To Kitsch, or Not to Kitsch

I discovered recently there exists a bathroom in Portland, Oregon that was up for best restaurant bathroom nationally.  It was a disco theme, so after driving 35 miles to have a waffle with goat cheese and an over easy egg on top, I entered to find the light switch labelled as follows: Light, No Light, Disco. Well, no question, I instantaneously hit Disco upon which “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor kicked in along with a variety of colorful spinning disco lights as the room grew dark. I was there, so I distributed a few classic Deney Terrio dance moves before snapping a pic or two (pictured below) for my memory file. Now kitsch isn’t my main hobby in life, but perhaps my most unusual one. Armed with an idea for what is kitsch-able, I will not drive out of my way to see certain items, but rely on random chance alone. These have included, Harvey, the giant Muffler Rabbit in Aloha, Oregon, the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas, and the world’s largest spoon in East Glacier, Montana. BUT, I will go out of my way for kitsch if it is creative, unusual, or thought provoking. Therefore, I have driven to see the Elvis Museum in Portland, walked a mile to see the Black Madonna in Prague, and gone out of my way to see Coral Castle in Florida. If you need a little more imagination in your world visit roadsideamerica.com 

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Fresh Eggs Rule

The best community development since the tiny library is the trend of city people raising chickens to sell their eggs for extra cash. These are often found in small wooden coolers in front of their homes. Today I came across the “Happy Hen” egg box (pictured) while walking my dog this morning. I happily paid the $4 for a dozen fresh eggs and I’m looking forward to a morning omelette.

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Doubtful as to nuclear preparedness

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So I get a call from an LA friend last night who wants to talk about the inevitability of nuclear war based on news stories this week concerning troubles with Syria, Russia, and North Korea. She went on to say, and I quote, “A lot of people would get blown up in a nuclear exchange and we’d probably lose cell service.” Oh Dear Lord! Not cell service! Oh the HORROR! I could handle getting our bodies flayed in under a tenth of a second, but take away our cell service, and I cannot even imagine the barbarity! Curse you Mr. Putin and your obvious den of vile demons!

It just goes to show that we have come to be so distracted by tweets and surfing bulldogs on our nightly news that we’ve completely lost our perspective on the real nightmare a nuclear war might entail. We laugh at all those news reels from the 1950’s where children frantically duck and cover in spite of the fact a school desk would offer as much protection against nuclear bombs as a wet paper bag would against an AR-15. But all that hysteria DID create a fear proportional to the level of destruction we would have faced as a nation. I’m not sure I have the answer here, but I do know consume and cower will be equally futile in the 21st century.

 

Safety or Challenge?

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With all the arguing going on this past week from congress to our social media accounts about how best to deal with a society saturated with AR-15 assault rifles, I found it more than a bit ironic to find something removed for “safety” from a local park. We are now entering decades of mass shootings with zero movement to regulate, but sue crazy lawyers have turned playgrounds into a few tires and a swing.

When I was five or six years old, it was a treat to go to Wortman Park at the east edge of town and play hide and seek before catching garter snakes along the banks of the creek bed. There was also an unfathomable challenge for a small child in the form of a twenty foot tall platform-tower with a square hole cut in one side to access the most bad ass metal slide you can ever imagine. I was terrified of the thing from the time I first saw it, but when other kids slightly older than me were laughing and enjoying the maximum slide velocity I just had to investigate. I wasn’t a fan of heights,  so I climbed each rung very carefully and deliberately until I found myself at the top. It took real guts, but I finally inched my way into launching position and shot down that slide at what appeared to be rocket speed to my brain. I barely managed to land on my feet, but I did it. Some kids did fall, and some got a few scrapes, but it had been an important right of passage for all of us at the time. Hence my disappointment to find the slide removed and replaced with a tepid set of low velocity swings on the very (pictured) spot. I understand we must protect our kids, but where exactly is the line between safety and challenge? Guns aside, shouldn’t risk in the daily lives of our kids go beyond just facing a low SAT score? When does protection become too much coddling? I wonder.

The Sunday Truce

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So it was a beautiful Sunday evening yesterday as I watched the sun go down before chatting in a coffee shop a couple hours in a very relaxing atmosphere where the pace was slow and all were in good cheer. After dark, I slowly packed up my things, placed them in the trunk of my car and made the 12 mile drive through the rolling rural farm country of Oregon that lay between the two larger cities of McMinnville and Salem. As is my custom, I usually drive (only) 5 over the speed limit as I like to look over the small farms and villages along my path to enjoy my life as Sunday is traditionally our day of rest. But sadly, this doesn’t seem to be enough for the majority on the roads anymore as most choose to either ride my bumper angrily, or floor it past me dispensing an angry look, or shaking their heads in disgust as I’m not playing their game their way on my day off.

Remember, I don’t live in urban Chicago here, and it’s not Monday morning ten to nine when most people who are late to work are struggling just to make their parking spot by nine. This is Sunday, and what I’ve noticed about the evolution of Sunday in our modern world is most people do not have enough time over their weekend to turn off their high gear settings to find that place of peace we all claim we’ll get to when we retire, so I propose a truce. This truce will be recognized nationally from this day forward no matter what your age, level of employment, culture, or general attitude. I propose one 24 hour bonanza of general relaxation where none of us rush, all promise to look around while enjoying their drive, agree not to dispense political ramblings on Facebook,  agree not grumble in long grocery lines, but rather turn to a neighbor and discuss how their life is going, agree to watch out for the safety of everyone’s children, and agree to hold a general positive attitude. ALL day.

I think if we can all agree to this one day, we’ll magically find that all our lives will improve five fold, and before you know it, we might even add a second, or possibly third truce day in the future.

 

Selfie or Your Life?

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This past week the Oregon Coast was visited by 40 foot waves caused by a massive storm in the Central Pacific a few days before. Local news broadcast well in advance the danger of the sheer power the water held in crashing against rocks and creating massive undertows, but sure enough, there was no lack of footage the following day featuring horrified relatives tearfully reporting a loved being pulled out to sea.

Meanwhile, about 80 miles inland on Rattlesnake Ridge (state park), drones captured a flock of people walking over a large crack in the earth on a mountain side that was going to slump in the valley below with devastating power (see recent California footage on mud slide). Despite signs being posted along the entire boundary of the park outlining the danger and even threatening arrest, there they were getting selfies.

I had to wonder, does this stupidity live in ourselves or our culture? What allows us to believe we are beyond the touch of impending doom? Is it possible we’ve become so accustomed to being the master’s of this planet that we believe nature to be inert, a mere Disneyland ride for our entertainment? Is this why we ignore report after report on the dangers of global warming and try to put our kids on a wild bison in Yellowstone because the selfie opportunity is just too good?

Well, I got news for our culture. According to the geologic record, trilobites (a small potato bug looking sea creature living in the ocean) survived 300 million years on this planet before ecological tragedy struck extinguishing 90% of the world’s life (including the hearty trilobite) at the end of the Permian. Humans have managed a mere fingertip of that time geologically, clocking in around 90,000 years at best. If you think ipads, designer clothes, or some last minute rocket to Mars is going to protect you, I suggest you think again.  There’s been five major extinctions on our planet since the lava cooled, and the cosmic plan tends to give each species one roll of the dice. I’ll save discussions on God for another time, but even if you are counting on God to save you from your own stupidity, you are grossly abusing the sacred gift of life. Then again, if we continue to spend the majority of our lives fanatically watching the Bachelor and caring about Kim K.’s next fashion choice oblivious to danger, maybe we deserve it.

Pinata Mixer

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Walking my dog in the park this weekend I noticed a sizable birthday party going on inside the covered area at the far end of the trees. Innately curious, I drifted toward the activity to find the scene pictured above; a large group of children circled around a dangling pinata as their parents sat in lawn chairs at the far end sipping drinks. Each child took their turn swinging a large, plastic bat while blindfolded, aiming at the colorful pinata being pulled up and down by an adult. They were given two hits each until the pinata finally burst into a shower of candy that spun across the concrete after hitting near their feet. They squealed with delight, hustled to get their share of the sweets, then politely stood back to make sure everyone got something.

Nothing particularly unusual here, but as I grew closer, I noticed the cultural dynamic was half Hispanic (more than likely Mexican migrant workers known to the area) and half Western European, or white. None of the children appeared to divide themselves along these lines as they were much more interested in laughing and playing than judging. It reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago showing two fathers pushing baby carriages past each other (one black, one white) in a park while looking down thinking swear words and racial slurs. Meanwhile, the two infants shared a thought bubble: “Hey! Another kid!”

Seems like there are a few things we can learn from our children.

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