Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You've Heard the Phrase ..

... "It's like herding cats"? Well, these are herding cats. And they're not the direct object in that sentence. In this video, it's Bear doing the work; Jasper is just looking unamused.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gremlins TP'd My House!

I heard a lot of commotion last night while I was in bed. Too lazy to check on the critters. This greeted me this a.m.

Wouldn't it be funny if I didn't have any pets and this kind of thing still occurred?

BTW, beneath all of the tissue is a white cat toy mouse. Do you think he had anything to do with it? Or was he just taking cover?

I guess I'll never know.

Time to buy some more toilet tissue. And drop these kittens off at the pound ...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning and All is Looking Rosy

If you have to go to work, might as well take your rose-colored glasses with you.

Glasses: $3.

Outlook: Priceless.

And yes, that is a sock monkey on my desk.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

This Belly Ain't Gonna Scratch Itself

This is what I get to wake up to: Lulu! My own version of Mr. Winkle. Should I make a Web site and sell T-shirts etc.? Catchy slogans could include: "I eat cat poo -- do you?" and "This belly ain't gonna scratch itself!"

In other news:

* I have fallen in love with oatmeal.
* I have decided that I will not stop for red lights in my dreams.
* Last night I dreamed about pizzelles and am now determined to find a pizzelle iron.
* Am wondering: How does Santa get UP the chimney?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

SF, You Make Me Feel Like I'm Living a Teenage Dream

Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to interview an inspiring woman, Kim Kaselionis, CEO of Circle Bank in Novato. (Check out the story.)

The day was gorgeous -- perfect convertible weather.

The Golden Gate Bridge is always stunning, but even more so when it's clear and crisp. And even more so when you're looking straight up at the towers as you whiz over it with the top down.

Not for the first time, I was struck by the absolutely heavenly beauty of my home, and how lucky I am to be in the position of having a utilitarian use for such a grand icon, simply in the course of doing business.

On the way back to San Francisco, I tried to capture the glory of the day with the video function of my new iPhone. As it happens, one of my favorite songs was on the radio -- Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. You can't see much of me, but that's how I wanted it: The stars here are the blue sky with cotton-ball clouds and the suspension wonder that make you feel like "we'll be young forever ..."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anthropomorphism, Or, Plant! Watch Your Language!

I have always had a vivid imagination. I also am an avid dreamer of fantastical, intricate adventures. And I have the best memory of anyone I know (save our managing editor, who has photographic recall of everything he's ever read).

Put it all together, and my life can be a bit like a Disney movie, with my cats -- in my mind -- running for mayor, setting up side businesses, threatening to call their union rep; and my dog affecting a Spanish accent and decreeing that some days, she wants to be called "Lady" or "Betsy," depending on her mood.

Everything in my life, be it animate or inanimate, tells a story. I guess that makes me an anthropomorphist. Fortunately for me, the people I truck with are, too.

Lately, I've been spending more time with my dear friend and college and post-college roomie, Vicky, who says things like, "Oh, Stove, you're just not simmering well" and "Poor Purple Chair, you're going to have to go downstairs again when we get the Christmas tree." We weave hilarious tales of our cats -- my Big Bear and Jasper are brothers to her Little Bear and Maurice (making us mothers from another brother, but I digress). Convinced her Little Bear is a genius, she even purchased him a Baby Einstein piano. I told her today of the sudden movement among my felines to demand middle names. Apparently, it's all the rage, and it's in the "contract" and so forth ...

Long story short, as Vicky would say, I've been in a fantastical mindset of late.

As those who are familiar with San Francisco weather will know, it has begun raining. And rain = ants. (Oh, and these disgusting earthworms that literally crawl up the house, sometimes even depositing themselves into my windowsills, but I digress.)

I understood when they came for my dirty dishes in the sink on the first night. That made total sense. But then the next day I came home from work to find a line to the paper grocery bag into which I deposit my recyclables.

I furrowed my brow (which, at 43, I cannot afford to do) and for a moment was confused: This was the recycling, not the trash, didn't they know that the items in the bag would have the least foodstuffs on them? And then I had to laugh: Yes, Sue, of course the ants know that they are marching into a recycling bag. They're San Francisco ants, after all, and demand that their edibles be organic and disposed of in the proper manner.

It put me in mind of when I was working at Mother Jones years ago and was waiting in the morning for the BART train at 24th and Mission. Alongside me were a young mother and her daughter. The mother glanced down at the tracks and said to her daughter, "Look at the mouse on the tracks!" as the vermin, which I happened to be watching, too (a habit picked up on the Red Line in Boston -- it was the deepest under ground and had the most critters), scampered across the rails.

The girl took her mother's hand and, looking confused, pointed to the sign above the tracks. "Doesn't he know he's not supposed to touch the third rail?"

Her mother tried to contain her merriment and said, "No, sweetie, mice can't read."

I thought of that today, as I was leaving Vicky's, and we both regarded one of her indoor plants. "Poor Plant," she bemoaned. "He's looking droopy. He needs a big drink."

To which I rejoindered, "Yeah, he's like, 'Who do I have to &*%$ in here to get a drink?!' "

Vicky channeled more of Plant's salty exclamations, and I turned to it and said, "Plant! Watch your mouth!"

We dissolved into our trademark giggles and hugged and she walked me to the door. Halfway in and halfway out, I turned to her and said, "The funny thing is, on some level, I still think the plant was cussing."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

They Call Me Heat Miser ... I'm Too Much

Received my first Christmas card, from Shaken Mama, steamed the season's first batch of Dungeness crabs and nabbed me a 7-foot-tree.

Kittens Jasper and Bear got their first taste of crab -- Lucy already has been treated enough with the Thanksgiving outing to Aunt Vicky's.

My friend John and I are stringing the lights on the tree, wondering what is a sugar plum? And how did figgy pudding gain such a cult following among carolers? And why would someone want to be married by the Rev. Snowman?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Somehow, Not Only at Christmas ...

Somehow, not only at Christmas, but all the long year through, 
The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.
    -- John Greenleaf Whittier

Somehow, not only at Christmas, but all the long year through, 
My sis and I sing this song -- and never fail to crack up. Wait, that doesn't rhyme.
    -- Doodie and Sue Sczubelek 

This Whittier quote was on a Christmas card our Aunt Bet once sent us. It was scotch-taped up on the front door of 837 Lehigh with all the rest of the holiday greetings my parents received each year.

One night, feeling silly and inspecting all of these cards, mostly from people we didn't know, for some reason my sister and I turned it into a song (I think it was more of my goofball doing). The most notable parts are how high your voice has to rise for the "joy that you give to others" phrase, and then how low it has to go to end with the decisive, formal "Whit-tier-rrrr."

As an adult, when my sister found this verse on a Christmas card, she bought the box and informed me that I would be receiving one every year until they were gone. I think I have 12 so far.

I have always loved, loved, loved Christmas. That and my birthday, with Christmas edging out even the miraculous entrance of moi.

When I was a kid, we would get a tree a few days before Christmas, but it would remain undecorated until Christmas Eve, when my parents would string the lights and hang the ornaments while we were sleeping. Christmas Eve, we would each open one gift, and share the Oplatek Christmas wafer around the dinner table, which would be filled with cold salads and meats. The older of the six kids would go off to Midnight Mass.

The next morning, after opening our presents stacked in individual piles around the living room, we would line up by age -- me first -- and Dad would descend to the den to plug in the tree lights. We would file down into the magical darkness, to the glowing tree and more presents, along with our stockings -- each nailed to a stair in descending order of age. Mine would be filled with barley pops; bell-shaped, foil-wrapped chocolates; Lifesaver "books"; a toothbrush; and other precious treats.

Ever since junior year in college, I've gotten a tree and decorated for the holidays -- whether I had to ferry it home in a taxi in Boston, or with my convertible top down in San Francisco.

Until last year.

You see, I have my own tradition -- and that is, when I wrap up all the Christmas decorations after the holidays, I think about what the coming year will bring. When I unwrap the decorations next year, what will have transpired? Will I be single? Will I have a new job? A new house?

Last year, in the wake of the attack, I was so weirded out that 10 months prior, when I had been packing away the Christmas decorations, I had had no idea that I might not live to another Christmas ... that I couldn't do it. No tree, no decorations.

This year, however, I'm making up for it. The minute those divinely scented pines are tagged for sale, one is coming home with me. I'm going to ice skate on one of the outdoor rinks they set up for the season in the city. I'm going to sing along to the Messiah at Mission Dolores church. I'm going to have a holiday party (you're invited!). I am going all out.

After all, time is the present.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?

My friend Elliot calls me Iggy, short for Instant Gratification.

I have always hated waiting: Waiting for the new Adam & the Ants album to be released, then waiting to save up my allowance to buy it, then waiting to be allowed to ride my bike up to the record store.

I want what I want, and I want it now. I am, after all, an American.

Lately, however, I find myself valuing moments, and things that take time, things that remind me how incredible my existence is, how wondrous -- and how fleeting.

Mundanely enough, this line of thought started with the microwave-in-bag potatoes I found at the Safeway last week. Looking at them, I realized that there is virtually nothing to wait for anymore (Muni excepted). In the words of Kenny Chesney, I've been living in fast forward.

The elimination of waiting, I think, has come at the cost of a near extinction of mindfulness.

I hate walking down the street and seeing white earbud tails snaking down everyone's neck, or the ubiquitous Bluetooth earpiece. It feels disrespectful and droid-like. My friend Vicky and I a few weeks ago had dinner in a restaurant where virtually everyone was not talking to the people at the same table, but texting someone else.

We spend so much time distracting ourselves from where we are that, while it may seem as if we're stuffing our lives chock full of experience, we're draining the miraculous, Tweet by mundane Tweet.

This is one of the reasons I was delighted when Chronicle folks were given tickets to Cavalia last week. For those unfamiliar, it's a Cirque du Soleil-type show, but with the addition of beautiful, majestic horses.

Sitting in the dark, watching the amazing feats of the acrobats and trick riders, I felt part of something greater than myself. A connection, perhaps, to ages gone by when people entertained each other just like this: with comedy, beauty, stories and dangerous stunts that celebrate the fragility of our existence -- but also the immense, magical promise of being alive. Not alone, each on our own iPod, but together.

That is ... I've been living in fast forward ... but I need to rewind real slow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harriet the Spy, at the Flea Market

Harriet the Spy being my inspiration, I was charmed by this girl at the flea market yesterday. Spy trench coat (despite the fact that it was near 80 degrees), an inexplicable hat and notebook under her arm. Watch out, world! 

Rock-a-Bye Kitty, on the (Toilet) Tank-Top ...

Disclaimer: No live animals were harmed in the following mishap. All cats appearing in this work are fictitious, and any resemblance to the mortified tabby who streaked away after being rescued is purely coincidental. Right.

So, every morning when I can no longer stand my freakishly long-armed cats swatting my nose like a cat toy, rescue Peke Lucy has awoken -- as evidenced by a distinctly ladylike eruption of sneezes and snorts -- and I have administered the requisite number of belly-rubs as prescribed by the union contract, I feed my critters.

I try to get a few things done before Lucy finishes her dainty snarfing and has to go outside. In today's case, that was scoop the litter box, which lives in the bathroom. It's a big enclosed number, and I haul it up onto the toilet to make scooping easier. Only, just as I set it down, Lucy click-clack-danced down the hardwood-floored hall and I stopped what I was doing to spirit her outside for her constitutional.

Upon returning and opening the front door, there arose such a clatter that I rushed inside to see what was the matter. Nothing appeared out of place in the living room or kitchen and Bear, the black cat, threw me a withering glance as if to say, "What? Racial profiling again? It wasn't ME."

Whereupon I discovered that tabby Jasper apparently had climbed into the litter box as it was perched on the toilet seat, disrupted its balance and pitched forward whiskers-first as the commode nosedived onto the bathroom tile, effectively trapping the furry pooper inside.

I broke out laughing -- which cats will hold against you for more than one life, as cat-lovers everywhere know -- and lifted the box to see a blur of stripes whisk through my legs to safety and anonymity.

After cleaning up the mess, I took pictures that better illustrate the hazard.


Professional actor hired to re-enact the event:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ground Zero for Greatness!

Our boy Timmy.

This has got to be the only city in the United States where a ballplayer can wear his thong on his ... well, anywhere he likes ...

SF is crazy!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What a gorgeous day for the flea market! 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I (heart) Phillip's Park

When I was little, we had a magic door in the downstairs den. (This is not to be confused with the adjoining cellar, where I still suspect a monster lurked.)

Actually, there were 22 tiny doors that together formed a portal to anywhere in the universe, past and present, sprinkled with an inkling of the future: The World Book Encyclopedia.

By the time I came along, 15 years after my oldest sibling, the set was complete, its pages and marbled exterior weathered by tiny hands seeking answers to increasingly complex questions: How many planets are in the solar system? How does a seed grow? How does the human body work?

Researching this last would bring you to some of my favorite pages: The transparent overlays that, as they were peeled back, revealed the ingredients of the human body -- the skin, muscles, bones, organs, circulatory system.

I like to think of the geography of my life in terms of those layers. This is especially true when I visit my hometown of Newark, Del. There on Elkton Road is the corner where, when I was in grade school, they built the Friendly's that would become a perennial hangout for my girlfriends and me, turn into a date spot for ice cream, morph into a meeting place for childhood reunions, and finally be torn down to make way for a bigger, more serious building to house a credit union.

Beneath the ever-changing storefronts of the Park-n-Shop across the road is DiIorio's variety store, where my mom was a cashier with Erma, Thelma and Rita, whose bay window was lined with bins of superballs, colored rabbits' feet and tiny rubber men with flimsy plastic parachutes strung to their backs that we would throw up in the air for an afternoon before they were outshined by the gleam of the next dime-store novelty.

And then, there's my favorite spot, draped in so many gossamer layers I sink into them: Phillip's Park, nearly 14 acres of creek, trees and memories nestled between neighborhoods and the railroad tracks that used to ship the cars from the now defunct Chrysler plant.

Since my dad worked full time at DuPont, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when I was about 12, and I had five older brothers and sisters, I don't have a lot of memories of just me and a healthy Mom -- and even fewer of just me and Mom and Dad. But there is one at Phillip's Park: I was really young and playing in the "cheese castle" -- concrete barrels of varying height with Swiss cheese-like holes dotting the perimeter. I paused to watch my parents, who were engrossed with each other, looking very happy.

I remember how happy they looked because of my own contrasting, distinctly unpleasant demeanor -- I had just wet my jumper.

Phillip's is where I walked with my brother and his girlfriend on my sixth birthday, before they gave me my Fisher Price record player. I remember this because Peggy let me wade in the creek and I found a quarter.

The park is where Mom took me and my next oldest sister for a picnic during Easter break when I was 10, when I promptly ate my small chocolate bunny -- and my sister saved hers til the end of the trip in a show of patience and deferred gratification I had yet to fathom.

It's where I used to ride my bike and sit for hours filling a marbled composition book with poems and short stories and observations from my Harriet the Spy-inspired spy route.

It's where my girlfriends and I roller skated on the impossibly smooth tennis courts until invariably being kicked off.

It's where, when I was home to share my dad's last days, my sister and I shared our grief walking on the new paved trail.

Most recently, this summer, it's where I viewed fireflies for the first time in years, watched a thunderstorm, and listened to crickets, cicadas and train whistles, all the while aching to fold up one of those gossamer layers and slip it into my back pocket.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No more Phillies cap for me!


Mayor Urges All San Francisco Giants Fans & Local Businesses to Show Pride in the National League Champions as World Series Begins Wednesday in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA–Mayor Gavin Newsom has officially proclaimed it “San Francisco Giants Pride Week” beginning Wednesday, October 27th and continuing through the end of the World Series, set to begin Wednesday in San Francisco between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. Mayor Newsom is urging San Francisco Giants fans and local businesses to show their pride in the National League Champions by wearing the Orange & Black or displaying signs, flags or other shows of support for the hometown team.

“The whole City is rallying in enthusiastic support of the San Francisco Giants as they take on the Texas Rangers,” said Mayor Newsom. “I encourage every fan and every local business to show support for the Orange & Black anyway they can throughout the World Series. Let’s show the world San Francisco is a true baseball town and help boost this remarkable team to a World Championship.”

In a show of civic pride for the hometown team, the City will continue to fly the Giants flag over San Francisco City Hall and around Civic Center Plaza and light City Hall, Coit Tower, the War Memorial Opera House, the Treasure Island Administration Building and San Francisco International Airport in Giants Orange. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) are also joining in the show of Giants pride. The Ferry Building, Embarcadero Center and other San Francisco buildings will soon be lit in Giants orange.

Mayor Newsom and Mayor Robert Cluck, M.D. of the City of Arlington, Texas, the home of the Texas Rangers, will announce their friendly World Series wager tomorrow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In Which I Am Mistaken for a Pole "In the Know"

Living in the Outer Richmond, I have the incredible fortune of being within walking distance of stores and restaurants that offer every ethnic food I can imagine. This is a far cry from Wilmington, Del., which for the longest time had just one Thai restaurant.

So, after deciding to throw a Polish Easter feast for the brave souls who will oblige me, I set out today for the Polish deli and Russian bakery.

There was a line at the deli, so I queued up and began eyeing the shelves to see what I needed to pick up by the time I reached the counter to order the kielbasa. The black currant juice caught my eye. Thinking how tasty it would be in vodka, I picked up a carton.

Most of the people in line looked like me: hardy souls with big noses, round faces, light eyes. I have always wanted to visit Warsaw, from whence my DNA comes, with the fantasy that it would be a city full of people who looked totally familiar. Then a couple who were clearly not Polish stepped in and took their place behind me.

Judging from their conversation, somehow they had gotten themselves into the position (appropriately, a "pickle" ha ha) of providing a Polish Easter dinner, and they weren't quite sure what all that entailed. First, the woman worried they wouldn't be able to converse in Polish like the customers in front of us. Then she noticed the carton I was holding. She said to her partner, "Oh that looks good, let's get some of that."

I spied a jar of red cabbage and apples and, recalling a recipe I'd seen that I would like to include in my dinner but was too lazy to make, picked it up. Soon, she had scooped up a jar of her own.

When I got to the counter and ordered my polish sausage, they were debating which sausage to get. "Well, SHE got the polish sausage," the woman said.

I spread my wares on the counter, threw in a babka and some liverwurst as if I knew what I was doing, and handed over my cash.

Then I picked up my booty and made my way back to my little NWZCHIK-mobile with the Polish decal on the bumper -- for all this couple knew, on my way to cook up yet another dinner of Polish fare, thinking that they would appear appropriately Polish with their copycat purchases of a Delaware girl who only looks Polish, and doesn't know much about anything.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Dyngus Day! Or, Poles Know How to Party

Avid Girl readers (and if this is you, you deserve a medal for putting up with my crap -- I'll order you one later from my Polish catalog. How about the breastfeeding Virgin Mary?) may recall this post from August 2008, in which I cracked wise about the, well, Polish-ness of a certain catalog catering to a certain Eastern European bent.

It turns out -- and I can say this, as I am a Pole to my core -- there's a reason there are so many Polack jokes. There's just so damn much material. In retrospect, it's fitting that my Polish father used to say, "I always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Or an undertaker."

We see the humor in life, always laugh at ourselves -- and at the same time know that no one's getting out of here alive.

My college roommate V (a Slovak) and I several years ago hosted an Eastern European Easter at my old apartment in Noe Valley. It was a smash hit, and so when she mentioned having Easter dinner at my place this year (she's redoing her kitchen), I thought: Redux! Hence, the research on Polish traditions.

First, I was tickled to come across the idea of "Bitter Lamentations." I mean, that basically is the subtitle for all our family dinners growing up.

But I was quickly diverted by an even juicier tradition that occurs the day after Easter: Smingus-Dyngus [SHMEE-goos DING-goos], or "Wet Monday," in which people douse each other with water in a pseudo-courting ritual that also somehow involves ... pussywillows?

Turns out the biggest U.S. celebration of Dyngus Day is in Buffalo, N.Y. It sounds like a freaking hoot.

My colleague "Fishbone," always quick on the uptake, immediately suggested a T-shirt to commemorate the dousing. Turns out, Polart already beat us to it. "Wetter is Better," it proclaims ... in water-based ink.

Do you SEE why I love this catalog so much?

(It also explains why in fourth grade I got a water pistol in my Easter basket. It didn't work and had to be exchanged -- a travesty I lamented bitterly.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I (heart) ESL Customer Service Reps

I'm going to go out on a politically incorrect limb here, given that outsourcing has such a bad rap, what with the U.S. suffering from a 9.7 percent unemployment rate and all.

But I love dealing with customer service reps who are in another country, culture and time zone.

They are so freaking polite.

It's a positively Elizabethan experience -- well, if phones and the Internet had been around back then.

They say things like, "The pleasure is all mine" and "a very warm welcome to you" and "kindly take very good care of yourself." And, in general, just make me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

Can you blame me for suddenly needing to get clarification about my BofA statement, or my HP computer's quirks or my Roomba's broken spirit?

I mean, compare it to my recent experience with Kaiser Permanente, which I recently called to make an eye appointment. As the chatty woman was looking up times, she threw out, "So, how's menopause coming?"

The pleasure was all not mine.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

High School Reunions, or, Things Thought Up By The Antichrist

(I am smiling because I couldn't be more happy to be leaving high school behind me.)

It has been 25 years since I was forced to spend six hours a day inside a concrete-walled, four stories-plus-basement fortress with classroom windows that didn't open at Ninth and Broom streets in Wilmington, Delaware, called Padua Academy -- an all-girls Catholic school.

I called it hell. (I mean no disrespect to the school. It is a fine establishment, and I remember my teachers fondly. My classmates, however, were the spawn of Satan. Anyone who thinks an all-girl environment is nurturing either has a penis or plays softball -- very well. And one or two might wear a nun's habit.)

Seriously -- it was climbing those endless marble steps from the basement to the fourth floor for first period that I formed my idea of purgatory: Carrying 8 pounds of textbooks from one place I didn't want to be, with girls I didn't want to be with, to another place I didn't want to be, and arriving out of breath. To learn French. Knowing I'd have to do it all again tomorrow. It doesn't take much imagination. Il ne prend pas beaucoup d'imagination.

Girls are not kind. They are sharks (though I hesitate to sully that animal's reputation with the comparison. Sharks seek prey that is bleeding; high school girls seek prey they can make bleed).

Fast forward on that little cassette player of life and we come to January's alumnae newsletter, which I flip open to the class notes. And there it is: a classmate I barely recall is organizing a reunion.

Given the antipathy already expressed, why, you might ask, would that item merit even a second thought?

It's like this, cat.

High school is that old lover who f%$#*d you over, but who you have never been able to forget all these years. He knew you back before you even knew yourself. Heck, it was his hazing that helped you become the strong woman you are today. Surely, he's matured with age and life experience -- he can't possibly be as cruel as he was then? And man, when he sees who you are now -- well, that'll show him! I mean come on, you know you want to see him. I bet he's lost his hair! He might have gotten fat! And I'm sure he's unhappy. And then you can close the book on the whole thing and get back to your wonderful life with an empathetic sigh that you don't know how you couldn't have seen it, but he wasn't all that. You would've kicked him out of bed for eating crackers.


Anyway, I called upon everyone's favorite stalking tool, Facebook, to see what I was up against.

My first thought? Damn, these women look old. And how did my best friend from high school (who I no longer talk to) have four kids?

There's my homeroom homie D., who was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning one weekend -- apparently she's got a kid now. There's S., who tried to OD junior year -- on aspirin. And there's K., who got pregnant senior year (weren't you kicked out for that?). There you are, J., whose speech I wrote. A., you were a softball star. And now you're married?

I can't decide: Will this reunion rekindle an old, dysfunctional relationship? Or will it constitute healthy closure for four years of my life that still leave a bad taste in my mouth?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Much Ado About Sue

My industrious friend Shaken Mama has been cleaning out her video/photo files, and I have been the recipient of a few gems. You see, we diligently document each others' lives, in order to be ready to spring THE MOST EMBARRASSING OBITUARY OF ALL TIME. (Wait til you see the photo of "Lamb chop" and "Pinhead" in Las Vegas!)

You might think that's macabre, but it's actually our way of egging each other on to live looooooong lives. Because, frankly, the world would suck with either of us gone. Just sayin'.

Most notably, she unearthed three video clips documenting the night of the Great Bathroom Caper, in which I got locked in Vicky & John's bathroom at their wedding party.

Now, Vicky maintains that she'd never had a problem with that lock. But mysteriously enough, she and John have now redone the entire bathroom. Coincidence? I think lock. I mean, not.

And so without further ado, I urge you -- if you are so inclined to proceed on this track -- to familiarize yourself with the Caper and then check out these video links of what was going on outside my prison.

1: General speculation and problem solving.

2: John picks at the lock.

3: (Another) John jokes about a bomb.

Suffice to say that my rescue hailed not from this side, but from the outside:

Sunday, February 07, 2010

My Life, in Cat Years

In July of 1991, about a year after my mother died and I was still getting my adult sea legs at age 23, on a whim one day I found myself at the Delaware SPCA.

I was in search of a black cat, preferably a female who, I hoped, would exhibit the same charming disposition of the calico I loved growing up. (She was named C'mon, pronounced "Simone," after my sister's misreading of the slang phrase in books when she was a kid. To this day, we will say such things as, "Simone! Let's go!" You can imagine the havoc wrought by railroad "X-ings.")

A shelter worker quickly disabused me of the pairing of my desires, reminding me of what I had learned in a college biology class, that color genes are sex-linked, so solid-colored cats tend to be male -- just as calico cats are female.

She showed me to a row of cages. One of them held a tabby kitten; the other, a black one. She let out the tabby and I held her. She squirmed out of my hold, wanting nothing to do with me. Then the woman placed the 4-month-old black kitten in my arms. He curled up against me and began purring. And the love affair began.

In honor of his color I named him Vesper, "of the evening star," also reminiscent of "vespers," Catholics' evening prayers.

He was incredibly annoying.

At night, if I let him have the run of my small apartment in Wilmington, Del., he would dig up the African violets on the coffee table in the living room.

If I kept him in my bedroom at night, he would jump on each piece of furniture and meow, trying to get out.

If I shut him out of my bedroom, he would spend the night meowing and scratching, trying to get in (when he wasn't tearing up the Afrian violets on the coffee table).

But he settled in with me, and I with him, and it came to pass that for the next 18 years, in whatever joyful, devastating, harebrained, ill-advised, wonderful, romantic, miraculous life scenarios I found myself in, somewhere in the frame was a wispy black shadow regarding the antics with gold eyes that held unconditional affection and forgiveness behind a seemingly detached stare.

From Wilmington, Vesper moved with me to Yorklyn, Del., where I shared a house with my college roommate Vicky, her two cats, Theo and Sophie, and Barney, an ornery stray tabby already living there who I would end up adopting.

From there -- now with Barney in tow -- we humped it over to nearby Hockessin, down to Wilmington, N.C., up to Boston, down to a summer in Riverton, N.J., and finally, about 14 years ago, all the way across the U.S.A. to San Francisco.

Vesper was there when I met the man who would become my husband. He was there when that man said goodbye. He was there when I lost my father, and when we lost Barney. He was there in my life for the birth of my best friend Shaken Mama's three girls, who decorated him with ribbons and jewels (above), just days before I had to put him to sleep.

Vesper was dying of congestive heart failure. On Aug. 20, with Vicky by my side and my sister on speaker phone, the vet eased Vesper into the Long Nap as he lay on his favorite afghan, in his favorite spot by the window.

It was the end of an era, a slicing of the umbilical cord that connected me to my 23-year-old self and all the "me's" in between.

And so it was that a chapter of my life closed, and I was on to the second half of my "book." But I will continue to use the memory of a gold-eyed wisp of black as my bookmark, forever marking my place.