Friday, May 30, 2008

I Do, and Do, and Do

They never tire of showing those polygamous Latter Day Saint women in their horrible dresses and sausage-rolled pompadours on television.

The fundamentalist women never cut their hair because they expect to use it to wash Christ's feet at the Second Coming. Their clothing is intended to make them unattractive to the outside world and other men, and their remarkable success at this endeavor is indisputable.

"How would you like to have thirty-five wives?" I asked Flip.

"Oh, God," he moaned.

"It would be pretty crowded around here," I said. "Every wife would have her own cat with its own litter box. That's a lot of head of cat - and bathrooms."

He suddenly looked very, very sick.

"What if every cat had cystitis?"

He didn't dignify that with an answer.

I couldn't blame him.

"Every time you gave one of them a present, you would have to give the same present to all the others. It could get expensive."

He looked as if he were choking.

"To say nothing of 20 children per wife..."

Gurgling sound.

"Your Indian name would be Many Wives. You know, I could use a little help with the laundry. And things."

"I've got your help right here."

I'm waiting for a polyandrous sect to make headlines. When women can have multiple husbands, then we'll talk.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday, sweet Sunday

One minute she was fine. The next, our cat, Truffle, had cystitis. It comes on that fast. Cystitis is a urinary tract infection which causes her to pee in strange places, like inside a conch shell on the mantel.

It isn't pretty.

Sunday is emergency day at the animal hospital. Everything costs more. Truffle is a high-rent cat and nearly always gets sick on Sundays.

We stuffed her into her paisley carrier with fleece lining and turned ourselves in to the authorities.

We were told that the wait would be at least an hour, probably more. As it turned out, it was a conservative estimate.

Athena and Hera, a pair of self-important Jack Russell Terriers, were inordinately interested in Truffle. The Goddess of Wisdom and the Goddess of Love and Marriage cavorted around the waiting room, sniffing her carrier and whimpering with desire.

Truffle said, "Fffffffttttt," which they took as an invitation to come closer.

"Piss off, losers," she snarled.

Truffle does not suffer fools gladly.

A golden-haired Standard Poodle named Django trotted over. The gentleman accompanying him, when he saw that the name resonated with us, said, "It's Django Dogheart."

Big points there. Any friend of Django's is a friend of ours.

Django was a mellow sort. He sniffed at Truffle and she gazed back at him. No profanities were uttered.

Finally, we were ushered into the examining room. The veterinary assistant committed the unforgivable indignity of taking Truffle's temperature rectally. She tried to cover her tracks by cooing, "Ooooh, sweeeet kitty-kitty."

"Motherfucker," said Truffle.

I would feel the same.

It was a hit and run job. She fled and the doctor came in, a pleasant young woman who talked much too loud.

Truffle kept trying to slip into her carrier. I dragged her back and lowered my voice because sometimes people who talk too loud will copy your tone, but she didn't. I spoke softer and softer and she bellowed louder and louder.

I wanted to say, "Excuse me but you're scaring my cat," but you really can't do that. To your vet. Truffle got 3/4 of the way into her carrier and I hauled her out again. She glared at me and growled.

I knew what she was saying but chose to ignore it. My mother would have washed my mouth out for less.

We were finally released and Truffle has had her first dose of medicine, buried in Gerber's baby food, chicken. She is back on her throne, otherwise known as our bed, and doubtless plotting her revenge.

It won't be pretty.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bus-Driving Buddha

Today I fell in love again. I took a city bus home from downtown and the driver, who bore a startling resemblance to Lou Rawls, smiled and said, "How are YOU today?" as I walked up the steps. He had the kind of smile that would have made him millions in Hollywood. I noticed that he greeted everyone and had something pleasant to say to each passenger as they boarded.

Most people responded in kind. A few ignored him or even scowled that he had the nerve to interrupt their bad humor.

He answered endless questions for tourists as if his life depended on it.

I told him, "You're amazing. You welcome everyone to your bus and try to brighten their day. I don't know how you do it."

He replied, "There are assholes on every bus. I don't want to be one of them."

I touched his arm lightly. "If everyone was more like you, this would be a better world," I said as I got ready to exit.

"Thank you," he said.

"Thank YOU."

We smiled and wished each other a wonderful evening, weekend, and rest of our lives. When I got off, he honked and waved at me. He was smiling from ear to ear.

I think I met the spirit of God today. I was worrying about things I can't control, but this man's glowing warmth and concern for others made me realize that sometimes the kindness of strangers can absolutely be depended upon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Signs that the world may be ending:

Safeway ran out of bananas, both organic and conventional.

There were only huge, empty tables where the bananas used to be.

How does it happen that a major supermarket runs out of something as basic as bananas?

What would cause such an unprecedented run on them?

Bananas are America's #1 fruit.

They are harvested every day of the year, and are available year-round. Except at Safeway.

I know that they will run out of cranberries because they only carry them at Thanksgiving. Since I love cranberries, I buy as many bags as I can cram into my freezer and enjoy them for months. Fresh figs are savored as much for their seasonal availability as for their scrumptiousness.

But I can't freeze bananas, or hoard them. Nor has there ever been a need to do so. Bananas are not exotic. They have been readily available all my life, unlike mangoes, papayas, and carambolas.

I asked the produce clerk where they had been moved and he spread his hands, beaming broadly. "They are all gone, Senora. Sold out."

"Why?" I asked.

"At 99 cents a pound, I did not think this would happen," he said, shaking his head at the profligate wanton wastefulness of North Americans.

Horticulturists believe that the banana was the earth's first fruit. Banana plants have been in cultivation since the beginning of recorded history, dating back to Alexander the Great's conquest of India where he first discovered them in 327 B.C.

In ancient Hawaii, bananas were sacred. Under penalty of death, women were not allowed to eat them until abolition of the taboo in 1819.

The banana is considered a perfect food. It has four times the protein of an apple, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals, and is also rich in potassium.

It is not a tree, but an herb. Its trunk is soft and tender at the core, yet strong enough to resist strong winds. Patient and enduring, the banana produces one majestic flower loaded with a complete food. New shoots emerge at its sides. After the fruit reaches maturity, the parent, reassured, simply dies.

Now there's some food for thought.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hot Mama

The fires of hell are consuming San Francisco. Yesterday and the day before, the temperatures were in the 90's and even over 100 degrees in some parts of the city. This is not only unprecedented, it's unbelievable as people normally come here to freeze to death if they can't get to the North Pole. It's always cold, and we have a wind chill besides.

Mark Twain once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Chicago thinks it's the Windy City but it's deluded. The City by the Bay invented wind.

We do not have a logical progression of seasons. It's an ad hoc system whereby we get whatever weather is on hand after all the other places have gotten theirs, so we might have a day of summer followed by two days of winter followed by several hours of spring - well, you get the idea.

So imagine our surprise when we had TWO days of temperatures from the hell realms, followed by today, which was in the 60's. 95-degree weather is like the abode of condemned souls in which the powers of evil are winning.

We immediately went out and bought electric fans including one for Truffle-the-Cat, who likes to doze on the end of the bed. I think she even smiled when I turned on her personal breeze. It was so hot that I watered my garden three times in one day. Steam was rising from the sidewalks, which were cracking in new places.

Flip, who lived in Hawaii for many years, thought it was the perfect time for a long forced march walk.

It wasn't.

I didn't have his advantages, having grown up in the Northeast, and wilt in extremely hot weather. It also makes me cranky. If pushed, there is even the possibility that I will bite someone, although it hasn't happened yet. I wouldn't rule it out is all I'm saying.

I saw several men in shorts, carrying their t-shirts. One of them had bigger boobs than I do, yet if I took off my shirt, I'd get arrested. And that's just wrong.

I was wearing shorts, too, as well as a tee and the contrivance my grandfather used to call a shoulder holster. Sometimes he would hold my grandmother's bra over his eyes like the Lone Ranger's mask to amuse me, and I could never decide whether to laugh or not because clearly they were vying for my loyalty.

Later, Flip went for a bike ride. I stayed under my fan with a lemonade and reminisced about blizzards.

It was so hot that it wouldn't have surprised me to see Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of the Volcano, strutting down Union Street.

Pele is often depicted as a wanderer and her sightings have been reported in the Hawaiian Islands for hundreds of years, especially near Mount Kilauea, her home, which is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

She has been seen all over the world by people who reported an apparition of a woman in the eruptions of volcanoes.

She is said to appear either as a beautiful young woman or an ancient crone who asks for help. If it is given, those who share with her are rewarded while those who refuse find themselves bereft and dependent on the kindness of strangers.

We have no volcanoes here, but I felt as if I were encased in molten lava so I think Pele was here in spirit. It was a two-day hot flash from Hades.

Someday, years from now, my bleached bones will be discovered in the desert, flesh long-gone, only bones and teeth and hair left behind to tell the story.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. INTAXICATION: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to begin with.
2. REINTARNATION: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
3. BOZONE: The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
4. CASHTRATION: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
5. GIRAFFITI: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
6. SARCHASM: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
7. INOCCULATTE: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
8. HIPATITIS: Terminal coolness.
9. OSTEOPORNOSIS: A degenerate disease.
10. KARMAGEDDON: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
11. DECAFALON: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
12. GLIBIDO: All talk and no action
13. DOPELER EFFECT: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
14. ARACHNOLEPTIC FIT: The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
15. BEELZEBUG: Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
16. CATERPALLOR: The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
17. IGNORANUS: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Self-Inflicted Gold Stars

The other day, I ran into a neighbor who was quite excited about her volunteer work with underprivileged children. She told me that she had committed to coaching them in some activity on Wednesdays and had cut short a business trip and rearranged her schedule and her life in order to be in the city on that day. She showed me a broken key chain which she had promised to replace for one of them. Since I was on my way to the hardware store I offered to buy her one, but she said that she would take care of it.

I walked away thinking how wonderful it was that she was giving back from a life of extreme privilege, and feeling good about the depth and breadth to which her soul could reach.

That evening, I overheard her on the stairwell of our building, telling my next-door neighbor about her volunteer activities. We all know that Skankblossom doesn't give a damn about anyone but herself, but still she was regaled with the entire story, word for word, that I had heard earlier. Soulful neighbor had cut short her business trip and rearranged her life to be here on Wednesday, but it felt wonderful to give back. She even mentioned the key chain she had replaced for one of the children.

By this time, it was getting old.

It made me wonder what, exactly, constitutes a good deed, and is it in fact a good deed if it also includes bragging rights?

It seems that if the giver benefits as much as the recipient, it is not true giving. Yet, it's surely better than the alternative.

I am leaning toward the belief that it is still good if others are helped, but perhaps less pure than if they were helped out of sheer compassion. Giving must always be better than not giving, but I prefer that it be done anonymously, without demanding recognition or credit.

Is there a hierarchy of giving, a scale by which generous acts are measured? How much does intent matter if the result is beneficial? Does the end justify the means?

I doubt it.

But I am also aware that if only the truly enlightened performed kind acts, there would be fewer kind acts performed. And that would be abysmal.

Perhaps the very act of doing good raises our vibration so that it becomes easier next time. We have to start somewhere. But how much nicer to refrain from praising ourselves when we do it so our deeds are not diluted by ego.

To paraphrase Matthew:

"When you do merciful deeds, don't sound a trumpet before yourself as the hypocrites do that they may get glory from men. Don't let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret."

I agree.

"Louie, Matthew, this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."