Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Curious Strength of ALTOIDS

When I returned to blogging about a month ago, I mentioned that 2012 was a rough year.  There were, in fact, five distinct chapters of “roughness,” and they were spread apart just enough to never give me a good break.  The final chapter occurred on November 21st, when my friend, Sue, died.  As with my cat, Vesta, who died in early September, Sue had enjoyed a long life.  Also as with Vesta, I could not have predicted Sue’s death three months’ prior to its occurrence.  Both the friend and the cat went downhill fast.  And for both of them, that was probably a blessing.

I am about to share with you a tribute that I wrote a day or two after Sue's death.  The timing is appropriate, as yesterday would have been her 86th birthday.

While the tribute covers some things, what it doesn’t tell you is this:  it was in Sue’s home that I witnessed dementia.  Her husband, Mort, who died on September 11, 2008 (the same year my dad died), suffered from dementia for probably 15 years.  He was on his last legs of lucidity when I met them 20 years ago, and when Sue and I began to work together, at their condo, he was well into the state of being that would continue to belie his once-200+ IQ.  Nevertheless, Mort was always docile and kind. He also was often quite comical.  Sue was the more imposing individual in that couple, and it is no surprise that she waited until his birthday to die.
During the years of Mort's descent into dementia, the witnessing I experienced inspired my first novel, and because I was able to complete that novel, I knew I could write another.  So, I have reason to believe that if I had never met Sue, I might not be able to call myself a novelist.  For that reason and countless others, I will always be grateful for the fact that my path crossed with hers.

Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote after she passed:

Remembering Sue
I met Sue in 1993, when she and Mort were assigned to “trail” the Development Department at MALDEF (and where I was that department’s writer).  

But it wasn’t until 2000 – and the two years we spent working together on her earring book – that I really got to know her. 

Over the course of those two years, we bonded over common idiosyncrasies.  We also came to learn about – and respect (and sometimes challenge) – those idiosyncrasies that we didn’t share.  When the book project was complete, Sue’s 3-hour/week administrative assistant was about to go off and have a baby, so Sue offered me the gig.

“I know this is below your pay grade,” Sue admitted.  “But make me an offer.”

I thought about it for a few minutes, and I also thought about all those times I had sat at her computer, drafting book copy, my peripheral vision taking stock of the empty laundry room just across the hall.
I could be doing my laundry right now, I would think, during those book-writing years.
So I made Sue an offer: I pitched a dollar-per-hour amount and I would bring my laundry.
For 10 years, I was Sue’s Gal Friday.
And for the first many of those years, I came on Thursday.
Then, we switched it to Wednesday.
I guess we were working our way to the beginning of the week.
(Something that will never happen.)
Still, though, as we worked our way to the beginning of the week, we also worked our way later into the day.  Time was, I’d arrive at one and leave at four.  Years later, I was arriving around three and staying for dinner.
It was the team-building.  The martinis.  The tuna melts.
For both Sue and me, that was the best part of our weekly confab.  Yes, sure, we’d go through the tasks at hand, taking care of bills, culling storage areas for donations to Out of the Closet, filing all the related paperwork…  But:  it was the off-the-clock team-building that made our weekly meetings so wonderful.
Most often, the tasks that preceded team-building took place at Sue’s desk, where her computer was “mission control” (and where she was always the pilot).  But sometimes, we’d venture into other rooms, where drawers and cabinets awaited us.
One afternoon, she wanted to go through/clean out/organize several drawers in her bedroom, so we grabbed our coffees and headed back to the world where a lot of knitting got done.
... I won’t say that Sue was a pack-rat because that implies saving a lot of things unnecessarily.  And while I’ll admit that she did that in some cases, she also was very good about getting rid of things (as per my earlier reference to Out of the Closet donations).  For the most part, the stuff in Sue’s bedroom drawers was less about being a pack-rat than it was about being a collector and creator.
Sue’s creativity within the world of craft was revealed when you opened one of those drawers.  There were the drawers full of yarn (organized by color, of course).  There were the drawers filled with knitting needles, thimbles, and potential adornments.
We were in one of those latter drawers on the afternoon I am remembering, and we came across a lot of Altoid tins.  I opened them one at a time…
Needles.  Okay, can’t have too many of those!  Sharpee in hand, I labeled the tin accordingly.
The next one:  Tortoise-shell buttons.  Hmm, interesting that one should want to keep the tortoise-shell buttons completely separate from the other buttons, but people are entitled to their “systems.”  Labeled accordingly.
Next Altoid tin:  Safety pins.  Those also come in handy.  Particularly if you know where they are.  Label on tin.  Moving on...
Snaps.  Okay… snaps?  Are you going to need all these snaps, Sue?  I tended to doubt that this tin would ever be missed, but just in case, I grabbed the Sharpee and wrote “SNAPS” just above the almighty word ALTOIDS.
Then, I opened the next tin, and when Sue and I saw what it contained, our shared laughter was spontaneous and absolutely uproarious.
The tin contained actual Altoids.
Having no idea how long they’d been sitting in there, we each bravely took one.
And we sat for a few seconds, assessing the flavor.
… for however long they’d been around, those mints were still curiously strong.
Not unlike Sue herself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Reruns: It's All In the Reading

(original post date:  April 20, 2011)

Several years ago, I entered a small jewelry store in my neighborhood. The establishment harked back to another time and was probably passed on from one generation to the next. I had gone there to see if the proprietor might be able to repair an antique travel alarm clock that I had purchased at a flea market. The clock had worked quite well for a while, but then it decided to rebel.

While the store owner examined the timepiece, my eyes scanned her small shop, and one of the first things I noticed was a sign: Watch Batteries Repaired While You Wait.

I guess I’m verb-oriented, because my interpretation of that sign was this: If I wanted to, I could watch the proprietor repair batteries while I waited!

(Can you imagine a more entertaining afternoon?)

Interpretation is so subjective.

I have another story on this score, and this one comes from my years in New York. I had been browsing at the Coliseum bookstore, which used to be among the retail features of Columbus Circle. It was probably November or so, because I had stocking stuffers in mind. I quickly noticed a title that would have been appropriate for any member of my family. The title implied a deep devotion (if not outright addiction) to cats.

As I studied the cover illustration, however, I felt confused. There was an elderly person lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed, and surrounding that bed were several people. Those in plain clothes were undoubtedly family.

There also was a nurse and a priest.

But where was the cat?

I looked at how the bedsheets and blanket were arranged over the person lying there. I looked for a lump, figuring the cat must be under the covers.

Then, I returned to the title of the book, and I realized it was Catholics.

(Which explains the priest, of course.)

… There also was a time in between those two incidents – after New York and before I moved to my current neighborhood. I was married to a man whom I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, and since I called him Ben in an earlier essay, we’ll just stick with that…

Anyway, Ben loved to visit a part of California that is about four hours north of Los Angeles, just at the foot of Mount Whitney. There are rock formations there that are awesome, and the landscape is generally, well… what can I say, the dude’s a photographer, and there was no end to the possibilities. So we made the trip together a few times. He’d spend the weekend shooting pictures, and I’d sit by the pool, reading and taking in the remarkable air. Then, we’d meet for dinner and enjoy the quiet, rustic atmosphere of this extremely small town in the middle of nothing but almighty geography.

Once, while doing the drive (which would often begin at the end of a work-week and end close to midnight), we found ourselves behind a particular car, and because we were on a two-lane highway at that point, we remained behind that car for more than a few miles.

And this placement led to some improvisation.

For, you see, the license plate that we were trailing said this: OH BOB

I think Ben started the spontaneous game…

In the tone of a woman who is beyond impressed with a certain individual’s manhood, he exclaimed, “Ohhh Bob!”

I replied, using the clenched-teeth delivery of a wife who has once again found a non-dishwasher safe utensil in that very appliance. “Oh Bob.”

Ben took his turn, imitating a woman who was probably waving flirtatiously from across the room, “Oh, Bo-obb!

My next entry was scolding, the type of admonition one might use when embarrassed by the inappropriateness of her partner: “Oh, BOB!

Ben was still in another world. Possibly post-coital. His character sounded quite breathless and was undoubtedly reaching for a cigarette when she sighed, “Oh… Bob…”

When I responded, I sounded more like some 1950’s housewife who’s standing at the bottom of a suburban staircase, her arms folded at her chest. “Oh Bo-obb,” my character chanted, not at all pleased.

I don’t know how many more rounds we went, but it was good to get these feelings out of our systems.

It also was good to reach the changing lane so that we could move on to the next improvisation.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How I Lost a Pound-and-a-Half in Just One Short Year

So I have these bathroom scales, but… being the nonconformist that I am, I don’t keep them in the bathroom.  I keep them in my bedroom.

And a few weeks ago, I walked into said room and saw that little miss Vanna – that young, incorrigible feline whipper-snapper I introduced you to a few weeks ago – was lazing on said scales. 

And she was lazing in such a way that I could read her weight:  7.5 pounds.

Whaddaya know, I thought.  The scales still work!

Fact of the matter is, it had been a long, long time since I had lazed on those scales.

Fact of the matter is, the most interaction I’d had with the scales in (many) recent months was to dust off the top of them.

So…  the other day, I decided to face the music. 

Once I’d arisen and I’d emptied my bladder of those pounds and pounds that it had accumulated overnight, I stood on the scales.

And, frankly, I was a bit shocked that the number was not about ten pounds higher.

I then pulled out my 2012 day-runner, where I knew I’d recorded my weight when I’d last known it.

I had to go all the way back to June.

A full year.

And, whaddaya know?  I’d lost a pound and a half!

My secret?

Oh no, honey, I’m not telling you that!  What?  Give away that kind of valuable information?  And for free?

Oh no, honey, if you want to know how I lost a pound-and-a-half in just one short year, you are going to have to subscribe to my Seriously Gradual Weight Loss Program manifesto.

In it, you will find some hints, such as: 
     *get over it and live;
     *eat whatever;
     *drink, too, if you like;
     *just don't stuff yourself!
As helpful as those points might be, the truth is that I would like to lose about two Vanna’s.  Which is not to say that I want to get rid of this cat, adopt another just like her, and get rid of that one as well.  But, yeah, the 15 pounds that two of her represent is what’s between me and some nice clothes that still hang in my closet.

If I can pull that off, I’ll share more hints.

But, you know what I learned – years ago, when I lost about 50 pounds on Weight Watchers?  Losing weight is actually very easy.  If you want to lose weight, all you have to do is pay attention to what you’re eating.  It’s just that simple.

I’ve not done much paying attention over the past year, but – given that I haven’t, I’m pretty jazzed by the loss!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Time with the Fishers

(original post-date: April 13, 2011)

I was late to the Netflix party.

One explanation, I suppose, is that I don’t feel compelled to rent movies that often. Also, I guess I wanted to support those stores that exist in real space and time and actually employ people who live in my ‘hood.

Less than a year ago, though, I decided to sign on and start designing my own queue, and maybe it was an incident a few months before that that helped incite the change… A friend and then-neighbor had raved about The Hangover. She’d seen it three times, in fact, and she told me she “pissed her pants” laughing. So, one afternoon, when a good pants-pissing comedy seemed in order, I rented the film.

And I watched it.

And I barely cracked a smile.

(Not my genre, I guess.)

The next day, I had to return it. And even though it was raining (which, in L.A., is often the top news story), I braved the inclement weather to return the stupid movie to the rental place. I also braved the rental place’s horrible parking lot, which was cleverly designed to facilitate fender benders.

By the time I got home (safely), I resented my otherwise dear neighbor-friend who had made the recommendation. It even occurred to my facetious mind that I should have asked her to return the stupid movie.

… When I received my first Netflix disc (which would have been a movie, though I don’t remember which one), my innate sense of rebellion came to the fore. I looked at the red envelope, and I thought, “I don’t have to watch this. You can’t make me watch this.”

Bizarre, I’ll admit.

After all, I was the one who had ordered it, for God’s sake.

But I hate being told what to do (even by me).

Or maybe I just hate being told when to do.

… After a few months on Netflix, and on the recommendation of a friend, I ordered Season One, Disc One of Six Feet Under. I found the first few episodes intriguing (if for no other reason than the eye candy of Peter Krause).

I also had lined up the series' subsequent discs on my queue, though they were separated by various other titles.

… Within a few weeks, when I was well into the second season of Six Feet Under, I realized that I could no longer take the interruptions from competing stories. I grabbed my mouse and made the big leap: Top of the Queue. Yup, the whole series. One disc after the other until the very end.

And having just completed the series the other night, I am here to say that Netflix rocks.

I cannot imagine having spent five years watching Six Feet Under. No more than I could imagine spending five years reading a great novel.

And Six Feet Under has all the trappings of a great novel: well-developed characters with distinct voices; interwoven plotlines that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each of those characters; a balance of suspense, drama, and humor; and the interplay of day-to-day living with other-worldly occurrences.

Combine that with the trappings of a wonderful movie – talented actors; flawless direction; strong atmospheric details – and the ride goes to a new level of involvement.

A brilliant television series watched in as few sittings as possible is like a book-on-tape with moving pictures.

… When I lived in New York, a roommate once said to me, “I always know when you’re about to finish reading a novel, because you close your door.”

True. Because: if it’s the kind of novel I love, I usually cry at the end. (In fact, if I come to the end of a novel and I don’t cry, I feel a little short-changed.)

The other night, watching the final episode of Six Feet Under gave me all the emotional joy of a novel’s end. There remained conflict in the first half or so of the two-hour episode, but it worked its way beautifully to closure and resolution.

I had to hit the Pause button several times to wipe the salt stains off my glasses. And the next day, when I remembered specific scenes in the series finale, my eyes got wet again. The Fisher family had been a part of my life for several engaging weeks.

It’s funny, too; generally when I’ve finished watching a disc, I return it immediately to its red envelope and place it in the outgoing mail. But, I let that last episode sit on the sideboard for a few days. I didn’t want to part with it. I didn’t want to face the fact that the journey had come to an end.

I have a feeling I’ll be making my way over to Amazon one of these days, and I’ll purchase the full series. I can envision it up there on the bookshelf, between and among some of those novels that I know I’ll read again.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Nonassertive Legacy

I used the phrasing on a neighbor-friend once, several years ago.  I asked him, “Do you wanna hand me that plate?”

My neighbor-friend was amused by my question. Rightfully, he threw it back at me.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “Do I?”

His flippancy helped me acknowledge the absurdity of my phrasing.  After all, it was a pretty simple situation.  I wanted him to hand me “that” plate.  Given that rather simple need, I could have said, “Please hand me that plate.” And, because handing someone a plate is so-not-a-big-deal, he no doubt would have obliged.  Why did I choose such a nonassertive approach?  Why did I choose the type of phrasing that practically makes it sound like I’m doing him a favor by predicting his next, most favored move?  

The next time I visited my folks in Virginia, I noticed how frequently the phrasing was used.  I was making a casserole one night, and my mother asked:  “Do you wanna put minced onions in that?”

An hour or so later, she asked, “Do you wanna hand me the kleenex?”

And so it went.  I didn’t track all the times that I used the phrase, but I’m sure I was as guilty as Mom of placing every request in that “it’s really your call” context.   Who the hell are we kidding?  She wanted minced onion in the casserole (hence, the question as to whether I’d like to include that ingredient.)  She needed a Kleenex (hence, her curiosity as to whether I was interested in handing the box to her.) 

What’s with this consistent offering of bogus empowerment?
After my father died, I traveled to Virginia for the celebration of his life.  Mom’s younger brother and his wife came down from Boston, and after the church service, we were heading out to various cars that would eventually take us back to Mom’s for more interacting.  My uncle and I were standing on opposite sides of a car, and he asked me, over the hood, “Do you wanna hand me that folder?”

That’s when it really hit me that this was a family trait, and specifically, my mother’s family.

Having not grown up in that pre-war New England household, I can’t possibly do an armchair analysis that explains the passive nature of their asking for help.  It seems, though, that there was a bit of shyness there.  Hesitance.  Or, maybe just a tendency to pass off responsibility?

Do you wanna offer some opinions? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Reruns: Moments of Sheer Flippancy

(original post date:  April 6, 2011)
It’s probably been close to four decades since I’ve sought out bubble gum, and I don’t even know if Bazooka Gum exists anymore. But, when I was a kid, it was a go-to purchase at those small, family-owned shops that existed in a simpler economy. For a penny, a kid could purchase a piece. (And after spending a nickel on a Coke, a penny was quite the extravagance.)

The two-layer unwrapping process led to the pink pillow of sugar (ostensibly divisible by two, but did anyone ever share a piece?). And inside the outer wrapper was the infamous Bazooka Joe comic, complete with a “fortune” that was written in extremely small print just below the final frame of the illustrated cartoon story.

Just as I’ve continued, in my adulthood, to pay attention to the brief and random forebodings that come at the end of a Chinese meal, I used to give my Bazooka Joe fortune a few moments of my time.

Back then and to this day, I never let the words guide my life (or play with my hopes and wishes), but I always respect them for their potential to make me think.

Sometimes a “fortune” provides a good impetus for reflection.

Sometimes a “fortune” provides wisdom that one cannot grasp when going through the day-to-day movements of life.

Other times, it is way beyond random.

There is a Bazooka Joe “fortune” that I will always remember.

It said: You will never become a giant shoelace.

It may be a reflection of my self-esteem back then, but becoming a giant shoelace was something I never worried about. I don’t know; call me confident. Maybe, too, because there were no role models…

So while I did not relate the fortune to my own personal fantasies, I nevertheless gleaned some wisdom from it. I learned that adults with jobs (e.g., the Bazooka Joe fortune-writer) can get bored in those jobs, and those moments of boredom can lead to flippancy.

…Once I entered my adulthood, I found employment in a variety of areas (none requiring the skills and strengths of a giant shoelace). And to this day, the longest job I’ve ever kept was at a burger-slinging joint in central Manhattan. My primary shift was the lunch rush, and I loved the work. It was no frills and totally aerobic. I took my earnings home with me everyday. My tips paid the rent and gave me enough left over for some kind of night-life. Better yet, there were no office politics.

We were a weird work family who got along well and probably would never have met had we not all landed at that particular joint. The waitresses – eight of us – found our gender balance in a variety of bartenders and an all-male kitchen staff. There often was a party atmosphere permeating the place. Flirtation and flippancy were the norm.

And every twelve weeks or so, our Mama Manager would let us girls know that, before we’d left for that day, we’d need to “do” ten menus.

“Do” ten menus. Here’s what that meant: the restaurant was part of a big citywide chain, and – wise to printing deals – had stocks and stocks of pre-printed menus. They saved money by ordering menus in mega-bulk, and they didn’t sweat price changes. Why? Because their menus didn’t even bother to list prices.

Accordingly, an untouched menu would include line items that looked something like this:

Cheddar Burger ______

So: it was the job of us waitri – on a regular basis – to sit around (before we’d left for the day) and replace dog-eared or out-priced menus with fresher, cleaner, up-to-date versions.

… And so we sat, that one afternoon, the eight of us gathered around two checkerboard squares. We’d begun sipping our complimentary bar beverages (the management was lax on that score), and we were in a fine mood. The cheddar burger had been raised to $3.50. The bacon-cheese was a whopping $3.95. We soon gathered a rhythm as we each filled out our requisite ten menus. And each of us, too, found blank spaces within those menus – spaces where we were expected to add listings for the dishes that hadn’t made the print-run.

There were Chicken Nuggets.

And I believe a Fried Shrimp dish was the other hand-written feature.

… As I sat there, enjoying my Bloody Mary, filling out prices and spaces, I also had a moment of silent camaraderie with the fortune-teller back at Bazooka.

Which is to say, even after I’d written in the Chicken Nuggets and the Fried Shrimp, there was still some empty space on the menu in front of me.

A canvas, if you will.

And so, I entered in a nonexistent menu item:

“Pheasant Under Glass w/FRIES…. $25.99”

For all my ensuing days there, I never heard word-one about that entry. And only once, while taking an order, I saw that a customer in my station had that menu.

(I felt a little anxious before he ordered.)

Fortunately, he went for the Cheddar cheeseburger.

(Perhaps he was on a budget.)

… I’m glad I never got into any trouble for my moment of flippancy. It would have sucked to have been fired from that place.

Sure, maybe I was a little bored at times, but I wasn’t ready to open the next chapter on my “career path.”

I mean, where would I have gone?

I didn’t have much of a plan, you see. I knew one thing and one thing only: I would never become a giant shoelace.

Thursday, June 6, 2013



Vesta.  Vesta-Pesta.  Vessy.  Peanut.  Lil Girl.  Honey Bear.  Vessy-Lou.  Little Bits.  Baby Face.  My Lou-Lou Girl.  Trotsky (a reference to her carriage). 

So many names. 
The cat who died in early September of 2012 inspired many names.
… My most tenured L.A. friend told me once about a class she had attended at a local college.  It might have been a Sociology class.  Or it might have been Anthropology.  In any event, the professor shared with his students that when something or someone is very important to us, we give it a lot of names. 
Then, perhaps because he’d scoped his class’s interests adequately, he shared an example:  pot, maryjane, weed, reefer, grass… 
You get my drift.
I’ve had cats all my adult life, and in some instances, at the end, I’ve had to be the “decider.”  In other instances, a cat died without my having to sign any papers.  Either way, it is difficult. 
Either way.
When Vesta began to go downhill last August, I wasn’t prepared.  It happened quickly.  Also, I’d been through quite a bit of exhausting “stuff,” so I didn’t trust my judgment as the decider.
I took her to the vet on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, thinking we’d need to put her down that day.  But before we had even opened the carrier, the vet asked me what was going on, and I burst into tears.  In response, the kind vet suggested we sit in the adjacent room and talk, leaving Vesta (inside the carrier) behind. 
Once we’d sat in the adjacent room, the vet asked about what I was witnessing at home.
In response to everything I told her, she said, “That’s an old cat.”
Later, the vet asked a final question:  “Do you want to do this today?”
“No,” I replied, very sure of my response.
So she sent us home, suggesting that we enjoy the long weekend and maybe come back the following week. 
And that’s what we did.  On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I watched as Vesta was “put to sleep.”
… So many names I’d given to that sweet girl, and I believed – throughout my years of knowing her and during those final days – that I would never meet as sweet a girl as Vesta…
And while I knew, too, that mourning takes the time it takes, I also had to think about my dear  Lotto, the (then ) 4-and-a-half year-old Maine Coon who was without a companion.  I had plans to go to the East Coast in early October.  Leaving Lotto alone didn’t feel like an option.
So, I had 2-3 weeks to adopt a new member of the family.  And, as I began to take the steps that would make that happen, I considered what I’d learned from all these years of being the person behind the cats.  First, it seems to work well when there is one from each gender, so a female cat was the thing to pursue.  Second, it doesn’t work well when both cats are old at the same time.  (It can get expensive.) 
So…  I would need to establish as great an age gap as possible.
And so...  because I didn’t want an older cat, I would need to get a kitten.
Kittens are cute, don’t get me wrong, but OMG, they also are wired for sound.  And I guess that one of the reasons I don’t fall for them is that they are all…  just… KITTENS.  I mean, you don’t really get to know their personalities until they get older, right?
Still, though, it would seem I needed a *kitten*.
Fast forward:  I’ve dropped by an adoption event and have met an almost six-month-old gal who is half Siamese/half Turkish Van.  I’ve not previously heard of the Van species, but what I read about them online sounds good.
The adoption agency sends me an application form that I am to complete.  As I proceed through its questions, I get increasingly rebellious.  (I’m not a fan of forms.  Hell, I don’t like structure of any kind!)
…Having established that I already have cat experience, the form asks:  What is your cat’s favorite toy?
“Whatever is within reach,” I type, flippantly.
Have you ever had any experience with … torn curtains, scratched furniture, excessive shedding…”
“Of course!” I type.
(Just give me the goddamn cat!)
What would you do if new boy/girlfriend were allergic?
“Boyfriend can get shots!” I reply, through my keyboard.
(Seriously, if these cat adoption folks really wanted to dig, they’d know!  They’d know that my longest relationships have been with cats.)
Then, the question that put me over the edge:  Is there any behavior that you would find unacceptable?
This being September of 2012, it was easy for me to answer.  I typed:  “Voting for Romney.”
Suffice it to say, I probably would not have scored in a Red State, but insofar as I live in California, that final flippant answer probably sealed the deal.
Suffice it to say, too, I didn’t let the adoption agency know that I would be out of town that first week of October.  But, the kitten became mine about ten days prior to that departure, and she remains mine today.  Vanna...
Don’t let the relative calm of this picture fool you…  And right, yeah, the name is kinda messed-up.  I mean, after saying goodbye to a two-syllable named cat whose name began with V and ended with A, I chose what?
Here’s the thing:  before she officially became mine, I thought about names.  And because she was half Turkish Van, the name “Vanna” occurred to me.  But then, I thought, Oh no.  Vanna White.  No, that is just so wrong!
A few days later, my friend Julie came to visit, and prior to her doing so, I told her, “You’re going to help me name my new cat!”
After Julie had been here for an hour or more, she suggested the name Vanna.  And it was only then that I remembered discounting it.  It also was then that I realized it fit this young kitten like nobody’s business.
Here’s the thing about Vanna.  She sells vowels.  All. Day. Long.
Seriously, I walk into the room she’s in, and this is what I hear:  A!  E!  O!
And… now that she’s a few months over one year old, I can tell you something else.  I don’t think this little kitty is terribly bright.  She’s done so many things (mildly destructive things) that point to a probable fact:  girlfriend’s curiosity is SO MUCH bigger than her brain.
But here’s the other thing about Vanna.  She is as sweet as the day is long.  She’s an angel (when she's not being a devil, that is).  She cuddles with me and smiles and views my lap as some kind of holy place.  She loves giving and getting love.  And:  she has absolutely become Lotto’s new girlfriend.
Already, I’ve called her by so many names.
She’s filled our hearts and changed our home.
Here are photos from the Two Cats on an Unmade Bed series…
Vanna.  She's a keeper.
But:  I'll also be keeping the wallpaper...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Reruns: In Your Dreams!

(original post date: March 30, 2011)

I have a friend who is rather tenured in the realm of senior citizenry.

She’s also doing quite well.

Her mind is sharp as a tack (and much sharper than mine, most of the time). Her body? Not so much.

Among other things, she suffers from arthritis in her right arm, and because she is right-handed, the pain is more than inconvenient.

It also sometimes keeps her up at night.

So, a few weeks ago, she consulted her doctor. And in response to her complaint, he suggested she “up” the dosage on the pain-killer he had prescribed a few weeks earlier.

You should know that my friend is not a fan of pharmaceuticals, and so her doctor’s suggestion that she essentially triple the dosage of a pain-killer didn’t settle well with her. But he assured her that it was still a very small amount of the drug, and so, she agreed to the plan.

… I phoned her the next day to see how she was feeling.

“I slept well,” she reported, not sounding particularly relieved, “but in my dreams, I was punching everything in sight, and when I wasn’t punching, I was lifting. And when I wasn’t lifting, I was furiously writing. When I got out of bed this morning, my arm muscles were so sore from all the activity that I could barely lift my first cup of coffee.”

When I laughed, my friend scolded me.

“It’s not funny!” she said. “You have no idea how sore I was!”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, smiling over the phone. “I really am. But it’s just so ironic. You take a drug to make the arm pain go away, and your arms are so not in pain while you’re sleeping that they’re just busy all night.”

My friend accepted my apology, and – beyond that – she appreciated my observation.

… And I’ve been thinking about it ever since: pharmaceutical side effects that are dream-centric.

Imagine the possibilities:

I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time thinking about how this country’s stupid political parties are wasting their time with ridiculous, counter-productive in-fighting.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream that I meet Sarah Palin, and we hit if off like nobody’s business. We go off into the wild and shoot a bunch of wolves. We laugh because we have no need for the wolves. We pledge to be BFFs forever (disregarding the redundancy therein) and from that point forward, we text each other every day.

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time worrying about how I am going to pay all my bills.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream that I get a letter in the mail. It’s a pen pal request from a man in prison. Bernie Madoff has learned of my schemes, and I am his new hero. I smile devilishly and pass the letter along to one of my staff members – a man dressed in a scaled costume and looking a lot like Dick Cheney. Then, I head for the hot tub, where I bathe with rich white men, all in handcuffs and fully dressed.

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time worrying about the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream of sitting at a grand table with the leaders of the “free” world. There’s a hosted oil bar, and it is free-flowing. We’re all drunk. As the waiters and busboys saunter by our regally upholstered chairs, we slip them million-dollar bills. Then we refill our glasses from the oil trough and laugh some more. Political power is such a gas!

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I keep thinking about what happened in Japan. I feel so bad for the people there.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream I am at an amusement park, where I strap myself into a shiny round seat. The first part of the ride entails a tremendous amount of random shaking. Thereafter, it morphs into a log-flume. I am doused with water. Lots and lots of water. I emerge wobbly and laughing – shook and wet, but okay.

But I’m not okay. There’s a glow emanating from me. And it’s not a good glow. My system’s been compromised by something unnatural.

… I go to the doctor.

“Nothing’s working,” I say. “These prescriptions are all wrong.”

He shrugs.

I walk outside the clinic, and because this is California, I notice a little shop.

Medical marijuana, with promises of no more bad dreams.

… Rich white men did not invent marijuana. Few of them therefore will ever embrace its values.

Besides, it’s a plant that they don’t need to manipulate in their labs.

From a profiteering perspective, they have no use for it. And so they certainly are not going to explore its capacity to heal.

Instead, they’ll just keep inventing drugs that give people messed-up dreams and a boat-load of side effects.

And they’ll make money from it.

…Need an aspirin?