volunteering…and cowboys

The following was written on Wednesday, 4/20…

Two Bridges and a Small Stream In a Pacific No...

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Have been sitting here for the last couple of hours volunteering as a meet and greet person for Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. By sitting in close proximity to professional writers, I thought perhaps through the process of osmosis I’d gain some knowledge that might prove useful to me, as I try to become one of them. At this point I’m a little doubtful. I can see that the staff writers aren’t about to sit around sharing tidbits of insider information with me. Besides which, the 3 are much younger.

I’m like the “fly on the wall.” I’m here, but I’m not here. Their words flow unencumbered through the wooden bi-fold screen, loud and clear. But with my back toward them, and the screen in-between, I’m naturally excluded from their conversation. But those aren’t the only obstacles to my being part of the group. I’m old enough to be their mothers, or grandmothers!

Public Cowboy

Image via Wikipedia

Our generations enjoy different jokes, music, topics of interest. But as I said before, I’m not here to schmooze. I’m here to “pull my own weight,” which in this case means tackling someone who walks through the front door before they can invade the inner sanctum of the youngsters with whom I work. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean they’re in their 20s and I’m in my 60s. Get the picture? They’re up and coming, while I’m on the verge of applying for Medicare. Unless the Republicans pull the rug out from under my feet, that is!

Cowboy W-1

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I’m excellent at meeting and greeting. So far I’ve stopped a couple “dead in their tracks” who were soliciting ads for their magazine, “Best of Issaquah.” After querying them, I handed them over to Kelly, one of my young overseers. Next through the door came a giant, hulking man, with a mile-wide grin planted on his face, bearing huge plastic bags that contained colorful, plastic eggs under both his armpits. Planting myself in front of this oversized, elderly gentleman, I asked how I might help. Not slowed down by me in the least, he proceeded to sweep me along as he continued striding toward the back office. Blah, blah, blah…yada, yada, yada…I heard myself saying. My companions stood up in unison, laughing heartily at my faux pas. It seems the gentleman was the head of the assocation of shopkeepers in the Gilman Village complex. Duh? The youngsters cut me some slack, complimenting me on how seriously I took my job. “Ruff! Ruff! Aren’t I a great guard dog?!?”

Next I tried attacking a lady carrying a large, heavy box. She too was one of “them,” dropping something off that belonged to some author. But the final visitor of the day, was the real deal. Finally, I was confronting a stranger, a complete unknown. But this 77-year-old gentleman was mighty friendly…mighty friendly. He’d come from the Senior Center where he participates in a writing class. Thinking he wanted something a little more advanced, a friend referred him to PNWA.

Basic creditcard / debitcard / smartcard graph...

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Amidst much joking and bantering back-and-forth, the gentleman signed up for an annual, paid membership. Kelly again assisted. He tried to get she or I to loan him a credit card. We laughed. Then when he said he’d pay cash, he asked if I had the cash. I laughed. He soon pulled out a $100 bill which I handed over to the staff. As they poked around for the cash box, which turned up void of funds, I overheard the man speaking on his cellphone. When Kelly left to make change from a neighboring shop, he told me what the call was about.

The Cowboy Millionaire

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It seemed the man and a friend were part-time prospectors. They were set to fly to New Mexico to track down buried treasure, hidden in the 1800’s by outlaws. Evidently they forgot where they had dumped the stuff when they went to retrieve it for the law. Unfortunately, this man’s partner had called cancelling the trip because of wildfires in the area. I was dumbfounded. Could the storytelling get any richer? Yes, it could.

The old codger proceeded to tell me he had other friends who were in the film business, 2 were directors, and one was an actor. I was familiar with some of the movies in which they were involved, but at the moment their titles escape me. In fact one of his director friends encouraged this gentleman to write Western stories, which is what he plans to do. It seems his writing skills have come in handy helping to edit some screenplays. Needless to say I was speechless for most of the conversation. 

So as not to encourage the man to while away the afternoon with me, I nodded and smiled, but spoke very little. He eventually stood up from his chair taking his leave. But before he did he bent over to ask me if I’d run away with him. Well I nearly fell out of my chair, but quickly replied “I don’t think my husband would like that!” To which came the retort “Well, I’ll just have to ask him!” Followed by my laughing response that I’d been married 41 years, and I didn’t think my husband would walk away from his investment. Backing away the man laughingly exclaimed “The poor guy!”

Four Cowboys

Image by anyjazz65 via Flickr

Well if I had been writing a Western, I’d have said this old cowboy blew through the front door of our office overturning everything in his path, like a human tornado, before taking off again for parts, and adventures, unknown. But before leaving, he promised to return…as a volunteer.

Cowboy snake

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you know where i’ll be when that day arrives…out on the open range…hugmamma.

 

justin bieber…huckabee rival?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

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Adults are apt to dismiss the young members of society as not having anything of substance to contribute. But I think that’s definitely changing. No longer can we admonish them with “children should be seen and not heard,” as was the golden rule in my younger years. Not that those approaching middle-age were ready to relinquish power without a fight. It’s more that upstarts like Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the tender ages of 13 and 15, respectively, began turning our world on its ear when they sought to create what became a global power, Microsoft. Others followed in time, Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg. These of course are the more prominent among the brainiacs of their generations. I think it’s safe to say these young men who were probably considered “still wet behind the ears” by their elders, grabbed the world’s attention, never letting go.

I personally have witnessed the power of those younger than me. My 25-year-old daughter continually teaches me about life, its radical highs and lows, as well as its moments of calm and serenity. The tables have turned, where I taught her, she now teaches me. Although sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t been giving me lessons all along, ever since she was a babe in my womb.

As I’ve made my way through this, at times overwhelming, internet adventure, 20-year-olds have reached out to help me. Blogger Scriptor Obscura was the first to regularly “like” my posts and leave comments. More recently, author B.C. Young agreed to be interviewed about self-publishing, sharing insight into an area that’s still evolving. In turn he invited me to share a fictional piece of my own on his blog, introducing me to his readers. More than anything this young man gave this senior writer a “hand up.”

Thanks for giving me my first break, Ben. It’s heartwarming to know that there are published writers, like yourself, who will give a hand up to those of us still struggling to have our words read in printed form.

“mahalo”…thank you…millie aka hugmamma.

Yesterday when I volunteered at the office of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, Trevor Barnes, the assistant director, shared encouraging words of support when I expressed doubt that I even belonged among such an elite company of published writers, as per the bios I viewed on PNWA’s website. Trevor assured me that there were thousands of members like me, just looking to write something that would someday be published and read. I left the office with hope. And I got that from someone in his 20s.

One Less Lonely Girl

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So when I saw the following I felt inclined to share it. Why? Because quite simply I was shocked to learn that the young pop idol, Justin Bieber, had something going on under his blonde, mop of hair, than just hip-hop lyrics. I think you’ll be as astonished as I was.

“Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber”
by Joe Queenan (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11)

Justin Bieber got slammed good last week when he opened his yap about abortion in Rolling Stone. Some people objected to his views, others scorched him for the way he phrased them, still others questioned the very notion of a 16-year-old boy offering his opinion on any serious moral, political or legal question.

Susan Sarandon at the premiere of Speed Racer ...

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The apoplectic response to Mr. Bieber’s comments is not fair. As of Tuesday, when he will be exactly one year short of the age when he can legally vote, drink or kill Taliban, the diminutive Canadian has every right to express himself on any issue he feels passionately about. The idea that youth somehow disqualifies him from speaking out on issues is the very thing young people–now grumpy old Bieber-Bashing Baby Boomers–fought against in the 1960s. After all, Justin Bieber is at least as smart as Susan Sarandon.

But the worst thing about all the Rolling Stone kerfuffle is that it has drawn attention away from other opinions Mr. Bieber has offered on major issues of the day. And in his clear, articulate, reasoned analysis of these issues, Mr. Bieber has shown himself to be that rarest of creatures: the precocious youth whose opinions must be heeded.

It’s Mr. Bieber, for example, who was the first person to warn that spiraling commodity prices would lead to unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Interviewed by the BBC in January, he said: “Once you see that disconnect between pork belly futures and 30-day wheat, look out! When food prices spike–and this goes all the way back to the days when Mark Antony had to import grain from Egypt–there is no way to put a cap on civil unrest back home. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, maybe even Iran. It’s the domino effect.”

Mr. Bieber’s comments did not go down well in the futures markets, where copper and tin immediately tanked. Who died and left this punk in charge? Why should anyone care what a celebrity of any age, gender or height cares about anything important? Don’t you have to be at least as old and gray as George Clooney before anyone starts taking you seriously?

Gaga on The Monster Ball Tour in Toronto

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Generally speaking, this anticelebrity bias is justifiable. Sean Penn is an idiot, Madonna a dope, Christina Aguilera a nitwit. Lady Gaga never says anything that isn’t stupid, obvious or self-serving, and Martin Sheen should have spent less time protesting in the streets and more time in the home parenting. As for Bono, who definitely seems like a sincere, well-meaning sort, exactly how much wisdom can one impute to a man who wrote the music for the Spider-Man musical?

But in Mr. Bieber’s case, the animosity and condescension are not jusfified. Mr. Bieber, after all, was the first person–not the first celebrity, but the first personto warn that Ireland’s economy would implode because of a bloated real-estate market. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was way ahead of the curve when he suggested that cash-strapped states like Illinois and California should simply threaten to default on their debt if it was the only way to get unions to come to the negotiating table.

“Trash the muni market and you’ll see unions fold like a cheap accordion,” he says, “Just look at the yield curve.”

Not everything Mr. Bieber says is astute or prescient. He was wrong when he told a Japanese TV reporter that 3-D TV would take off last Christmas, and he seriously underestimated the ability of Apple’s competitors to respond to the appeal of the iPad. His forecast of a 4.5% GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was way off base. What’s more, he has a lamentable tendency to express his views on topics where he has no expertise whatsoever; whether the Knicks gave up too much to sign Carmelo Anthony, whether learning a second language can help stave off Alzheimer’s, why the next pope should come from Bolivia. But for every target he misses, he hits at least one bull’s eye. And when he speaks out on issues that pertain to the world of music, he is wise beyond his years.

Mike Huckabee's band at the Lincoln Day Dinner...

Image by IowaPolitics.com via Flickr

“If Huckabee doesn’t stop trotting out that stupid bass guitar,” Mr. Bieber told Rolling Stone, “he has no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination. The American people are not going to elect a president who plays the same instrument as Sting and Flea. Not now. Not ever.”

i have to chuckle…but i also have to…wonder…if out of the mouths of babes?…hugmamma. 

(note: who the heck is “sting and flea?”)

people make the place, issaquah’s gilman village

A recent visit to Issaquah‘s Gilman Village reminded me why it’s a special place to spend a few hours. It’s always great to see my hair stylist, Zorianna. She gives me a chic cut that resembles a “Brazilian Blowout.” And I don’t pay the huge bucks larger salons charge. A mom like me, we commiserate on women’s issues, parenting, the state of the economy, the dreary weather. Zorianna’s manner is easy, befitting the quiet ambiance of her surroundings. Occupying space within the Pelage Spa, the salon sits off to one side. 

I can’t say enough nice things about someone who helps me look my very best, with the added bonus that I feel like I’m sitting comfortably in my own home the entire time.

Thanks, Zorianna……………….. for being my newest BFF………………………………………………………

A newcomer to Gilman Village is a haven for writers, wannabees like yours truly and professionals like Pam Binder, President of Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. After leaving Zorianna’s salon, I walked past PNWA’s storefront, slowing down to peer in the windows. A membership drive was underway. Joining meant “what?,” I thought to myself. Just as I’d done once before, I almost continued on my way. But the remnants of my New York “chutzpah” pushed me through the front door. As I’ve said to my daughter time and again, “All you can do is ask; all they can do is say ‘no.’ ” 

Armed with the knowledge that I could turn on my heel if I met with elitist resistance to my inquiries, I confidently greeted Pam. She rose from where she was seated behind her desk, walking forward, hand extended welcoming me, a warm smile brightening her face. I felt like Renee Zellweger‘s character in the film, “Jerry Maguire,” when she told him (Tom Cruise) “You had me at hello.”

Pam didn’t ask me to join PNWA; I told her I’d join. Probably surprised that she didn’t have to hit me with a hard sales pitch, she fumbled for a membership form. Throughout our conversation, we laughed easily, and spoke like old friends. I mentioned that she reminded me of Kristina, my exercise instructor and good friend. The likeness in general appearance and mannerisms, sold me on putting some roots down with other writers. It also helped that Pam assured me I was a writer because I wrote. She didn’t turn up her nose when I confessed that I blogged. I even went so far as to offer to volunteer for future events.

So if I do write a book, it will be owing in part to Pam Binder’s graciously making me feel that becoming an author is not so far-fetched. Her credentials only enhance my belief in the possibility. Pam is a board member for the Writer’s Program at the University of Washington, and an instructor in the university’s Popular Fiction extension program.

Thanks, Pam………………. for making me feel so welcome………………………………………………………

One of my favorite eateries in Gilman Village has always been The Boarding House Restaurant. Another cafe that served as a popular dining destination was Sweet Addition. It’s no longer in business, but was the talk of the town for a number of years. I worked there as a server when my daughter was still in middle school. That was close to 12 years ago. God, I feel old.

The Boarding House Restaurant never dwindled in its popularity, despite competition that came and went, some “stiff” like Sweet Addition. Offering a home style menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts, The Boarding House Restaurant is consistent in serving up great food, warmly reminiscent of mom’s home cooking. Walking through the beautiful, stained-glass, front door is like stepping back in time. Cozily furnished with dark-wood dining tables and chairs, a couple of vintage church pews, and a large fireplace for ambiance, I feel as though I’ve been invited to share a family meal with friends. Lunching alone on the combination Boarding House salad and soup du jour, voices of others dining nearby, I settle in comfortably, enjoying my solitude, a good book my only companion.

Made-from-scratch desserts are what I’d expect at the conclusion of a home-cooked meal. The Boarding House Restaurant doesn’t disappoint. Homemade whipped cream heaped high atop a generous serving of apple crisp on a chilly, winter day, and strawberry shortcake that crumbles in my mouth as a summer breeze cools my cheek, is like heaven on earth for one who savors food as I do.

And the metaphorical icing on the cake, or the cherry on top a hot fudge sundae? Jene, the charming cashier and part-owner who takes my order, flashing a beautiful smile that warms my spirit, making me feel like I’ve come home.

Thanks, Jene……………….  for feeding my soul, as well as my tummy…………………………………

Dwellings are enhanced by those who occupy their spaces. Gilman Village is very fortunate to have some real gems among its offerings. And its patrons are indeed lucky to partake of them.

for zorianna, pam and jene…huge, heart-healthy hugs…hugmamma.