Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: My Mother the Bad-Ass

For most of my childhood the Police Chief of Silver Creek was Albert Dwyer. He was married to the biggest bitch I have ever met. Didi Dupont-Dwyer, she of the pretentious name and blue hair. She insisted on the “Dupont” part because she liked to tell people she was one of the Duponts. She wasn’t.

My mother hated Didi. OK, perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. Hate is something reserved for Klan meetings, not somebody’s whose curtains are nicer than yours. But, aside from lust, my mother felt all the Deadly Sins towards Didi. She envied Didi’s nice house and perfect yard. She coveted Didi’s blue Buick. My mother was always jealous of the fact that Didi’s house was impeccably clean and never smelled vaguely of Toni home perms.

The fact that Didi and Albert could afford a cleaning lady and a gardener, and only had two kids, never seemed to register with my mother. She was just upset that the house was nicer, there was never any clutter or weeds, and the sofas never had old sheets thrown over them to hide the Coke stains.

I hated the two Dwyer kids. In this case “hate” is not too strong a word. Barbara Dwyer played piano, had straight white teeth like picket fence, had an adorable wardrobe, and wore Avon perfume. Clayton Dwyer was a total snot. Even as an adult, when “snot” ceases to be a viable insult, Clayton was a snot. He was the kind of kid who used magnifying glasses to set ants on fire and always insisted on bringing his model steam engine to show-and-tell every year at school. I cannot tell you how many times we had to watch that frickin’ stupid steam engine with the frickin’ stupid pellets, spitting out frickin’ stupid steam.

In spite of the deep loathing my mother felt for Didi she would never (because of “Christian charity”) admit it. In fact my mother went to Didi’s house every Thursday for about 300 years to play gin rummy. And therein lies the tale.

Didi Dupont-Dwyer was a cheater. Everyone knew it. Everyone put up with it because nobody else wanted to host the gin games because they were all just slightly ashamed of how shabby their houses were compared to the Dwyer’s. But she cheated.

She would purposely inflate her score. She would get up for more punch and look at everyone’s cards. She would do everything possible to ensure that she won. And for 300 years nobody said anything. Not Mrs. Cleveland who eventually got so fed up that she invented gout, which prevented her from playing anymore. Not Mrs. Sanaletti who decided that gin was too close to gambling for her Catholicism and dropped out of the group. Not even Mrs. Klinger who also cheated, but was never as good at it as Didi.

But one day my mother, incensed by decades of crystal punch bowls, clean carpets, a Meyer lemon tree, and inflated points flat out accused Didi of cheating.

Now all of this is hearsay….bordering on urban legend, but I have it on good authority. (Mrs. Liebman, who was there.) Didi apparently laid down a hand with four Jacks. Unfortunately for her, mother also had a Jack. Mother, rather than calmly pointing out an overabundance of face cards decided that enough was enough and actually stood up and with a Biblical gesture that would have done Charleton Heston proud, pointed and shouted “cheater.” Pointed and shouted. My mother. The woman who let my father fill out her ballot every election, suddenly turned into Dirty Harry and accused the chief of police’s wife of being a card sharp.

There was yelling and denying. Punch was spilled on newly cleaned carpet. Didi’s hideously hideous yippy dog “Baby” ate a knocked over plate of cookies and puked on the sofa. Didi leapt from her seat and accidentally tripped over Mrs. Liebman’s discarded Dr. Scholls and fell into my mother. Both women went down and in the ensuing tangle mother poked Didi in the ear with her 5th Jack.

And Didi, being Didi, got up with great dignity, went to the phone, called her husband, and told him to come and arrest my mother for assault and defamation of character. He did not, but the gin game came to a sudden and permanent end.

Thanks to my mother, the bad-ass.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Safety FIrst
Dear fellow migraine sufferers (you know who you are).

Let's talk about Imitrex. Works great. At least for me. But my problem is how fucking hard it is to open.

It's not even in a child-guard bottle. It comes it a small cardboard envelope-type thing. You rip off this little piece of cardboard covering each individual pill and underneath is another little cardboard thing you have to sort of rip/pop/machete open. OK, it's paper and I am a sentient being with opposable thumbs. But when your head feels like it's being split open and your motor skills are are impaired, this is much harder than it sounds.

I frequently have to use some type of implement to get the second part done. Sometimes I have to push it in with a spoon (and a surprising amount of force) to break through the seal. At other times I have stupidly used a steak knife and the resulting loss of blood did not do much to improve the migraine.

The question of why comes to mind. It is not designed to protect children. It seems designed solely to annoy people in pain. Sometimes it's so hard to open that I have to get Husband to help me. "Excuse me Husband but I am so useless at the moment that I am being defeated by paper."

In other news....New Year's Eve.

Remember parties? Remember when New Year's Eve was a night when you got together with good friends and ate lots of food, had too much wine, and did crazy things?

Then all your friends started breeding, which put an end to all the parties. Or we all got into our 30s and 40s and decided that avoiding drunk drivers and not getting home until 2 am was overrated. So now your New Year's Eve plans involve staying home and maybe, if you're lucky, staying up until midnight.

Husband and I went to the grocery store today. We decided, in order to at least make a token celebration of NYE, we decided to spring for a very good bottle of champagne. Then we bought our regular weekly groceries including, in this case, a frozen pizza for those nights when neither of us feel like cooking. Se we're standing in line with a $6 frozen pizza and a $45 bottle of champagne. Because we're just that weird.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Photo of the day: Santa Cat

Still playing around with my new lens. From my mother's Christmas tree.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Photo of the day: Christmas Rose

Thank you, Husband, for the beautiful new macro lens for my birthday. I love you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Um...define "holiday."
Today my birthday request of Husband of "let's not leave the house." We've watched movies, played games, had some yummy food, and have generally had a wonderful day.

We went to the pay per view screen of our cable company and they have a whole selection under the heading "Holiday Movies." Right. Ho, ho, ho and all that. Lovely. Let's all hark the herald angels and all that. But what in the name of Jim Morrison's pants do they mean by holiday?

Amid the expected, such as several versions of A Christmas Carol, White Christmas, and MIracle on 34th Street we have the following festive choices:

Stalag 17
The Godfather
Three Days of the Condor
and, of course Batman Returns

What kind of freaky ass Christmas do these people have?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Blues
No, I don't have them. But I will. For nine hours on December 26th. 9pm to 6am on the 27th Husband and I are doing our shifts on the annual KZSU Blues Marathon.

For someone who hosts a world music show I gotta make a huge confession....I love the blues. So I'm really looking forward to this. I think it's the 7th year I've participated. One year I think I did 12 hours in a row. So this year I'm getting off light with only nine. And, as an insomniac, I'm in the perfect position to stay up all night. I'm just not sure Husband will survive. He sleeps like a normal person. You know, at night.

In other news it's also the time of year for everyone's top 10 list. As the world music director, I sorta kinda have to. Here's my picks for my favorite CDs of the year. In no particular order:

Amadou & Miriam - Welcome to Mali
Andy Narell & Relator - University of Calypso
Omara Portuondo - Gracias
Vasen - Vasen Street
Zap Mama - Recreation
Le Vent du Nord - La Part du Feu
Espana - Putumayo Collection
Firecracker Jazz Band - Red Hot Band
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - How Big Can You Get?
Ba Cissoko - Seno

I could easily have put another dozen or so on the list. The odd thing is that Husband (who is the jazz director) and I have one CD in common on our top ten list, the Firecracker Jazz Band disc.


I put in some extra time at the shelter today because I won't be able to be there for the rest of the week. I might try to go on Saturday, but with the Blues Marathon later that night it's probably best if I be lazy during the day. But today it was cat central and we were crazy-busy. I think a lot of people want to adopt at Christmas. Luckily we have great adoption counselors who make it very clear that a pet is a commitment, not a present. They carefully screen potential adopters and gently dissuade those who think Tiffany would love a kitten as a gift -- but who haven't thought enough about the care of an animal. But for those who are sincere and who know what they're getting into, it's been a great week for finding homes.


Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm getting near the Age of Denial, and yet being married to a man nine years younger than I also makes me feel a decade younger. (Thank you, Husband.) One of the odd things about having a birthday so close to Christmas is that occasionally I forget it myself. Today I picked up the mail and found a birthday card from my dear friend Susan the Poet. And yet as I was holding it I thought to myself "how weird, she's already sent us a Christmas card." Duh... I was actually surprised when I opened it and realized it was a birthday card. Yeah, I'm just that dim about my own birthday.


We'll be spending Christmas at my mother's, as usual. I'm already anticipating the vague trauma. I must confess that it's always something of a theatrical triumph to manage a look of pleased surprise when you open a present and discover a pink fleece sweatshirt with a bunny on it or a bottle of screw-top wine from the finest vineyard in Idaho. And something tells me dinner will, as usual, be worth an entire blog post.


Happy holidays to all my faithful and casual readers. May the new year bring you all peace, love, joy, and wonderful times.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Car Full of Crap and the Truck Full of Tires

We have some great neighbors. On one side a very nice family with two little boys. The only odd thing about them is that the family never seems to have any garbage to put out on trash night.

On the other side an older couple with a 30-something son who lives at home. Son has three cars. A classic blue muscle car that sounds like a bulldozer when he starts it up. Then there's the car full of crap and the truck full of tires. If you look at the car closely you can see that the entire back seat, plus the passenger seat, is full of stuff. Old clothes. Plastic bags full of god knows what. Boxes. In the entire time we've lived here we have never once seen this car empty of crap. He drives it, but the crap never goes in or out.

The truck full of tires is just...well, a truck full of tires.
Mrs. Murphy and the Catnip High
One of my favorite shelter cats is a sweet little brown tabby named Mrs. Murphy. She's a total warm fuzzy cat that just wants a lap of her very own. Even when I don't have a lot of time I always make it a point to stop by and talk to Mrs. Murphy for a bit.

She's a MIss Marple cat. I can picture her sitting next to a sweet old lady, batting at a ball of yarn, sleeping in a sunbeam.

She's gentle, affectionate, calm, and all around a wonderful little companion.

Until you give her catnip. And then she turns into Psycho Kitty.

I give out two kinds of catnip. The first are socks. I take infant socks (yes, new) put in a few tablespoons of catnip, tie a knot, and voila...instant toy! The kitties love batting them around, licking them, rubbing their face against them, and generally blissing out.

I also have loose catnip. I'll put a pinch on a towel and they'll eat it up like it's a hot fudge sundae. For a while I was out of loose catnip, so all I had to give out were the little socks. To my knowledge, Mrs. Murphy has never had a pile of fresh catnip until today.

She became Sybil. Instant personality change. From a lazy, purring little bundle she became an active, squirmy, hyper, trouble-seeking, trouble-finding, trouble-making junkie. All this happened in her cage or on my lap as all the socialization rooms were full, but as soon as she inhaled a few pinches of kitty pot she just went crazy. She grabbed my arm and did that little rabbit-kick thing with her back legs that cats do. She began to lick my fingers. She made a noise that was a cross between a purr, a growl, and someone singing along to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. She tried to swallow her towel. She shredded the newspaper at the bottom of her cage. She curled into her shoebox, tummy upwards, and squirmed as if some invisible hand was stroking her tummy.

I have never seen such an instant, or such a dramatic reaction to catnip. And from Mrs. Murphy, of all cats. My go-to mellow cat. The kitty I visit when I'm tired and stressed and my back aches and I just want something warm and purring to love.

Who knew?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: Christmas

When I was growing up, Christmas in Silver Creek was about as predictable and exciting as the Andy Williams Special.

The Silver Creek Lions Club had the best tree lot in town. The city would put up the same tacky decorations on the weekend after Thanksgiving. (Red and silver tinsel tree-like things hanging from all the street lamps.) There was always a tree lighting ceremony with the big tree in Grover Park that featured a combined church choir sing-along and the Friends of the Silver Creek Library selling hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows.

McFielding’s Men’s Clothier’s would do a window display that was Silver Creek’s answer to 5th Avenue. Mrs. McFielding had majored in art at Vasser and her sole use of her degree was the annual window. They were usually completely inappropriate for anything except the display of McFielding’s stock but so odd that the unveiling usually drew a bigger crowd than the tree lighting ceremony. One year, for instance, there was a Christmas Carol theme with an Ebenezer Scrooge mannequin (in a gray checked suit, red bow tie and matching pocket square) sitting in an armchair. Marley’s ghost was half in and half out of a “window” and was the most nattily attired ghost ever in a full tuxedo. When you were in the store, you got to see Marley’s butt and legs. The ghost of Christmas Past was represented by a male mannequin in drag with a blond wig and long white nightgown. “She” carried a half unwrapped box from which erupted a rainbow selection of men’s socks. I do not recall that part of the book.

Another year she did Santa’s workshop. Apparently it was Santa in a relaxed moment in green plaid pajamas, a blue plush robe, and leather bedroom slippers. He was, most unexpectedly, reading Jane Eyre. We never did figure that one out. Why bother with a naughty-or-nice list when you can read Bronte? He was surrounded by toys (a tie-in with Hopgood’s Toys), and little boy mannequins standing in for elves. You could tell they were supposed to be elves because they all had pointed green elf hats. The hats did not, however, match well with the blue jeans, corduroy jackets, or black dress shoes.

By far my favorite of all the windows was the “Christmas of the Future” window that was a cross between The Jetsons and Dante’s Inferno. It featured a silver suit made out of aluminum foil. Sort of what the Tin Man would wear to a job interview. Nuclear “snowflakes” hung suspended on strips of black electrical tape. They were shaped like kidneys or livers for the most part and were made from some weird reflective material in a sort of Three Mile Island greenish-blue shade. Surrounding the Tin Man were other mannequins wearing normal McFielding’s stock, only with freakish accessories such as a kitchen colander as a hat, a tie made out of yellow plastic, or glow-in-the-dark shoes. There was also a pile of discarded machine parts and tools – apparently the Tin Man’s spaceship had crashed, so in the corner of the window, behind a pyramid of brown and black wingtips, was an odd collection made up of an old car bumper, some nuts and bolts, a faucet, and windshield wipers.

Closer to home, Christmas was typically tacky. Every year dad would hang blue and red (why blue and red?) lights around the house and my mom would make a new wreath. Being mom she couldn’t be all normal and have a nice round, festive decoration with pine boughs and ribbon. She would, instead, buy a Styrofoam ring and staple to it various “decorations” depending upon her mood or what was in our junk drawer.

Once she scotch taped Christmas images salvaged from the previous year’s cards. A nice idea, but after the first rainstorm it turned into a multi-hued cardboard mush that bled all over the door and left cement-like deposits of paper poop on our welcome mat.

Another year she got the idea of covering it with food. Getting out her old friend, the glue gun, she made a design of carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes. The resulting ant trail left me freaked out for days.

Inside we would have our tree in a stand hand-made by my paternal grandfather. It was a huge white paper mache mountain with a small mirror for a lake, little houses on the side of the snow-capped peak and, of course, a small cave as a manger. As it typically does not snow in Bethlehem, the always confused me. But we would always put it up and my mother would always set up the manger scene. Sadly it was made up of pieces from three different manger scenes so the scale of figures was never right. We had oxen that were about 9-inches high and a Mary that was about the size of my little finger.

My mother would get furious with me when, in a fit of pre-holiday boredom, I would pull out my brother’s little green army men and mount an assault on the Three Wise Men.
Ho, Ho, Huh?
Husband and I went to the grocery store today and all the employees were wearing Santa hats. OK, very festive. But we had a silver lame Santa hat. A San Francisco 49ers Santa hat. And a pink breast cancer awareness hat.

Nothing against the Niners, but is Santa really a football fan? And, if so, why the Niners?

I think it's great when people get the holiday spirit. I'm all about people being nicer to each other, giving to charity, and peace and goodwill. I'm just not really a huge fan of 8-foot inflatable snowmen. In the San Francisco bay area. Um...folks, it has never snowed in our town. Ever. We might get an inch or two dusting the higher peaks in the greater area, but our elevation here is 25 feet. Snowmen? Not so much.

One of our neighbors has red and green blinking lights wrapped around two palm trees. Sure you gotta work with what you got, but palm trees? What makes this especially amusing to me is that they also have a perfectly shaped little pine tree in their yard that got nothing. They actually have what looks like a Christmas tree growing in their yard and it has no lights, no star, no decoration. But their palm trees? Lousy with the lights.

I recall years ago visiting Husband's folks in New Jersey during the holidays. Now they live in garden gnome central. I think they were the only family in the neighborhood without fake deer, plastic wishing wells, concrete geese, or those horrible little jockey figures. One home had a yard paved in concrete and then studded with plastic flowers in pots. It's December and they have plastic daisies and daffodils blooming in their yard.

But my absolute favorite was the house with a huge manger scene. The figures were probably life sized. But what made it truly magical is that a whole flock of pink plastic flamingos was kneeling down honoring the baby Jesus. Really. Pink flamingos on bended knee worshipping a plastic Christ with a glowing head. It was one of the most bizarre sights I've ever seen and I've always been tempted to recreate it.

There's one long street in our town that has a lot of very nice (as in big and expensive) houses and many of them go all out at Christmas. For the most part it's tasteful. Lights around the roof, maybe a wreath, a few well-placed lights amid the shrubs or on the trees. But one house has purple blinking LED lights on the house (that don't all blink at the same time, a nice touch), a 10-foot plastic "snow globe" with Santa inside. Santa is also on the roof, with four reindeer. And Santa 3 is on the lawn, with about a dozen reindeer. And waving from the window (with no reindeer, because they're hard to housebreak) is Santa 4. And, just in case we've already forgotten Santa, Santa 5 is outlined in lights on the garage door. As if that weren't enough, every tree, bush, shrub, weed, and pile of dog poop in the yard has lights. In about a dozen different colors. One tree entirely in red. A green bush. A mailbox wrapped in blue. Yellow posts on the porch. It's like someone poured ugly all over the house.

The words fa-la-la-la-la do not come to mind.

Photo of the day: What the Hell...?
A mystery planet? A slide from your high school biology class. Art?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photo of the day: Tree Three

From Sawyer Camp Trail. I was trying to take a picture of the incredibly cute squirrel but he was camera shy and all I got was the tree.

However, all is not lost. Here's a photo of my favorite warning sign from the animal shelter. Beware the giant squirrel.
Dragon in the....Holy Cats!
Husband participated in NaNoWriMo. I did too, but I only wrote about 12,000 words before the flu turned me insane and I started cranking out total crap.

But he not only finished, he kicked ass. His book Dragon in the Snow is now available at and I gotta say, I love it. Now of course I'm bias, but even if I weren't madly in love with him, I'd love the book. It's a page-turning, totally compelling, funny and exciting adventure romp that blew my socks off. I mean I know it sounds insulting to say to someone "I can't believe you wrote this!" but that's what I said.

He's always been a great writer, but being a jazz critic is a lot different than writing fiction. But not only did he write a book in a month, but it's a completely fun book.

I finished the second half in one marathon session today where I couldn't turn the pages fast enough and felt like I was reading a cross between The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon. I think I hate him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Which We Discover that Switzerland is the Capitol of France
I took my mother to the doctor the other day. It was a 4-hour appointment from which I may never recover. We spent a great deal of time in the waiting room and then into other, smaller rooms for various tests, and then back to the waiting room. Unfortunately my mother didn't bring a book and wasn't interested in Sports Illustrated, People, or Highlights, the only magazines they had. Really, what kind of doctor's office has such a limited selection of magazines? In an attempt to distract her I grabbed a People at which point she announced loudly to the office that the cover had a photo of Tiger Woods with a white woman. Thanks mom.

Mom has trouble hearing, so she speaks extra loud. Her mind also has gone west a bit so she rambles, forgets things, and then just plain pulls crap out of thin air. Out of the blue she said "You know my father was born in Switzerland. That's in France." Um, yeah. My grandfather was born in Illinois.

Then she told the office I was looking a little fat, asked if I'd finally found a job, and then told me what I was getting for Christmas. (In case anyone is curious I'm getting a coffee mug with a kitten on it.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wrapping and Realization
We have a lot of people to buy presents for. And luckily I'm organized enough (or anal enough) to get it done early. And the reason why I do this is because I always seem to forget someone.

I wrap all my gifts early too so that when I have a nice stack of gifts at hand, I can take stock and realize "oh crap, I forget to get something for X." And, sure enough, I forgot to get something for X. I mean I have something, but when compared to what I got for everyone else, I don't have anything.

And the reason why I have not a whole heck of a lot for X is because I have no idea what to get for X. If I did have an idea, I would have gotten something earlier. And you know, putting it off isn't getting it done. I still have no idea.

The Chia Spongebob is beginning to look better and better.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Deep Personal Relationship with my Mailman
My mailman and I have a thing going on.

This will be news to Husband.

I don't even know his name, but for some reason he's decided I'm his pal. He calls me by my first name (since it's on my mail it' not hard to figure it out). He comments on how beautiful Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) is. (She sits in the front window watching the world and when he comes up the front steps he says "hi kitty.")

Today as I was leaving to go to the shelter I was just backing out of the driveway and he pulled up and honked at me.

"Lisa, I'm so glad I caught you!" he said, as if we were old friends. He had a few packages for me and I got out of my car and he handed them to me. We chatted about how busy he was and he showed me a picture on his cell phone of the diamond earrings he's giving his wife for Christmas. We talked about football. He noticed the Amazon box and asked me if I read a lot. After asking about Cipher he told me about his dog, Lobo, and pulled out his cell phone again. Cute dog. Meanwhile I'm trying to figure out why this guy has decided we're bonding.

He's a very nice guy. And there's nothing inappropriate about it. I mean he's not hitting on me or anything, he's just chatty and has picked me as his favorite customer on the block.
When Sitcoms Were Funny
Husband and I have recently started watching Barney Miller on "retro night" on WGN. And it's still hilarious.

It all works, the great writing, the impeccable comic timing, the acting and the quirky characters. But it does give rise to the question of when did sitcoms stop being funny. When was the last time you laughed out loud at a modern sitcom?

We watched three episodes tonight and each had at last one huge laugh. And often at the base of it was racial humor. It wasn't racist -- just racial. Something else which has gone by the wayside. I didn't find any of these jokes offensive, jut observational. Like one witness saying "hey the colored guy saw the whole thing and Japanese guy saying I'm colored, he's just black, everyone else is blank." The dead-pan delivery made it funny, but also anachronistic. People don't make jokes based upon skin color ever more. Which is probably for the good. But in some ways political correctness has made humor less biting.

There's no point to this, just rambling at nearly 3 am.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blues, blues, blues
The annual KZSU Blues Marathon is on the calendar. 30 hours, starting at midnight the night of Christmas and running all day the 26th and into the 17th. As usual, I'll be on the air.

But it looks like I'm on the air for a 12-hour slot, from noon to midnight on the 26th. Our blues director wants me to do a world blues show, a "he said, she said" tag-team show with Husband where he plays all those "she's a cold hearted bitch" songs and I reply with "he's a no good mean mistreater." Then I'll be doing a solo show of what I like to call "bathosphere blues" the blues that are deep down, low down, down and dirty. Then Husband will do a jump blues show. After which, we will both be exhausted.

I always look forward to the Blues Marathon. I really love playing the blues, especially the classic artists: Howlin' Wolf, R.L. Burnside, B.B. King, Lightnin' Hopkins, give me a guitar and a sad story and I'm set. And what better day to play the blues than the day after Christmas, when you have to go on with life knowing you didn't get a pony from Santa.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Photo of the day: Return of the Tree

Well I made it almost an entire year with my photo of the day. Then I got sick, got sicker, got better but still lethargic, then gave up all hope of ever being well again and retired to my fainting couch to have a moan.

I guess I'm better now.
You'll Love This Crap!
The phrase "makes a great gift" in a TV ad marks the guarantee of something that you would never give nor, most emphatically, would you want to receive.

In the past week I have been told that the following makes a great gift:
- A Spongebob Squarepants Chia Pet
- The Clapper (They still make them?)
- An edible arrangement. (A fruit centerpiece that looks like flowers. Oh good, I want fruit that was cut up two days ago and has been sitting on a table for 4 hours.)
- Windshield wipers. (No. Really. Personally I think it marks grounds for divorce if your spouse gives you windshield wipers for Christmas.)
- A Snuggie. (Now don't get me wrong. I know people who own them. But really? Giving one as a gift?)

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum are the Acura commercials. Who gives a new car as a present and can I get this person to adopt me? The other pressing question on these Acura ads is where would you go to get a car-sized bow? Seriously, I've always wondered. There is always a big-assed red bow on the car, sitting beautifully in the driveway of a gorgeous house. (These people have WAY too much money.) I've been shopping for Christmas wrap recently, I didn't see any car-sized bows. Does Acura sell them? Does it come free if you buy a car in December?

The other day I wrapped presents in order to get my gift mailing done early. And, as I sat amid the books and CDs, sweaters and DVDs I thought to myself what a boring gift-giver I am. Not only is no one, not even Husband -- who deserves it, getting a brand new car with a big red bow, but nobody is getting a clay pot shaped like a cartoon character from which you can grow vaguely creepy mystery grass.

My family is so unlucky.

Friday, December 04, 2009

News of the Random
For some reason, this story just made me shake my head. This jerk showed up at a British Remembrance Day parade with a huge and impossible chest full of medals. Experts have looked at the medals, but it doesn't take anything more than eyes to tell this guy is a fake.

I just don't get people who pretend to be military heroes, and there are a lot of such folks out there. But this guy takes the cake. I mean if you wanted to march in the parade and make people thing you were an actual veteran, wouldn't it have made more sense to try and actually carry it off? Pick one or two medals that make sense and blend in. Don't put on so many medals that everyone who sees you is bound to think "this lunatic is an impostor." Did he actually think nobody would question him?
Meanwhile, Back at Target
With me being an unproductive member of society, we're trying to do Christmas on the cheap this year. (By "we" I mean me because I do all the shopping for my family and Husband's family and he just shops for me). I finished up today at that bastion of good taste, Target.

I started Christmas shopping last summer. I always try to be done by Thanksgiving, but this year I started earlier to spread out the Visa bill in less terrifying chunks. We have 12 people to get gifts for, not counting each other, so it can add up unless you shop carefully.

At Target today I bought the last of the gifts (two sweaters and a purse) and then when to the Christmas aisle for gift wrap. They had some quite nice paper, actually, but one weird display of paper obviously meant for children. It had cartoon and movie characters on it. Most of it was typical, but cute. Piglet hanging a wreath on Pooh's door. Santa Mickey giving a bone to a grateful Pluto. And, of course, that most Christmas of all movies -- Star Wars. Yeah, they had paper with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker (complete with light saber) and the gang pictured as animated characters on red and green squares. Because, you know, nothing says Christmas quite like an intergalactic war.

Also seen and/or overheard at Target:

- A woman with three kids under the age of 5 who is pregnant again. Have these people never heard of birth control?
- A woman telling her boyfriend, "Target is fine for your mom but I expect something from Nordstrom."
- A man with a shopping cart with 3 24-packs of toilet paper and a 25-pound tub of cat litter. Apparently no live thing in his house does anything other than go to the bathroom.
- Two hip-hop wannabes with pants around their thighs buying the Josh Groban Christmas CD
- A Target employee in the bedding section asked what the difference was between "King" and "California King". Her reply: "They're the same, it's just these sheets are only available in California."
- A man who must have weighed 300 pounds wearing a pink sweatshirt with a pony on it in glitter and a 49er cap.
- The woman who ate an entire bag of chips in the store. And not one of those lunch-sized bags. A full-sized bag of Ruffles. I saw when she opened them and began munching and when I saw her in line the bag was empty. She paid for it and asked the clerk to throw the empty bag away.
- A man talking on his cell phone in the menswear section "Is Bob a large or an extra large? He's an extra-extra large? Got I can't believe my sister found someone fatter than she is!" on the A-list.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Anticipating Trauma's time for Annual Trauma Day. Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) has an appointment on Monday for her annual physical and shots.

And I'm already a nervous wreck because the event will involve Cipher's nemesis The Carrier. Cipher is deadly afraid of the carrier. She knows when she sees it that bad is about to happen. She is about to be snatched from her happy home, put into a cage, thrust into a huge car and then taken to a cold steel table where a strange man will put a thermometer up her butt.

Can't say I blame her for being terrified of the whole process.

She'll handle it fairly well -- better than I, in fact. And once she gets home and has her favorite tuna for dinner she'll settle down and be fine. For but the hour and a half the whole thing takes she's a very uncertain and unhappy kitty and I feel like I'm sending my baby off to war.

Yeah, I'm a crazy cat lady.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Look
One of the reasons why I think I have the best-paying "job" in the world is "the look."

There is a look that you get from animals (if you're very lucky) of absolute trust. It's this look in their eyes that says "I know you will never hurt me." I get it from Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) right before she falls asleep with her nose touching mine. It says to me that she's willing to completely unguarded around me because she knows that she's safe.

I get it from certain cats at the shelter when they curl into my lap and settle in for a good snuggle. These cats barely know me and yet they are trusting enough to believe that they are in no danger from me. The big high is when you eventually get it from a cat that you've had troubles with. The shy cats or the aggressive ones. The ones that for the first 10 visits hid under the chair or hissed whenever you approached. But with the love and patience of the volunteers, they slowly begin to relax and get used to the attention. They don't hide in the corner. They don't try to use your hand as a chew toy. They come closer, give out with a rusty purr, and rub their cheeks against your hand.

And then, if you're very, very lucky, you one day get "the look." And that makes all the scratches and all the hard work worth it.

I love "the look."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Update
For those of my friends who know how truly white trash my family is, and how traumatic holidays can be, I give you this year's highlights of hell:

- How is it possible to screw up munchies? Stale crackers and tasteless cheese are the key.
- Much drinking of cheap jug wine. One sister got so hammered she lost all sense of personal space, got hiccups while trying to tell a story and ended up sounding like a comedy routine from the 70's with the cheesy drunk. At this point my mother got off the line of the night by turning to her and asking "how much wine have you had???"
- Husband's ass got grabbed. By one of my sisters.
- He also got a tit-flash from the other sister. He is currently lying down with a cold compress.
- My family making a big deal out of the fact the pumpkin bisque (which I made my request) was called "bisque".'s not soup, it's bisque! Then it was pretty much ruined by the fact that it was dished into bowls and left to sit on the table for about 7 minutes while drunk sister dished up the mashed potatoes. Because soup and mashed potatoes must be served together. So we had cold soup and then we had cold mashed potatoes.
- Actually, everything was cold. Potatoes. Veggies. Corn casserole. Gravy.
- We're the only family in the US that doesn't have pie on Thanksgiving. I've been jonesing for apple pie since Finny took pictures of her orgasmic-looking pie. And what did we have for dessert? Chocolate-covered cereal lumps.

And how was your holiday?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where Have I Been?

I've had flu for going on a year now. Well, three weeks, anyway. Yes, I went to the doctor. No, it's not swine flu. I've had two round of antibiotics and I'm heartily sick of being sick.

The most annoying thing about this particularly hearty dose of flu is that it has rendered me completely inert. I don't want to do anything but sleep. I've missed cat duty. I've stopped photo of the day. I'm so behind on music reviewing that my stack of CDs to be screened is taller than I.

I feel slightly better today and am determined to go back to cat regular cat duty because I miss the litter critters so much.

But there's been one good thing about being sick. It's made me all gooshy about my friends.

I can't really explain it -- maybe it's because I've had a lot of time to think lately -- but I can't believe how lucky I am when it comes to my friends. The Lurker, the Foreigner, Mama D, Susan, the Belle of Belfast City, Finny (I hope I'm not leaving anyone out -- my brain is still not working well) anyway, they are the most amazing women. Each and every one is brilliant, funny, generous, kind, caring, creative, wicked, sexy, and inspiring.

Thank you, friends, for being part of my life. I love you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Photo of the day: Dance of the Scary Tres

Kind spooky on gray day;

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Photo of the day: THe Power of Cute

I gotta get out and take more photos.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photo of the day: Just Because

Because I'm still getting over being sick and haven't had a chance to take photos lately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Photo of the day: Making Me Want a Nap

She does it to me every time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photo of the day: When it Doubt Lock in In

Because these trees are at high risk of escape.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Photo of the day: The Door Was Open But Nobody Was Home

Not a creature was stirring. Not even a gopher. Or ground squirrel. Rabbit? Snake? Mexican Poison Death Beetle?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Photo of the day: On the Wing


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photo of the day: Waiting for the Rain

If I do a little dance, will it come?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Photo of the day: Still Life with Batteries

And unopened mail.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Photo of the day: For All Your Miniature and Subminiature Phone Needs

And you thought I wasn't going to get you anything for Christmas.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The 2 am Ramble
I'm going through another bad insomnia phase which, combined with this weird flu thing, is resulting in the oddest, most inconvenient sleep patterns. I'm awake all night and finally fall into an exhausted sleep about 7 am and then sleep until noon where I wake up groggy and completely lacking in energy. And during that 6-hour sleep, I wake up about every 90 minutes. I'm at the point now where I'm not sure whether to laugh or bash myself over the head.

But for now, in spite of the fact that tomorrow I must be up by 9 am and will, therefore, probably spend my day on 2-hours of sleep, I am enjoying the weirdness of insomnia. The watching of movies all night. The all-night reads. The bowl of cereal at 2 am as I surf through the channels, cursing infomercials and wondering why there is absolutely nothing on that I want to see. I revel in the wonder that is TiVo as I clear my "Now Playing" list of old episodes of I Love Lucy and various history programs that I save for nights like this.

I relax into my nest of pillows and blankets and bet myself when the cat will uncurl herself from Husband's feet and come searching for her middle-of-the-night break (I'm betting I see her before 3). I spend my night watching Hercule Poirot solve crimes, or random archeologists dig up Egypt. I do a crossword puzzle and remind myself why I do not do crossword puzzles. I work on my awful American novel and try to figure out how I ended up with a scene in Prague with a mass murderer. I eat a box of raisins.

And I wonder if I will ever sleep again.

Probably not.
Photo of the day: High Comedy

I'm in one of my surreal moods.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Photo of the day: Bookshelves

Common things are often the most interesting when viewed from an unintended angle.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Photo of the day: Wishful Thinking

It's November. Why isn't it cold enough to have a fire in the fireplace?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Photo of the day: The Modern Crown of Thorns

In the version of the bible where Christ runs afoul of bikers.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Photo of the day: It's All A Facade

Monday, November 02, 2009

Photo of the day: Shades of Stripes

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Photo of the day: Pretentious Book Cover

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am participating in NaNoWriMo (see the little icon to your right). The only thing I know for certain is that part of it is a parody of all those earnestly dull books that pass for "literature" today. The kind you know instantly that you don't want to read because of a pretentious cover that has no appeal whatsoever. This photo was purposely taken to illustrate what I'm talking about. It might be the cover of my magnum opus.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Cougar Bites
I hate the word "cougar" used to describe an older woman with a younger man. Husband is 9 years younger than I and it just makes me crazy when people say "oh, you're a cougar." I am not with him because he's younger. I am with him because I'm madly in love with him.

I know there are women who purposely go after younger men -- as there are men who purposely go after younger women. But I didn't set out to find one. Hell, I didn't really set out to find anyone. It just happened. And it just happened he's younger than I. He's also smarter, a better writer, and more generous. But I make better cookies, know more about art, and have a better memory. So what?

Stereotypes are always stupid. But the fact that this one now has a name just makes me want to scream. Suddenly I'm an MTV series. I'm a People magazine feature. I'm a cultural assumption. The thing that burns me is the diminishing of what our marriage is because of a ridiculous age bias. Because he's younger I'm obviously after a stud puppy who makes me feel younger. Our ages are just part of who we are. It's not the why. If Husband were Husband and he was 90 I'd have fallen for him because he's perfect for me. He's not my "cheaper than a facelift" way of hanging onto a fading youth. And he's not something I looked for because I had a list and "younger than my first husband" was on there. Actually, I did kind of have a mental list and he's all the things I wanted: great sense of humor, smart, caring, sweet, creative, etc. But the age thing? That's just a difference between childhood cartoons and songs that remind us of high school.
Photo of the day: Halloween Angel

OK, not very scary. But child angels always freak me out. Which is, of course, one of the reasons why I like to photograph them so much.

Happy Halloween. In the spirt of Poe and Boris Karloff and everything scary in the holiday, I hope you have a wonderful day and don't feel too sick for eating all the mini Snickers you bought for the neighborhood kids.

Friday, October 30, 2009

There's still time to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, which starts on Sunday. I have a title, Anton Schoeclker Sings German Songs of a Miserable Childhood, and I know it'll be in the humor/parody genre. Beyond that, no clue. Zip. Nada. My brain is as empty as my ice cube trays.

But I'm loving the idea of starting, knowing it's gonna be crap at not caring, and just having fun for a month so that I can honestly say that I've written a book. Husband is doing it as well and we've decided upon conclusion of NaNoWriMo that we're going to and have our works bound. Then we'll give them to each other on Christmas. I can't wait to read what he comes up with.
Photo of the day: Left Wing

So what are you going to be for Halloween?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Photo of the day: Urning your Keep

I just like the lichen growing here. It adds a nice touch of creepiness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flu or Not Flu?
Ah yes, fall's favorite parlor game. Is it the flu or just a bad day? Migraines. Nausea. Exhaustion. Sounds like the good old days when I went to the ER so often I had a favorite nurse.

With all the talk about this year's flu season I guess I'm hyper-sensitive. There are a lot of things that could be causing this. Raging PMS. Lack of sleep. More raging PMS. But my first thought is, oh no, I have the flu.

I bought a new thermometer just yesterday because our old one died. This one doesn't seem to work all that well. Last night I was 97.8 -- which is not unusual, I tend to have a very low body temp. Perhaps this is why I'm cold all the time. Anyway today I registered 99.4, a definite rise and unusually high for me. Four hours later, after some tylenol and a nap, I took my temp again and I was 77.4. Oh good, now I'm a beluga whale.

Anyway here I am, not sleeping. Feeling decidedly sick. Cold. Generally miserable. And hoping that I don't have flu and that, if I do, Husband doesn't get it. Because I hate it when Husband is sick.
Photo of the day: William and Minnie Have Snails

In honor of Halloween this week, something from one of our local creepy cemeteries.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photo of the day: Seeing the Light

Because sometimes you need to look up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: City Hall

Silver Creek City Hall is not one of those beautiful old buildings with columns and a dome. It was, and remains to this day, a hideously boring structure with a concrete façade, an ugly sign, and windows that are covered in some brown film that makes the outside look perpetually dirty.

Just inside the door, in the small and dingy lobby, hangs a painting entitled “Washington Crossing the Potomac.” I know this is the title because a greenish-fake-brass-name plate is screwed onto the inappropriately ornate frame. This amateurish monstrosity seems to be a paint-by-numbers version of the better known and more historically accurate “…Crossing the Delaware” painting. As I have never heard of any particularly famous crossing of the Potomac by the Father of Our Country, I always wondered if the plaque was an error or if the paint-by-numbers artist was as bad a historian as he or she was an artist. But for me the best part is not the “pick a river, pick any river” (why not “Washington Crossing the Nile?”) title, but the fact that every man in the painting, including GW, is wearing a huge grin. It’s as if they’re all saying to each other “dude, we just crossed the Potomac!”

The only reason anyone ever went into City Hall, other than to pay their water bill, was to chat with the building’s one and only guard; a man with the glorious name of Copernicus Moran. I never could quite figure out why we needed a guard – perhaps in case someone’s water bill was too high? – but Copernicus Moran did a grand job. Nobody ever broke in, defaced the façade or “caused a ruckus.” He sat all day on a hard wooden chair that eventually molded to his butt and read 25-year old Field & Streams or Popular Mechanics. As a result he could quote the most obscure facts about trout or band saws. He also told the filthiest jokes in town. To anybody. Kids. Cops. The mayor’s wife. Didn’t matter who, the poor guy was so bored that before you got to the reception desk he’d be off with “Hey, did I ever tell you the story about the bishop and the lady wrestler?”

Copernicus chewed enormous quantities of Doublemint gum and collected matchbooks from places he’d never been. Pretty much anyone from Silver Creek who ever went anywhere grabbed a matchbook for him. Of course, this was back when smoking was allowed anywhere and every business from dry cleaners to pancake houses gave out matches. You’d pick up one from a Denny’s in St. Louis or some bar in Reno and make a special trip upon your return to give it to him. He would, of course, pay you back with a dirty punch line or some unwanted bit of trivia about gutting big horn sheep.

A rotating cast of the same 8 city council members who took turns being mayor for my entire childhood ran City Hall itself. My high school civics teacher, Mr. Leach, was mayor every 6 years. Whenever there was an election no candidate ever bothered with signs of leaflets. Everyone in town would just know “this year it’s Arthur Loman’s turn” and people would, surprisingly, turn up to vote.

For city elections there was actually a wooden ballot box at the reception desk, and Copernicus’s most important day of the year as a guard was to watch it with an eagle eye and make sure nobody voted twice.

They always seemed to time city elections around Halloween, so there was a very democratic process by which you’d get a tiny Snickers bar after you voted.
Photo of the day: Guilt

Despite it being Halloween week and the fact that I have a thing for graveyards, this is not a shot of a cemetary. It's on the roof ofSt. Dunstan's school. Where I was a slave of guilt for 8 neurotic years. Although the building has changed somewhat since I was locked up the basic structure is the same. As is this cross. It's over the doors to the office part of the school, overseen in my days by the terrifying Sister Asumpta who, to this day, appears in my nightmares.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Photo of the day: Shmushed in Blue Truck Bits

God I'm poetic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Photo of the day :Unplugged

Next week back to the cute.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photo of the day: Seasonless

Rather like my allergies that have no clue what season we're in.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photo of the day: It's Like a Naked Transformer

For mature audiences only.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photo of the day: Do You Have a Flag?

Courtesy of the brilliant Eddie Izzard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Photo of the day: Fall

OK, so we're not Vermont. But here was have color. And sturdy beds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Photo of the day: Non Native Species

But eucalypyus are loverly trees.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Little Women
It was one of those books I swear I read years ago. But while channel surfing a month ago I came across the 17th film version of Little Women and had the urge to read it "again." I was even thinking of making it my book group choice, until I realized it was 475 pages long.

Anyway I picked it up at a bookstore (I also swore I owned a copy) and jumped in.

Hmmm.... First off, I can see why it's a classic. It's quite charming, sweet, and engaging. In a mad dose of PMS I even cried a bit (and if you tell anyone I'll break your arm). But in spite of the fact that, as a movie fan, I've seen every adaption it was surprisingly annoying. I'm just too cynical to believe anyone is that damned good. Every one of the March girls is so self-sacrificing, selfless, reverent, brave, thrifty and every other Boy Scout virtue that after awhile it began to wear on me. Sure they have their moments of petulance, rebellion and ego. And yes none of them are perfect. But it's hard for my modern, atheistic mind to deal with their goodness. It's also difficult for me to let go of my 21st century belief that the highest calling for any woman is to be a wife and mother.

In spite of all that I enjoyed the book and am glad I finally read it. But It was hard to relate to the concept of these spirited girls al l giving up their dreams to marry and have children. And they didn't even really give up, the just sort of realized that their true happiness lay in marriage and motherhood.

I suppose in their generation it did. And, in fact, that was how my antediluvian mother raised me, which is, perhaps, why I had such a strong negative reaction to their fates. But the strange fact is even knowing from all the movies that Jo gives up writing to marry her Professor, it still disappointed me.
Photo of the day: Pretty in Pink

You can feel the stickiness from here, can't you?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Which I Drive Myself Mad. Mad, I Say!
Inspired by my friend, Finny, who is a very inspiring person, I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month.NaNoWriMo (as those of us in the know call it) is billed as "thirty days and nights of literary abandon." Oh yeah....30 days to write a 50,000 word novel. Whee! It's gonna be crap. But it's gonna be fun.
Photo of the day: And There Was Much Screaming

A ride from the local weekend carnival.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Photo of the day: The Floating Carnival Floats By

It's time for the local Catholic Church's annual "Fall Festival". Big excitement in a small town.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Photo of the day: My Anti-Snooze Button

This is usually marching on me somewhere at 3 am like I'm Georgia and she's Sherman.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Photo of the day: Scenic View

Up at the reservoir. A total Zen sight.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The first big storm of the season hit us last night and is still ranging on. We've already lost power (briefly) and there are reports of downed trees and mild flooding in various areas. It's cold and nasty and wet and so beautiful I can't stop smiling.

I love a good storm. Of course I haven't been out in this one yet, I've only admired it from the safety of my cozy house with a cup of tea and a sleepy cat nearby. Those elements combine to make a perfect stormy day. But I'll be going out soon to do my show tonight and am actually looking forward to seeing the world through a wave on the window.

This kind of weather turns me into a total hibernating bear. Give me a stack of books, maybe a good old movie on TV, enough food to survive for days and I'll not set foot over the threshold where there's a storm raging.

I'll take long, hot baths. I'll put a dash of Bailey's into a mug of hot cocoa at night. I'll snuggle into pillows and sofa and lose myself in whatever book I'm devouring at the time. And life is truly wonderful.
Photo of the day: Waiting for the Rain

A big rainstorm is predicted for the Bay Area. It's 2:30 am on Tuesday and no sign of it yet. Though there have been signs that the little shelter I built from bricks and plastic to keep the outside cat food dry has been found and possibly demolished by the raccoons. Tomorrow shall see. For the moment I have my own kitty here thinking that's it's time to get up and I must discourage this notion by trying to sleep while being walked on and being meowed at. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Photo of the day: Kitten Photos Galore!

I've made a book out of my kitten photos. Not for profit, mainly just to share with my fellow nursery volunteers. But you can look through it for the "best of" the cutest faces ever.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Photograph of the day: Overgrown

Yeah, I'm the schizophrenic lady who alternates cute kitten photos with pictures from graveyards. I need to get out and shoot more.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Photo of the day: Half and Half

Because life is just better when you're relaxing half in and half out of a big blue donut.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Photo of the day: Zen And the Art of Nibbling On Toilet Paper Rolls

The rules are very simple, but the act itself takes great concentration.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Photo of the day: til death do us part

From one of my Colma visits. I think it's both sad and sweet and makes me hope in an afterlife where they can be together again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Photo of the day: The Weather is Getting Colder

So the remaining kittles are very happy to find a ram lap full of soft towels to curl into. We love it too.