Geraldo Is An Idiot And Other Un-surprising News

Not Actually Asking For A Smack
So, Geraldo Rivera is in the news saying something outrageous about kids wearing jacket or shirts with attached hoods and why hoodie-wearing kids shouldn't be surprised when fired upon by frightened neighbors with itchy trigger fingers.

First of all, I honestly had no idea we were paying attention to what Geraldo Rivera was saying these days. Most of which, I assume, would be ridiculous. If not outright insane. And I was right.

But okay, Geraldo. Well-played. The fact of your existence has now been dredged from the depths of my memory, and yes, I'm am duly impressed by your stunning lack of tact and logic. This past Friday, you evidently opened your great gaping gob to comment on Trayvon Martin's death, blaming Martin's clothing choice as the cause of his own death, saying “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin‘s death as much as George Zimmerman was."

Well, you know what they say. "Guns don't kill people. People wearing hoodies force people with guns to kill them."

No, really, people don't say that.

You know why they don't say that, Geraldo? I'll tell you why. C'mere real close and I'll whisper in your ear.


People don't say "wearing a hoodie makes you as much responsible for your death as the shooter" BECAUSE IT'S A DAMN STUPID THING TO SAY.

Yeah, yeah...I know. I get it. I'm a parent. I have a teenage daughter and a preteen daughter, and I do get the horrible need to be thoughtful over clothing choices.

One summer, my adorable little girl was running around wearing a mini-skort and her favorite boots, and she was nothing more than a cute tyke in a funny, funky outfit. By fall, the same daughter was a blossoming pre-teen, and when she walked out to the school bus stop in her mini-skort and knee-high black boots, I paused. Same outfit. Same kid. But for a split second, the looking glass shifted, reflecting back all of popular culture's unkind attitudes and sexual assumptions when it comes to girls in short skirts.

And I called my daughter back inside to change.

This was not an easy or sure decision on my part. I explained to my daughter that while I think she should have the right to wear whatever she damn well pleases without fear of being judged or harassed, unfortunately-- and for this I am truly sorry, my darling girl --the world just doesn't work that way right now. And we talked about cultural norms and expectations of sartorial etiquette according to situation. And we discussed how other people take cues about who we are by what we wear -- sometimes for better, but often for worse. And we opened the ongoing, difficult discussion about how a woman sometimes may be accused of provoking reactions - a pinch on the butt at work, a series of stalking phone calls, an assault on a date - all because she chose to wear a short skirt or a blouse with a certain cut.

So yes, Geraldo. I do get it. For as much as I think the world is an unfair place, I don't want to put my kids on the front line of any battle they aren't fully prepared to fight. No matter how I explain it to my children, no matter the warnings, allowing my teen and tween daughters to wear what the rest of the world sees as provocative clothing could put my girls into situations they aren't ready to handle yet, from innocent flirtation to more dastardly deeds.

Not that adults are equipped to handle dastardly deeds against them, either.

However --

And I'm going to write this part slowly and use small words and paint a bright line so no one get lost here, okay Geraldo?

People enjoy the creative expression that clothing affords.

And, yes, people may be choosing to "say something" about themselves via what they wear. 


If a girl wears a short skirt, she is not as much to blame as the person who assaults her for wearing a short skirt. She is not to blame at all. A short skirt is not a good excuse for hurting anyone.

If a black boy wears a hooded shirt, he is not to blame for being killed. A hood on a sweat shirt is not a good enough reason for an onlooker to feel so threatened that mortal offensive action is needed.

Let's try some more, shall we?

A turban is not a good enough reason to report your neighbor to Homeland Security.

A head scarf doesn't mean a woman should be condescended to as not being able to think for herself.

A flannel shirt and work boots are not a good reason to treat someone as if they are an uneducated hick.

Can we think of more examples, Geraldo?

I bet we can think of more!

This game is called No Matter The Stereotype Or Message One Might Choose To Send Via Being Associated With A Group Who Wears Similar Fabrics, Clothing Choices Alone Are Not A Good Reason To Take Offensive Actions Against Another Human.

Even a t-shirt with You're A Righteous Ass silk-screened across the chest pushes the defined limits --I would think -- of "fighting words." But I'll get an attorney on that one right away.

Now you try! See if you got the gist of this, Geraldo.

I bet lots of people understand pretty clearly what you do need a smack upside the head to understand.

Righteous ass.

ETA: I do not know all the details of the Trayvon Martin-Zimmerman incident. However, I pretty much understand what Geraldo was implying regarding "how people look" and their blame in becoming a victim. Ass.

ETA: There is also a slim chance that Geraldo is using poetic license in blaming the hoodie itself and not Martin's choice to wear a hoodie, but I'm going on record as officially doubting it.

Open Letter Regarding Your Older Kids In Our Store

Dear People Who Bring Older-And-Really-Should-Know-Better Kids Into Our Store,

I know you think your Bigger Kids are being well-behaved because they aren't screaming or throwing a tantrum or peeing on our train table.

I know you think that because your Bigger Kids can toilet themselves and tie their own shoes and know how to say "please" and "thank you" when they are right in front of you, that they can manage themselves on a longer leash while you have coffee and a nice long chat --

or even drop them off while you run errands elsewhere--

and that life is easy street because you think your parenting detail is mostly done, I mean, they'll be out of the house in three to five years and isn't it easier now to just grant them full autonomy so you can finally have some hard earned Me Time?

Or not hard earned Me Time. Who knows?

You may then be shocked to find out (I hope you're shocked to find out) that your teen angels have been up to shenanigans in our store.

Which, by the way, is not a babysitting service for larger children who look more like Justin Bieber than idolize him.

We've seen your kids

  • use a book they did not purchase to kick around, playing "soccer" in the children's section

  • lob Legos at each other from across the store with the speed of a 90 mph fast ball

  • yank the electronic eReaders off their chargers and leave them dangling by the cords

  • discuss how fun it might be to "try shoplifting"

  • forget all basic civility when an employee attempts to speak with them about anything, but mostly, their behavior

Is this horrible stuff?

Well, no. Not when compared with the problems of, say, cholera and typhoid and unclean drinking water.

But, well...yes.

Kids are kids and teens are teens, but older kids and teens both are fairly "under-cooked" individuals who still need a bit of guidance and direction and even a tug on the shirt collar now and then by their Adults In Charge.

And believe me, before you say it, there are plenty of perfectly lovely teens - boys even - who walk through our doors and manage not to destroy our property or become a loud, obnoxious nuisance, and who can look an adult in the eye and speak in full, polite sentences all while up to 100 yards at a time away from their Adults In Charge.

It is possible.

Your kids are just under-cooked.

It's okay.

You are the chef. Their teachers are the chefs. Their coaches and athletic and dance instructors are the chefs.

Employees whose job it is to provide customer service to paying customers are not your kids' chef.

All we're asking is to not walk away with the oven burning and your kid lighting up like a flambe from hell.


Your Mostly-Understanding-But-Today-Not-So-Much Retail Employee



My advice to parents who are uncertain how their kids are behaving out of sight:

1) Have kids check in with you more often when you're both in the store together.

2) Watch them when they think you aren't watching - not "spying" - just "parenting from a distance". Erem.

3) Before dropping your kid off at a store, introduce them to one of the employees - or even the manager - by name, with your name. Putting a name to their face and yours will work to keep them on their best behavior that we all know they are capable of.

4) If your kids aren't behaving with you right there, chances are they won't behave better when you aren't there. No matter how much you just need some space from them and no matter how much they tell you, "I'm a great person, I just behave badly around you because you bug the crap out of me." That's not good enough.

5) Only send in your kids on their own if they are actually shopping. "Hanging out" in retail stores usually begs trouble. Bookstores are a bit different because people do study and read and hang out. Still, until they get the hang of retail store etiquette, keep trips focused.

Appalachian Trail in Cumberland County, PA

From rough parking lot off Sherwood Drive near Wertzville Road to Bernheisel Bridge (and a bit beyond.) 

White trail blaze on the Appalachian Trail.

Who put these boards here?

Someone who takes care of the trail, takes care of the hikers.

Trails need people to take care of them?

Of course they do. You are one of those people.

You need to walk on the trail.

Don't make too much noise if you want to see animals.

Unless you don't want to see bears. 

Then you need to sound like more kids than you are.

It's a little bit swampy.

That's almost-spring for you.

Onion grass.

Fun to eat.

If you want people to smell your words.

This trail has more than just trail.

This trail has bridges.

This trail is an adventure.

The Conodoguinet Creek.

If you can say it, you can spell it. 

Although, it's more fun to go in it.

Binoculars are important on the trail.

I can see Maine and Georgia from here.

A red barn. 

A blue house. 

A purple mountain. 

A golden field.

Sometimes, even William Carlos Williams says too much.


Stone gutters.

With love.

You're welcome.

A boardwalk over swampy ground.

No excuses.

Hello, river.

Enjoy your ramble.

Come June, I'm putting in some kayaks.

From outer space.

Or Pennsylvania.

Either or.

This counts as two bridges.

Because it's two different kinds of bridges.

Because I say so.

If these stone are here all on their own,
then I believe in fairy tales.

I believe in fairy tales anyway.

I walked two-hundred million kajillion miles today

and I get peanut butter crackers.

Vintage Josette: Retail Book Store Pass-Fail

(The following examples all taken from the real life adventures of Yours Truly, Bookseller Extraordinaire.)


Uhm, I’m looking for a book, but I don’t know the author. I don’t know the title either. I think it’s fiction, but come to think of it, it might be non-fiction. I do know that it has a brownish cover. Or maybe it’s blue.”


“Do you have a copy machine? I don’t want to buy this whole book. I just need a copy of the first chapter and a few graphs.”


“Could you tell me what books you have in the store about overcoming procrastination? I’m thinking about coming in next week to buy one.”


“Do you have any books on the topic of pig farming between the years 1790 and 1791 in France and how the ambient stress from living during the Revolution affected the reproductive cycles of swine? Oh, and I need it today to finish a term paper for college.”


“Does your manager only hire extremely good-looking people at this store, or can anyone get a job here?”



“I find the exposed breasts on this book cover (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) to be offensive! You should take this off the display!”


“Uh, there’s a table full of Kama Sutra books right near the only open cash register and right at my seven year old’s eye level. I‘d really rather start with the basics for our first birds and bees talk; not start by fielding questions about The Pair of Tongs position.”


“Your store carries way more books on left wing politics than right wing politics! What are you, a bunch of fascists?!”


“Your store carries way more books on right wing politics than left wing politics! What are you, a bunch of fascists?!”


“Why does your manager only hire exceptionally good-looking people? My self-esteem dips every time I shop here.”



Inserting your church’s evangelical Bible tract pamphlets between the pages of the sex/addiction/death-and-dying books.


Inserting your Army recruiting cards between the pages of every GED study guide.


Taking porn magazines to the gardening section to read, and then leaving copies of Long Schlongs next to the books on hostas and shade gardening.


Taking porn magazines to the children's section to read, and then leaving copies of Extreme Thong Wedgies next to the Backyardigans sticker books.


Falling asleep on the comfy chairs for five hours, and then becoming irate when an employee gently nudges you to see whether or not you are dead.


Sitting in the Psychology section and reading through every book on the topic of overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder….


And then not putting the books back on the shelf.


Cash Register Etiquette

Talking on your cell phone the entire time you are making a transaction, but none of your phone conversation includes the words “…now apply a tourniquet right above the severed joint!”


After completing your transaction, moving away from the register to reconfigure the entire contents of your purse/backpack/valise.


Quipping “I guess it’s free!” if your book doesn’t immediately scan at the register.


People below the age of twelve making a purchase entirely with pennies.



Your three year old toddler accidentally peeing in the kids department.


Your twenty-three year old drunk boyfriend accidentally peeing all over the mens room floor.


Stalking the teenage baristas because you’re a lonely old bastard who can’t afford cable television.


Getting loud and angry with a minimum-wage retail bookseller because
a) corporate management made the decision not to carry your best friend’s first novel, or
b) you don’t like the color scheme inside the store, or
c) customers are reading the books before buying them and you think that this is unjust, or
d) the book you want costs more than you think it should, or
e) the bookseller is so abundantly good-looking,


Telling a bookseller that you love her after she finds the last copy of Julius Caesar Spark Notes the night before your final exam.


Telling the bookseller that she is also preternaturally good-looking.


National Gallery Of Art: Meh, Sharks, And Amy Pond.

A little while ago, the children and I headed south to spend a winter break weekend in Washington, DC. Middle child (Seconda), was meeting her Girl Scout troop at the Newseum  -- a truly incredible museum, I can't recommend it enough -- but we also trekked around the American Museum of Natural History, a great temple of a building filled with enormous dinosaurs and taxidermy animals and mummies and precious gems and a gigantic squid that seriously made everyone who saw it rethink ever stepping foot in the water again. Even the bathtub.

After the museum, the kids ran up and down the Mall, ran up and down monument steps, just ran, ran, ran, ran. That's the great thing about Washington, DC. After spending a morning in a museum behaving yourself (mostly), there's plenty of room in the middle of our Nation's Capital for all-out sprinting and completely ridiculous behavior (insert joke about ridiculous kids barely being noticed in a town full of ridiculous politicians.) A museum in the morning, cartwheels in front of the White House, and a museum in the afternoon -- maybe this time the Air and Space Museum, maybe the Museum of American History, maybe a wander through one of the many sculpture parks trying to figure out just what the artist was up to in crafting a large, thin rabbit banging a drum.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. 

However, at one point during our morning, Seconda trooped off with her troop for a Girl Scout Only activity, and eldest daughter (Prima) and 5yo son (Terzo) and I searched out the National Archives so that Prima could net 25 extra credit points for Social Studies class.

The National Archives, I can tell you, is filled with old and curious documents (the Magna Carta, for one - remember learning about that once?), and a well-delivered interactive presentation on the importance of preserving our country's important bits of paper and sound and film. Now, mind you, Prima and I could have spent the day at the National Archives reading about old bits of paper with rapt attention. We are word nerds, and handsome ones at that. But a museum geared toward a strong grasp of deciphering letters strung together begins to lose its glamour after about ten minutes when you are five years old and think reading English is a tricky business. Good museum behavior was quickly descending into "on the Mall" behavior, and so we had to leave the lovely bits of paper behind for more cartwheels outdoors.

And yet the Girl Scouts weren't done doing their badge work or good deeds or whatever it was they were about. Not wanting to stray too far, but still wanting to get out of the February winds, we loped hopefully up the massive stairs of the National Gallery of Art. 

Immediately upon opening the massive doors, a low sigh escaped from the building, the sound one might expect upon opening a 4,000 year old tomb. One step inside and the somber atmosphere was palpable. Even the guards looked a bit comatose and barely searched for pointy bombs in my purse. The dark columns and grandiose flower arrangements were reminiscent of photos I'd seen of dictators lying in state. This did not bode well.

"You wanna go in here?" I offered, hoping the answer would be no.

They did. Oddly. We'd been to art museums before - the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Met in NYC, MoMa. But those museums all seemed to have a friendly bustling about them, encouraging, "C'mon! Bring the kids in! There's enough quirky here for everyone. We even have an entire Japanese tea house installation. And a helicopter!" But I just wasn't getting that good vibe this time.

We found the coat check and information desk. Up until this point, I was trying to remain hopeful. After all, kids can be enthralled by just those events and occasions you most suspect will bore them to tears, right? They might be drawn into the exotic landscapes. Or animatedly discuss the "weird clothes" people used to wear back then. I was probably worrying about nothing.

And then I picked up the museum map.

You understand my concern.

Now, the National Gallery could have chosen a different painting to grace their map as an appetizer for the artistic wonders in store.

This is a shark attacking a naked person and a guy with a big pointy stick. What's not to love?
But they didn't.

Which leads me conclude that the intention of the National Gallery of Art was, in fact, the following:

Or perhaps a bit more poignantly....

Although, pity poor Ginevra de Benci. She might actually enjoy a few kids cartwheeling through her gallery.

 An attempt to rally the teen demographic couldn't hurt.

Or perhaps a gentle prompt to choose your own adventure.

However, it did occur to me that the National Gallery of Art may have been discouraging on purpose. As if giving a covert signal to tourists-sans-young-kids who wanted one museum all to themselves for a few hours, no babies crying, no one changing diapers on the hallway floors, no kids running around indiscriminately smacking buttons or whining for the snack bar. A little peace and quiet, a grown-up atmosphere, and cool, cool air conditioning during the humid summers. 


We wandered around for twenty minutes or so. The shark painting was, indeed, a great hoot. And the teen and the Kindergartner did offer an endless ramble of color commentary on all sorts of fantastic costumes and wonderment that so many People Back Then chose to go abut their business in the altogether, boobs and butts on full display for angels and clerics and wandering milk men. 

And just when big feet started dragging and little feet started tap-dancing to the tune of "enough is enough is enough", the 5yo gasped, then pointed, then made a beeline through a solemn gallery toward a painting I couldn't quite make out from the small crowd of people surrounding it. 

It was this:


And it was.

Josette Plank Choking Pete Townshend With A Scarf

Just needed somewhere to park this. For Jenny.

There's a story.

I promise.

Right now all you need to know is that I'm not someone famous holding an inanimate object, BUT!

I am holding an inanimate object and strangling  a famous person.

So, close enough. I'm only sorry it couldn't be Nathan Fillion.


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