if I avoid mirrors, I think I can make it.

Root for me.
(Pun intended.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Leaving for College

By Carolyn Rose and Mike Nettleton 

Recently we held an off-to-college shower for a young friend headed for college. 

Kailynn Doane isn’t going far from home—about 50 miles—but it isn’t just distance that makes a journey. She’s leaving familiar things behind, taking on more responsibility, crossing some of the many thresholds to adulthood.

Carolyn’s thoughts: 

As she opened her gifts and suffered with a smile through a round of advice from relatives and friends, I thought of my own journey. And I wondered how I ever found the guts to make it.

In 1965 I went from a relatively sheltered life in a small town in the Catskills to the University of Arizona. I knew no other students on the huge campus. I was assigned to a dorm room with three strangers who came from wealthier, more cosmopolitan families. I heard Spanish spoken outside of a classroom and tasted my first Mexican food.

Except for the fact that I could hold an A- average, I knew I wasn’t what sororities were looking for. I was awkward and unsure of myself and knew nothing about where to shop and what to wear. My mother worried that I wouldn’t make many friends. And by some standards I didn’t.

But I got what I went for—escape and education. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family and the Catskills, but that was a world I already knew and one where people had expectations that made me feel boxed in. So I made the leap and, except for the year I played too much bridge, I focused hard on getting my degree. That turned into a big ticket to ride that got me jobs in TV newsrooms in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

I’ll never regret making that leap, the springboard for so many others since. And, looking at Kailynn’s smile, I doubt that she will have regrets, either.

Mike’s thoughts: 

Watching Kailynn, good sport that she is, eat cake, open her gifts and put up with a gaggle of overprotective (but loving) adults dishing out advice they would have ignored offhand when they were her age, I tried to remember what it all felt like.

Like Kailynn, I started my college career at a small school within an hour’s drive of my parent’s home. Southern Oregon College (not that many years removed from being called Southern Oregon Normal School, a teacher’s college) nestled in the hills fifteen miles north of the California border. More of its students commuted from nearby cities and towns than lived on campus. 

I’d visited Oregon State and Oregon and found myself overwhelmed by the size of the campus and immensity of the lecture halls. As an underachieving B student I felt like I might stand a better chance with less competition. 

Another large difference between my experience and Carolyn’s was the proximity to my home town. I recognized familiar faces from the get-go at SOC. She faced an ocean of strangers. Had to be scary.

Still, some of what I was feeling and dealing with had to be similar. I’d be living with a stranger for a year (we soon became fast friends), scheduling my own classes and making my own decisions about the course my life would take. I felt like the baby bird that is booted out of the nest and told to fly or hit the ground hard. 

Carolyn, focused person that she is, finished her degree on time, with good grades and moved on to graduate school. I, having no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, pinned a class schedule up on the board and threw darts at it (symbolically, not literally), taking whatever classes interested me.

My running joke is that I attended Southern Oregon off and on for most of six years and with one more term of biology would have been a junior. 

But college accomplished the same thing for me that it did for Carolyn. It helped shape what kind of person I would become, provided me with lasting friendships, a trove of rich memories, and in it’s own back-door fashion led to my finding a career. Thanks to my start at campus radio KSOR (the big sore atop the science building) people would pay me to talk for the next forty plus years. Quite a difference from the days when my older sisters offered me money to shut up.

I’m excited for Kailynn and a tad envious too. And I feel honored that I could be there to help push her out of the nest. I haven’t the slightest doubt that she’ll fly.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bubba's Limo--Max's Lament

Bubba and Max--Roll Playing

By Carolyn J. Rose

Max: (confronting Bubba at the water dish) How long are you going to keep limping around and milking this?

Bubba: Milk? Somebody spilled milk? Where?

Max: Forget about eating. I’m talking about that alleged injury of yours.
Bubba: Nothing alleged about it. (Bubba limps around in an exaggerated manner, ala Chester from Gunsmoke) I pulled a thingie in my knee. Dr. Ferguson said so.

Max: (A) You don’t have a real knee and (B) I bet you made that up.

Bubba: Did not. If you hadn’t been at the groomer getting all clipped combed, massaged and girlie smelling, you would have heard him.

Max: I’m a purebred. Grooming is important.

Bubba: So is doing what Mom and Dad ask you to do, but nooooo, you can’t be bothered with that.

Max: I’m busy. Sun was in my eyes. I had an itch. (Licks himself in an embarrassing place to make his point).

Bubba: You’re busy every time they ask you to sit or come?

Max: Mostly. My calendar is, uh, crowded. You wouldn’t believe how many squirrels I’ve had to bark at this week. Besides, I’m protesting my treatment. I have to walk. You get to ride. It’s hot and my tongue hangs out. It’s not fair.

 Bubba: (Practicing a prom-queen wave) Seems fair to me. Besides, I walk as far as Mom lets me. The stroller was her idea.

 Max: Yeah, well, that shows what she knows. That stroller is way uncool.

Bubba: You’re just jealous because people stop and pet me and say “Ah, what happened to the puppy?”

Max: (Snorts). You haven’t been a puppy since Clinton left office.

Bubba: Sure, play the age card. (In a creaky voice) Someday you’ll be old. Someday you’ll wish you weren’t so “busy” and paid more attention when Mom asks you to stand on the right step so she can put on your harness.

Max: Blah. Blah. Blah. Harness, blah blah, step, blah blah old. (He sniffs the air) I still say you’re milking it.

Bubba: And I say you’re a squirrel-chasing dum—

Max: Squirrel? Where? (He sprints for the sliding door, only to collide with the screen full face)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


By Mike Nettleton

 I joined a line of cars waiting for the light to change at a busy intersection in the Northeast part of Vancouver. A flurry of activity caught my eye on the corner to my right and I glanced over. A middle-aged lady clad in light blouse and baggy slacks, held a sign in the air, bobbing it up and down. A tight frown flickered across her face. The sign read:

Please don’t give my children any more money for heroin!

The message struck me like a slap in the face. I became so intent on watching her and wondering what combination of circumstances had led her to this level of desperation, that it took a strident “toooot” from the driver behind me to alert me to the now-green traffic signal. I cruised slowly across the intersection, watching the parental picketer in my rear view mirror.

Part of me wanted to park, hike back to where she patrolled and ask questions. How old are your children? I was guessing, from her age that they were probably adults. At least in terms of the number of years they’d been on the planet. Why did you pick that intersection? Was it because her children habitually panhandled there? Or simply because she could communicate her message to the largest number of people. How did your children begin using heroin? This is the drug that is the ultimate boogie-man to many people (Despite the fact that methamphetamine is much more prevalent and every bit as addictive). What other things have you tried to help your children prior to this? Is rehab easily obtainable to someone with this kind of addiction? What are some things you didn’t understand about heroin addiction until you children became involved?

For years, I’ve resolved not to give the numerous panhandlers I encounter any money. Some friends of mine, wonderful, caring, generous souls continue to hand over cash to the people who hover on street corners and freeway exits. My perspective is that I don’t want to contribute to an ongoing drug or alcohol addiction. I happily give money to charities that will shelter and feed the homeless and feel it’s a much more effective way to provide help.

My always-ready-to-give friends believe that many of the desperate looking folks with their hand-lettered signs might not have substance abuse issues at all and are merely hungry and homeless. They feel that it is not their place to judge what the money they donate will be used for.

I might be less cynical, were it not for my 4am encounter with a panel van that disgorged eight or nine people I’d seen hitting up motorists for donations at a variety of spots around town. They stocked up on convenience store coffee and cigarettes, assembled signs and chatted among themselves. As I pulled away, I saw them piling back into the van, ostensibly on their way to assigned spots.

I will admit to feelings of guilt upon waving off a street-corner panhandler or a desperate-sounding woman who approaches carrying a gas can, saying she just ran out of fuel and needs to get to Seattle (Hint for those trying this ploy. It might be more convincing if you weren’t smoking a cigarette when you approached me). My better nature, my more evolved self wants to reach into my wallet, extract a few bills and hand them over. After all, there but for the grace of whatever deity you believe in, go I. But I won’t. And part of the reason is the vision of that despairing mother at the intersection and her hand-lettered cry for help.

Please don’t give my children any more money for heroin!

I won’t. I promise. And I hope you can find them some help before it’s too late.