Friday, April 30, 2010

Xena, Warrior Princess

She is at constant attention. Sitting or lying down, her eyes dart here and there, alert to the slightest movement, ready to strike out if anybody gets too close.

She is Xena, our newest foster and she arrived last night, setting off half an hour of snarling and growling by all the dogs. She is a real warrior princess, fiercely protective of her offspring.

Xena is a mother chihuahua mix, with two puppies about 2+ weeks old (I'm guessing, because their eyes are opened). She and her male companion showed up in a town north of Sacramento a couple of weeks ago. Someone took them in and the next night Xena gave birth. I'm not sure the sequence of events, but she apparently attacked someone who got too close ("It was apparently his fault. He did something stupid," I was told) and the original family called the SPCA, but decided to keep the male. Xena apparently got even more wary when she was on her own, the only protector of the puppies.

Megan called to ask if I could take them and of course I said yes. It's a new experience having puppies here that I don't have to feed and can't even touch.

I've named the puppies Itsy and Bitsy, which I know is going to shock certain people--but these are dogs, not spiders. I haven't seen the puppies well, but Itsy is the lighter colored of the two (maybe entirely white; I'm not sure). Bitsy has the brown body.

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Ashley says that Xena is actually sociable and thought she would sooner or later bond with me just fine, but I have my doubts, only because she sees Polly as a threat to her babies and Polly has to be in her face all the time. Polly sits in my lap or stands on the chair, trembing all over in her eagerness? discomfort? fear? excitement? Who knows with Polly. But Xena sees Polly as a real threat, so I don't know what it will take to make Xena comfortable enough to actually get out of the cage. I may wait until Polly goes to Petco on Saturday before actually giving her the chance.

I wasn't going to mess with Xena last night, but I know she's a nursing mom and would at the very least need water. I got a turkey baster and a glass of water and gave her water through the wire mesh of the cage. She took it so eagerly (three basters full) that I decided to live dangerously and tried opening the cage door and slipping a small bowl of water to the side of the cage. Xena let me. She finished all the water. Then I put some bits of kibble through the wire of the cage and she ate those eagerly, so I took the water bowl out and filled it with kibble and she let me put that in the cage too. When it was empty, I refilled the bowl, from outside, using the turkey baster, and left it in the cage with her all night.

This morning I took the bowl out, filled it with food, put it in the cage and added a bowl of water. She let me do all of this and finished the food quickly, but when I tried to take the bowl out again she had reached her limit of contact and snapped in my general direction. I don't think she was trying to hurt me, but her low growl let me know I had gone too far. I left her alone.

Later, to give her more room in the cage, I took long metal tongs and removed the food bowl that way, so my hand didn't have to go into the cage. She didn't growl, but her eyes never left the tongs and she was at the ready just in case. I also refilled the water bowl with the turkey baster again.

Each time I try anything with Xena, I lock Polly in her own cage, but of course Xena doesn't know that.

Sooner or later the cage is going to need to be cleaned, but I'm not even thinking about that right now. Right now the task at hand is to help Xena feel safe and to help her realize that nobody wants to hurt her or her puppies. I'll worry about how to handle Polly and the puppies when they are starting to explore their world at a later date!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Thirteen

Games I played as a child

1. Monopoly
2. Jacks
3. Backyard baseball
4. Red Rover
5. Lemonade
6. Dodge Ball
7. Jump rope
8. Mother May I?
9. Hopscotch
10. Go Fish
11. Canasta
12. Checkers
13. Chinese Checkers

Several Blasts from the Past

What year is it? I'm not sure today.

This all started on Saturday, when I went to help make calls for our 50th high school reunion. It reunited me with two women that I was never particularly close to, but 50 years later it was really fun to see again.

That set off some searching to contact people we had not been able to reach by phone. Also, the news of the death of a good friend 3 years ago made me write to the friends I am in contact with. One of those sent me the e-mail address for a woman I'm been trying to find for years. I wrote to her at 4:30 this morning when I couldn't sleep. I also found her on Facebook and have requested to be her friend.

Trying to find a woman I went to both grammar school and high school with, I wrote to a grammar school friend, who doesn't know how to find her,but did have an e-mail address for another friend, who supposedly has the first woman's contact information. I wrote to that woman and also found her on Facebook.

But all this was just the tip of of the iceburg. I discovered there is a "We Grew Up in San Francisco" group on Facebook which I decided to check out. I felt like I'd struck the mother lode. We native San Franciscans are very proud of our upbringing and there are >15,000 members of the group. So far two of them have already requested being on my friends list.

The discussions were such fun and brought such a deluge of memories. It was nearly noon before I realized that the morning was gone. There were 100 posts alone about "native sanfrenciscans." The person who started the group explained the title: "The first lesson - learned at birth - is never to call it "Frisco" or "San FRANcisco." Most resident tourists have settled on something that sounds like an Anglicized version of the Spanish San Francisco, but natives run the two words together, and it comes out "Sanfrencisco." It may also be called "thecity," which is one word. It is never called "the city," which is two words and tacky."

The discussion goes on from there and I identified with most things that people added to it.

When he asks where you went to school, he means high school - not college, not trade school, and certainly not P.S. 178. The correct answer is one of several San Francisco high schools. "S.H.," of course, means Sacred Heart High School (now known as Sacred Heart Cathedral), which not only reveals your high school but often what district of the city you came from, and other details.

If, for example, the answer is "S.I." you know the guy went to St. Ignatius High School and was probably raised a Catholic and is from an upper-middle-class family.

If the person says "Poly," they probably grew up in the shadow of Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park -- the site of many memorable high school football games, or in the Haight-Ashbury.

If the response is "Mission" or "Bal" (for Balboa High), you know he is from the Mission District, and his father was probably a member of the working class, called "a workinman" in the San Francisco dialect.

I understood that completely.

There were other discussion topics like which theatres, now long gone, do you remember? (I remembered The Alhambra, walking distance from our house where admission was 25 cents, popcorn was 10 cents, candy bars were 5 cents and you got a cartoon, a news reel, a serial, and a double feature, and could sit through them all twice, if you wanted to).

There was another one about which was the first concert you ever saw. Most remember rock concerts, but mine was Judy Garland at the Civic Center Auditorium in 1961.

A discussion on "the best hamburger in San Francisco" had several of us missing The Hippo, which served lots and lots of kinds of hamburgers. Jeri was smart and always ordered the "hamburger sundae," which came with ice cream and chocolate sauce. That way she got dessert as well as a main course. (The Hippo was also the place where Ann Pool and Orva Hoskinson decided to create a theatre group they ultimately called "The Lamplighters.")

A couple of guys and I reminisced about Don Sherwood, "the world's greatest disc jockey." Until I read one guy's assessment of Sherwood, I never realized how much Ned would have appreciated him.

Lucky for me, Sherwood stayed local and rejected offers to go national (he was offered a late night show out of Chi) because he detested the "suits," network executives....His DJ gig was as far as he wanted to go in show business. Our loss, since he was as talented as anyone I worked with in Hollywood. Don could have been right up there with the best of them. But that's why we all loved Don, wasn't it, his refusal to take any crap from anybody. Unless you're willing to take some, you stay where you are... which he did until the end. Much too young.

When I had finally mined the best of the discussions, I turned to the photos. There were >1600 of them. Some of them were very personal of the "me and my cousin" type, but some brought back even greater floods of memories, such as the Fun House at Playland at the Beach...

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where Laughing Sal in the street level window terrified me as a little kid, and Bernstein's Fish Grotto...

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a restaurant that for years "poked its proud prow out onto Powell Street." There were lots of pictures of hills, like this one which is somewhat near the house where I grew up (but not nearly as steep!)

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I looked at nearly all of the 1600 photos and what fun it was. I couldn't tear myself away.

And then the mail arrived and brought a letter from my high school freshman home room teacher, Sister Louise, from whom I have not heard in well over 40 years.

So I'm not really sure what year this is....heck, I'm not even sure what decade it is. It could be the 50s, or the 60s or even the 70s. My brain is certainly stuck in one of those decades this evening.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's Play a Game

I'm sure many of you have read this, but it's definitely worth reprinting...

What If the Tea Party Were Black?

By Tim Wise, AlterNet
Posted on April 25, 2010, Printed on April 27, 2010

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We're About to Start, Finally

When they put the placemat down in front us, Alison observed that we obviously had come to the right restaurant!

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[The placemat proved to be prophetic, since on the way home from San Francisco, I had a call from Megan (SPCA), who asked if I'd be willing to take a female chihuahua with 2 one week old puppies. They will arrive here tomorrow or the next day, or whenever the logistics of getting them from "there" to "here" are figured out.]

The lunch at Denny's was the re-cap of our morning's activities. This was our second planning meeting for the eventually-to-be-written Lamplighter History, Book III. We were meeting at Lamplighter World Headquarters, a place noted for difficult parking. Walt and I had a car conflict, since he had to have some lab tests at Kaiser in the morning and I wanted to leave Davis between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and Kaiser's lab doesn't open until 7:30.

Now it doesn't take 3 hours to get to San Francisco (our meeting was 10:30), but at that hour of the morning you have to take into account possible rush hour traffic, a long back-up at the bridge, and then the parking issue.

Walt got home before 8:30 and I took off immediately. Miraculously, there was very little rush hour traffic (most of which I avoided by taking a frontage road) and no backup at the bridge, thanks to our new FastPass, which means you no longer have to stop and pay a's deducted from your account automatically. To my delight, I got to the City about 30 minutes before the meeting (remembering, with amusement, all of the contingency plans we had for in case I got there late).

While driving toward the office, I passed a fenced off lot with cars inside it, but no parking sign. There was a toothless woman in an official looking jacket (which matched the official looking jackets of the men she was with) sitting at the entrance. I asked her if there was public parking there. She looked around furtively. "How long you gonna be?" she asked, in a whisper. I told her that I would probably be there about 2 hours. She gave a jerk with her head and said "park in the back," which I did. She smiled at me when I walked out of the lot and said something I didn't understand. I didn't know if I had just handed my car over to a group that was going to strip it, or if I would be ticketed, or if I would be charged, but at least I was parked. It was a much shorter walk to the office than the 40+ minute schlep I'd had from the parking lot I'd used last time. In fact, there were four of us at the meeting and I was the second to arrive!

Alison and I had worked up a list of things we wanted to cover, and we did in short order. Kathryn had drawn up a list of all the shows since 1987. We got a tour of where photos are stored (it should only take us six months go through them all...groan!) and we agreed on the people who need to be interviewed first, hopefully between now and the time Alison and I both go on vacation (us to Russia, her to Iowa).

When we had done as much as we could do at that point, we said goodbye to everyone and headed back to the parking lot. The little toothless old lady was there alone this time, smiled and waved, and apparently was not going to charge me for parking there (so I gave her $5 for herself--half what it would have cost me in the pay lot nearby).

Alison and I then headed over the Bay Bridge to our usual eatery, Denny's, where we had lunch. And then after a frustrating search for a BART station where I could drop her off (so similar to my search for IKEA a couple of years back), we finally found a place and said goodbye. I headed back home again.

I spent the rest of the afternoon calling the ^%$#@ dogs back into the house because as soon as I would open the dog door, Lizzie and Polly would run out to start barking again (I think they were barking at someone who was mowing the lawn next door). I can't believe how happy I was when Polly learned how to use that door. I should have realized I had just created a monster.

Now to get ready for the new foster and her puppies and see what new challenges that is going to bring. At least this doesn't involve bottle feeding this time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Last Clam Dip

I wondered whether I should bring clam dip. Jeri D. (our Jeri's godmother) had said we should bring whatever we wanted to drink and snacks in a cooler, since they had neither a table nor a refrigerator any more. But then I realized this would be the very last time we would ever have clam dip in that house and I went ahead and brought the fixings for it anyway.

Jeri is selling her home, now that she has become pretty much a full time resident of her RV, traveling around the country, and about to establish residence somewhere other than California, for tax purposes. She has been so seldom in her home in the Del Webb Adult Community in Lincoln since her husband died that it's crazy to keep paying taxes on it.

So the house is for sale. But Jeri always had the party house, whether when she and her husband lived in Castro Valley or in Lincoln. We have been having parties at their house since I was pregnant with our own Jeri. So this was kind of bittersweet. It's definitely the end of a very, very long era.

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I smiled when we got out of the car and started toward the house, realizing that our cars advertised the interests that defined us.

We've had this magnet on the back of our car for several years now.

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Rich and Pat have always been the conservationlists / environmentalists of the group.

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Hetch Hetchy is a valley in Yosemite which was completely flooded when they built the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the 1920s. The call for returning the valley to it's original condition has been raging on ever since.

Jeri got her personalized license plate after she got her degree.

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If Char and Mike had been there, I'm sure we could have added a "Go Bears!" message to the rest of the cars!

I'm not sure what help we were. I packed a couple of boxes of glasses and a box or two of pots and pans, Pat, Rich and Walt separated photos from frames, Phil, the new man in Jeri's life, packed and carried endless boxes to the garage where Jeri's son Kevin organized it, Pat and I packed up all the decorative stuff in the bathroom (how I would have loved to have a bathroom like this!)

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It is MUCH larger than my kitchen.

We took a break to eat and as we sat around I remembered all the other times that people from the Pinata Group had gathered there, sprawled on couches or at the kitchen table, or out on the patio. Now we had plastic chairs that we had brought for ourselves, since all the furniture has gone off to a consignment shop.

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.And yes, there was clam dip.

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We sat there reminiscing about one of their moves to a house high on a hill. The people buying their old house had made things so incredibly difficult for Jeri and Bill that when they moved out of the house, they took EVERYTHING, including the lightbulbs and some of the plants in the back yard.

Jeri and I officially agreed to donate the game of Risk we bought jointly back in the 1960s to a thrift shop.

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We reached a point where all that was left were things that only Jeri could make decisions about, so we packed up all of our things and left her, Phil and Kevin to finish the job.

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I'm very happy for my friend for her new life, but somehow it's sad knowing that she's not just an hour away by car (but then she hasn't been that for a few years now!). But that sadness is lessened by the memories we have of all the parties over the past 40+ years.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Quick Trip

I snuck out of the house at 8 a.m., not wanting to wake Walt. I was supposed to be in San Francisco to meet some of my former classmates to help call some other of my former classmates about our upcoming reunion, celebration our 50th anniversary. I have been on the fence about whether I want to go or not,since none of my best friends from high school will be going. But I had been nominally on the committee to plan and as yet had done nothing whatsoever, so when the call went out for help with phone calls, I volunteered.

For awhile on the ride down, I thought that I was going to be too late to do anything, since the traffic was bumper-to-bumper, but after about 5 minutes, I came across the reason why.

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(the quality of the photo is a testament to my -- again -- forgetting The Prime Directive. At least this time I had the camera on my cell phone.) Once I'd passed the accident, it was clear sailing across the bridge and into the city.

As I approached the school, suddenly there were cars double parked on both sides of the street, tons of people wandering around, some of whom were carrying clothes in bags. I went into the designated parking lot which was not only full, but double parked in some areas, and lots of people driving around looking for somewhere to park. I was lucky that on my second trip through the lot, I found a guy who was pulling out and I was able to grab a great spot, right under the Cathedral's spires (which I always tell everybody look like the agitator of a washing machine.

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The woman who is organizing this thing, and who organizes all of the social events at the school, is the energizer bunny. She's been there 13 years, is a graduate (a few years behind our class), but I had to wonder if she'd checked on what else was going on today. Kids were picking up their graduation robes, there was something about Confirmation at the cathedral and other things happening. The room and phones we were supposed to use were needed by a couple of other groups, so she was wandering around trying to find us a place to set up.

It was nice to see my former classmates, Della and Maureen, again.

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We were pleased to note that none of us have changed a bit since 1960. And I got the answer to a question I've been asking for decades--whatever happened to my best friend Madelyn. I knew that she married right after graduation and I heard that she "gained a lot of weight" and had a lot of kids. But none of us who were her friends have heard from her. She just disappeared, even though we knew her married name.

Well, sadly, we learned that she died in 2007 and at the time of her death, she was living with one of her children in Tennessee. I was sad to hear of her death and sad for all the years that we knew nothing about each other.

The number of volunteers for this job was overkill. There were three of us from the girls' school and 30 people to call. We were finished in less than 10 minutes, since most of the people we called weren't at home anyway. But the experience made me decide that I do want to attend the event.

When I left, it was around lunch time and I was trying to decide where I was going to stop to eat. Walt and I watch a local PBS show called "Check Please, Bay Area," where people sit around and compare notes on each other's favorite restaurant. A fun show, even though we don't live in the Bay Area, so aren't near any of the recommended restaurants (many of which are way out of our price range). But one that they recommended this week was Bette's Oceanview Diner, in Berkeley. I realized I could stop there, so I did.

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The one thing about Bette's "Oceanview" diner is that it's nowhere near an ocean. It's close to San Francisco Bay, but there are a couple of blocks of buildings between it and water. Apparently the area where it is built used to be called Oceanview--and the the place has been there since the 1930s.

The pancakes were recommended enthusiastically, so when I learned that the special of the day was lemon ricotta pancakes, I ordered them. They were delicious, and the scrambled eggs came exactly as I like them (moist) and it was fun sitting at the counter watching the guys working at the grill.

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I was home six hours after I left it, with a list of people I need to call again. Kind of a silly day, all things considered, but it did help me decide whether I was going to go to the reunion or not.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Something with Chicken in it"

I found a wonderful website today. It discusses the suggestion made by Nevada Senate hopeful Sue Lowden about bartering chickens for medical care.

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Following this pullet surprise, I immediately sent the link to Dr. G. I am the web master for the "pelvic aesthetics" part of his business and I told him I needed to know if we were going to have to recalculate the fee schedule on the web site. I notice that things like "vaginal rejuvenation" are not covered in the chicken converter at present, so I suppose that we are going to have to make our own calculations.

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I do have some problem with the chickens-for-health care plan. I managed two medical offices and I'm struck by the sheer logistics of it all. We had trouble finding places for all of the midwives to see patients as it was. I don't know how we would do it if we had to have a chicken room to store all of the fees that showed up at the office, to say nothing of the fact that we were on the second floor and shared space with a general practitioner, and a pediatrician, all of whom would presumably have the same problem.

The question has been made about payments, and making a downpayment. Would pregnant women pay for their monthly visits in eggs rather than fully born chickens?

If I get hungry some afternoon and fix myself a deviled egg sandwich, would I be accused of embezzlement? Given that my specialty for dinner has for some time been "something with chicken in it," could I get away with sneaking a hen out under my coat?

What about vegetarian physicians? (Well, Mike Bell (R) of Tennessee likes the whole barter system too and points out that some doctors have been paid by Mennonites in vegetables.) Can I pay my bill with a big pot of vegetable soup, then? Is this an answer to all of those zucchini stubbornly growing in the back yard that I can't give away to my neighbors? Do I get reduced fee if I add dumplings?

(Somehow, knowing all the physicians I've worked for, I'm convinced that most doctors would rather be paid in paper lettuce, and in carets rather than carrots!)

If you think about it, though, this barter system would require total revision of our economic system. It's one thing to bring Ch3000 to your doctor (that's the abbreviation for 3000 chickens), but how am I, the office manager to be paid? Chicken wings? Do I get a vat of Buffalo wing sauce as a Christmas bonus?

It could, however, have a big impact on unemployment figures. Doctors would not only be required to hire managers and clerical people and nurses and other support medical personnel, but also chicken herders and chicken feeders and chicken killers and chicken pluckers, and egg gatherers and even chicken sexers, for those precocious eggs who insist on being hatched (I know there is a job of chicken sexer because I saw it on Dirty Jobs once).

Most importantly, we'd need to hire people to clean up chicken poop. Hey! Isn't there some sort of use for guano? Could we harvest chicken poop and have our own version of making lemonade from lemons?

This barter system thing does change the whole look at pyramid schemes, doesn't it?

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What would the disaster at Enron look like if we lived on the chicken and vegetable standard rather than the gold standard? Would we cry "Fowl"?

Friday, April 23, 2010

My "Glee personality"

I'm sure everyone who knows me will be amazed to hear that I am a tad obsessive when it comes to cleanliness!

Friday 56

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*Post a link along with your post back to Story Time with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

The book is "A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare" by James Shapiro:

Toby Matthew wrote to Dudley Carleton in September that since 'the great overthrow at Blackwater, there are 'four hundred more throats cut in Ireland.'


First of all, apologies for the bad link yesterday on the article about The Putah Creek Crawdads, which several people wrote to me about. I can't seem to get it to link properly, but if you really want to read it go to and search the labels in the right column for "Putah Creek Crawdads."

I've bought a couple of books recently on grandparenting. One is a book chock full of ideas for how to be in your grandchild's life when you live at a distance. I've started working on that already.

The other was a book I finished reading in a day. It's newspaper columnist Adar Lara's "The Granny Diaries." I found that more fun reading, but less helpful because Lara's grandchild is her daughter's child and the book really comes from the place of a sometimes uneasy relationship between mother and daughter, and how the mother can support her daughter's decisions, even when she wants to open her mouth and say "why don't you..." or "in my day we..." or other such comments which might be taken as a criticism of her parenting.

She actually gives 2-1/2 pages to the grandmothers whose SONS are the parent and it was more acknowledging that some of us are grandparents to our son's children and that's about it.

But reading these books has made me think about my relationship with my own grandparents (I am fortunate that I knew all four of them) and how I felt about my mother's parents (her mother especially), given that I was lucky if I saw her three times a year, makes me realize how grandparenting can be done even at a distance.

As I have written before, we saw my father's parents all the time. They lived just a mile or so from us, in San Francisco, and they did not have a car, so they relied on us for transportation everywhere. Every Sunday morning we picked them up and took them to church. My mother and my grandmother spoke on the phone veryfrequently. (This was not my mother's choice and my grandmother carried on such lengthy one-sided conversations that it was not uncommon to watch my mother holding her head in her hands, the telephone receiver down at her side while my grandmother chatted on and on and on, unaware that nobody was listening to her.)

She was a small woman but very definitely the matriarch. Her rule was law. All the time. She was always impeccably dressed, and would not be seen in downtown San Francisco without high heels, a nice 2-piece suit, a hat, and gloves. She liked being waited on and her habit was to sit herself down somewhere and then start issuing orders, always prefacing them by "Hon, like a good girl would you...." get her a drink, get her purse for her, open a window, etc., etc., etc.

She was angry all of her life that she was not rich, and her circle of friends were all people of some degree of wealth. As they all got older and her friends began to die off, she was always disappointed that nobody left her a lot of money. She had been a chorus girl in vaudeville and occasionally could get frolicksome, but mostly I saw her as a woman with a great deal of unhapiness with a sour disposition that affected everyone around her.

She loved me. She showered me with stuff and smothered me. It was nice for her that I liked frilly, girly things, because she did too, and when Karen came along, and was a tomboy, she really didn't care much about her. Oh she treated her nicely, but it was always clear who was her favorite--and it was one thing I was jealous about my sister--Nannie didn't like her as much as she did me.

In contrast, my father's father, in my memory, was very quiet and aloof (he never got a chance to get a word in edgewise, and my grandmother spent most of her life criticizing him to his face). He also was always impeccably dressed. Always wore a white shirt and a tie, even when working at the downtown garage, parking cars, where he worked until he retired. He never seemed to quite know what to do with grandchildren and was very stiff and proper with us. Whenever he saw us, the only thing he could think of to say was "tell me all about yourself."

Where my father's parents were the quintessential city folk, my mother's parents were definitely all country. By the time I was born, they had moved out into the country in Inverness and lived on an acre of land, where my grandfather could raise chickens and corn and other crops and my grandmother could tend her strawberry patch. They had raised ten children and had 32 grandchildren, two of them (Peach and her sister) living in a house on the property.

So there wasn't a lot of money to go into gifts for grandchildren and I almost never saw them but I will never forget being swept into Grandma's arms and when she whispered "precious child" in my ear, I knew that I was her very special grandchild. Each of her other grandchildren knew that too--she just had this knack of making you feel loved and special when you were with her. I can't remember a thing that my paternal grandmother gave me (I know she gave me a lot) but I treasure the one gift I got from my other grandmother--she belonged to the Book of the Month club and near Christmastime, we got to look through the books she had finished reading and choose one for ourselves. I still remember that I chose a book called "The Tontine." by Thomas Costain. I don't remember if I ever read the book, but just having a gift from Grandma was wonderful.

My mother's father was also a quiet man, and apparently had been all of her childhood as well. He lost his hair when tar spilled on his head when he was working in a well...I don't know if it grew back, but the story was that it didn't. And his teeth rested in a glass in the bathroom. I never saw him with teeth, though he could clean an ear of corn like you wouldn't believe. I remember he liked to put sugar on his sliced tomatoes.

I was always kind of afraid of him, but I do remember one time when he took me out to the shed and showed me some newly hatched baby chicks. Before he died he lost both of his legs from poor circulation. I didn't feel much when he died because I never really felt I knew him (much as I never really knew my other grandfather either).

But after his death, Grandma lived with us for awhile. I used to love watching her brush her hair, which came to her waist. She would braid it and put it in a crown on to of her head.

When I think back on my own grandparents, I realize that grandparents are special whether they live next door and see them all the time, or whether you only see them a few times a year. It's how they make you feel that makes all the difference. I feel sad that I could never feel about my father's mother the way I did about my mother's.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unexpected Things

The Davis Enterprise on Friday was named the best small daily newspaper in the state by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The paper won first place for general excellence — the sweepstakes award in CNPA's Better Newspapers Contest — and 18 other awards, the most of any newspaper in California. The awards were announced during a statewide press summit in Monterey....

In addition to general excellence, The Enterprise won first place for editorial pages, writing, feature story, arts and entertainment coverage, sports coverage, business and financial reporting, environmental and ag resource reporting, front page, feature photo and photo essay.

I was kinda proud of all of us writers for the Davis Enterprise entertainment section when we all received a note from Derrick, our editor, yesterday. It said,

Greetings, troops...

Some of you may have seen this news in Sunday's paper, but for those
who didn't: The Enterprise scored VERY well in the annual California
Newspaper Publishing Association awards, taking a total of 16 honors,
including top of the field: overall excellence in our circulation size.

The many awards included a first place for Arts & Entertainment
coverage, a decision that was made on the basis of two sample Spotlight
sections that were sent for judging last year.

You all share in this award, as a result, and you all should feel
very, very proud. It's no small thing to be regarded so highly by our

Great job, gang!

Derrick works very hard on keeping a level of excellence. We sometimes lock horns when I'm upset that he's being so rigid on things like photos, but obviously his dedication and vision have paid off. I was very proud of being a part of the group of writers who contribute to the entertainment section.

But then this morning, he let myself and another writer know that it was our articles that he had submitted for judging. I was so incredibly honored! It was this article of mine which he submitted. I had such fun writing that article. It was about the Putah Creek Crawdads, whose music I have listened to for most of my years in Davis and about whom I thought I would like to write an article someday. The impending release of their first CD gave me the opportunity.

PutahCreekCrawdads.jpg (24780 bytes)

The group, which ranges in age from 38 to 86, consists of The Psychiatrist I used to work for (the guy with the banjo) and his friends. Sitting in on their rehearsals, going to a concert, and interviewing each of them individually by telephone was such amazing fun. To hear it helped The Davis Enterprise an award was just the cherry on top.

Today was my day to have lunch with my friend Ruth. We have settled into an every other week routine. We meet at The Great Wall, which has a wonderful Chinese buffet and always a bargain price for two people. I am very much enjoying getting to know her.

She rides a bike in from South Davis and we meet at 11:30. Around quarter to 11, I looked up from this computer screen and realized that it was raining. I got on the phone to call Ruth and ask if she would (a) like to postpone, or (b) like me to pick her up. But I got her answering machine and I figured that it was so late, she probably had already left. I felt bad that I hadn't noticed the rain in time to save her the wet bike ride.

I remembered to pack up the books I had promised to loan her at lunch this time and to bring my camera (remembering the Prime Directive), and went downtown. I even found a relatively close parking place and dodged raindrops to the restaurant, where I took my place, a little early, in our usual booth. I waited.

and waited

and waited.

Ruth never showed up. I don't know if something happened, or if she forgot (neither of us had called the other to confirm) or what, but after about 15 minutes, I finally had lunch and sat there reading one of the books I had brought for her to take home with her.

I've left a message on her phone and sent her an e-mail, but haven't heard from her yet. But lunch was good, if more quiet than I expected.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I remember about Paul

1. Crowd surfing at the Whole Earth Festival
2. Kissing me during ‘Funny’ after David died
3. Long discussions about life
4. The day he took Seymour to be put to sleep
5. His awe of the bond he had with his cat Scab
6. His very first play, in Kindergarten
7. Thumbelina
8. How much he and Ned loved making video together
9. Sushi lunches
10. 90210
11. Mayonnaise
12. Smiley faces
13. Sinatra

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rewriting Tradition

I was recently contacted by someone in Ireland who is doing her Masters Thesis on the ways social media might reduce oldler people's experience of social exclusion. I am an "older person" who uses social media so I was the kind of person she was looking for, as was Jon, a very funny guy whom I know from That's My Answer. The author of the thesis let me read a copy of her rough draft and I was surprisesd to discover that both Jon and I have our own sections in the work. His section is titled "Blogger, Jonathan Hemlock," and mine is "Social Networker, Bev Sykes." Heady stuff.

While the thesis doesn't really relate directly to what I want to write here, it did get me thinking about how the internet and social media are changing our lives and how we are all in the process of recreating different ways of doing what we have done all of our lives.

I saw a Hallmark card commercial today. It's for Mother's Day and it shows a woman opening a drawer and taking out a collection of cards she has received from her child over the years on Mother's day. The tag line was something along the lines of "this year give Mom something she can hold in her hand." I remember when greeting cards cost less than $1 and could be mailed for 10 cents. Now cards can run you up to $5 or more and postage is nearly $1. Is it any wonder that we have turned to e-cards instead of "something she can hold in her hand."

I felt guilty when I started sending our annual Christmas letter by e-mail (and then making a web page and sending a LINK instead), but now I see that others are beginning to follow suit, especially as postage continues to rise higher and higher and sending Christmas cards becomes more of a luxury than it used to be.

We are even in the process of redefining our customs surrounding death. I've now been on the internet long enough to have gone through several deaths, some of face to face friends, some of people I've never met. I remember the "death watch" The Last Session group had, as Dick Remley was dying. Dickie's death may have been my first "internet death." I knew him face to face, as did many of the mourners, but also many only knew him through e-mail and Steve's diary. There was this sense of frustration, being unable to join together in a group hug, to attend a memorial service all together in the same room, but instead we posted messages in a yahoo group and those of us who did go to the memorial service reported on it to those who were unable to attend.

Since Dickie died, there have been other deaths. I remember when blogger Denver Doug died and how we all posted memories on the guestbook of his blog. I remember when vlogger Dougri committed suicide and the shockwave went through the YouTube community. Just a month ago came the news of our friend Merrell's sudden death and the coming together of our community to join electronically in remembering her life.

I didn't have the huge internet community when Paul died (and especially not when David died), so there was no "internet memorial" at the time, but it's been interesting, and quite touching, the new tradition that has formed.

After my sister died (at the same age David was when he died), my mother and I talked on the phone every year on the anniversary of her death for a lot of years. We didn't necessarily talk about Karen, but we always called each other on September 13. I still call her on September 13, but she no longer realizes that this is why I'm calling.

Since so many people who knew our kids have joined Facebook, now each year around midnight of April 19, people start changing their facebook photos.

Paulicon1.jpg (1743 bytes)Jessica was the first this year, posting this photo of Paul, which many of us (me included) also used as our profile pictures. Many added the enigmatic comment "FTS," which, as anybody who understands, knows refers to Paul's comment, which was reprinted on the program at his memorial and is also on the grave marker which he shares with Dave. I told the story in my entry last year.

PauliconNed.jpg (1312 bytes)Ned changed his profile picture to this rather strange photo. It's from the party that the Lawsuit group had after the memorial service, and is one of a number of Poloroid photos taken that night which contain this green disfiguration. We like to believe it was Paul's spirit attending the party, since the camera had not done this strange thing in all the years of its use before this party, nor has it done it since.

PauliconMyv.jpg (1840 bytes)Myv used this profile picture, which is one of my favorite pictures of Paul in concert, at the Whole Earth festival at UC Davis. (In the large size picture you can see my mother standing on the balcony in the upper right corner)

Jeri posted her annual comment about Paul on this date. Few made a big deal about the anniversary, but we all felt this common bond. We all knew and we all sent out coded signals like a group hug. Whether you were feeling sad or angry or empty, we were all remembering together, whether we were in Davis or on the other side of the country.

As for Walt and me, we are continuing our search for a sushi place to to replace Osaka Sushi. On the recommendation of a couple of people on Facebook, we decided to go to a restaurant called Moshi Moshi in South Davis.

First we stopped to buy flowers and then drove out to the cemetery. While there, I noticed that the Bunfill family certainly is ostentatious.

Bunfill.jpg  (48991 bytes)

Though the name is familiar, I'm not really sure who they are (or were), but the graves definitely are all you notice when you drive into the cemetery. The three benches along the edge of the grass are also engraved with the Bunfill name, and there is a third grave site, to the left of this photo with a large "Bunfill" engraved on it. Sadly, everyone currently buried in any of these graves died younger than either Walt or myself.

But anyway, then we went on to Moshi Moshi, a little hole in the wall place which we noticed right away was different from other sushi places where we'd eaten because it had its own combination of ingredients and its own name for things. When I saw this item on the menu, I obviously had to order it.

ZeroSushi.jpg (22366 bytes)

It turned out to be delicious and is the stuff topped with avocado in the foreground of this photo. (There was raw tuna and celery inside)

MoshiDinner.jpg (50198 bytes)

Moshi is also the only sushi place that has the distinction of offering Tiramisu for dessert!!!

MoshiTiramisu.jpg (47406 bytes)

We will probably return here. I really liked the quality of the sushi, though, as we had been warned, it was a bit more "spendy" than some other places.

So Paul has been remembered for another year and in a month we'll do it all over again for David's ... god ... fourteenth anniversary. It doesn't seem possible. But then the rest of the year, from May 18 to when the holidays start in November is free and clear without emotional family entanglements!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What? Me Worry?

There is a volcano in Iceland spewing volcanic ash into the air and making it difficult for people to travel around the world. "Eyjafjallajökull" looks more like the letters I've been getting in Scrabble lately...and I don't even want to think about trying to pronounce it...but as someone who will soon have to fly over its air space on our way to Helsinki, I've now added "volcanic ash" as something I must worry about.

Iceland.jpg  (28626 bytes)

There are many things to worry about, everything from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the plight of women and children in various African countries, to why Ned is so terribly obsessed with Ryan Seacrest. Such a scary world.

Television shows seem determined to make life scarier for us. If it weren't for The Today Show, for example, I wouldn't know that on every bedspread in every hotel, from Motel 6 to expensive hotels, you can find traces of semen, because they don't change them very often. Ewww. Who wants to sit on a bed in a hotel?

I also wouldn't know about the "splash back" effect in bathrooms which pretty much ensures that every toothbrush in the house has some bit of excrement imbedded in it from toilet spray while flushing. I don't know about you, but I've been brushing my teeth for about 65 years now so I have probably injested a lot of excrement and I'd just as soon not think about that, thankyouverymuch. I seem to have survived, so why do I need to know about it?

I've also shopped in grocery stores on a regular basis since I moved out of the family home in 1961. I have moved thousands of grocery carts through hundreds of grocery stores without ever thinking about who touched the handle before me. Now I can't go shopping without imagining some kid slobbering on the handle or somebody coughing into her hands and then putting it on the handle. Did I really need to know this after all these years?

Ironically, I'm so cavalier about toothbrushes and grocery carts, but my grandmother taught me from an early age that public bathrooms were filthy places and I should never ever touch the handle on a public toilet. I had it so firmly imbedded in my brain for so long that I automatically flush a toilet in a public restroom with my foot instead of my hands and have done so since I was a small child. When Jeri heard that she said "Swell, now when I go to flush, I have to think about the fact that maybe somebody's shoe was on the handle."

I always came home from from running errands and put my purse on the kitchen counter, until I heard on TV someone who pointed out that your purse is filthy, that it may have been on the ground where dogs peed, or where people who stepped in places where dogs peed walked. Heck, in this house I might actually put it in dog pee from time to time. So where does one now put a purse safely?

We've all heard the "5 second rule" about food that is dropped on the floor. Seemed to make sense to me. If you pick it up within 5 seconds, it doesn't have time to collect all those horrible things that might be on the floor. Not so, says The Today Show (I've gotta stop watching TheToday Show) in a laboratory test that showed exactly how much bad stuff a bit of food can pick up in the 5 seconds it takes you to bend over to retrieve it.

Now I find out that toilet paper can actually leave bits behind on your behind after you wipe.

charmin.jpg  (35177 bytes)

Who knew? I mean you go to the bathroom, you do your business, you wipe carefully in front-to-back motion, you flush the toilet with your foot and you remember to wash your hands before you leave and who knew that you might be suffering the embarrassment of toilet-paper butt?

I'll tell ya, folks, there are just too many things to worry about these days. It's enough to make you hide--but where is a safe place, free from excrement splash or dog pee or bath tissue residue?

(Do you suppose the people under fire in Afghanistan worry about running out of Purell hand sanitzer?)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Save Me a Seat

We went to see All Shook Up at the Woodland Opera House on Saturday night. It's a very thin plot based on the songs of Elvis Presley.

I wore the perfect shirt.

ElvisShirt.jpg (46391 bytes)

I think I've mentioned my "seating problem" when I go to see a show. Because of that damn bike accident back in 2003, I can't sit with my leg bent for a whole show. I need to stretch the leg out. In most theaters where I review, it's not a problem. Either there is lots of space between rows or there is space under the row in front of me for my leg.

In the theatres where there is a seating problem, over the past 7 years I have trained the people who pull my tickets to give me either an aisle seat or a seat somewhere in their roomiest row.

At the Woodland Opera House, anywhere in their orchestra section is just fine, but any seat NOT in the orchestra is terribly uncomfortable. The woman I usually speak with about tickets didn't answer the phone when I called; the theatre manager did. We chatted for a bit and when I asked him for tickets, I specified that I wanted something in the orchestra section.

When we got there, our seats where not in the orchestra section, but in the section that was the most uncomfortable for my knee. The usher directed me to the head usher and told me that she would solve my problem.

I spoke with the head usher and she was extremely solicitous. So solicitous that I felt almost guilty that I didn't have a real handicap. I also got a taste of what it must be like to need special seating because of a handicap.

First she rushed around to find me a seat so I could sit while she conferred with the box office to find out what to do with me. When I didn't sit down right away, she must have told me three times that it was OK for me to sit down until she found a real seat for me.

She finally came and gave us a seat in the wheelchair section (which has regular chairs that you can move back, or remove, depending on the need of the customer. We settled in to get ready for the show.

The usher came back to let me know that they sell refreshments on the second floor at intermission and that they had an elevator I could ride up if I wanted to partake. She was being very nice, but I felt as if I had "cripple" written on my back.

When the show ended, the usher came back again to let me know that the next time I come to their theatre I should ask for Row O and I could sit in the wheelchair section again.

I felt like I should at the very least have a walker with me to make her feel better. As for the show itself, here's a preview of the start of my review:

If you’re going to enjoy the Woodland Opera House’s production of "All Shook Up," the first thing you have to do is forget all about the inane plot and dialog. It can be summed up pretty simply: It’s "Footloose" meets "Mama Mia," with a bit of "Twelfth Night" thrown in.

This musical, based on the music of Elvis Presley, tells the story of a town where the mayor has passed the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, which does not allow any public demonstrations of affection and forbids such things as dancing and rock ‘n’ roll.

Into the town comes a motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing, hip shaking stud to shake, rattle and roll things up. Repressed feelings start popping out all over the place.

Try to follow this: Dennis is in love with Natalie, who is in love with Chad, who is in love with Miss Sandra, who is in love with Ed (who is really Natalie disguised as a man to be able to stick closer to Chad). Then there is Natalie’s father Jim, who is also in love with Miss Sandra and Sylvia, who is in love with Jim. And then there is mayor’s son Dean who falls in love Priscilla’s daughter Lorraine and Sheriff Earl who has been in love with the Mayor for years.

There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on!

I have to admit it wasn't my favorite show, but at least the dancing was really good. And my knee was comfortable!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Prime Directive

How could I have forgotten The Prime Directive?

Now, those of you who are Star Trek fans know that the Prime Directive is that there can be no interference with the internal development of pre-warp civilizations.

That, however, is not my prime directive. My prime directive is that I should never, under any circumstances, leave the house without at least one camera. That's in case I should encounter a streaker or an auto accident, or a parade a block from home, or a hot air balloon floating by, or a rainbow popping up somewhere.

But it was a quiet day today. Most of the town (including Walt) was at the University for Picnic Day activities. In fact some of the SPCA dogs were at Picnic Day, so it would not even be a full complement at PETCO. I would just run Polly up there, and be back home in 5 minutes. Heck, I didn't even lock the house, so confident was I that I would only be gone a short time.

Well, you know what they say about how to make God laugh...tell Him your plans.

I arrived at Petco, and most of the volunteers (and dogs!) were still at the parade for Picnic Day and there was nobody to take Polly. Polly, of course, became her terrified self, hiding under my legs. Stacey did lure her out with treats, but once her tummy was full, she wasn't interested in anything Stacey wanted to do with her.

I decided to stick around until someone could take her into a cage...perhaps with Spencer, if he was still up for adoption. He hadn't arrived yet.

I moved to a shady spot to with with Polly in my lap. Ultimately I ended up staying 2+ hours, and was kicking myself for all the photo ops I missed. Like the five dachshunds, rescued from a "hoarding situation," with an 84 year old woman who couldn't care for them any more. Two of them where white with brown markings and milky blue eyes. I heard that one was blind and one was deaf (or perhaps more than one). Two of them barked shrilly, but the group of them together would have made a great photo.

No camera

There was Beauty, who was a beautiful 10 month old Black Lab/Great Dane mix who had been found wandering the streets, very skinny with lots of attack wounds. They felt she had been in a lot of fights. She is great with humans, but growls when she sees another dog, which is fun in a place that is filled with dogs in cages and people walking their own dogs. Lots of video ops.

No camera.

There was adorable Bruno, a black pug mix (perhaps a "puggle"?) who is always good for a photo op.

No camera.

There was Spencer, who recognized me and had a nice nose-to-nose reunion with Polly through the bar of his cage, when I walked her over there.

No camera.

There was Midnight, another black lab mix, who was in a cage next to me (I wasn't in a cage). Another young adult who was so incredibly friendly that he greeted everyone who walked by, and so heavy he threatened to fold the cage he was in over by resting his paws on it.

No camera.

There was Oliver, a fluffy cocker spaniel who looked like everybody's idea of the perfect pooch and Louie, a lively beagle who loved EVERYBODY.

No camera.

And there was Petite Syrah, a "tripod," a chihuahua mix puppy whose foot was crushed, resulting in the need to amutate her leg. She was absolutely adorable, huddled in the lap of a volunteer.

No camera.

After two hours, I decided to walk over to the car and get some water for myself and for Polly. Nobody had so much as looked at Polly (except for one woman, who reached out her hand, only to have Polly snap at her). Stacey suggested that since they didn't have enough volunteers and there were so few people there looking at the dogs (because of Picnic Day), that if I just wanted to go home, that would be OK. So I did. Polly was thrilled.

NEXT time I go to Petco, I will have a camera!

I've decided I need to get Polly out among people more, perhaps to get her used to more than just Walt and me. So we may start walking downtown soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Me in DC

17 April 2010

NOTE: You must watch "The Spirit of '43," which I saw thanks to Jim. Donald Duck as you never saw him before!

Last night at dinner we were talking with Mike and Char about things DC. They have a son who lives there with his wife and children, Walt has family living there, I have friends who live there, so we have been in the nation's capitol many times. In fact, it's one of those town I feel comfortable enough to give tours of to people. I don't know it intimately, but I can get around on the Metro very well. I can take you to all the important spots and maybe show you some places or things you didn't know existed. I enjoyed giving the grand tour to Peach when we took her there several years ago.

The last time I was in DC my blogging friend Bozoette Mary took me to the Native American museum, which had not been there when I last visited the town. Now there is the Newseum, which I've heard is really cool, and didn't exist on my last visit. I want to see that, and may actually have a chance later this year, as we will be in the DC area to attend the wedding of Walt's cousin's daughter, the lovely Kayleen.

This morning, Mary made a reference to some of her "favorite buskers" in DC and I just had this wave of memory wash over me of the six weeks I lived and worked in Washington, DC. I fondly remember the Peruvian buskers that played at the top of the escalator to Dupont Circle, my metro stop each day. It was such fun riding the escalator out of that deep, deep hole in the ground and hearing those guys playing their pan flutes. I still have their CD, in fact. I wonder what happened to the street guy I gave $5 to on my last day in town--only to discover that it was the LAST $5 I had and I feared I might have to ask for it back in order to get home (but I found a work-around).

I have many fond memories of my time there, including discovery of the Phillips gallery, and accidentally eating at one of the most expensive eateries in Washington, when I had actually been directed to the hot dog stand next door, but had wandered into the wrong place (fabulous risotto--it was the only thing on the menu I could afford!)

With all the good memories, though, I have to admit that those six weeks rank right up there among the worst periods in my life, perhaps #4 behind the weeks after Paul's and David's deaths and the time after Gilbert's death. A friend I had known for many years -- let's call her Ann (those who have known me for awhile know who I'm talking about; those who haven't have no need to know) -- had relocated to Washington with her paramour and her kids, after a messy divorce from an alcoholic husband. About her lover let me just say that I don't have enough negative things to say about his treatment of...well, just about everybody, but I leave that up to him and them to discuss. I will only talk about his relationship with me during that horrible six weeks.

Ann was pregnant with Lover Boy's (I so want to call him "Shit Face") child and was concerned about what was going to happen to her job when she went on maternity leave. She was still fairly new at the job and had not yet developed the self confidence that she would develop later in life. She suggested that I come to DC and work for the six weeks, which we both figured would be the ideal situation because I would be living with her and Lover Boy (at the time I didn't realize what a creep he really was) and she would be there to guide me through every step of the job. She also got them to agree to give me the same salary she was making, significantly more than I was making here in Davis. It seemed ideal and with wide-eyed innocence, I flew to DC. In retrospect, it was like one of those horror movies where the girl decides to open the door to the basement and the audience, knowing of the monster that is lurking in the dark, all wants to scream "DON'T GO DOWN THERE!"

I visited DC shortly before the baby was born and got to visit the office, meet my immediate supervisors and get introduced to the guard who would have to let me in each day. We decided that Ann would give me an orientation to the office and my job duties when I returned after the baby was born, and, as the time progressed, she would be there by telephone to help me all along the way and we could go over things at night after work.

The baby was born and I flew to DC a couple of days later. The plan was to go to the office on Saturday to get an orientation to the place and show me what I needed to know to hit the ground running and ensure a seamless transition from her to me. Only on Saturday, Lover Boy decided he wanted to go to Atlantic City instead (I seem to remember it's about a 3 hour drive one way). Ann had learned long ago never to contradict him, so off we went, Ann and LB, me, her adult daughter, and the newborn baby, to the Trump Taj Majal. Ann was less than a week out of the hospital following a cesarean, the baby was only a week old but LB wanted to gamble. For the entire. day. LB and the daughter gambled, Ann and I walked the corridors of the Taj Majal because the only place you could SIT in that damn place was in the bar or in the casino and neither was a good place for a newborn. I remember Ann changing his diaper on the hood of the car and finally going into a bar so she could give him a bottle.

After six hours of driving and several hours of gambling, there was obviously no way that I was going to get into the office that day.

I don't remember what the excuse was the next day either, but the end result was that I would start work on Monday with NO orientation. I didn't even know where to find paper for the printer and had no clue what Ann's daily schedule included. Of course everybody assumed that Ann, who was a well-respected and valued employee, would have given me an orientation and I didn't want to ruin her reputation by telling them that I had NO orientation whatsoever, so I just stumbled along trying to do it all blindly.

In fact, I did that pretty much for six weeks. I have never figured out what was going on in Ann's head but she seemed to do whatever she could to ensure that my time there would be a disaster. She wouldn't give me any help at all, barely answering my questions. I stopped calling her altogether because my quesions only seemed to irritate her and never got answered. Things got worse and worse and obviously the superiors thought that they had hired a real idiot.

At one point I finally found a job I could do and made a handbook for several of the people who were having difficulty learning Word Perfect, a program I knew intimately. It was the ONE thing I did that I felt proud of and I even got some grudging praise from the big boss. Happy with my accomplishment, I brought it home and Ann tossed it aside and said "I don't know why you did this...I did the same thing a month ago."

But as bad as the job was, the worst part was Lover Boy. We lived several miles from the metro and I needed to take the metro into work every day. Lover Boy would drop me off on his way into work. Only he refused to let me into or out of the car without kissing him on the lips. I hated it. But again, I didn't want to put Ann in more stress than she was already in, dealing with a fussy newborn at a time in her life when she thought she had finished raising a family and had stated that she was NOT going to have another child. So I didn't say anything to her.

I remember one evening, waiting for Lover Boy to pick me up at the metro, and deciding to pretend to be very busy with the work I had brought home with me when I got into the car, so that I would "forget" to kiss him. But my plan backfired. I found myself in a speeding car (he always drove MUCH too fast) with Lover Boy not looking out the window, but leaning over with those huge lips demanding his kiss.

At home he would walk behind my chair and run his fingers across my back. I got to where I was so terrified of him that I would barricade my bedroom door with my luggage and a chair at night before I went to sleep. Two weeks before the end of my imprisonment there, I remember being on the phone with Walt, crying because I was so afraid of Lover Boy but not wanting to hurt Ann by telling her what was going on.

It's not that I was any beauty. I was fat and awkward and unattractive, whereas Ann was slim and beautiful. But I think that he did all these things to make her feel bad (he did that a lot), which is why I didn't tell her about it at the time. (Later on a trip out here, he propositioned another one of her friends, inviting her to join him at his hotel. He knew full well that she would tell Ann about it--and she did.)

Our friendship survived that terrible ordeal. I finished the six weeks, the boss took me to lunch on my last day, but I know that he only did it because he felt he should. I had done an abominable job and we both knew it.

Ann and Lover Boy eventually decided to live in separate homes, and she came to see him for the rat that he was (though he is still in her life because he is the father of their child), but even at that time, all those years later, when I tentatively told her about how awful it had been for me during those six weeks, she still did not respond, apologize, or acknowledge my feelings about how it had gone during that terrible time period.

The "baby" is in college now. Ann and I are rarely in contact these days. The friendship is not dead, but it hasn't been the same in a very long time. If I see her when we are in DC this year, we will pick up where we left off. We always do. But there is a part of me that will never forget how my attempt to help her out of a bad situation turned so terribly, terribly bad for me.