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August 27, 2015
by Annie

Locked and Loaded In Our Techno Trough

gunI wrote this post a few years ago, and find it fascinating that very little has changed. If anything, we seem to accept gun violence as a normal consequence of life.

Yesterday two television reporters were gunned down while doing a live broadcast. If history repeats, I suspect we will see horrific murder headlines and testimonials from those touched by the victims in their brief time on earth. We will analyze how the killer used a GoPro to film the carnage …how he was able to upload  footage onto social media within minutes of the crime…and speculate what might go through the minds of other mentally deranged killers as they see the number of views grow online. Once more we will balance the heartache with a shrine of wilting flowers and weathered messages and move on. When will we stop being silenced by misery and say we’ve had enough?

Gun control is never far from any conversation these days. Everyone has an opinion concerning their right to bear arms. It seems we have become a country hell-bent on protecting our Second Amendment rights, even at the possible expense of infringing upon other equally important ones. The ginned up fear of a massive government takeover prevents a practical dialogue from really getting started. Even with the unspeakable dismemberment of school children, a fog hovers over what a majority supports.

I’d admit I come from a gun slinging family. My father made no secret that he was packing heat. It was an old pistol from the Civil War my great-grandfather pulled off a dead soldier. My dad kept it in his underwear drawer. Psychologically he felt better pointing an unloaded relic at a robber than threatening a fistfight. Frankly, I thought we’d have a better chance loading his briefs like a slingshot than pointing that antique pistol at a crazed crook.

When I was a kid disputes were settled on the playground. Then after the dust settled, hard feelings were mostly dropped. But times have changed. Now differences can turn into deadly feuds as people stockpile ammunition and semi-automatic rifles capable of firing 100 rounds per minute. With an outlandishly easy pull of an index finger, a disgruntled lost soul can unleash devastating lethality from a disengaged distance. Blurring the line between real life and video games, they compete for the highest scores and a shot at notoriety.

To be sure our deteriorating social and moral fabric is being challenged. We are abandoning the simplicity of human interaction and losing a connection with ourselves…our kids…our planet…in the name of progress. Of course it is great to have all the newest gadgets to communicate with one another without being face-to-face, but at the end of the day our human instinctual side needs contact…physical, spiritual and mental. We are starting to see consequences of abandoning the soul-feeding personal touch…in favor of a tweet, a text, or an email. It’s no wonder there is a growing percentage of kids who feel rudderless and ostracized. The resulting alienation is being treated with an array of pharmaceuticals whose side effects often include the very problem they are prescribed to alleviate. Technology is leaving our human physical side in the dust, and the connectedness that was for thousands of years a staple of our existence is being pawned cheaply for glitz, internet speed, and firepower.

If this is truly a democracy by and for the people, and is the model we hold up for the world to admire as we spread it peacefully, and otherwise…we’d better take a good look at where this little 200 year old experiment is heading. I’m not so sure that a nation driven by fear, divided by the powers that be, and semi-automatically armed to the teeth sounds like the one we hear so often touted as, “The greatest country in the history of the world.”

August 5, 2015
by Annie

Roll The Dice and Take A Wife

ElvisI’m in Vegas celebrating my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. They’re reaffirming vows in one of those corny chapels. An Elvis impersonator dressed in a skintight polyester jumpsuit parades my mother down the aisle before a gauntlet of guests wearing fake noses and glasses. There is an entire set of miniature railroad cars sewn down the back of the dress, mother’s idea of a bridal train. I follow, hips thrusting and “a whole lot of shakin’ going on,” while tossing rose petals at their feet.

One thing you have to know about my parents is that they are showbiz people. They love a party and a laugh, sometimes at my expense.

After we celebrate their five-decade marriage, I leave them and head for the casino. I take a seat beside Carol, a woman bejeweled in a sequin tube-top and faux leather pants. She’s hunched over a slot machine.

Carol is a fixture here, spending every day at the same one-arm bandit, fishing into her vinyl clutch for dead presidents. A few years back, she won $1100 with one pull, but since that fateful day the house has eaten her lunch.

“Have you thought of trying another slot machine…maybe Wheel of Fortune?” I ask.

“Hell, no,” Carol says. “This is MY machine. Besides, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve been on a losing streak since I got married.” She pulls the lever and watches as two cherries and a lemon roll to a stop. Each time the machine sucks down her money, she takes a sip of vodka, a hearty 80 proof swig, the very medicine for her misfortune.

“I used to be a high-roller,” says Carol “the Queen of free buffets and booze.” She downs her drink and lights a cigarette, blowing smoke at the fruit machine. “Then I met Jimmy, right in this exact spot, and the next thing I know we’re tying the knot. He was building another dice joint when a crane fell on him. Now he just lies on the couch watching NASCAR.”

I have every intention of telling Carol how sorry I feel about her troubles, except her mouth is waiting for no one.

Carol motors on. “The night we met I won big, everything going right, until we pulled up to the Tunnel of Love Drive Thru and got hitched. All I ever wanted was to get out of this glitzy sandbox. Now I’m stuck…until one of us cashes our chips in.”

Maybe it’s the champagne from the Golden Anniversary toasts, but hearing Carol’s story leaves me melancholy. She looks like someone who could have gone somewhere, but now only a faint glimmer remains of that glad rags gal.

Sometimes people confuse marriage with endurance. It’s easy to do. Endurance makes you feel productive…it’s that space where you spend a great deal of time doing what you can’t imagine not doing, because you don’t have the guts to do anything else.

I’m $20 down at the end of the evening, but Carol’s out a small fortune including a sizeable bar bill for a dozen vodkas and a carton of cigarettes.

I want to leave her with some promise of better times ahead, but frankly I’m at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who looks to a rigged machine for a way out of a shitty life?

Then the voice in my head shakes me like a dog with a chew toy. After all, I am a product of show folk.

“Carol, did you hear the joke about the Vegas panhandler who asks a passerby for change?”

She stares at me as if I’m one card short of a full deck.

“Well, there is this guy,” I say “sitting on the sidewalk, real down on his luck. So he asks a tourist for money, but the tourist answers, “Wait a minute, how do I know you won’t use it for gambling?” And the panhandler says, “Oh, I got gambling money!””

Carol’s face lights up. “Haha, that’s what I love about this town!” And with a wave of her hand she’s gone, like a paycheck.

July 28, 2015
by Annie

The Blessing of the Beans

large cup of coffee

I don’t usually hang out in coffee shops. It’s not my thing. Besides, I’m from Seattle where coffee aficionados convert the heathen masses to daily worshippers, expanding the Church of the Anointed Bean across the globe. And the rest…as they say, is history, java joints popping up faster than meth labs.

I remember simpler times, when a tin of Folgers would suffice, but now coffee isn’t coffee without sweeteners, swirls, frappes, infusions, and add-shots. In my day if we needed to enhance the experience we reached for the Wild Turkey.

And don’t even get me started on the long-winded lingo that accompanies these concoctions.

It’s like “I don’t know who’s running the country or anything about global warming, but I can spiel off my favorite battery acid like I’m crushing my SAT.”

I’m already awkward in social situations, but add a pretentious setting and I fall apart faster than road kill in rush hour traffic.

I venture into an L.A. hangout amongst a fast-talking coffee-clutching crowd. Instantly I’m bombarded with smooth jazz and product placement.

In the queue I practice my order, but why bother? I never get it right. It’s almost like those baristas know I’m going to bungle it.

There are seriously WAY too many choices. We talk about simplifying life, but we don’t mean it. What happened to small and large? Do we really need short, tall, Grande, Venti and Trente? Why so clever? I say we call Trente a Big Gulp and be done with it.

I arrive at the counter, where a hipster with pen poised in one hand and a paper cup in the other gives me a “hurry up sister” glare. When I finally do open my mouth, the sequence is backwards and I’ve managed to confuse him.

It appears my biological coffee clock is ticking as he stares at the long line forming at my rear end. I give it another few hurried tries until the puzzle is unscrambled and I’m sent off to wait for another bean bartender to screw up my name.

The only seat in the house is next to a blazing gas fireplace casting a faux glow as Kenny G accompanies my first sip, which seems as culturally significant to rich aroma and butane flames as canned laughter to sitcoms.

To make matters worse, I read in the Urban Dictionary that a “cup of coffee” is code for sex. Don’t I have enough on my tortured mind without worrying that my order might be interpreted as wanting a lay with that latte? I can almost hear the barista give a shout-out into the packed room…“Flat White looking for Tall Black!”

That’s it…I’m going home to brew a batch of brown water in my old Hamilton Beach electric percolator and pour it into my own damn mug. If that doesn’t rev my engine maybe I’ll get creative with the grounds and whip up a skinny no-foam doppio macchiato enema.

July 22, 2015
by Annie

Stealing The Show

Blog NoMoI am in Seattle visiting my folks. We decide to take a walk outside their retirement home when a middle-aged man stops and points a finger at my dad. His face explodes into a goofy grin.

“Are you Stan Boreson?” the Baby Boomer asks.

“What’s left of him,” my father mumbles, positioning his walker for another two-step shuffle.

Even though my dad’s TV show has been off the air almost fifty years, he still has a few fans left. Die-hard Seattleites who remember early television in its purest form…a handful of entertainers and a whole lot of dead space. That’s right…hour after hour we stared at an Indian Chief test pattern accompanied by a dumbing hum. With that as the competition you can imagine his quick rise to local stardom!

But don’t get me wrong…my dad had immense talent. He told great jokes, sang Scandinavian ballads, and dressed our Basset hound in drag. For one half hour every evening at 5pm, man and beast mesmerized all ages with slapstick humor and upbeat antics.

This was the Pacific Northwest before all the hype. Way before Starbucks, Amazon, Cobain and Hendrix. Back in the day when making a full rotation around the revolving Space Needle felt cultural and edgy.

We sat in our little isolated corner of the map under cadaverous skies eagerly awaiting a newsflash to trickle in from some other trendy part of the country. We could feel the pulse of America looming OUT THERE to the east and down the coastline south, and we prayed that the 60’s revolution would eventually stumble upon our geographic exile. In the meantime we waited…hip as a plus size pair of cotton crotch Granny panties drying on a clothesline.

Having your dad on television was weird. Most of my friend’s fathers dressed in business attire and worked at Boeing or in some downtown high rise. They carried umbrellas and briefcases and strapped on galoshes over their wingtips. I’d see them out early scraping frost from the windshields of their Ford Falcons before driving off to make calls from cushy corner offices. Conversely, my dad donned a painfully vibrant sport coat, equally garish trousers…and with a fond farewell from his Lincoln Continental, he was off to the “set.” (When I was very young and heard he worked in TV, I thought he actually had a job “inside” our console. Maybe that’s why I watched the test pattern, waiting for him to crawl out.)

Each morning my father would make several trips to the car. First load consisted of his sixty-pound accordion, wardrobe changes, props, and whatever script he might have worked up the night before. Then came his sidekick, a Bassett hound named No Mo Shun. “NoMo” our comatose pet, spent her days sleeping in front of the heat vent. True to her name, she rarely was in motion, especially if it meant distancing herself from the warming zone. When it was time to go to work, my dad would carry her from vent to the passenger seat, gently placing the hound on a bed of soft pillows beside him.

No doubt, NoMo supplied us with great perks. We were on the A-list with Walt Disney and there were Christmas cards from Lassie, Old Yeller, and Toto too! But there was no way to sugarcoat it…the dog was the draw. We were just along for the ride, and a backseat at that.

You might say I struggled with such pomp and circumstance lavished on a dog. One day my dad caught me staring at a huge watercolor of NoMo hanging in his office. I remember marveling how the artist captured her bloodshot eyes, even adding a little Alpo to those matted floppy ears. Dad must have thought I was going to unleash with some preteen irreverence so he stopped me short.

“That dog gave you braces!” He said.

I realized at that moment that he was telling the truth…and I needed to lighten up. Without orthodontics, my teeth would still look like God fired them down with a bad rotator cuff.

Growing up with a dog as a breadwinner really drives home the idea that America IS the land of opportunity! If a low-riding Hush Puppy can bring home the bacon, what’s my excuse?

Twelve years later, the TV station pulled the plug on the show. Most of the other networks had switched to covering evening news during that time slot and I guess they felt the information pipeline had opened enough to fill a half hour. It was Christmas, which didn’t seem like a great time for a pink slip.

Simultaneously NoMo had been sliding down the backside of her golden years. Illness had made her cranky and during public appearances her patience vanished as small children rushed in to smother her with overzealous petting.

When it was time to end her suffering, my father couldn’t do it. He called upon a trusted friend, Mrs. Anderline, though as it turns out, she hadn’t the heart to do it either. Eventually a veterinarian made a house call, finding NoMo waiting in the kitchen. The vet, whose children watched the program, said he felt like he was putting down Santa Claus.

My dad just celebrated his 90th birthday. He is slowing down and life has become more challenging. Funny, but with the passage of time I no longer dream of being inundated with culture and current events. All I want is for my father to strap on his stomach Steinway and sing me a song.