gas pedal’s on the right!!

giddyupSo, I’m having a conversation about tailgaters with a friend and the quasi-spouse. Close-call stories are being related that illustrate the hazards of tailgating but what I mainly construe is how slow the person in front of the “close call” was going. The loathing of people who text-while-driving obviously extends to bumper-humpers, too.

There’re many bumper-stickers about this topic:

  • The closer you get, the slower I drive
  • In a hurry? Not my problem
  • Sorry for driving so close in front of you
  • Faster than Molasses. 

My personal favorite because I’m often crabbily saying, “Could you drive any slower?”:

  •  YES, I can drive slower.

A rebuttal bumper-sticker:

  • If you drove any slower, you’d be parked.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of tailgating, but, if I’m passing you on the right while driving the freeway, you’re in the wrong lane for leisurely travel. In Italy, it’s illegal to be in the left lane—as in the USA—unless you’re passing. Cars will flash lights, honk and tailgate until you change lanes. Those drivers may drive at speeds that some in the States feel is ridiculously fast but, over there, slower drivers are thoughtful and courteous instead of stubbornly self-righteous like here in the USA. And THEY OBLIGINGLY MOVE OVER.

I come by my feelings naturally. My mamma was a lead-foot, and I grew up with gentle verbal venting from both parents: “What?! You have cakes/eggs in the trunk?!” (mamma) “If I had that guy’s car and he had a feather up his ass, we’d both be tickled.”(dad) Next, my ex, who would regularly remark, “Green means GO in Colorado” or “Gas pedal’s on the right.”

We who listened to our adults amicably bitch about “other drivers” tend to pass this behavior on. When Tara was a toddler and we were waiting for Steve in the car, she stood in the driver’s seat turning the wheel, pretended to honk and in her sweet baby voice said, “Beep Beep!” Futching Atso!!” When Steve slid in, I said, “Hmmm, we don’t want Tara’s first phrase to be ‘Fucking Asshole,’ do we?” We probably managed about 4-5 days before ineffectively spouting some useless language that other drivers couldn’t even hear. Some years later I remember saying to Dario, “See how pointless this is? Their window’s closed; my window’s closed…Don’t do this when you drive.” Unfortunately, we often learn by osmosis.

Yes, tailgating is foolish. Texting is downright deadly. But couldn’t we all be a bit kinder? A tad more tolerant, less mean speech? At least my parents, my ex, myself and my kids are just venting. We’re not spewing self-righteous toxins at those who’re young, or untaught or just different. Nothing justifies nasty.

Which is worse, tailgating or poky driving? Both suck. Still, for me it’s about consideration. Couldn’t we all carry a bit more grace? Grace for the fearful, old or mellow; grace for those who hear a speedier rhythm and prefer to drive that pace. There is no right or wrong here, except intolerance.



“when he got there, I talked to him about it.” huh?????


Our culture villianizes teenagers for narcissistic incoherence in communicating but I witness it in many adults. Why is there such difficulty when speaking, in journalism, on-line? Here’s a few communication muddles:

  • Use of  pronouns. My quasi-spouse loves them: *”They had what I needed and I picked it up.” As if I know which ‘they’ he’s referring to and what ‘it’ he bought. Or, “He didn’t like what I’d said.” Who?? What had he said? At least I knew who the ‘I’ was. The Quasi starts in the middle of a story—one that he’s having alone in his head.
  • Stonewalling is a refusal to communicate fully (or at all)—think of the stereotypical teen or husband grunting one word “answers” to questions. More men than women regularly employ this non-action in stalled relationships. No resolution can be had using this “technique” as no one knows what the stonewaller wants because…they won’t tell you. Lots of rationalization is given for their disinclination, but the bottom line: they eliminate any possibility of getting what they need.
  • Evasiveness. Pretty self-explanatory but here’s a subtle example: “Has everyone paid you what they should have?” “I have been fairly compensated by all.” The answer suggests that everyone did pay but it’s equally possible that “fairly compensated” is an ambiguous cover. A direct “yes” would have left no ambiguity. Why obfuscate?
  • Illegible writing and SIRI-garbled texts go together. Sloppy writing, sloppy mumbling to SIRI. If you’re attempting to leave a note for someone or send a text, read over what you’ve written or dictated. Is it legible to you? Does the text make sense? The object is transmission, is it not?
  • Passive-aggressive is more complex [see: how to deal with pass-agg aggro] but suffice to say that this one often involves all of the above and more, like: agreeing to one thing then doing another, being sullen, surly, defensive. It’s awfully thorny finding accountability with these slippery people.

What would help?

  • Start communications with details, with nouns. Set the story up whether you’re talking or writing. If you don’t—unless you’re an actual child—you’re just revealing your solipsism. Most of us like a good story but more often than not we’re subjected to boring ones.
  • Speak up and ask for what you want regardless of your perceived hopelessness in being heard. It’s logical; it’s effective—whichever way it goes. Otherwise you’re apparently choosing to be a martyr.
  • Give a clear” yes” or “no” preamble in answers, especially if you don’t like to “process” much. There’s little sense in being vague. Expound if you wish but without defensiveness (smells of martyr, too).
  • Don’t blame SIRI for getting your dictation wrong. “She’s” not god.
  • Write so legibly that a beginning reader can interpret it.
  • Most importantly, communication isn’t just about you. Paint your ideas, stories, dreams, fears, loves with all the palette colors so another can almost see them as you do. Others may not agree but they just might understand.
  • Lastly, don’t be passive-aggressive. Sigh.

*actual true conversation starting points

i’m the decider–not//not bees

yellowjacketThis is a yellow jacket, not a bee

sb10067340d-001This is a honeybee

bumblebeeThis is a bumblebee

A couple of weeks ago, the quasi-spouse and I went mushroom hunting at Priest Lake (in Idaho, USA) collecting about 20lbs of white chanterelles and two handfuls of masutaki.

Afterwards, we drive to Hill’s Resort for a well-earned beer. As we move onto the deck we see a sign taped to the door leading outside with a comic rendition of a bee. The sign reads something like this: Due to the excess of bees we will not be serving food on the deck.

Soon, we’re  sipping our drinks as we gaze at the gorgeous clear lake. A couple yellow jackets buzz around checking for edibles. I grouse to the quasi-spouse about the derogatory “bee” sign and how it never ceases to vex me that most people in all echelons of life—be they liberal or conservative, nature enthusiasts, loggers, scientists, urban guerrillas or art aficionados—call yellow jackets or hornets or wasps, bees.

They’re not BEES.

They’re closer to ants than bees. The only thing similar is that bees can sting but rarely do. For Pete’s sake, I’ve stood in the biennial swarm of honeybees that vacate the feral hive in my back chimney, and I’ve never been stung. When Dario was a toddler we’d caress both honey and bumble bees while they worked flowers. Yellow jackets or hornets never let you pet them; too territorial.

I’m pissy about this because we don’t SEE, we label. And often with careless jargon. We decide things are what we think they are, not what they actually are. We do this to moose, bears, snakes, spiders, children, Muslims, women, their boobs, mushrooms, southerners, wine, trees—you name it—ad nauseum and we do this ALL THE TIME.

Deciding how another feels, thinks or who they are, are inaccurate judgments and those judgments dismiss and negate Self and render others invisible—be they human or anything else. It’s a closed system designed by you and your biases, likes and dislikes. It matters not if you think someone’s the most adorable lovely person or a blockhead, or that yellow jackets are bees; each decision is defective.

We commonly practice this type of “deciding” in romantic relationships and about children and teenagers, but most egregiously with other species.

Observations are not the same thing as judgments. We all get to witness and deduce what we see. Intuit, not determine as reality. Stereotypes are short cuts for some observations but they’re not “true.” They’re “true-ish.” More on stereotypes in an upcoming post.

So, what can we do?

  • Use accurate language: a bee is a bee; a hornet is a hornet; a woman is a person; a child is a human.
  • Speak from your Self. What you like/dislike, fear/revere is yours and it’s not to be imposed on another as “fact.”
  • Whatever it is, is what it is. Accept “it” as it is.

meds & bed impede the (writing) head


The rantress sometimes thinks she can do more than she can. The truth is that she’s usually realistic about what she can and does accomplish.

But having surgery to remove the three aliens living in her breast for the last 5.5 years [see happy anniversary, you tumors you!], those aliens who have taught her many necessary, beautiful, twisted, traumatic, tender, ancient, skin scorching things—about herself and about others, well, in their departure they have left three last lessons for her:

1. How to let others do for her in ways she would normally have resisted: cooking meals, cleaning the house, driving her when she couldn’t use her arm, bathing her, watering her gardens, feeding her cats, fish and chickens. And some events she never thought: allowing the quasi-spouse to floss her teeth. Stop there.

2. That she cannot write to her satisfaction any cohesive, fun, ranty sentences with sass and music in the lines while on meds. Never fear, the list of coming observations is growing daily; scrutiny of our culture doesn’t end, Hydros or not.

3. Others are not who they believe themselves to be. Delusion can and does run the day, week, years. Funny how close the words “run” and “ruin” are.

The rantress will be back in real writing action soon.

the rant-ress to publishers: want some cheese with your whine? too late, you’re already cheesy.

The publishing industry is Rasputin. Somebody’s just not feeding it enough poison. Or maybe academia keeps providing the antidote. What will it take to kill it? The art, movie and music trades have all been rebirthing, why can’t we writers get some real relief?

I have poems, mini-essays, a poetry book and a cookbook hanging around my house waiting for me to figure out what to do with them without wounding my spirit. I stopped submitting three years ago when I kept feeling sick at the thought. I did put out an anthology of mushroom poems Decomposition in April 2010 with my quasi-spouse but that’s only because the project preceded this soul sickness.

Most bookstores only carry books from publishing distributors. Many magazines won’t let me–or anyone else–review a book if it’s self-published. And yet what do publishers really do for writers anymore that I didn’t have to do by myself with Decomposition? Besides the cover* choice and layout–which I would have rather done myself–what else was given? Niente. Do writers have to compromise and settle for a “deal” with a pathetic royalty rate and a measly advance? Or go it alone and be “black-listed” from distributors and bookstores?

If you’re a poet, good luck making any money, decent sales** or getting help in marketing. Short story writers, ditto. If you happen to work in a popular genre, like crime or historical fiction, it’s slightly better. Regardless the publishing house, many editors barely f@#king read your book let alone do their job. [many kind agents now do editing tasks] Or they take the teeth out of your work. They’re flooded with manuscripts, understaffed and way overworked. Traditional publishers don’t seem that interested in quality writing anymore but they’re sure interested in sales volume. They might refuse to publish your book because it’s too controversial, doesn’t fit a category or believe it won’t sell.

The whining that goes on by these “poor” publishing houses is eerily similar to the ultra-wealthy complaining about a tax increase they’ll barely feel. Substitute any other business who does so little yet demands so much from it’s clientele—would this be seen as a sound business model? And the academic houses are the biggest bawlers. Well, sorry. Ice boxes had to give way to refrigerators; it’s past time to junk this archaic arrangement.

With indie-publishing, the author has more control over contents, design, appearance and where the book is marketed and distributed. Yes, there’s a risk that with no editors the grammar and spelling will suck or there’ll be no story there. But jeez, lots of books suck now.

To speed up this process, we need some big-time writers to ditch this sinking system and legitimize self-publishing, like Radiohead and Wilco did the in music industry. And writers, stop being so insecure that you need big daddy to validate you as an “accomplished” writer. Let’s stop coddling publishing houses—all of them—and start a revolution: do it yourself.

* I love my cover!

**Decomposition may be my publisher’s best seller; I’m still not getting anything.

guerrilla, the river, and water, oh, my!


OMG—the Spokane river is rising and rushing in a way I’ve not seen in 23 years. It’s so amazingly impressive I’m tempted to throw in a plethora of $.05 adjectives and adverbs and bore you silly. Instead, I’ll just impart two things:

  1. The water surging through the falls [did you know our city used to be called Spokane Falls? What fool changed that?!] pounds the basalt under the pedestrian bridge and shoots 100+ foot mist-showers infusing everyone old, small, buff and goofy who’ve come out for this awesome river spectacle to laugh and leap with actual glee!
  2. At another one of our semi-wild parks, the quasi-spouse and I walk along the river’s new cut shoreline and I see five milk jugs hanging off a tree branch. They’re cut to carry water. We gawk and ponder and walk on when we almost stumble into two rows of peas sliced into the duff. Then a few feet further, lines of green beans, barely discernible, carve the wild-scape and over to the right a circle of something not sprouted enough to tell. Guerrilla gardens. Right here in Spokaloo. Who knew?

Quasi, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Spokane anymore. We must be over the rainbow.

TV 2: if you hardly ever watch TV, you’ll love a DVR

Unless you’re a peripatetic person in your teens or 20s–you might consider getting yourself a TV, cable and a DVR. Why?

Absolute efficiency, and to remain informed in your I’m-way-too-busy-to-watch-TV life. I found that the more particular you are, the less TV you watch–the more you need a DVR.

My quasi-spouse used to decompress from his fierce job by surfing our basic cable channels, watching crap TV. So about five years ago, I bought him a TV (nothing huge), cable and a Tivo.

Best. Thing. Ever…for me! Who knew?

You tell the DVR what shows you want recorded and it finds the times, channels for you. If your show airs at a different time the machine knows and adjusts. Give it subjects like yoga and it finds them! Or anything with Johnny Depp in it and Voilà, recorded! There’s Stewart and Colbert!! (LOVE emoticon goes here!) Set it to record only new showings or get it to give you every Perry Mason rerun! (another heart here–who doesn’t swoon over Perry’s sultry eyes or Paul Drake’s sexy hair streak?) And we can pause “live TV” if Obama calls.

This is an information era; to pretend to reside above it is ignorantly ignorant. I’m not a couch tomato, believe me. I read prodigiously, write & publish poems and pithy rants, play guitar, garden, do cards & games with live people, drink wine, cook, work out, go out…and I watch TV.

Why? Because all the good stuff is/was there not in the same-stream movie theaters: Nurse Jackie, In Treatment, standup, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sopranos, Louie, Six Feet Under

Unsure what to watch? Read Nancy Franklin in the New Yorker or listen to David Bianculli of TV Worth Watching. But get in the game, stop snobbing and start watching.