Sunday, January 25, 2009

My New Friends

This is Gregory Pike and his dog, cat and rat. He walks around San Francisco every day, talking to people and allowing them to take pictures.

He and his pets live on donations, which are badly needed for food and accommodations.

The animals seem quite happy with their travel arrangements. Even when the dog lies down, the cat and rat hold their positions on her back.

Mr. Pike set out to prove that our differences don't have to divide us.

"Why can't we all get along?" he says.

The dog's name is Booger, the cat's is Kitty, and the rat is called Mousy.

"He's really a rat, isn't he?" I asked.

"Yes, but 'Ratty' doesn't sound so good," he said.

There are actually three rats, all male. The dog and cat are both girls.

The animals are not tranquilized in any way. As we sat talking outside a coffee shop today, Booger barked a warning at a couple of other dogs who came too close.

Mr. Pike shushed her and explained that this was a new behavior since a Pit Bull recently attacked Kitty. Booger went for the dog's snout, although she was several times smaller than the attacker, and held on until they were separated. She then lay down next to the scared cat and licked her repeatedly until Kitty was calm enough to jump on her back again.

These unusual friends remind me of the old Grimm's folk tale, The Musicians of Bremen, in which a dog, cat, donkey and rooster, all past their prime and usefulness and in danger of being slaughtered by their owners, set out together for Bremen, a city known for its freedom. They decide to become musicians and take care of themselves.

On the way to Bremen, the four friends see a lighted cottage with a band of robbers enjoying their stolen goods inside. The hungry animals decide to scare the men away while there is still food on the table.

The donkey stands with his hooves on the windowsill, the dog jumps on his back, the cat balances on top of the dog while the rooster perches on the cat's head.

When they are all arranged, they begin to perform their music: the donkey brays, the dog barks, the cat mews and the rooster crows loudly.

The robbers are convinced that demons are attacking them and run for their lives into the woods, whereupon the animals go inside, eat a good meal, and settle in for the night.

Hours later the robbers return and one of them enters the house to investigate. He sees the cat's eyes shining in the dark, thinks they are coals from the fire and reaches over to light his candle. The cat hisses and swipes his face with her claws, the donkey kicks him, the dog bites his leg and the rooster chases him out the door, screeching.

The robber tells his companions that he was attacked by a horrible witch who scratched him with her long fingernails, a man with a knife stabbed him and a monster clubbed him while the devil screamed from the rooftop.

The robbers abandon the cottage and run away as far and as fast as they can, and the animals live there happily for the rest of their days.

There are several You Tube videos of Gregory Pike and his little band of animals, (posted as dog, cat, rat) who are in dire need of donations. If anybody is so inclined, please email me for his address. Thank you!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dr. Esther, where are you?

Until yesterday, I had not been to a gynecologist in ten years, although I have continued to be a woman all this time, so I made an appointment for a check-up.

The doctor I saw is one of five or six in her practice, none of whom I had ever met before. For several years I have been seen by their nurse practitioner, but my various test results were sent to one of the doctors.

When I called, I told the receptionist that I would like to actually see a doctor this year. If Dr. X is my official doctor, I thought we should at least meet each other. I know, it's a novel idea.

The doctor did not shake my hand when she walked in, nor was she even slightly friendly. She barely looked at me and mumbled something about my having seen Irene, her nurse practitioner, in the past. I said that Irene is lovely but that I had wanted to meet one of the doctors.

She gave me the most perfunctory examination I have ever had, and when she palpated my breasts she hurt me. I winced several times and even said, "That hurts," but she didn't adjust the pressure. She also did not have me sit up so she could check them for symmetry as other doctors have always done. Apparently it means something if they are not symmetrical but since it didn't come up, I have no idea what that might be.

She answered my questions as briefly, even grudgingly, as possible and I was dismissed. It felt as if she had one foot out the door the whole time she was with me.

I can only assume she was furious that I had had the temerity to challenge the system by asking to see an actual doctor when she had more important things to do. It's possible she felt criticized. Or perhaps I bored her because I have no serious diseases or abnormalities. (And I'm symmetrical.)

Although her credentials are excellent, it was a most unpleasant experience and I won't be going back there.

I may be unclear (or naive) about the concept of professionalism, but this is not a person I would want to entrust with my life if the situation demanded it. If I were ill, I would not want her anywhere near me.

I wonder if this is a peculiarity of the profession. Years ago when I lived in Nashville, TN, I had a bleeding problem and sought a gynecologist who could cure it.

The first doctor was unable to make eye contact with me. As he ran down the hall he called back over his shoulder that his receptionist would give me a video about hormone replacement therapy.

I was so angry that I drove home much too fast and got a ticket.

The next one I saw was a Chinese woman. I absolutely prefer female gynecologists, and I also hoped she would know something about Traditional Chinese Medicine. She didn't, but she did perform an endometrial biopsy, which is an extremely painful procedure, after assuring me that I would only feel a tiny pinch.

When I finally fell off the ceiling she informed me that she hadn't gotten enough tissue and would have to do it again. No way was that going to happen. Now that I knew she could do that, it would have been walking into an ambush. I took my toys and went home.

The third doctor told me that my problem was God's will and ordered me to go home and be a good wife to my husband and a good mother to my children because a good woman does not question God's will.

I got another speeding ticket.

The fourth doctor made a pass at me.

I drove home so fast that the highway patrol couldn't see me, and did not get a ticket.

The fifth doctor insisted that I have surgery. I resisted because I had just had reconstructive surgery on my right hand middle finger after cutting all the tendons, which provided a permanent installation for obscene gestures.

She told me it was possible that I had cancer and we would only know if I let her operate.

Her reasoning could not be argued with, so I agreed. I did not have cancer but a uterine polyp, which she removed. She even showed me photographs. My polyp was sunset-colored and the size of a ping-pong ball.

She was wonderful -- intelligent, knowledgeable, and completely accessible. Most importantly, I felt that she cared. If I were ill, she is exactly the kind of doctor I would want on my case.

I wish she lived in San Francisco because I really miss her.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Kewpie doll but we got us a new Prez

After watching the Inauguration, I drove to the Friends of the Library Book Bay, where I had left my book list yesterday. This is a thirty-five page document, arranged by genre, of every book I own so that I won't duplicate them on my frequent forays into book stores.

My favorite classical music station, KDFC, offered tickets to a chamber music concert if I could be the tenth caller and correctly identify the poet who read at the 1961 Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

It was the first presidential election in which I was old enough to vote. No previous Inaugural had featured a poet. This was believed to be the influence of our new first lady, Jacqueline, who unlike the other Kennedys, was more into culture than touch football.

I pulled over and dialed repeatedly. I love chamber music. The radio station's line was busy, busy, busy.

Finally, I got through. The DJ with the lovely voice asked what she could do for me.

"I'm calling with the name of the poet who read at the Kennedy Inauguration."

"I already have my winner, but what would you have said?"

"Robert Frost," I answered.


We both sighed.

She said, "It isn't easy to be the 10th caller."

No kidding, lady.

I didn't win the Kewpie doll at the fair.

Most Americans didn't even know that we had a Poet Laureate. Robert Frost was very old and stumbled over his poem, "Dedication," which he had written especially for the occasion. The blinding sun reflecting off snow made it impossible for him to read his text, and since the poem was so new, he had not committed it to memory. He finally gave up and recited an older poem, "The Gift Outright," by heart.

Every President since then has invited an American poet to read a poem at his Inauguration.

There has been much made of the similarities between Kennedy and Obama because of their enormous charisma, charm and intelligence as well as the rare ability to inspire young people to care deeply about their country.

Even more has been noted of the similarities between Lincoln and Obama, both senators from Illinois, authors of best-selling books, phenomenally gifted speakers who came to power during a national crisis, and widely considered too young for the responsibilities of president.

I think it would be a mistake to see Barack Obama as anyone other than himself. The torch may have been passed but the times have changed, requiring radically different approaches to solving the nation's and the world's problems. He is not another Lincoln or the new Kennedy but wholly himself, and that is exactly what we need today.

As we rejoice on this great occasion, we must come together and in Lincoln's words, "do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Further Disgrace to my Gender

Victoria's Secret is having its semi-annual sale, right across the mall from the Apple store where Girlfriend and I had to see a genius over another manuscript which went missing but retained the title. (We are creative in our screw-ups.)

Genius-John was at Macworld. Substitute-Genius couldn't find it. It is somewhere in the bowels of Girlfriend but is not revealing itself to me.

I buy lingerie like a guy would if guys bought lingerie. I hate to try on bras so I wear the same style in various colors until they stop making it. That way, I can just grab a handful and head right for the cashier.

These days my choices are limited. Nearly every bra available is padded so that we (presumably) have an entire population of women sporting huge bazongas which, however, are not made of flesh but of fiberfill or down or whatever they use. Some of them could easily double for life rafts.

Even the many women who have had implants are apparently wearing lined bras. "Lined" is the euphemism for "padded." When I was a teen, they were called "falsies." We've come a long way, baby.

I guess people who date take for granted that what they see is not usually what they will get.

Proportion seems to be missing from the aesthetic. I weigh about 100 pounds and am small-boned. If I had bigger mammaries than I do, I would have to walk on all-fours. Perhaps I would be pushing a wheelbarrow to support them.

Even the supermodels, who are all within an inch of their lives anorexic, have huge boobs. Are we really supposed to believe that women without an ounce of fat on them anywhere are somehow capable of growing those enormous chest mountains?

And why is it so important to create this illusion?

Of course I get that breasts are sexy. Ask any milk-sotted baby. What I don't understand is why women want breasts to be their first line of defense, the part everyone sees the second they enter a room.

I like mine. I do. I am also fond of my arms and legs and all the parts that together make up my physical body. But I prefer that people see my face first because that is the playing field of my emotions while my breasts register very little other than "we're cold." They are one-trick ponies.

Somewhere in outer space, extraterrestrials have nicknamed our planet "Land of Great-Uddered Beings." And they're laughing.

You would think that the one unpadded bra Victoria's Secret makes would be on sale since it is clearly unpopular, but in their infinite wisdom, it is not.

I bought flannel pajama bottoms instead.