It’s Cold

It’s bitter cold and windy where I live and windy…and really cold.  Did I mention cold?  And windy?  When I complain, people always tell me: “Hey!  It could be worse!”   However,  I say “Yeah, yeah, yeah…but, it could be better.  I could be living in the Bahamas right now.  Bet my face wouldn’t hurt in the freakin’ Bahamas.”

FACE HURTS

The Family Car

A little while ago I saw a Facebook thread from a friend who lives in New York about the transportation system they have there. (Feel free to jump ahead if you know everything there is about the train operations already). She was talking about how during the week on commuter trains, there are special sections called Quiet Cars that adhere to particular rules. You can probably guess what they are based on the name: No Families. Read between the lines and the rule is saying “we don’t want your stinkin’ kids.” This is only during the week, apparently.

She went on to say that kids are allowed on weekends and she was complaining about how noisy and chaotic and hectic it was having these kids ripping around the aisles like they’re at Disneyland. That’s when the brilliant idea hit her—why not have Family Cars all the time? All the kids can be herded there and leave the rest of the riders in relative peace and quiet.

I get where she’s coming from, but the reality of this solution is questionable at best. Peace and quiet? It’s New York for god’s sake, the crème de la crème of somewhat loud train riders. I mean really, any large city is going to have trains with loud people. People on cell phones having wildly inappropriate conversations during rush hour, drunk people having conversations with everybody, rowdy people who just like to make noise or those weird eccentric people who talk to themselves. It’s not just kids who are loud on trains.

However, my friend doesn’t mind the loud adults, apparently. They’re okay in her book. But show her a mother reading aloud to their kids to woo them into a mid-afternoon nap (or at the least an attempt to keep them occupied on the train ride) and she’s got issues. She’s my friend and all but really?  Parents reading Horton Hears a Who is more annoying than a guy who had a few too many at happy hour and he’s now expounding loudly to all and sundry about his Fantasy Football lineup? Oh please, please, please let that be his Fantasy Football lineup he’s talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate screaming kids just as much as the next person; so the idea of the Family Car isn’t falling on totally deaf ears. Just muffled. As much as people annoy me (and they do so annoy me), I am well aware we don’t exist in self-contained bubbles where we’re free from any and all interactions that we don’t approve beforehand. Annoying people will always have access to us. Sometimes these people will happen to be children. Sometimes they’ll be full-fledged adults. You can’t get rid of everyone. That’s just life. Deal with it.

Trust me, I wish we had the technology to change this. Oh how I wish we did! I dream of living in the “Get Smart” days where I could ruthlessly activate a “cone of silence” over those irritating people who think train-riding time is also very-loud-and-very-private conversation time. Or hell, even at the cashier lane! Or in a restaurant!

I don’t want to know about your medical procedures. I don’t care about your husband’s toenail fungus. And I really, really don’t want to hear about what you found in your tissue when you blew your nose this morning. So what if your boss hates you?  Who doesn’t?  And who really cares? “Cone of Silence – Activate!”

Getting back to the Family Car vs Quiet Car why restrict it to certain ages or people?  Why not make it Loud Car vs Quiet Car and then stick every LOUD person in the one and every QUIET person in the other, whether they’re kids or families or not?

I mean there are quiet families.  They do exist.  Why should we “good” parents with well-behaved kids be thrown into that pit of vipers anyway? We hate the screaming and the noise and the misbehaving just as much as anyone.  That’s why our children know how to act in public.  So instead of making it a Family Car, make it a Loud Car.  Drunks, loud talkers, unruly kids and their parents, stick them all in there.  Quiet people of all ages – we get the Quiet Car.

It certainly makes as much sense as the original idea which was basically to throw families willy-nilly into one car assuming they’re all loud and unruly, while keeping childless adults on a Quiet Car because, as we all know, they’re sooo unobtrusive and well-behaved (nary a loud talker or rowdy one in the bunch!).  Yeah.  Right.

Moving Daze

No one has ever accused me of being a hoarder. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. I’m not going to be the subject of a docudrama airing on A&E that chronicles my struggles with throwing out a three-foot thick (and growing!) bundle of used chopped sticks or mountain of “recycled” dryer sheets I need a step-ladder to reach the top of. Definitely I am no hoarder. I can navigate through all the rooms in my house with ease instead of shimmying through a narrow path I’ve cut out through stacks of old TV Guides and flattened cereal boxes.

Am I a pack rat? A stronger case could be made for this classification, I’m sorry to say. I came to this shameful realization just recently when I had to box up everything I own and move into a new place.  I guess the time has flown by since the last time I had to do this because it was pretty close to being utter hell. The entire process of moving is fraught with stress. Having too much stuff but too few boxes was a source of constant concern during the whole thing. It got so bad I was reduced to scrounging for empty boxes from grocery stores.  Now half my stuff smells like Aisle 5 of the local Acme.

Once I did have enough boxes the next obstacle was transporting them. Sounds simple. You load the box, you carry it to the car, you drive to the new place, you carry it inside, you unload it. Easy peasy, right? It would be except that it slipped my mind that boxes have these pesky things called “weight limits.” I loaded many of them up well past their limit without knowing it. The heavy boxes filled with books inevitably ended up falling apart half way between the truck to the house leaving all my precious novels scattered on the pavement and me in need of yet another box to re-pack them into. Okay, well, several boxes.

On top of my admitted clutter problem (I promise to seek help for it one day) and my inability to consider the tensile strength of cardboard, I also have a looming procrastination condition that leaves me constantly at war with myself. I had these aspirations floating around in my head that when I’d be moving I’d be neat and orderly and well-coordinated.  All the boxes would be clearly labeled and stacked together in neat piles just like how the Brady Bunch would do it. It’s a pity to confess that what actually happened ended up looking more like a moving job performed by The Clampetts on their way to Beverly Hills. All my earthly treasures were thrust together without rhyme or reason, tied down with a coarse rope, and rattling around during the whole ride as I hoped whatever I heard just break wasn’t something too important.

But in the end, the job got done. Now I’m not saying it was the prettiest or the most efficient or, hell, even the most sane, but all my stuff made it from Point A to Point B. That’s all that matters.

Now onward to the unpacking!

Gone too Soon

Knowing what we know about owning a pet, why do we own them? We form these intense attachments, give them our all—fall in love even—all the while knowing that they will leave us much sooner than we would like them to. Much sooner. Dogs…we’re lucky if we get 15 years out of them. Cats, a little less. Of course if you own a turtle or a snake you’ll get a bit more mileage out of them, but I’m mainly talking about the snuggly, furry critters we curl up with on the couch and in bed; the cuddly creatures that lick our noses and nuzzle into our warm bodies with all the fervor they can muster.

They give us everything we want out of a companion, how could we not swoon head over heels for them!? For true dog lovers (yes, I’m going to focus on dogs for the rest of the entry), our pets become a part of the family. In turn the dogs love us unconditionally. They’re not edging for an advantage. They don’t have ulterior motives (except maybe a scrap of food from the dinner table). Their love is pure, untarnished, and genuine.

There’s an old joke I like to think about. It goes: lock your significant other and your dog in the trunk of a car, come back in an hour, and see which one is happy to see you. It’s true. The dog would be ecstatic! They’re happy to see you no matter what. You could be gone for a week on a trip to Fiji or just run out to the mailbox. It doesn’t matter. You walk through that front door and the dog’s happiness level is going to be maxed out.

They share in our joys, our failures, our celebrations, our breakups, our new jobs, our firings, our new babies, our mourning, our happiness, the excitement of holidays, and the mediocrity of our stale, humdrum weekdays. They’re not even put off when we’re sick in bed, sniffling and moody with red noses and sweaty palms…instead they snuggle right there with us and keep us company when no one else will.

Even just a simple walk around the block or a car ride to the grocery store elicits their sheer joy and how is that not infectious!? When we’re at our best they’re there to keep us up. More importantly, when we’re at our worst they pull us up.  Sometimes a dog is what helps us get us through the most depressing times in our life. Sometimes they’re the only thing.

Another benefit that fellow humans don’t offer us? The silence. We can divulge our darkest secrets, confess our most embarrassing thoughts and they’re kept in the doggy vault. The pressure comes off our chest, absorbed by the dog, and transformed into unfiltered acceptance. What a perfect system! They don’t care whether we act silly, if we can or can’t dance, if we sing off-key or not. Hell they’ll act silly with us!

Then, they’re gone. No amount of love or strength of resolve can fight Father Time. When they leave they take a piece of our heart with them. Why can’t they stay longer? The answer, I know, is basic biology. Their life span is what they’re given and we can’t change that.

But the next question is, knowing that this heartbreak is inevitable, that the loss is sooner in our future than we would like, why do we do it? Our hearts are smashed to pieces by the passing of this four-legged creature, but what do we do?

Shortly thereafter (or maybe even immediately after) we seek to ease the sadness, to fill the void, so we find another four-legged love-bug to give ourselves to. We sign up for the process all over again. Get a new best friend, go through all the ups and downs that come with having the perfect partner in crime, and then experience the same sadness all over again. We open our hearts to these pawed angels only to almost destroy ourselves with their love and their leaving.

Why?  Because that bond, that unconditional love (that goes both ways), is worth it.  It is sooo worth it. If it wasn’t worth it, if it wasn’t love, well then it wouldn’t hurt so badly, would it?

Destroying Beauty

I figured what better way to come back than with a rant?

If you’ve seen or read “Fight Club” you may remember a standout line where, in the movie, Edward Norton’s character says to Brad Pitt’s character, “I wanted to destroy something beautiful” after he had bludgeoned angelic Jared Leto’s face into a puddle of blood and broken teeth. The line is shocking because it’s a ludicrous notion that’s meant to give the audience a glimpse into the depths of which the demented, angry, and twisted psyche Norton’s character had plummeted to. The amount of hate one must feel to see something so beautiful that you feel the need to bring upon its annihilation must be immeasurable. But, surely that’s just entertainment. It’s just an emotion presented in a book and in a movie for sensationalism, right? Right??

Wrong. It just happened in real life and the perpetrator (the Edward Norton) of the story, sadly, is an 11-year-old kid. Read the story here.

The deer he killed was not for the family’s survival. Hell it wasn’t even for their love of venison. This child and his father sought out this specific deer especially for his looks. This was an act of brutality purely for the sake of sport and in my honest opinion, trophy hunting is for Neanderthals. Though that’s sort of unfairly insulting to Neanderthals since all they really hunted for was meat…hmm…I’ll have to rethink that insult. Hunting for meat is one thing; hunting for sport is another thing entirely.

The saddest part for me is that this kid is being told by his family that what he did was a good thing. They’re proud of him for destroying such beauty. He’s being praised for taking the life of an extremely rare animal. What possesses someone to want to do that? To see something that only comes about once in 20,000 (some biologist claim as rare as 1 in 100,000) births and decide that the greatest thing to do would be to wipe it from the earth? And, perhaps even more disturbing, what does this say about our society if the entire community has rallied behind him? Well, maybe not the entire community, but certainly a good portion of them.  The hunting community anyway.

Of course the family is going to “honor” the deer by having the whole damn thing stuffed and mounted instead of just the head. I mean, it is albino so a little respect please! Imagine if this were not a game animal but anything else. For example, say someone stumbles across a very, very rare species of redwood that hasn’t been seen in god knows how many years. They take a chainsaw, cut it down, and burn it so they can save the ash “forever.” What if a miner uncovered a precious piece of dark green jade that no one has seen in a thousand years and then just smashed it to dust with a sledgehammer? How would these people be perceived? They’d probably be condemned rather harshly for treating our planet so poorly. Or at least be called idiots for their selfish destruction of such rare objects. So why isn’t it the same with this boy? Why is he a hero for what he did?

Sure, sure, I understand the argument that perhaps the deer population was overflowing and hunting them would actually help the local ecosystem. Valid enough…although this method has been argued and proven scientifically to be somewhat counter-productive. But even if that were the case, I would think the town would give this special, rare animal a pass. Instead of gunning for it (literally), they’d let it live its unique life to the fullest while they fire rounds at the more common-looking whitetails grazing in their backyards (if venison is what they were after). You’d think the town would want to be known for something special, something unique (since, again, albino deer are so very rare) – “the town with the white deer,” or some such thing.

To me, this gives hunting a bad name. Trophy hunting. And how sad that this boy is learning at a young age that when you see something rare and beautiful, the first thing you should do is kill it.

As Ellen DeGeneres said “I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”

Photo: Daily Press & Argus)

(Photo: Daily Press & Argus)

Not missing — just moving

I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch — I moved this week and it’s been quite a chaotic time.  I have, however, come to realize two things: 1) I own entirely too much stuff, and 2) I’m too old to be moving this much stuff (it’s exhausting!).

How I imagine it will go

How I imagine it will go

 

How it really ends up going

How it really ends up going

 

Me when it's all said and done

Me when it’s all said and done (though the boxes aren’t quite so neat and new looking)

Mushroom Musing

I’m sure I had you all fooled, but believe it or not I might not have been the smartest kid in the world. Shocking, right? I wasn’t exactly getting invited to join MENSA on my fifth birthday or beating Deep Blue at chess matches in my free time, and that’s okay. I wasn’t a child prodigy but I was still smarter than my brother and during those precious years of childhood that was all that mattered. In hindsight it wasn’t even a fair fight. He was gullible as anything (which in most cases is an endearing trait but when you have siblings it’s a death sentence) and it didn’t help matters that when I was young, I looked like a sweet angel with nary a devilish thought in her precious little head. It didn’t take me long to realize that the way I was being judged on the outside could certainly be a benefit in successfully getting away with whatever mischievous acts my prank-filled head came up with.

A perfect example of my brother’s credulity comes in the form of a story that’s often told around my mother’s table as a cautionary tale about me. I’m not sure I think that’s fair. But you can judge for yourselves.

One night way back when, we were all out at a restaurant called White Coffee Pot Jr. having a nice family dinner. My brother ordered Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms. I, on the other hand, did not order Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms.  It didn’t take long though for me to wish very much that I had.

Now, it was quite obvious that my brother was enjoying the hell out of his mushrooms.  So naturally my first thought was to find some way to spoil it so that he would end up giving me his mushrooms. I desperately wanted those mushrooms and had to make him so disgusted at the thought of them that he’d just give them up. Yeah, well, don’t cry too hard for him. Remember, he’s the older brother so you can be sure he messed with me on a daily basis. This was just karma rearing its ugly head. No matter that I was only six years old at the time. By then I was already a well-honed grifter. For those of you with siblings, I’m sure you understand.

I started out playing it coy by planting just a little seed of doubt in his head which quickly escalated to a full on sequoia of uncertainty (after all, I had to get to him before he ate them all or they got cold). A few of the well-timed and expertly calculated phrases included the following:

“Hey, are you suuuure those are mushrooms?”

“You know, I think maybe the cook made a mistake. I’m not sure I’d eat them if I were you.”

“They kinda look a little like toadstools to me.”

“Do they taste funny?”

“You know, you’re looking a little peaked…”

I tossed out all of these questions in a nice, easy-going conversational tone with very subtle yet significant pauses in-between. As the inquiries mounted so did his scrutiny over the dish. I watched his hesitance blossom as the inquisition went on, each question hammering away at his defenses. And voila! The mushrooms were mine.

Big Brother: 0 Little Sister: 1.

It was a very convincing performance if I do say so myself. I’m no Meryl Streep but I really do think I should have an Oscar on my mantle.  The good side to this social experiment, besides my victory with a reward of mushrooms to celebrate, is that my brother lost just a tad bit of his gullibility. I gave him a life lesson free of charge and do you know that to this day he’s never even thanked me? So ungrateful.

ME in blue dress

never judge a book by its cover