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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.

July 16, 2015
by Annie

Just Say Yes!

Just say Yes photoI have a friend with a new motto. Every day she makes a conscious decision to say “YES” to something she would normally reject.

We are out having dinner when she tells me about her new philosophy.

“People find their comfort zone and hunker down. Each day that list of things they don’t want to do grows until one day they are rotting in a recliner with a half dead remote watching old “Seinfeld” episodes, wondering how their lives got so small. Nope, that’s not happening to me!”

I know exactly what she means. The last time I hesitantly mumbled “yes” to a new experience it came with a few bags of chemo and multiple side effects. I mean, good Lord, I’m a classic example of someone who should stir it up. Go through a cancer diagnosis and one should bloody well strap a jet pack on their torso and fly full throttle anywhere. But, to put it mildly, I’m stuck…not to mention awkward in social situations. I say weird stuff and then spend days chastising myself for my poor choice of words. You’d think at my age I’d get over this shit. But, here I am…narrowing my world…moving two steps closer to a Lazy Boy and a baked remote.

Instantly, I recognize her message is for me. As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”… so I ask what she’d done lately to change the course of her history.

“Well, last week I visited a nudist camp. When I arrived, I was told to drop my drawers and hop on a golf cart.”

She then describes the chauffeur deftly sliding a towelette under her cheeks before they plop on the seat. Reassured by this hygienic protocol they drive off to meet other fleshy figures engaged in an array of activities…infinity pool synchronized diving, tandem trampoline tricks, frothy Jacuzzi calisthenics…but nothing scandalous. Instead, she finds that everyone is very respectful and no one makes her feel underdressed.

Starting to get the hang of it, she subs into a game of pickle ball and then those dreaded words ring out, “Karaoke Time!”

Hearing her recount this, my brain races. I imagine standing in front of a group of birthday-suited AARP-aged nudies singing, “Pinch Me” by Barenaked Ladies.

“But wait a minute,” I say, “A nudist camp after just one week of adopting this philosophy? What’s next? I mean, doesn’t that set the bar pretty high?”

She laughs and says, “Not everything has to be so dramatic. For instance the next day I said yes to my inner voyeur and watched two hummingbirds go at it. A first for me!”

With such a declaration, I feel like chucking my Crocs and Talbot Weekend Wear in jubilation! I’m off to my equivalent “YES” experience…a toss up between a Heightened Orgasm Retreat…or an Anal Bleach.

As I research these two options I can already feel my “YES” turning into a “Maybe.” A retreat sounds like I’d have to commit to multiple orgasmic inducing days, which could be problematic since I’ve faked them for the last twenty years. (Don’t tell my husband!) In the end, I decide an anal bleaching is the least risky because if it goes south, the only ones to know will be me, eventually my hubby…and a few hundred future toilet bowls.



July 7, 2015
by Annie

Alice’s Palace

Gordon'sWhen my brother and I were small, my mom would drop us off at Alice’s house. She lived just down the road.

If Alice’s place could speak it would surely nag for a remodel. The floors dipped and the walls sagged…every floorboard and window pane pleaded to be taken out of its misery, the perfect hovel for a daycare. Even us kids knew that there was little we could do to depreciate the joint.

Alice was a rotund woman with a sweet face who smelled of mildew, 409, and piss. The last two odors I attribute to Bob, her husband, who’d suffered a debilitating stroke and wore his urine like Old Spice.

Alice also had a middle-aged mentally ill son named Glen, after the astronaut. Each night he slept at the foot of his parent’s bed, threating to kill them in their sleep.

Going to Alice’s was like signing up for rehab. We knew it was bound to bring up some unpleasant moments, but there was also an escapist freedom lurking down her dangerously disturbed hallways we had never known.

As you might guess, Alice’s daycare had no rules. But just like a school teacher’s fantasy to educate, she armed herself with a theme and activity to coincide. For instance, one day we might Feng Shui the walls with permanent markers…and the next, trim the red shag carpet with hedge clippers. On particularly stormy days we watched raindrops free-fall from the ceiling and tried to catch them in pails.

The one constant in the room was her husband Bob, sitting silently in a wheel chair. When we were totally unruly, his shrubby eyebrows lifted and lowered slightly into what I could only assume was an effort at a cold angry stare. At times I visualized him breaking free from his confines, our butts blistered for a week. But he never gave a Lazarus hint of rising up, as day after day he could only hold us with his eyes. It must have been brutal for Bob, like watching a war wage in his head, a war that he would lose. When I asked Alice if her husband was unhappy with us, she would simply say, “Don’t mind him. He’s an old fuddy-duddy.”

Alice was trying to make ends meet. Never laying her problems on anyone, and yet, her life was hell. She had her hands full with Bob, her unresponsive mate, and Glen, who did not quite qualify for subsidized treatment…and yet poor Alice, was left to run the sinking ship full of rain pails, Magic Markers, and hedge clippers. I wonder how many people today would last as long without complaint?

Sometimes Glen, the astronut, would come out of his bedroom and inspect whatever we were doing. Like his father, he never uttered a sound. I could only guess that he sifted and resifted thoughts that would have challenged my young brain.

God knows I recognize the need for babysitters. I have been caught more than once being a little too zealous doling out punishment with my kid’s potato gun then madly searching for someone to take over while I regroup.

But when I think back at the insanity of Alice’s household, it shocks me that we hung out there on a regular basis.

Then it hit me. No one judged Alice and her clan as a crazy bunch back then…or that their situation was any different than any other. We simply knew that we must stick together because it could just as easily have been us facing hardship. It became our shared responsibility. We needed each other…and more importantly, we needed to believe in simple facts…do unto others, respect your elders, treat everyone the same. It all made sense back then. Yes, if I dare say it…we were so much more civil and kinder to one another.

Today, all I see are semi-medicated people who have their heads firmly planted up the ass of technology. While searching for meaning in video games, in apps that correct our flaws, joining online sites that repeat our shallow views, we have become dream catchers who have lost our mitts.

I suppose there will come a time when the world will make sense once more. I might not be around to witness the full effect but I can only hope those values that we took for granted back in my youth will return and tattoo the butts of all who need it.