Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wanted: Here 's my list

"Wanted" isn't really the right term. Needed. Yes, "Needed" is better. Here's my list on the last day of January 2010:
  1. About an hour's worth of time from a tax preparer that won't cost me $500. Sure, I can call the IRS for free, but, alas, you get what you pay for.
  2. A warm hat that won't mess up my hair. (I posted about this last year. Still no good solution, though.)
  3. Inspiration. I'm feeling a little drained of late. Wonderful, inspiring stuff is in the air all the time, but none of those inspiration-puffballs are sticking to me right now. What's up with that?
  4. Energy. Folks tell me that I have more energy than anybody they know. I'm faking it, friends. It's all faux-energy. And I don't know how much more faux I have left.
  5. Toilet paper. Yeah, I know. Just got to get out to the store for that, but I didn't want to forget it. One of the easy things on the list.
  6. A closet organizer. Oh, sure, I could clean and organize my own closets, but see #4 above.
  7. A change of style. I've been feeling a little rundown and frumpy, clothes-wise, of late. I don't even know where to begin.
  8. A better personal budget. I keep running short every month. What am I missing?
  9. To hem my new jeans. No sewing maching, so I have to do it by hand. Again, see #4.
  10. To get off my rear-end and get some of this stuff done. See #4.
Got a list? Or energy you can lend me?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Little Dog, Big Scare

We almost lost Lola on Wednesday. Daughter, who found her outside, seizing and with head trauma, quickly bundled her up and got her to the nearest vet. It did not look good for everyone's favorite little Miss Priss Dog.

Lola is not an Only Dog. She is one of four: Zoe, an 8-year-old black Lab/Border Collie mix; Tripps, a crazy 3-year-old Australian Shepherd, and Little Man, a 4-year-old Chihuahua who looks more like a Miniature Pincher (hope I got the ages right). All are dearly, dearly loved and spoiled rotten, but Lola, well, this tiny Alpha-Princess-Dog Chihuaha has an extra little something that makes her utterly impossible to resist. Even to folks who favor big dogs over tiny ones (like me) or cat-lovers or those who don't like animals of any kind.

She's 8-years-old (young for a Chihuahua), tiny (4-5 pounds, maybe?) and has ears as big as her head, big buggie eyes that look like they're about to fall out of her head, fur like velvet, and a tongue that perpetually dangles out of the left side of her mouth. When picked up she cuddles into your chest and neck like a baby. And nobody ever wants to put her down. When visitors are around, Lola is usually passed around from person to person, as they fight over who gets to hold her next.

It's her attitude that sucks you in, though. Fearless (that may change), regally entitled, and just plain sweet, to boot. When Daughter was planning her wedding a couple of years ago, several family members and friends offered to walk Lola down the aisle at the big event. But Daughter knew better. Lola is a scene-stealer, and there was only going to be one scene-stealer at this wedding, and it wasn't going to be Miss Lola. Alas, she had to stay home.

Anyway, back to the trauma story. Daughter rushed Lola to the nearest vet (not her usual one), who quickly determined swelling - tissue? Fluid inside the head? The vet did what she could to stablize the little dog before sending Daughter and Lola off to Georgia Veterinary Specialists, the Mayo Clinic of vet services according to Daughter. It was really touch and go. No one knew the extent of her head trauma. Until the swelling could be stopped and lessened, it didn't look good. Not much hope was given Daughter and Son-in-Law when they left Lola-Bean at GVS.

Thanks to Facebook, news of Lola's emergency traveled far and wide. Prayers and good wishes started pouring in for this funny little creature. We couldn't imagine our world without Lola. It was so unexpected. I suspect the doctors didn't think she'd make it through the night, that's how serious the situation was. So all we could do was wait.

Good news came around midnight. Lola was responding to the meds and slowly returning to her old self. Everyone was hopeful that she might, indeed, make it through the night. And she did. The good folks at GVS took brilliant care of Lola throughout Thursday, and, miracle of miracles, she was able to go home that afternoon.

If she could be any more spoiled than she already was, well, that's what's happening now. A new bed, new treats, and not out of Daughter's sight for an instant. An unbelievable turn-around, considering the DNR papers Daughter and Son-in-Law had to sign Wednesday.

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. So glad you decided to stick around, you little sweetheart!

J.D., we hardly knew ye

If a recluse dies in New Hampshire, does he make a sound?

He does if he's J.D. Salinger. Many folks are worked up about his death on Wednesday, but I wonder how many of them even knew Salinger was alive? After all, he wrote a couple of brilliant novels (give or take a few short stories), fled to New Hampshire, and pulled down the blinds over 50 years ago. As far as the reading public is concerned, old J.D. could've died in 1964 or 1973 or 1992.

I believe the reason his death resonates so strongly with people is the notion - 'way back in their brains -  that Holden Caulfield has died. Not true, of course. Holden is alive and raging against phonies. But several generations of Americans have felt less alone in their adolescent angst, anger, and sarcasm, thanks to J.D., Holden, and The Catcher in the Rye. Of course, lots of readers - especially teenagers forced to read CitR for a literature class - have wondered what all the fuss is about. Still, I'm betting the book gets more thumbs-ups than thumbs-downs.

I read Catcher at 16 and at 21, for very different reasons. Loved it both times but wasn't as carried away as some were. (Think: the literary equivalent of Star Trek - Catchies? Ryeies?) I also read Franny and Zooey somewhere along the line. Maybe it's time to pick up both books again, just to see if I can get in touch with my inner-teen. Or maybe that's something I want to avoid at all cost. My marked up copy of Catcher is on my bookshelf. We'll see if it calls to me.

Well, J.D., you old recluse, you made a whole lotta noise when you died in Cornish, New Hampshire, last week. In keeping with Holden's view on flowers and death, I won't be sending any. Damn fine writing, though, sir. Thanks for Holden and Phoebe.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New rules for naming professional sports teams

OK. I've had it. "Arizona Cardinals" pushed me over the edge. The time has come to set down some rules for naming professional sports teams. Men, I assume, are in charge of this stuff and obviously have no imagination where team-naming is concerned. Let me help you out, fellers. I'm laying down new rules. Some are retroactive and will involve renaming existing teams, but most will apply to naming teams from this point forth.

1. No duplicate names. Especially for two different sports in two different cities. Having the same name for a San Francisco baseball team and a New York football team is not allowed. It's confusing.  Don't care where the team originated (see rule #2).

Too bad pro teams can't be more like high schools and colleges, having the same team name cross-sport. Yankees baseball, football, hockey, basketball. Done. Of course a couple of cities present a problem, having more than one of several sports teams (for example, NYC and Chicago). We'll figure something out there, but you other cities can get with this program right away. And no stealing from college teams (I don't want to hear about the Boston Crimson Tide). If you don't like that idea, at least abide by the "no duplicate name" rule.

2. The team name belongs to the city not the team. Is there a bigger fiasco in the team-naming biz than "Utah Jazz"? Jazz in Utah. Right. Utah had no right to that name when the pro basketball team left New Orleans. We all "get" New Orleans Jazz. Sorry, Utah - change that name to "Mormons" or "Uptights" or something. Now, I know this will affect other pro teams who've moved from pillar to post over the years. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Indiana Colts - that name belongs to Baltimore, even though Ravens is a better name for a B'mo team.) See where I'm going with this?

To avoid mass confusion and the cost of retooling all that fan paraphernalia, I decree that any pro baseball, football, basketball, or hockey team having a team name for over 40 years can keep it, even if the name belonged to another city way back when (unless it breaks the "no duplicate name" rule). Exception to this rule: "Dodgers" belongs to Brooklyn. Period. Los Angeles, change the name of your baseball team to the "Freeways," "Sleazeballs," or "Bimbos." Dem Bums = Brooklyn.

3. The name has to make sense. (See Utah Jazz discombobulation mentioned in Rule #2.) Sure, I realize that originally "Cardinals" referred to the color not the bird. However, over the years that particular team name does refer to the bird mascot emblazoned on the shirts, caps, and helmets. I think there are cardinals in Arizona, perhaps, but a red bird doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking about the desert Southwest. And anyway, everybody know that anything Cardinal-related belongs to St. Louis. How about "Cacti," "Golf Courses," or "Boiling Heat Waves," Arizona?

I have more ideas about this, but let's jump on numbers 1, 2, and 3 first.  Professional sports owes it to its fans to do a better team-naming job. And I'm here to help. For a fee.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The simple joy of a little yellow taxi

I almost didn't answer the phone. It was knocking on 4:00 on the Friday afternoon of a brutal week, and I could've been forgiven for letting voice-mail pick up, finishing the work at hand, and heading home for the long weekend. But, oh shoot, what the heck?

The voice on the other end of the line was one of my favorite people, Patti Joy, who had a request. Or rather, her grandson had a request. Seems she'd had brought him a model of a yellow taxi when she'd visited New York City some months ago, and now the taxi was missing. Could a replacement be found?

Excitedly, young Austin got on the phone and described the toy: the wheels move and the doors open and close. Could I get him another one? Could I get it today? Tomorrow? His voice belied his utter love for his little missing car and his belief that I could - hey, Presto! - magically transport the toy, ubiquitous in any NYC souvenier shop, to him instantly.

Well, yes, I believe I know just the place to get another one, said I, though I tried to explain that the taxi wouldn't show up on his doorstep for a few days.

He was just beside himself with glee. And his glee was contagious. Ever try to stay sad or depressed or anxious when talking to a thoroughly and happily excited child? Pert' near impossible.

The lowness and tiredness I felt before reaching for that phone had me almost immobilized. A work week that started with in-house training days, then tragically interrupted by the earthquake in Haiti - concern over colleagues and friends as well as brothers and sisters we don't even know, scrambling to help with communicating news and relief efforts, correcting a few technical difficulties - well, it just had me beat down. All I wanted was to get home and pull the covers over my head for three days.

Ah, but young Austin changed that for me. I had a mission! Something easy and enjoyable that would completely delight a little kid.

My prayers and donations are all I can do for the people of Haiti right now, and it doesn't seem like much. But I can get on the #6 subway, head toward Midtown Manhattan, and buy a little yellow taxi at a souvenier store. And for now, that's enough. Enough to bring a little joy to a child in Sewanee, Tennessee, and to a grown-up in New York City.

Glad I answered the phone!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lazing Reading 2010?

Am I blinded by technology, multi-tasking to the max, or just submitting to my inner child? Ever since Daughter and SiL gifted me with an iPod last Mothers Day, I have fallen in love with listening to audiobooks on it. That slim little hot-pink device is always with me - during my daily commutes, on airplanes cross-country, during 4-hour walks around New York or just around the corner to the grocery store. Yes, I've become one of THOSE people.

But my ears aren't plugged up to shut out the world. (Well, OK, yeah, sometimes they are.) Rather, I just have to know what's going to happen next with my current audiobook or podcast. Last summer I extolled the joys of listening to my New York-music playlist as I walked the city and old-time radio horror podcasts during my commute to/from work, but once I discovered Audible and the free audiobook downloads from the New York Public Library, a whole new world opened up to me.

Should I feel guilty about "listening" to a book? Have I really "read" a book if I haven't put my eyes to paper or Kindle print? Does feeling guilty about something like listening to audiobooks mean I have a much deeper pathology. Oh, well. Not going there. Still, I do love, love, love to be surrounded by books. The paper kind. Especially the hard-backed ones. Yum! I like the smell of them, the feel of them, the solid permanence of them - and, yes, the content of them. And I still must have a real, solid, paper-kind of book before going to sleep at night, so I'm not eschewing (there's that great word again!) book-books for the ephemeral audio kind.

But I find it hard to read on the subway or even on an airplane. I'm very easily distracted. But with my cute little hot-pink earphones blocking out major distractions, I am right there with whatever's being read to me. I can get from point A to B and "read" a book at the same time! Brilliant!

Distraction isn't the key issue here, me thinks. At some level I just love being read to. If the narration is good (and many times it isn't, so watch out!), having another human being tell me a story taps right into my very soul. Hearing the words aloud deepens the meaning for me. I'm just a little kid who is delighting in having a story read to her. Comforting.

So, is my audiobook attraction just lazing reading? Technology out of control? Tucking in my inner child? Well, whatever it is, I'm enjoying the heck out of it. Can't wait till tomorrow's commute to get back to my book!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Betting on Prosperity with Peas and Greens

One of the truly great time-honored Southern traditions involves food. OK, most time-honored Southern traditions involve food (which is why I'm so glad I'm a Southerner), but this one is New Year's Day-specific. To ensure good luck and prosperity in the coming year, a meal of black-eyed peas and greens (of the collard or turnip persuasion, usually) must be consumed on the first day of the year. Add a wedge of homemade cornbread, and you'll have extra-good luck, if only for the meal at hand.

I'm not sure where the tradition started - probably a couple of hundred years ago - but it's one we've kept in my family, however scattered, ever since I can remember. The tradition says that the peas represent good luck and the greens money. Mother always told me that the peas represented coin-money and the greens folding-money. But it doesn't matter where the tradition came from or how it's interpreted, because starting off the year with black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread is a fine way to begin anything.

I started my black-eyed peas last night because I wanted to make sure the finely-chopped onions and jalepenos had a chance to season them overnight. It's turnip greens, not collards, for me this year, and I plan to eat plenty, since I need all the folding-money I can get. We Southerners believe in cooking vegetables near to death with whatever fattening element is at hand. Yankees turn up their noses at this, but all I can say is that I come from parents and grandparents who lived to ripe old ages consuming this stuff.

Wish you could smell the cornbread right now, browning up nicely in my little cast-iron skillet. A meal worth its weight in gold (and yeah, calories).
May your peas and greens bring you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2010. Feel free to add all the tabasco, pepper sauce, and bacon drippings you want. Pass the cornbread, please!