Friday, September 25, 2009

I got some wild, wild life

Never a good sign when Sadie the feral cat starts low growling. It’s usually the between 3:00-and-4:00 a.m. wake up call to warn of an animal encroaching on claimed feline territory, coming for an unwelcome visit or hump.

Back in July I heard her alto groaning directly outside my bedroom window. The sloped roof connects to a small patio with a high privacy fence, the top border as wide as a balance beam. Near the gutters I saw four baby raccoons, tiny and perfect like they were drawn out of a Disney cartoon. As soon as they sensed my presence all stood upright at attention on back legs. If they could talk I imagined it sounding something like a murmur of, “What? Huh? I dunno? Huh?” The yearlings were curious and one began a slow waddle toward Sadie on the vulnerable side of the window, me at the screen. There had to be a Mom (a larger variety than this cuteness) nearby and I suddenly flashed on sharp nails on disturbingly human looking raccoon hands tearing into cat fur.

Ran downstairs to find Mom on the patio indulging hungrily in the small bowl of dry cat food I‘d accidentally left out (I never leave food or garbage out; it’s an invitation to the wild buffet). First thought, get Sadie off the roof. I opened the front door and called for her; she knowingly took off towards a large tree bursting with late summer branches and a quick getaway.

As someone who’s worked with rescues (albeit my view of myself as a modern Dr. Doolittle was often misguided, hence many bites and deep scratches) I have little fear of animals and understand when to use approach and avoidance. I fetched and unleashed a large pitcher of cold water on the uninvited guest who climbed the 10 foot fence in seconds flat, leaving deep claw marks in the redwood stain and hovering on the balance beam edge.

Mama was a warrior. I swear she turned and assumed a Kung Fu pose as the bitch stared and snorted me down. Good for her. I wielded the corn broom, snorts growing louder and more intense as I shuffled her in the direction of an escape tree. The sigh of relief once I’d rid her from the patio was brief as I looked up at four tiny raccoons stranded at the edge of the roof.

“What the hell did I do?” I realized, “I just Orphan Annie’d baby raccoons.” My heart sank until a rustling in the trees and thump told me Mama had found an alternative route back and was racing towards her pack. She wouldn’t leave without them. No amount of wet or rounded sticks and slightly freaked out girl without her glasses on at four in the morning would tear her family apart. Mama looked at me and me at her, a silent truce. She then showed her babies the way out, one-by-one down the balance beam patio edge to the tree I’d just chased her into. I simply stood and watched the slow procession in awe of the wild beauty of nature and these wonderful, creepy creatures. The last nugget veered off path, taking a quick turn towards me. The dumbest (or the bravest) it stopped and looked, then rejoined the fuzzy parade of five and marched away into the night.

Very early this morning I awoke to odd, heavy steps outside that same bedroom window and came face to face with three new bandits, one large and two small. It was cold and wet out, rain quickly becoming fat rain. Looking something of a fool, I made myself big on my side of the glass, calling out “BOO!!!” and “Git! Git!” with arms overhead in an attempt to shoo them off.

I watched them like TV from the safety of a pane of glass for a half an hour, marveled as Mama settled into and cleaned one then the other, nursed. Watched the kits wrestle and roll and gently bite each others ears; funny how animals from kittens to puppies, raccoons to toddlers play in the same manner. Finally they slept, balled up together like the lemur pile at the zoo, wedged safely between an overhang of roof shingles and deep crevice of skylight. I crawled back into bed, getting up every few minutes to watch again, check for changes. When I awoke next they were gone.

I spent this morning washing piles of raccoon scat off the sloped roof outside my bedroom window.

Bit of raccoon Wiki-trivia:
During the mating season, males roam their home ranges in search of females in an attempt to court them during the three-to four-day-long period when conception is possible. These encounters will often occur at central meeting places. Copulation, including foreplay, can last over an hour and is repeated over several nights.

Men, take note.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tottie Hottie

Thing about local fairs, they don’t have to try too hard. Forget the wide-brimmed sun hat snootiness of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, overabundance of strollers and 80’s rock bands at the Taste of Colorado and herbal jazz of the Capital Hills People’s Fair, small town events are tidbits of vanilla ice milk suburbia.

This weekend I stopped by Broomfield Days, an annual event that closes Main Street for blocks and features loads of small businesses selling services, arts and crafts (like “Health Jewelry,” handmade trinkets guaranteed to cure your ails, mostly turquoise-y looking beads on leather straps.) The police and fireman were on hand with the "Say No to Teen Drinking" smashed car; the recent televised PSA/morality tale of snapping necks and texting while driving delivers more of an impact (pun intended). New this year, live music (kid friendly surf jams) and bouncy cages.

I arrived in the afternoon, thinking the late summer sun kinder to my trout belly colored skin. Thought I’d dressed appropriately, right down to sensible shoes, but a few minutes in and my low profile Chuck Taylor’s were off, toes in need of cool relief. The festival was awash with booth after booth of massage hawkers, insurance companies and holiday crafts. Decided to give myself over and acclimate with a fair staple, the jumbo turkey leg.

Never had one (seemed cumbersome and odd to gnaw on) but at three in the afternoon the morning banana had worn thin and they smelled good on the grill, smoky and charred. Worse thing I ever put in my mouth and mine has stories to tell. The skin (usually the best bit of any bird) was thick, chewy and fleshy, like biting into a deep fried foot. Each tentative bite began with a crackle of bumpy flesh, meat impossible to engage. I quit the $7 monstrosity after it dripped a hard stream of hot bird juice onto my skinny jeans. The $6 Killian’s helped wash away some of the taste.

Fair food is about the smell and the greatest olfactory draw is the waft of oil, deep fried anything. I was intrigued by “Texas Tators,” a spud cut on an old school Ron Popeil vice-like slicer that curls long strings and ribbons, fried in oil, sprinkled with salt and yours (a small serving) for $5. Add “cheese” (the day glo orange liquid sold in pony keg-like cans at Costco) for a $1. People were lined up a dozen deep. Bad at math and more a student of Jethro Bodean ciphering and "go-zin-ta's,” even I see the high profit margin.

I’m going into the fair foods business, packing up an RV and traveling coast-to-coast hawking oily wares. And it starts with a sorely overlooked hungry mob food, the Tator Tot.

Tator Tot Pie, a.k.a. "Totties." The staple, deep fried, overly salted and served in a pie pan, topped with brown gravy and cheddar. Bacon bits extra (the "Tottie Oink.")

Tator Tot Sweeties, a.k.a. "Tweeties." Tots on a stick, rolled in crushed Captain Crunch cereal, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Comes with a side of thin white icing for dipping.

The “Stickie.” Old school simple, tots on a stick, tempura battered and deep fried, served with honey margarine or ketchup.

Tot Italiano, or “Titties on a Stick," an alternating stack of tots, wedges of mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and salami, rolled in breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with marinara (also known as chunky ketchup).

I’m going to make a million dollars.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 27, 1986

Googled what is statistically the most common birthday month and answers fall all over the yearly calendar. In my circle, it's September and I put it down to holiday and super bowl humping.

Yesterday had early birthday lunch with the ladies. Funnily enough all the cards had to do with shopping, drinking or working out. No sex cards (yet) but all good habits for a long, happy life. The subject turned to “How did you spend your 21st birthday?” Many of the ladies were married by then, some raising families. I clearly recall my leap into unadulterated adulthood.

I was in college FT and working mostly FT hours at Crossroads Mall in Boulder (now defunct, leveled and rebuilt as “Twenty Ninth Street”). Had a full weekend shift that day, not unheard of since most weekends were spent working and, in truth, I had little time for universal University debauchery. When you work at a mall you become part of its community, a member of its village, creating friendships, developing crushes, hooking up with the manager at Foot Locker. I’m certain my friend and Abo’s franchise owner brought over pizza for lunch (a big slice, maybe a candle plus a drink). The girls (I worked at Piercing Pagoda and in all my years there we had just one or two male employees) brought me a huge bouquet of helium balloons. Since the Pagoda was a large open kiosk I felt doubly special as shoppers and passers-by would comment and ask, “Is it someone’s birthday? Happy Birthday!”

My shift ended as the mall closed. Funny how strolling while holding anything celebratory makes one feel like the center of attention - balloons floating on a string, cradling a bunch of flowers wrapped in crinkly paper, a wedding bouquet. It’s an invitation to special. I stuffed and maneuvered and arranged and re-arranged the helium monster into my tiny 1978 Dodge Colt, the interior filled to capacity with latex and ribbons. I batted them back defensively over and over on the drive to Boulder Community Hospital where my niece had been born the night before, September 27, 1986. Best friends born 21 years and a day apart.

Can’t wait to give my niece her birthday present. I’m busting a bit in my own excitement, like those balloons squished against car windows. She inherited my taste for quality be it food or wine or bath products or people. Most importantly she gets/got that hard work makes it happen and fuels the indulgence that much more. And we devour month-long birthday freebies – the $10 Gift Card from Victorias Secret, your choice of lip gloss trio or to-die-for birthday cake scented body wash at Sephora, restaurant desserts and appetizers. A sweet treat from Cold Stone Creamery. I need to get taken out more this month; time’s a wasting.

It’s good, another year on this side of the grass.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ga-gung, ga-gung

Realized recently how often I speak and write about loss. I start stories with, “My Dad used to…” and still remind myself tomorrow would have been my oldest brothers 48th birthday. Annoying I suspect, like the parents who talk non-stop about their children or the pet owner who refers to her cats as babies. Photos included.

With so many celebrity deaths permeating the media this year we speak of each passing in terms of how the life and work of someone never known personally or in intimate circles touched us. Speak of loss as it relates to us, what we lost in proxy. Madonna was soundly criticized for her spoken Michael Jackson tribute at the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend where she juxtaposed milestones in her life to his; "I" came up a dozen times. I didn’t find what she had to say and how she chose to say it self-serving. I understood that was her reflection and recollection.

I was just months into what would become (and remains) a long family estrangement when Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with cancer, pancreatic and it sounded bad. Sad news for a presence beloved by millions and stored in memory jars for the drops he left on celluloid (like mine, watching “Dirty Dancing” on VHS at a college girlfriends condo in Boulder, flattening out real pasta made with eggs and flour from a machine and quipping shyly at the sexy parts). Patrick Swayze resembled my now oldest brother in a remarkable fashion - a favorite family story is how he’d been stopped in Wal-Mart by a young girl with stars in her eyes, begging for an autograph. They could be doppelgangers; I couldn’t enjoy any of the shirt off action of “Ghost,” seeing only an oddly familiar and blonde biological face on screen.

When I first heard Swayze reportedly had “Months…Weeks To Live!!” (as exclaimed by the parasitic tabloid media) I panicked. I saw my brothers face, the brother I’d lost not to death but a cauldron of long simmering circumstances. His spouse didn’t/doesn't like me, didn’t/doesn't want me around. He was one of my best friends and of course he chose her. He should have. Of course it destroyed me a little. A lot actually, for awhile.

Swayze just died from his cancer and each time I see the face with dates listed below it I go to panic and teary sadness. Because it's 20 months later and I still don’t speak to my brother. I know he asks about me, I know he’s had some updates. But we don’t talk.

And I don’t know how to change that from here because I never thought myself worthy of anyone choosing me. Of putting fear on the line, saying I didn’t belong in a corner and lifting me from the ground. I've learned I am, but it doesn't always fit as tight or comfortably again once the puzzle pieces get wet.

The networks are replaying the interview Swayze did (his last) with Barbara Walters tonight. I’m already geared up for the tears, selfish perhaps but a physical reaction to what I’ve lost that’s sadly and comically and ironically a 15-minute drive away.

It's still a feeling, a heartbeat. Ga-gung, ga-gung.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

You can't spell "truth" without TMI

Last night I opened "The Joy Diet" by Martha Beck. I opened it to a random page, as if I were cutting a deck of cards. "Figure Out What Your Career Really Is" headed the top of the page. Just answer this question, and you’ll find your answer: What did you do the evening of September 11, 2001?

My answer comes with a side of too much truth, as usual:

I want to make a living telling stories. Mine and others and not the words and tales that sell corporate ideas. I don't know - strike that, reverse it - I'm too afraid to make it happen. To sacrifice for it. I’m too scared to fail at the only real gift (besides always being the girl who could make everyone laugh) that I believe I have.

I stayed up all night the evening of Sept. 11th, wide awake and realizing for the first time how quiet the world can be with few cars on the highway near my window and no planes in the air. Alone in bed. Very alone in bed.

The next night or two I went out to hear live music and drink dirty vodka martinis and talked with the bartender, a beautiful new friend and rock-a-billy girl named Maddie who told us a friend of hers worked in the second tower (or was it the first?), a waiter at Windows on the World. And she hadn't heard from him.

I don’t know if she was telling the truth.

I still write marketing drivel. For the most part I like it.

I still hear the traffic out that window.

There are many evenings and moments and litmus tests that spark and cement who we desire to be. In fifth grade when my short story about Johnny Appleseed was turned into a live class play. At 17 absorbing the words from HR while security watched over me and a roomful of men and mostly women twice my age just laid off from the night shift on an assembly line. The first positive comment scrawled in red on a freshman creative writing paper.

What I did the evening of September 11, 2001 was try and comfort myself, figure out where to go from here and with how much fear or not. I do the same in my writing, in the words, even if only in the therapy and vanity of a blog.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Your balls are mine

FOUR day weekend?

Am I the only sap working today and possibly some of Monday?? No prospects, no BBQs, no love? Damn writers’ deadlines.

I should become the saucy spinster lady now and save myself the time. Where did I leave those cat eye glasses with rhinestone trim and butterscotch hard candies?

Starting today I keep all the balls that come on my porch.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You can't handle the truth

Still a bit mystified by the coroners conclusion and labeling of Michael Jackson's death a "homicide." I get that an injection of sleepy juice ultimately did him in, but he paid a medical doctor (and handsomely) to provide it, striking up a deal for his personal care. Sure never trust a ho or a junkie, neither perhaps in their right minds, but the question becomes...

Do we charge McDonald's workers and the guy who invented deep fried Snickers with fatty assassination?

Or point a finger at Ed Hardy for the death of good taste and his questionable fashion sense? A "Love Kills Slowly" tee may not mortally wound, but at minimum makes a guy look like a douche.

Drunk dialing can mean hara-kiri to relationships, a two-for-one legal beat down of Grey Goose and AT&T.

I’m considering litigation against nature and its accomplice, the sun, for crispy frying my epidermis and killing plump cells. Argue all you want that I could have slathered on a thick layer of sunscreen, I have paperwork. I don’t need personal responsibility.

Guess we can’t be trusted. Our outcome in life, our happiness and sadness, has to be the result and fault of others, no? The blame game. It’s not me creating me, it’s you.

To quote Pretty Woman, "Work it, own it."

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