Saturday, June 30, 2012

I'm not that person, until I am

I'm not a dog-rescue type person, we're not the same breed. I'm an "Oh fuck, you're a stray; I'm going to close my eyes and count to ten until you disappear" sort of person.

It a technique that works, often enough.

The rescue people, well, they're much better than I, and I've already signed over my frequent-flyer heaven miles so they can get there first class. Enjoy their sparkling wines, cocktails at take-off, booties, blinkers, and thin mints.

Still, when I find a dog, the rescue people are really hard to get a hold of, they never call back. But then, they're not in the business of rescuing me, extricating me from my problem, are they?

I so reluctantly rise to an animal rescue occasion that it barely counts. When I take action, it's not rescue, but beaten down resignation. And then I pester people, those who actually own the dog, for instance, to do the right thing.

And when they don't or won't or can't, well, I've absorbed at various times in my life, three dogs, a rabbit, two birds.

And now, there's this girl.

And I like this girl. I like her a lot. Because she's smart and has party manners. She may be fat, but she never steals cake or swipes the crumbs off the sideboard. Her toilet etiquette is above reproach. And she's the perfect hostess, welcomes all the party guests. She keeps herself tidy, gloves clean, always smiling, always sweet.

Lily will curl up on the sofa, waiting for me to turn on the TV so we can watch her favorite episode of Animal Planet. But I don't have a TV, and Lily is too polite to point that out.

Lily jumps over the five-foot wall into my yard, and then out, in and out again, with equal enthusiasm. That's the problem. I don't necessarily want to keep her out, but I can't keep her in.

Neighbors now know, if Lily is trolling the hood, take her to Karin's place. Their absolution waits at the little house on Athens. Wouldn't I do the same thing given the chance,in a heartbeat. Because none of us want to see Lily picked up by the pound. It would be a death sentence. She has no collar or chip, only a gentle disposition.

Lily's owner doesn't want her. But Lily doesn't know that. She's excited to go back home after her night on the town and supper with the handsome, dimwit Albert. "Ok," she says, standing by my front door, "I'm ready to go now. I guess my ride is late, so you'll have to drive."

What to do. What to do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Huntington Gardens on Tuesday and...

Pretty music to follow.

Tuesday is the day the Huntington is closed to the public. In this single instance, I'm not the public.

I stepped over the barricade to pay my respects. "Mr. Huntington," I said, "there are worse ways to spend eternity."

Here's the tune, because the lotus are in bloom at the Huntington, though of course I have no photo to prove it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

San Pedro

On a hill top, former marine base, now artist studios and galleries.

There's a marine animal rescue down the road a piece. These two little chubby boys were saved from fishing nets. Once their scars have healed, they'll be released. The rescue is run almost entirely by volunteers and through individual donations and grants. Most of the guests will return to the wild, though none seemed in any particular hurry to do so. (Accommodations include meals, swimming pools, sea-breeze, and bunk beds, but I'm not sure about WiFi or cable.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A little known fact...

The best thing about writing the articles, other than it's a living sort of, is that I get to do a little research. Not full blown research, but something more than Wiki. An hour or so in the library. Online info is great, but it's hard to find some of the more obscure facts. Of course, then when I get in mixed company, I run the risk of sounding like the guy on Cheers, "A little known fact about the Colorado Mockingbird is that..."

So here's some things you may not know about the Western Scrub Jay. Including that there is such a thing as the Western Scrub Jay.

He’s a party animal who drinks too much, spills his food, talks too loud, and laughs at his own jokes. He’s vain, pushy, and a potluck’s worst nightmare – always the first to arrive and the last to leave. Oh, he’s smart all right, and wants everyone within earshot to know it.

His wife is just as bad.
(More on Patch)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Champaign, Illinois

When Cathy and I dropped out of college, we rented the second floor of a white clapboard house, and sent our monthly check to Chicago where our landlord was serving time in prison as a slumlord.

We lived on peanut m&ms, dinner dates, and whatever anybody else brought around. Cathy was the resourceful one. I had more boyfriends, but she had more skills. Poetry and cooking, just to keep the list manageable. I’d ask someone or other, as a by the way and since you’re coming here anyway, can you pick up a couple of things, like bacon and a loaf of bread.

Cathy could steam bacon, make toast. I’d never done either in my life. One day she pulled some bottles and bags out of our ancient refrigerator and defrosted it. Which seemed so utterly strange -- teetering on the occult, or dangerously adult.

It was the year of re-invention; my parents had officially stopped speaking to me. I had it in writing. They sent a letter, contacting me to say they were contacting me to say they would no longer be contacting me. They said, “This will hurt us more than it hurts you. “I daresay,” I said, tossing the letter to Cathy.

It was an unusually hot summer, and Cathy and I sweated for awhile on the second floor of the clapboard house, until a carpenter who worked where I worked borrowed, permanently, an air conditioner from an empty apartment. I think it was a present for my 18th birthday.

Much of my time was spent with men and boys. Some boys could be men at 22, or men could be boys at 26. Cars made a difference. And other things as well, of course, though I didn’t give it all that much thought. I just knew I liked the boys more. And I remember them all, boys and men, in a way or not, that is to say, some better than others.

But mostly I remember Cathy. And her dog Star who followed my dog Bru everywhere, like he was a god or something. And Bru did the best he could by Star, or I assume that’s what he was up to. You could never tell with Bru. He’d wander off for days, and then return. Sometimes with a collar, which he’d manage to shrug off in an hour or two.

Often Cathy and I would leave this house, in our opposite directions, and come back with stories about a trip to Bloomington, or Carbondale, a horse ranch in Indiana. Maybe we amped it up a little.

“Keith and I hopped a freight train to Lexington.”

“Hahaha, no you didn’t.”

“No, we didn’t.”

We’d set up our Panasonic speakers on the front porch on Green Street and blast Tom Waits and Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac.

(Years later, Cathy and I hooked up again, by email. “The neighbors must have hated us!” she wrote. This was a revelation -- We had neighbors?)

That’s what I remember best. Cathy and me and the dogs and the front porch. In summer, at night, when the prairie wind came out to play, blew our hair this way and that, and cooled the forehead.

We weren’t stupid. We knew three things for sure: That handsome men and boys were a dime a dozen, life was just as light as a feather, and summer lasts forever.

“So what did you do?”

“Keith’s friend drove us up to Kankakee, then we hitched a ride to Normal.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Matinee: Shane

It's about love. Love between husband and wife, woman and stranger, friend and friend, parent and child, child and hero. (Ok, have we left any love out, other than that which dare not speak its name? Don't think so.)

It's also about loyalty.

I'd forgotten about Shane. But ran across a 1949 copy of the book at the laundromat. Fresh, clean prose without perfumes and other chemical additives. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but the book and movie pack a punch of sentimentality where you're least protected and when you least expect it.

And aside from love and loyalty, Shane is about courage. The most courageous moment is also the one that's almost unbearable to read -- or when it comes to the movie -- watch. It has to do with soda pop and walking away from a fight. "Punch that fucker!" I scream, and then return to my life as a pacifist.

Aside from love, loyalty, and courage, Shane is about freewill and destiny, fate and longing.

Here's Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, and Alan Ladd. They all break my heart with every frame. Oh, and there's the little boy -- named Bob in the book, but Joey in the film. Some people find him annoying. I don't, I can't. I was that same kind of kid. Always getting in the way, asking questions, finding heroes.

You can stream on netflix. These were about the only unedited snippets I could find:

Clip 1


Clip 3

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Nothing grabs your attention like death, your own most particularly.

And three weeks ago I was pretty sure I was dying. I wasn't pretty sure, I was certain.

Four years ago I quit my job, thinking, “If I die tomorrow, it won’t be doing this.” If I die tomorrow – maybe the universe took me literally.

Ever since I was a kid, I could pick up a medical pamphlet and share all the symptoms of any disease – dementia, diabetes, prostate problems, kidney failure.

What kind of strange, morbid little creature was I back then, I wondered, clicking through the series of cancerous skin lesion images on the internet.

No, mine didn’t look like that or that or that. But here it says, “At the beginning, skin cancer may look innocuous.” Innocuous – oh my god, mine looks innocuous. “It will change in size and shape.” I checked mine hourly. It seemed huge at times, and small at others. ”A patch of skin may be rough or shiny.” Oh, I’m dead meat. Mine is rough. Or shiny. Or roughly shiny.

It was two weeks before the dermatologist could see me. And that’s because, when my back is to the wall and I must seek medical attention, I choose a doctor in the wealthiest zip code in the U.S. The best never say, “The doctor can see you in half an hour,” no, it’s “We’ll call you if we have a cancellation in the next 30 days.”

I had two weeks to get my affairs in order, plus decide who would care for my horse, my dog. I figured no one would take Albert unless a trust fund were involved.

And then, I tried to find something to divert my attention. But nothing poses a legitimate distraction when you’re staring at the great beyond.

The doctor was sweet and handsome, as they all are in this zip code. And within two minutes he said, “This is not a problem.”

I went limp. “You mean, I’m not dying?”

“Ah,” he said, and took my hand. “Let me tell you something. Last week I celebrated a little too well in Seattle. In the middle of the night, I felt ill, and was sure I had pancreatic cancer. I didn’t sleep all night. Let me tell you something else: My brother is a doctor; three times he’s diagnosed himself with an incurable disease, and three times he’s been wrong.”

I wanted to kiss him, and gathered my purse, ready to run out the door. I wasn’t going to die, no, not ever again.

“Of course,” he said, “one day my brother will be right.”

I turned.

“I see six cases of skin cancer every day," he said. "You’re blond, blue-eyed, fair skinned and you live in California – you’re an accident waiting to happen. Next time you see anything suspicious, anything at all, don’t hesitate to call.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wish I'd Said That

Heard a new phrase this week: "Porky Pig it."

Which means, when you can't seem to find the perfect way to say something, settle for an approximation.

Speaking of pigs, found these handsome specimens at Cal Poly this week.

I rather fear for their future.