My pants are always with me.

When I was a little girl one of my favorite songs was "Convoy" by C.W. McCall.  (In case you are unfamiliar with the great American poet C.W. McCall the first verse of the song goes a little something like this... 

What 7 year old girl would not be drawn in by the romance of a thousand social malcontent rebel truckers engaged in an act of impromptu civil disobedience?  I suspect my love of all things big-rig stemmed from the fact that we actually had a CB in our van... and our parents had "handles" (which were the 1970s CB equivalent of screen names. My dad was "the Electric Chair" - not a reference to a love of capital punishment, but rather to the very heavy electric wheelchair that acted as his legs.  My mom also had a handle, but... unlike my dad is still alive and people that know her might have a hard time picturing her sending a shout out over the air waves, so I will keep it to myself.)  My sisters and I would put on CW's record (yep - a real life record) and dance with abandon around our single wide.  It was very modern.  We also choreographed a lovely Broadway number to "Fiddler on the Roof" as well as a funky disco piece to "Disco Mickey Mouse".  You've got nothin' on the trailer park Mia Michaels.

I am totally good with having a trailer park childhood.  I learned a lot of stuff there.  For instance...
  • Numbers are acceptable names for children.  One of our little trailer park friends was named "Seven".  I know what you're thinking - "Sad.  They ran out of names by their seventh child".  No.  As I recall, he was child number 2.  I just remember that he was slightly dirty all the time, and once while he was doing some excavation work in his front yard, (he was digging a big hole - looking for pirate treasure no doubt), accidentally dug his shovel of death into my sister's forehead.  (At least I think it was an accident).  His mom,  Toni came running down the street carrying my limp sister, covered in her blood and yelling for my father.  I will never forget how her blood was everywhere.  I thought she was dead.  Turned out she just needed a few stitches. ( I was a bit of a dramatic child.)
  • Goats are acceptable domestic pets.  There was a woman that lived near us that we called "the Goat Lady".  Unlike "Seven", this is self explanatory.  She had goats just a roamin' all around her trailer.  This is how I know what "goat stink" smells like, and the primary reason I will not eat the stinky goat cheese, I think.  I would go in her kitchen and she would give me Tang.  I had never had that space-aged-powdery-elixir before and ever after felt quite ill-used that my parents made me drink stupid old real orange juice.  
  • If there is a field next to your trailer park... and it has a fence... and a "no trespassing" sign... you are not welcome there.  Furthermore, there's a pretty good chance that you will find yourself, literally running for your life from Cujo's slightly bigger, uglier and meaner brother.  He might also have an ironic name, like Fluffy, because even vicious dog owners can have a sense of humor.  The lesson here ?  Survival of the fittest.  In other words - you don't have to outrun the dog, you only have to outrun the kid next to you.  (Actually, I learned this from an experience that my sister had (the same one with the shovel injury - she had a rough childhood).  It was definitely not funny, but thankfully she was the skinniest and the fastest of the trespassers, and so was spared a lengthy hospital stay complete with, like one million stitches and full length body casts.)  Seriously. 
  I knew nothing of ugly trailer park stereotypes.  I knew nothing of children wandering around in moon boots and diapers.  I knew nothing of dirty white tank tops and pants that covered only half of the wearer's "real estate".  I knew nothing of eating squirrels or any other sundry rondenty kinds of animals.  (Although I did eat my fair share of tuna casserole covered in Lays potato chips.)  We were just normal families, in what we considered a normal neighborhood, living normal American lives.  My parents worked hard, and eventually left the trailer park and built a home (without wheels) and did the American dream.

So... I was more than a little conflicted when I drove up to a trailer park where I was to leave my daughter for a birthday party being held by one of her school friends - and I didn't get any warm feelings of nostalgia.  I just felt panic.  The "yards" were dirty and full of rusty things... things that I didn't know could even rust.  The air smelled like the smell you smell when you eat in a restaurant that has a Keno establishment/bar hidden in the back.  The inside of the trailer was adorned with crosses and crucifixes (to ward off vampires I guess) and pictures of Jesus with sheep... and  a picture of an old man praying over his bread and soup.  The same picture that hung above the table in the trailer where I grew up (and every place we lived after that.)  We called him "Old Man, Bread and Soup" (I know original) and teased my mother about that picture all the time.

I couldn't help but smile faintly around my fear and then breathe a sigh of relief when I found out that one of the other moms from school was staying with our children.  I guess that, in the end, there really is no going home, but there's also no getting away from home either.  Especially if that home has wheels - like a trailer, or a big rig truck. 

ps- the youtube version of "Convoy" in the link is not the original version - I thought it was funny that someone else liked it enough to remake it.  Rad.

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Your pants cannot be fixed.

Dear Rob Blog-oy-a-vitch,


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We've seen his pants before.

February has the potential for being a tough month for me.  In an attempt to remedy the highly pressing social issue of sub-par television picture quality, we are going digital.  That is, someone (probably a man) got some kind of new digital television signal putter-outer and said to his friend "Come look at this man, it's so sweet.  We all totally need this.)  Except... When I say "we" I mean everyone but me, because we have neither a digital TV nor cable television... and I sort of thought that the OPB box pushers were kidding when they said that I needed to get some kind of magic box that plugs into my "vintage" television set so that I can continue to watch "the quality programming that I now enjoy".  Turns out that I really do need one of those magic boxes, but, in true Capitalist style, there are not enough boxes to go around - we call that "scarcity of resources".  Next time we "upgrade" to the next big thing I think that those public service announcement commercials should say "Seriously - you need this.  You're not being punked, and we promise that the box is not a way for the government to track your movements and steal your facebook password."

I am not all that concerned about losing my TV viewing capacity, because I like to watch online anyway.  I can watch pretty much anything I want to watch online with limited commercial interruptions and during my kid's nap time.  The down side of online viewing is that I can watch pretty much anything I want to watch online with limited commercial interruptions and during my kid's nap time.  In other words, I have the option of procrastinating the laundry (how often does a six year old really need his socks washed anyway?) and I am becoming increasingly addicted to strangish, culty (not the brainwashing, kool-aid drinking kind of culty) kinds of shows like "Legend of the Seeker" and "Angel" (although I'm sort of over that one). 

The thing that these shows have in common is the idea of a "chosen man" (it's almost always a man) that emerges when there is a great social evil that must be battled, a great inequality that must be rectified, or a hopelessness that must be dispelled.  There is usually a woman, that is either an actual or potential lover, and an added source of power for the "chosen"- either because she is a ritchie and has social clout, or she has some extraordinary personal trait (wisdom, beauty etc.) that affords her influence over others.  (People always listen to the pretty girl.  Sorry, but I think it's a rule.)  The cast of characters is rounded out by a "wizard", an oracle (or set of oracles) and, of course and very importantly - the villain.

I am now convinced that it is because we have embraced these archetypes that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States - so you can thank/blame the WB.  Think about it...

1.  "the chosen": Barack Obama rises from obscurity to establish balance and bring prosperity and truth back to the "people".  (Luke Skywalker anyone?)  Instead of using a light saber, or Excalibur to defend justice, Obama will be using the hat Aretha Franklin wore at the inauguration to blind his foes with the bedazzled goodness of the Bow of Truth.

2.  "the girl":  Clearly, Michelle Obama.  No one's gonna cross  her, she's a little scary.

3.  "the wizard": The little man inside my computer that runs the Internet and seemed to provide a bottomless pit of campaign money.  When Hillary Clinton is jealous of your fund raising ability - now that's magic.

4.  "the oracles":  I'm going with Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush 1.  I picture these 3 old guys clustered around a big bubbling pot full of the bones of their old political enemies, lurking in some secret passage of the White House just waiting to tell the current president what they think he should do.

5. "the villain":  Time.  There's an election coming in less than two years.  Two years isn't very long to deliver on your promises, but plenty of time for people to forget how much they loved you.

All in all, I feel like my TV research has led me to all kinds of new and useful knowledge.  Maybe I could come up with a snappy little catch phrase , take out a copyright, or patent, or whatever, and make a lot of money selling tee-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs.  I think I'll go with "Obamalot"- like the Kennedy era's "Camelot", but a touch more modern.  Hopefully the chosen one can help me get my magic box so that my TV connection can be saved and my important research can continue.  We'll see.
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Will somebody please ask about the pants?

With the snow gone from Oregon (finally) and my older children back in school (double finally) I have been liberated from the winter prison that was my Christmas holiday.  I have been spending more time in my car shuttling my youngest son around to places that will, presumably help him become well socialized and not a total embarrassment to our family when he finally goes to school himself.  (Honestly, I'm just hoping that he will stop pointing at random strangers and in his booming, raspy 3 year old baritone announce which parts of their anatomy make them male or female.  Although, I must admit, I do laugh.)

Due to the upswing in car time, I have been listening to the radio a  lot more, and because I usually listen to OPB (our local NPR affiliate) that means that I have been listening to Senate confirmation hearings.  One word - boring.  I know that I should probably reverence the process.  I know that I should think to myself "checks and balances - now that was a stroke of genius" but... All I hear when I'm listening to obscure senators questioning equally obscure cabinet appointees is the voice of the teacher from Charlie Brown - "wah waaah wah, wah waaah wah wah", and I picture the glassy eyed nominees doing some sneaky texting under the table like angst ridden teens in some horribly tedious health class.  "OMG, i h8 him.  His qstns r so hrd."

I for one would love, for say, the potential UN Ambassador to bust out her i-pod, stick in her ear buds and say "Just let me know when you're done with your obviously biased "question"/speech where you criticize or adore me/hypothetical political ramblings regarding capturing Osama bin Laden with duct tape, a hair pin and a warrantless wiretap so that I can completely ignore you and talk more about myself." 

Let's face it, everyone's getting confirmed,  and once again, I'm bored... so let's ask some questions that are going to keep the nominees on their toes and learn the really important stuff about these people before they start running the country:

For example-
1.  If you were a Spice Girl which one would you be?  I mean, do we really want Scary Spice to be the Secretary of State?   Oh, wait - I think we did get Scary Spice as Secretary of State. 

2.  Who should play you on Saturday Night Live for the next four years?  This one will probably only apply to Hillary Clinton and the Attorney General guy, but you never know.  Maybe one of the cabinet members will get sloppy and put their foot in the wrong place in an airport restroom, or shoot themselves in the leg while at a night club with their peeps.  Keep your fingers crossed people.

3.  If you could have one super hero power what would it be?    If I were them, I would go with invisibility - hands down, but I would also consider the "lasso of truth" like Wonder Women.  I would not choose to be that one Wonder Twin that was always something made from water.  Seriously, how is a purple ice bridge helpful during a super hero emergency?

4.  What are the names and birthdays of all of your children?  How can we believe that someone that can't remember these things is going to remember the names of world leaders like: Ban Ki-moon, Jalal Talabani or Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev.

5.  American Idol - love it or hate it?  I am firmly in the "hate it" camp and could forgive a lot of the  political sins of my like minded comrades.  Total socialist welfare state?   Ummm, OK - as long as we can banish Simon, Paula and Randy - (and the new girl too I guess).

All I'm saying is that I think there are ways to find out about a person without being so stuffy, Senators.  After all, if you can't get information out of people without them knowing you got information out of them, (a skill that I have become quite adept at, raising three children), you might want to hang up your security clearance badge and hand your title over to someone a little more fun and a whole lot more useful.

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Put your stirrup pants back where they belong.

There are places in this world that, I am convinced, are designed to put a person in their place. Not the obvious ones like churches and universities.  Mostly they are food places and their purpose is to help you understand who you are.

One year for my birthday my husband took me to one of those snooty-foody restaurants (not to be confused with the cool-foody restaraunts - which I love) that offers a cheese course service before your dinner.  (I am convinced that this is simply because they are too cheap to bring me some good bread and some good butter-for free). There was a cheese menu and a cheese pusher lady whose job it was to translate her cheese passion into profits for the restaurant.  She assembled the cheesey menu, made cheesey recommendations and served, or rather and quite literally, cut the cheesey cheese.  For a girl raised on Velveeta, this was all a bit much.  This poor woman kept encouraging me to eat samples of cheese from various and sundry mammals that I didn't even know could be milked - and I was not having it.  

When I told her that everything I'd tried tasted less like the cheese of a goat and more like a the stink of a goat , she said "Yes, some of them do have a bit of barnyard on them", and gave up.  A bit of  barnyard ?  My goal in life is to never put anything that has a bit of the barnyard on it in my mouth.  I am a very firm believer that what happens in the banyard, stays in the barnyard.   In the end, and despite the best efforts of the cheese cutter, we ended up with three kinds of unadventurous and ungoaty cheeses... (but no Velveeta - go figure). I'm sure that the staff felt certain that the cheese had more culture than I did. 

(p.s. on the restaraunt thing and in the interest of full disclosure - I have my share of the snoots too.  I have acquired over the years, a very strong aversion to  all-you-can- eat buffets, for one.  I do not like it when people who are not trained in proper food handling techniques have access to my food (ie- other diners and their grubby fingers), and those sneeze guards cause me more than just a little anxiety simply by virtue of the fact that they are called "sneeze guards."  I also refrain from consuming any kind of carny food- just so you know.)

It's one thing to feel out of place in a restaraunt, but the real social instution that separates the high and middle income wheat from the low income tares is the grocery store... and once you've chosen a side on this battle ground, it's hard to defect.

I learned this lesson the hard way.  Over the past many months, which if you add up might be commonly referred to as "a year", I have been shopping for groceries at Winco.  It is a bag-it-yourself, get-it-yourself, cart-it-yourself, (and if the store could figure out a way), pick it/kill it yourself grocery store. I started shopping there after giving up on saving money with coupons at Albertsons'.   Prior to that I was actually having my groceries delivered, to my door, by Safeway.  (I know that this last one sounds like something that would've scandalized Marie Antoinette, but in my defense, I had a new baby and two other children and I was mainlining Celexa so that I wouldn't go the "Andrea Yates" route.  If you do not know what Celexa is then you have never had post partum depression - good for you.  I needed to simplify.)  Then, last night I needed "just a couple of things", so instead of Winco,  I went to the Haggen down the street from my house, (which is a store falling somewhere inbetween Albertson's and Whole Foods). 

I realized very quickly that I had experienced a grocery store paradigm shift and the differences were apparent - starting with the dress code.  At Winco women are required to wear an oversize Looney Tunes sweatshirt, black or grey stirrup pants (apparently they still make them) and a pair of jellies (any color).  You also have the option to accessorize with white athletic socks if desired.  (I have to admit that I have yet to comply with said dress code and expect to be getting a formal warning on my next trip.)  The dress code for the men is a lot broader, but must include a baseball cap, with the bill pointed in any direction that is comfortable for the wearer.  

I would love to have compared this to the "Haggen shopper" standard issue uniform, but I think I was the only one there except the employees, (it was kind of late and it was a Saturday night- I know, sad huh?).  The lack of people was a little unsettling.  At Winco there are always, and I mean always, huge families spending some quality shopping/fighting time together.  Very often on Saturday evenings I will see a family of multiple generations comprised of 7 or 8 adults and about 5 children give or take, out for the weekly food and nose pickin' extravaganza.  I have always wondered why some of those adults don't stay home so that their little guys can go to bed.  I haven't actually asked... yet.  At Haggen?  No children.  No families.

I noticed lots of things at that Haagen (besides the prices) that clearly said - "Winco shoppers stay out" - lots of prime cuts of meat but no cheap pot roasts big enough to serve for a Mormon Fast Sunday dinner.  Organic everything from chicken stock to applesauce but no Cap'n Crunch cereal for my 6 year old (seriously, if you don't sell Cap'n Crunch why are you even in the grocery business?)  Carts too small for the "best value" jumbo size toilet paper pack.  The list goes on.  It seems a little intentional and I get it already.

So it's back to Winco for me.  Back to the "aisle of value" that looms large right at the front door.  Back to being asked to move my cart in at least three different languages per visit.  Back to bags of potato chips so big that my kids could play hide and seek in them.  And next time I forget whose side I'm on, I'll wear my jellies and white socks to remind me where I belong.


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