Monday, May 28, 2007

26 things I love about my baby brother

Everyone knows I adore my baby brother. As a kid, he was my favorite toy. My sister and I particularly enjoyed doing his hair and make up. (In the photo below, we caught him applying his own eyeliner...) And, of course, he was always up for a swim. He practically lived in the pool. He would also fetch stuff, anything, if you asked him to. It didn't matter if it was all the way upstairs. He would go. (One day he wised up and realized that being the youngest didn't mean he had to be the slave, but it was fun while it lasted...)

As an adult, he's still a good sport. He's always up for a drunk dial (giving or receiving), always good for a laugh. He inspires me to be more of myself, encourages me in my endeavors (be it for good or evil), and holds me accountable when I am lame. He's my head cheerleader and my chief critic. I wouldn't be who I am without him.

So here you have 26 reasons why I love my baby brother:
  1. He's well read. Amazingly so.
  2. He's clever. He amazes my mother by solving the Jumble in his head before she can do it on paper. In fact, Mom often takes all day and even cheats, consulting the Scrabble word finder (man, is she bummed when the word she's trying to unscramble has more than seven letters...). Kevin is rarely stumped. He also composes haikus while doing manual labor.
  3. He filled my iPod. I don't like everything that's on there, but at least I have choices. I thoroughly enjoy much of it, though, and I know full well I am not nearly hip enough to have found bands like the Moldy Peaches on my own.
  4. He's cute. We both look like our father, which means we both look like boys. Although, ironically, as a kid his long hair often gotten him mistaken for a girl.
  5. He's corruptible. Despite that fact that I have corrupted him (often), he does not blame me (outwardly) for any wistful feelings he might have towards his lost innocence. One of my favorite tales of corruption involves the time he helped me liberate a happy meal toy from a thrift store. It was one of those mini beanie babies, the turtle to be precise, and it was trapped in a bag of other crap which was not worthy of purchase. I freed it from the bag and asked Kevin to be my mule to get it out of the store. In my defense, I am really not much of a shoplifter. A pen thief, sure, and proud of it, but shoplifting is not my thing. I honestly only roped Kevin into this scheme because he was wearing clothes with pockets. Kevin, apparently, is a natural, however, as he did not even use his pockets during the heist. Too obvious, I guess, and so he slipped my turtle into his waistband and we walked out of the store. Please note that I am not particularly proud of this story. Little brothers should not, in general, be used as shoplifting mules. Also, thrift stores are for charity and I am probably going straight to hell for stealing from one. Stealing anything, in fact, should involve either necessity or ingenuity. This was a crime of opportunity and OCD. I had to have this beanie baby to complete my collection of the series and I was no longer able to acquire it at McDonald's. This was early enough into the beanie-baby-turned-happy-meal-toy craze that I had not yet gotten completely fed up with my local McDonald's employees and decided to resist collecting any of the babies at all. This decision came much later, on the second or third series, when I was stymied in my efforts to amass a perfect collection by one particularly surly and stubborn cashier. Having been a former employee of Mickey D's, I know darned well you can buy the happy meal toy separate from the happy meal. There is a button for it on the cash register. It is on the lower right side. This particular person refused to press said button and I refused to buy a meal which would not make me happy. It was over for me. Ruined... But the turtle came before all that.

  6. He always says "I love you" before we get off the phone.
  7. He once conspired with my future husband to lure me into the middle of our front yard and surprise me with the sprinklers. He couldn't have been more than 10 at the time. They laughed and laughed while I squealed and ran. I think it's sweet that they both recognize how important they are to me and so they work extra hard to get along.
  8. He's talented. He wrote the music for my wedding (and, of course, he wrote and performed the ceremony). I also particularly like the song he wrong for our parents' anniversary. It's called "Opposite Noses" and goes something like this, "you've got a hook, I've got a pug..." something something something "it must be love..."
  9. He's funny. We share a sick sense of humor. We often like to end our conversations on a gross note. For example, he likes to remind me about the time I passed gas out of both ends simultaneously in my sleep. Even though this incident obviously scarred him, he still loves me.
  10. He has a reputation for being lazy. As our mother says, "He just sits down." He appears to embody that law of physics - a body at rest stays at rest - yet he's often up for a walk. I think he's misunderstood. He's just conservative with his energy.
  11. He's smart. He scored 1500 on the SAT's (before they added that new third section).
  12. He's not afraid to take risks. He once gave a chocolate rose to an older girl in school.
  13. He can sleep anywhere. I still remember his neck, crooked at a 90 degree angle, as he slept on a couch in our crowded hotel room in Anaheim.
  14. He's nice to animals. Even Rags, the pig dog, whose face we first saw together while not getting a ride home from Pooh corner. It's not like Pooh corner was very far - just a block from home, though it was all uphill - but somehow I felt like Rags was mocking us as he enjoyed our ride home. There he was on Suz's lap, as Mom and Suzanne were smiling, waving, driving up the hill. All I ever dreamed about on those walks home from school was a ride. Any little bit helped. I never forgave Rags for that look (or for chewing my shoe - the cute black one with the bow on it...) but Kevin didn't care. He's even nice to Lucy, the dog that, in the words of our mother, "barks and pees in her sleep."
  15. He imitates my father well. It's spooky even. And he does a pretty good Mom.
  16. He's afraid of moths. I never knew. Recently he was harassed by one in the Devil's Whore House. I hadn't really thought about it, but they are rather erratic and unpredictable. I find them annoying, more than frightening, but I can see where he's coming from. Ironically, after he shared with me his fear of moths, we went inside and watched Mothra.
  17. He's not afraid of spiders. He used to keep a pet tarantula.
  18. Kevin is a six year old boy whose mother loves him. At least that's what it said about him the "What Not To Name the Baby" book... Even that book couldn't knock his name.
  19. Yet he once changed his name to "Simon" in elementary school. I always figured it was an homage to Simon LeBon, as my sister and I were devoted Duranies. Instead, it turned out that he had changed his name as a deductive exercise. There was a girl who rode his school bus who was rumored to have a crush on one of the two Kevins on the bus. He figured by changing his name, he could flush out whether or not he was the admired one. I'm not sure if his plan worked, but I do know that by sixth grade he was a quite the hot item and a trendsetter.
  20. He's a Gemini. The Libra in me loves Geminis. They're every bit as artsy, with an even stronger pull in two directions. This is why we appear lazy. We are too busy deciding which way to go.
  21. He saved me. From myself. I don't think I'd realized what a gloomy preteen I had been until he came along and brightened up my world. He gave me something to belong to when I needed it most.
  22. He's not greedy. For Christmas once he specially selected which Tin Tin books he really wanted because he couldn't fathom getting the whole collection. (Of course, he got them all...)
  23. Yet he's cunning. He strung out his potty training long enough that Mom was willing to negotiate big time. He began earning He Man figures for each intestinal sculpture he left in the right place. Soon he had the entire collection...
  24. He's an adventurous eater. Frog's leg, crocodile, cactus... Even decorative soap on a dare.... Erik and I paid him a dollar for his efforts, but sadly we made him use it to buy a soda to wash out the soapy taste in his mouth.
  25. He once consulted his penis for directions in San Francisco. I've always suspected that men consider their members to be some sort of built in GPS, but this day he totally proved it. We were wandering, somewhere between the Embarcadero and the Mission District, and he literally stopped, looked down, and, curving his fingers to represent recent turns we'd made, he discussed with himself (correctly) which way to go.

  26. He says, regarding marriage, that he'd rather be lonely than annoyed, but I think if the right girl came along he might change his mind. The girl in this picture, however, is taken. Little Maribeth is all grown up and already married as of April 14th. Besides, she's his cousin. I wanted to include this photo for two reasons. One, no offense Maribeth, but did you cut your own bangs? And two, notice the pin on Kevin's shirt? That's right, that's the Fab Five he's sporting. My little brother has always been cool.
So here's to the next twenty six years of late night phone calls, evil schemes, and genuine laughter. To missing ferries, catching trains, and carpooling with the parents. To the books you'll read and the movies I'll never see. Here's to little adventures in big cities involving pirate dice and pubs with pints and to the death marches that always seem to precede them. To gross notes to end on and, of course, to Algorithms. Happy Birthday, baby brother.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

goodbye, godfrey

Given my mood the last two days, I'd say that even though this adorable little sea lion weaner died within hours of his all-too-early-morning rescue, he's the highlight of my week. I retrieved him from behind a dumpster in the Embarcadero at 7:15 this morning. He'd been in the street earlier and was seen seizing, so I suspected he was suffering from domoic acid (in addition to emaciation). But then he released a bunch of runny black feces back at the site. Runny and black is bad, bad, bad and usually indicates some sort of internal bleeding. So I wasn't altogether surprised to find his noon feed canceled on account of death, but still I was sad. At least I got some pictures of him when he was still a bit perky and totally cute.

On another semi-good note, OC's follow up enema was deemed unnecessary today. Apparently, because I caught his problem sooner than usual, he was able to get the job done without sedation. Too bad I starved him all night in preparation for surgery just in case. It was cute at first, all the begging for food, but it soon grew pathetic and frustrating for all involved. Anyway, I was also thrilled when my vet decided not to charge me for the recheck.

Now I'm off to the grocery store, I guess. It's getting too late for take out (Morro Bay rolls up the sidewalks at 8:30) and there's really nothing much in the cupboards. This time I hope I get all the items I desire. You'd think that wouldn't be too difficult, but last time I went shopping, I bought a peach pie only to discover it had turned to apple before I got it home.

Wish me luck...

Friday, May 25, 2007

and today...

And today my stupid orange cat is vet bound (again) after missing just one day of meds. Really makes me wish I'd found that volcano yesterday...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

today i...

Today I attended a meeting of my city's council. It made me want to throw myself in a volcano.

Monday, May 21, 2007

41 years ago today

My folks got hitched 41 years ago today. Or yesterday, by the time you're reading this, since I didn't actually start this tribute until nearly midnight... In any event, I was thrilled when I came across this photo of the young newlyweds. The stamp on the back says this shot was taken in September 1966, so they'd only been man and wife for a few months. Even without the date, you can tell they're newlyweds from the smile on my dad's face. That's the grin of a guy who's got God's okay to get laid on a regular basis.

I especially love that the VW bug is in the picture. If it's the bug I've heard so much about, it was Dad's other true love. If this car could talk, it would probly tell you about the time it once rolled into the river when knocked out of gear during a romantic rendezvous. If it could predict the future, it would cringe to know that it would soon be totaled when Mom crashed it into a pole in a parking lot (leaving it there and attempting to work her shift with a concussion...). Though I've never known the bug to have a nickname, I'd guess my folks gave it one. Based on their track record (Brownie, Greenie, and Big Red), I'd have to say that perhaps they called the bug Blackie?

I calculated that my parents have now been married to each other for 65% of their lives and, of course, 115% of mine. They celebrated this anniversary early and often, in their own quiet way. They saw an extra movie, had dinner out, spent some time in the garden (Dad planted all the new plants for Mom in the rain), and, best of all, they finally got a Tivo. They have no idea how much they'll love it because it isn't set up yet, but soon they won't know how they got along without it.

My parents are like my Tivo. I can't imagine a world without them. They provide me with information and entertainment, specially tailored to my personal preferences. They phone in every couple of days, keeping track of what's important to me. They're reliable, if a bit old fashioned (I have an old school Tivo, no dual tuner for me...), and when they are on the fritz, life totally sucks. They are my family's living hard drive - storing and sharing our family history, deleting the bad stuff to make room for the good.

I've learned a lot from my folks over the years. I'd like to think I'm applying their wisdom to my own happy marriage, but I know in my heart that all the credit for that goes to my uberpatient husband. I am spoiled and selfish and easily provoked. He coddles me and humors me and always lets me win. Still, my parents are the yardstick by which I measure my marital success.

Anyway, I'm proud of them. They've taught me that marriage isn't always easy, but it's always worthwhile. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

today i am a man

I've always said it takes a man to catch a man. And by "man" I meant an adult male sea lion, of course. My previous attempts at netting adult males have varied - some spectacular, some pathetic - but all ultimately failed. Today, I have broken my losing streak and proven to myself that I am man enough to catch myself a big boy.

Okay, so Tapia isn't the biggest big boy I've ever seen. He's barely getting his sagittal crest, so he's not much more than five years old. And he probly doesn't weigh much more than 100 kilos (he was too big for our scale, so I can't say for sure), which means he's not much bigger than our average adult female. But still, he has balls (as you can see in this picture) and I took him down.

Now I must admit, I had a lot of help from my crew (three guys, three girls, all new to the sea lion scene). And Tapia himself assisted, by being lethargic and approachable. But he put on quite a show once we had him in the net. It's frightening, boarding back 200 pounds of pissed off muscle. I know, cuz I've done that much before. And I dare say, my girls did way less squealing than I would have. They did suggest perhaps we should let him go, that maybe he was feeling quite healthy after all, but I'd already seen the tell tale signs of domoic acid poisoning - back scratching, butt biting, and, as you can see in his mug shot, the lovely brown slobber. So we kept him.

True to form, I did have one complication. I was unable to free him from the net once I had him safely in the cage. Luckily, we were less than one mile from our triage center so we decided to secure the pole of the net just well enough to make the drive to our facility. It proved interesting, trying to free him from both the cage and the net inside his cramped pen, but that's all part of the fun, right?

The reason I had to catch Tapia myself was that I had already called in a favor from my rescue mentor turned calvary (the same gal who helped me clean up my dock rescue mess earlier this week). I'd asked her to join me on a rescue of a much more pathetic, abscess riddled sea lion pup who'd been sitting on a rock surrounded by ocean. His wounds were so obvious and painful, I just couldn't afford to miss so I begged my ringer to do my dirty work. She, of course, made his rescue look easy. The hardest parts were finding him (my first scout failed to see him and nearly sent me home) and getting him up the steep trail.

I'm happy to report that Popet is now pleasantly zonked out (on butorphanol and lorazepam), though I'm not entirely convinced he'll be alive in the morning. I would share pictures, but seriously, they're gruesome. My alarm is set to wake me obscenely early so I can give him more butorphanol at dawn. So I'm off, then, to sleep. My first night as a man.

Monday, May 14, 2007

patience is not my virtue

Early this morning I was called out to check on a sea lion in my neighborhood. The little yearling was on the skinny side of normal, extremely approachable, and reportedly lethargic. Before I arrived on the scene, however, he had decided to hitch a ride on a passing Harbor Patrol boat. Joy riding is decidedly not normal behavior, so he had me intrigued. When I found him, he'd recently ditched the boat and hauled out on a rather generous dock below a pier.

Now I've only had one dock rescue in my five year career. The opportunity just doesn't come along that often and, whenever it does, I happily extend the net to a more experienced volunteer. I've participated in a handful of others, though, so I know how it's done. It's all about patience, a slow approach, a swift swing of the net. Also, I learned the hard way, it's important to keep them on the dock once you have them in the net. So when my seasoned seal friend (basically my rescue mentor) didn't answer her cell right away, I thought, what the heck. It's worth a try. Though I was stealthy and brave, I really should have waited until he was more settled. He let me get within striking range, but my aim was awful. As you can see here (the wet spot on the empty dock), I got the body but not the head. In other words, I whiffed.

Conveniently, my sea lion soon came up on another, much less accessible dock. In the meanwhile, my rescue mentor had called back and she agreed to come down and check out the situation. She also brought her neighbor, we call him Good Neighbor Tim. Tim is much less experienced (in fact, before today he'd never really thrown the net), but by virtue of his height we decided he should be the one to descend the scary ladder and climb over the fence to access the dock. As you can see, Good Neighbor Tim was able to do what I could not. (Although I must say he too whiffed on his first try. He was given a second chance when the sea lion returned to reclaim his dock. Further evidence he was a good pick up...)

Here's a shot of Brindell, named for Good Neighbor Tim's granny, back at the site after a bit of breakfast. At 18.4 kg (that's 40.5 pounds, America) he was a handful to restrain. At least then I felt like I'd had a hand in helping him, though I know all the credit goes to my calvary. In any case, Brindell brightened what would have otherwise been an ordinary day.

Monday, May 07, 2007

cause for celebration

Today I had a moment of panic when I saw that my favorite harbor seal, Melissa, was no longer listed among the patients at the Marine Mammal Center. Suddenly dropping off the list without being included on a release notice is a very, very bad thing. Cursing myself for getting so attached to the first harbor seal of the season (a tough seal to be, just ask last year's Ree Ree, who, funny enough, came from the same naked beach, though not as early as February...), I typed up a brief but brave email to the professionals inquiring about her whereabouts. I was delighted to learn she actually had been released just this past Saturday, along with her boyfriend, Nigel.

While I was on the web confusing myself about Melissa's outcome, I was also on the phone learning that today my sister was finally offered a full time gig at her preferred place of employment, the animal ER. Working there exclusively will require some creative child care arrangements, but will ultimately reduce her days spent at work each month from 23 to 12. Beside the obvious financial benefits, Dr. Suz's skills and confidence will grow considerably as she's exposed to more and more bizarre cases. Not only will she become the kick ass doctor she has the potential to be (and, in many ways, already is), but her stories should prove ever more interesting as she unloads them on me via Verizon on her drive home. Of course, now that drive home will be happening at 2 am, so it may be that my voicemail gets to enjoy them first, but I don't mind sharing.

On the home front, today was sweltering hot and Erik decided to add a coat of water sealant to our deck. This was the perfect excuse to do what I probly would've done anyway - sit around sipping margaritas and not doing laundry. Happily, OC decided to join me, avoiding sticky foot and his evil brother, Blackers (whose newest disparaging nickname is Teste, as in Testosterone...). The black one, normally the home body, seemed to make a point of walking across the wet deck and going in and out of the cat window sans stairs.

As far as parasites go, I have found no definitive evidence that I've been infected. Of course I am still following an aggressive treatment protocol just in case. I did, however, find the cutest louse on a web site that sells giant microbes. I have not yet convinced myself that I can't live without him, but he's definitely on my list of things I should own someday. In fact, I suppose I could sell giant microbes at Big Y Small, as they are both big and small at the same time. Of course, if Texas is anywhere near as hot as today was, I can't imagine getting anything done at all.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

feeling lousy

I'm feeling lousy. Literally. I keep scratching at the nape of my neck and behind my ears because I'm told that's where the lice go. I have no way of knowing if my itches are phantom or genuine. All I know is I've been exposed.

I thought this entry, this long overdue catch up entry, would be all about my fabulous experiences on the boat release last Friday. Instead all I can think about is the possibility that pesky parasites might be breeding in my hair. For once I am grateful for my mother's pathetic stringy locks. It is infinitely easier to work a tiny comb through my puny ponytail than it is for my nieces to police their luxurious manes. And though I know they didn't mean to expose me to this menace, I can't help but feel I've been wronged. The child-free should never have to buy a Nix kit or a Rid comb. Seriously, the directions on the comb suggest you should distract your child with a book or a video game. Even the manufacturers cannot imagine that a bona fide adult might be in need of their product.

The sad thing? I know if I share my possible parasites with Erik, it will be the end of his long hair. He's been threatening to get a haircut for months now. In fact, he even got a trim recently. Funny enough, it was from a barber who also had (and hated) his own long hair. They commiserated about the power of girlfriends during Erik's brief visit...

Although I am obsessed with my suspected scalp squatters, I must say my visit to the Farallon Islands remains the most significant aspect of my recent travels. I was delighted in so many ways. For one, I didn't puke. I didn't even lose it when someone else hurled over the side of the boat only to have the boat pitch, forcing his vomit to land on deck, very near my feet.

I was also thrilled to learn that I did know a few of the animals on the boat. I had been bummed when all my babies were released on earlier trips and then I saw that Woodco, my most recent fur seal, was on her way back to freedom. (Monahan, by the way, is also feeling much better. Hard to believe after the condition she'd been in. Sadly, the two fur seals that came from our area the day after Woodco and Monahan came in did not make it. Just goes to show how crucial early care is in the battle against domoic acid toxicity...) In addition to Woodco, Spanokopita, the only sea lion on the trip, had also earned his wings.

And, perhaps best of all, I got to witness the re-release of Astro, the oh-so-rare steller sea lion. Astro had been released in Santa Cruz just a couple days before, after spending 10 of his 11 months of life at the Center. His habituation to humans proved troublesome, however, as he shied from the ocean and chased researchers around. We hoped that dragging him out 34 miles to sea would remind him he was a marine mammal, not a puppy. Still, leaving him there to face the world alone seemed cruel... especially when he refused to leave his carrier.

Sadly, my photos of the event are sorely lacking. I knew my digital camera was woefully slow but even when my subjects were still, the ocean was not. I have plenty of pictures of anonymous waves, but very few of seals. Luckily, there were actual professionals on the boat and you can see their pictures here and there. I especially dig the photo from the Chronicle of Astro's eye peeking out of his carrier. He did that a bunch (in between naps), though I never caught the moment myself. Here's a shot of the North Island, and Astro's new friends. There's no beach on this island (or any of the Farallones, really), just this rocky approach. What I found most amazing (beside the simple fact the seals can get up on the islands at all) is how high they'll go. I got an almost great shot of a half a sea lion who had made it to the island's peak.

Unfortunately, I found that I, too, could nap on the boat. I have long bragged that I can sleep through anything. On the way out I was avoiding nausea. On the way back, I escaped boredom (we were 3 hours out to sea and once the seals were gone there was little else to do...). I'm sure my rest was mostly chemically induced (I had three forms of antiemitics working for me and drowsiness was a side effect of two...), so I can't take all the credit. Still, I am proud. And I am permanently contorted as the left side of my neck will not stop cursing me for using a fish sink as a pillow.

Even so, a pain in the neck and a possible parasite load are small prices to pay for a once in a lifetime experience. Notice I say once in a lifetime. Not because I couldn't go again, just because I probly won't.

Besides, it seems I may never again go anywhere for any length of time for my absence once again upset my orange cat's fragile fecal balance. Although my hubby saw him at least once a day while I was gone (he lured him with Fancy Feast, aka Kitty Crack...), apparently it was not enough to keep him hydrated on the inside. When I finally laid eyes on my poor OC, he was looking haggard and uncomfortable. Again I was fortunate to get a late afternoon vet appointment and even more fortunate that my vet was willing to sedate him for a proper roto-rooting. It meant he had to spend the night (in fact, I barely got him back before close of business the next day) but it was what he needed. I'm bummed I didn't get him back all fresh from sedation as I really did enjoy the affectionate side effects of his pain meds the last time. Really, though, I'm happy he's here at all. As suspected, my sister (his medical benefactor) has begun hinting that I should get a job to pay for his treatments. And Erik (my very supportive husband) has begun suggesting we look for a suitable alternative home for him. When I was unresponsive, fighting off tears, he assumed my cell phone dropped his call... Some conversations are best left unfinished. Honestly, if I did think there was an ideal home for a medically needy small animal killing machine, I might consider it. He's clearly second in command, literally the red headed step child. Still, he's my cat.

As if he knew I'd need a distraction (and a pseudo apology), I came home to discover that on his own way home Erik had picked up roses at the farmer's market (lots of them, actually). He later got us take out from the Mexican place down the street and he didn't complain as I monopolized the remote control to get caught up on my soap opera. A few margaritas later, I actually forgot to itch my head (though the mountain of lice laundry reminded me of my possible predicament...). Maybe there is hope for me yet.