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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ukulele Zen



By Mike Nettleton 

If I was two decades younger it might qualify as a “mid-life crisis.” But since I’m not and it isn’t, let’s just call it a geezerly quirk. Or perhaps mild lunacy.

While some manly male men might express this “phase” in their life by jettisoning the Prius for a red convertible and the comfortable life-long partner for a flashy blonde trophy muffin, I made a choice that is both more and less painful to those who love me and share living quarters with me. I decided to learn how to play the ukulele. 



 Before you smack yourself in the forehead, mumble “doh!” and dredge up memories of Tiny Tim crooning “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” you should know that the humble uke, in the hands of a master is a formidable musical instrument. Don’t believe me? Go to You Tube and enter Jake Shimabukuro. After you’re able to bring your jaw back to the full upright position after hearing him play “Bohemian Rhapsody,” enter the name Tamaine Gardner. You’ll never bad mouth ukulele players again—trust me. 

While I plunk away and learn simple songs on the uke, I hallucinate that someday I'll play even 1/10th as well as those two. Or at least not put the dog to sleep on the futon when I practice downstairs. 

 Recently, I attended a ukulele workshop out in Washougal (a Columbia Gorge community half an hour east of here) sponsored by the Friends of the Library. It was led by Aaron Canwell who in partnership with his son Micah runs a children's entertainment company called Micah and Me. Find them at www.micahandmerocks.com 


He brought a gaggle of ukuleles with him to the meeting room of the 54-40 brewery in Washougal.  Good thinking, since 35 people or so eager-to-learn players showed up and more than half of them hadn’t brought instruments.This fun strum-a-thon not only taught me some technique, it warmed the very cockles of my heart. (The cockles are right next to the left ventricle) Here’s why:

  • There were people of all ages there plunking away together—from seven to seventy and older.
  • There was a real sense of community. For those old enough to remember, it reminded me of the old folk music “hoots” where people would bring instruments and get together and sing. There was a lot of positive energy being passed around the room.
  •  People smiled, laughed and helped each other learn the different chords and songs presented by the teacher. More experienced players shared their knowledge with beginners. 
  •  Nobody even glanced at a telephone or mobile device for the best part of three hours. It was human, person to person communication. You didn’t have to click a “like” button you just had to smile at yourself and others.
Now, I’m not suggesting taking up ukulele will cure or even alleviate your ennui or induce a grin. But finding something to get involved in that puts you shoulder to shoulder with other human beings most certainly will. Give it a try. 


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Advice I Got in High School





Carolyn J. Rose



To pay homage to Dickens, it was the best of advice; it was the worst of advice. What teachers and adults told me when I was in high school was sometimes sound, sometimes off-the-mark, and sometimes warped by perspective and opinion.

The good advice was mostly about developing skills that would help in years ahead. Since the advice was handed out in the late 50s and early 60s, before growing concerns about self-esteem and PC, most of it came in negative form:

  • Don’t leave projects until the last minute
  • Don’t turn in sloppy work   
  • Don’t make excuses for what you didn’t do 
  • Don’t try to BS an expert
  • Don’t blame others for your faults 
  • Don’t shirk responsibility

But some of what was handed out as “good” advice veered more into the realm of opinion or personal experience:

  • You’ll never learn French because you don’t know how to suffer
  • You’re not serious enough to make it through the first semester of college
  • Don’t waste time in college learning things you won’t need to be a housewife 
  • There’s no reason to take a typing class unless you’re going to be a secretary
  • Stop complaining that you can’t take shop class and concentrate on cooking and sewing

Within a few years, women’s horizons expanded and, as a news producer facing dozens of deadlines for getting a show stacked and written, I was darn glad I’d demanded that typing class. I was also darn glad I hadn’t jettisoned my sense of humor.

If I were pressed to dish out advice to teens today, I’d spiff up the moldy oldy items from the first list. And, along with all that, I’d pass on some advice of my own:

  • Aim high
  • Feel deep
  • Plan wide
  • Try hard
  • Be kind

Monday, March 6, 2017

What Were They Thinking?



By Mike Nettleton 

I’ve always loved words. After all, without them we’d have a rash of head-on collisions between various types of punctuation. (In fact, I witnessed a gruesome semi-colon—question mark—em dash pile up the other day that tied up traffic in my word processor for hours).

My love of the language probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me. From the seven year old tottering up the long hill home from the downtown Bandon library with his seven books (the legal limit), to the 43 year semi-professional radio pronouncer who became the author and co-author of a number of amusing but terminally unimportant novels, I’ve wallowed in words for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’ve spent much of my retirement as a part-time librarian, helping others find reading matter and brushing up on the Dewey decimal system. (For the unacquainted, that’s not a moist form of mathematics.) I’ve also stumbled across works I would have never considered reading until the title leaped off the shelves and grabbed me. “Quantum Physics for Dummies,” “The Amish Biker Mama Who Married a Duke” and “Sex for One,” are three that come to mind. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the names of automobile models. I wonder, if at each and every car manufacturer’s headquarters, there’s a room that houses the creative minds that assign new names to soon-to-be-released gasoline slurpers. Where do they come up with their inspiration?


Some names appeal to the common sense, community spirit and thrift of the consumer about to buy the car. The Ford “Econ-o-line”.  Has to be easy on the pocketbook, right? Family car that will efficiently and cheaply move the family from point A to point B. If you don’t believe me, listen to Nancy Griffith’s song of the same name. On the flip side, I have memories of waiting for the tow truck to show up (again!) and my wife doubled over with laughter beside me. It’s possible she enjoyed the irony of my car being a Plymouth Reliant more than I did. And for the ultimate in down-to-earth respectability, how about the Honda Civic? Not only gets good gas mileage, but does charity work in its spare time. 

Another favorite is critters, both real and mythical. Ford seemed to favor horse names. Now in the case of the “Mustang”and the “Bronco”, this has worked out pretty well. Not so much with the “Pinto”, which tended to explode when tapped too firmly on the rear haunches. Big cats play well too, like the Mercury “Cougar” and “Bobcat” and the Buick “Wildcat”. Other animal names implied speed, agility and physical grace like the Chevrolet “Impala” or the Sunbeam “Gazelle”. I wonder if the goof in the room at the naming session who suggested they call their new model the Hippo or Musk Ox found himself collecting an unemployment check later that day. Although, personally, I would have snapped up the new 1978 Plymouth “Yak”. I also think other drivers would think twice about encroaching into your lane if you were driving a shiny, new black and white Oldsmobile “Skunk”.

Namesters have also drawn on mythology with models like the Pontiac “Firebird”, The Dodge “Aries” and the Buick “Apollo”. I would love to drive a car with a name drawn from my favorite poem, The Jabberwocky. Imagine tooling through the mimsy borogoves in a sparkling new Toyota Frumious Bandersnatch. 

Sex is a recurring auto-name theme. From the Ford “Escort” (you’ll have a good time but pay dearly for it) to the manly and suggestive “Hummer” and the most directly sexual model name, the Ford “Probe”. Was one of the creative team an amateur gynecologist? When I was still doing yawn patrol radio I was given a sporty new Ford Probe to test drive and ad-lib testimonials for on-the-air. My wife took great pleasure in telling people I was driving a 1986 “Shlong.” The Probe by the way was a great handling little car. Not it’s fault they gave it a name ripe for cheap shot humor. 


 Cars are sometimes named after California cities or locales thought to be glamorous and exciting. “Malibu”, “Bel Air”, “Monterrey”, “Tahoe”, and the like. Other locales have had vehicles names after them like “Denali” and “Monte Carlo.” It’s a little hard to imagine the session where everyone signed off on naming a vehicle after “Tacoma”.  Probably disappointed the guy who was holding out for “Bakersfield.” 



 I think some of the car names came from the state of mind of the creative team as they faced an impending deadline. How else could you explain names like the Plymouth “Fury”, Jeep’s  “Scrambler” and my personal favorites the Dodge “Rampage” and “Avenger.” They see you pulling into the company parking lot in either one of those, and the building goes into immediate lockdown. I’d also avoid getting into a road rage situation with anyone driving a Chrysler Crossfire.


A final question. Why would the big brains at GMC pick the name of a destructive and deadly rolling wall of snow, ice and rocks that kills everything in it’s path to festoon one of their heavy hauling pickups? Maybe they thought it implied something unstoppable. But if the unfortunate events mother nature creates becomes a trend in the car-naming universe, I’m holding out for the 2025 Subaru Sink Hole. Or maybe this baby . . .


Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Cover-up of my Childhood





Carolyn J. Rose

Adults, especially those of the grandparent variety, did a lot of covering up when I was a kid.

And I’m not talking about the way they tap-danced around those birds-and-bees topics.
I’m talking about doilies, antimacassars, tablecloths, placemats, and aprons
Except for brief moments after a meal while the old cloth was being exchanged for a fresh one, I never saw a bare table at my grandmother’s house. Except for when cleaning and freshening was going on, I never saw a chair arm in her living room without a circle of lace upon it. 

And except for when she was headed for church or a party, I never saw her without an apron.

She had a lot of aprons. Maybe a dozen. Maybe more. Some she made for herself. Others were gifts. Some tied around the waist. Others were of the pinafore variety, often with gathers and ruffles. Some were everyday aprons with simple patterns. Others were for holidays and special dinners. They had fancy braid or bows or rickrack. They went on when the messy part of cooking was complete and serving dishes were ferried to the table.

When, at four years of age—after washing my hands with a bar of brown soap the size of a paperback novel—I was trusted with the task of creaming butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, I did it standing on a chair and swaddled in an apron wrapped twice around my chest.

For years I thought aprons were more critical to the meal-preparation process than pots, pans, utensils, ingredients, a stove, or a refrigerator.

Then I graduated from college and struck out on my own. I had a car, a dog, a collection of T-shirts and blue jeans, a battered record player, a few dozen albums, and not a single apron. I didn’t have a single recipe, either. But somehow, through a process of trial and error—sometimes major error—I cobbled together meals.

As for those aprons my grandmother passed along, well, I hung onto to them for years. Not for culinary reasons, but for sentimental ones.