Friday, June 30, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Saw a little girl riding on her father's shoulders, hunched over in desperate concentration as she simultaneously picked her nose with her index finger and sucked her thumb.
This can't be easy to do while jouncing along at 10 miles per hour.
I watched 8 guys and 2 seals surf just inside the Golden Gate Bridge today. The people had wet suits; the seals did not, but they all looked alike out there.
I wonder what the seals were thinking: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? That using boards is unfair? How hard it must be to surf when you're constantly monitoring yourself for hypothermia? That maybe one of them had brought a fish?
And what do you suppose was going on in the mind of that bee buzzing me as I ate a slice of bread with honey later? Professional interest? News of a relative? Opportunism?
I should probably get a life.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Ayatollah-the-Cat demands that I give equal time to her species, well, to HER, precisely, as she hates all other cats. She noticed all that space devoted to dogs in my blog and is giving me the You-Know-What-You-Did look she does so well.
She has developed a new trick. At some mysterious time between 4 and 7 a.m., she arises from my pillow and begins to screech in my ear while marching back and forth in my hair right by the roots so it pulls like crazy. Occasionally she bites my nose, no blood, just a warning to let me know she means business. Like a traffic ticket before they take away your car. She keeps this up until I get out of bed and feed her. It's very effective and fiendishly clever as I know I'm reinforcing the behavior when I give in, but if I don't I'll go bald soon. It's not a good thing when your cat is smarter than you are.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
This morning's bike ride netted FOUR yellow tennis balls, which I promptly recycled among new dogs. Herbert Hoover's 1928 election campaign promised "a chicken in every pot." We know this from the musical Annie, not from personal recollection, I might add. Well, I advocate a ball in every jaw.
Biking through a grassy area by the Bay, I met an incredible dog named Moritz and his man, Barry, who are visiting San Francisco from Montana. Moritz is a therapy dog. I am magnetically drawn to dogs, the bigger the better, and Moritz is well over 100 pounds. He is a Bernese Mountain Dog by breed but an animal god by any definition.
His work is healing people, and he exudes such peacefulness and love, as well as being majestically beautiful, that his positive energy is truly palpable. And contagious. He is an angelic presence.
I hesitate to refer to Barry Schieber as his owner. I think perhaps adviser might be more accurate, or just friend. They travel the world together, spreading their special magic to schools and hospitals. It is not unusual for strangers to squeal "Is that Moritz?" and ask permission to pet him, which is always granted. "Traveling with Moritz is like traveling with Elvis," says Barry. And he's not wrong.
Barry has written two children's books about his remarkable friend, A Gift To Share and Nose To Nose, both available from Silent Moon Books or through Amazon.com. It is not necessary to be a child to enjoy them, though.
While most dogs do look like their owners, a fairly large sector of the canine population actually resembles their owners' fantasies. Why else do so many really large women own tiny pooches they can dress in sickeningly cute outfits? I suspect that dogs do not think highly of white go-go boots and Barbie Pink bed jackets, but I could be projecting.
Yesterday, I was in Neiman Marcus to spend some of the shockingly generous gift certificate my children gave me for my birthday. (Note to those Special People: They didn't have any pretzels. Can you imagine?) There was the usual assortment of minuscule dogs-as-accessories and one black standard poodle in full show pose by the Rotunda Restaurant. His owner was loudly expounding "how terribly Neiman Marcus" her dog was to a couple of sales associates on their lunch break. I loitered by the escalator, fervently hoping he would pee on a plant or preferably, on her, but he didn't and I had a mission, after all. I'm pretty sure that dog never saw a tennis ball or produced saliva. Even his peepee was terribly well groomed. And he wore a diamond collar that was terribly Van Cleef & Arpels.
I used to have a Samoyed named Angel who looked utterly enchanting but really enjoyed being a dog. Which in her case, meant scent-rolling in pony poop whenever possible. When the carnage became more than mere mortals could repair, I took her to The Groomers. I was asking a lot of these people; it generally took two of them a full day to clean her up. Afterward, I drove her to Mickey D's for post-operative hamburgers. The kids working there would cluster at the drive-through window to see "The Show Dog." She was one gorgeous beast.
I also drove her to my husband's workplace to give him the rare pleasure of seeing Angel clean because I knew this state of grace would not last the day. As soon as we pulled into our driveway, she began to leap frenziedly in the back seat. Upon being released from the car, she immediately barreled around the lawn, looking for the nastiest things she could find to dress herself in. Non-specific creature shit, dead birds, mud, mulch, all these and more were agreeable working materials.
When she finally completed her ablutions, she appeared at the door, grinning broadly and wagging her tail eagerly. She looked utterly disgusting and gloriously happy. Now there was a dog.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
I realize now how much I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. Today was a quarterly sale at the Friends of the Library Book Bay, all books $1.00. In short, an event not to be missed for a book addict like me. The City of San Francisco, in its incandescent wisdom, just installed a toll booth at the entrance to the parking lot which houses the Book Bay and several other attractions. The first hour is free, then you pay $1.00 for each additional hour.
There wasn't that much at the sale and I got out in exactly one hour. As I stopped at the checkpoint, their exterior clock advanced a minute before the guy could open the gate, so he charged me. I pointed out that the clock had moved after I got there, so I had gotten in under the wire.
He snarled, "It's your responsibility to check the time."
Excuse me. Are you talking to ME? I don't need Parking Nazis chiding me about Responsibility. " Look at my watch," I said. He demanded his dollar again.
I grasped the pointlessness of arguing with a person with no soul so I fished in my wallet for the most crumpled, grimy bill I had and gave it to him. I wish I'd peed on it first. I hope my exhaust fumes choked him. The troglodyte pig.
Things like this did not happen when I was young. I know, it's only a dollar, but the Principle! I absolutely know that if I were young, he would have opened the gate. He would not have asked me for money. I would have rewarded him with a smile, and we would have connected as fellow humans for a millisecond. Where is the harm in that?
It isn't that I ever earned such preferential treatment. In fact, I think I'm generally nicer now than I was when I was young. But having grown accustomed to a greater measure of kindness from strangers, it is particularly hard to accept less with any kind of grace. It isn't fair that I should have been treated better then for doing less, and that even such insignificant aspects of life are not based on any kind of merit. I didn't realize this when I was young and really believed that people were kind to me because I deserved it.
Where do we go from here? I can only get older. Can I then expect things to only get rattier? All I ask is the same measure of decent treatment I once took for granted. And for people to keep in mind that every older woman is a young one traveling incognito.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I think Einstein would have a hard time calculating the distance between the MTV childhoods of today and the one I remember.
We didn't have body parts in my family. Oh, we had faces, as long as we weren't MAKING them - ("your face is going to FREEZE like that") and knees, which got scraped and wore hard, dangling scabs. Some kids ate them for entertainment. Or protein, maybe. But there was a whole temperate zone between our chins and knees that simply didn't exist. They had no names, and therefore we had no earthly reason to understand their functions.
So imagine the adult temper tantrums occasioned by my glancing up from a book and chirping, "What do you think about that Greek philosopher, Testacles, Dad?"
There were no nine-year old hookers on TV then. On Saturday mornings my mother cattle-prodded me downstairs to watch the Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour. Most of the child performers were obnoxious twinkling brats and I hated the show, but my mother persisted in her doomed efforts to turn me into Shirley Temple. My brother didn’t have to watch this gold-plated drivel because he was building an atom bomb or something from a Heathkit in his room.
My mother went back to bed feeling virtuous, no doubt, because she had made another stellar childhood experience available to me.
At the end of the show, all the sparkling kiddies held hands and crooned the Horn & Hardart theme song, "Less Work For Mother Nooooooww" while the camera panned on strawberry shortcakes and lemon meringue pies. I stuck out my tongue and thumbed my ears at them as they scampered around in their patent leather tap shoes. They grinned back at me with all their teeth together like Irish Terriers. Their hair was impossibly perfect, Little Lulu corkscrew curls fanning their velvet shoulders. Nothing like the anarchic swallow's nest that has always adorned my own head. I would have mooned them if I'd known how. Or offered them my middle finger.
Of course there were no cartoons on this show. I liked the ones with little mice who lived in perfectly arched mouse holes in the walls of peoples’ houses. I searched our house regularly for architecturally precise mouse holes but never found any.
We were absolutely not allowed to swear, which meant any word that wasn't on the Approved List. Nor did adults swear in front of us. I'm still not sure exactly what they were preserving us for - in my case, probably marriage. Girls were bred for marriage like turkeys for the table. Boys, of course, were supposed to conquer the world. Whatever that meant.
It was boring. Unutterably boring. But on reflection, I have to admit that we actually had a childhood, and that puts boredom in a whole new light. Although my parents expected us to behave like small adults, that didn't apply to anything remotely sexual. It meant being polite and respecting our elders like crazy, but always remembering that we were in fact children, and that there was a whole world of behaviors and yes, body parts, that we would someday learn about. But never in a million years from them.
This is part of an email I received today. I think it's important for people to know about this man because there are too few heroes in the world, especially those who righteously dissent from authority.
Who was Harry Bingham and why is he getting a stamp?
A few months ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" to Hiram (or Harry) Bingham, IV. For over fifty years, the State Department resisted any attempt to honor Bingham. For them he was an insubordinate member of the US diplomatic service, a dangerous maverick who was eventually demoted. Now, after his death, he has been officially recognized as a hero.
Bingham came from an illustrious family. His father (on whom the fictional character Indiana Jones was based) was the archeologist who unearthed the Inca City of Machu Picchu, Peru, in 1911. Harry entered the US diplomatic service and, in 1939, was posted to Marseilles, France, as American Vice-Consul.
The USA was neutral in 1940 and, not wishing to annoy Marshal Petain's puppet Vichy regime, President Roosevelt's government ordered its representatives in Marseilles not to grant visas to any Jews. Bingham found this policy immoral and, risking his career, did all in his power to undermine it.
In defiance of his bosses in Washington, he granted over 2,500 USA visas to Jewish and other refugees, including the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and the family of the writer Thomas Mann. He also sheltered Jews in his Marseilles home, and obtained forged identity papers to help Jews in their dangerous journeys across Europe. He worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Franco's Spain or across the Mediterranean and even contributed to their expenses out of his own pocket.
In 1941, Washington lost patience with him. He was sent to Argentina, where later he continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the movements of Nazi war criminals.
Eventually, he was forced out of the American diplomatic service completely. Bingham died almost penniless in 1988. Little was known of his extraordinary activities until his son found some letters in his belongings after his death. He has now been honored by many groups and organizations including the United Nations and the State of Israel.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Today I saw a homeless man crossing the street in the rain, covering his head with a copy of the San Francisco Home Buyer's Guide. He was splashed and nearly turned into roadkill by a woman in an Escalade who was busy on her phone.
He tipped his dripping magazine at her departing hulkiness and exclaimed, "God bless you, lady."
It makes you wonder... Is he a saint or a nutjob, and are they mutually exclusive?
Everywhere I look I see twin strollers. Hardly anybody is having children one-at-a-time anymore. So energy efficient! Two birds with one stone. It's the Industrial Revolution all over again.
I gave birth to my first child the same day my Persian cat, Kiisaa, produced her first litter of five. When I came home from the hospital, she visited me in bed, glanced disdainfully at my daughter as if to say, "What? Only ONE?" and proceeded to drag her kittens by the neck up two flights of stairs, one kitten at a time, leaped heavily onto my bed and plunked it on the coverlet for my approval. She was clearly showing me how it should be done.
Twins used to be rare. I knew only two sets, both identical, when I was in grade school: The Bader boys, cruelly nicknamed the Monkey Twins for obvious reasons, and the Manck girls, who looked so much alike that their own mother couldn't tell them apart. Everyone called them both "Twinny." Both families enjoyed a certain celebrity for having flaunted convention so spectacularly.
Julia Roberts, with the help of fertility drugs, although she denied it, brought the phenomenon to Hollywood, thereby making it official: We are a nation of reproductive overkill.
One small step for woman, one giant baby step for womankind. Kiisaa would be pleased.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
I think some of these towns took their names from truck stop signs. Others, it's hard to imagine what they were thinking. Or who lives there.
Dead Horse, AK
Mary's Igloo, AK
Monkey's Eyebrow, AZ
Briny Breezes, FL
Two Egg, FL
Yeehaw Junction, FL
French Lick, IN
Santa Claus, IN
What Cheer, IA
Cut Shin, KY
Mud Lick, KY
Pippa Passes, KY
Dry Prong, LA
Plain Dealing, LA
Hot Coffee, MS
Flying H, NM
Truth or Consequences, NM
Can Do, ND
Blue Balls, PA
Burning Well, PA
Scalp Level, PA
Cut and Shoot, TX
Gun Barrel City, TX
Chocolate Bayou, TX
La Push, WA
My 85 year old neighbor, Wilda, is a lively blue-eyed charmer in a permanent Easter bonnet. The other day she was telling me about a pet parakeet she'd had who developed some kind of "shaking sickness," so she put it in a paper bag and took it to her car, turned on the engine and held it over the exhaust.
"It was dead right away," she said with satisfaction.
She smiled dreamily as she recalled how she once killed a cat that way. Her daughter ran over their pet in the driveway as they returned home from an outing.
"It was very much alive," she said, "so we wrapped it in a blanket and held it over the car exhaust." She chuckled. "It was right in front of the house. People must have thought we were killing a baby."
"I don't believe in Heaven and Hell, or God," she continued. "I think when we go, we're just like cats and dogs -- we're garbage. I don't tell many people I don't believe in God, though, because they'll think I'm an Atheist."
Wilda relates these deeds as if they were normal to one who would do anything to SAVE an animal. Truth is where you stand to look at a thing and it's really true, folks -- you don't have to be young to be a bimbo.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Here's a conversation I overheard today:
Guy (sounds like Barney Rubble) to girl strolling on sidewalk eating ice cream cone: "You work at California Wine Bar?"
Girl: Shakes head, keeps walking.
Barney Rubble: "Got a twin sister?" Fondles groin. Why do some guys DO this? Do they really think their genitals fell off when they weren't looking? Please. Get a pacifier or something.
Girl: "No." She picks up speed here.
Barney, pursuing: "Or do you sometimes wear different clothes?"
The implications of this remark are numerous and all of them unpleasant.
She cuts across the street. In traffic. Her ice cream levitates out of the cone and hits the pavement. Strawberry. She throws the cone down in disgust and begins to jog.
He actually looks puzzled as to what went wrong, and who can blame him with openers like these?
I'm thinking I may have been hasty in condemning ABC's man-catching program. In fact, they should probably run a companion show called How To Get The Girl. Because the prognosis for another generation is not looking good right now.
I hate it when I have to eat my words.
with apologies to R. Frost
I think there must be an alternate universe in which people make other choices than the ones that Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. Not all of them involve marrying an ax murderer who couldn't have been more charming at first, but everyone must be living with the result of some large or small disaster because of a course of action that proved unwise.
My mother was fond of reminding me that the roads of Hell were paved with good intentions, only she misquoted it as the road TO Hell. Probably because I hadn't arrived there yet. So if unrealized good intentions can damn you for all eternity, flawed actions can probably do it sooner.
If we could figure out the exact mechanism whereby something that clearly is not a good idea seems like the very best of ideas before we do it, perhaps then we could find the Rosetta Stone of bad choices in order to avert them in the future. It's worth a try.
If you could go back and undo even one of those life-changing decisions that proved NOT to be such a good idea, what would it be? And where would you be now instead?
Is it narcissism or cheapness that makes you think you can do your own commercials better than the professionals? Listen up, people: Your family is nowhere near as appealing as you think, and you, yourself, have a cheesy smile and poor diction. Your homemade ads are such a turnoff that it must be impacting your business and if you keep it up, you may have to eat the family dog soon. You've been warned.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Last night I watched a new reality show on ABC called How To Get The Guy in which four attractive enough women in San Francisco were taken to Monster Field by their two "love coaches" and loudly bellowed their intentions to find Mr. Right no matter what it took, thereby setting gender equality back about 60 years.
Our girls were taught to emit the right kind of availability signals -- make eye contact for 4 seconds (oooh) while smiling. (I know, that's a hard thing to master, like rubbing your head and patting your belly at the same time. Or is it the other way around?) The guys ranged from utterly bland to downright fullbore creepy, which brings up the question of why women would demean themselves trying to please them in the first place. Do we really still yearn for frilly aprons with matching oven mitts and a dining room set with only one arm chair?
Let me say right here that I have absolutely nothing against love, or men, (really!) but contriving to land one like a big fat flounder by employing strategies that strongly resemble The Rules makes me want to yakk up a hairball.