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?