Now we’re all flying Con Air

Used to be that unless you had a condom full of hashish stuffed up your ass, you could move about this world without much stress or worry. Now anyone who tries to board a plane knows what it feels like to be a would-be drug smuggler.

The stuff might be in their shoes. Take them off. In your belt. Take it off. Your jacket, everything in your bag, your cell phone, tablet, laptop. Into the tray for X-ray. Put your feet on the footprints, hold your hands over your head for the full body scan. Might as well spread your cheeks.

Maybe making everyone feel like a criminal or an inmate at ADX is the price Americans pay to fly the non-so-friendly skies these days. It’s nice to be safe, especially at a time when everyone in the world has reason to strike out against lunatic-led countries such as North Korea, Iran and the United States. Who knows when some sane grandmother from Lichtenstein or Canada might strike out against this Axis of Weasels’?

Maybe the designated culprit will be disguised as a four-year-old, like our grandson who was pulled out of the boarding line for a second go-round with the Transportation Security Administration. The explosive might be disguised as raspberry jam, like the jar I tried to bring to a friend back home in Ohio. Or shoe polish, like that taken from Officer John, who had to wear scuffed shoes to a wedding. Or maybe in an inky jar of vanilla extract, like the one that beleaguered us as we tried to return from Mexico recently.

We cleared security as we left Oaxaca, Mexico, and again when we changed flights at the Mexico City airport. From Oaxaca to Seattle 12 hours later, we never went outside a secure area. None of that made any difference when we went through security for a third time at Salt Lake City’s airport. The TSA checkers found the three jars of vanilla extract we had purchased in the duty-free store during the stopover in Mexico City. The goods were put in a bag marked duty free and sealed with a plastic zip tie.

Not good enough, said the duty-bound rule enforcer. It has to have a tag on the zip tie that says, “Cross our hearts and hope to die, there’s no terrorist beyond this tie” or some such language.

The agent said he was sorry but he had to follow the rules.

Two choices: Surrender the vanilla extract or check another bag with it inside.

Door number three: Kathy, tired and grumpy, clobbers the agent with her handbag, sends him through the X-ray machine and starts hollering “Vanilla extract matters!” We spend the rest of our lives at ADX.

Time to step in before that door gets opened. I take the three bottles down to the Delta desk, rearrange my shoulder bag to fit them inside and check it through to Seattle despite being told it’s not regulation size. Then it was back through security for the fourth time that day.

IMG_3735.JPGYou could smell my shoulder bag before it arrived on the baggage carousel in Seattle. One of the three bottles had broken but fortunately had not brought down the plane in flight. It did turn my faithful notebook into the “Vanilla Diaries,” now has a nice aged appearance.

We’ve been reacting to the “Liquid Bomb Plot” since August 2006 when three bottle-heads in London were mercifully stopped from carrying through on plans to concoct a bomb from chemicals carried aboard separately. All three are resting uncomfortably, we can hope, in British prisons for the next 30 or so years.

But can we please make some room for common sense? Give the TSA people a little leeway to make decisions on their own? Allow passengers to taste their raspberry jam, vanilla extract or shoe polish (?!) to prove it’s the real stuff as mothers carrying breast milk have been asked to do?

Besides, in the overall scheme of things, taking my shoes off at the airport has not made the world a safer place for many people. Showing off the holes in my socks did not save the 58 people killed and the 500 wounded during a country music concert in Las Vegas. It didn’t save the 26 people killed in a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherlin Springs, Texas, or the nine shot to death at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Or the 49 dead at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Fla., or the 14 dead at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Or on and on and on . . .

We seem unwilling to do much to stop the terror within our borders while keeping everyone on high alert to keep out the imported variety. I’m not big on terrorism from any quarter and would cast a plague on all its sources: Akbar on your Ali-babi-ding-dong and same to our Iraqi-tacki bush wars.

Dump the fear-mongering and leave the pre-boarding jitters to those with their heads up their asses.

Wanna move into a cave for 4 years?

walk-in-cave
Inside Ape Cave.

In my last post, a thinly disguised recounting of 2016 adventures, I missed an important one: the Labor Day visit to Ape Cave on the southern slope of the Mount St. Helens volcano in Southwestern Washington state.

Four of us took the 1.5 mile hike through the lava tube while Kathy walked along the surface trail and met the cave explorers at the upper exit, a tight climb up a ladder to the outside.

bz-in-caveWe might have had the cave more to ourselves on a week day, but I still have friends who insist on having jobs. So we joined dozens of people who had driven up to the cave parking lot, maybe rented a lantern (we brought our own recommended three sources of light) and took either the short route that led to the “Meatball” or the longer route that we took.

It’s a popular spot, easily accessible to the public and an inexpensive way for a family to have an outdoor experience (parking is $5). Which is what I expect from the wonderful lands that have been set aside for the public to enjoy — and what I fear is most threatened by a Trump administration. Donald does not impress me as a man who relishes campfire smoke, sleeping on the ground and pooping in places where you should bury your scat (and your TP, too).

Given the names that are being floated for replacing Sally Jewell at the Department of Interior, it’s surprising that Ammon Bundy‘s name isn’t on the list. The best of the group might be Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, who called Hillary Clinton a “lyin’ killer,” one of the more subdued pieces of hyperbole from the GOP side in the recent presidential election.

Trump’s list of Interior Secretary candidates is filled with names of people itching to get their hands on public lands for the benefits of themselves and their ilk:

Robert E. Grady, Gryphon Investors partner;

Harold G. Hamm, Chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas company;

Forrest Lucas, president of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures automotive lubricants, additives and greases;

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor.

There is already a movement afoot to give away federal lands, and I can’t see that these Interior Department choices will do anything but further that misguided effort.

Focusing on this one issue extremely important to me may seem selfish, but I look at it as voting my interests, which is what they say Trump supporters were doing: they also insist on having jobs, don’t want to be left behind in the slow economic recovery, don’t want to be regarded as the “fly-over” and forgotten part of our nation. Having driven 6,000 miles back and forth across the United States within the past six weeks, I can understand what it must feel like to live in a hollowed-out town where even the last-thing-to go town coffee shop sits empty among similar storefronts on Main Street (this, in the Starbucks-free Zone, made for some shaky mornings).

I’m lucky that my life in the blue bubble of Seattle is often penetrated by Facebook posts by Trump supporters from my hometown back in Ohio. I know characterizations of those friends as uneducated rural rubes in Dumbfuckistan miss the mark by, well, a country mile.

And Hillary Clinton? There was much to criticize, and the Orange Man never missed a chance to do so. She also made her own mistakes (Call him deplorable? True that. His supporters? How rude). J. Edgar Comey didn’t help.

Even with all of that, I’m having a hard time getting my head around a man who made it up as he went along, spouted whatever he thought would play to the crowd in front of him and insulted so many Americans. I also believe he has no intention of fulfilling the promises he made to his supporters (build a wall, repeal Obamacare, deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from immigrating here), which I guess I should consider a good thing since I disagree with all of it.

But the whole mess tempts me to go live in a cave for the next four years, but there might not be room.

cave-group
At the exit from Ape Cave.

Does dressing like Jungle Jim = Nerd?

jungle-jim-standing“You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte . . .”

 

So you walked into the party wearing your photographer vest and cargo pants because one can never have enough big pockets for phone, notebooks, pencils, pens, bandana, keys, wallet, coins, utility knife, nail clippers and — what’s this? — a camera. It’s practical. It’s comfortable. Lots of people dress like that in the Pacific Northwest even before Maria Semple wrote “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” (Why no question mark in the title?)

bernadette

It’s gotten so it seems normal to some of us until we walk into the party and someone asks, “Did you just come off a safari?”

Well, no, but . . . you look around and see that not everyone dresses like Jungle Jim. He would be the lead character in films on the 5 o’clock movie that gave you reason to go back outside and try keeping the Hula Hoop going for 100 loops. The only thing worse would be a rerun of Peter Lorre in another Mr. Moto movie. Jungle Jim movies were a waste of film and Johnny Weissmuller,  who happily showed up more often at 5 swinging from grape vines and calling wild animals to his aid.

Jungle Jim wear is a lot more practical though than Tarzan’s loin cloth. But if you aren’t in the jungle or on safari and you dress like it, are you exhibiting nerd behavior?

These are questions that give us a break from should our president wear a pants suit and delete emails or wear a red tie and force his way into women’s pants suits.

happy
On Arkansas’ Buffalo River in 2016.

So let’s say you paddle down a river and you are dressed like Jungle Jim floating the Limpopo — life jacket, quick-dry shirt and pants (with BIG pockets and lots of them), neoprene booties and river sandals. Tent, freeze-dried food, sleeping bag, water bladders all secured behind your seat. Suddenly you are in the middle of floaters hardly dressed at all — bikini-clad women, men in bathing suits, all stretched across inner tubes, toting radios and towing floating coolers. The party seems to go on forever and you, Mr. Moto Nerd, are way overdressed.

biking
The biker on the right has bad B.O.

Kinda like bike riding. Most American bicyclists dress the same whether they are riding 100 miles or going down the street to the post office. They show up in all kinds of places — the post office for instance — looking like they’re stopping by for a drug test or blood transfusion before the next leg of the tour. And, Mr. Skinny Pants Moto, you’ve got B.O.

Of course there are times when unusual dress is appropriate. The croquet court would be one where one should never neglect wearing whites (Captain of the Yacht, you are welcome here!).

croquet
Cherry Blossom Croquet Tournament, 2016, Oxford, Georgia.

Time behind the barbecue? A ridiculous apron is a must.

bruce
Hope we never find out.

But these are special occasions where we all agree to be a little weird. If we all dress the same, then we can’t be nerds, right? Not necessarily, as Amazon workers prove daily in the streets of Seattle.

So perhaps this is a question that should be left for quieter times so that we can rejoin the ranks of fellow citizens either packing their bags for their trip to Canada Nov. 9 or stirring up a pot of tar and feathers for dressing up the losers.

It’s been a great year, with lots of fun activities with good friends, and I’ve enjoyed bringing you this silly review of those activities. America seems pretty great to me, and I know I am fortunate to be in a position where I can say that. Whatever we do on Nov. 8, I’m hoping it’s for the best for all of us, no matter how we are dressed, how we look, vote or pray. I also hope it is good for Earth, this place we call home and yet don’t pick up after ourselves. We need to do better.

jungle-jim-bust

Til then, anyone know where I can get a hat like Jungle Jim’s — with a big pocket in the back?

 

 

And now for the Rugby World Cup disappointments

The U.S. against Samoa. Are the Eagles condemned forever to be the team of the future?
The U.S. against Samoa. Are the Eagles condemned forever to be the team of the future?

There’s a flip side to the best rugby matches in Rugby World Cup 2015, and that’s the games that disappointed. Not surprisingly, all of those are the matches that involved the United States team — four losses and no bonus points in the standings, which means they never came within seven points of an opponent and they never scored four tries in a game.

The quickest way to list the disappointments would probably be to look at the margin between winner and the United States, and that would bring the South Africa game right to the top: 64-0 with the Springboks scoring 50 of those in the second half.

Next would come the Scotland game, a loss by 23 points, then Japan (10 points) and Samoa (nine points).

But did anyone expect the U.S. team to beat South Africa, even after Japan knocked them off the opening weekend? I didn’t. Maybe not lose by 64 points, but a win against the Springboks ranged beyond even my open optimism.

Samoa and Japan seemed the games that the U.S. could win, but giving up 15 points on penalties against Samoa doomed that chance of victory. More penalties and poor defense sunk the chance of a win against Japan.

So given my expectations, here’s how I would list those games from the most disappointing to the least:

Samoa

Japan

Scotland

South Africa

Stuart Barnes, writing in The London Times, listed his first to worst teams and somehow the U.S. made it up from the bottom to No. 15, but I suspect his disappointment in England’s performance and a general dislike of things French put those two teams below the U.S. along with Canada, Tonga and Samoa.

What Barnes said about U.S. rang true: “They are always touted as the coming team but seem to be in no great hurry and rarely looked like a cohesive team in their sorry sequence of defeats.”

That statement reminds me of a story I did back in the 1960s while working for the Associated Press. The story was about transportation systems and what might be coming in the cities of Ohio, where I worked. I asked a Cincinnati transportation planner about the prospect of monorail as an answer to moving people efficiently. His answer: “Monorail is the transportation of the future and always will be.”

Right now that looks like the fate of U.S. rugby: The world’s forever future team.