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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Now I LAY me down to sleep…

Mt. Ranier in summerPostcard: “Lay down, Fido, lay down.” Why your dog doesn’t mind: he doesn’t understand bad grammar.

I was watching the evening news yesterday, one of the major networks, mind you, a prominent local affiliate station, one that frequently touts its winning the coveted Edward R. Murrow award for excellence in journalism. A promo for one segment led with the teaser “woman lays down on freeway.” Friends of The Ripple, I know there is grave news out there, ponderous news. The planet is in chaos: global warming, President Putin has his eyes on Syria; there’s ISIS; refugees are fleeing the war torn Middle East in droves; and according to recent polls, the poster boy for Rogaine is looking to the White House for a place to hang his hairpiece and leads the polls. But I’ve long maintained it’s the little stuff that sticks in your craw, wears you down, frays nerves and chips away at your serenity.

Slovenly English, the bane of the retired English teacher, one who for years did battle with high school sophomores, teaching them English as a second or foreign language…the pedagogical phoenix rises from behind the desk to address an issue of grammar. Or perhaps I’m channeling Mrs. Greaves, my revered eighth grade English teacher whose use of mnemonics still resonates six decades later. “The old hen LAID an egg,” she said, when during “language” the matriarch of my elementary school set the class to wrestling with the English verbs LIE/LAY.

Yes, it’s like fingernails across the chalkboard when I hear the forms of these two words confused…and their misuse is epidemic. Now, class, listen up (there will be a test). The verb LIE (present tense LIE/LIES; past tense LAY/LAYS; and LAIN [forms used with HAVE/HAS]) Webster’s defines as “to rest or recline in a horizontal position.” One doesn’t LAY down, he/she LIES on the ground, the bed, the table, the roof, his/her back. A golf ball coming to rest in the rough or a bad spot on the green, takes a “bad lie,” not a “bad lay.” In short, it “rests” in a challenging spot for the duffer. Newcomers to the Valley may check out the “lay of the land,” its geography, terrain…how the land “lies.”

The verb LAY (present tense LAY/LAYS; past tense LAID; and LAID [forms used with HAVE/HAS]) according to Webster LAY means “to place or put down; to put forth or deposit,” as per the erudite Alma Greaves: “The chicken LAYS an egg.” LAY…I think of the Richard Brautigan poem: “Lay the Marble Tea” in which LAY refers to the placing or depositing of the utensils and vessels used in the ritual of conducting the formal English tea. Class, now remember: LIE is used when one or something changes position, most usually from the vertical to the horizontal as in “lie down,” or “lie on some horizontal surface.” Use LAY when someone/something does something to something: “Doc, LAY your cards on the table”: Doc (someone) LAYS (does something to (cards: something). And class, don’t let the fact that present tense LAY is the same as the past tense of LIE throw you .

Yes, LIE/LAY…whatever…so what, right? But as I’d lecture my students ad nauseam: “Language is a great impression maker. People will and do judge you by what you say and how you say it. Like it or not, ‘tis a fact.” First, slovenliness in speech, then what: not returning your shopping cart to its corral, throwing that fast food wrapper out the window, wearing pajamas when you shop…on to petite larceny, proceeding to felonious conduct, next sociopathic behavior and then landing a spot on the Ten Most Wanted list?

And class, just before the bell, let me leave you with the thought for the day…and this post, from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition:

“Some commentators are ready to abandon the distinction, suggesting that lay is on the rise socially. But if it does rise to respectability, it is sure to do so slowly: many people have invested effort in keeping lay and lie distinct. Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do.”

So much for the grammar refresher. For now, I’ll let the matter lie. Or is that lay?

Thursday, September 3, 2015


I don’t want a pickle,

Just want to ride my motorcycle,

And I don’t want a tickle

‘Cause I’d rather ride on my motorcycle,

And I don’t want to die--

Just want to ride on my motorcycle.

             Billy Joel/Arlo Guthrie

noise on two wheelsAre you getting much sleep these warm summer nights? Nearly three weeks of 90 degree plus weather has us bedding down with the covers flung back and windows gaped open, hoping to coax a wayward Valley breeze into the bedroom. For years I’ve scoffed at the summer season commercials promoting AC. AC, here, in the cool, Pacific Northwest? Paying big bucks to keep three, maybe four days of solar discomfort at bay? Suck it up, I’ve always said. Get tough. Walk it off. What a bunch of whiners. This summer, however, has been a whole different animal, and I’ve found some cooling relief from a small desk fan whirring over me from the nightstand. A little cooling as the perspiration dries…. But I still lack the sleep I need and these sweltering nights aren’t the reason:

Did you know Harley Davidson has a wake-up app? Yes, among the multitude of products bearing the Harley Davidson logo, there’s the “straight pipes, set you bolt upright in bed ” feature. Harley merchandiseFor the second consecutive summer this app has roused me shortly after four a.m. three to four times weekly. Nearly four o’clock on the dot the rumble begins and then down High Rock like a rolling earthquake comes the drone of an unmuffled motorcycle. It rolls to a stop where High Rock meets SR 203 and sits there at a spluttering idle for a minute or so until the rider kills the engine. At 4:04 or thereabouts I hear another rumble approaching from the north. Almost immediately the resting cycle resumes its rumble, pulls onto the State Road and blasts past the house. Fast on its heels comes a second motorcycle, a tad bit more muffled than the first and the two bikes roar off down the road leaving me wide awake and thinking unkind thoughts. The routine has its variations: sometimes both cycles shut down for a moment (a bit early to work perhaps?) and on one occasion I heard the mosquito-like whine of a crotch rocket winding up on the Tualco Road straightaway behind the house. It rendezvoused with the other two and in concert the trio roared off into the dark like a host of stock cars.

In attempt to squelch this decibel deluge, I routinely awake about 3:20, use the triple pane muffle effect, and shut the bedroom windows.  Now, however, sleep’s impossible. I lie there anticipating that inevitable downhill rumble. Will it be just the one irritating bike? Two? Or the full complement of three this morning? Regardless, I know I must at least suffer the loudest of the three as it blasts by the house. Then I must exit my angry place before I finally drift off to sleep.

I’ve seen the movie Easy Rider, saw Peter Fonda slip off his wrist watch and fling it to the four winds. (No time constraints for Captain America.) Ah, the freedom of the open road, all that hair (Dennis Hopper on his chopper) dallying with the slipstream. Adventure over the next rise, around the bend; nowhere you need to be and all the time in the world to get wherever that is…. But can’t you, I plead, be a free spirit without making so much doggone racket? Must all that freedom come at a cost to others? Are mufflers a factory option on those gleaming machines? I suspect not…so just what is it that makes a biker so muffler averse? The wind’s the same; the freedom’s the same; the power, the speed, the thrill, all the same? So why not purrrr your way on down the road? I know some of you bikers must be annoyed by all that noise, too, or why would you try to drown out engine noise by playing your on board radios at top volume?

I’ve seen a car around town sporting the sticker “Loud pipes save lives.” As far as The Ripple is concerned, the only truth to that declaration is, yes, the cacophony of those passing machines without a doubt does attract attention. loud pipes...I happened upon an online article listing the several ways bikers can protect themselves in and around traffic. As a safety precaution, nary of mention of loud pipes, so why “deep six” your mufflers? No, that unfettered noise, in my opinion, is an obnoxious declaration of male ego: “I make a racket; therefore I am.” bikerAural kudzu, auditory graffiti…no other way to put it. I’ve shared my feelings with a friend of mine, a confirmed biker whose chosen ride is a BMW cycle. “Unless you saw me drive by, you wouldn’t even know I was in the vicinity,” he laughed, a tacit statement about the raucous machines the other camp prefers.

A bit of irony on this topic: did you know the Monroe Public Library has reserved four parking spaces for motorcycles? These spaces offer the closest parking—like handicapped spaces—to the library’s entrance. The irony? That an institution which prides itself on “shushing” noisy patrons would allow these boisterous machines to park within a stone’s throw of what once was considered the bastion of silence. Strange, too--I’ve never noticed a single two-wheeled vehicle of any sort parked in one of these slots. I’ve been meaning to ask one of the library’s staff about the motorcycle parking.muffled bikes only Perhaps a local chapter of that famous motorcycle club has its own book club? Or has there been a resurgence of interest in Robert Pirsig’s existential Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? (The “existential motorcyclist”…isn’t that an oxymoron?)

Rain has moved back into the Valley this week, a much wished for reprieve from the summer’s drought. Not only is Mother Nature’s liquor a boon for our parched lawn and garden, but for this noise-induced insomniac it means return to blissful sleep. Rain has brought quiet to the Valley. This long, hot summer the highway out in front, weekends in particular, might just as well have been the highway to and from Sturgis, South Dakota, during rally week. Rain. With it comes the soothing, gentle swish of car tires passing on wet roadways. Blessed rain—the motorcyclists’ anathema. Heaven-sent rain. Mother Nature’s way of saying : “ Hey, you in the leather pants and jacket, cool those straight pipes, give them a rest. It’s time for a little peace on earth.”pipes at rest