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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walking for Animals

a guest post from Michael Horan
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Have I ever asked you for anything? Besides votes?

I am now.

As you may know, curbing the systemic abuses rampant in our factory-farming system is a priority of mine. With some luck, I might even find it the focus of my legal career. It's that meaningful to me.
On Saturday, November 1st at 11am animal lovers from across the Greater Boston Area will be converging at the Aeronaut Brewery for a walk-a-thon to raise money for The Humane League, a 501c3 animal rights non-profit that saves hundreds of thousands of animals yearly from the confinement and cruelty of factory farms.
This organization, The Human League, does terrific work, and they check out.

Each year, THL rescues animals from situations of abuse and abandonment, performs hundreds of outreach events, and speaks to thousands of high school students about protecting animals.

So help a brother out. With whatever ya can. 
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You can read more about The Humane League here and donate to the Michael's walk here. Click those linkies — you know you want to!

AND you can read about this past summer's rally at the Massachusetts State House where activists locked themselves into the human equivalent of a gestation crate for pigs, here.

Wanna read more? Check out this Rolling Stone piece: In the Belly of the Beast.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhh

Princess Coco
Timid Warrior Boy
Rocco's inna house!

While groggily stumbling through the morning rituals:
  • turn on the outdoor light so that Rocco knows it's time for brekkie
  • pick up Coco and cuddle her bigly as I dish out her first Fancy Feast of the day
  • fix Rocco's plate while she's chowing down
  • step onto the porch to cosset and feed R and whoever else might be about
  • clean the litter box
  • put on a pot of caffeine, caffeine, caffeine
 and on and on and on —our scarred, timid, warrior boy slipped into the house all of his own volition.

Zzzzip and he was inside, freaked out and ready to head back out again but the screen door had already shut.

Coco was, and I expect still is, unhappy (she doesn't share well) about this but she's calmed down.Our man, after hiding in The Amazing Bob's study for a bit, came downstairs and took a one of the window seats on the stairway landing. Coco took the other.

I've dispensed copious treats, pats and Good Boy/Girl encomiums.

Right now we've got ourselves some ducky detente. We'll see how long that lasts and/or Rocco stays en la casa.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Camp

A friend of mine, his wife and their elementary school kiddle take a week or two each summer and go to a family camp. You know — summer camp for you, spouse AND kids.  I was unaware this sort of thing existed.

When I was a wee spawn I despised being sent off to camp with a blue/white passion. In the summers all I wanted was to take walks (by myself) and sit in my room (alone) reading. Spending time with a shit-ton of ankle biters, hopped up on fresh air and “bug juice,” making key chains woven from leather-ish laces was just about the last thing on the planet that I wanted. Plus, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I had to change into my swim suit in front of everyone!

The horror, the horror!

**Understatement Alert**
I was not a bold, outgoing child.

We, my family, would go camping though. All six of us in one small-ish tent (to be fair, big enough wasn’t possible). It was what we did when we’d travel back east after moving to Western Pennsylvania and then Bloomington, Indiana. And it was awful.

We weren’t the most harmonious batch of rug rats. OK, that was mostly my brother and I. We weren’t each other’s biggest fan to say the very least.

In any case, my folks — Chuck and Lu — seemed to just LOVE this tenting about shit. My mother sewed us all sleeping bags. Yes, you read that right — mia madre created our sleep sacks! Daddy bought a Coleman stove and he and Mother would take turns cooking. I was a big fan of Pop’s efforts — Fried baloney sandwiches! Oleaginous frizzled eggs! Buttery pan warmed toast!

Yup, the old man didn’t get a lot of opportunity to break out his corrupting meal creations.

So then, camping wasn’t all bad.

As a young adult I did the tent-in-the-woods thing with friends. I figured “I’ll enjoy this now because I’m with my chums.” Ah...nope.

I slept on a futon for eons and that’s as close to cold, hard ground as I want to get. Ever. Bathroom, with flush toilets and hot showers, is across the grounds? No, that just won’t do. Pee/poop in the woods? Don’t make me laugh/cry/scream. Please!

The closest I’ll come to camping now is a B&B with the loo down the hall.

Having said that, I can see how, if you’ve a copacetic, gregarious clan, the family camp thing could be a lot of fun.

Not sure where my pals in Northern California go but I found a couple interesting places on line:

Berkeley Tuolumne Camp
The staff provides social, nature, and athletic programs for all ages, including hiking, nature studies, and multi-cultural crafts.
The Artist-in-Residence program features a different professional artist each week teaching classes such as ceramics, drawing or performing arts.
  • Supervised recreational programs all day.
  • Recreation activities include volleyball, basketball, badminton, horseshoes, ping pong, archery, and day/evening hiking.
  • A “Kiddie Camp” for children ages 2-6 is held 3 times daily.
  • Special children’s activities for ages 5-12 occur daily.
  • Explore beautiful forests and streams.
  • Private, cozy tent-cabins for your comfort.
  • Swimming and fishing in the Tuolumne River.
  • Warm days and cool nights.
The rates include three family-style meals daily in our beautiful Dining Hall.
Nearby attractions include Yosemite National Park, great day hiking trails in Stanislaus National Forest, gold rush towns of Sonora and Columbia, horseback riding, water-skiing, and Mono Lake.
I saw yoga noted somewhere on their site too!
Dunno if the place still exists though.
On August 25th, 2013, the massive Rim Fire ripped through the South Fork Tuolumne watershed and destroyed our beloved Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.
I hope they're able to rebuild. I really do.

Then there’s the Emandal Farm — a working farm but a chilled out, vaca place for families too.
Besides swimming, hiking, ping pong and such, campers can help out around the joint.
In 1908, Em and Al Byrnes opened up their home to friends who wished to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. All the fruits and vegetables served were grown on the farm, as were the meat and eggs. Em baked all the bread. Since 1946, the Adams family has continued the tradition of country vacations with farm grown and home cooked meals. Today Tamara Adams, following in the footsteps of her in-laws, Clive and Jessie Adams, and her late husband, Clive Adams, Jr., operates Emandal’s Family Camp in the summer, Environmental Education for school groups in the spring, and hosts groups, workshops and other special events throughout the year.
 I can see the allure of this sort of thing. No really! Just not for me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where the Scary Things Are

“I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.”
Frida Kahlo 
“Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there's little fun to be had in explanations; they're antithetical to the poetry of fear.”
Stephen King
In my last dream of the night, I was at MGH. It was MRI day — which, in reality, is coming up soon.

I’ve mentioned my rather muscular claustrophobia and MRI aversion before, have I not? Yeah, at least a few times. That and my intense struggles to get back in and stay in the damn tube after God died.

Now, I’ve def not been conscious of any anticipatory shivers, shakes and angst ridden willies but apparently they’re present and accounted for. They stood tall in Dreamland last night. The fuckers.

In this nasty little phantasm, I was in a gaggle, a swarm even, of 20 or 30 young women — all of us kitted out in that most divine of fashion statements — the Johnny.

Why’s it called a Johnny? No one’s absolutely certain BUT apparently it’s a regionalism, possibly originating at MGH even!
"I was told this was due to doctors training in Mass. General where the term was first used." The origin story she'd heard was that the open-back gown allowed easy use of the toilet, or "john," an explanation so simple it's almost guaranteed to be false.
In any case, us wimmins were all up for Nf2 procedures that morning. Some were having  surgery, some radiation and then there was me. I was the only one scheduled for an MRI.

The baby doc in charge of shepherding us to our various surgical and non-cuttery ports of call was sternly dour. This was a bothersome task for him — he’d much prefer doing rounds or conferring with the staff versus this patient herding shit.

Once he had us all suited up and in one room, he loudly and smarmily cleared his throat, getting our attention. He would show us to our various ORs, radiation room and test closets. Wheee.

We were taking the steps down from our third floor corral, descending farther and farther below ground. By the second sub-basement, the stairwells and floors looked nothing like a hospital. It was all huge, industrial overhead grey painted pipes, boilers and chain link storage cages. As we descended, our ranks became smaller as each woman reached her salle de montage.

With my brilliantly well developed claustrophobia, being in the third level below ground was already beginning to trigger my inevitable panic attack. And then we came to my MRI room. The grim intern opened the door and there, standing ready to shove me into the tube, was a monster. Picture something between Alien and the creature from Where the Wild Things Are. Yeah, adorably, pants wetingly scary.

My reaction, there in dreamland was “christ almighty and what the fuck — I’m outta here!”  And then I woke up.

So then, what do I gather from this little nighttime horror show?
A) I need to start my chill out meditation exercises early (my MRI is on September 11th) this year.
B) Must get my ‘script for lorazapam  refilled
C) I guess, while I’m still angsty about this MRI crap, I’m doing OK. My reaction to the monster was more annoyance than fear.
Yea me.
“You learned to run from what you feel, and that's why you have nightmares. To deny is to invite madness. To accept is to control.”
Megan Chance, The Spiritualist 
“I really like it when a bad dream doesn't scare you...it inspires you instead'.”
Fwah Storm

Monday, August 25, 2014

Honeysuckle Rose

Seen on Saturday’s trike ride — that’s a Cy Twombly-ish sky. N'est-ce pas? 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In Word Land this morning I once again reaped the bennie of my throwing-junk-at-the-wall-and-maybe-some-will-stick method of play. Sometimes it does. Stick that is.

I had the letters and position on my Words with Friends board to play Thebes, one of the famed cities of antiquity, the capital of the ancient Egyptian empire at its heyday.

Awesome! Oh wait...proper nouns aren’t accepted. Merde! I didn’t want to lose the triple word score or the triple letter boon under the H (bringing me nine not just three points) so I figured I'd just try thebe, mebbe that’s a word. And HUZZAH it was and the Crazy Cat Lady picks up 48 points!

What’s a thebe you ask?
Thebe may refer to:
  • Any of several female characters in Greek mythology - see List of mythological figures named Thebe
  • Thebe (moon), a moon of Jupiter
  • Thebe, a unit of currency in Botswana - see Botswana pula
  • Copidosoma thebe, a wasp parasitic on caterpillars - see Copidosoma#Species
Clyde, our first
A river birch for mia madre
OK, no way I’d have known the money thing or the //shudder// wasp bit. I feel like I cheated now. *sigh*
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Trees, you know I’m a tree hugging freak, right? I strongly, wicked firmly even, believe that just about everyone can stand to add, at bare min, a couple more trees. The planet, WE, need more of those air cleaning, energy conserving, oxygen providing, home providing babes.

Why do I bring this all up this morning? Well, boyhowdy, Jen and Oni gave me yet another god-yur-old-now prezzie — a river birch! YEA! I’ve been wanting to plant a birch in Mother’s honor (it was her fav tree) ever since she took that early AM, Paradiso bound train.

Boom. Done.

Our new, fabulous bairn joins the Chinese red maple, planted for Oni’s mother a few years back, the two dwarf pines we put in for Mary Ann and Clyde — the formerly wee blue spruce, our first Christmas tree here in Valhalla. He’s getting to be a big boy now.
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before
after
I’m also a big fan of honeysuckle. Day-um that shit smells dreamy AND it’s beautiful. Our neighbor, to the back of us, had the MOST amazing bushes. They ran the length of her driveway and enveloped the nasty-ass chain link fence that runs between our yards. Over the last two summers the shrubs have grown mega huge — they became the hedge equivalent of the Fantastic Four's Thing. Tremendous! Sure, it now overshadowed our thin flower garden but, hells bells mon ami, this was one mind bendingly stunning Super Honeysuckle. Just astronomically gorgeous.

And then, then, for some unfathomable reason, our neighbor cut it all down. I don’t understand. It’s her yard, her right but...but...damn I’m sad that it’s gone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Honey Suckle Rose performed by Emmy Lou Harris and Willie Nelson

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mood Indigo

Or vermilion maybe...

What's your favorite color — a popular question when I was a kid. Still is I guess. Hells it comes up in so many of those damned BuzzFeed quizzes. Ya know, the ones I'm addicted to? I suppose it’s a reasonable, if lame conversation starter. Certainly better than what’s your sign or Batman or Superman — who’s better.

When I was a kid, I laid claim to yellow — a big summer morning bright sun yellow. Was that really my heart of hearts? Sure. On some days anyway. Other days it was red — the red of fire engines, strawberries and Red Emperor tulips.

But at 5 I was expected to have just one cherished hue and be all faithful and loyal to it. Why? Doesn’t it stand to reason that, just as the weather changes from day to day, so would my allegiance to something so mystically, buoyantly Delphic?

Besides, red was my older sister’s choice and I couldn’t have the same one. She’d appropriated it already.

Do I have a fav now?  Sure and at the risk of sounding Palin-esque — it's all of them. Just like when I was a snot nosed kiddle, the color I like best depends on the day.

The deep purple shadows of the clouds on a dawn struggling to rise. The dusty lavender of Easter grass. The wondrous, cimmerian shade of eggplants. My Saint Mary’s Academy T shirt!

Yellow again — roses, tulips and my big sunflowers! The bottomless, vast red of rubies and garnets. The absolute black of my sweet Coco!

Orange — from that brill fruit color to the color of French Burnt Peanuts MMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Green. Green of deep mysterious primordial forests and that sunny new young, grass color. Ocean green!

And blue! Blue skies! Sea blue! Blueberries! Blue jays!

Yeah, I could go on and on and on and then some.
Colors Passing Through Us  (the rest of this awesome poem can be found at the link)
~ Marge Piercy
Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.
Mood Indigo — Duke Ellington

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gun

Not unlike Tbogg, Kevin was raised in a home where hunting was a thing.

He even used one once to scare off a burglar. Teenaged Kevin was alone and asleep in bed (his mother was out) when he woke to the sound of an intruder. He managed to find his old hunting rifle, burst into the hallway with all the boom and bluster he could stir up (in an attempt to seem larger and not alone) and roared at the fellow to “get the fuck out before I shoot."

It was unloaded but Mister B&E artist didn’t know that.

What’s key here is that Kevin had the presence of mind to bark and bellow, to appear lethal and menacing but not BE lethal, unlike Theodore Wafer, George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn or any of the other murderous asswipes with big warrior hero complexes.

I too was home alone when a couple of robberies/home invasions happened. I slept through one and successfully hid during the second.

In any case, in one of those just found old letters, Kevin rants about guns. He was a Hebrew/Arabic Linguist — why should he have to carry one, dammit!? Being in the military though, they were kinda inevitable.
Back to guns—do you realize that I have to carry one sometimes?! All the people I work with are thrilled about guns (ick). They were not amused when I “accidentally” dropped mine in the new cement sidewalk. My luck though, they issued me a new one.

You should have seen me at “gun class”. Actually, we’re supposed to call these weapons. You know the line — they tell you to grab your crotch with one hand and hold your bang-bang in the other and repeat “this is my gun, this is my weapon, etc.” I, of course, being ever decorous, refused to fondle myself in public (or pubic). Hence, I still don’t remember what you call the little nasties (guns — not cocks!). The women in the class were not thrilled with that bit either.
Geez, just give me a gun and I’ll ward off the hordes of godless commies. Actually, the world is safe from me. I caused so much trouble in “gun class” that I was kicked out on the last day. I can still shoot better than any of them — old competitive habits die hard — but since I was kicked out, I’m not allowed to have bullets.

Aw, I’m heartbroken! *sob* hack!

I still have to carry it sometimes — just for show. Anybody tries anything funny and I’m supposed to pretend it’s loaded and fake them out (he’s got good experience with this ruse). All well and good as long as they don’t notice the bubble gum I got caught in the cylinder (it jumped out of my mouth — honest! Actually, if I’d ever oiled the thing like I’m supposed to, the gum wouldn’t have welded itself to the metal. Oh well.)

I’m still trying to get them to take it away from me altogether. Yesterday I tied a string to it and drug it around the office as my “pet.” I figure that, by tomorrow, they’ll have decided to take it away. Yea! Then they’ll probably send me to “knife class.”
From the Mother Jones article 10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down:
Myth #2: Guns don't kill people—people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements. Update: A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every one percent increase in a state's gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.
Go read all ten. Really. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Melancholy Baby

Kevin kindly illustrated one of his neurology appointments for me
Well THIS was bound to happen. While sorting out those thousand and three boxes of my old photos and papers I found some letters from Kevin. You know — Kevin Alexander Scott , my first, bestest, jesus-I-can’t-believe-he-puts-up-with-me friend? Yeah him, the dude who exited the planet 23 years ago, leaving me with a nasty-ass,chronic case of Mega Sorrow. (There's no cure for this, it seems. I wanna know where, WHERE are the damned telethons!)

Bastard.

I thought I had all his letters buried deep, in one fat 9x12 envelope down in the studio somewhere. Apparently though they're littered throughout the house.

In one missive, written while he was stationed in Greece, he spoke of when the tune Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show began playing on the office radio. Now, back in college we’d go see that on far too many Saturday nights to count. When we bothered to dress up (beyond the obligatory raincoats) he’d be Riff-Raff and I’d be Magenta (Jesus Clairoled Christ, I loved her hair).

It was a thing, even in our small, conservative Western Pennsylvanian college town. The theater was always full or close to it.

Meanwhile, back at Kevin's letter from Greece:
Time Warp from RHPS came on the radio. I’m singing along and everyone in the office is looking at me like I’m the definitive herpes carrier, when we notice this Navy captain also singing along. I asked him if he’d seen it. His reply? “Once or twice or 63 times...so far.”

What a shock — this guy is 50, at least, and has kids my age and he’s seen it 63 times? What a pervert! (Kevin meant that as a compliment)

My god — what will we feel like at 50? Will we age gracefully (so far NO) or become odd crackpots that don’t fit in? The latter does sound like more fun, doesn’t it? 1983 (oh no!!) the year we mark (drum roll, voice of god booming) A QUARTER OF A CENTURY OLD — antiques!!! Oh no!! I’m having an age crisis at 24 — I’ll never make it.
And he didn’t. Verdammt nochmal. At least.

Aging gracefully — I suppose back then we thought that meant being like Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart. Effortlessly calm, composed, uncontroversial, mature and...ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Here I am, 23 years after Kevin had the supreme audacity to croak on me and, have to say, I believe I’ve continued on in our “Lucy and Viv on LSD” (as Kevin dubbed us) fashion — sans the acid that is.

A coupla little known Rocky Horror facts (more at the link):
Steve Martin auditioned to play Brad, but was passed over for Barry Bostwick, who had received a Tony nomination in 1972 for creating the role of Danny Zuko in Grease.

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger asked to play Frank-N-Furter in the film. The creative team turned him down in favor of the musical’s original star, Tim Curry.