Category Archives: favorite

ZACHRÁNIT BINGO

I’ve known about this for a long time but I was sitting on it until I had the book in my hands. Then I was going to sit on it until I could surprise my Mom with her copy, but she’s already seen it on Facebook.

Last year I was invited to be in an anthology of science fiction by women authors to be published in the Czech Republic.

This is my first time being translated and look at the other people in the TOC:

Kelly Barnhill. Charlie Jane Anders (who has a book out now called All The Birds in the Sky that sounds fantastic and is on my list). Pat Murphy. And Ursula LeGuin (!).

The finished book is beautiful. It’s hard to tell from the picture but it’s just a little bit bigger than my hand. I so pleased with how it turned out.

There is more information here (in Czech).

Oh, and the story is The Battle of Little Big Science. It’s in the collection Red Tape: Stories from Indian Country which can be yours for .99¢.

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Publications Update


My most recent publication “The Last Willow Stick on the River” is finally out and available if you know where to look. You can order it directly from Yellow Medicine Review. It’s a journal of indigenous poetry and prose. The guest editor is Steve Pacheco.

I’ve read it cover to cover and there is some terrific stuff in here. In particular, I loved the poems by Tiffany Midge and Paul Rowly and the prose pieces by Carter Meland.


Also, Prime Books has come out with an edition of Future Lovecraft which includes my story “Lottie versus the Moon Hopper.” The anthology was originally published (and still available) by Innsmouth Free Press. The Powell’s link has the wrong cover. The book looks like this. According to the Powell’s page the book is in the Burnside store. I need to go over and look at it. This is a personal milestone that I can find a story I wrote in a book at Powell’s bookstore. Silly, maybe, but still cool to me.


Finally, updates to my ebook collection Red Tape Stories from Indian Country.

It’s still available for Kindle at Amazon and every other format at Smashwords.

But wait, there’s more. You can get it at
the itunes store (I’m in the itunes store! Another silly personal milestone) here it is at the nook store, Kobo and the Sony ebook store. Maybe even other places I don’t know about.

If you have any trouble tracking it down, drop me at note at pam(at)pamrentz.com and I will help you out.

And thanks to everyone who supports my writing. It’s a slog sometimes so it’s always nice to hear that someone checked out my work. I appreciate it.

I’ve been on semi-hiatus for the summer but I am just now kicking back into gear. Hopefully I’ll have something new out there soon.


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Carefree Mind Of Her Own

Elvis Costello

Photo courtesy of wrestlingentropy. This isn’t even from the tour we saw. There were a bazillion people taking photos last night and nothing CC on flickr. Boo.

That Elvis Costello show was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. And this from a person who is a great Elvis admirer but not a hardcore fan.

All day I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about the Elvis show and all I can think of is: It was awesome.

Here’s the review from the local paper. And even though the website is a near-abomination, it’s worth a click to see Elvis in his plaid suit. Not many men can carry off that look and he looked amazing.

Regular readers are going to laugh when I say that one of the things that made the show so great was the audience.

You know how I’m always complaining about the people by us who talk during the whole show? Those people did not come last night and if they did, they did not talk. This was one of the most reverent crowds I’ve ever been in.

The show involves this giant wheel-of-fortune with and people from the audience some up and spin to pick what he will play. The people would spin the wheel and then they hung out onstage. And the people were all totally into it without being obnoxious. They danced in the go-go booth or danced with Elvis. They took photos. It was one girl’s birthday and Elvis led the audience singing “Happy Birthday” and she had the exact look on her face that you would have if Elvis Freaking Costello led a packed concert hall in “Happy Birthday” in your honor.

He sang every great song. At the end he did a bit where he stepped away from the microphone and sang.

No one made a peep.

It was an amazing show from start to finish and once again I had to thank my sweetheart for dragging me to something I thought I didn’t want to do.

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Motel Doom

Have you ever been in a situation that felt wrong, but because the person you are with doesn’t question it, you don’t question it either? Then later you end up having this conversation that goes something like, “Omigod, I thought the crabcakes tasted funny, too, but you were eating them so I figured it was just me.”

This story is like that although it doesn’t involved crabcakes.

Bob and I went to see Leonard Cohen on Thursday night in Seattle. A couple months ago Bob called me at work and said, “You know I never do anything like this, but this is the last musical icon on my list that I must see.” We took time off of work and made the trek.

It was spectacular. I’m sort-of glad I went in not knowing what I was getting into. It was like three hours of church, but I mean church in the sense of people gathering together to have their spirits refreshed. This is yet another wonderful experience my husband has brought to me that I never would have discovered on my own. Poor Bob. The concert he got to discover because of his wife was Ratt.

I will link to Bob’s review as soon as it’s up. (Leonard, not Ratt.)

We used the trip as an excuse to visit friends and relatives that we haven’t seen in long time. For the first night we stayed in a nice chain hotel in the Capitol Hill area. (I don’t know Seattle very well so geographic things are approximate.) This is the kind of hotel that asks you to join their frequent user plan and has a giant wall sized display in the elevator telling you about all their local hotels.

When we checked out we asked if we could make a reservation for one of their other hotels that was more convenient to our plans. The guy said their system didn’t work that way but he could write down the phone number for us. The events that follow are clearly this man’s fault.

Actual postcard from lobby with slight photoshopping by me.

As we headed out to one of our visits, we decided screw that hotel chain, we’d just stay at some generic motel on Aurora. As we drove I wrote down a couple of places that looked okay and we saw that there were tons and didn’t worry about it.

Our visit ended in the late afternoon so we got caught up in clusterfukage traffic and we puttered down Aurora and finally saw one of the places that was strategically located and seemed to look okay when we drove by the first time.

Here’s where the story is going to strain reader credibility, but you know, when you’re in the middle of the story things are not always obvious. It’s only later when you start adding it all up that you see how you were steered wrong and should have done it differently.

It looked sort-of shabby but we went in and it was cheap and we were tired and just wanted to sit quietly for a bit and the traffic was stacked up out front and I saw this lovely postcard and I thought how bad can it be? So when Bob said what do you think? I said, I guess it will be fine.

But as we’re standing there I’m reading these signs posted everywhere about no guests and no loitering and no refunds (has there ever been a bigger red flag anywhere in the history of red flags?) my heart is telling me RUN! but my head is telling me to get over it, it was just one night and that seemed okay until we saw the inside of the room which is my top two grimmest hotel rooms of all time. Please let that not be “so far.” Stained carpet, patched walls, tiny bed and smelled like smoker heaven.

“I’m certain someone has been murdered in this room,” I said. But we laughed and convinced ourselves it wasn’t so bad. We put our stuff down and went to visit our friends.

When we returned, the room was worse than we remembered. No hangers for our coats. The lamp didn’t work. One towel. Bob went to get a new lightbulb and when he returned, I had my bags in my hands, “Let’s just cut our losses and go to Travel Lodge.”

He talked me out of it but he was upset that I was upset and he sat down in a Thinker pose if The Thinker was wearing a baggy sweater and looking completely demoralized.

“I can’t figure out how this happened,” he said.

I crawled under a bedspread that I’m certain was a table cloth for a smoking convention and tried to fall asleep and my digestive system went ornery. We ate a big lunch and dinner and both with rich foods and it was just enough for that gross indigestion-y nausea that makes it impossible to relax when you’re trying to sleep, even in a nice hotel room. I finally drifted off for an hour or so and when I woke up Bob was up reading. I felt even worse and finally confessed to Bob and he went and found a cup in the lobby (free coffee station) because we didn’t have one in the room and I drank some alka seltzer. Bob said, “Do you want to leave?”

And I said, “Of course not, we have plans tomorrow. Our friends will hate us and never invite us to anything ever again. Who drives for three hours in the middle of the night? We can live through one night in a shitbag hotel.” (The conversation actually went on a lot longer and had lots of colorful parts to it.)

I still couldn’t settle and I tried to read my book. I noticed a giant gap in the curtains and because it was one of the least sexy moment you can imagine, I turned to Bob and said, “You wanna have wild sex?” and he, who has never answered that question this way, even when offered in jest, said, “NO! I want to go home.”

Then the room phone rang.

And there was no one there.

We got up and started packing. It rang again and I unplugged it from the wall. By 2:30am we were zooming through downtown Seattle and we were home and in bed by 5:30am.

We just washed our hair with gasoline and now I’m preparing to burn our clothes. What a weekend!

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Wordstock III

Today Bob and I went to Wordstock III a giant book fair /literary event in Portland. We didn’t intend to spend all day there but left the house around 9:30a and didn’t get home until 7p. It was fabulous.

We saw authors talking about food and some local restaurant biz dirt. We listened to Wesley Stace read from his book. We saw Lauren Weedman who Bob has a major crush on since the Daily Show days. We saw Harry Shearer read and as soon as he started I looked at Bob and said, “Principal Skinner?” and we giggled for the next 10 minutes.

During the Q&A a really cute kid, wearing a fez, got up and said, “I know you must get this question a billion times a day, but could you do the voices from the Simpsons?” and you could hear a quick rush through the audience because we all were thinking the same thing. “Smithers, let out the hounds,” he said in his Mr. Burns voice. It was awesome.

The last talk we saw was Lisa Lednicer and Dan Huntly who wrote a book called Extreme Barbecue. What actually happened was we sat down and put our stuff down in the reading area because we were trying to regroup before heading home. Bob headed for the bathroom when they started. On his way out he saw the library free book table and lingered so that by the time he got back to where our stuff was, they had started their talk and he said, “This sounds interesting.” We ended up listening to the whole thing and buying a book and visiting with them after their talk. An excerpt:

Twenty whole chickens bathed in garlic on a rig that resembles a cast-iron satellite dish . . . this is Extreme Barbecue, a tribute to the derring-do behind the craziest grilling contraptions in the country.

The main reason we were at the Festival was the writing contest which I entered in July.

While it would be tempting to write a long story about my writing career (ahem) I will post some links in case anyone is interested. I wrote a novel about 80’s hairbands and had a miserable time trying to sell it..

I took some screen writing classes and had a miserable time trying to market those.

In July of 05 I quit writing altogether.

If you’ve ever been drawn to something like writing, which for me started around the 2nd grade, you’ll know that it was sort of like trying to cut off my arm. It didn’t take long before I wanted to get back into it.

I started writing stories again and decided to enter the contest as a way of having a goal and a deadline. I actually thought to myself, ‘If I get even the tiniest bit of recognition for this, it’s a sign to keep at it.’ Because after 100 years, writing to zero recognition gets old and you start to wonder about all this time you spend locked up by yourself hitting your head against the monitor and whether your personal satisfaction (ahem) is worth it.

I found out last month that I made the top 10 which was already huge. I bounced around the house for days. The top ten were published into a book sold at the festival and online. There were additional prizes for the top three which were going to be announced at the Festival.

This morning when we got to the event I saw the book on a display table and I told Bob to go look at it. Incredulous, he said, “You’re making me look?” “Yes,” I said, but I followed behind and looked over his shoulder.

2nd place. whoo-hoo!

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Paris in the 70’s

I’ve been sitting on this story for awhile because I didn’t have the photo for accompaniment.

I’m sure you’ll be surprised when I reveal, that this photo has been Photoshopped. I wanted a photo that looked like it was taken in France and had me in this swell outfit. Remember Chemin de Fer pants? I had one of every kind.* These were corduroy sailor pants. Aren’t they fabulous? Also, I had to add something for my dear sister to be looking at.

So here’s the story. I don’t know how old I was here, maybe 14? My family went on a trip to Europe and for the first week we did a tour group together and the second week we hung out in Germany with Dad’s family and the third week Mom, Erin and I did another tour group on our own. I’m sure I have a journal of that trip somewhere but I have no idea where it is right this second.

We went to France the first week which included a day or two in Paris. One day, during our midday break we were at a cafe somewhere and I had to use the bathroom. The bathroom was a unisex and you put a coin in and then went in shut the door and you were in your own tiny bathroom.

I put my money in but I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the light. As I tried to figure this out a French guy came along who also wanted to use the john. He said a bunch of French stuff, probably something like, “Hurry up moron, people are waiting.” And when I shook my head and was confused he said, “American?”

I nodded and he quickly took charge of the situation. He also looked around for the light and said, “Complications” only sing-songy with a heavy French accent. That parts makes the story but I can’t spend the rest of the day figuring out how to put a 3 second audio clip on my blog. Use your imagination.

Then he came into the bathroom with me, shut the door, locked it and the light came on. There was a half second there when I thought, “This may not be a good idea.” But right away he unlocked the door and went out and I was all set.

Except now when I did it, the light wouldn’t work because the coin made the light go on and we used up the coin on the test run.

“Complications,” Mr. French Guy said and he dug around and found me another coin.

So I’m in there, doing my thing and I look down and I can see his eyeball looking in the crack under the door.

And being the totally naive moron that I was, I said: “What are you doing? Are you trying to look at me?” Because honestly, who gets on the floor of a public restroom and peeks through a tiny crack to try to watch someone pee?

Apparently creepy French guy. He was gone when I left and that is the Paris bathroom story.

*Upon re-reading this, I realize this might be confusing. I didn’t have every possible color and style of pants but I had the ones that buttoned instead of a zipper — I think we called them tuxedo pants, and I had some that laced instead of zippered. That’s all I can remember so really, saying I had every kind was pretty lame statement.

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Life is a Mix Tape, But Not Anymore

I got my first grown-up record player when I was 13. My first two albums were: Frampton Comes Alive and Wings Over America.

I loved music when I was in my teens and twenties. Insanely loved. Every time I moved the last thing I did at the old place was dismantle the stereo and the first thing I did at the new place was set the stereo up. I needed my music.

I loved to buy 45’s. I loved records. I loved discovering new bands. I loved concerts. I loved to read and write about bands. I read all kinds of magazines like Creem, Spin and occasionally bought a NME plus never missed a free issue of any weekly, BAM and so on.

I spent hours making mix tapes. I also taped my albums for my car and spent intense amounts of time creating the labels, custom decorating, giving them special names. I had a whole math system so there wouldn’t be a giant empty gap at the end of the tape. In Rob’s book, they just threw stuff at the end of a tape to have music at the end and I sometimes did that but it completely violated my sense of logic and order and plus when listening to the tape I’d suffer an internal cringe when I knew the song was going to cut off abruptly.

Most of these tapes are long gone. I made a dance tape freshman year in the dorms that I’m pretty sure is in the basement and I should dig it out because if it still works, I bet it would be hilarious. The only bands I remember for sure are on it are Talk Talk and Flock of Seagulls. One drawback of cassettes is my last boombox died so the only cassette player I have is in the car.

My best mix tapes were the series I made in the late 80’s with hairbands. These were the Cathouse tapes in honor of my favorite club and featured songs from bands like Guns N’Roses,, Faster Pussycat and Warrant. I gave them names like “Cathouse Strikes Back” “The Return of Cathouse” and “Cathouse Steak and Pita Hut.” I think the original Cathouse tape is in the basement but all the others are gone. Heidi says she still has some of them.

I have no recollection of making or receiving mix tapes as any part of mating rituals which is a central theme of Rob’s book. The person I remember exchanging tapes with the most is my sister. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember a single friend who was as fanatical about music as I am. Of course, I made up for that later with my choice in spouse and he is the king of all things music in this lifetime and the next 10.

The reason for this long introduction is that I am the exact opposite now. How can that even be possible?

I rarely listen to music except when I drive. And even then it’s mostly just the radio and I switch around stations until I find a song that I like. I get maybe 2 new cds a year and listen to them once or twice and usually it’s a project. As in, “Oh, I should take that new CD out of the case and give it a listen.” Darren sent me a CD a week or two ago and I said, “Great, I can’t wait to listen to it.” Then I set it next to my computer and totally forgot about it until he asked me what I thought.

If, in my 20’s I had digital music and the Internet, it would have completely changed my life. Burning CDs and making playlists – that would have been awesome. Now it seems like a lot of trouble. My only playlists are the albums except for one called “current faves” that I’ve never updated. I don’t like “shuffle” because I don’t like hearing a random track from “Attack of the Clones” (yes, I’m a total nerd and have all 6 Star Wars soundtracks on my iPod) and then Replacements and then some cheezy Top 40-ish dance track from a compilation and then some mellow mind-numbing music that I keep on there if I get anxious on a plane. If I’m going to listen to a mixed bag, there has to be thin thread of logic why the songs are together.

I don’t take the time to find new bands although I’m always happy to discover a new song I like. But I hardly ever buy stuff because I figure I’ll never listen to it. I love the idea of the Apple Store and buying singles songs I like, but refuse to buy anything with DRM. The last music I heard that really rocked my world was Camper Van Beethoven an album that I’ve had in my collection for 20 years.

I know it’s not age because I know tons of people my age who are music fanatics. I still like the idea of music. I love Pandora but I don’t think I’ve logged on in a month.

When I was in college I had a woman friend who told me as I got older I’d enjoy the quiet more and get used to the sound of my own thoughts. I think she was right.

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The Antman

1971 Postmark
This afternoon the exterminator came. When I was a kid there was an exterminator company that had a guy holding a giant hammer he was going to use to smash the bug. I always wished we could have that at our house.

The guy that came to our house didn’t have a giant hammer but he was cool and had a good sense of humor and obviously knew what he was doing and took the time to explain it to me which I really appreciated. Who doesn’t like learning about bugs?

The first thing he did was ask me about the carpenter ants. I said they were huge and black and some had wings and that they apparently liked to eat each other because I saw one crawling around waving half the body of another. He said, yes, if you’re having ants over for dinner, damp wood and ants are their favorite. Then he asked where they were.

1971 Pam Letter
I was a tad embarrassed and I told my sister this story earlier and made her promise not to tell our father but now I’m going to tell you all here. About one hour before we were scheduled to leave for the airport for New York, I opened the shade in my room because I was looking for stuff and couldn’t see very well and natural light seemed like a great solution.

Instead what I saw were giant winged ants boiling out of a crack in the windowsill. Bob and I looked at it together and being the proactive and competent homeowners that we are, we killed the ants that we could reach (and some with wings flew away!) and slapped a big old piece of tape over the crack and then went on vacation and never gave it another thought.

About a week after our return I thought maybe I should revisit this because it would sure be embarrassing if our house fell down because we were too lame to deal with it, but the tape was working great and as long as I kept the blind closed I didn’t even think about the ants slowly devouring our home. But I finally called and made the appointment and now I had to show the guy that I was holding the ants at bay with tape.

He said that this kind of problem solving was not uncommon. He told me all about ants and how they like railroad ties (part of the landscaping) and how they like to hang out in the nice warm walls when its cold and pointed out a bush I could cut back so they couldn’t hop on and eat some aphids and then jump into my room. I couldn’t help think how popular he must be on his kids’ show and tell day, standing in front of the room talking about bugs.

I asked him if I had to leave the house while he filled it with poison and if there was any danger of me growing a second head and he pointed to his 2nd-head-free shoulder and said not to worry about it.

Another problem, apparently solved.

My sister found this letter in my Grandma’s stuff and sent it to me. You can click on it for a larger view.

I wrote this when I was 7 years old. Even then I knew about the concrete detail (four dollars, ballerina on the cake, yellow room-although I use the passive voice and I knew my Dad was painting it.). I also love that I signed it “Pamela” because back then I was Pammy. I must have thought I was being very grown-up.

But what really kills me about this letter is that my Grandma saved it all this time.

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Baby’s On Fire

When I was in high school, one of my favorite albums was Sammy Hagar, Standing Hampton. I made a tape for my car and listened to it at least a 10 times a day when I wasn’t listening to Journey or Styx (please click on the Styx link and look at the band photo. Ooooh. I can’t stop laughing.) or Triumph or some other awesome guitar rock.

I saw Sammy live my senior year, at the Fabulous Forum with rockin’ opening band Night Ranger. Was there ever a better time to be a teenager than the early 80’s?

With all the recent Van Halen whoo-ha in the news I heard Sammy Hagar on the radio and I tried to remember the last time I heard Standing Hampton. It’s probably been 20 years and I’ve been yearning to hear it again. But I don’t want to buy it. I already did. I just don’t know where it is although I’m sure it got the boot during a move. Lugging records around was always such a pain. I want to see if it sounds good now even though I couldn’t have even told you the name of one song on that album. Until last night.

Last night as I shuffled out of my yoga class there was a old but shiny Honda Accord with the windows rolled down cranking “Baby’s on Fire” in the parking lot. Right in front of the yoga studio. Do you love it? I need to get my hands on that album.

Meanwhile, that song brought back another long and deeply repressed memory of going skiing with my lame high school boyfriend (“bf”) and his family. Sometimes memories of my own person lameness startle me. It’s making me shudder to even type this story. You know when you’re out doing something and there’s a group of people who are so stupid and clueless that even years later you’re still talking about it? That was us on this ski trip. I’m probably going to have to turn out the light and sit back with a washcloth on my forehead when I’m finished with this.

I’d never been skiing and bf had been once. His parents got a cabin in Big Bear and I was invited to join them for a ski-tacular weekend. We rented our gear in the Valley somewhere and I got whatever they recommend for beginners. I didn’t know what I was doing.

Since the bf had already been skiing once, he advised that I didn’t need to take a class. I could just learn from him. I had no ski clothes, so I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. No hat. No gloves. I put on my skis in the parking lot and scraped along until someone noticed the stupidest and most clueless person alive and advised that perhaps that wasn’t the greatest idea and I should take the skis off immediately, aim the pointed ends to my chest, then fall on them.

I never did catch on to the idea of getting off the lift so I went straight from the chair to a full frontal face plant. Every single time. I spent the entire day falling down. My jeans were soaked. I was cold. Why do people like this? I wondered. I exaggerate little when I say I hated every single second of it. I did manage a very basic snow plow down the bunny hill and then to stop: face plant. I never did figure out where the enjoyment was.

Back at the cabin, the bf decided to light the fireplace. WHOOSH went the gas. I can’t get this lit. Can you get this lit? How the hell do I get this lit? He sticks his head into the fireplace with a lit match and WHOOSH. The fireplace is lit. So is he. He was not hurt but his eyelashes, eyebrows and top of his head were singed to a stinky crisp. Thus: Baby’s on Fire.

The second day no one skied and his mom and dad were mad because we wasted such a great opportunity for so much fun. Then we sat in traffic getting out of there. Why do people do this again? For our final act of stupidness we didn’t have a ski rack so, I kid you not, we had the windows opened a crack and the skis stuck through perpendicular to the car and sticking out the windows on either side. At one point a police officer followed us and yelled at us over his PA. It wasn’t worth stopping us. He probably hoped natural selection would finish us off.

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The Plogical Song

We have something in our house that my husband calls plogic. It means Pam’s logic. Or put another way, doing things my way. When my husband is feeling less than thrilled with the plogic he grumbles, “It’s Pam’s world, we just live in it.”

It’s not just that I’m bossy or control freaky. I am pathologically logical (are you allowed to put those two words together?) and am often frustrated/mystified/agog that the world does not share my vision of the best way of doing things.

I’m not this way about everything. For example, I have no input on things having to do with sports. But generally I think the best way to do things is the most efficient — I don’t like to waste my or anyone else’s time, money, or energy — so really exercising plogic is for the good of mankind.

The other day I was at the burrito cart (Fuego at 2nd and Yamhill for you locals, cheap burrito-y goodness) and an Asian woman came up and started to fill out the little sheet you use for your order. The guy always asks you wheat or flour so he can warm your tortilla while he finishes the order in front of you. When he asked her, she shook her head and said in broken English, that she didn’t understand.

Before I could even think about it I jumped right in telling the guy how to make her burrito because I had a good idea how she would probably like it, not too spicy or with too much sour cream. And then I stopped myself because, omigod, I was being That Pushy Woman Who Bosses Around Random Strangers.

In my defense, have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t clear on the customs and ways and you kind-of wished someone else would just take charge for a minute? When I was a teenager my family went to France and it was time to eat. The waiter came over and said a bunch of stuff in French, a language we unfortunately do not speak. My Dad nodded and held up 4 fingers. The waiter knew exactly what to do. He brought us 4 drinks and 4 sandwiches which we ate with great joy. “Hey, look at us, ordering food in France.”

Back in Portland, I pointed at my burrito and she ordered flour. English was not her native language, but she had a pretty good handle on it. The problem was she couldn’t hear because of the traffic.

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