Friday, December 29, 2006

insincere apologies and really bad lies

I would apologize for not posting for the last 10 days (and for the 5 unposted days that preceded my previous entry) but I know my words would sound hollow, their meaninglessness just adding insult to imaginary injury. I especially can't apologize for my lack of activity since I know that I am about to embark on yet another internet-less journey which will last another 5 days. Yep, in less than 9 hours I will find myself in LAX, greeting my sister and my youngest niece and chauffeuring them to our ultimate destination - Disneyland.

Close friends and family members may recall that the last time I went to Disneyland was in 1998. The drive down was punctuated by a rather nasty mother-daughter fight which erupted into a full blown exclamation point shortly after our arrival at the hotel. It was during this fight (which involved my mother all-too-accurately assessing her children as worthless ingrates who were careless with their finances) that one of my favorite old tapes was born. My poor fool not-yet-husband meagerly attempted to speak up on my behalf and was told promptly to, "Shut up. You're brain washed." I would venture to say, in fact, that this is my all time favorite Mom quote. The runner up? Clearly that goes to her realization after watching The Crying Game that, "they must have just been doing blow jobs or something."

{This leads me to an aside... I've started collecting old tapes from the younger generation. My eldest niece, during my Christmas visit, added a gem to my menagerie. We were discussing an uncomfortable conversation she had with her grandma (my mother-in-law) after watching My Super Ex-Girlfriend - a conversation which began with the declaration from said sexagenarian that "There is more to love than just rough sex." - when the topic turned, naturally, to the subject of masturbation. It was here where her mother (my cancer-free best friend) assured her that masturbation did not result in hairy palms by proudly displaying the smooth surface of her hands. Had I been properly hydrated, I am sure I would have peed my pants. Anyway, this exchange resulted in my all time favorite niece old tape, "The only thing worse than imagining your parents having sex together is imagining them having it alone." Too true.}

Anyway, back to Disneyland. Ah, Disneyland. The so-called Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland was such a perfect hell the last time I visited, a surreal prison I roamed with my brother and my boyfriend, moping, avoiding lines (this was pre-Fast Pass, folks), avoiding the parents (except for at lunch when we, not so ironically, needed their money). We ended up on the train, I recall, the three of us. We were soon disgusted by the behavior of a family of heathens we dubbed the Feet People who took to rubbing their stocking feet against the hand rails of the train. The memory still turns my stomach. In fact, their blazon disregard for cootie control in public was so appalling that my brother used it as his inspiration for his essay on his college application to Yale. Strangely, his hilarious literary flogging of this disgustoid family did not gain him entry into the ivy league. We are both still scarred and bitter.

This is not to say the trip was entirely without merit. The high point of our visit to Mickey's world came when I was approached by an altogether too enthusiastic Beast (as in Beauty and the...). The Beast accosted us when we were buying slurpees and cotton candy and I kindly requested that he go entertain others. He ignored me and continued his uncalled for attempt at cheer. I then informed him that I had recently learned on television that Disney characters are frequently assaulted by unpunished Disney guests. After this revelation, the Beast signalled silently that I should "bring it on." I punched that Beast, who was not my mother, with all my debt-ridden, cootie-covered might. His costumed collapsed and I swear I nearly made contact with the actual human inside. He then moved on, satisfied by our laughter, no matter what the price.

I don't expect I'll be assaulting any Disney workers this time around (though I haven't ruled it out), but I am prepared for a less than perfect time. Whatever the next 5 days bring, it will be worth it to see the world through the eyes of a three year old. Still, I will miss my husband and my home and my two kitties. I am such a pathetic homebody. Which brings me to my really bad lies.

Last Christmas I received as a gift from my now healthy sister-in-law and my eldest nieces a gift certificate for a one hour massage in the Bay Area. Those who are in the know know that I am a whore for a full body massage. I, who cannot physically buy gas that is 2 cents more expensive than the gas half way across town, will willingly fork over hundreds of dollars to have a complete stranger stroke my less than attractive naked body. This was an awesome gift, the perfect way to shed the stress of the cancer of the year before.

And yet. I am seldom in the Bay Area. And when I am, I spend my time with my nieces. And I sleep on a cot or the floor. And I drive home, through traffic, late at night when I am tired. All of these things would destroy the efforts of even the most prolific masseuse. And so I never used my gift certificate until last week when I turned it into a gift certificate for my sister-in-law. I know, how lame? I regifted a gift I loved to the very person who gave it to me. I was told at the spa that I wasn't the first but still I felt dirty. I swore my second eldest niece to secrecy (she was in on the plan) but the swear was unnecessary. I cannot tell a lie. Ever. I confessed on Christmas morning when my sister-in-law figured the whole thing out. Am I that transparent? Apparently.

Of course, she has good reason to doubt me. The first lie I ever told her? We were driving through Berkeley (going South, crossing University Ave, my eldest niece growing in her womb) when she offered me half of an orange. I declined, insisting I had "just brushed my teeth." She looked at me, the person she had been hanging out with for hours, and she laughed. I am such a bad liar.

Though I am a horrible liar, I am a pretty good petty thief (especially of pens) and I tend to cheat at games (I am permanently banned from being Banker in Monopoly thanks to a series of interest free loans I once made to myself - loans which, I must say, I disclosed on my own when the game ended...).

So there you have it. An insincere apology and some really bad lies. Meet you back here in the new year, but give me until the third...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

i had the power

Most of my family lives in a state that experiences an actual winter. Rain, snow, sleet, black ice, fallen trees. As a result of their decision to live where houses are affordable, they have lived in various stages of electrical deprivation for four days of this past week. When I first heard of their predicament (by cell phone, as the land lines are down as well), I must admit I gloated. I thought immediately of He-man, hoisting his blazing sword, boasting of the power of Greyskull. I felt like He-man, summoning the power of PG&E. While my family faced cold showers, melted ice cream, and icy morning toes that never quite defrost, I thought to myself, "I have the POWER!"

And then I remembered the trip I had planned. I was leaving the next day to visit my eldest nieces and my now-healthy sister-in-law in Oakland - a trip I hadn't made since chemo ended in March. There I have always enjoyed electricity, running water, telephone service, and refrigerated food, so I knew I'd be better off than my folks. But a trip to the ghetto usually involves another sort of deprivation - some predictable, others completely random.

The house is small, so sleeping space is at a premium. Twice during the year of cancer I established (and lost) a personal oasis. Now that each niece is enjoying a bed of my design, I am reduced to using a cot and a sleeping bag. When I arrived this time I discovered that even my sleeping bag had been usurped. And the space for my cot was covered with an even more intimidating pile of clutter than the one that had existed when I left. Fortunately, I was able to barter for the return of my sleeping bag which I'm now using on the floor.

Chairs are another known scarcity. In fact, when asked which topics will come up in their inevitable psychotherapy sessions, both nieces agreed that "no chairs" would top the list. Mealtimes are okay, though - they're generally served buffet style. But TV time is torture, so I wisely set my Tivo to tape and store the shows that meant the most to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find the chair population had tripled since my last visit, though the TV room did not enjoy the benefit. Besides, nobody here watches Survivor. In fact, I learned that my nieces actually watch Project Runway and America's Next Top Model. This should not surprise me since they are teenage girls, but still...

I was worried about the bathroom situation. The bathroom was most often the source of unexpected unpleasantry. I am a tad obsessed with personal cleanliness and I tend to shower more than twice as often as the average Oakland family member. The fact that a duck lived in and around the bathtub during most of the year of cancer was admittedly difficult for me. Curry and I would engage in virtual death matches for access to his turf - fights that I was accused of starting and fights which I almost always lost. Who knew that a duck could actually draw blood? After the duck died - which was actually tragic and which only served to help me recognize what an evil person I was inside not to have shared in the love of a family pet - I was reluctantly relieved but the bathroom gremlins were not done with me. For while a tidy shower is a gem, a troubled toilet is torture. Happily I report the bathroom is better than ever complete with a brand new shower head that gets your entire body wet at the same time.

In contrast to the possibilities, the deprivation I have suffered for the last five days has been minor. Still, I'm certain that the loss of the internet in this house is a direct result of my aforementioned gloating. I'm not a web junkie so at first I wasn't altogether disturbed, but I felt immediately guilty about neglecting my blog. I didn't want to be one of those bloggers. Nothing bores me more than visiting a blog I've enjoyed and finding a rerun. And here I am, not even two months out, and I have become what I hate. An entire week without posting. Inexcusable.

I'm still not home yet (the internet only works on one computer and this is my first stolen moment alone with it) so I still don't know who won Survivor. And I've got another trip planned next week (with my youngest niece this time). So I can't promise consistency but I do know I owe.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

about yesterday

Eighty three years ago yesterday the world gained Bob Barker, while little Frankie Sinatra celebrated his eighth birthday. Six years ago yesterday my husband lost his favorite cousin and birthday buddy, Kate. Her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis ended two short months after her name came to the top of the organ donor list. While I absolutely suck at remembering most dates (especially if they're in September), December 12th is burned into my brain.

And yet all day I was unable to blog about it. Only now, with the freedom of having another 364 days to go, do I find myself back at my keyboard, telling the story I should have told yesterday.

Kate was significantly younger than my husband and, though their affections ran deep, they seldom had a chance to relate to each other as adults. It was the occasion of her sister's wedding that brought the three of us together, bonding over a bottle of tequila. I could commiserate with Kate's position as sister of the bride, having been one just a few years before. Kate's bridesmaid dress was WAY cuter than mine. Mine was, I kid you not, compared to wallpaper by fellow shoppers who found its twin in a discount clothing store. But Kate never wore a dress in real life so hers was arguably more traumatic. Immediately after the wedding she pulled on a pair of jeans and the three of us sought out a quiet spot to toast the happy couple.

I knew early on I had no prayer of keeping pace with my husband and his hard drinking cousin. It is for this reason, perhaps, that I remember the night most clearly. Even so, it comes back to me in highlights:

Sitting on the steps being swarmed by strange Vegas bugs, surprised to learn that Kate has taken to smoking cigarettes with her relatively worthless lungs. Erik, ordinarily more of a pacifist, squashing the bugs vehemently with her shoe in return for his cousin's promise to stop smoking in the future.

Kate's head landing on the carpeted casino floor after Erik unsuccessfully tried to invert her tiny body. The two of them collapsing, laughing, at the persistence of gravity.

Secrets exchanged revealed a life well lived. Each professed a profound affection for the other.

Security shushing us (apparently even Vegas has its limits), ushering us away from the pool area.

Walking her to her room, Kate returning to the hallway, laughing, demanding to know what we were laughing about, insisting it was probably her. Kate, realizing as the door closed behind her that she was locked out, inspiring us to laugh at her. All of us laughing as she was forced to wake her already disturbed roommate.

The next morning, at the check out desk, Kate showing up fresh as a daisy to wish us farewell. Erik, his stomach contents curdling on the floor in the corners of our bathroom, marveled at his cousin's perkiness. Even having drank the least, I was somewhere in between, also awed by the wonders of youth.

Erik and Kate's family are fortunate to have a lifetime of other memories to cherish, even though some life times are too short. I am personally grateful to have this one grand evening in September (the 27th - I had to look it up) to remember. I love how Kate is still alive in her family, with them in their stories. And I'm amazed at how she shows up now and again in unexpected places - her father finding her handwriting on a bookmark pressed between the pages of an old book. I'm lucky to know little about loss and I'm luckier still to have known Kate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

about last night

Last night I was asked what kind of vegetarian I am. I had to tell the truth. The truth is I'm not a very good one.

Ordinarily I cheat only once or twice a year, celebrating my birthday and my anniversary with a juicy filet mignon. I just can't bring myself to order a plate of pasta at a steak house - which is invariably where my husband and I end up. Besides, my nearly anemic blood cells savor every morsel. I try to give them the iron they need through a daily vitamin, but apparently it's not enough to own the vitamins. You actually have to ingest them to extract their benefits.

This year, however, I feel I've crossed the line. I'm not exactly a full fledged carnivore but a vegetarian I am not. I am more a vegevore or a carnitarian. And, yes, I know the scientifically correct term is "omnivore" but that implies I eat everything and there are, believe me, plenty of things I do not eat, such as:

1. haggis (duh)

2. dog food (ok, maybe once, but it was more a dog treat than actual dog food and I'm pretty sure I didn't swallow it... [insert inappropriate eating-but-not-swallowing joke-that-I-can-no-longer-tell-now-that-my-parents-know-how-to-access-my-blog here...])

3. boogers (especially not since that poor boy who rode my bus in elementary school tragically acquired the nickname "snot box"...)

4. snails (snails are probably not tasty anyway, but I feel I owe them since I was tricked at the age of three to slaughter them, my loyal snail friends, after my mother insisted they "like salt". In case you don't believe me, I have provided actual photographic evidence of this event. I have no explanation for the suspiciously squished looking snails in the foreground, but as you can see I did offer each of them a jolly ride in my dump truck before death. And the empty case of Boone's Farm, well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?)

At any rate, this year I've had more than my fair share of celebrations. Apparently now any old barbecue ranks right up there with birthdays and anniversaries. I mean, really, every day is somebody's birthday, right?

But my beef with myself goes well beyond the beef in myself. After all, last night's delicious meal of murder was shared with the very same friend with whom I recently consumed the dreaded liquid death. He reported it was nearly a half gallon of vodka we put away that night. I'm not sure if I'm more disgusted, disappointed, or appalled? (Though my inner adolescent is just the teensiest bit proud...)

In so many ways, I'm really looking forward to the fresh new year ahead. I know new year's resolutions are generally not worth the internet they're written on, (and my new year will begin in Anaheim on my sister's terms) but I feel like I may be ready to let go of the yummy little flesh filets and the sour self pickling. If not forever, at least for good.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

hill top

I ran across this poem in a public journal, one of many in the waiting rooms of the UCSF cancer treatment center. It was obviously written by someone young, someone who shouldn't have to know about tumors and chemotherapy. Granted, everything seems more significant when your best friend is fighting cancer, but a year later I still find this poem makes me happy... and sad.

hill top
The hilltop is the bigest
hill on the Galexe it
is scary to climb but
also looks like a hot dog.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

how is a monkey like a fork?

My sister-in-law/best friend is not lucky enough to be a parasite. Instead, she earns the lion's share of the income for her family (which, come to think of it, is actually an appropriate cliche since female lions also do the majority of the hunting). Her current job sucks in all the classic ways - underpaid, understaffed, unclear or unreasonable goals, uninspiring product - as it has for many years. The last time she tried to escape its grasp, she was stricken by breast cancer and had to stay for the health benefits. She's healthy now and has more than an inch of real live normal looking hair (none of the patchy wiry grey that chemo leaves you with) and so she is once again putting herself out there and interviewing for jobs.

The other day she called to describe a particularly strange interview for a dot com company. The interviewer asked her only three questions:

1. You have no resources (phone, internet, books, paper), how do you calculate the number of seats on a 747?

2. How is a monkey like a fork?

3. You work for a cereal company and designed a cereal - Special K - and included in it three non-essential ingredients, one of which turns out to be super profitable and boosts sales 30% over 3 months. Your boss wants you to design a cereal - Special J - and boost its sales 60% in one month. What do you do?

I'm not sure how my sister-in-law answered (by her swift dismissal she figures she answered incorrectly), but she's certain she did okay on the monkey and fork question. I've had the unfair advantage of being able to contemplate these questions all night. And, of course, I am not wearing a fancy suit, I have not just driven somewhere strange, my palms are not sweating from nervousness, and I do not have to remember to maintain eye contact. Even so, I think you will find my answers similarly lacking:

1. You have no resources (phone, internet, books, paper), how do you calculate the number of seats on a 747?

First of all, I think this question might be a test to see if the interviewee has seen Snakes on a Plane (which I have not). Instead, I would have to rely on memory from plane trips past. It seems to me that planes have about 30 rows which usually seat either 6 or 7 across. Conservatively, I might go with 6 x 30 = 180 + 5 for the crew (two pilots, 3 sky waitresses) = 185 but that is lower than the death rates I recall from gruesome previous crashes. So I would try 7 X 30 = 210 + 5 for the crew = 215 which sounds about right. (Incidentally, the internet tells me I am so woefully wrong - the 747 is a double decker plane and can seat 416 - 524 passengers... and I am right, the snakes that were on a plane were on a 747.) Also, I am disappointed I did not think to figure in first class which is generally about 10 rows of 4 seats across so I'd want to reduce both guesses. So 185 - 20 = 165 and 215 - 30 = 185. Now they both sound wrong and I am sure I would be stammering and anxious to get on to the next question.

2. How is a monkey like a fork?

My first instinct is that they are both cleverly adapted to their purposes and they can both fling pooh. My husband adds that they can both pick things up, but that is implied in my answer so I might just leave it at that. It just dawned on me, though, that both are nouns that can be used as verbs - you can monkey around and fork things over. And both are used in children's stories - monkeys jumping on beds, forks running away with spoons. Both can be violent - monkeys kill and forks are used to poke elbows that are on the table. In fact, I assume they can both take your eye out. And you can, under the right circumstances, purchase both a monkey and a fork. Both are found at the zoo (assuming the zoo has a snack bar and doesn't use sporks) and in the road. Both have been around for a very long time. Still, I can't help but think I am missing some hipster connection between monkeys and forks. Again, blabbering, creativity dwindling, now dreading the next question.

3. You work for a cereal company and designed a cereal - Special K - which included in it three non-essential ingredients, one of which turns out to be super healthful which in turn boosts sales 30% over 3 months. Your boss wants you to design another cereal - Special J - and boost its sales 60% in one month. What do you do?

My friend wishes she had said that she would tell the boss to go f@ck himself for setting such an unreasonable goal. Now I can think of no other answer. My only other thought is that if Special J is a new cereal, then how can I boost sales that don't already exist? If the sales of Special J are currently $0, then putting it on the market automatically boosts sales, though it is impossible to say by what percentage since 60% of $0 is still $0. Also, I would have to ask if any part of our company's increased profits on Special K would have to go to pay the lawyers, assuming Kelloggs will be suing us for using their registered name. At this point I assume that both the interviewer and I are aggravated at having wasted time getting to know each other. We are both disappointed and relieved as I am politely pointed towards the door.

Before I became a parasite, I had the challenge of interviewing folks with the intention of hiring them. I supremely sucked at this part of my job (though I must have had beginner's luck for the first person I ever hired is a fricking super star...). I must confess I, too, threw in a couple of odd questions. Each of my potential employees had to name their favorite cartoon and tell me how they felt about chocolate. (In fact, the one person I did not ask about chocolate turned out to be a very bad hire who lasted less than 2 weeks. Turns out she was a vegan, which I wouldn't have held against her, but I can't help but think it might have given me some insight into her compatibility with the job.) I so wish I had heard of the monkey and fork question. It's a little cruel, sure, but I'm certain the answer would reveal more about a person than pathetic canned questions such as, "where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

In any case, I am once again grateful that I am neither asking nor answering questions at a job interview. Instead, I am sitting here enjoying a very precious, rare moment - both my kitties are inside and they are not trying to kill each other. Sure, I know they are only in because it is finally raining outside, and they are only peaceful because they are asleep. Still I savor the semblance of normalcy.

So how is a monkey like a fork? Good question.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

one more reason i love my husband

I consider myself infinitely (inexplicably) fortunate to have a husband who treasures me. I love everything about him - even the really dumb stuff like the way he always locks his keys in the car. (In fact, for the last five days he's been using a spare set of keys after having misplaced his normal set entirely...)

Today I love him just a little bit more because today when I went to the mailbox the dreaded doggie doo was gone. (This was most excellent timing for on this day my junk mail did indeed disassemble itself, sending my Rite Aid coupon book fluttering to the once soiled ground...) I thought for a moment the disappearing dung was a Christmas miracle, but when I expressed to my husband my utter elation, he confessed that he had disposed of the stool sample the night before.

Now handling dog feces has always been, in my opinion, penis work. In fact, the phrase "penis work" was coined while watching my future sister-in-law shovel dog shit from her yard. Since my husband has a penis, this small act of kindness shouldn't really rock my world the way it has. I think it is the anonymous nature of the turd that makes this act extraordinary. It's one thing to process the product of a beloved pet. It's altogether another thing to pick up after someone else's pooch. Or maybe it is just that my husband is working so much (to support my parasitic ways) that I am touched he would take one of his very few moments of spare time to free me from my coprophobia.

In any case, today I celebrate my remarkable marriage and my feces free path to postage.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

had a little fun monday

Waking up at 5:30 in the morning is never fun. Realizing at 7 that 5:30 might not have been early enough - also not fun. Waiting in line with feet numb from the morning cold - painfully not fun. Learning 4 hours later that the very last guaranteed seats went to the group in front of mine - agonizingly not fun. Waiting 7 more suspenseful hours (3 of them in line again) to learn my fate - the epitome of not fun.

Being in the actual audience for one of Ellen's 12 days of Christmas shows - okay, that was fun.

My experience in Burbank convinces me again that the fates that rule my life appreciate irony. They proved it during my trip to TPIR - where I wished only to be called as a contestant, arrogantly assuming that I'd make it on stage. For Ellen I boldly hoped to be first in line (a seemingly reasonable goal since my sister and I had been first a year before when we arrived at 8). And indeed I was first in line - for the Tom Hanks Riff Raff Room.

The fates were not satisfied with 11 hours of torture (7 of them sick with disappointment and regret). The irony became richer as the giveaway was revealed - a designer purse, aviator sunglasses, a designer fragrance, a ton of make up, a cashmere sweater. All of these things I should not be allowed to have. I do not wear make up - I used enough of it in my adolescence to last my whole life. I do not own cashmere - if it can't go in the washing machine it can't go in my closet. I don't have designer anything - unless you consider Doc Marten a designer. And yet, the total package value was the best I've seen so far - $2,000. The local girls were going wild; I was trying to figure out when Whitney Houston's husband started making cosmetics.

At least I could use my consolation prizes from TPIR - eggs, wallpaper, and a telephone, followed up by hair care products and breath mints upon rerun. I find myself confounded by my recent windfall. It seems I may finally need to figure out how to become an eBay merchant.

My fates enjoy repeating themes as well. The first time I saw Ellen, I had to share a bed with another woman. Then it was my sister I reluctantly snuggled after she had booked a hotel room with just one bed (another reason I am skeptical of my sister's schemes). This time I had to share a bed with my skinny seal friend's daughter. My friend would have happily done the honors, but (after arranging the entire trip) she had to miss the show to attend a funeral. Instead, I surrendered my solo bed to her replacement, the seal friend I often refer to as my future self. (At least I know in the future I will get to sleep alone...) Of course, I am pretty much a professional sleeper so I wasn't bothered by my loss of real estate, just amused at the fates' consistency.

Perplexed as I am by my recent winnings, I am also immensely grateful to have successfully survived the experience and to be chosen to be in the audience at all. Beggars can't be choosers and they really shouldn't be whiners.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

the sounds of cars

I'm up early and in a hurry so today I offer you a poem my brother wrote in the 2nd grade. (reprinted entirely without permission, of course)

The Sounds of Cars

The Sounds of cars are:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the one that got away

Today I checked on an animal in Cayucos that I was really hoping would be a fat old elephant seal. What they say about real estate is also true of seal rescues - location, location, location - and this was not my favorite location. From the cliff above my hopes were dashed. My elephant seal was so obviously a sea lion. He looked suspiciously lethargic and definitely skinny. As I scrambled down (mostly on my butt) to get a better look, I knew I didn't have much chance of a successful rescue. Descending the cliff was difficult enough, getting back up the same way (with equipment) would be impossible. My sea lion was alert (perhaps it was my less than graceful approach?) and right next to the water. I barely arrived on the beach before he took off, his fishing line necklace looking as uncomfortable as barbed wire. My subsequent hike out confirmed my initial assessment - this cove was less than accessible - but I've seen stranger things happen. I would have happily traded a twisted ankle for a chance to get the entanglement off that sea lion.

The sun just set so I know I won't get him today. I remind myself that entangled animals are difficult to catch even in the best locations but it's little consolation. Instead I share this picture of the only other entangled sea lion I've caught - Homer Ray. He was smaller, much more approachable, but in at least as bad a spot. I had to hike out on to and around Morro Rock to find him sitting on a slanted rock, his butt inches from deep ocean. I don't even think I can take credit for catching him as I had my husband throw the net. I told him it was because of his reach advantage but we both knew I was afraid of falling in. Or missing. Or missing and falling in.

So today I was not a hero but I did enjoy a pleasant walk on a gorgeous day. That's something.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

thank god it's thursday

It's over. Really over. I have officially survived 30 days of consistent blogging and I "won" National Novel Writing Month by writing 50,000 words of a so-called novel before November 30th.

Though my so-called novel is too lame and too personal to ever fully go public, writing it was strangely cathartic. I am so sick of my own stories now - my frustrations, humiliations, epiphanies - I may never tell any of them again. I only wish I truly were a novelist. Then I could make up all new stories, craft for myself a more clever and interesting personality... But I'd have to be a good liar, too, and I apparently used up all that mojo on Naomi Largo.

My blog, on the other hand, has been quite satisfying. It is already more public than I ever imagined - I've had at least two visitors who don't even know me. Go figure. Maybe one day I'll get my hands on that mp3 of Ickis & Fungus after all. In the meanwhile, I can't promise I'll write every day. The honeymoon period is definitely over. Besides, as I said, I'm bored of my own stories. But I won't walk away either. We're in this thing now. I'll just have to look for fresh material in my life. And maybe, in a couple of weeks, I'll find my childhood charming again. After all, my mom uncovered that photo of Suzie Africa I was longing for...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

spelling is dead

Much as I admire him, Bob Barker is not a "genious". He could be a genius, that's debatable, but it is certain that Charles, one of today's first four contestants on the Price is Right, is not.

After reading his shirt ("Bob's a genious"), I was not surprised to see that Charles performed poorly during his pricing game. It takes a special kind of person to win only $500 playing Plinko. That's 1% of his full earning potential. That's less than people usually win on the lamest TPIR game, Punch a Bunch. He never even tried the sweet spot (where the N meets the K) and he shied away from the center altogether after receiving his first zero. I am embarrassed for him.

I'm bitter. I know. It isn't easy, living as a Contestant Not Appearing on Stage.

But at least I can spell.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

do that voodoo you do

My dad's a pediatric oncologist. This means that growing up in our family, if you didn't have cancer you weren't sick. Sadly, my siblings and I knew the only reason we didn't have cancer is because we were unworthy. After all, if only the good die young then healthy children are, by definition, bad. In fact, my dad has been known to say that his children will probably live forever.

So as kids we seldom went to the doctor. We only got stitches if Mom was in charge - the last thing Dad wanted to do on his day off was go back to the office. Imagine if you were a lawyer and you had to stand before a judge every time you needed a prescription, or you were a garbage collector who had to go to the dump to get a cast put on your kid's arm. I totally get it. Besides, we had the basics covered - in the fridge we had the pink juice (penicillin) and the purple juice (dimetapp), and Dad could bring home ear drops (for our swimmer's ear) and eye goop (for conjunctivitis). I have no complaints.

As adults we still tend to get the majority of our medical care from Dad. Still too miserable to have cancer, our medical needs are pretty minimal. Every now and then something comes up that Dad cannot cure over the phone. For example, nearly three years ago I scratched my cornea (I got a paper cut on my eye). Dad suffered a similar fate when his cornea was scratched by a tennis ball during a match with my mother. (At least he could be angry at someone, I could only blame my own spastic self.) He assured me there was nothing anyone could do and he sympathized with me, knowing how bad it hurts. It took no less than two years for my husband to convince me to see an optometrist about the pain that had still not gone away. Six months later I still have a scratched cornea but it's finally healing and it doesn't hurt at all.

Inspired by the end of my corneal torture (and emboldened by the fact that we've almost met our annual deductible), I have unleashed my inner hypochondriac. Today I crossed the biggest line of all. Today I saw an allergy specialist, or, as my dad would call him, the voodoo doctor.

Now I was never too excited to admit that I might have allergies. Allergies are for the dorky kids whose moms don't let them play outside. (Come to think of it, I'm pretty dorky and I rarely play outside.) Allergies are fairly useless - you don't get to stay home from work, you don't get any good drugs, you just get to ask extra questions in restaurants and sometimes you can make people lock up their pets when you visit. (Hmm... perhaps I will be allergic to dogs?) So it was easy for me to avoid finding out why I haven't been able to breathe through my nose since the eighties. (At least if I had done cocaine, it might make sense...)

I never even thought I had allergies until I described for my regular doctor that maddening inner ear itch. You know, the one you try to scratch with a Q-tip but you know you can't reach it but it feels good anyway, real good (I call them eargasms), that you buy your Q-tips in the economy size? That itch. The one that when it's really bad and the eargasms aren't distracting enough, that you have to make the weird nose at the back of your throat and you hope you are alone because otherwise your husband (who apparently doesn't have allergies) will mock you for sounding like you are trying to bring up a fur ball? That's the one. It wasn't until I described this itch that I learned I was trying to scratch my soft palate and I probably had allergies. Even then, my regular doctor just told me to keep the Q-tips out of my ears (I know, Dad, nothing smaller than my elbow...) and he offered me some Claritin.

When my mom (who is a voodoo nurse) told me allergy testing is expensive, it seemed like a splendid way to take advantage of my husband's health plan. In your face, Blue Cross. So I made an appointment and today I met Willy Wonka, I kid you not.

My voodoo doctor was dressed all in purple. Purple suit, purple tie, purple socks, purple shoes. He totally pulled it off, a happy, dapper eccentric. He took no offense when I called him a voodoo doctor and he laughed when I explained that I had not come to see him sooner because I do not have cancer. We went over my basics and suddenly Willy Wonka had become a psychic. He completed for me my list of symptoms and he asked about my overbite (the one I had fixed in eighth grade). The relationship between my useless nasal passages and my chronic thumb sucking is not causal (either direction), but the association of the two is strong. Willy Wonka became my psychic psychotherapist, helping me to see my thumb sucking as my genetic destiny, not as a manifestation of my insecurities.

I am only bummed because now I will have to come up with a new nickname for my dentist. I have been calling him Willy Wonka for years because I swear I once heard him say, "scrumdilicious." Since I have never ever seen him in purple (let alone all purple), I think the Wonka title will have to remain with the voodoo doctor.

And I'm not sure I can ever give up the eargasms completely. If Q-tips weren't meant to go in your ear they wouldn't fit so well or feel so good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

ancient dynasty?

Until today I'd never heard of Ramtha, or JZ Knight, the woman who has apparently been channelling the 35,000 year old god since the mid seventies. Had I been forced to guess, say on a multiple choice, I would have selected:

C. some kind of rapper

because when it doubt, C. is always a solid guess and her name sounds like the lovechild of Jay-Z and Suge Knight. Besides, I would have already eliminated the two other obvious red herrings:

A. famous children's book author


D. wife of Christopher Knight (TV's Peter Brady)

because I test well and I read Harry Potter and yes, I watched My Fair Brady - both seasons. Now I know that JZ Knight, in addition to being filthy rich, is:

B. best friends with Linda Evans (Dynasty's Krystle Carrington)

{But here I must confess that if forced to guess who Linda Evans was on a multiple choice I would have gotten it wrong. I would have selected:

C. TV's Wonder Woman

because I am lame and I would only have remembered the Lynda part of Lynda Carter's name.}

Anyway, I know all this now, about Ramtha and his special friend JZ Knight, because today JZ's dog needed an MRI at my sister's emergency clinic. Here is the part where I would ordinarily mock JZ Knight (and Ramtha by association) - particularly for requiring the assistance of a veterinarian at all, especially since JZ and Ramtha once healed JZ's son of his crippling peanut butter allergy, you would think they could diagnose the source of the dog's problem without modern technology - but I am strangely reticent to risk incurring the wrath of an ancient god. My life is going too well to tempt the fates. Lord knows I do not need to start channelling someone myself, nor do I need to be abducted by aliens, and I certainly do not desire to be struck down by some strange plague or archaic fungus. And besides, anyone who will spring for an MRI for their pet, even if they can easily afford it, is okay in my book.

Instead, I offer thanks to Ramtha and his special friend for giving me something interesting to blog about. (Okay, strange more than interesting - but far better than the previous leading contender - a discussion of my morning bout with hiccups...) And I add the friendship between JZ Knight and Linda Evans to my random list of little known celebrity facts, right next to the other best buds I know of, Rick Springfield and Doug Davidson (you know, that detective dude, Paul, on the Young and the Restless).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

i am not trying to poison my husband

$500,000 is not a lot of money. It's nothing to sneeze at, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers. But it's not even enough to get a game show on the air any more. And it isn't enough money to kill my husband.

Okay, that came out wrong. What I'm trying to say is I'm not trying to poison my husband.

Erik has long been suspicious of my homicidal tendencies. It all started 14 years ago when I picked up a rock on my way to his campsite; I wasn't altogether certain I would find him alone. After peering through the window of his tent, I saw his solo sleeping face and promptly dropped the rock - a sound which has been amplified through the years in his memory. I wish we had kept the rock for sentimental reasons - we speak of it so often. In his version it is the size of a bowling ball, certain to bring death. I know it was relatively small (I could palm it), and at most it would have brought pain. What it has brought is an uneasy understanding in our relationship - it is in Erik's best interest to avoid infidelity and/or the appearance of infidelity.

It doesn't help that I'm fond of those shows. You know, the ones you find on Oxygen or A&E - the ones that sensationalize crimes of passion. They're basically just tutorials for how not to commit a murder. I enjoy them for the mellow narrative - I call them my napping shows. I fall asleep, someone dies. I wake up, someone's in jail. Erik's convinced I'm studying up on how to cash in on his life insurance.

But as I said, half a million dollars isn't a lot of money. Even if his policy were worth ten times that, Erik is worth more to me alive than dead. There is no other man on this planet that could ever care for me the way he does. I'm sure it is some kind of insanity - this affection he has for me. I don't know what he sees when he looks at me, but whatever it is it makes him smile. He's my safe place, my super hero. He's my very best friend. I can't imagine my world without him. You can't put a price on that.

But in his world the rock was a bowling ball and my napping shows are instruction videos and so he lives, just a little bit, in fear. He pays attention to details, looking for clues that I may be becoming unglued. So when he discovered his ice cream was sliced open on the side he said nothing. When he noticed the next batch was cut the same way he asked me, politely, if I was trying to poison him.

Of course I am not. I bought both packages at the same, not so busy store. I assume they were sliced open at the same time by the same overzealous stock boy. I didn't even notice the imperfection. But I don't live in fear.

Besides, poison is a highly unreliable, extremely traceable method for murder. And staging a product tampering is even more difficult - just ask Stella Nickell who initally got away with poisoning her husband when the coroner failed to detect the cyanide in his system. She tried to lead detectives to the poison in his Excederin (so she could cash in on the extenuating circumstances clause of her husband's $176,000 policy), but they dismissed her. She had to go and kill someone else to get them to reopen his case. Unfortunately for her, they solved both cases.

Sadly, Erik didn't find my explanation terribly reassuring. Maybe I do watch too many of those shows.

Friday, November 24, 2006

pooper scooper

I don't have a dog. I probly never will. And even if I did decide someday to share my life with a sycophantic drool factory, it is highly unlikely I would be one of those nice dog owners who carry baggies along on walks. I've done some poop scooping in my day. I know the inverted bag method, it's not so bad. That gentle give of warm fresh dog sh*t as it melts unexpectedly into the shape of your hand is almost even pleasant. It's just fundamentally wrong.

And yet, every day for the last week I have been just a little bit angry at whichever neighbor it is who shares my preference to let sleeping poops lie. The feces that offends me has been curing in the sun, just a little drier each day, on the asphalt beneath my mail box.

This turd doesn't restrict my access to my precious postal products. till, its very presence sucks all of the joy out of going to the box. My mail is only marginally interesting anyway - 80% unsolicited crap, 10% semi-enjoyable still unsolicited catalogs, 9% bills I pay on line anyway, 1% something I'm actually looking for - I know this. While my rational mind knows my mail is worthless, a part of me enjoys opening the box each day, peering into the darkness inside, rifling through the contents in search of some piece of correspondence I totally don't deserve.

Now I fear stepping on the dog log, my eyes affixed anxiously on it in case I forget it is there. I am convinced that like a wound on my husband I will be inexplicably drawn into contact with it. The day I lose my focus is the day I step in it. And now after I collect my mail, I no longer sort through it in place for fear of dropping it in the dog doo. Most likely all that will fall is one of those "Have you seen me?" cards that accompany the Advo packet. But even those I check diligently, just in case one day I realize I have in fact seen someone. And then could I leave it there, on the black top, that piece of mail I didn't ask for that made contact with the piece of sh*t that isn't mine? think not. And yet, could I really pick it up?

I have no hope and I have no plan. The turd is way too close to the curb to ever be run over, carried off in someone's tire. And the weather's been great, no rain in sight. I keep wondering, where are all those coprophagic dogs who might consume for me this delicacy? Isn't it their duty to deal with this dookie? I suppose I could attack it with my own hose but, like the frustrated cat lady, it would be a bit of a stretch. And besides, I keep imagining a single stray stream ricocheting off the stagnant stool and straight into my eye.

So I wait. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Someday this ass apple will disintegrate, right?

In the meanwhile, while working on my increasingly frustrating totally fruitless so-called novel for National Novel Writing Month, I was using the internet to search for synonyms for poop. I particularly enjoyed this sight and I happily borrowed from it the phrase intestinal sculpture. On this page I found a link to a product that I had discovered myself just moments before. The turd twister, as it's called, is like the play-doh pumper but for your butt. I can't imagine that it actually works (or that it was ever meant to) but if anyone is seriously willing to try it I am more than happy to fork over the $19.95 to find out. I will not, however, fish the device out of the plumbing (personal or porcelain), though I will gladly accompany the user to the ER - so long as I can have a copy of the X-rays.

ten rules for a happy and successful wife

When I got married, after 12 years of living sin, my sister sent me a laminated card with "Ten rules for a Happy and Successful Wife." I remember it gave me a chuckle when I first read it, and I've found it useful as a bookmark over the years. It's been a while since I've actually reviewed the rules. Clearly I am a miserable, failure of a wife.

1. Avoid arguments. Your husband has his share from other sources.
2. Don't nag.
3. Don't drink or eat to excess.
4. If you offend your husband, always ask forgiveness before you retire.
5. Compliment your husband liberally. It makes him a better husband.
6. Budget wisely together. Live within your income.
7. Be sociable and go out with your husband.
8. Dress neatly and attractively for your husband, and keep your home clean and cheerful.
9. Keep your household troubles to yourself.
10. Pray together and stay together.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

My years as a waitress have ruined me for holidays. I've come to think of them as more or less ordinary days. The only difference is that people feel sorry for you that you have to work and they tip just a little bit better. Frankly, I always felt sorry for them, these people who spent their holidays in restaurants. Instead of football and playful grandchildren, they heard the din of crashing plates and fussy babies. They had decent food with minimal effort, sure, but there were no real leftovers and their houses never filled with the warm welcoming smells of cooking. They were hustled in and hurried out, no time to relax and reflect upon their blessings.

In my second life at the newspaper I learned again that the world doesn't stop when the calendar says so. Mine was chiefly a day job so I could get away more often, but I did so knowing I had left people behind. Holidays meant mediocre potlucks in the break room and marginally earlier deadlines. The world rolled on.

This marks my second only Thanksgiving since my husband bought my freedom from the real world. And of course, as part of the price, he's at work. In the meanwhile, I've been out being fed by friends. Overfed, really. I'm so ready for a nap but seeing that it's getting late I guess I'll just be going to bed.

Before I go, in the spirit of the holiday, I'll quickly review my top 5 blessings.

1. My handsome, generous, kind hearted husband who thinks everything I do is cute (especially the obnoxious stuff)
2. My friends, so intelligent, entertaining, and sincere, who include me in their busy lives despite my anti-social*, judgmental*, nut-busting* tendencies (*all actual adjectives used by others to describe me...)
3. My freaky family, who totally get me because they are me, and who phone often enough that they don't feel as far away as they are
4. My freedom, which is really thanks to my husband
5. My health, priceless

Those were so cliche I think I'm going to barf. Or maybe that's just cuz I ate two dinners.

A more interesting list would have been the one I came up with when challenged by my eldest nieces to name 5 foods I'd want (in unlimited supply) on a deserted island. I loved how complicated it became to decide. After agonizing comparisons of chocolate and mangoes, potatoes and pineapples, avocados and carrots, I finally came up with my rough draft. Only then was it established that water was not already on the island so of course I had to eliminate one of my carefully selected choices. Then, as we revealed our lists, I learned that although our islands lacked water they apparently had refrigeration (for Zoe's ice cream) and tools for slaughter (for Sadie's cows). I felt betrayed, eating my avocados, mangoes, tomatoes, and potatoes while my nieces enjoyed burgers, bread, and milk shakes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

two birds, one home

Yesterday I came home to find OC sitting, as he often does, under my computer desk, snuggling up to the usual assortment of clutter. He seemed to take no notice of the fact that he was also surrounded by feathers and one errant, apparently not-so-tasty wing.

You can see from his expression that he was wholly unmoved by my objections. I have frequently requested that only whole animals be left in the house. Half eaten animals are completely unacceptable. OC argued that since this one was 99% consumed, it should certainly not count against him in any way. Finding his perspective fairly persuasive, I thanked him for being such a thoughtful kitty.

Never one to be outdone, this morning my black cat, Pequeno, decorated my bedroom floor with his own batch of bird feathers. He considers small animals toys (not meals), so there were many more feathers, less blood, and, of course, the body was intact. Having followed the rules to the letter, he was allowed to enjoy his playful little projectile until I felt like getting out of bed for the day.

As much as both rooms were due for a good vacuuming, I'm really hopeful that this round of sibling rivalry ends with a draw. I have explained to the boys that while it is surely exhilarating to catch a bird with their claws, it really isn't all that impressive. Their little pecan brains are far larger than the pea brains of their prey and they have been given genetic advantages that make them quicker and quieter. Unfortunately, it seems they have taken my "pick on someone your own size" speech to heart. Tonight they're once again trying to kill each other.

By the way, I was once again wrong and right with my gender guessing. Dr. Suz was not a boy but then again, neither was little orphan Cranny.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ancient chinese secret

Today I accompanied my hubby to his first ever acupuncture appointment. For as long as I've known him he's had pain in his lower back. He believes it all started when he became his own shock absorber - his run down bicycle was his only form of transportation until he got his driver's license at 30. I theorize his pain comes from carrying around his incredibly long torso and trying to cram himself into a world designed for the average height man (5' 9.2").

Though I have always thought of myself as short - it crosses my mind as I am climbing grocery store shelves like a monkey, sometimes being forced to leave behind the product I wanted because it remained out of reach and it was packaged in glass (too risky for more drastic maneuvers) - the Internet tells me I am .2" above the average height for a woman (which is apparently 5' 3.8"). I like to think of myself as above average - I test well and I always got good grades - but this is really rocking my world because, Internet, I am so not tall. I am still digesting the fact that I am one full quarter inch shorter than my seal friend (the recently skinny one whose pants I wore for wisdom when talking to the crazy cat lady), and she is quite short. I so refused to believe I was shorter that I insisted we find a taller person to measure us. The record of my defeat is marked on the wall behind a photo of Ree Ree, this year's first harbor seal pup.

Anyway, back to the acupuncture. My hubby, who does not believe in hormones, allergies, chemotherapy, sugar substitutes or Santa Claus, believes in acupuncture but he distrusts chiropractors. Frankly, I don't think they are the brightest bunch either, the chiropractors, but this stems from my work at the newspaper where I discovered someone once told them the most effective form of advertising is a flyer, single sided and always on goldenrod paper, crowded with way too much text, usually testimonials from clients and the story of their path to chiropracty, none of it spell checked, all framing a small grainy photo of themselves looking creepy with children or dorky with their parents. Seriously, chiropractors, if your friends jumped off a bridge...? So they are not the most free thinking bunch, I guess, but they do have neat tools like that machine that gently shocks your muscles into flexing themselves. I want one of those for mischief if nothing else.

But again I digress. So while the acupuncturist identified and addressed his problem (his right side is all bunched up and tight to compensate for his angry left side, leaving his legs not exactly the same height causing more stress on the left and right sides...), even she suggested he should see a chiropractor.

I'm interested to see how he will digest this information. I've seen his paradigm shift before. After all, his five states of America used to include California, Texas, Florida, New York and "the M state" and now they are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Chicago. But this could be difficult for him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

coffee tummy

It was 1993. I had just graduated college and taken the very first job of the rest of my life. I was so happy to be a dishwasher at Zachary's, a hip breakfast spot in Santa Cruz.

My ascent up the corporate ladder was blessedly swift. I spent little more than three months scraping egg smegma from dirty plates, breathing in bacon grease as it wafted up from the soaking pan that I was surprised came clean every day. The pork and sulfur smells were actually a welcome distraction from the olfactory cocktail of body odor, halitosis, cigarette smoke, and last night's booze bender that oozed from the pores of Zachary's only resident dishwasher, Bhakti. Bhakti looked like every other troll you might encounter in this beach town - his bushy, unkempt beard caught flecks of food like velcro, his wrinkled soiled clothes were shabby, never chic, his weathered skin reluctantly held his organs inside. But Bhakti differed from the homeless in that he was employed. Truth be told, he was a pretty good dishwasher, happy to anchor the team, barking orders only occasionally, sometimes pretending to eat what our diners had left behind.

Still, I was delighted to leave his side, returning to my destiny as a waitress. I was making more money and smelled more of food than refuse. Even better, I no longer had to help the kitchen crew remove the gigantic pot of boiling potatoes from the burner each morning. This pot, I kid you not, was easily 2 and a half feet tall, filled within two inches from the top with scalding water. At 5'4", I towered over my potato partner and we shuffled together, in careful terror, across the back kitchen to the sink. The fact that I was never injured and never caused injury to anyone else is proof enough that miracles exist.

The only downside to my career advancement was that I had discovered coffee and with it, coffee tummy. I was loved and hated for my dedication to topping off my customers' coffee cups. Caffeine addicts named me their queen. Others blamed me for ruining their fragile balance, shaking their fists and scowling as they reached again for the cream and sugar. One amongst them, I'm quite sure, was well practiced in voodoo for I have been ever since cursed.

I was given a thirst for coffee, an amazing tolerance for consuming entire pots at a time, volumes that exceed my body's metabolic capacity. I know the feeling as coffee tummy, that shaky loose grip on reality, the racing mind and pulse, that is accompanied by a twisting, turbulent, bloated burning in the depth of my belly.

Coffee tummy joins sugar throat and onion head as personal tortures I visit upon myself. Sugar throat can be cured with dairy products, onion head requires improved hydration - only coffee tummy has no known antidote. Like so many other vices, my attempts at abstinence are tragic, laughable. Now, as yesterday's coffee tummy hangover finally fades, I find myself moments away from brewing up another. Like an addict, I am at once disappointed, disgusted and more than a little excited. Each time I convince myself this time might be different, foolishly believing that voodoo curses have expiration dates.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

dr. suz and little orphan cranny

So I know not everything in life is a competition, least of all seal rescuing, but if there were an award for smallest fur seal ever, I would win it. Yesterday I pulled little orphan Cranny from her hidey hole in a bunch of rocks where the high tide had left her hours before. She weighed in at only 3.9 kg (that's 8.58 pounds, America) - a full tenth of a kilogram lighter than the smallest fur seal before her. I'm only guessing she's a girl cuz she's so darned petite. Since 15 out of 16 fur seals on site are boys, I wouldn't be surprised if I were once again wrong with my gender guessing.

I do know that Dr. Suz, named to celebrate my sister's birthday, is a boy. I didn't check the plumbing, but I'd bet money he's not a she. His voice is low, he's got a hint of sagittal crest, and he's polite and cooperative (so unlike his female counterparts). Of course, yesterday I also bet someone $5 that a rock was a sea lion, so I should probably keep my mouth shut.

Anyway, I also won for busiest day of the week, for the whole thing started with Straight Up, another sea lion I suspect is a boy. He was quite polite for treatment, but not so helpful this morning for transport. I can't blame him, he's so darned skinny he must feel pretty bad. I've got pictures of Straight Up, too, but they're just not as cute as those of Cranny and Dr. Suz. I've never found anorexia attractive - especially not in marine mammals.

Besides, Straight Up broke my beloved rescue net so I'm feeling a little bitter and powerless. With my net on the disabled list, I've been fooling around with other nets on the side. I can see now maybe we just weren't right for each other. My old net was light and breezy, willing to try anything, but ultimately he was too small, kinda wimpy, and every little hang up resulted in a scar. If I can get him fixed I'll keep him around for the occassional fling, but I'm in the market for a meatier tool. Whoever said size doesn't matter lied.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

37 things i love about my sister

Today my only sister turns 37. Since I was unable to torture her by posting her Suzie Africa picture (which is not in my possession), I've decided to share with you this gem taken two blissfully ignorant years earlier - the year we both first joined the Girl Scouts. Notice the very groovy necklaces we made of felt, ribbon, and those puffy little balls of fiber that are so ubiquitous in arts and crafts. They were actually clever little purses, useful for carrying our dues to meetings, and the balls of fluff are arranged to resemble an owl. In the background is the swing set of the weird next door neighbor (who, for whatever reason, we called the "witch girl") where I would later tear open my thigh after catching it on a protruding screw while sliding down the slide spread eagle. My sister helped me keep the blood off my favorite yellow short shorts and told me my insides looked like pizza without the cheese on it. I came home from the hospital with a scar in the shape of a J, a prescription for antibiotics that were flavored quite convincingly like bubble gum, and an even greater conviction that there was something evil and supernatural about the girl next door. And although we have a reason to be dressed alike here in our Brownie uniforms, our mother frequently dressed us as twins. In fact, this is the very year she sent us to school in matching jumpers she'd sewn herself. This is the year we both came home with wet pants, trapped inside the jumpers whose only exit was a zipper up the back.

So to honor my sister who has been there for me through wet pants, stitches, and so much more, here are 37 reasons I love my sister:

1. She always made sure I got on the right bus in elementary school
2. She loves animals, even when it’s inconvenient or expensive
3. She’s smart, smarter than she thinks
4. She’s only addicted to Diet Coke
5. I love her eyebrows. She hates all of her hair, but I think it contrasts just right against her pale skin making her look like Snow White
6. She’s fiercely loyal
7. When she was two years old, she snuck out of the house to ask a neighbor for a cookie
8. She always tells me the truth, even when it is ugly
9. She trusts me
10. I trust her
11. She wouldn’t stick her arm up a cow’s butt, not cuz it was gross but cuz it was unnecessarily invasive
12. She always let me borrow her clothes, even when she didn’t know it
13. She was my first drinking buddy
14. She’s braver than she thinks
15. She made baby Grace
16. She made me stronger by forcing me to make phone calls for her
17. In elementary school she once dated the son of the assistant coach of the Washington Redskins
18. She’s not afraid to travel
19. She had the courage to leave her marriage instead of living a lie
20. She gives me free veterinary advice
21. She remembers birthdays and she always sends great gifts
22. She forgives me
23. She’s artsy without being fartsy
24. She helped me pick my wedding dress
25. She’s funny, though not always on purpose
26. She takes lots of pictures
27. She’s always on my side
28. She rescued Fabe, saving him from more abuse as a caged blood donor, even though she got in trouble with the police
29. Andrew Cunanon signed her yearbook
30. She suggested we wear bathing suits when our creepy boy babysitter insisted we take an unscheduled bath
31. She sometimes buys ill fitting shoes because she refuses to try on more than 3 pairs
32. She can do a back dive
33. She’s left handed
34. During conversations with her siblings, she always refers to our parents as “my parents”
35. She’s got a great laugh
36. She organized a mini extreme home makeover for an old lady who sorely needed it
37. She doesn’t rub it in that I am currently “the fat one”

Happy Birthday, Sis.

P.S. Today was also a good day for Margaret, who was freed from death's waiting room, returning home to be cared for by my Dad's sister, Mary. And I was wrong (and right) about the gender of my freshest second cuzen - Matthew Thomas Sharer was a boy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

jenni africa

I was an adult when I learned that my cuzens, upon receiving school photos from my third grade year, dubbed me "Jenni Africa." As an adult I find this label hilarious and creative, and just a bit politically incorrect. As a third grader, there was nothing funny about this photo.

Clearly I was not exactly an attractive kid - my teeth pushed out by my constant thumb sucking, my sense of style sorely lacking even for the seventies, freckles dusted generously across my pale skin making me appear permanently dirty. And lord knows my hair, if you could even classify my stringy threads as hair, did not need any help appearing pathetic. Ah, but it was, after all, the seventies and my mom had an itching to try out those new fangled home perms. Lilt was the brand name. Wilt would have been more accurate.

I don't blame Lilt and I no longer blame my mom. It was an honest mistake, failing to properly align my hair before placing it into the rollers and forcing into submission with the stinging chemicals that smelled of sour apples. And when she realized how horribly wrong her little experiment had gone, my mother immediately washed my hair - something you'd avoid doing for a couple of days if you wanted to preserve the effects of your new style. But clearly there was no saving me. My sister, "Suzie Africa," suffered a similar fate, though her heartier hair was (in my opinion, not hers) measurably less fried. While the difference seemed so significant to me, I know she was equally scarred.

I am now grateful this happened the day before picture day. Without the photo evidence, this story is only slightly funny, easily exaggerated. With the photo, it is a timeless cautionary tale, a reminder that certain projects are never "do it yourself." Some professionals are worth paying for - plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, hair stylists.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

of mice and moths

I never realized how my old cat spent his days. I only ever saw him sleeping, eating, lounging in the sun. He was so over the grand and violent adventures of his youth. He was a late bloomer as far as hunting went. He caught his first hummingbird when the chart at the vet's office listed him as geriatric. Like the diggingest dog, Fabian made up for lost time. He once wiped out an entire family of house wrens which in itself is not so impressive. What intrigues me is that he had apparently allowed them to ripen over time. We all heard them hatch, cry for food, shift around in their nests at night. What made him decide, so many weeks later, that the time had come to exterminate them I'll never know.

It's been nearly two years now since old Fabe met the grim reaper sitting in my lap on our front deck. His passing actually played a huge part in my decision to become a princess parasite. I'd felt like I'd missed so much of his golden years. I had taken him, and my youth, for granted and I mourned them both.

I am reminded of Fabe this evening not just because he's still my screen saver and I pass his ashes in their box every time I use my front door, but because I am being hounded in slow motion by the most annoying moth. When he isn't trying to align his random flight plan with my assorted, vulnerable beverages, he is attempting to occupy my keyboard - forcing me to avoid using certain letters. I'm okay if he wants to kick back on z and x and even v, but since c sits right between them and s is right above, a prolonged visit becomes a problem.

Moths, I remember, were every where in the weeks that followed Fabe's death. Only then did I appreciate his silent contribution to the cleanliness of his household. Of course, as you've noticed, I now I have two kitties. The fact that I have a moth in my face at all, I find most egregious. My new cats are only modestly dedicated to the pursuit of moth murder. They are primarily preoccupied with bringing home rodents and small birds. Sadly, their chief goal in life seems to be to eliminate each other.

So as I sit here protecting my liquids with paper, policing my keyboard with inpatience, I sigh and marvel again at the size of the big sucking hole in my soul where my cat used to be.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

on a jet plane

My folks will soon be on their way to visit Margaret and other assorted relatives, including my cuzen Jill who's giving birth to a baby of unknown gender in exactly 2 hours and 14 minutes. While I cannot fathom having the patience to keep a secret from myself for 9 months, especially one as significant as the very nature of my impending child, I applaud those who prefer to be surprised. My money is on a girl, easy money I'd say, since Jill already has one and almost everyone I know (at least as of late) is having girls. And those who have boys have only boys. But Jill is from the perfect family - one girl followed by one boy - so it won't be a huge surprise to me if she creates the perfect family. Can you see now why I am not a gambler? Too indecisive to pick one side. It's the Libra in me.

Anyway, in the spirit of family connectedness, I have, in the last 24 hours, brought my known possible readership up to a cool dozen with the addition of my sister and three of my gazillion cuzens. I still doubt that will be enough to make the connection needed to acquire my Ickis & Fungus song, but after more research I am freshly discouraged. Viacom seems to keep a ridiculously tight rein on their Nickelodeon products. I doubt that even Drew Neumann himself could get me a copy of that tune.

So, welcome to my world, cuzens, and welcome to the world, new baby second cuzen of unknown gender.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

i had a dream

Last night I had a dream, one of many, and, like most of my dreams, it was a tad distressing. Come to think of it, almost all of my dreams are stressful, some of which still involve waiting tables - chiefly without vital articles of clothing. It's a wonder I love sleeping so much. Maybe it is the relief I feel when I wake up and find all those problems are gone and the only real trouble I have is a full bladder and a crooked neck.

Anyway, last night I dreamt my dad was mad at me, not just mad, but sad (and all good Catholics know disappointment is more powerful than anger). I honestly think he was crying, but his eyes were blue, which is weird since they are actually hazel. Why is it I got almost every feature from my dad except his cool eyes and his thick hair? Sure, he had the whole premature balding thing but as a girl I wouldn't have that problem (and besides, male pattern baldness is passed down from the mother - I've heard it somewhere and my brothers are proof enough...). And, for the record, he looks much better since he ditched the comb over.

Anyhow, my dad was upset because of what I had written in my never-meant-to-be-published so-called-novel that I am working on for National Novel Writing Month. Really it's a memoir with very thinly veiled references to actual people, places, and events in my life. I'm currently stalled because I've just gotten to the really icky parts that involve, chiefly, my father's infidelity and my own series of poor choices that followed my departure from the family nest.

But I am determined to power through this darkness this evening. I have a tub of chocolate covered espresso beans and nothing on my agenda for the morning. (BTW, funny side note on my oh-so-busy unemployed calendar... I rarely know what day of the week it is, as it usually doesn't matter. Today, however, I forgot it was Tuesday and I got all excited about ordering take out from Taco Temple. It took about 5 rings for me to realize they weren't going to pick up because they weren't open. Now nothing else sounds good...)

So, though I'm certain I'll never be publishing my novel due to its personal content and generally self-serving suckiness, I did think I could go out on a limb and share with you this excerpt from my earlier years. This story took place in 4th grade. (Wendell, I'm curious to see if you can decipher the pseudonyms of the key players?) For the record, I am more proud of the actual story than the story telling. Keep in mind the goal of NaNoWriMo is volume, not quality. The time to edit is later.


Though we never got to any sort of base together (except, truly the contact in square dancing could be considered rounding first), our version of elementary school dating created a bond. We began hanging out during recess. We were never officially “going together” which is what, I believe, gave Naomi Largo the audacity to turn our couple into a crowd. Naomi hailed from a tall family and had experienced an early growth spurt. She didn’t have the good sense to be shamed by her stature like Christine, my flautist friend, who slouched quietly in the corners, covering her budding breasts with patchwork vests, whispering news of her unexpected menses in tones reserved for cancer and pregnancy. She also didn’t have the genetic gifts of Lisa, who poured her perky boobs into bright colored sweaters, bouncing around the schoolyard and chatting frequently with the well-groomed yard monitor, somebody else’s mother, a future version of her bomb-shell self. Naomi ignored her unnatural stature, flirting shamelessly with shorter boys as she would end up doing all her life. She was doomed never to fully blossom, making it difficult to compete successfully for the few men who topped her height. She always hated short girls for their ability to attract tall men. So many tall guys were wasted on short girls. It was infuriating. And thus, Naomi instinctively aimed lower, dating men who were not just shorter, they were just plain short.

Naomi, my nemesis, lived in the neighborhood by the school – Roy's neighborhood. She often sought him out after hours and, for all I know, he sought her out too. Not even actually dating and I already felt cheated on. Still, I knew I was Roy’s favorite. After all, he’d crossed the great divide. I made a point of thanking him for his visit in front of Naomi. Her face fell as she too recognized the significance of his migration.

Undeterred, Naomi continued to cast a shadow over our relationship, literally. Standing by the tether ball courts, the outline of her bean pole body impatiently waiting its turn inspired me to punch the yellow ball just a bit harder. Until then I had really liked tether ball. It was a sport that required very little athleticism. There were no teams or tournaments so being selected (or not) and winning (or not) never mattered. There were no ribbons (none white, none pink), no trophies. You could even play it alone, wrapping and unwrapping the nylon cord around the pole. It enabled conversations and, occasionally a casual glance into each other’s dirty brown eyes.

Other days we simply tossed around the omnipresent red rubber ball that was intended for dodge ball or four square. Four square which, ironically, could be successfully played by two people but not, thank you very much, by three. Naomi was always there, like those red rubber balls. She bounded into our every conversation as if she had just slipped from the hands of another careless pre-teen. Sadly, no one ever came to collect her. She was the lonely ball that is found by the landscapers in the summertime, neglected in the far perimeter of the school grounds, faded, deflated, the rubber ruined forever by over exposure to sunlight.

It was just one such day as we were trying to adapt games meant for two into games for three, that we began tossing the dodge ball between us in the fashion of various actual sports. We hiked it like a football and dunked it like a basketball. Naomi, of course, played the part of the basketball hoop so it was only natural she would later provide the field goal posts. We weren’t picky about the rules, my attempt was passed, not punted, but I knew it was important to make sure the ball passed between the poles. I always have been a stickler for following instructions. Naomi, unfortunately, held her hands out the either side of her face, perhaps not wanting to exaggerate her height by extending her arms to their full potential. I will never forget the satisfying smack of the rubber as it met her face, the sucking silence that hung in the air briefly just after, followed by the wail of the child inside my nemesis. I didn’t go with her as she ran into the classroom, crying. Tellingly, Roy didn’t leave either. He congratulated me on my field goal, awarding me three points.

I honestly was surprised when Naomi returned, our teacher in tow. Though in my heart I knew I was guilty, my toss was particularly forceful, my aim painfully accurate, the Catholic girl in me already knew how to separate two truths. I presented my defense convincingly, explaining the importance of a field goal passing through the posts, not above them. And though I was new to the school, I had already built a reputation for being dependable, well behaved, cooperative, a bit physically spastic. After all, I was the one who tossed a dictionary across the classroom, squealing from surprise at the silverfish who emerged between the gilded tabs of R and S. I was also the one who released a trumpeted fart, one brief and blissful scentless blast, as I descended cross legged onto the carpet for story time. My embarrassment prompting paralysis, unable to even utter “excuse me.” Mrs. Winters had no problem accepting my version of events. Instructing me to be more careful, she left me in the school yard, satisfied by my experiment with violence and deceit.

Roy moved away at the end of fourth grade. I should have been more devastated, and probably would have been had we ever been to second base. I think we both knew our long distance relationship was doomed. Besides, we’d never be free of the persistent Naomi Largo. And I had gotten used to saying goodbye to boys I liked. It was par for the course. Besides, the summer of 1981 brought me a new boy to play with, my baby brother Brian.

Monday, November 13, 2006

better than sleep

Some things are better than sleep. Not many, mind you. I love sleep. Sleep is not love (food is), sleep is home. In fact, I think my love of sleep is what kept me off of powdered drugs in my youth. Sleep probably saved my life.

As I rose to my fifth day of interrupted slumber, I was reluctantly optimistic about the condition of my patient. To my delight and surprise, Marciel was not only alive, he was almost chipper - bitey, even, after breakfast, as a fur seal should be.

And I saw our resident Fish & Game guy before he left to count otters from an airplane. (How cool is his job? It's not always glamorous, usually he's out collecting otter corpses - we call them otter pops once they've been frozen - but he's got a ton of cool gear suggesting he has many grand adventures...) Anyway, I always get excited when I see Mike. I have come to accept the fact that I have a crush on him (my husband noticed it first, refusing to be formerly introduced, suggesting I keep my fantasy life and my real life separate...) and I now embrace it. When I see his truck I cringe and wish I had taken the time to comb my hair. I always wish I had something more clever to say and I torture myself with the memory of the time I summoned him to my beach on Beach Clean Up day. What I had called in as an otter carcass turned out to be a harbor seal. Duh. Anyway, I am assuredly not alone in my admiration for Mike. When I refer to him as "my boyfriend" I get crooked looks from my equally smitten seal friends. It's okay. We have an open relationship.

Anyhow, Mike asked about the suspiciously small hole in my recently dead otter and, though we both must wait for necropsy results, he assured me it could have been made by a single shark tooth. The handful of otters I've seen who've been sampled by sharks (something that is happening a bunch this year) have been relatively torn up. But Mike's seen a lot more dead otters (all of them, in fact) and he explained that some taste tests are just gentler than others. He also pointed out that the day my otter stranded featured the worst weather we've had for weeks (which was a mild rain in the morning and a marine layer all day), suggesting fishermen were less likely to be out and about otter poaching. My boyfriend is such a smart guy.

So while I'd still take human stupidity over parasites or neurotoxins, I'm even happier to accept the food chain as a reason for my otter's demise. Granted, sharks should not be trying to eat otters (which they recognize themselves, leaving the otters alone after the exploratory bite) so it's still depressing (for struggling otters and hungry sharks), but at least sharks are supposed to kill things that live in the ocean.

So all is right in the world. And it's not even noon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

crazy cat lady continued

So today makes day 4 that I have woken up before 10 am from either phone call or alarm clock. With another fur seal spending the night, tomorrow's 8 am feed will make 5 days in a row. But it will be my pleasure to feed Marciel. He's even smaller than Thornberry, and unfortunately not as feisty. His runny black feces is not a good sign either but hopefully that's just cuz we were mean and took his temperature...

Anyway, this morning I was awakened at 7:38 by my hubby who was warning me the crazy cat lady was looking for me. She left "See me" notes all over the neighborhood.

Here's the one that was on Erik's car:

And the one on my car:

And my neighbor's:

Cleverly, I had saved the cat lady's phone number after she had confessed to abducting OC this past Labor Day. Although I did not have to appear in person, I steeled myself for our conversation by putting on the green corduroy pants I recently got as hand-me-downs from a now skinnier seal friend of mine. I was hoping perhaps they would loan me some of my friend's composure and wisdom. When I still felt anxious despite my grown up appearance, I called this friend for a pep talk (she's an early bird and my gmail inbox confirmed she was awake).

Finally ready, I rang the crazy cat lady. Immediately I learned she was not holding anyone hostage. Sigh of relief. Having heard a cat fight that morning (a fight which sounded completely verbal, by the way - drawn out caterwauling, lacking the distinctly different tussling sound that accompanies higher pitched cries of pain), I surmised correctly that it must have involved her cat and, presumably, one of mine. She detailed my cats' offenses and listed their numerous enemies. She complained that she might throw her arm out, having to throw so many rocks at my cats to police her property. I suggested using water as a deterrent but apparently she doesn't have a hose in her front yard. (I have since considered ordering her a Super Soaker on line...) She demanded I must have a solution to the urban cat density problem since I had, after all, urged her to contact me if she had problems with my cats. Of course I had proposed communication as an alternative to abducting my cats and leaving them 10 miles from my home next to the freeway in cardboard boxes that only "acrobats" could escape... So naturally I proposed she keep her cats inside. She rejected my proposal. She would prefer I keep my kitties inside which, of course, I refused as well. She then threatened to sue me for future vet bills. I have watched enough Judge Judy to figure she will have a hard time proving her case without video evidence or eye witnesses.

So we left it at that. Only there's one more nugget of hope. She happened to let me know that she is the owner of 4 cats. County ordinances only allow for 3. (Then again, county ordinances also say that cats who bite - a human or another cat - can be quarantined for 10 days until a veternarian determines they are disease free... But a woman who cannot figure out how to bring a hose from her back yard into her front yard and who thinks cats are not acrobatic will probably not be researching county ordinances... And still there is that pesky question of proof...) This bit of news I will reserve until the next set of "See me" notes.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

heartbreaking work of staggering sadness

I hate otter rescues. I love otters. I just hate picking up the pieces of their species and surrendering them to the good folks at the Aquarium.

The sun was setting as the call came in. Almost all our calls have been coming at sunset lately so I wasn't completely surprised. We had a full grown otter, convulsing, bleeding from the neck, on the farthest end of the drive on beach (nearly an hour from my home). Thankfully my dear friends who live closest to the dunes were willing to do the fetching. I did the coordinating (made simpler by his obviously critical status and his advanced age - pup pick ups are far more complicated...). I prepped the med room in vain. I know the Aquarium seldom gives us treatment orders, but still I assembled my arsenal - butorphanol for the pain, lorazepam for the seizures, dextamethasone for the shock, dextrose for the unresponsiveness, fluids just because... and all we got to use were the warm towels - which, by the way, I nearly set fire to in the microwave (2 minutes = perfect, 3.5 minutes = scary smoke).

Our patient was already comatose so he wasn't feeling his pain. Narcotics would have just supressed the adrenaline that was keeping him alive. His gums were pink, so there was hope, and he wasn't actively seizing. He was cold - his temperature never registered even after we dried him off - but with otters it is better to be cold than too warm. Thermoregulating is not their strong suit. And he was breathing - herky jerky breaths with wheezy moans in between - but breathing just the same. He was bleeding, from a tiny hole in his chest, but not gushing. So, all things considered, not horrible for being in such bad shape.

He was still alive when I handed him off a couple hours later so that's considered a success. The rest is out of my hands. I got a mocha (a Fivebucks recently opened up across the street from our rendezvous point - this was my first time inside) and made the 90 minute drive back home. He died before I made it all the way back. No one should have to die in Salinas. Especailly not an otter.

Now, as the adrenaline leaves my body, I give myself the otter pep talk. I review the facts. They are incredibly fragile creatures, falling victim to just about every toxin and parasite in the ocean. (And, as far as prognosis goes, I'll take incredibly suspicious perfectly round single hole over protozoas and enchephalitis any day. People suck but at least sometimes they have bad aim... Not in this case, of course, but sometimes... And most of the bloody otters this year have been torn up by sharks...) Otters depend on their fabulous fur (1 million hairs per square inch, humans have 150,000 on our entire heads...) for warmth, they have little fat to fall back on when food is scarce. Maternal separation can be fatal.

And then I give myself the lecture. Otter numbers are deceptively stable, decreasing by maybe only 10% each year. But in reality, they are a species in crisis as they now have 2 males for every one female. Not a good ratio. And male otters are ruthless rapists, biting the noses of their mates - sometimes killing them. So when a male otter dies it is just one less sexual predator in the sea.

And then I stretch the facts. Maybe our Southern Sea Otter isn't even truly a separate species from their bigger, furrier cousins in Alaska. So if an oil spill comes to the Monterey Bay and wipes them all out in the weekend, maybe it's not really an extinction.

And then I just stop thinking at all. Because I hate otter rescues.