Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Reruns: An Open Letter to Some People Who Attended the UCLA-Live Event This Past Saturday

(original post-date: January 26, 2011)

Greetings from another member of the audience:

Before I address you individually, I should probably provide a little background regarding my experiences with live theatre…

Throughout my childhood, my parents were actively involved in two community theatre groups. One group staged three plays during the school year, while the other – an open-air venue – had a summer season comprising five plays. When my parents first became involved, they signed on to do props for one of the summer productions. Within a few years, though, they both had moved on to the stage, where they would, over the years, fine-tune their acting skills with style and grace.

When my sister and I were old enough to participate, we, too, volunteered for assignments, and while Martha would certainly accept production work, she really enjoyed acting more. (And, like my parents, she was quite good.) I, on the other hand, never got bit by the bug, and so – with the exception of a few very small roles that I performed quite poorly – I preferred to make my contributions as part of the backstage crew.

More often than not, though, I was in the audience, and I learned, at a young age, that the audience of a live performance should be respectful of the time, energy, passions, and talent that have gone into the mounting of a theatre production. Which is to say, the audience should give its full attention to the stage.

When I lived in New York, I continued to enjoy attending theatrical events. Broadway was affordable then, and with the option of placing the word “off-” in front of that concept, and then repeating it – as many times as you please – there was never a shortage of productions taking place in smaller venues throughout the City. I probably saw more than 50 plays and musicals during my 15 years in New York.

My theatre attendance in Los Angeles has been a bit more spotty. While I have seen several remarkable shows at some of the area’s larger venues, my having to be a bit more careful with money in recent years has put a dent in my theatre-going. Part of the problem is that I have “open space issues.” In most theatres, the balcony area (that is, where the cheap seats are) is way too high for me, and the grade is much too steep. I simply cannot enjoy what’s happening on the stage when I fear I will topple over my fellow patrons as I make my way, headfirst (and quite fatally), into the orchestra section.

(I realize, by the way, that there are terms for these “issues:” acrophobia, in regard to the fear of heights; and agoraphobia, in regard to the fear of open spaces. But I prefer simply to call the combination a profound and deep respect for the concept of gravity.)

Anyway, because of the economy, I’ve curtailed my theatre-going in recent years, and I even had to think about it for a minute, last week, when my friend Maria asked if I were interested in attending the Wallace Shawn performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall. But I’ve admired the writer/actor ever since I saw My Dinner With Andre back in the 80s, and the $45 ticket price didn’t seem like such a huge amount after three busy weeks of billable hours.

Which brings me to you people: you five or six people who also had forked over some money for tickets; you five or six people who were sitting nearby…

Some words first to the couple three rows ahead. I am very happy that you found each other. Your common need to fondle the hair and ear of your partner will probably make for a long relationship. But, seriously, get a room. Even with the house lights down, it was impossible not to be distracted by your public displays of obsession, and you need to cop to the fact that, because neither of you is petite (especially not you, sir), you will never be able to enjoy this shared fetish in a manner that is discreet.

Now to the two young ladies sitting behind my friend and me. Yes; you two. I appreciate that you probably got a student discount to attend the event, but that doesn’t mean you are entitled to chatter away while the performer is on stage. I am glad that when I turned around and glared at you, you stopped talking. I also was pleased when the man across the aisle silently got up from his seat, approached you both, and let you know – in a stage whisper – that the light emanating from your blackberry was bothering him and others. But don’t think for a moment that I didn’t notice your continued attempts to sneak back into that little machine and do whatever technological task apparently could not wait. I noticed it, and it bothered me.

As to the dude sitting in the row in front of us... Yes; you -- with the bright and distracting handheld device. My friend shared with me later that you were playing a video game on your little machine. Really? So, what happened? Did you win? And, why, by the way – if you were wanting to play computer games – did you choose to do so in a theatre?

As for the folks down the row, my peripheral vision also caught your illuminated screens. Was there an emergency? Was that the deal? Or maybe your text simply stated: yeah, I’m at the theatre.

To the five or six of you and whoever else was multitasking in Royce Hall, shame on you. Not behaving properly at a public event is equivalent to having a lack of social skills. And, in my opinion, you people are lacking in social skills.

Shame on you.

…Of course, before Shawn took the stage, the usual announcement was made. You know the one – it’s the same as is made in movie theatres: please turn off cell phones, pagers, and any illuminated handheld devices, [etc.] What’s interesting is that, while this request was being abused all over Royce Hall on Saturday night, I have rarely seen it abused in movie theatres.

Maybe people just need to see what they see on screens. And if that’s true, then what that means, I guess, is that a movie can replace those handheld devices, but a live human cannot.

Hmm, are we really so screen-addicted?

I realize, of course, that I am looking at one now.

And so are you.

But I also am not pretending to do, hear, or see something else simultaneously. And I hope the same goes for you.

…After his performance, which included readings (from his own work and others) around the theme of Real World, Fake World, Dream World, Wallace Shawn entertained some questions from the audience. A few of those questions provided him with an opportunity to elaborate on what a mess our world has become and how we should, in fact, be worried.

I appreciate his perspective.

And if he was aware – during his 90 minutes on stage – of the multi-tasking that was occurring in the audience, I also appreciate his ability not to give it any power. I could not have done that. Had it been me behind the lectern, I would have stopped in my tracks, shut my mouth, and refused to continue talking until the collective rudeness had virtually left the room.

Good thing, I guess, that I’ve always preferred the backstage assignments.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Electoral Politics: Let the Games Begin

Last weekend, my Mom sent me an email. The subject line was “this and that,” and the content did not contradict her choice. Mostly, Mom talked about the family stuff that she, my sister, and I need to deal with in the coming months. And since this stuff doesn’t concern you, I won’t share the details.

But Mom’s closing sentence is something we all might be thinking about. “Newt Gingrich,” she wrote, “scares the hell out of me.”

I know where she’s coming from, and yet, I couldn’t relate to the severity of her fear. In my reply to Mom, I wrote, “I get what you’re saying about Newt, but personally, I don’t think there is ANYTHING more scary than what we went through from 2000-2008.”

And however scary that era was, the fact of the matter is this: situations give way to situations. Wherever we are right now is a direct response to where we have been.

The criminal travesty that was George W. Bush’s presidency is probably the reason our country was willing to elect its first black president.

We needed something different.

The idea was good. The idea was smart.

(And the embodiment of that idea – Barack Obama – happens also to be good and smart.)

And if it weren’t for the fact that racism still boils powerfully in the bowels of America, that swing of the pendulum might have worked.

But it hasn’t.

It is abundantly and painfully clear that our country cannot handle having a black president.

His blackness is the reason for the Tea Party.

His blackness is the reason that Congress is a disgustingly adversarial mess.

And now that our 2012 presidential election is truly underway, you’d think that the Republican party would be able to do something with this situation.

You’d think so…

But, so far, their capacity to launch an organized attack seems untenable.

Romney won the Iowa Caucus… No, wait! He didn’t!

… But, while he was winning the New Hampshire primary, we all believed that he had won in Iowa.

… Then, just two days before Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, we learned that Santorum had been certified for the Iowa win.

… In the meantime, Ron Paul won’t give up, and he’s bringing some new voters into the party as he speaks of policies and ideas that make me question whose side he’s really on.

Can you say “No Front Runner?”

I can, and so can former Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

Per my informants at NPR, Jeb Bush’s decision not to endorse a candidate for the upcoming primary in his state may stem from his plan to jump in at some last minute and become the GOP’s nominee.


a THIRD Bush?

Isn’t that why some people have issues with Gingrich?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Reruns: 50 Years Ago Tomorrow

(original post-date: January 19, 2011)

I was nearly three-and-a-half years old on January 20th, 1961, and I had a prime seat for the event: atop my father’s shoulders.

He and my mother – staunch Democrats – had caught the bug during the previous November’s election. That feeling of Camelot was in the air and undeniable, and so the decision to join the hordes on the mall in D.C. was inevitable.

In spite of the weather, we made the drive up from the Shenandoah Valley, and I suppose there was talk – between my parents; perhaps on the radio – of Robert Frost having been asked to participate in the ceremony. I don’t remember any specific statements, but I do remember the inference I had drawn. And so as I sat atop my father’s shoulders, among the thousands who had braved the blizzard and were looking with anticipation toward that apparently very important building, I waited patiently.

I waited… for Jack Frost to appear on the roof and give a weather report.

Jack Frost; not Robert.

(You go with what you know…)

I am now nearly fifty-three-and-a-half years old, and I have a much clearer sense of what is going on.

The pendulum has swung back and forth numerous times in the last half-century, and while there have been glimmers of hope, we’ve never quite returned to that feeling of Camelot.

… Before my father died three years ago this March, he suffered from increasing frailty. For the last several years of his life, he also experienced occasional dementia, and on one of those occasions (probably around 2004), the visiting healthcare worker asked him who the president was. When my mother told me that his response had been Theodore Roosevelt, I said, “I’m jealous! I want to live in Dad’s world!”

But Dad wasn’t always in “that world.” A year or so later, in fact, his better grasp of reality was evident when he glibly stated, in response to the national and international situations, “Thank God I’ll die soon.”

That was Dad – sardonic in his description of an unprecedented, pitiful mess.

Because I am not likely to die soon, I cling to the other two memories of my dad: the one who trudged through the snow to listen to a young man breathe hope into the country, and the one who chose to remember Teddy Roosevelt when Dubya was the reality du jour.

We must have hope.

Even when it requires some temporary dementia, we must have hope.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simple Thoughts

Post-its help me keep track of what I need to buy.

I keep two on the side of the fridge: one for Ralphs (the typical grocery store) and one for Trader Joe’s (or, as it is referenced on the post-it, TJs).

Then there’s the post-it affixed to my weekly to-do list. It’s for Staples.

At the moment, there are two items on my Staples list. The first is accordion files and the second is… drum roll, please! STAPLES.

How cool is that? I need to go to Staples to buy staples.

Reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live sketch, back when the cast included Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd. Remember the mall shop that sold only scotch tape? Wacky.

I’m glad that Staples sells a variety of things. I mean, particularly given the size of their stores, it would be a little creepy to walk in and find nothing but staples. And for this Libra – whose difficulties with small decisions are blog-worthy – I’d only survive the shopping excursion if I first stopped next door. At the store called “Tents.” (As in, “Pitch one, baby. We’re gonna be here a while.”)

Seriously, a really big store with nothing but staples? The options would overwhelm me. The possibilities would take me on mental rides that only another Libra can understand.

So, yeah, I’m glad that Staples sells other things – like paper clips, computers, and mousepads.

And that goes for Target, too. Wouldn’t it be trippy if you walked into Target and saw only the things that you are seriously focused on at the moment? Ooh, I just got some metaphysical goosebumps!

Or Urban Outfitters. Imagine walking in there and seeing a bunch of tense fashion designers, primed with their tape measures and ‘tude.

I’m not sure what to say about Wal-Mart. I’ve spent all of ten minutes in one of their stores (in the town where my Mom lives). For all I know, they sell enough walls to fill a typical Staples. I’d rather not investigate that possibility. They have far too much power already.

Old Navy. Now there’s a concept. Could have been McCain’s campaign headquarters back in 2008.

Lucky Jeans. I have a pair, and if I can ever again squeeze my ass into them, I’ll consider myself disciplined, not lucky. (I’m lucky for lots of other reasons.)

There’s a grocery store chain in Virginia (and perhaps in other states). Food Lion, it is called. The literal interpretation of that store’s environmental culture feels unsafe, in my opinion. Even with a club card. (Or – oh, please stop me now – a CUB card? HA!)

Anyway, as you may already have concluded, I am really, really tired as I write this.

… I also need to buy staples.

And, while I’m thinking about it… more post-its.

... And maybe some wine.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Reruns: The Distance from Our Corners

(original post date: January 12, 2011)

When I was a kid, our family had a summer vacation ritual that entailed a very long drive with a rich, two-week reward at the other end. Packed and ready to go on an early June morning, we’d put the suitcases in the back of the station wagon and then take our places.

Dad would be the first driver, while Mom sat on the passenger’s side of what were not yet bucket seats.

In the back, I would take my place on the right, while Martha would sit on the left.

That’s how it always was. Me on the right. Martha on the left. Not an indication of political leanings or which side of our brains we favored. Simply a routine that would remain unbroken for all of our lives in the backseat.

And then we would head north from Virginia on the pre-interstate roads. Occasionally, Martha or I would climb into the front seat to rest her head on Mom’s lap (unless she was driving, of course). There were no laws back then that would have earned us a ticket for this climbing-over-the-seats routine, and for many of those years driving up to Cape Cod, I believe there were not even seatbelts.

But we always made it just fine.

The first leg of the trip was the longest – about nine or so hours to get to our grandparents’ house in Connecticut. And because it was such a long stretch, it was not without its moments that would test our mother’s nerves.

When Martha and I – understandably tired from the unending asphalt; undoubtedly bored with playing Auto Bingo – got feisty with each other in the backseat, Mom would turn around, and say, in no uncertain terms, “Get in your corners!”

And so we did.

And I’m guessing that, at that point, we got a little quiet.

(Which is exactly what Mom wanted – and needed.)

… A few decades later and 20 years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. And 10 years after that, my sister moved from Virginia to the UK. When Martha moved, Dad was still alive, and although he quickly became frail, Mom still had him for company. They would remain in the Shenandoah Valley, where my sister and I were raised, and long distance telephone calls would keep all of us in touch.

“Boy,” I said to Martha, during one of those calls – at a time when my Los Angeles hours and her England hours allowed for a lively conversation, “we sure did get in our corners, huh?”

She laughed, as did Mom, when I shared the observation with her later that week.

But these days, our geographic distance does not feel laughable. Dad died in late March of 2008, and although Martha and her best-ever husband made an unselfish and valiant effort before Christmas that year to bridge the proximity gap, their move “across the pond” and their plans for establishing a life near Mom did not pan out. The economy bit their butts, and they ultimately discovered how difficult it is – particularly in a small town – for “older people” to find work. They moved back to the UK this past November.

In the meantime, I’ve remained in L.A., where I have established a life for 20 years. Where my address is the one I’ve held the longest in my 53 years on the planet.

And so Martha and I – two members of what literature now calls the “sandwich generation” – are back in our corners.

My sister is a “true” sandwich in that she has a generation on either side. Mom, in Virginia (and the memory of Dad), represent the bottom slice of bread, while Martha’s daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law comprise her top slice.

As for me, I guess you’d have to describe me as more of an “open-faced sandwich.” Yes, Mom’s there (and the memory of Dad), providing me with that slice that anchors my ingredients, but above that – or rather, creating a bookend to that generation – there is nothing.

It’s interesting, the press that the current sandwich generation gets. So much of the news is about the combating needs on either end. How aging parents and growing children create a tug-of-war, causing “us” Baby Boomers to feel pulled in two directions at once.

For those whose sandwich is closed, I am not without empathy. I get it that you are answering to two distinctly different age groups, and you are concerned about them both. But, I’d like to shine the light on us open-faced sandwiches for a moment. Because, while the demands on us – as children of aging parents – may not be as complex, they still are emotional.

My decision not to have children was not conscious, but I believe it was smart. I believe it suits me to not be a mother. I’m not sure I could have pulled off the discipline it would have required to discipline others. And if I had, I would have lost a big part of myself in the bargain.

But I also am realizing now, as I witness my mother’s aging, the emptiness that will be my legacy. The emptiness of no family nearby.

And so these days, my empathy extends more to my mother than to my sister or to other members of the “sandwich generation.” I feel for my Mom, alone in Virginia. I feel for her, so far from the corners that Martha and I now occupy. If any of the three of us had some bank to spare, we could make some adjustments to this scenario, but… money isn’t our strong suit.

Mom and Dad did not raise us to pursue the almighty dollar. Rather, they raised us to follow our hearts and have faith in our paths.

It is for that reason that Martha shares a house in rural Scotland with her best-ever husband and two generations below her. It also is for that reason that I maintain a one-bedroom apartment in a decidedly urban area of sprawling Los Angeles.

We are in our corners.

We are…a sandwich-and-a-half of Baby Boomer daughters wishing the best for their Mom.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I love liberals.


Because I believe that – deep inside – they are happy.

I’m not saying they’re happy about the world situation.

How could they be?

The world is at war, economies are failing, and here in the United States, unemployment and housing foreclosures have put millions of people at risk of realizing their American dream. At the same time, our country’s public education system is mostly deplorable, and there is so much homelessness that shelters must consistently turn people away.

So, no, the liberals are not happy about the world situation.

What they are, however, is comfortable in their own skin.

As for others? Non-liberals? I’m not sure about their comfort levels. I think just about everything that isn’t just like them makes them uneasy. Other races (such as might come in the form of a black president) scare them, and so they parlay that fear into allegedly “just” legislation (or no legislation at all). Independent thinking gives them the creeps, and so they seek to enact policies that promote controlled action. They distrust someone who views the whole of humanity because doing so flies in the face of “us” versus “them.”

Non-liberals need enemies in order to justify the fear on which their thoughts and actions are based.

Non-liberals are uncomfortable people, and if they have it their way, discomfort will become the rule of law.

… Last year, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Klute at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (what we townies call “LACMA”). And what made the event a particular pleasure was Jane Fonda’s appearance, after the film. She sauntered onto the stage, a martini in hand, and proceeded to engage those of us in the audience for nearly an hour.

I’ve always admired Fonda’s work, but that night, I became a huge fan. She was beyond dynamic, and she also said something that – while not altogether enlightening – was so well-presented that it made me think. She had been talking, of course, about her experiences as an actress, and she shared that the reason so many Hollywood types are liberal is because actors are naturally empathic.

How true. But, that empathy is not just limited to actors.

Hollywood, which earns a bazillion dollars a year, takes in that profit because of collective empathy.

A screenwriter cannot create a credible script unless he or she understands a variety of characters.

A producer cannot get that screenplay “green-lit” unless he or she believes that those characters’ stories will resonate with the audience.

A director cannot elicit truth from the movie’s actors and actresses unless that director can envision the emotions that underlie a scene.

And the actors themselves demonstrate, through their performances, the empathy they share with the screenwriters, the producers, and the directors.


It’s brought a boatload of money to Hollywood, so maybe it’s a profiting formula.

Something for non-liberals to consider.

… It also makes me wonder. Movie theatres are dark. They are places where we, the audience, can react in private ways. They are places where, even when we’re in a crowd, we can feel an incredibly personal connection.

Given John Boehner’s propensity for tears, I cannot help but wonder: Did The Help make him cry (even though he probably expresses racism privately and with his cronies)? If he saw Edward Scissorhands back when it came out, did he respond emotionally to the protagonist’s plight (even though that protagonist does not “fit in”)? And going back further: I bet E.T. was a multi-kleenex experience for our “Speaker.” But: if that same extra-terrestrial showed up in his congressional district, Boehner would give him a one-way ticket off the planet.

Non-liberals may have empathy deep, deep, deep in their souls, but feeling it, and ultimately exposing it, scares the hell out of them.

And it is probably for that reason, more than any other, that they are unable to imagine the financial advantages of kind decision-making.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Reruns: For the Love of Rob

(original post-date: January 5, 2011)

Five or six years ago, I was working regularly with a nonprofit youth drop-in agency based in South Central L.A. Though my role was as a consultant, I was given a desk to call my own, and so I was there, on-site, about two or three times a week.

On one of my on-site days, Dick Van Dyke dropped by. He had learned of the agency’s work through some community event, and he had come by to discover more.

Once he entered the development trailer, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to approach him.

I emerged from the office I shared with Miki and extended by hand. “Hello,” I said to the venerable showman. “I’m Katie. And I’ve just got to tell you that I grew up with your show, and I had such a crush on you.

“But,” I added, “it was kind of a weird crush, because I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know if I wanted you to be my father or if I wanted you to be my husband!”

“How about ‘Grampa?’” Dick Van Dyke replied, kindly, contorting his face to accompany his comment.

I raised my eyebrows teasingly and left him to his tour, realizing, as I headed back to my office, that his response had been a compliment: Younger than my Dad, he clearly is not old enough to be my “Grampa,” and apparently, I didn’t look old enough to be his daughter (or, for that matter, his wife).

So, that’s as far as our conversation went.

But it has stayed with me.

… More than a year ago, I ordered the entire Dick Van Dyke series on DVD (yes, there’s redundancy there), and I’ve really enjoyed watching the show that engaged me to such a degree when I was in elementary school.

Rob and Laura: the ultimate couple. Attractive and alive, they never fooled me or anyone when they climbed into those twin beds on Bonnie Meadow Road. They were in love and vibrant.

And I wanted him to be my dad…

But why?

I had a great dad… In fact, like Rob Petrie, my dad was quite funny.

Also, like Rob Petrie, my dad found ways to parlay his humor into creative pursuits.

So why would I want to replace him?

I don’t know. Maybe I liked the way Rob was at-one with his absolute klutziness. Maybe I liked the way he acted like a kid. Maybe, just maybe, it helped that Rob had a son. I know that my own dad would have appreciated having a son. It was apparent that Christmas morning when my sister and I entered the living room to discover Santa's delivery of… an electric train!

Insofar as I was elementary school age when I was developing my crush on Rob Petrie, it’s not surprising that I transferred my crush into considering his potential as a father. I mean, at that age, fantasizing about a husband?

Still, I couldn’t help but notice how he played that role so beautifully…

Especially in that era, Rob Petrie was a unique husband.

Sure, the household in New Rochelle was a sign of the times in some rather distinct ways. Laura was the housewife and mother. Rob, the bread-winner.

But: Rob worked with a professional woman (Sally Rogers), and he respected her. He respected that women could be bread winners in the world. Rob also respected Laura. She wasn’t just some “wife with an allowance.” She was a woman – a strong woman – who had opinions, dreams, talents.

And he adored her. That part was always clear.

And, regardless of what a woman expects from her man, being adored will probably always take the top of the list.

So, between the ages of six and eleven (or so), I regularly watched Dick Van Dyke. Loving the father, who was so much like my own, and dreaming about a husband…

I don’t know that most husbands these days adore their wives. I don’t know that we have a lot of time for that. With all the multi-tasking, it’s probably a bit difficult for anybody to feel adored. But, back in my pre-pubescence, that seemed like a pretty good deal. It seemed like a pretty good deal to emerge – either from a day of housewifery or from a career – to find a charmingly klutzy, extremely comic man opening his arms to my opinions, my dreams, and my talents.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

When Cats Puke

Hmm… having spent New Year’s weekend reading the 2009 memoir, Homer’s Odyssey, I feel a bit tacky offering up this piece. Really, I kinda do.

Let me explain. If you haven’t read Gwen Cooper’s charming book, then here’s what you need to know: it is a remarkable account of a person/animal relationship. And in this case, the person happens to be a woman, and the animal happens to be a cat.

Reading Homer’s Odyssey, I was absolutely captivated. I mean, I gotta face it… admit it: my long-term relationships have always been with cats. And so I love the stories that describe those relationships.

Joy Adamson and Elsa (of Born Free fame) used to be my go-to when I thought of such relationships. But, last weekend, that story got supplanted. By Homer’s Odyssey.

Sorry, Joy and Elsa. Gwen and Homer are the deal. The real deal.

Never have I enjoyed crying so much.

But, oh dear, I’m getting maudlin. And we don’t want that, do we? I know how to fix that, and I’ll do it fast. I’ll return to my original intention. I’ll return to the story that earned the title of this post.

You should know, before you read further, that this piece is a bit graphic. (A “bit?” Who are we kidding!) I tried to share the story with my sister, over the phone. She wouldn’t allow me past what will be the first reference to puking.


Anyway, proceed with caution.

Which is to say, consider yourself forewarned.

… The weeks of December were tense for me, and on the night of Monday, December 18th, I had a major epiphany. I realized why the end of the year always feels so frenetic.

It isn’t the shopping, which I don’t do. (I give presents to people when I feel like it; not when some holiday tells me I should.)

It isn’t the December parties, which I avoid.

It isn’t some need to go to religious services, because… I just don’t affiliate.

No, it’s because I am a consultant. And what that means is this: I don’t work for one organization; I work for several. And what that means is that I am answering to about 6-8 bosses, all of whom are slamming to get work done before the holidays.

Not only that, but the work we are doing (grant proposals, mostly) is deadline-driven. Throwing something on the back burner just isn’t an option. Not if you want to get the money.

And this is money that is sorely needed. … It goes to afterschool projects, domestic violence shelters, and teen pregnancy prevention programs. It goes to the arts. It goes to educational curricula that help children think lovingly. This money makes a difference in our world.

… The morning after my epiphany, I was at my workstation (i.e., the southwest corner of my kitchen). I was anticipating the deadline-meeting day ahead. I’d just got up and made my first cup of coffee.

And, as is my routine, I traveled the internet while waiting for the caffeine to kick in (at which point, I would begin the all-important billable hours).

Within a few moments, I heard a retching sound behind me, and I was not surprised that it was Vesta, the senior of my two cats.

She was puking.

Just behind my wheeled office chair.

Which is when I knew I could not back up those wheels any time soon.

No, I’d need to wait at least 10 minutes.

I’d need to give her and Lotto time to gobble up the puke and make it go away.

(It’s what animals do, people. Regurgitation as feeding. If you’re not familiar, check out March of the Penguins.)

And so I waited, confident that when I eventually rolled back, my desk chair’s wheels would not spin up anything wet.

But as I waited, something else happened.

Lotto (younger, larger cat), who had partaken of Vesta’s puke, walked over to the middle of the kitchen floor and proceeded to do a remarkable impersonation of George H.W. Bush in Japan.

I’m talking projectile vomit.

I’m talking ICK.

And then he moved to a distance further away from me and puked a bit more.

I decided I needed to remain at the desk for at least ten minutes more.

… When I eventually arose from my chair, I was happy to see that the first instance of puke (the one that had been deposited directly behind my chair) was indeed pretty much gone. Sure, a few tell-tale signs, but mostly, gone.

Then, I moved closer to the area of the Bush impersonation, and looking at it, I started to gag.

I coughed in a choking way.

I started to wonder if I would puke.

And what made me gag/choke even more was my wondering: if I puke, will the cats eat it?

Oh my God, this is just becoming so gross, isn’t it?

… Yes, it is, and here’s why.

I don’t mind cleaning up cat puke.

But cleaning up cat puke that is puked-up cat puke is more than I can stand, and that’s why I had issues with the liquid piles that Lotto had left. It wasn’t his own puke. It was Vesta’s. Recycled.

(I’m gagging as I type.)

Fortunately and wisely, I just left large, multi-layered paper towel pilings where he had retched, and I waited a while.

I waited until my impulse to choke had subsided.

Once it had, I cleaned up the mess and met the day’s deadlines. Then, while telling this story to my mom over the phone, I had the best laugh I’d had in about two weeks.

Happy New Year.

(And speaking of 2012, with this being a major election year, I suspect we’ll have much to gag, choke, and puke about in the coming months. Should be fun. Keep paper towels in stock, folks!)