Saturday, February 28, 2009

Photo of the day: Rocky Road

I love rocks. These look particularly good for skipping across a pond. There's something about small rocks that make you want to put one in your pocket as a souvenir. I can never resist the temptation and, as a result, have small rocks about from Scotland, Africa, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, wherever I find them. I know I'm ruining our landscape. But I'm also enhancing mine.

Friday, February 27, 2009

They've got personality
Now that I’m volunteering with so many different cats I’m continually fascinated at how different their personalities are. Anybody who says, “I don’t like cats, they’re too…. (aloof, demanding, independent, needy, crazy…insert adjective here) for me,” just hasn’t been around enough cats. Each week when I go in I meet new kitties and it’s always a learning experience.

Let me illustrate (note: the names have been changed to protect the reputations of the kitties.)

1. Miss Marple. Super-sleuth Miss Marple wants nothing more than to investigate. Once you get her into the GAR (get acquainted room) she’ll leave you alone in favor of sniffing, exploring, and staring out the window in the hopes of witnessing a murder. Or at least another cat. She doesn’t knit and, as far as I know, has never actually solved a crime, but she is completely disinterested in love. Oh, she’ll take the time to investigate you too. She’ll sniff you, bat at your shoelaces to see if they’re loaded with explosives. Look for Cyanide in your pocket; but for the most part it’s all about what’s going on in the world around here.

2. ADD Kitty. Pipe cleaner! Random piece of paper! Bit of treat left over from last visitor to GAR! Oooh, look, a window! ADD Kitty has the attention span of a 3-year old on a sugar high at Disneyland. He’ll run around chasing his tail and then suddenly stop for a good, long lick at his foot. He’ll bat at the pipe cleaner like it’s the best thing since catnip and then, without warning, notice (for the 15th time) that there’s a nice big window to look out of and there are people walking by. He’ll jump into your lap and nuzzle against you, purring like a steam engine until he catches sight of an abandoned piece of paper in the corner and attack it like he’s bringing down a gazelle. Life is an endless parade of new experiences for ADD Kitty, mostly because he seems to have absolutely no short-term memory.

3. Blanche Dubois. You love me, don’t you? I mean I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers. Poor Blanche, she needs constant reassurance. She may stray a few feet away, but she always comes back. She feels safest if she’s in physical contact with you, preferably on your lap. “Love me, love me,” she implores, as she pushes her cute little pink nose into your hand so you can give her the attention she needs. She’s the ultimate lap cat, a streetcar named “you’re not planning on moving anytime soon, are you?”

4. William “Refrigerator” Kitty. He weighs about 280 lbs. (Ok, maybe 18, but that’s enough.) He could play linebacker for the 49ers. (Hell, at this point I could play linebacker for the Niners.) He’s just a big bruiser. When he head butts you, you feel like it’ll leave a bruise. When he jumps for the pipe cleaner, the chair rattles when he lands. And when he tries to curl into your lap he finds your lap is nowhere big enough. He hangs over all sides like a sack of flour, only purring and not to be used for bread.

5. The Austen Rogue. Every Jane Austen book has one. Mr. Wickham from P&P. Willoughby from S&S. The charming rake with the good looks, dashing manner, winning personality, and faithfulness of hyena. Austen will look at you with those big green eyes and instantly steal your heart. You’ll fall for his charisma and put all your effort into winning his love. You’ll carry him to the GAR, pet him, play with him, give him fishy treats and he’ll look at you like you’re the only woman in the world for him. Then the treats run out and he’ll turn his back on you. He’ll grow weary of the attention you lavish on you and stroll casually to the window, in search of greener pastures (or more treats). And the same cat that couldn’t wait to leap into your arms when you opened the door to his cage will jump back into his cage without a second glance. He’s done with you. You’ve served your purpose. Your heart is broken.

Then there are those rare “perfect cats” that make you fall in love a little. The ones who can’t get enough of your lap but who are also playful and full of personality. The ones with the quirky meow or the loud, non-stop purr. The ones who eager come to you and seem reluctant to say goodbye. The ones who stick their paws out of the cage when someone walks by as if to say “you spin me right round, like a record baby.” (Or something more sensible and feline.) Those are the best of all. But each one is special and each one I work with is deserving of love, security, and a good home.
Cat of the week: Dharma

She's called Dharma but, with apologies to Keruoac, she's not a bum. She's a sweet little brown tabby with a shy and gentle nature. When a big dog came into the other room she got scared and started shaking, so she'll need to be in a dog-free home. But she loves people and spent almost the entire time curled up in my lap, purring, and trying to eat my sweatshirt. She's such a lovebug that I found her utterly charming. I didn't want to put her back and, in fact, stopped by to visit again on my way out. When I walked up the second time she immediately came to the front of the cage, put her paw out to bat at me, and meowed in this completely endearing "hello again, take me out" way. What a sweetie!

Dharma's magic number is A443723 and you can find out more at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA website.
Photo of the day: Smooth

Textures week continues with smooth. In this case, marble. I love marble. But not as much as my psycho and way-too-much-money-and-not-enough-taste neighbor who actually has a marble driveway and walkway. Must be very safe in the rain and not in the least slippery. (Perhaps I can manage to fall and sue them for unsafe conditions.)

But marble in the right place can be beautiful. This is old, stained, faded, weathered and, in my opinion, lovely. Part of my photo shoot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. Next week may just be photos from that shoot, I got nearly 300 shots and some of them are really fucking good if I do say so myself. Which I do. But hopefully you'll say the same once you see them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Photo of the day: Wheatsheafs

Lichen growing on concrete. Wheatsheafs and a scythe on top of a gravestone at Cypress Lawn Cemetery. Splashes of color amid gray monuments on a gray day. A combination of creepy and oddly beautiful.
The always beautiful Big Picture at has as its theme this week Carnival around the world. Check it out for some truly eye-popping photos that will make you appreciate colors in a whole new way.
Photo of the day: Prickly When Wet

We planted cactus in the front yard hoping it would keep the neighborhood cats from digging up our planter boxes. The plan was only marginally successful. By that I mean they sleep in the margins between plants. But, so far, they haven't actually dug up the sharp things.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Photo of the day: Wood you?

When you see a table as beat up and scarred as this, it's almost impossible to resist adding to it. What is it in the humane gene that makes us want to leave our mark on things like this. From initials carved into a heart on a tree to soldiers writing "we were here" on buildings in foreign lands, we feel the need to have a presence. I've given into it many times. Most recently when they were fixing the sidewalk in front of our house and I went down and wrote my and Husband's initials. Very junior high, I know, but I couldn't resist. Could you?

This table has obviously been the seen of some action. A few couples having their first beer here on a warm spring day, writing their initials to commemorate the event. Or one guy alone, tired of not catching any fish but damned if he's going away without making some mark on the place.

It's more art than table now. Sure you can still bring your deli sandwiches down and fight the seagulls for your own lunch. But there's something almost folk art about what this table has been through.
Photo of the day: Soft and cryptic

I start this week's "Textures" theme with soft. During the week I'll explore the grain of old wood, the patterns on rocks, and pretty much anything else that strikes my eye. But I wanted to start with one of my favorite feelings, soft. And in this case, soft and cryptic. Looks a bit like dawn highlighting snow on a mountain, doesn't it? Or perhaps looking down on clouds from your airplane window seat.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Festival

I was always amused that the Fall Festival at the local Catholic church featured a fortune teller. Of course it was just Mrs. Lamont in a gypsy wig and scarf with an empty snowglobe as her "crystal ball" and a semi-memorized book of palm reading. No Tarot Cards, of course. I imagine Father O'Connoll put his foot down about that. Too pagan, no doubt.

But for 50 cents you could pretend Mrs. Lamont wasn't the girl's softball coach and hand over your palm to find out that you'd have a happy marriage or good luck on the lottery. There was never anything bad written in anyone's hand. No impending deaths. No loss of limb. Nothing serious. Although she once (seeing as how she was also the science teacher) warned me that students who don't study for the science test will not likely pass. I think it was a hint to me. I ignored it. After all, I was apparently going to marry a rich and handsome man, so he could do all the science for me. And I seriously doubted Mr. Right would be attracted by my memorization of the periodic table of the elements.

The Festival also featured booths where you could bet your ticket on a spinning wheel and win everything from ham to homemade cakes, bottles of wine to surprise packages, stuffed animals to handmade arts and crafts. And everything was coated with the scent of carnival popcorn wafting fake butter benediction upon the crowd.

Kids with grape snowcone-smeared faces rushed to the few actual carnival rides, run and constricted by people our parents always warned us to stay away from. But once they were up and running, we'd line up for the ferris wheel and the merry-go-round. The bright neon the brightest thing ever seen in this town. The ferris wheel was the best, when it was your turn at top you could look down and see everyone. Watch your folks at the liquor booth with the other adults, trying their luck on a bottle of Wild Turkey. Your older siblings, roped into volunteering, were making popcorn and snowcones. You could see Sister Assumpta trying to make a basket on the playground to win a ham. And all 7 of the Lamgorgini kids running the surprise package booth after saving every bit of wrapping paper from every party they'd gone to since the last time they ran the booth. RIght now their top shelf prizes were wrapped in a mixture of leftover Christmas wrap, a few sheets of birthday paper, and oddly enough, something with stars of David all over it.

Over the playground intercom came appropriately non-offensive music. That means music that nobody likes, but nobody will really object to. Lots of Beach Boys and innocent 60s pop, Neil Diamond, Paul Anka, some Motown, lots of groups whose band name's begin with "the." "The Vandellas" "The Four Tops" "The Miracles." I always thought Smokey & the Miracles would be appropriate to serenade a church built on miracles, but he never got any more airplay than, say, The Supremes. I was just glad it wasn't church music. It's impossible to believe you can win a surprise package while listening to "Hail Holy Queen enthroned above." It does tend to take way that spirit of "the next turn of the wheel will be my lucky one" when the music is telling you that while you're hoping the big package wrapped in yellow birthday paper on the top shelf will be a CD player that, in fact, you should be honoring Mary and hoping she'll put in a good word for you with the angels. Makes that greed for a new CD player seem positively sinful now, doesn't it?

Later in the day the parents would begin to disappear into the kitchen for the big dinner. Fathers had stoked up the massive bar-b-ques earlier in the day and, starting at about 4, the smoke would start followed by the scent of chicken cooking. Pre-vegetarian entrees, they served only chicken. And only blackened bbq chicken at that. In the kitchen the mothers took care of the rest. Salad made in garbage bags (clean, of course) gallons of homemade dressing. Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cut by an army of sullen pre-teen girls who resented the unfair sexism that let their brothers out there playing while they had to come in and made dinner for 200 people. Plus we had to serve. Inxperienced arms laded with cafeteria trays full of black chicken, green salad, rolls with individual pats of butter. Later there would be ice cream in little plastic cups. But the first trick was serving in a loud cafeteria, a bunch of lost 13 year old girls terrified of spilling something on an adult. Or worse, a nun. I actually volunteered for the nun's table because I would have loved to "spill" something on one certain nun. But I didn't. Mostly because I never got a chance. It was my luck that she sat at the table next to my mother so that when I was serving her, my mother could see everything I was doing. Screwed over my plan to dump salad all over Sister Assumpta. And you know, you never get those kinds of opportunities twice.

When it was over the families who had worked would gather in the hallway of the school. Adults sipping hiballs in strefoam cups. Kids with cokes and all the leftover candy corn. We'd run up and down the steps, racing around the hallway while our parents sat in groups talking over the day, sharing parish gossip. We'd wait for the final count. My dad was on the accounting committee so we couldn't leave until he was done anyway, but it was always a big announcement. They'd come out of the office and tell us the grand total and everyone would cheer and clap and have one more drink before heading home. Because we'd have to get up early and do it all over the next day.
Photo of the day: Drip, Drop

Which one to choose? Hmmm....which one. I like the drop in this one. But that one has the cool splash. I could flip a coin or....oh, fuck it, it's 3 am, I'll go with both.