6 January 12020 is Armed Forces Day in Iraq. It’s also Helen Kleeb’s birthday. Since even my mother didn’t seem to know who she was, I’ll observe that she got her start right here in Portland on radio, and went on to a career in movies and television. But what I remember for most strongly is playing the Witch in Stan Freberg’s Centennial Fable Oregon, Oregon. Two explorers, ad-libbing in the wilderness, make the case for statehood, and the Witch lets Oregon out of the bottle. But there’s a catch—Oregon is a magic state, and after a hundred years it will have to go back in the bottle. That’s fine with the explorers—who’s going to be around in 1959? Well, after a minute and fifteen seconds or so 1959 rolls around, and the Witch starts putting Oregon back in the bottle. But there has to be a happy ending, protests a minor character. Why, asks the Witch. This isn’t the Shirley Temple Story Book. But there is—the state is saved and the Witch meets her end. It was Helen Kleeb who carried that production—and she was also Betsy Ross (Hey, you’re tracking snow all over my early American rug!) in Freberg’s U.S.A.
The news continues to be bleak and awful—Trump refuses to pull troops out of Iraq (despite his campaign pledge) claiming that Iraq has to pay the costs of the US invasion and occupation of their country. Australia is still on fire. Trump’s impeachment continues to be stalled. Sanity is out the window. And did I mention that an obscure bootlegger, missing for over a hundred years, has turned up—or rather, that his body has finally been identified? The wonders of forensic science.