Saturday, December 24, 2011

Physician, Heal Thyself

My father's best friend died today, proving that doctors are disinclined to seek treatment for themselves and also that medicine, at the end of the day, is a complete and utter crapshoot. I loved Boochie. He was my GP, not to mention the mitigator of my father's famously bad temper and intercessor on our behalf for all kinds of things, from ear-piercing (which he did in his office, btw) to my weight loss surgery. My sister and his daughter, who is also a general practitioner, are the same age and were classmates-she was valedictorian, while Little Sister was Homecoming Queen. His son is one of those rare children I actually liked and did not fear; I was rather fond of Little William. I honestly can't say that about most children. I was born old, i.e., I acted like I was forty when I was four, and therefore other children frightened me. I still won't hold babies for fear of dropping them on their little heads- but I hauled William around with impunity.

When Boochie's grandson, Avery, was born, my father immediately went to Wal-Mart and purchased two things: a baseball glove and a Red Ryder BB Gun. I am not kidding. My father coveted the Red Ryder BB Gun when he was a boy, but his family did not have the means to get him one; instead, he got a single-action Daisey, which was not nearly as cool. Since neither my sister nor I are poised to reproduce, Dad made certain that the only infant in his immediate orbit got that BB gun. He's crazy about this kid. Seriously, the man who had a fit because one of his Army buddies had to show him how to change my diaper when my mother was gone for a little while is NUTS about his best friend's infant grandchild.

One of their weirder joint projects was growing pumpkins. They decided that pumpkins would be a good idea because they hunted deer. Deer eat pumpkins, plus, bonus: they wouldn't have to pay for pumpkins at Halloween. It sort of backfired- they had a bumper crop of pumpkins, the enormous ones that sell for twenty or thirty dollars, and no way to get rid of them. Boochie's parents lived on the main drag headed toward the high school and near the city elementary. They pulled a pumpkin-laden trailer into the yard, and told his mother (a retired teacher known to everyone) to charge whatever she thought was fair. Word got out that Miss Cleo was selling giant pumpkins for $2-5 each, and it was a madhouse. They got rid of the pumpkins, though.

About a year ago, I had a painful ganglion cyst about the size of a ping pong ball pop up on the inside of my left wrist. I'm left-handed and do quite a bit of computer-based work, plus the thing caused three of my fingers to go numb on a daily basis. It just kept getting bigger, so I sucked it up and went to see Boochie. He came into the examining room a little grey-faced and short of breath, manipulated my wrist and then explained it's what they used to call a "Bible cyst" because the old folks would just whack 'em with the family Bible to burst them. He offered to refer me to a surgeon to have it taken off; when the appointment concluded, I walked down the hall to Dad's office and asked him if Boochie was sick.

This all happened so fast. Many of his health problems mirrored my mother's, but she's also more than twenty years older. My father was home having lunch and got a call from the office staff to come quick, something was wrong. Shortly thereafter, they airlifted Boochie to a hospital with an advanced surgical unit that was supposed to be able to treat him. The spirit may have been willing, but the flesh was weak. They were unable to save him.

It is an incredible loss to everyone: the town, the patients, the medical community, but most of all, to the people who loved him. My father has difficulty getting close to people, but he was close to Boochie. I overheard my parents' conversation at the table: "I can't believe it. I can't believe Boochie's dead." "The last time I saw him, he waved to me from the end of the hall. He was talking to a patient. The next time I saw him..." and Dad's voice trailed off. Then he added, "But it won't change anything. He's gone. He's gone."

Modern medicine is miraculous, but sometimes we don't get the miracles we want. I am reminded of something my childhood pastor once told me: "It's not that God doesn't answer your prayers. Sometimes, whether you like it or not, the answer is 'no'." There was just too much 'no' built into this equation. Why did a man who saved so many lives, who labored so long and hard in doing it that he ignored his own health, have to die? I have no answers; I only have questions, and pain.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Little Shop of Upstaging

I'm dogsitting with my sister's Golden Retriever, Jack, and have hung out with my friend Stefan for a couple of days. I miss Stef. Back in my late twenties, he hove into view as one of the huge cadre of work-study students in the library at the Baptist college where I worked. I didn't particularly like him at first because he could be a little whiny and a lot lazy when the mood took him. I recruited him to the academic team, and got to know him a little better. By my last semester there, we were cast together in a show. We were in the ensemble opener together, and each had a vocal feature in the same four-person number in the second act.

The student director for this show, Steven, took an immediate dislike to several of us whom he considered 'lily white' and 'useless'. Stefan, another friend called Cee, and I were voted "most likely to still be virgins" by the 'cool kids' in the cast...something that made Stefan angry but enraged Cee, an old-school Southern gentleman who was offended not only for himself, but also on my behalf. Even bringing it up (and it's been oh, almost twelve years ago now) in his presence sends him off into an angry diatribe to this day. It was Little Shop of Horrors, by the way. I was a hooker and Stef and Cee were bums in the opening act.

What Steven had failed to consider was that I was caught directly behind him in the spotlight during his vocal feature in "Skid Row". After the "Cast Virgins" incident, I decided to upstage him during his own number. As a director, he gave us little, if any, direction at all. I planned my moment carefully and didn't let anyone in on it until the night of the open full-dress rehearsal. They put the spot on him, and right over his shoulder, I pretended to chew gum, roll my eyes, yawn, adjust my stockings, and play with my hair. I could see his shoulders tensing because he couldn't figure out why the audience was laughing at him- it was a dramatic moment for his character- and he couldn't turn around to see what was going on behind him. I was so far back in the set that nobody could do it inconspicuously...ergo, he was ignorant of the fact until he saw the video footage several days after we closed and the set was struck.

As we watched the playback, the camera zoomed in on the hooker in question, eliciting a howl of anger from him. His sister was the videographer, and I'd drawn her attention from him to me. The shot corrected quickly, focusing back on Steven, but the damage was done. For every night of the run, I'd gotten a good laugh out of the crowd while he strutted and mugged, doing a poor imitation of Rick Moranis's film version of Seymour. Unpleasant realization dawned and he rounded on me, spluttering: "You, you did that on purpose!" I gave him a sickeningly sweet smile and said, "Tallulah Bankhead once glued the bottom of a glass that she proceeded to set on the edge of a cocktail table just before she left the stage. The audience was so busy staring at it that they ignored the rest of the scene."

He opened his mouth and closed it, setting his lips in a thin line of disgust. Without another word, he rose and stalked out of the theatre professor's office and didn't come back.

His acting career hasn't gone anywhere. In fact, he's basically sitting on his butt in his little hometown doing not much of anything important. Meanwhile, the Virginal Three are: a professional actor, an attorney, and a full professor...yeah, we're a bunch of losers, all right. *smirk*


Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Easier to Leave Than to Return

I work with non-traditional college students on a daily basis; this began at Day One of my career, when I was interning at a women's college that had recently taken on a bunch of workforce retraining program students from a sewing factory nearby. They were mostly in the evening program, so between the two night sessions, they were in the library. I was the night supervisor, so I was in close contact with them for the semester that I was there. When I transitioned to my first professional job at the state's only Historically Black University, we still had a similar student cohort. Later in the year, I accepted a position at a denominational college close to where I grew up, and for the first time I was dealing primarily with traditional first-time eighteen to twenty year-old students...then the sewing factory closed, sending my classmates, friends, and in many cases, their parents and grandparents flocking to the college.

I've been with the state community college system for eleven years. Non-trads are the norm. I've advised both, and honestly, the adults are more focused. They know what they have to do, and are highly self-directed about doing it. Soon, Hopkins will join this cohort at the regional university to which he dispatched me with a protracted good-bye and a pat on the head for the summer before my senior year of high school.

When you're eighteen and you've been programmed all your life for the moment that you waltz off to college, and thus, the rest of your future, it's expected. You go on autopilot. You have benchmarks. You have checklists. You do X,Y, and Z on a specified schedule, and without disruption, you march across a stage and accept your sheepskin four years later. It's taken for granted that you'll do this from rote, and everything will be all right.

If only it were that easy. It's easier to say your good-byes, give your little speeches, cut your ties and launch yourself with the arrogance of the omniscient eighteen year-old high school senior than it is to take hat-in-hand, swallow your pride, and take your damaged ego into the minefield of undergraduate life at the dawn of middle age. The good news is that your intelligence doesn't just evaporate with time; it may be dormant, but I promise you, it's still there. You just have to access what's inherent within you, dust it off, and make use of it.

We have the advantage of age and wisdom, acquired by the hardest. We are not the wide-eyed virgins of academe. We have persevered. We will succeed. It has a price, but it will be worth it in the end. You're just going to have to trust me on this one.

I am prouder of him now that he's facing this at 43, than had he walked across a stage in Baltimore in four years at 22 as he was supposed to have done had everything gone according to plan. It's what we make of what we're dealt that defines us- and it was in him all along. I have always said that if he believed half as much in himself as I've always believed in him, there was nothing that he could not do. Sometimes it's good to actually be right; now that he's figured it out, there should be nothing that stops him.

Back to School

Somewhat because of Hopkins' late-breaking news of returning to college to, at long (effing) last finish his bachelors', I decided that if he could go back, I need to suck it up, retake the GRE, and apply for my doctorate.

In addition to my library science degree, I have a subject masters' in history. Near the end of the program, though, I suffered a burnout. I lost patience with the endless posturing and bickering of some of the more aggressive students and told my advisor that if I didn't do something else, I was going to stab somebody with a pen in the middle of a three hour seminar on Post-Modern Something-or-Other. That's how I ended up in library school; I took one class over there as a visitor and realized immediately, "These people like each other! They're nice to each other! Frabjous day! I want to like people again!!!" I applied for, and was accepted to, library school.

Now that I'm senior faculty and have developed a thick hide owing mostly to digging in my heels against rampant folly and time wastage while I've served on our faculty council, I think I can handle the adolescent bullcrap that any of the newly-minted MAs feel like tossing out on the table. That is to say, of course, I will not put up with their crap and will freely hand them their oversized heads on a plate as the situation dictates. In history, you don't have to like anybody, and moreover, you are supposed to knife each other in the back at every available opportunity. Heh, heh, heh...don't tempt me, Skippy, I'm older and I have more insurance- along with tenure and a full professorship. I don't have anything to prove, so you can save it for the more easily impressed or readily victimized.

I have a lot of stuff to do. Three letters of recommendation, a book review, finding a copy of my thesis to resubmit as a writing sample, and yay, reviewing my math for the GRE. The deadline for this year is February 15th, which I doubt that I'll make. I'll just keep plugging away at it until I get finished. If he has no excuse, neither do I. Where one went, the other was never far behind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Dance! Happy Dance!

Dear Western Kentucky University: I am rather pleased to notify you that one of my most cherished friends is headed your way to complete his bachelors' degree in computer science. If you could possibly figure out  some means by which I will not have to sit in L.T. Smith Stadium on those ungodly aluminum bleachers and roast for approximately three hours about a year and half from now during commencement, I'd appreciate it. Oh, and please, for the love of all that's holy, ask Hal Rogers to do the commencement speech. He's a lot shorter-winded than Mitch McConnell, who spoke at great, rather warm (as in the seventh circle of Hell hot) length a few years ago when one of my other dear friends was at the TAIL END of the line. Can you work out a processional whereby CIS comes in first, graduates first, and leaves first? I plan on leaving campus quickly and getting very, very drunk after this is over. You people just have no clue how long I have lived in the hope of that day. I guess I'll suffer if you're going to make me, but please, I'm not young anymore. Graduate him. Quickly.

Yrs. truly,
AiredaleGirl

PS My sole consolation is that I'm not on WKU's faculty and I will have already done my duty in the Robes of Teflon the night before at commencement where I work. Ours is inside a building that has rather aggressive air conditioning and the world's most uncomfortable plastic folding chairs.

WOOOOOOOO!

That is all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's a Nice Day for a White Wedding

So I was greeted this morning by the information that the last single person besides me from our college Nerd Herd has gotten married. This, in fact, is the guy who was gentleman enough to squire me to a formal after hearing that I'd been savaged in front of my Honors class by a boy I'd thought of as a friend and learned otherwise in brutal fashion. That was a charming, funny evening in its own way; an engaged couple who were friends of ours kept telling us that we danced like their seventy year-old grandparents at a Country Club dance. We were so stiffly formal that a few people from a neighboring university's ballroom dance society came over and asked us to join their club. Whee! Hot-blooded, we weren't, but it was a dance, he was nice enough to go with me, and he even bought me a little wrist corsage. Most of all, he kept me from feeling like a complete loser.

I don't begrudge him at all. After all, this is someone who wanted to volunteer for military service so badly after 9-11 that he changed his entire lifestyle, got in shape, and became a Navy Corpsman. At Christmastime a few years ago, I was in a store in Lexington. I didn't know that he'd mustered home from Afghanistan at that point, and as I was paying for my purchases, I heard his voice. I kind of made an ass of myself, but what can I say? I was so relieved that he was home and in one piece. I am not a "touchy-feelie" person, but I ran over and threw my arms around him: "Omigod, omigod, omigod, YOU'RE HOME!!!" Holy crap, was I glad to see him.

So now he's married, and I'm the last (wo)man standing.

I was already a little down on myself because I was thinking about my lengthy failed engagement and what it cost me. For that long, fraught ten years, I had my piece of the rock: it was two carats, yellow band with a white six-prong head mount. It was my badge of honor- my concrete, visible proof to the world that I was not_a_loser. Unfortunately, there was once that it was too visible, and it broke a heart that I would never have injured...had I known that it would...I resigned myself to having made a mistake with which I had to live, up to and until the point that it became patently clear that my fiance' was disporting himself elsewhere. I just got tired of pretending I didn't know and trying to make it work. Girls, if he's cheating on you now, he's not going to stop just because he walked you to the church door-and in the end, it's better that I was so busy building my career that I hadn't married him. It's cheaper to break up than to get divorced.

Statistics favor my unmarried state, though, since more couples are choosing to cohabit rather than marry. Also, my LGBT friends can't, in most cases, get married, so I should really just shut up about it. Still, I feel like I've failed a little, like I wasn't good enough to find anyone willing to lower their standards to marry me. If I weren't so absorbed in this pity party, I should remind myself that a lot of women of great moment never married...after forcing myself to 'hit the marks' on everything else, that's the one I just didn't manage. At this age, it almost seems absurd to consider.









Monday, December 12, 2011

By the Numbers

As one of the "smart kids", I came to know my numbers and hate them intensely by the time I was in high school. To wit: my PSAT was abysmal because I had the flu and was vomiting into a trash can in the school library between sections. That finished me for the National Merit Scholar competition. My numbers weren't good.

I took the ACT for the first time in December of my junior year...little did I know, because my parents were displeased with my numbers, that this would herald the first of four attempts. I took it every time it was offered but one from December to December, concluding in the middle of my senior year. Statistically, as a faculty member and advisor, I can tell you that the best you should hope for on a standardized test by retaking it is about a two point (ACT) to five percent (SAT) jump. In other words, it doesn't really justify retaking it over and over and over and over and over.

From the point that my scores were returned, because back in those days the tests were hand-scored and it took a month or more to get them back via snail mail, I became the number. To paraphrase an admissions officer's line from "How I Got Into College": "It would be so much easier if they'd just have their (SAT) scores tattooed to their foreheads!" I not only knew my numbers, I knew my friends', as well. We were our numbers- and to some degree, still are.

Not that I was a stranger to this concept; my number, prior to the advent of the PSAT, ACT, SAT, and subject boards (now called the SAT II) in my life, was my Stanford-Binet score, or rather, the lack thereof. I've blogged about that previously- I was literally off the scale, but my folks told me it was a modestly high 165. It's really over 200; they didn't tell me because they didn't want me to be egotistical about it.

What prompted this introspection was that a friend of mine proctored the December seating of the ACT and was shocked by the intensity of the students who were taking it at the crack of dawn. I found myself explaining to her that the bright kids live and die by those numbers; they determine your entire future...what scholarships you get, where you go to school, ultimately the path your life will take the minute you cross the stage to accept your high school diploma.

My number, by the way, is 28, unenhanced, because ACT added a three point curve a couple of years after I took it, so for my sister's class, my 28 was actually a 31. An 'old 28', combined with my previous college grades, high school grades, and activities resume', was enough to buy my undergraduate education. I blew the curve on the Western Civ I CLEP after my freshman year, scoring highest in the country on that test for that seating, securing an A in the course. After that, though, I suffered a nervous breakdown my junior year, which had a deleterious effect on my standardized test-taking.

During my bleak, terrifying junior year of college, while I was still in therapy, I started taking the LSAT and GRE. My first set of scores on both, which I took on consecutive weekends, were not what I wanted and did not reflect my ability. My second LSAT was disrupted by a fire alarm malfunction in the building, so we had to re-take the whole thing over again, and the third...well, let's just say I thought I had nailed the hell out of the writing sample and didn't do as well as I'd thought. The GRE was okay, but still not up to my usual scratch. I was forced to re-take it by my Director of Graduate Studies in history to 'get the numbers up', only to be fully admitted to program three weeks before my scores posted. What a waste of money...

What I'd tell these kids is yes, I know, I understand. I'm sufficiently scarred by my experience that I know what it means to sit awake all night, go to the test at the break of dawn, and throw up all afternoon after it's over. I carry those numbers, along with all of my relevant GPAs, class ranks, and credentials in my head. Wouldn't it be lovely if I didn't feel obligated to do so? There are so many other things I'd rather remember instead, things by which I'd prefer to be haunted...I am more than the sum of the numbers that were used to define me for someone else's convenience.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Does This Mean I Won?

Sometimes, you have to be willing to throw yourself on your sword. I learned to do it when I was fifteen or so, when it occurred to me that The Ego of Hopkins would not be thwarted by a Girl Who Might Be Smarter. While I didn't go around twirling my hair and drooling idiotically in a corner, I did back off a bit on anything that might be perceived as outshining him.

At the present date, he has only himself to blame for the fact that I can't avoid it. As part of the slightly histrionic little speech he delivered on the night he graduated from high school, he informed me that I had to move forward with my own life once he was gone. Well, dammit, I did what I was told. Here I am, Professor AiredaleGirl. What's worse is that I'm not really in the mood to apologize...this is the monster he created.

So when I heard from him about a year and a half ago, I began testing my depth.

That IT position did materialize, and much to my shock, he has applied for it. We are rushing headlong toward the interview phase; what's more, he actually has a pretty good shot at this. That makes me a little nervous for a lot of reasons, although if he's offered an interview, I think I'll strategically arrange to be out that day.

The odd e-mail every once in a blue moon is okay; seeing him in person absolutely destroys me. I keep telling myself that I have to face my fears, regardless of the form they take, but facing the cold fact that we're pretty much still estranged from one another is a bit more than I can handle. Don't get me wrong, I hope he gets the job because he needs it...but this is the monster I created. I'm not sure I can deal with that responsibility.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Lowest Common Denominator

First grade bored me out of my skull. My teacher was a dear, sweet lady known for her patience and the sea of jonquils that bloomed in her front yard on the ridge above town every spring. I was more than she was equipped to handle, and when I couldn't understand why she kept punishing me for drawing in the margins of my paper or singing softly to myself while we colored or such, I'd first go silent and angry, and then burst into wailing sobs. She'd set me in the hallway in my desk, where eventually, the principal, whose office was next door, would find me and bring me inside to tell him what I'd done this time. This was a pattern that repeated itself all the way through the third grade, until he became the superintendent.

What this taught me was that teachers play favorites, and they often dislike bright students, especially the hyper-intelligent. If the child gets bored, and begins to entertain him- or herself because the assignment was unchallenging and/or too quickly finished, the child is a "disruption" and a "problem". Nothing changed from Day One until the moment that I graduated from graduate school. Yes, I had a great many instructors who were kind, understanding, challenging, and who genuinely liked me, and I treasure every single one of them because they constituted the minority.

That's 'play' in the present tense because one of my friends is fighting with the principal of her youngest's academic magnet school for gifted students because the above-described is both her teacher's (as well as his) perception of the little girl's behavior. I can tell you what's happening; she's BORED. If this is allegedly an elite, academically-rigorous environment, clearly her intellect is not being sufficiently challenged. Instead of questioning their own shortcomings, however, the ignorati running this school have decided to blame the child. They're threatening expulsion. What's going to happen when she ends up in a regular public school, where she's at least a semester to a year ahead of the others in her age-appropriate grade? It will exacerbate her ADHD, that's what.

It is neither moral, professional, ethical, nor fair to behave in this manner; they're playing dice with this child's future. That this principal dared look my friend in the eye and say he did not know what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was is nothing short of criminal, let alone stupid to a quantum degree. He holds a doctorate from a (granted, fourth-rate) College of Education at a regional university, and yet he is unaware of ADHD? He needs to be stripped of all of his degrees and fired. That's not just irresponsible, it's dangerously ignorant.

The absolute worst aspect of this is that the child in question is about to be robbed of her self-esteem, dignity, and educational opportunity at the administrative equivalent of gunpoint...and it makes me weep that it's because she's not more sheep-like. Even for the brightest students, it's still forbidden to be nonconformist. I was always taught that the difference between democracy and communism was that democracy was equality of opportunity, and communism is equality of result. Apparently it's still not the case in public education. I'd make a crack about it being Tennessee, but given that a friend of mine went through this here in Kentucky (his child is interviewing at MIT this month) to such a degree that he moved to Florida to escape it, it's just not funny or appropriate.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Check Your Right Guard



I have seen it in person. The NAMES Project honored my request and shipped it, at the last minute, to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, for a commemorative event. It was the last block unfurled during the ceremony- it took a few minutes for me to make my way across the room, and when I got there...

I disintegrated.

Though I have beaten it to death, I have always felt that Roseanne Barr nailed it when she said that if it weren't for gay men, fat girls would never go anywhere. Stacy made sure I went somewhere...band camp. Marching contests. The movies. Dances. Drum corps competitions. Cruising the square. Our backyard, his parents' basement, the local park. To town. To Campbellsville. With Steve; with Sherra; with Will; with Sarah...or not...in the yellow car. In the brown car. Somewhere, anywhere, when we were bored or at loose ends, or run to death with 'band this' and 'band that'.

The usual greeting was running forward, arms flung wide, squealing at the top of his lungs- which scared the unholy crackers out of my senior-year boyfriend, Joe, who was a stick-straight Church of Christ football-playing farmbo who'd never seen anything like that in his life. Therein lay the absolute proof that Joe wasn't going to last, while Stacy endureth forevermore, amen...if in spirit alone.

For those of our friends who read this, two words: Ray Charles. If you were at the prom in 1985, then you remember "Seven Spanish Angels". Ray Charles was never whiter (or gayer) than when portrayed by my redheaded, very caucasian friend.

Oh, how I miss him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

She Wore a Red Ribbon

It's that time of year again, but for me, it's truly always 'that time of year'. December 1st comes around and everyone drags out and dons their little snippets of red ribbon. Mine never leaves, because it's permanently etched on my heart.

Over the years, as I've volunteered with AIDS charities and my circle of HIV+ friends has grown, the number of people I've known who've succumbed, including a young girl in the first flush of life, has grown in proportion. In my office, there's a service award from the camp with which I volunteer for children affected by HIV/AIDS, engraved with the name of a former camp colleague who is no longer with us. Blue nitrile gloves and bleach are my constant companions as I deal with the laundry of seventy children who are heatsick or having accidents because the heat means we have to continually push them to stay hydrated.  It's not a complaint. It's a statement of what I do; I volunteer to do it. It's my choice. I wouldn't have it any other way.

The most obvious thing, though, is that he's still with me, too. The flashing smile, the spray of freckles that always grew more prominent under the harsh sun of band camp, the feline grace with which he handled a guard rifle...and the quiet, angry dignity when our band director stripped him of his position as drum major, largely because he was unapoligetically gay in an era when we were all good little Reaganite Republicans and pretending that we lived in a halcyon revisitation of the Eisenhower Years. The official reasons were that a) we needed him for the mellophone solo, b) he couldn't exert authority over the straight boys, and c) we could really use him back in the guard line. He was the best mellophonist we had at the time and he was a thing of great beauty with a rifle, but that doesn't excuse the blatant demotion in favor of someone who was a nice girl but a marginal drum major. It was a crushing blow, and it was also the moment I realized that our band director was a homophobe.

He finally got pissed off and took out one of the valves on his mellophone, trying to make a distinctive imprint on that solo. For weeks, he fiddled with the thing until he could reproduce the screeching, scorching characteristic wail of the bugles we heard in DCI competitions. The first time he dropped that hat trick into a rehearsal, our director's head nearly exploded...play it _straight_, came the order from on high (atop a bus, overlooking the parking lot where we practiced). I got in trouble for emitting a barking laugh from my spot in the drumline during that tirade. Yes, I'd breached discipline, but the irony of the etymology momentarily blew my mind. To my thinking, well, if you're busted down the ranks for being gay, then you should be able to play as flamboyantly as you want.

There was a young man in the neighboring high school's guard last year who literally took my breath away with his performance. It was like watching a ghost. After seeing him at their home contest, I caught our former band director by the sleeve. "He was so..." my voice trailed off, and he replied, "Yes, he was." It was a conversation of very few words, fraught with remembrance and regret.

The funeral was a hellish experience for several reasons, not the least of which was his mother's dogged insistence that he died of cancer. Yes, he had Kaposi's sarcoma and had done for quite some time...however, the terminal event was complications of pneumocystic pneumonia. There were two moments when I nearly lost it- when our band director approached me in front of the casket, and when the man who preached the funeral lapsed into an indictment of homosexuality and announced that gay men went, unquestionably, to Hell. I snapped an arm off the chair in which I was sitting.

We cannot resurrect the dead, but we cannot remain silent and permit their memory to evaporate like a fine mist. Wear your red ribbons for a day, and I will wear mine constantly until I join my beloved merry prankster on the other side.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Blue and The Gray

The other night, as my parents were transfixed by "Wheel of Fortune", I remarked that one of the contestants had chosen his on-camera attire pretty wisely. He was wearing a pink dress shirt with a plain, pink silk tie. Pink actually looks great on camera, if it's not too bright and as long as it's flattering to the person who's wearing it. I also liked the tone-on-tone effect with the tie.

For our TV appearances in high school, the Academic Team was cautioned in advance to avoid loud colors, black, or stark white, as these would wash us out under the lights. Somewhat predictably, the boys both turned out in blue Oxford-cloth shirts. I, on the other hand, had a pink one. The other girl, who did not appear on camera, wore a cream-colored blouse with a brown marled sweater vest- I remember this somewhat because she recently left the judicial bench, where she naturally wore black with a white collar every day that she was in court.

The proscription of black sort of threw me, since as much of my wardrobe as I could possibly sneak past my mother at the time was, of course, black. The pink turned out to be a great choice, though, as the photo taken of the team that day (after we unexpectedly won, somewhat because I was a teenage operamane) is the best picture of me ever made. Professionally, these days, I'm also in possession of a set of academic regalia that makes me look like a giant crow accented with the blue and white of my alma mater and the bright, acid yellow of my degree, library science. Music's hood is pink...

Hopkins was, of course, one of the two boys present and sporting the ubiquitous blue Oxford on TV that day. That shade of blue was about as good as it ever got- much like a stove, the temperatures on which are basically 'hot' and 'off', his wardrobe consisted of two colors: blue and gray, punctuated by the infrequent white polo shirt here and there. When I say it was blue or gray, I mean it; there is a particular gray knitted necktie that has burned itself into memory. Even dress shirts of dark plaid were combinations of various dark colors, but usually there was some small bit of grey somewhere in the matrix. I often joke that if there was a mashed potato blight, my current boyfriend would starve to death; if the world ceased to produce gray clothing, Hopkins (at least when we were kids) would go naked.

Not, you see, that this was unflattering. Back in the day, he was a raven-wing brunette with dark eyes- gray was flattering...but it was also incessant. It was defining. It was...strangely appropriate. I think the difference between us was that black can be extremely angry, and I was frequently propelled forward by a controlled, concentrated anger. He might've been a little gray raincloud, but I was a pitch-black thunderhead. (In retrospect, maybe my mother's insistence on blue was as much about giving me an outward appearance of calm as it was about flattering the color of my eyes.)

If he gets called to interview at the college, I am willing to bet that the suit would likely be somewhere between the color of an elephant and soft pencil lead. I won't be there. I can't, and it's probably just as well- my color-changing eyes take on an eerie resemblance to a timberwolf's around that much gray.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Geek Love? Really?

I'll let you in on a little secret: the major difference between geek love, which has caught the interest of TLC enough to merit a television series, and 'normal' love, is probably the fact that geeks are, as a general rule, highly eclectic, parochial in their interests (Star Trek versus Star Wars, anyone?), painfully shy and prone to overthinking EVERYTHING. Then again, I guess I have no basis for comparison, being a geek.

Courtship is something that seems to come more readily to non-geeks, and what's been painful for me is that even within that milieu, my appearance still renders me a marginal candidate for attention. Imagine, if you will, still being rejected by the smart boys. Unless it's happened to you, you probably can't...and I have the distinction of having been rejected by the smartest of the smart (who in all fairness, also puts the fun in dysfunctional, but I digress).

As my colleague and fellow geek Bill just pointed out a few minutes ago, there's also the issue of geek interest alignment. While both parties may be Quantum Geekerati, if their particular foci don't align, forget it. I have been dumped over my lack of interest in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" as well as "Bulletproof Monk" and "Angel: The Series". Sadly, I'm a Paul Newman fan, just not that movie, and I've seen "Bulletproof Monk"; I OWN the whole run of "Angel" on DVD. At the end of the day, I was really more insulted that they wouldn't spit out the real incompatibilities, and instead, insulted my geek cred because it wasn't exactly like theirs. It burned me up.

[Incidentally, while reading the "Geek Love" story on a geek newsfeed, a popup caught my eye, and I exclaimed to Bill: "Holy crap, look at that Scarlet Witch cosplay costume! It's AWESOME!" Ummm. Yeah, way to _totally_ geek out there, girl.]

Probably what I'm dreading the most is that "Geek Love" is set specifically in the context of speed dating at SciFi conventions. Hello, stereotype much? I am slightly agoraphobic, so the con scene is scary and repellent to me. Speed dating? Are you nuts? All the rejection you can possibly stomach in thirty seconds per person...no thank you. Geek or not, my fragile little psyche can't take that kind of beating.

What this all boils down to is I don't really like the 'entertainment factor' in exploiting us. I keep remembering the line from The Elephant Man: "I am not an animal!" We're not here for anyone's amusement. Date us or don't date us, it matters not...most of the people who will find this show funny aren't our cup of tea, anyway.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amok...amok...amok...

A friend of mine recently posted a picture to Facebook of a little boy, about five years old or so, peering up at her from under the dividing wall in a dressing room. According to her comment, the child's mother simply whined at him for five minutes to 'stop it' before she took him and left the dressing room. Meanwhile, my friend huddled there in the clothes she was trying on, waiting for the Junior Voyeur Society to move on to its next target.

My first thought was: "My mother would've busted my butt within two seconds of hauling me back up to my feet, and then taken me home immediately." My second thought was of my mom's first cousin, who once repeatedly kicked his mother in the shins in a local grocery while she whined at him, "Oh, stop it!". He didn't. My mother, who was about fourteen at the time, hauled him out of the floor and slapped him in the face. Guess who wasn't asked to babysit him again after that incident? Anyway, I pulled a stunt once whereupon I set up a howl in the local Houchens' grocery (I was three at the time) and sat down in the aisle. My babysitter, who was in there shopping, asked my mother if she wanted her to pick me up out of the floor...and Mom refused. She and Pauline both walked off and left me bawling in the floor until I realized that they weren't around. Stewart, the stock manager, took my hand and walked me to my mother.

I don't really remember it, but I can say with some certainty that my little butt got busted when I got home. I did not do it again, in any iteration or alternate version.

Naturally, these days, you can't just abandon a child in a public place- who knows what freakazoids are lurking around the corner- and you can't snatch your child up and bust their be-hind. I also don't advocate the overuse of corporal punishment, because I've both suffered and seen the consequences of what happens when it goes too far...but...whining at a child gives them the upper hand. It does NOT work. Take them out of the situation. Stop it as soon as you can. Correct their behavior according to your beliefs, but for the love of all that's holy, do not permit it to continue unabated.

Of course, I am childless, not entirely by choice but by dint of timing and biology. I do, however, work with children and unfortunately, I deal with arrogant, socially ignorant self-entitled older teens when they reach college. If you don't want people to hate your kids, folks, please, teach them respectful behavior when they're young, because they won't grow out of it if you allow them to be horrible and rude children.

Friday, November 18, 2011

If It's Monday, We Must Be in Cleveland

When I was in high school, my life was scheduled. There was a reason for this: I didn't want to be home if I could possibly avoid it, and I had excellent reasons. My typical after school schedule looked like this:
Monday: Ballet 3:00, Academic Team departs 4:15, returns 9:15ish
Tuesday: Band, 2:45-5:45 (I quit Girl Scouts for Band)
Wednesday: Academic Team practice, 2:30-4:30 (I quit voice lessons for AT)
Thursday:Band, 2:45-5:45
Friday: Band/Football game, 5:30-8:30; dance, 9:00-12:00
Saturday: Band contest, all day (fall semester)
Sunday: Church, 10:00-12:00, Church Youth 4:00-7:00 (sometimes), and Christmas Vesper rehearsals, Sept-Dec., 4:00-6:00

I also lived for various school trips...I was in Beta Club, and the annual convention was in December. I was also in Co-Ed Y, so I participated in both Model UN and Model Assembly; that was a trip per semester. The History Club traveled, rather frequently, and because I was the sponsor's pet student I often go to go on field trips with the senior political science class- although I was only a sophomore or junior.

Yesterday, I was thinking about a particular trip to the state capitol to meet a man who just unsuccessfully ran for governor. It was at the beginning of his career; back then, he had a different wife, children, and party affiliation...and trust me, things haven't improved with the advent of a new (much younger) wife, the absence of his children, and his hitching his wagon to the Right...but I still think about this trip every time I'm in the capital city, largely because of the Blondes in the Red Ferrari.

There's a long hill leading into downtown Frankfort, and as we bumped along in the school bus en route to the capitol building, two blondes in a red Ferrari convertible zipped up alongside us. The bus listed a bit as every boy on the trip crowded the left side, trying to ogle the blondes, while all of the girls instantly assumed a frosty demeanor. When the boys didn't immediately cease the drooling and staring, I announced, loudly, at Hopkins: "If you don't sit down RIGHT NOW, I will incinerate your physics homework when we get home."

"But, but, I was just looking at the CAR!"

I'm not normally missish, but this was pretty motivating. "Sure you were, looking at the CAR, that is." I sniffed dramatically, switched seats, and pointedly turned away from him. Bless his heart, Hopkins took a lot of crap from the other boys as he trailed me around the capitol in utter misery; I don't think I've ever admired the murals or the stone in that building more closely than I did that day. In retrospect, he was there for much the same reason as I: overscheduling keeps you out of the house, and we both knew where the respective bodies were buried. I should've been nicer to him- especially since it should've occurred to me that I was about to lose him forever...but we never realize those things until it's far too late.

And P.S., I still hate red Ferrari convertibles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gadgety, Gadgety, Gadgety

Today, a friend stopped by to show off his new Kindle Fire.

I'm probably a moderate gadgetista...I waited a generation and a price drop to get the Kindle 2, although the Fire has a certain appeal. Yesterday, too, Daily Finance reported the impending obsolescence of music CDs by the close of 2012. It takes me back to my precious Sony Walkman cassette player, one of the few really cool things I owned growing up.

The Walkman came as quite a shock. Often as not, my parents would realize after the fact that our lack of certain things made us social pariahs, but my father's obsession with music and different kinds of music-related electronics led to the quick purchase of a Walkman (a real one, not a generic, or 'buddy' as we said back then) for each of us. Our legendary travel fights in the car were probably the source of this windfall, much as many parents give each child a portable DVD player now, with a set of headphones, to stave off those horrid little wars of attrition.


For several months, my Walkman was the talk of the school. I was pretty guardy about it because I didn't get a lot of "stuff". If I let you borrow it, well, you were certainly among my closest and most trusted friends. Dr. X once got to take it on a school trip in which I was not involved, and expressed his gratitude by returning it with new Duracell batteries- now that's a gentleman, when you're a fifteen year-old geekette.

There's a sweet little courtship ritual that's evolved parallel to technology of sharing your music with someone- not e-mailing them a YouTube link or a URL to a band website, but actually, physically sharing the device's headphones so you can listen to the music together. That was kind of hard with the old Walkman, because you had to hold the headphones inverted between you, each with an ear pressed to them. The same ritual persisted with portable CD players, although nowadays, earbuds typically have enough slack for each half of the couple to share a bit more easily. It's kind of intimate, sitting there with your heads together...I'm a little old for that these days, but I remember sitting huddled in the bus seat next to Hopkins on various school trips, listening to the Walkman. Don't get me wrong; couples have listened to music in many mediums across centuries. It's just that the advent of portable devices meant you could do it anywhere, closing yourself off from everyone and everything around you by creating a temporary oasis inhabited by two people.

I guess I'm not so much married to the technology; in my line of work, we adapt to the whatever delivery method comes over the horizon, proforma. Music is a highly personal thing; we can point to examples and use them to express things that we may be too emotionally stifled to do otherwise. In a way, I suppose what I really miss is the intimacy...






Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Gentleman Always Leads

I don't take direction well, and if you ask my high school band director, I have a problem with authority- especially male authority. It's not entirely true, but I've been known to get up on my hind legs and say what I thought from time to time.

None too surprisingly, in the past this has led to more than one breakup. There are quite a few men, it seems, who have this idea that they have to dominate, govern, or dictate terms in a relationship. It's give-and-take, people...not a hostage negotiation. Why is that so hard to understand?

It took ballroom dance lessons to shed light on another unpleasant little truth, and it was a weird epiphany. I was a classically-trained ballet dancer, but the schools were always small and I wasn't physically cut out to pursue it beyond childhood lessons; I never had to dance pas de deux, partnered with a boy. Even then, the man doesn't really 'lead' in the traditional sense. The popularity of Dancing With The Stars has probably educated the general public a great deal about this concept, but DWTS hadn't yet premiered when I began taking ballroom lessons.

I kept stepping on my partners' feet, or bumping into them. It was embarrassing for someone who prided herself on her ability as a dancer...and then my teacher took me aside. "This is a trust issue for you, isn't it? You don't trust men. You have to let the gentleman lead. In this dance form, the gentleman always leads." I drove home from the studio that night pondering the implications. How many times in my life had I ever permitted it? How many times had I ever let the gentleman lead?

I quit taking lessons. I never could get the hang of it, because I simply could not trust any of the men with whom the teacher tried to pair me enough to avert total disaster on the floor. In the end, it proved how much I'd shut down my ability to connect with anyone. I have four pairs of ballroom shoes stashed at home on the off chance that I might actually take it up again someday- but they're really just gathering dust while I try to sort myself out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Honor

What is left when honor is lost? ~Publilius Syrus

Ah, honor, that trait that Southerners embrace with hidebound intensity; that to which we cling, even when it hurts far more than it helps.

Don't get me wrong, my integrity is of soul-searing importance to me. I don't and won't follow my heart into matters that would be devastating to my honor. Once upon a time, I had someone else's sense of chivalry cut me clean through...a wound with a sharp knife bleeds less, in the estimation of some, I suppose. It still hurts like the very devil.

Today I was cautioned not to put myself at risk to advance their interests- still shielding me from myself after this long, I see... my mind was screaming, "Will you never trust me? I do know what I'm doing...and lucky for me I have you to tie my shoes," but what I wrote was, "There is no risk involved. I have done all that I can do; it's all you from here on out."

It's a timeless struggle...but because I was left to my own devices at seventeen, I had to become the Self-Rescuing Princess. I learned how to save myself, because there wasn't anybody else who needed my help. Or that's how it seemed for a long time, even though it (technically) isn't true- I'm not in the rescuing business much anymore, although I am in the holding-out-the-life-preserver business. I'm a professional educator...it's kind of what we do, you know.

Sometimes you sit dormant for a long time, waiting for the moment when you might be of some assistance. It's paltry enough in this case, but it's within my scope to do it. I have pulled greater flanking moves than this, when I had far more to lose- and that's in context of the current situation- and I would do it again. I think the tactical error is the belief that I wouldn't do for all what I've done for one.

So, my White Knight, keep your armor in check this time. It's under control. You'll just have to trust me, because I have, and have always had, your best interests at heart.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans' Day, Daddy

Today is Veterans' Day. In the past, I've devoted posts largely to my mother's older brother and her nephew, Marines who served in two different, but extremely bloody, theaters of war in Asia. My uncle was at Guadalcanal; his son was enlisted for two tours in Vietnam, and served well past the first Gulf War after becoming a much-decorated pilot of the EA-6B Prowler. One of my proudest moments in high school was when "Gee" personally bombed Libya. It was kind of a big deal.

My father, though, is somewhat unique in that he was in both the Navy and the Army. How that happened is this: Dad grew up poor. Although he was an excellent baseball player (and was scouted by the Cubs while he was at the University of Louisville), athletic scholarships did not exist in 1949. The ROTC was his best bet, and being a Navy brat, he decided to go NROTC at UofL. In case anyone's wondering, that gold ring with the dark blue stone that he wears on his right hand is his NROTC ring...it was the worst day of his life for any number of reasons when he washed out due to elevated blood pressure. Sometimes I think that may have something to do with why he chose to devote his medical career to treating hypertensives, but that's another story.

Dad had a few adventures in the Navy. He was trained as a Gunner's Mate on the USS Missouri (yes, the Mo). He also served a summer tour on the USS New Jersey. Then there's his ill-fated trip to Guantanamo Bay on a seaplane, during which they nearly crashed into the bay itself. As they dove at high speed toward the water, my father made a deal with God that if He let him live through it, he'd never get on a plane again in his life. From that day to this, my father has never set foot in an airplane. Dad has a thing about keeping his word.

When he washed out, he went to work in a slaughtering plant to make the money to at least finish college. He returned to the University of Kentucky instead, because it cost a lot less, and upon graduating with his biology degree, was promptly drafted in to the Army...

From Dad's tour of duty in Europe we have his snapshots of the castles on which Castle Frankenstein and Castle Dracula were based (he is a fan of the original 1930s horror movies). He went to the opera- he actually sang in the light opera company at UofL when he was a student- and he went to the ballet. He also said he never had a desire to ever tent camp again after a few frozen bivouacs spent in icy mud and sleet storms in rural Germany. He drank beer at the Hofbrauhaus, learned to like dark chocolate, and decided that he really liked schnitzel (which I learned to cook, taught by the Austrian war bride of one of his friends). More importantly, he was a medic with the Army ambulance trains coming into Landstuhl, Germany. There's still a big U.S. Army medical center there...my cousin Kevin was treated and processed through Landstuhl after a near-fatal car crash while he was in the Navy.

The big thing, though, is that Dad had the GI Bill when he got out, and eventually, after getting a masters' in zoology, the itch to be a doctor that started in Landstuhl finally caught up with him a few years later.

Dad was in the Army of Occupation. He didn't do anything glamorous. He didn't see combat. I still think he learned some useful things that he applied in greater service to the common good after he mustered out. After all is said and done, though, he learned to live in freezing mud. He learned to sew on a button. He learned to suck it up and deal with massive traumatic injuries. He learned how to shoot the fleas off of a dog at two hundred yards in high winds at twilight (yes, he qualified as a sniper). In short, he grew up.

Happy Veterans' Day to one and all who have served, and thank you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cake, or Death: Because You Can't Have It and Eat It, Too.

Last spring, when my mother became dangerously ill again, Hopkins did something that triggered my notoriously hideous (yet well-controlled most of the time) temper : he fired off a snitty little e-mail about the IT job listings I was sending him from my employer, the statewide community college system. The thing read like Dr. Seuss: am not, will not, could not, should not...in a boat, with a coat, et cetera, ad nauseum. I went from zero to blind rage in less than a nanosecond.

The e-mail came at exactly THE worst possible moment, and I fired back an equally, if not hotter, e-mail stating that my mother was on the brink of death and I was sorry if he didn't understand that I was attempting to help him. If I hadn't been so profoundly enraged, I might've returned it in full-Seussian verse, but I was simply too furious. At that point, the Interwebs went dead silent and I washed my hands of the whole bloody mess.

So here we are, some seven months later, and things have changed. I'm not going to elaborate, but I posted a Facebook status that we had an IT opening and guess which one of my friends wasn't getting the ad...then I heard from his sister, asking that I reconsider, explaining why. With a sigh, I shot him a brief e-mail that opened with the statement that I was sending him the job announcement as a favor to his sister, then I braced for him to bite my head off again.

I was shocked out of my socks when he didn't. He e-mailed me immediately to say thanks, he'd uploaded a resume'.

Two days later, it dawned on me that you can't upload a resume' unless you have an existing application file. The application is monstrously long and I heard from him within TEN MINUTES of sending him the link.

To wit: in April, he handed me my head on a plate, when he'd already applied for jobs with the system.

Score: Hopkins, 1; AiredaleGirl, 0- I know when I've been played and there are damn few as can do it. Don't get me wrong. I'm still all for dragging him, kicking and screaming, toward what I know to be some modicum of his potential, but I'd like to cheerfully strangle him, too.  One of these days, I'm going to learn...one of these days.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stupid Girl Tricks

There's a meme going around of an Isaac Asimov quotation: “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” Well, you don't say, Dr. A... and it casts me back to a point in my life when I did something that I've thankfully outgrown: engaged in something I didn't really care about in order to impress someone else.

Science fiction and horror are not my 'thing', as far as reading tastes go. I loved the original Frank Herbert Dune series because it was a synthetic history, much along the lines of of Tolkien, although neither as thorough nor as deep. However, being a teenage girl and already pigeonholed by my peers as a nerd, it didn't do me any particular social harm to pick up reading Asimov as well- especially because a handful of my male friends were big fans, specifically Hopkins and a guy I'll call Dr. X, who is now a research chemist (for X, I also read Stephen King's 1980s horror novels, and stopped in college with It). My rationale was that it gave us something in common to talk about.

I liked Asimov's Robots and Foundation well enough, I suppose, but I'm sufficiently weird that I really preferred his non-fiction. I could debate the nuances of Foundation through the entire series. I could hold my own about the Laws of Robotics. I was also the only girl in any circle of my acquaintance, up through and including college, who a) knew or b) cared about any of that. I was not, however, the first girl in the history of the female sex to take up a hobby because it might catch the attention of a specific boy...I just did it as nerdily as possible. It also never crossed my mind that my being better versed (and therefore able to bludgeon all-comers in debate) on both Tolkien and Lewis than the boys might alienate the ones I was trying to attract. Oops. They want you to be smart, but not smarter than them...

What finally cured me of it, for good and all, was Bill. Bill was the last time I attempted to change myself for a boy- that involved going home between my sophomore and junior years of college and joining one of those medically-supervised fasting diets where you consume 600 calories a day. Yeah, I lost 80lbs.; yeah, boys followed me home from class to ask me out; yeah, I started blacking out in class and had to be picked up off the sidewalk by two pledges from Bill's fraternity and walked to the dorm in a stupor...and finally, my hair fall out by the handsful. When Bill found a yet-thinner girl, who was in a sorority and therefore more socially acceptable among his frat brothers (except the president, who he didn't realize was my cousin until it was too late), I came totally unstrung.

Yes, I dropped my basket. Was he worth it? No, save the fact that I came out on the other side rather more self-aware. Here's the thing: if the person you're seeing isn't seeing you for the right reasons (they love you just as you are, Bridget Jones), attempting to alter yourself to cling to them via superficial means is not going to help. At some point, there will be an epiphany on one part or the other, and *poof*...the illusion evaporates. I don't regret what I learned from both the painful (starving myself only to be rejected anyway) and the silly (reading things that slightly bored me), I just don't waste my time on it anymore. I have my own life. I have my own career. If people don't like me, eh, so what. I have better things to do than worry about their opinions...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Tackiest Fieldshow EVER

So, I'm kind of a fan of Tone Deaf Comics, which is somewhat aided by the fact the John "Bogey" Bogenschultz was apparently an assistant director at the much-reviled, much-giant-killing Adair County Band for a little while. If you're from Kentucky, you know about Adair, and if you're me, you've had the pleasure of being dumped by an egotistical trumpet soloist because he demanded that I quit my band...because it embarrassed him that I marched for a rival whom he deemed inferior (read: any other band in the state). He manages a Wal-Mart now- how classy is that???

Tone Deaf recently went on a riff about whether or not certain school names sound like planets or characters in the Star Wars universe. Two of the targets were Ooltewah (TN) and Kennesaw Mountain (GA), which prompted me to comment (and later delete said comment) about what could potentially constitute the Trashiest Fieldshow Ever, one that would cause judges to fall out of the box foaming at the mouth in anger and confusion. If you're from the South and have ever been asked if you wear shoes on a regular basis, this is where the train wreck is headed, just in case you don't want to look...so here goes nothing good (remember, I'm FROM the South, and we're used to being ridiculed with these stereotypes- trust me, I could make it a LOT worse, too):
Repertoire:
  • Dueling Banjos
  • Medley: Tennessee Waltz/My Old Kentucky Home/Georgia On My Mind/Sweet Home Alabama
  • something random played on kazoos, mouth harps, washtub bass, and whiskey jug
  • Some kind of snappy hoedown music
  • Closer: Dukes of Hazzard theme
Props:
  • A working moonshine still
  • rusted-out car or truck on blocks
  • house trailer with polyester curtains and a redwood deck
  • several flea-bitten hounds
  • rocking chairs
Uniforms:
  • All march barefoot
  • Band in denim overalls with coonskin caps
  • Percussion (pit and battery)- overalls and dirty John Deere or Caterpillar caps
  • Guard- cutoff shorts with halter tops made from bandannas
Guard equipment:
  • Real, working rifles (loaded and fired while guard runs hollerin' around field at finale)
  • Frog gigs
  • Garden hoes
  • Beer bottles (for juggling)
  • Cane fishing poles, with fake catfish attached
The pit equipment can be hauled in with the typical ATVs, but everything will be mounted on old boat trailers or tobacco wagons. Instead of bringing guard equipment out from behind blinds or props, an equipment handler will fling stuff out the broken windows of the house trailer at the appropriate time. During the finale, guard members will fill the jugs used in the jug band number with moonshine from the working still...and this will be offered to the judging panel, guaranteeing that they will score the band high and be too drunk to care about anybody who follows them in the lineup.

EDIT: I totally forgot about this- I asked a former student for a tacky idea when she stopped by my office earlier, and she suggested that the show conclude with cow-tipping...

***DISCLAIMER: I'm just messing with you, people, I would never propose this as a real marching show. It's just that some of the over-conceptualized, serio-tragico-comedic stuff I've seen wade into competition lately is in dire need of spoofing. Peace be with you...   ~AiredaleGirl

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hot Potato, MD-style

If there's one thing that irritates me about current medical practices, it's the lack of coordination of care. Coordination of care is a no-brainer, but Dr. God so frequently can't sit his a$$ down long enough to call up Dr. Almighty and discuss the welfare of the lowly patient.

People are not an academic exercise. Lives are at stake. I watched this ball get dropped on someone I supervised, who trusted her doctors (yes, that's plural) to work together to make sure she didn't die. She wasn't a forceful person, and by the time her nephew, a respiratory therapist, identified the problem and got her to a doctor who gave a crap, it was too late. She threw what my father tells me is called a 'saddle embolus' and died not long after diagnosis.

If her G.P., pulmanologist, and cardiologist hadn't been so determined to live in their own rarefied air and not deign to speak to each other, she might be alive. You don't have to die from this condition- just ask a couple of my colleagues who were diagnosed earlier because they sat back on their heels and raised hell when their symptoms began to mimic the lady who died. One of those people, by the way, is (like yours truly) a doctor's daughter. We're an unquiet bunch.

The reason I'm on this rant is that somehow, someone didn't feel like writing my mother's discharge summary from the hospital the other day, after the charge nurse hounded the various members of Mom's "team" about it for almost two hours. She was sent to the nursing home without it, which is completely illegal. She has four separate specialists following her, none of whom feel it's necessary to talk to the others since, well, apparently MEDICINE IS PRACTICED IN A VACUUM these days. Team, my hind leg!!!

So this has landed in Dad's lap, and this is a) inappropriate, b) not his responsibility, and c) he has his own patients to treat, so he can't be doing everyone else's job for them. Doctors are proscribed from treating their families. Why are these people dumping this on him???

Mind you, I would stake my dad against any hoity-toity God-complex-bearing specialist any day. Back in the Dark Ages, you see, a GP got really solid, broad medical training. Dad's a pretty dab hand at surgery, one hell of a treater of cardiovascular disease, and pretty damn good at fixing runny noses. He also caught something about a drug I questioned when it was prescribed for Mom because of her drug allergies...and when we talked about it last night, his question was, "Why didn't you SAY something?" The blunt answer is that a physician, particularly a specialist, is not going to listen to me.

Here's the thing, people: IT'S YOUR BODY, and IT'S YOUR HEALTH. Don't just sit there and let a bunch of white-coated egos play hot potato with your life. Seriously. They are but men, and men have feet of clay, i.e., that coat and stethoscope don't make them immortal or immune to criticism. The stakes are too high to let it lay.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Great Land of Never-was

One of my beloved childhood babysitters recently started a special interest group on Facebook on which she encouraged us to share our memories and nostalgia about growing up in our tiny hometown and the county surrounding it. Folks have turned up that I haven't heard from in ages- the only thing is, though, you can't share the group to your wall. You have to add people for them to find it...

I guess I went a little overboard, but I thought it only fair and right to bring in everyone I thought might be interested. I also failed to anticipate how much information would flood through within the first twenty-four hours- I find myself culling the updates from my e-mail account about every four hours just to keep it to a manageable level. For unintentionally overwhelming certain folks, I am well and truly sorry- I imagine a few of my friends from back home are a bit irritated with me right now.

Ironically, too, some who've already withdrawn were among my closer childhood friends. I'm taking it waaaaaaaaaay too personally, mostly because I haven't had a lot of sleep, and partly because I desperately wish that these folks were still among my close friends.Wishes, horses, et cetera, ad nauseum. Not that I don't understand the logic of leaving the group; I pulled them (without asking, that's my fault) in for lack of a better mechanism. Tired and scatterbrained, I kind of added my top twenty pretty fast and then pretty scattershot thereafter. I really should've been more circumspect, and sent personal invitations describing how to find the group by searching.

Life moves on. Not all memories are pleasant- I've written here about both the bitter and the sweet. There are aspects of it to which I wasn't attuned; undercurrents of racism to which I was largely oblivious, mild though I suspect they were compared to other places, being from the South, they were there. I just didn't feel them, because my race is primarily caucasian and my father's family has "passed" (for white) for two generations before mine. There were moments of outsiderness that I endured myself, for other reasons...small towns can be cruel, even when they are also kind. Nothing closes rank faster or with greater finality than a rural Southern town, after all.

Others have quite simply moved on. Their continued electronic acquaintance with me is distant, and a study in faint fondness (and good manners, in some cases). That's okay. It's something, and something positive, even if it's mild to the point of evaporation. Everyone wants to be remembered. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be a good memory. It doesn't always work out that way.

Ah, well, I have an Airedale tail to finish trimming when I get home tonight. Time to wrap this up and move in that direction. Let me leave you with this thought, though: the early Church was its people, not a place. Much in the same way, my hometown is its people and what lives in the tribal memory, not the place itself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I am Woman, Rip Me Off

The other day, I took the Dogmobile to the dealership to have a headlight bulb installed. I've never gone there because I bought my car out-of-state and this is the closest brand dealership to me, at about 80 miles away...the left front headlight is inaccessible without removing, among other things, the windshield washer fluid tank.

I was a little surprised when the service manager came in to discuss the quote for fixing the puddle lights in the running boards, the front one of which was out on either side. You can imagine that I balked a little at being quoted $420 for two modular LED lights, which cost approximately $20 each. I told him that I'd wait until all four were out, since they were non-essential.

That's when it got really weird: "You know you're missing the engine cover, right? It's about $135 to replace, plus labor."

Wait a damn minute, dude, it was there the last time I checked...and the only other people who've ever been under the hood besides me and thee are the people at the dealership who have the service contract to change the oil. It was there after my last oil change, and it didn't hit me until later yesterday what had happened: I, a woman alone with a small Wire Fox Terrier I was transporting for rescue, came in with a low-dollar repair. Their technician ripped the engine cover out in a bid to up the amount of my repairs to at least $200. Since I didn't think of it at the time and for legal reasons, one can't just barge into a repair garage, I can't prove it.

This is an old and venerable dealership in the city where I attended college. They don't have a reputation for bait-and-switch in their luxury car sales and service departments, but I guess my moderately-priced, popular-with-the-horsey-set vehicle isn't worth their time unless they can gouge more money out of me. They're the only show in town, so what's something scary that you can spring on a female car owner to bluff her into a sudden outlay like this without tearing up her car? Literally defacing her engine, or at least that's what they did to me.

My cousin the automotive engineer is home for a bit due to his stepfather's recent surgery and happened to call me last night. He was a) furious and b) horrified, since he knows the family who own the dealership. I have ordered both the puddle lights and the engine cover- he'll be putting those on for me- at a grand cost of $155 for the parts, as opposed to $555 at the dealership.

I've learned the hard way that dealership service departments see a woman without a man in tow and think, "HELLO, SUCKER!"  There's a guy up the street with an ASE who graduated from the college's auto repair program with my cousin early in their respective automotive careers to whom I think I'll take the Dogmobile for brakes...I just know I'm not going back to the dealership. Ever.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

D.S. al fine

Musicians are familiar with that abbreviation. It means to play past a coda (wherein a particular passage repeats in the piece) to the conclusion. That's the metaphor du jour.

I'm a little stuck on those repeats sometimes. Today, I found a childhood friend online and I have a feeling that this time...I can move past the coda and keep moving forward, without replaying the same things over and over again. I dislike the word "closure", so let's just say that it closes a gap and ameliorates something that can never be quite totally healed.

There are some people I can live without, and others I can't. It's all too clear now that pity can't be a realistic basis for friendship, when we should've moved on. One can surely still bear love for the friends of our youth at a distance of twenty-five years and a hundred-plus miles, if one can love across the vast chasm of fifteen years and death. In many ways, they feel quite similar. Death is the easier of the two because you can never truly measure the lost potential of the one who died; the one who lived and threw away every opportunity is harder to stomach.

My world is changing with irresistible momentum. The current is too strong to waste my energy moving backwards- so it's high time to let it carry me forward.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ghosts

In mulling over a situation in which one of my friends has found himself, I'm forced to consider the dangers of nostalgia.

I think there's a moment in everyone's past to which he or she can point and say, "Oh, I was happier then, or I miss this person, or I wish I had done X,Y, or Z differently," and I know I'm kind of the queen of that. Unfortunately, this wistfulness can either lift you up or drop you on your butt like a hod of bricks.

Sometimes, no matter how much we hope or dream that we can return to our first love, or to the One True Love of our lives, and it pains me to no eternal end to say this: it really isn't meant to be. Somebody could get hurt, and that somebody may not be the person at the center of it. We're in our forties now- there are children, and in a few cases, grandchildren. There's huge potential for collateral damage. In the end, the warmth and security that we craved bleeds away into a tangled mess, leaving our most cherished memories as burnt offerings to reality. We all want to be wanted, needed, and loved. It's a basic desire...but there are those who would lead us, against our own better judgement, into horrific folly. We have the power to stop it, or once engaged, end it, but will we? Hope can be a dangerously blinding thing when it's misplaced.

In the end, we ultimately have to make our own happiness- or misery. Best not confuse the two, or keep them running along separate and distinct tracks, lest their intersection be our undoing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

I am a stress-magnet.

I had nosebleeds when I was working on my tenure folder. I had them again when I was compiling my folder for promotion to full professor. With my hernia, I get sick to my stomach and start quietly emitting small belches when I'm under duress, and let's just call it "massive gastrointestinal disturbance" when I'm completely overwrought.

We're interviewing people for a couple of librarian positions at the college right now, and when I say that this is one of my absolutely least favorite activities in the universe, I am not joking. All day yesterday, during the first round of candidates, every time we hit a break, my stomach got the better of me. Last night, I ate a copious number of Tums Ultra and went to bed, only to get back up around 3 a.m. to have a few more chalky tablets. Now I'm waiting to walk over for Round 2 of interviewees.

My stomach is in revolt again. See, I really hate committee work. I'm always made to feel stupid...and that my opinion has no value. I have to go through the motions of judging others to satisfy the obligation of participation. I'd rather be shot. It's that same old abysmal feeling of knowing that nothing that I say or do really matters very much.

I may be a full professor...but what does it mean? I still feel like I did when I was called to account for various things in front of my father: the stupid little girl whose ideas are unmerited and indefensible for one reason or another. One of the few things I miss about college is the Honors Program (one of the others is my friends) because I never felt foolish or left out.

Oh, well, onward and downward. I hope I don't throw up today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All You Need is Now

Yesterday at work, I was standing out by the new reception/circulation desk when a woman I'd previously directed to the testing  center walked over and said, "I hope you won't think I'm rude, but...are you (my full name)?" I blinked and said, "Well, yes, I am." Turns out that she's a distant cousin of a boy I dated in high school, and that's how she knew me. She also grew up next door to Hopkins.

That put me in a nostalgic mood of sorts. I was a big Duran Duran fan growing up, and before you laugh, I have eclectic musical tastes. I can sing most of Bizet's Carmen, know the lyrics to multiple AC/DC songs, had Blondie on vinyl, and used one of the first Walkmans in my school to drown out idle prattle with the dulcet tones of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Duran Duran recently released a new album, the first song off of which is "All You Need is Now", a paean to youthful naivete about how fast one grows up and reality sets in.

I immediately downloaded it to my iPod.

Now I'm inspired by the ready availability of Eighties-style clothing to deliberately defy the First Gay Rule of Fashion: if you were old enough to wear it the first time, you're too old to wear it the second; i.e., you will look ridiculous if you try to return to the styles of your youth when you're in middle age. I'm not thinking everyday wardrobe, though. I've decided to go as myself for Halloween- myself at 16. Since I can do stage makeup and am not afraid to wear a wig, it should be relatively easy.

Still, I don't know whether I should be happy or disturbed that people who haven't seen me in two and a half decades recognize me immediately. Have I changed that little? What about me is so immutable that it's so obvious? The moment I turn so that they can see my eyes, it's completely clinched.

Our move back into the library building is somewhat to blame for this nostalgia, since the carpet that was installed while Hopkins was a student there finally got pulled up and replaced during the renovation. I'd like him to see the building as it is now, but what demons would that put to rest when I'm such a concrete reminder of his past?

Well, if I end up pursuing the Halloween costume, I'll get someone to take pictures of it. It's the last time I plan to revisit that look...if only the rest of it were as easy to let go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So, You Think You Want to be POTUS?

My last name isn't that common. There really aren't that many of us. A few years ago, an incident during a trip to Salt Lake City by my mother is what tipped us to the then-not-so-much-heard-of governor of Utah.

Mom was there to do some research at the central LDS library. Upon check-in at her hotel, the snotty clerk at the desk informed her that there was a problem with her reservation because of an upcoming rock concert. He hadn't even asked her name yet. When she supplied it, along with her confirmation number, the clerk's tone suddenly and dramatically altered. A manager materialized from nowhere, magically upgraded my mother's room at no charge, and apologized more than profusely.

It wasn't until the next evening at dinner in a nearby restaurant that a server shyly asked, when Mom presented her credit card, how she was related to the governor. That unusual, yet well-known-in-Utah surname, is one that we share.

And now he's gone and hit the trail in the presidential campaign.

I can't verify, though I do suspect, given that our last name is extremely uncommon, that I'm probably related to him somehow- the odds favor it. It doesn't really matter so much, except that I'm gearing up to tolerate some teasing from now until the Iowa primary, unless Jon Junior drops out of the race before that. Now might also be an excellent time to drop my landline phone, too, because I bet every crank from here to eternity is going to be calling.

I actually like a lot of the Huntsman platform from a purely political standpoint. I'd be supporting him for ideological reasons rather than our mutual last name. I'm a lifelong Republican who has been 'without country' for a long time now...and I worry that people's dislike of his LDS affiliation will tank the campaign. Sorry, kids, whether you like Mormons or not, there are already quite a few on both sides of my family and they put their pants on one leg at a time. It was an uphill struggle for us to get our first Catholic and first bi-racial presidents, too. Who knows? Maybe it's time for a Mormon. I'd rather have anyone with some common sense than some of the smoke-and-mirrors we're hearing from the other candidates.

So, at any rate, I guess I know who I'm for now, and I'd better go order my "Huntsman for President" shirt before my cousins buy them all out!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The True Color of Death

About a decade ago, I watched helplessly as my then-fiance's paternal aunt made a play to be named his father's sole heir. She conned a dying man into signing over his new SUV "because I have to take Charles to all of his doctors' appointments", buying her a new cherry dining room suite and an oak suite that she inherited at his death (that was actually in the expensive apartment she forced him to rent near her Lexington home). Her intention was to prove that his son, who had a full-time job, wasn't "doing his duty" and therefore was not entitled to his father's estate.

I have never been more proud when it turned out that what she'd conned his father out of was all that she was getting...and that he'd also squirrelled away a significant amount of cash to get his son a new car and pay for essentials until the estate could be probated...in an account known about only by his attorney. Auntie Dearest was fit to be tied. She was determined to rob her nephew, an only child, blind, for her own gain...and moreover, she felt entirely justified in doing it.

(Just as a point of further reference, she ditched her senior Yorkie. Try to imagine infantile, moronic gushing with a heavy Eastern Kentucky accent: "So I can get one of them 'pixie-face' Yorkies that only weigh a pound! They're so cute and tiny!", et cetera, ad nauseum. It was all Chuck could do to keep me from killing that stupid, vacuous woman on the spot. She is one of the most amoral people I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.)

On the night of the viewing, we were in the funeral director's office discussing something, in the presence of Auntie Dearest. His maternal aunt, who at the time we believed to be more trustworthy, was also there. The man asked for a check to cover the casket flowers, horribly expensive out-of-season purple irises (chosen by Guess Who)- and Auntie Dearest whipped out her dead brother's checkbook. Chuck's maternal aunt strode forward, plucked it from her hands, and gave it to their nephew, stating: "The moment that Charles died, Chuckie became the executor of his estate. You have no right to this." Believe me, it was almost a knock-down drag-out, but thing was, she was right.

The next day at the funeral, Auntie Dearest and her brood took the front pew at the church by force, relegating us to the second pew- an unheard-of breach of funeral etiquette- and once again, she felt perfectly within her rights. She did the same thing at the cemetery, taking the chairs under the canopy and forcing the dead man's son to stand outside the tent in the blazing July heat. As the Disabled American Veterans finished the twenty-one gun salute, she rose to accept the folded flag, and God Bless the DAV, because that old soldier looked her dead in the eye and said: "No, ma'am, that's for his son." I thought her head was going to explode.

Once again, his family has pulled a fast one. The aunt who once stood up for him has executed a couple of really nasty turns since that day eleven years ago, the latest of which involves not calling Chuck when her son, who had spina bifida and was just about the only relative he had left whom he trusted, succumbed at last to the disease at the age of 44. Chuck found out from reading the obituary column in the local paper. He called me in hysterics at 2:30 in the morning, and it makes me want to go to Prestonsburg and slap the hell out of his aunt.

Over the years, dealing with his extended family has been quite an education. This is not how it's done where I come from, and I am absolutely sick with it that this man, who is an orphaned only child, has been absolutely lionized by vicious people on BOTH sides of his family. Now that Buddy is gone, he only has two cousins left out of a very large family to whom he speaks. It's disgraceful, and that's the absolute least I can say about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Flight of the Airedalebrarian

Every few years, I take a major pratfall, occasionally resulting in injury. The worst of them was probably right at Halloween of my senior year of high school- the sole of my band shoe separated and caught in the top step as I was exiting a bus at a marching contest. I fell, face-first, out onto the parking lot and shattered my left kneecap. I did, however, march the show, which concluded with the entire band kneeling; this was particularly un-fun for me, since I was wearing a 35lb. bass drum at the time and there was a rock under my damaged knee.

I was on crutches for six weeks. It was a pivotal moment in the Hopkins-Airedalebrarian association, though, since he was commissioned to carry my books from class to class and also out to the parking lot, where he was frequently pressed into service to take me home. (Try navigating a school bus with a book bag and a pair of crutches sometime...I can't say that I recommend it.) The upside of it was that it got us both out of class early. The downside was that he resented digging my books out of the bottom of our locker, and told me as much. One day, when I got particularly tired of hearing it, I tried to extract them myself and keeled over on the floor. After enduring stinging criticism from everybody in the hall at that exact moment, he resumed excavation duty without comment.

This morning, I had a sore throat, which means that I'm drinking hot tea (Piccadilly Breakfast today) instead of coffee. Our office sink's water quality is suspect, so per usual, I hiked off down the central hallway to get water from the staff kitchen instead. Halfway there, I slipped on a patch of water, executed an inelegant free fall, and landed on my right knee and elbow- although I did have the presence of mind to throw my mug down the hall, where it shattered, the sound summoning help from the Learning Commons.

I'm a little bunged up. It's okay, but I know I'll be feeling it in the morning.

A few minutes ago, the head English tutor came limping in, having taking a worse fall outside on our brand-spanking-new sidewalks. I disinfected and dressed her abrasions, and we sent her off to Human Resources to file a Worker's Compensation claim.

So, unbeknownst to us, today is Learning Commons Trip-and-Fall Day, just in time for Finals. My supervisor just expressed doubt as to the safety of going up the hall to the lavatory. I know I'm going to be pret-ty careful when I go home tonight!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

The last few days have left us with flooding and wind damage, and a clutch of tornadoes have made their way across the Great Bluegrass State, just in time for us to host the oldest continuously-held sporting event, the Kentucky Derby. As I write (partly to allay my anxiety), I'm awaiting word from friends in Alabama. A colleague's son and daughter-in-law lost their home, their business, and very nearly, their lives, to one of the tornadoes in that state. We are collecting money at work to help them get back on their feet.

Last night, I looked out my laundry room windows and saw low, fast-moving black clouds hovering over the town...and then I realized that the rain had stopped. I opened the back door to check the barometric pressure and felt the oppressive weight of the air, and yet- I looked up the National Weather Service's alerts for my area, and there was no tornado warning. I turned on the weather radio and began monitoring the reports.

Tornadoes frighten me. When I was five years old, a series of devastating tornadoes crossed Kentucky. A town in western Kentucky where some of my maternal cousins lived was completely flattened- the death toll was enormous, and the high school gym was used as a morgue. A few years ago, the same town was flattened a second time.

The Chez sits on a cliff overlooking a valley that stretches into the next county over from ours- I remember watching a tornado descend from a swirling cloud mass and split into two separate funnels that then traveled opposite directions, wreaking twice as much havoc as the single tornado would've. One night as we sat at the dinner table, a tornado jumped our house; it happened so quickly that we had no time to react as we realized we were in the eye of the funnel. There are two things that one sees in movies that I can confirm as very realistic based on personal experience: the roll-cam in simulated car accidents, and what a tornado looks like from the inside. The churning wall of devastation sucked our patio furniture straight up into the air, carried it beyond the edge of the cliff, and dropped it into the river before moving on to damage the city park below the ridge.

Tornadoes are not 'cool'. They are not 'fascinating'. They are dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Having also survived a hurricane, I can tell you that they aren't any fun, either. I once interviewed for a job in Florida and was reassured by the college administration that "where we are, hurricanes just don't hit us". That city was laid apart by a hurricane not too many years after the interview. The upshot is that weather will come and we have no control over it; we can just seek shelter and pray that we survive. There is nothing that man can build that's guaranteed to withstand the ravages of nature- the Japanese are superior engineers, and they know this better than anyone right now.

So now we play the waiting game. I have yet to hear from my friends in Alabama, and I'm developing a cracking good migraine from the stress...I'm already on overload from dealing with family matters, and just not capable of fending off this irrational fear as well as I should. To everyone who has lost loved ones to this weather system, my sympathies; to those who lost their possessions but not their lives, I am grateful that you were spared. We have too many petty arguments afoot in society right now that must be set aside to deal with human issues, so can we just suspend the political hostilities and work on helping others in their hour of need?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From Dog Barf to Cat Poop: It Just Keeps Getting Better!

I've been away from home for just under a week, and returned late Monday night after spending part of the evening with my father and Quinn, the barfer. I drove into the garage at the Chez in my mother's car and could hear all three dogs barking their heads off, especially Quinn, who my father says now starts crying at the foot of the stairs around 4 a.m.; the poor little old guy is about twelve or so, and when he wakes up alone in the middle of the night, it frightens him. This is his expression most of the time I was there the other day:


Quinn, panicking.



So, after disappointing him so badly, I rolled on to my house, another sixty miles southeast. The Airedales were thrilled that I was home, but the Siamese cat, Frosty, voiced his displeasure loudly and at length. I found other evidence of feline displeasure almost immediately; the grey cat, Gus, had peed all over the refrigerator door. I cleaned that up, and exhausted, went to bed.

In the middle of the night, I got up to visit the the bathroom and smelled something funny; I reached down to straighten a bunched up rug and felt a substance that should not have been there. I confirmed it as the source of the odor once I flipped on the lights; nothing like having to clean up cat poop and put the bathroom linens in the washer at 3 a.m.! It seemed like things couldn't possibly get worse until I picked up a shoe in order to move the rug...and a nice, hard kitty nugget plopped out on the floor.



The Culprit


It then crossed my mind that I'd heard the Siamese, in a rare departure from his sustained yowling, scratching around the bathroom. As one of my childhood friends mentioned, there probably should've been an immediate decrease in the aggregate feline population of my house as the horror sank in. This, however, is the cat who talks to my mother on the telephone all the time. Last night, as I wearily made my way to bed, I leveled a threat just before turning off the light: "Frosty, if you leave me any more presents, I will duct tape your butt closed!" 

He must've gotten my point. A few minutes later I heard him alight the stairs, headed for the cat box. I have too much going on to deal with cat poop in my shoes, although it perfectly illustrates how I've felt for the last week.