Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much, but blogging is trippy.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reconnecting

When I was 17 years old, I played Peter Pan in the musical of the same name.

It was the pinnacle of my high school theatrical career.

I know I'm supposed to feel that those were my glory days. If Bruce Springsteen says it, it must be so -- right? But I don't. I have had so many more wonderful experiences and moments in my life since then. I wouldn't go back to high school for anything.

However, there were parts of those days -- that spring in particular -- that were wonderful and which I do re-live with great fondness at the memories.

I remember the way it felt to be young and energetic. I remember the stress of worrying about my grades. I remember the absolute, delicious agony of wanting a boy I could never have. I remember the marvelous time I had with my mother. We were the only two people at home that year, and we had an awful lot of time together.

But yes, that play was fun, and it was such an intense experience that I've often tried to write out the whole thing. I've never succeeded finishing.

After the play was over -- well, I think most actors feel a terrible letdown, a deep and oppressive depression at the end of a particularly good play's run. And I am no different. When the curtain fell that last night, I had roses, I had a party, and I had very good friends to be with. So I kept the depression at bay, but just barely. It bubbled and boiled beneath the surface. I was grumpy with some of the actors because they were watching a videotape of the play. I actually don't remember a lot about the party itself, but I'm pretty sure I laughed and danced with a few of the people.

Too soon, it was time to go home. My friends Greg and Suzanne drove me to my house. The driveway was a long one, up a very steep hill. For some reason, Greg didn't pull up all the way to the house, so when I got out of the car, he started backing his white '63 Corvair down the driveway. I was standing there in the middle of the turnaround, squinting at his headlights, waving goodbye to them and wondering if I was going to be able to stand tomorrow.

Suddenly, Greg's car stopped. He didn't turn off the engine, but his door opened and he got halfway out of the car and he said, "That's where you belong. There. In the spotlight."

For a moment, I was too stunned to move. It was the kindest, most beautiful compliment I had ever received. It is still the kindest compliment I've ever gotten, and to have it come from one of my best friends at just that moment in time was more than I could stand.

I was so scared of life, so scared of my unknown future. I was scared of leaving home and going to college. I was scared of change and certain that I was always going to fail at everything. To think that someone believed in me so much that he could stop in the middle of his tracks and spend a moment to not just reassure me but to *compliment* me so thoroughly -- it was too much.

A sob caught in my throat as I ran -- ran, stumbled, fell -- down the driveway to throw my arms around him. He got out of the car to meet me, and Suzanne also got out of the car, and we stood there in the driveway in that most uncouth and ungainly of human configurations, the sappy group hug. I cried. I don't think Suzanne or Greg did. But I did. I cried because of Greg's outrageous kindness. I cried selfishly for the childhood I knew I was leaving, for the home I would miss, because I was never going to be Peter Pan again, and for my impending adulthood. I put it off as long as possible, but I got older anyway.

I will never grow up. Just yesterday, I felt the hot shame of childhood fear in the facing down of authority when I told that lawyer what I thought about his silly case. I was just as scared of the judge and the bailiff and the censure of everyone there as I was of growing up and taking chances.

And although Greg moved to Florida and disappeared from my life for twenty years, he's back as surely as my grip on my childish behavior is. A couple of months ago, he sent me an email. And we have been as close as ever -- catching up on life and refreshing each other's memories about the funny things we thought and did when we were young. He's in a committed relationship, out of the closet, and making a good living as a wedding consultant. I'll see him a couple of weeks when he comes home for his class reunion.

I can't wait to see him. Of all the people from my past, of all the youthful friends I lost and kept and keep finding and remaking, Greg is the best connection to my youth that I can imagine. He's grown older and a little more responsible -- but he, like me, has a firm grasp on playfulness.

Yet he's as wise as ever. Just tonight he sent me this gem after we had discussed how strange it is to go to a reunion to see people we thought we would never see again:

"But to get to these ever so sweet berries - I had to crawl through an old wooden fence and I always got splinters. Then I would have to wade through some briars and I would always end up bleeding before getting to the berry patch. But those berries were so worth the splinters and the bleeding.

Kinda like life, huh? We gotta go through the bad to get to the best parts of it."


To my youth -- to youthfulness -- to Greg & his pearls of wisdom.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's official -- I'm a rabblerouser.

I got kicked out of court this morning. Why? Because I just cannot keep my mouth shut, that's why.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was summoned for [blank blank]. (I swear I am not kidding -- the summons said I couldn't say I was gonna be serving, so I'm trying not to say it, but I hope you all know what I mean.) And I never actually served on a [blank] before, because the last time I was impaneled, I got kicked out because my mother-in-law has worked in the insurance industry for thirty years and they weren't sure I could be impartial.

Smart them.

Anyway, I showed up early this morning, just *sure* that this time I was going to perform my civic duty and finally serve on a [blank]. And I was, indeed, in the [blank] box for whatever they call it when the lawyers try to weed out the smart people.

Let me go off on a bunny trail. Comics often talk about how trials are heard by people who aren't smart enough to get out of [blank blank], and I always thought that was a terrible thing to say. They made it sound like smart people *want* to get out of [blank blank]. And maybe some smart people do. But from my last two experiences in this particular arena of civic responsibility, what I've found is that, really, it's the lawyers who don't want smart people in the [blank]. They want blank minds in the [blank] that can be filled with nonsense.

That's *so* not me.

So, anyway -- I know I'm drawing this out too long, but it was quite a morning, let me tell you -- I sat in the [blank] box for about ... forty minutes. The lawyer for the plaintiff introduced himself and explained he was from out of town. He was very well-spoken. And slick. And I didn't really like him a lot, but Wesley was just telling me about *his* last experience in the [blank] box and how much he HATED one lawyer, and I was just determined not to hate this guy. I wanted to be fair and impartial. But as the plaintiff's lawyer asked more and more questions, he also revealed more of the case at hand.

'Scuse me. I'm gonna be *real* Southern and suck my teeth for a second. *Smack* OK, I feel much better.

The plaintiff was an idiot -- er, I mean, *man* -- who was suing the defendant for damages caused when the idiot -- er, I mean *plaintiff* -- tripped on the defendant's property and twisted his ankle.

And the idiot's wife -- er, I mean, the wife -- was *also* suing the defendant for "loss of companionship" due to the same twisted ankle.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Now, there was some other rigamarole involved -- business, manufacturing atmosphere, forklifts that SNUCK UP on the idiot, er, I mean, plaintiff, and a really sore ankle, dagnabbit. Not to mention that poor wife who lost her companionable husband for goodness knows how long. I guess they were in Walmart and he couldn't keep up because he was hobbling along and she just *lost* him. I don't know. I cannot figure out how a twisted ankle would cause her to lose a companion.

So a bunch of potential [blankors] answered lots of questions, saying yes, they were familiar with forklifts, and yes, they had worked in manufacturing plants, and no, nobody knew the lawyers or any of the parties in the trial, and so on and so forth, and I sat there clenching my teeth and digging my fingernails into my hands and trying *desperately* not to roll my eyes or snort audibly.

*Finally*, I guess I lost control and either I sighed or gasped incredulously or *something*, because all of a sudden the plaintiff's slick lawyer was asking me -- JUST ME -- how I felt about all this. And I tried *so* hard not to tell him. I did. I really did. I tried not to say, "You're a carpetbagger, and your clients are greedy, scumsucking idiots, and I honestly have no idea how you sleep at night."

You'll be very proud of me to learn that I did *not* in fact call anyone any names.

I'm proud of me, too.

I *did* however go off on a complete tirade. See, there's something you may not know about me. I didn't even realize it about myself for years, and then my boss at the hellish ad agency pointed it out. When I get mad, my vocabulary gets bigger. It bemuses people to no end. Most people apparently *lose* the ability to speak eloquently when they're angry. My husband marvels at my talent and often encourages me to take care of problems that involve intimidating someone who deserves it. I, therefore, haven't used this particular gift in a while. Except on my kids. And hey, man, they need the vocabulary lessons, anyway.

So when the slick plaintiff's lawyer asked me what I *felt* about lawsuits in general and this lawsuit in particular, I launched a certified Bay rant about how we live in a ridiculously litigious society and that I'm not at all convinced that greedy people haven't completely extirpated our civil court system for people with actual grievances against actual villains. At some point the lawyer asked me if I could distinguish the difference between "a little wrong" and "a big wrong," and that's when I pulled out the big guns. I'm pretty sure I used the words "tantamount" and "egregious."

I'm absolutely sure I alluded to the Triangle Fire of 1911.

This is what happens when you let a history major loose in a courtroom and give her the floor.

I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, and I could not stop them, and a piece of me was looking at the slick lawyer, the judge, the clerks, and the plaintiffs. I could not bring myself to look at the other [blankors] or the defendant and her lawyer. I just couldn't. The plaintiff's lawyer, to his credit, was not turning purple or anything. The judge's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline when I said "Triangle Fire." (But he handled "extirpated" with aplomb.)

Another bunny trail -- all over my county, people are running for their encyclopaediae, history books, and Internet search engines in an effort to find out what the dickens the Triangle Fire was.

Now the way things work here is that both of the lawyers ask all the 18 people in the [blank] box all the questions they want. And then they hand over nice, anonymous notes to the judge, who then excuses anyone that either lawyer wants to dismiss. That's the way it worked the last time I did this, and that was probably supposed to be the way it worked this time.

But it didn't work that way today. Oh, no. Not for the crazy lady talking geometry and tanta-mountains, whatever those are. Nope, the plaintiff's lawyer waited until I finally shut my flapping yaw, and he said to the judge, "Your Honor?"

Whereupon the judge said, "Eeeyyyyyyyeahhhhhhhh, Mrs. Loftis, you are excused from this [blank]. You can take a seat in the courtroom."

He was really nice about it. But I was so badly behaved that they didn't even wait to pass around the gossipy little notes and do it anonymously. They kicked me out *immediately*. I can only hold my head up because I wasn't escorted from the courthouse by the armed bailiff.

It took another twenty minutes to go through two rounds of the polite note-passing, and when they finally had a [blank], all the rest of us were excused.

As we were leaving the courthouse en masse, I said to the other excused people, "Well, I know why I got kicked, but I can't figure out what's wrong with the rest of you."

And some guy said, "I think I got the boot because I was applauding YOU." A couple of other people said they were *so glad* I said what they were thinking. No one asked me what the heck the Triangle Fire was, so maybe I wasn't the only history geek.

I feel a little better. A little. I'm still embarrassed, though. I *should* be able to be fair and impartial. Civil courts serve a valid purpose -- or they did at one time. And it would've been nice to hear how on earth that woman lost companionship because of a twisted ankle.

But c'mon -- how can *anyone* take this stuff seriously with the spectre of the Triangle Fire hanging over them while hearing a full-grown man complain about his *foot*?

New bloggers, welcome!

Oh! Such an exciting day!

First, welcome to the readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal -- I was delighted to see my sister quoted in the Online Guy's weekly column, and even more surprised to see my blog linked through Al's blog. Hey, y'all!!!! I hope you don't mind my back-country blogging too much; I know you are all accustomed to the bright lights and mind-altering attractions of Sin City. It's a little slower here, a little more dim, but very nice nonetheless, and you're all very welcome. I confess, Las Vegas holds one of my favorite people -- my sister Amy. She's my best friend, so if you meet her, be sure to tell her to move home, would you? I would appreciate it!

Furthermore, if you're currently in Las Vegas, you need to know that I am absolutely obsessed with Fat Burger milkshakes. Oh -- the best beverage on earth! Go have one for me, and then come back to my blog and tell me all about it. Pictures are welcome!!!! My last LV trip is in the January archives. I hope to be there again in February, when the Craft Hobbies of America professional organization will be holding its winter 2006 trade show there. If you happen to be attending, too, I'll be the chick with the press pass and the Fat Burger milkshake surgically attached to her hand!

Now, as for the rest of my Monday, I went to court this morning. Why? I can't tell you. The summons specifically said I can only tell judges, lawyers, and my employer that I was summoned for [blank blank]. I took an oath and promised not to smack anyone and to try to behave as if I were a responsible citizen who takes her civic duty seriously, and I intend to do just that..... At 9:00 Tuesday morning when I return for [blank].

Until then, I have every intention of laughing about the last time I was summoned for [blank blank], from which I was excused because my mother-in-law works for an insurance agent. One lawyer asked if anyone was related to anyone in the insurance industry, and I was the only person who raised her hand. The other lawyer asked if I got along with my mother-in-law, at which point I snorted audibly. Both lawyers kicked me out of the courtroom. That was five years ago.

I actually *do* get along with my mother-in-law. She's a very nice lady who raised a great guy to whom I've been married for more than 18 years. But we don't have a lot in common -- and the insurance industry as a whole is one of the points on which we disagree. I think the insurance industry is eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil. It's second only to advertising as eeeeeeeeeeeevil in my book.

So I hope tomorrow's courtroom experience will be more fruitful than the one I had five years ago. I'm eager to do my civic duty. I think it's the least I can do, considering how silly some juries can be and have been recently. I think it would be refreshing to have a chick like myself to represent the calm, rational, kind portion of our citizenry -- don't you?

And of course, I think it would be refreshing if courtrooms came furnished with Fat Burger milkshakes. That would be *supremely* cool.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hypochondria -- or just plain hyper?

I couldn't sleep.

I couldn't remember why I couldn't sleep.

So very sad, I got up and came to the computer to surf the news. Oh, the news. It's soooooo sad. I became positively despondent reading about how Deepthroat's boss thinks he tattled on Nixon for revenge, and then -- the worst part -- Paul Winchell, the man who gave voice to Tigger, died. Oh, the sorrow and woe! This is terrible! What will little children do now that there won't be any more new Tigger movies or songs? I started worrying about the little children, trying to live their lives without Paul Winchell. They'll probably all turn to lives of crime.

I won't have to worry about that, because I'm surely going to croak from all this insomnia, memory loss, depression, and anxiety. But my children will have to deal with it. They remember the days when Tigger had new lines and sang new ditties, and they'll have to deal with the criminal generation that will surely follow in the wake of all this bad, bad news.

Oh! I know. We should crawl into a cave and leave society behind. We can become an unsleeping, depressed band of hermits, dependent only ourselves, our Xanax and Valium, and an occasional field mouse who happens to wander close enough to catch and eat. But wait! What if the field mouse carries a disease? I'm so scared of disease-riddled field mice!!!!!

That's when I read about the mad cow disease that the government covered up. So I surfed over to http://www.mad-cow.org/ and read the Early Warnings:
Insomnia, memory loss, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, fearfulness.

Good heavens! I already have it!!!!!

It's only a matter of time. When my typing becomes wobbly and unbalanced, I trust you worthy blog readers will be kind and slaughter me in a very nice slaughterhouse. Please label my barrel "Bay's Remains," and make sure you include a nice verse about how I was once a nice person before I stopped sleeping and started worrying about a world without Paul Winchell.

And of course, it's a good thing I went to a nice cropping party before I became too mad-cow-infected to get anything done. I had a lovely Sunday afternoon at the gorgeous Maple Grove Inn, scrapping with Jill, Alison, Michelle, Jennifer, and Mary Beth. We drank wine (well, Jill and I did; I'm not sure anyone else had time) and made Artist Trading Cards and laughed a lot. That was all before the insomnia and anxiety proved to be Bovine-CJD.....

Before I forget -- yes, there's probably a correlation between between my affinity for Mary Beth's cracker candy and the entire theme of "bovine" anything in my blog. Moo. Now, stand back before I try to walk around the Internet, reading other people's blogs and dropping cracker candy crumbs all over the 'Net.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Cosmo's fine....

I know, I know, three posts in one day? Well, I'm a busy gal. What can I say?

A number of you have written to ask how Cosmo's doing, so I thought I would give an update. The first two days at home were really quite iffy and I was quite concerned about the old boy. He spent the majority of his time eating or sleeping. He indulged in very little talking and absolutely no yelling or singing. I made a point of not sneaking up on him, because if one appeared suddenly before him, he would try to bite. I'm sure it was the trauma of being out in the wild for four terrible nights.

He ate everything we gave him and has really outdone himself in the drinking department. I'm surprised he doesn't squish when he moves; he really has drunk a lot of water. The best food he got was a bunch of grapes; his little eyes rolled back in his head as he held a grape delicately in one foot and nibbled rapturously on the berry. I wish I had gotten a picture of him at that task, but honestly, I was just enjoying watching him too much to run for the camera. I've never seen him enjoy any food as much as he enjoyed those grapes.

Cosmo moved laboriously and slowly for the first two days at home, as if each step pained him. I examined his feet but can find no overt signs of wounds or stresses there. I think he was just exhausted.

I took it slowly and would just spend my time near him, reading out loud or talking softly to him reassuringly. He seemed to appreciate that and tried to bite at the air a little less when I was near.

Now, Friday night/Saturday morning, I'm happy to report that he stepped up willingly and let me hold him for quite a long time. He let me scritch his neck -- not near his left ear, which is still denuded and seems to be tender. (The kids want to know if he got a mosquito bite there; I honestly don't know.) He walked all over me; my lap, my arms, my hands, my shoulders, and finally climbed to the top of my head, his usual perch. There, he let me reach up and rub his neck for almost an hour. Yes, I had to wash my hair afterward. Now doesn't seem to be the time to try to teach him to do "his business" in the cage.

It strikes me that a week ago tonight, he was stuck in a pecan tree, and I thought he would stay there. It all seems so long ago and so removed. I still can't believe how lucky we are that Cosmo found his way home and called us to retrieve him. We're extraordinarily fortunate, and that feeling of benevolence is beneficial to all the animals. The cat enjoys extra patience as he tries to dash out the front door; the other birds are enjoying extra attention and scritches. We're all just hunkering together and remembering what "family" means.

Wesley and the Star


My camera held up for a minute or two! Here are Wesley (eyes closed, probably from the glare of the shining star next to him clouding his eyes) and Garrison Keillor after the performance of "The Rhubarb Tour" at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Companionable evening

My husband Wesley volunteers every fall for WUOT's fund drive. He's been doing this since 1996 or so -- I'm not really sure when he started. But he felt that since he listens to NPR all the time, he should support it as much as he could. He has enjoyed that stint from the very first moment, and he actually takes vacation from work so he can answer phones.

As a result of his volunteer efforts, he's gotten to know a lot of the people at the radio station really well -- and they have either accepted him as the curmudgeon he is, or they like him that way. I'm not sure which.

A few years ago, "A Prairie Home Companion" came to town and broadcast from the Knoxville Civic Auditorium, and we were there with bells on. I have to admit, it was cool. It was *so* cool. I'm a big fan of Sue Scott's, and it was just cool to see this ... this *institution* of public radio live and in person. We wouldn't have gotten the tickets if the radio station hadn't first opened ticket sales to the volunteers and supporters of WUOT. That show sold out very quickly.

Wesley was enthralled -- while I am a casual fan of the show, Wesley is a rabid one. He hangs on every word uttered by Garrison Keillor as if it were a proclamation from on high. He adores Sue Scott and Tim Russell as magnificent voice talents (which they truly are), and Rich Dworsky and Pat Donohue as amazing musicians (which *they* truly are). For me, the highlights of that live performance were seeing Sue Scott and Tom Keith the sound effects guru. For Wesley, the highlights were... everything.

But that was years ago, and we're getting older by the minute and starting to forget we ever saw Garrison Keillor live-and-in-person once when we weren't so old. When it was announced that the live/non-broadcast touring show "The Rhubarb Tour" would be coming to Knoxville, Wesley considered going for about two seconds. Then he found out how much the tickets cost. And he tallied up our recent financial stresses (broken appliances, sick birds, and so on, and so forth), and determined that it was not in the budget.

So when he received an email from the underwriting coordinator at WUOT, and she told him that the station had a few select tickets for a few supporters of the radio station, and that they had decided that Wesley deserved a pair, you would have thought Garrison Keillor himself had phoned and said, "Hey, pal, let's go ice fishing and chat about Lutheran guilt." Icing on the cake was the fact that these few, select NPR geeks would be invited backstage to meet The Man Himself.

(It's a good thing my bird came home before Thursday night, huh? Because I so wouldn't have gone if Cosmo had still been missing!)

Last night, we dressed up and went to the Civic Auditorium to see "The Rhubarb Tour." Although I had read about it in the Sunday paper, I had neglected to register the fact that Sue Scott would not be touring with this show. So I spent most of the evening wallowing in disappointment that she was not there. I also missed Tom Keith and Tim Russell -- *immensely*. Tom Keith is a virtuoso in the dying art of radio sound effects.

But there were a number of very nice points to make up for those much-missed regulars of the radio broadcast show. Prudence Johnson had a sublimely smooth singing voice and actually made Keillor sound pretty good on their duets. Her last song, with one verse in French and the rest in English, was nothing short of brilliant -- it was just gorgeous. The substitute sound man Fred Newman makes all his sound effects with his voice, and he does a really good job. He's quick and versatile and keeps pace with Keillor's whims admirably. I just really missed Tom Keith, I'm afraid, so I'm not an objective critic.

The absolute best parts of the evening were Pat Donohue (guitars) and Rich Dworsky (bandleader and piano) and the rest of The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. *They* were incredible from start to finish. I would pay $60 a ticket just to see and hear them. And I am a cheapskate, so that's saying a lot.

When the show was over, after a standing ovation and an obviously unplanned encore song (this non-broadcast show is a great deal more improvised than the one you hear on your own NPR station), we waited for the crowds to abate and then went to the front of the house to await our audience with the Keillor. I got my broken digital camera out of my purse and starting messing with it in the hopes that its motor would at least work long enough to get some pictures of Wesley and his hero, Pat Donohue. Yes, Garrison Keillor is a great writer and speaker, but really -- we were there to meet the peripheral players.

Backstage, most of the lucky volunteers who had been chosen for this honor rushed to the tiny anteroom that held the star, and I hung back a little, worried that I would miss the musicians if I didn't place myself in their path. Unlike the star who didn't pack up anything on the stage, The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band had to pack up instruments and sound equipment and goodness only knows what. I waited. Wesley waited. After a few people had met Keillor, they came up to us and chatted a bit. I finally met Cindy Hassil, the coordinator about whom Wesley had been telling me for at least a year. She was very nice.

We met Prudence almost immediately, and *she* was very, very nice. A little shy, but really nice and warm when you gave her half a chance. She also has a wide, friendly smile that I wasn't able to see when she was onstage.

Then a miracle happened, and there was Pat Donohue in the hall with us, breathing the same air that we were breathing and very much a *real* person. Wesley and I both pounced on him. We were trying to impress on him that we were really there to meet *him*, but he was tired and distracted. It wasn't until I said, "No, wait, you don't get it -- we turn up the radio when *you* are on," that he started to understand that *he* has fans. He's not accustomed to that. Why would he be? He's just a guy who plays guitar and writes the most fabulous songs. For years, he's been a supporting player to A Prairie Home Companion as a whole. In any case, I finally got a picture of him and Wesley, and he was very warm and pleasant once he understood that we were really there to see *him*.

Next on the roster of fabulous talent to happen by for our pouncing was Rich Dworsky, who was incredibly fun. OMG, what a guy!!!!!! He was friendly and outgoing and posed for another picture. I complimented his tie -- a gorgeous hot pink swirl of color, and he happily accepted the praise because it's a Jerry Garcia tie. Dworsky was *great*!!!!! I was actually just as sorry to see him continue down the hallway as I'd been when Pat Donohue took his leave! I would love to hang out with those guys for hours on end.

Before we left, we met Keillor, whose handshake is very warm and gentle. He didn't seem to like my flashbulb. I'm sure he's tired of stalkers and autograph hounds -- his concession to comfort seems to be his red sneakers -- they looked very comfortable.

After all that excitement, we left the theatre and discovered that the traffic was still abating. We had lingered almost an hour past curtain, so I was surprised that the traffic was so bad until I remembered the motorcycle convention taking place. During Keillor's Lake Wobegon monologue, fireworks were going off in the air over the coliseum, which is adjacent to the auditorium, so the bursts were clearly audible during the entirety of the end of the show, causing quite a distraction.

[Terrible confession: Those of you who know me also know I am a complete sucker for pyrotechnics, and I actually considered ducking out of the theatre to watch the fireworks rather than listen to the monologue. I'm a terrible person. I know. I didn't *do* it, though, so I hope I redeemed myself from my traitorous thoughts.]

So *that's* why the traffic was so bad -- there were the cars from the "Rhubarb" thing, and the motorcycles from the Honda Hoot thing. We were out of downtown Knoxville by 10:45 and on our way to Waffle House for a late dinner. Which, I have to say, was incredibly yummy. There's nothing like a BLT and hash browns (scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked) to cap off a perfectly lovely summer evening.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Happy Ending for Every Sad Tale

I believe in happy endings. I don't like books or movies with sad endings. I know, I could never be Italian. And although I love opera, I have mentally re-written practically every tragedy so that the heroine doesn't die but instead tap-dances off into the sunset with the man of her dreams. Romeo & Juliet? They eloped to Cancun and started a very successful spiced plum stand on the beach. Julius Caesar? He eluded assassination by taking in a matinee at the cineplex ("Medea's Aegean Sea Dance Party III"), and quit his role as emperor to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a Solid Marble dancer.

If I were to write "Citizen Kane," it would end with the reporter finding a Hello Kitty diary in Charles Foster Kane's bedstand. "Dear Diary," wrote the media mogul, "I wish I hadn't lost my sled named Rosebud. Maybe I would have been President if I had just kept track of that sled. Dad was a jerk. I guess that's why I was such a pompous doofus for so long. Also, I think I'm getting fat -- no more double mocha lattes at Starbucks! Love, Your BFF, Chuck."

See, now, *that's* the way a story should end.

Once upon a time, 8 and a half years ago, on a cold February Saturday afternoon, I set out in my brother-in-law's Chevy van for New Jersey. Now, you're asking yourself why anyone in her right mind would borrow a huge Chevy van for a solitary roadtrip, aren't you? And if you're Southern, you're wondering why any Southerner would head north in February. There's a simple reason for that trip, one which I've gone over in my head many, many times since then.

I went to New Jersey to adopt a bird.

That bird was a two-year-old yellow-naped Amazon named Cosmo, and he was being put up for adoption by a couple that had raised him with so much love that he actually said, "I love you," every night when he went to his cage. The only reason they were giving him up was because they were expecting their first human baby, and they knew that yellow-naped Amazons could be very bitey. Also, they had a cockatoo named Max, and cockatoos are easily spoiled and easily jealous of human babies. They knew they had to downsize their parrot family to make room for more humans, and Cosmo, as the newest addition, was the one who had to go.

I drove all the way to New Jersey through snow, ice, sleet, and wind. And I'll never forget how Cosmo eyed me suspiciously when I came into his home and gathered up all his things. I never even touched him before we left. His owner gave him a last peanut and barely kept from crying as I drove away. I knew that I was taking on an enormous responsibility. And I was so eager to begin.

Parrots like Cosmo can live 70 or 80 years. Why, Winston Churchill's macaw was still going strong the last I heard, and still saying things that Churchill taught him. Besides living a long, long time, parrots bond with their flocks and their mates, and they are so smart that when someone they love dies, they mourn the loss. For that reason, they are not easily adopted by strangers late in life. If one owns a parrot, one must also make provisions for that bird when one dies.

But yellow-naped Amazons are complex birds. Of all the Amazon varieties, they are the most skilled and talented mimics. They learn vast vocabularies and are the most delightful performers of song and speech. However, yellow-napes are also the most prone to violence, and a male yellow-nape in adolescence is notoriously prone to biting viciously. As a result, many adolescent yellow-napes are abandoned, sold, set free, surrendered, or abused -- at just the most vulnerable point in their lives.

I knew all of this when I drove to New Jersey that frigid February. And still I was eager to begin my life with Cosmo.

Our first day at home was a pure joy from start to finish. Even though I had been warned that he didn't like women, he stepped up for me the moment he emerged from his travel case. And we have gotten along like that ever since... except, of course, when he was going through puberty and tried to shred the flesh from my arms. Those months were rough, but we got through them. Together.

From a very simple, preschool vocabulary, Cosmo has progressed to picking up many, many things from us, including my laughter and Wesley's call for Woodrow. He sings "I'm Forever Blowin' Bubbles" from start to finish, most of "Let's Go Fly A Kite," and he can hold a tune on our version of "Bingo," which we sing substituting Cosmo's name. "There was a bird who was so green, and Cosmo was his name-o, C-O-S-M-O,...." If Cosmo feels like singing with a song he doesn't know, he's inclined to just yell, "O! E! O! E! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!" He learned to play peep-eye with not just us, but also my sister's African grey Noah.

I mean -- this bird is completely a member of our family. Forever. When I go on vacation, I always find an excuse to seek out parrots and talk to them just because I'm missing Cosmo.

So when he flew away Friday afternoon and disappeared completely by Sunday morning, he took a piece of my heart with him. A big chunk of it. And while I tried to keep things light on this blog, I cried for so long in real life that I actually couldn't catch my breath and started hiccuping.

More than once.

One night turned into two; two nights turned into three. And three nights turned into an agonizing, torturous four nights in the wild.

We did everything you're supposed to do, and still Cosmo was missing. My worst fears were dogs, hawks, cars, trains, and children who throw rocks. And if you try to tell me that most children don't throw rocks, I'll tell you that 95% of my third grade class threw rocks at *me*. Including those children who called themselves my friends when we weren't at school. I was scared to death that Cosmo would land in front of any one of these threats to his life, and that I would never know what happened to him.

I didn't give up. I couldn't. I put up more flyers with each passing day. I walked so much around town, in daylight and at night, calling and whistling and listening, that my feet and legs are sore. I wore blisters on my toes in shoes that are broken in. Practically every minute of every day has been spent working on finding Cosmo, and if I couldn't find him personally, I had to make sure everyone in a 50-mile radius knew that a parrot missing and his owner wanted him back desperately. Every night was an exercise in pointlessly trying to sleep, staring at the ceiling and wondering what Cosmo was doing, and then going outside to walk around town some more.

We had thunderstorms here Monday afternoon, and I was nearly frantic trying to find Cosmo during and after those storms. I was just sure I would find him shivering and wet in a yard. But I didn't. And I was really starting to think that at this point, the only way I would find him would be if a stranger called to tell me that they'd found a strange bird in their yard.

Tuesday morning dawned warm and uncertain. I got up, started the coffee, and walked my street and alley before it was ready. Then I got a cup of that coffee, got in the car, and drove around town at 8 mph, calling and listening. Back home, Emily had painted more flyers, and we went out around noon to put them up. I retired to the porch around 2:00. One thing I know is that Cosmo is not very active on a hot afternoon. Our air conditioner was fixed Saturday, but I had gotten into the habit of staying outside *just in case*. Wesley joined me when he woke up (he's working nights this week), and we talked a little about Cosmo. I almost cried, but I had gotten to the point that I didn't have many more tears to shed.

I read my book; Wesley worked the crossword puzzle and the Jumble.

Emily went to the library and returned with a friend. Jordan is ten and has very white teeth. We talked a bit about Cosmo, then he and Woodrow got into a water pistol battle that was threatening to spread. At about 5:15, I asked Wesley to go to the convenience store to get me a Coke 2. Wesley was about to leave for work, anyway, so he got in his truck and drove off, reminding the boys not to squirt the pistols in the house.

About two minutes after Wesley drove away, Emily, Woodrow, and Jordan were shooting each other with water and shouting, when I heard something -- *something* -- that made me drop my book and stand up on the porch. Just as I started for the front steps, Emily stopped in mid-stride and said, "I think I heard Cosmo!"

For a millisecond, the boys were quiet, and I was quiet, and Emily was quiet, and we heard it again -- "Awwwwp!" The sound came from our bit of yard across the street, from our giant crepe myrtle bushes over there. We were all running. My heart was pounding in my ears, and I was shouting above the din, "Cosmo! Cosmo! Say something, sweetheart!!!"

The boys reached the crepe myrtles before I did, and I stopped a few feet before I ran into them, trying to listen and hoping that I wasn't hearing things. "Where is he, where are you, Cosmo?" and I listened, but before he could utter another sound, Woodrow was yelling, "I SEE HIM!"

I took three steps forward and looked up a little, and there I met the golden eyes of my beloved bird baby. He was just out of reach on a branch in the crepe myrtle on the right, and he was right there, and real, and green, and mine, and home.

Within a minute, he was on my arm and headed back to his cage, into which he leapt and rushed for his food dish. We had kept fresh pellets, seeds, and water in there, but I sent for more peanuts, more sunflower seeds, and more fresh water. Cosmo dived into first one peanut, and then another, wolfing them down in his hunger and then diving for the sunflower seeds.

I scrambled for my cell phone to call my sister to tell her that he was home, and then I realized that Wesley had missed it all! He was off getting my Coke 2! As he pulled into the driveway, I hung up from talking to my sister. Cosmo was into the water now, drinking and drinking and drinking so fast that he actually choked and coughed and sputtered and then drank some more.

As Wesley came to a stop, the children were jumping up and down and shouting, "COSMO'S HOME! COSMO'S HOME!" I realized I was jumping and waving with them, laughing out loud, and I watched as the news registered on Wesley's face while he sat behind the wheel and watched us.

He jumped out of the truck and ran to Cosmo's cage on the porch, and he grabbed the sides in a grip and said, "You are never doing that again!" Then he turned around and grabbed me to him in a huge hug, holding me close and saying, "I can't believe it, I can't believe it." And although he is testosterone poisoned and very much a guy's guy, I could *swear* there was some moisture in his eyes when he finally let me go and turned back to Cosmo.

He's home. My bird is home. After four excruciatingly long nights and almost as long days, after two thundershowers and two really unseasonably cool nights, Cosmo is finally home. And we didn't find him. He found us.

Cosmo is a little the worse for wear -- he's missing most of his tailfeathers, much of the feather covering from around his left ear, and there's a tiny bald spot on the top of his head. He has been ravenously hungry and thirsty, but he's also been sleeping most of the time since I rolled his cage back to its usual spot in the bird room. He had pasta with pesto and a whole tomato for dinner, and he didn't eat at first because he wanted to sleep some more, but then he ate and went back to sleep later in the evening.

But he's home. This story has a happy ending. And I didn't have to make it up -- it happened all on its own. That's just the way I like it, too.

Music to Wallow In -- or avoid


If you see this bird.... please let me know. Thanks! Posted by Hello

Seriously, I have compiled a list of songs that one should avoid if one's parrot is missing. Here they are, in no particular order...

1. "Crying" by Roy Orbison. I've been doing enough of that without Roy's help. Besides, it's the sort of wailing song that would make Cosmo yell his head off, which makes me miss him that much more.

2. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler. 'Nuff said.

3. "Yesterday" by The Beatles. Yesterday, actually, er, Friday, all my troubles seemed *so* far away. Now I need a place to hide away. Oh! I believe... in yesterdaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy... sniffle!!!!

4. "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" by Elton John. Some people get really mad about not being able to make the bird come back home.

5. "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. OK, I know it seems farfetched, but hey, this song has been making me cry since I was too young to realize that I was crying over it. Right now, the lyrics that stand out are, "Maybe tomorrow a bullet will find me/ Tonight, nothing's worse than this pain in my heart."

6. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/ What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. If you had asked me twenty years ago if anyone would ever be able to put a more permanent signature stamp on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" than Judy Garland ever did, then I would have told you that you were freaking nuts. All right, yes, I would've said it more nicely than that. But still. Better than Judy Garland? It's impossible, right? WRONG. Iz did it with so much soul, so much heartbreak over not being able to follow those bluebirds across the rainbow, that his is now the definitive recording. If happy little [green] birds fly beyond the rainbow........ why, oh!, why *can't* I?

7. "I'll Find A Way" by Rachael Yamagata. I stumbled over this one by mistake. "I'll find a way to see you again"? Absolutely heartbreaking, given my current set of circumstances.

8. "There Goes My Heart," by the Mavericks. 'Nuff said.

9. "Put My Little Shoes Away," by someone. I don't know who. My mother used to sing it, and *her* mother sang it in the Depression. "Soon the baby will be older, and they'll fit his little feet/ Won't he look so handsome, mother -- as he walks along the street?" It has absolutely nothing to do with birds or being left or having some lover break your heart. It's about a child dying of typhoid or polio or goodness only knows what, and telling his mother to give away his toys to his friends, and give his books to the school, but put his little shoes away for the baby to wear later. This one is good for a cry any day of the week, whether or not your bird is missing. Fortunately, it hasn't played on the radio in the last 70-odd years, so I'm immune to it unless I sing it myself. Dang! I just sang it. I hate it when that happens!

Monday, June 20, 2005


After spending Friday night in the pecan tree, Cosmo flew around Saturday, causing no small mount of distress on my part. Finally, as the sun was setting, our neighbors two doors in the *other* direction reported noise in their backyard. Again, it was a tree we couldn't climb. As it got darker, Cosmo left this particular tree and went to the next tallest tree, just to the right of his location in this pic. He was last heard there around midnight Saturday night and is currently very much missing. Oh, be kind to our fine, feathered friends.

P.S. -- Big, honkin' thanks to Em for taking what may very well be the last known picture of Cosmo, even though you can't really see him in this great long-distance shot, and even though I'm not allowed to give up on his safe return until, oh, September or so. Great. Now I'm gonna cry again. Geeeeeeeeez, I'm such a sentimental goober! Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad....

A little more than 21 years ago, on the day that I graduated from high school, my best friend Suzanne gave me a book. I can remember the consternation I felt when I saw the cover -- it was a child's paperback by Judith Viorst, and the orange cover held the title: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

I was confused, but I opened the book to read Suzanne's inscription, "Bay, I wanted to wait and give this to you when you had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, because I know today's a terrifically wonderful, great, very good day, BUT -- I'm giving it to you now anyway."

I read the book aloud that very minute, and Suzanne and my mother and I laughed and laughed at poor Alexander's disasters and plights. Then we hopped in the car and drove off to the high school where I presumably graduated. I say presumably, because I have permanent memory loss of the evening's events. Why? Because....

That very night, without any help whatsoever, and being completely sober and not in the least impaired by alcohol (because I had just tried my first sip of beer and discovered that I hated it) I totalled my mother's car and bashed Suzanne's cute little nose to smithereens in the process.

Who can take a rainbow... and turn it into mud? That Bay chick can. Oh yeah -- that Bay chick can.

And that brings us to the topic of tonight's blog post. As many of you know, I had a spate of really bad luck a few weeks ago. Immediately after purchasing my beloved tree-hugging Prius, my washing machine kicked the bucket, my air conditioner bought the farm, my sweet little cockatiel Guido died, and my kids broke my digital camera. Oh, yes, and let's not forget, a terminally ill skunk decided the one place he most wanted to spend his last moments on this earth was our [fortunately detached] garage, where he did, in fact, meet his maker and start producing a stench heretofore unappreciated by me and my neighbors.

I'm generally a fairly upbeat sort of person. I'm a glass-half-full kind of chick, as much as I can muster. But let's face it, I am constantly swimming against a tide of rotten luck, and I think it's because of that book. I used to be a veritable ray of sunshine. For twenty-one years, I have been being followed by a black cloud of gloom and doom, despite my resolute grip on a rosy attitude. I had a baby -- she needed heart surgery. I had another baby -- he turned out to be really grumpy. I was an award-winning ad copywriter -- my boss was Satan personified. I quit that job to be a stay-at-home-mom -- my husband lost all his overtime pay. This has been my *life* since I got that rotten book!!!!

Today when I awoke, it was to the knowledge that the air conditioner is definitely broken again, but that's OK, because I have wrestled open many of our very old, painted-shut windows, and I have a good, old-fashioned box fan to move the air through our ancient brick bungalow. AND! I knew that our weather was predicted as unseasonably cool and comfortable. So it wasn't the sort of thing that would keep me from getting books read and dishes washed and music listened to and important stuff like that while we waited for Mr. Wilkerson to come fix our air conditioner yet again.

Furthermore, ever since the tree in the front yard was felled by a storm just a year ago, I've been missing that important element from my front porch sitting -- shade in the late afternoon. Why, just the other night I purchased some bamboo shades from WalMart and installed them so that the porch is once again perfectly lovely in the late afternoon -- and I can still watch the hummingbirds at the feeder, because that's on the back side of the porch, away from the setting sun.

Since the weather outside was so pleasant, I took a book, a glass of iced tea, and myself out to read. Through the open window to the bird room, though, I heard my Amazon Cosmo beginning to complain that his flock wasn't inside with him. Cosmo loves to come outdoors, and I love to bring him out. So I went inside, rolled his playstand out to the porch, and went back inside to get Cosmo.

I could draw this out for a long story, but suffice it to say that Cosmo took off before I could stop him. I yelped for Wesley and ran after Cosmo, remembering a similar run about 8 years ago when my first cockatiel Alberto took off suddenly. (That was the time we found her and rescued her without too much trauma, but to the great amusement of my neighbor Dennis, who marveled, "I've never seen you run -- I didn't know you could run!")

Wesley joined me immediately because -- well -- I lost sight of Cosmo almost immediately. I was standing in the road in front of our own house and looking to the right, wondering how far he had gotten. We started walking and looking, and fortunately, we heard him in the top of a pecan tree of our neighbor's yard -- only two houses down from ours.

Again, I could drag this out into a really long story. It's a small town. Dennis came home within minutes to find us standing in his driveway and peering into a tree in the next yard. He rolled down his window and asked nonchalantly, "Your bird get away again?"

Sigh. People have long memories. Well, everyone except me, apparently.

Dennis' wife and daughter drove up and asked a similar question. Yep. Bird in the tree. Yep. Very amusing for just about everyone except me.

Wesley called the fire department to see if they would come help. At this point, we still couldn't see Cosmo. He's green. So are pecan trees. He blended. But we could hear him up there, purring and muttering and purring some more. The fire department informed us tersely that they're not in the habit of rescuing BIRDS from TREES. Oh. Oops. I have watched too many movies, obviously, and *man*, I wish Steve Martin were our fire chief.

As more and more people gathered under this pecan tree -- and the people who live in that house never did come home to ask us what the dickens we were up to -- every single person who drove or walked by *did* ask us what the heck we were doing, and they *all* looked up into the tree as if they expected it to be *doing* something. I almost felt like my explanation was a disappointment to most of the onlookers. I think if Cosmo were a scarlet macaw, they would've been more impressed. But since no one could see him, they probably thought I was just being my usual eccentric self.

Time passed. Curious neighbors got bored and went back to their normal lives. Wesley brought out Cosmo's playstand to the yard. I brought out delectable treats like peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Woodrow and Emily brought out their birds -- in cages -- and we all stood there and beseeched Cosmo to fly down to rejoin the flock. Emily made macaroni & cheese (Cosmo's all-time favorite food) and we stood there eating it and saying how yummy it was.

Nothing worked.

Cosmo decamped to that neighbor's yard around 4:45 this afternoon. It is now 1:10 in the morning, and he is still in the pecan tree two houses down. His playstand has been joined by his enormous cage (and I think I'll have scars on my foot from dropping it on myself twice, ow) and a camp chair where I sat for the last several hours of the day. I finally did spot him, once I got far enough away to get a better angle through the leaves. He's REALLY HIGH UP. I mean, there's no way I could climb that tree to get him. The last time he spoke to me, it was very dark and getting very cool (61 degrees). I called to him, and he wolf-whistled and yelled louder than he's yelled since he flew, "HELLLLLOOOOOOOoooo!!!!"

The parrot websites have a FAQ about how to recover a bird from just this sort of situation. They recommend keeping the water hoses turned off and the cherry-pickers away. They recommend doing exactly what I have done.... and then they recommend being patient. Seems a parrot can take up to three or four days before he gets hungry or thirsty enough to want to leave the tree.

I, in the meantime, will be shredding my 21-year-old copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to bits small enough to line the bird cage. This book has brought me nothing but trouble. I need a new life guide. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

F.O.W.

Last night's storm reminded me of the time when I was 16 and working at camp in North Georgia. The dishwashers and laundress and I (a simple counselor's aide) were walking around giggling and whispering and trying not to wake the campers because it was about 11:30 at night when a storm blew in suddenly. We weren't ready to part company, but we had a couple of guys from the boys' camp with us, so we all ducked into the men's side of the public restroom cabin.

Well. It was a girls' camp. The men's side of that "public" restroom wasn't really public except on Sunday afternoons when parents visited their daughters.

In any case, while the rain poured just outside the screen door, we soaked and sodden teenagers continued giggling and whispering and trying not to laugh out loud -- which, as anyone can tell you, is particularly difficult when you're sixteen, and we were probably failing miserably, but the cabins all had tin roofs so no one could hear us over the roar of the rain.

And in the middle of this impromptu party, the laundress Heather suddenly intoned importantly: "F! O! W!"

She said it so vehemently, with such fervor, that we all stopped giggling and talking and turned to look at her. Of course, we didn't have to turn far because the men's side of the public restroom was somewhat small, and we were all standing shoulder to shoulder as it was. She sounded like she was quoting a punk rock song. Her voice, the letters themselves, would have been perfectly at home in any early B-52's lyrics. And that's a reasonable commentary on Heather's existence as a whole. She was the only one of us girls who wore thick, black eyeliner all summer long, despite the fact that we only saw the boys after dark and they probably couldn't tell whether any of us were wearing make-up or had touched our curling irons in months.

"F! O! W!" Heather said, and we turned in complete silence to look at her, her thick black eyeliner running down her cheeks from the rain through which we'd just run, and her finger pointing at nothing we could discern.

"Uh, Heather," someone asked, "What?"

At this, Heather spoke, jerking her finger only to punctuate her words, "Frog! On! the WALL!"

Again, we all turned to follow her directive, and yes -- surely enough -- there was a tiny, bright green tree frog on the cheap brown paneling of the men's restroom wall, completely oblivious to the fact that he was so out of place in there.

Hilarity ensued. Someone suggested perhaps the frog just needed to use the urinal. We laughed so hard that our sides hurt. We laughed so hard that we shook the walls and scared the little tree frog to climb higher on the wall, which caused more laughter. We laughed so hard that someone burst out of the screen door and stood out in the rain, guffawing, wiping raindrops and tears from his eyes, and I can still see his silhouette against the light from the dining room on the other side of the knoll.

To this day, when I think of the summer I was 16, what I really think is "F.O.W."

And I need to remember to always look for frogs on the wall -- especially in summer, but even in winter.

You say it's your birthday?

It's my sister's birthday, too!!!! OK, that's a great, big lie. I really should be honest and confess that I lie all the time. It's not vicious, it's just.... poetic license. The big lie is so much more interesting than the ordinary truth. So it's not really Amy's birthday. Her birthday was last week. I sang happy birthday to her several times that day, and for the next few days I kept singing. I like birthdays. I believe that people should make a great, big fuss for them. I try to be modest and all, but really -- I think birthdays call for cards and *huge* presents and big slabs of tiramisu and candles and parties and party hats and flowers and fireworks.

(Emphasis on the fireworks.)

(And the tiramisu.)

(Hey, man, cake is good, regardless of the occasion.)

Anyway, Amy's birthday was last week, and I missed it. I'm here, and she's there. Bummer.

But that's OK, because I've been working on a surprise for her, anyway. I estimate that I will get it into the mail on Wednesday, God willin' and the creek don't rise.

Oooo, but the creek just might rise. We're having the most spectacular thunderstorms here tonight!!!! They're putting on a glorious lightning show -- 'way off high in the clouds of the night sky, I saw jags and fountains of lightning that lit up the tops of the clouds for miles. That was before the rain broke open and tried to wash some gullies/ strangle some frogs/ [insert Southern euphemism here].

After the rain, I ran to a convenience store for milk -- OK, milk and Guacamole Doritos. Yummers. That was almost another lie by omission. Anyway!!!! I went to the convenience store for *stuff*, and that's about a 15-mile drive, round-trip. It was so hot here earlier today that the torrential rains didn't even totally cool the roads. At midnight, there was still steam rising from the surface, causing a thin mist to hang softly in the cooling night air.

If I haven't mentioned it in the last five minutes, I love summer. I love the South. I love the way the night air smells in the country, all green and hot and fertile. I love the way the clerk in the convenience store thinks nothing of chatting with you for five minutes about which trees smell good in summer (almost everything) and which ones smell bad (chestnut and something else I haven't identified; it smells like extra-salty Fritos).

I wouldn't live anywhere else on earth. I don't think I *could* live somewhere else. I just love this place, this time, this *home*.

And happy late birthday to Yamy -- I'm going to be nice to her, even though she moved all the way across the continent to get away from me, my Southern propaganda, and my very late birthday gifts.


Happy 8 days after her birthday to Yamy! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


It just isn't a porch for sittin' on if there isn't a cool, green, hanging plant nearby. Posted by Hello

Thoughts on a Monday evening

1. Mondays would be totally unbearable if it weren't for the mail and "The West Wing" marathons on Bravo.

B. But I got nothing interesting in today's mail. Booooooooooooooooo-ring. OMG. I'm gonna die if I don't get something interesting soon. I mean, something more interesting than, say, a jury duty summons. Those are interesting -- in a *bad* way.

III. And honestly, I've seen all these episodes of "The West Wing" pretty recently. I wish they would re-run the stuff that happened in the 2004-2005 season.

4. Just as I heard that the Michael Jackson verdict was pending, I turned off the TV and the radio and absconded to the front porch for some much needed freedom from insanity.

E. I cut Wesley's hair. Oh, yes, I did. I am a fiend for clippers and a high-and-tight haircut. And no, I have no cosmetology training. I'm just a multi-talented kinda gal. This was my first high-and-tight. I *rock*. No, there are no pictures yet. Wesley had to *run* to take a shower because he was covered with tiny, itchy bits of hair. Poor guy. I still rock.

VI. All three of the birds went to the porch for a bath. Cosmo got the first and most profound bath, as always. Amazons take a lot of water to get clean. Orlando (the near-white budgie) was by far the most fun -- I had no idea how much he liked a shower until he got a taste of it! All this time he's been bathing in his water dish. (And that drives Woodrow crazy, because he's a little anal-retentive about keeping the bird's water clean, so he has to change the water three or four times a day.) Lilo, Emily's nervous sorority-girl cockatiel, just about had a heart attack and dived straight into her own water dish to get away from all the evil water falling out of the sky. Birds are fun. Go get some of your own.

7. Summer just doesn't get any better than a late afternoon on the porch, cutting hair and showering parrots. Maybe I can open a barbershop in the Caribbean after Wesley retires. An open-air barbershop on the beach... Yeah, that's the ticket.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Bugger off; I'm full."

I'm sorry; I should be posting something pertinent or interesting right about now, but the thing is -- I made spaghetti for dinner, and I make really good spaghetti. So I'm not just stuffed, I'm overstuffed. I would have taken a picture of it to post here, too, but honestly, I was diving into it too fast to stop and click a shutter.

Question: Is the key to world peace providing quality spaghetti to impoverished nations?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I also have a Quizno's tiny chocolate bundt cake for dessert, but I'm so full that all I can do is look at it longingly. I don't dare take the lid off and smell it. I could probably make myself explode like that guy in the Monty Python movie.

(Ow.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hummingbird Wars (a.k.a., Hummer Fights)

I love summer. I do. It's my favorite time of year, every year, and each fall is getting more and more repulsive to me because it signals the beginning of winter -- and the disappearance of my beloved hummingbirds.

I've been feeding hummingbirds for about 10 years now, and the practice just becomes more comforting and enjoyable every summer. The only hummingbirds we get in this part of the world are ruby-throats, darling little dark-green jewels with dark red throats if they're male. The females are really fairly dull without a red throat, but I love them, anyway. Every summer Wesley and I sit on the porch and watch the hummingbirds, and keeping the feeder clean and filled with fresh nectar is the single most delightful chore of the season.

There's something indescribably peaceful about taking one's morning coffee on the porch to watch the hummingbirds... even though they are the most cantankerous, grumpy, vicious, territorial little birds on the continent. I once read an article in either National Geographic or the Smithsonian about hummingbirds in which a naturalist said, "It's a good thing they're not as big as crows, or humans wouldn't be able to take a walk outside in hummingbird season." It's true!!!!! Hummingbirds look adorable and cute, but they are the meanest little buggers ever! They fight over the feeder so fiercely that I find myself laughing out loud at their whiny chatterings to each other. Oh, they fuss! They're so mean! They're the biggest, baddest smackdaddies around!!!! And I could squash them with my tiny, little hand if I were fast enough, so there, HA HA!!!!

My sister Amy -- the one who so rudely moved to Las Vegas -- has been regaling me with tales of her exotic black-chinned hummingbirds. I have never even seen a black-chinned hummingbird except in her pictures, so I have been very, very jealous. Furthermore, I was very late putting out my feeder this year, so for weeks, I had to endure the tales of Amy's own personal hummingbird wars in her back yard. She spent so much time watching them (because who wouldn't?), that she noted their individual behaviors and named them appropriately. Her hummingbirds are Perchy, Buzzy, Floozie, and Perchy Jr.

Amy's Perchy lays in wait for Buzzy (a particularly loud bird) to come to the feeder, and then he attacks. Perchy Jr. has been quite puzzled when Buzzy tries to assert his dominance over the juvenile -- he's obviously taking lessons from dad's perching behaviors. And Floozie, the only female around, gets to do whatever she wants, because, well, she's a Las Vegas Floozie. All the guys are in awe of Floozie.

Inspired, I decided I couldn't let Amy be the only person with personality-filled hummingbirds. Besides, my air conditioner was broken and I was spending more time on the porch in an effort to catch a cooling breeze. I discovered that I had my own versions of Perchy and Buzzy, but they had different motivations for their behaviors. My perching hummingbird wasn't laying in wait to attack the other bird -- she was perched there, trying to figure out when the coast would be clear so she could get a sip without getting buzzed by some sneaky female with entitlement issues.

It took me about twenty minutes to come up with the right names. My vicious hummingbird was so mean to the poor perching one that she had to be Buzzilla. That's a no-brainer. Buzzilla is extremely sneaky and very quick to attack any hummingbird that comes to the feeder. She stomps around and roars and all the other birds fly away very scared.

I wanted to name the perching hummingbird after one of Godzilla's legendary foes, but none of the classic names really appealed to me. They all sounded fierce and strong. "Mothra." "Gamera." That's just way too much for this timid little hummingbird. So I went for a kinder, gentler monster, and that's how Nessy came to be named. She's named after the Loch Ness monster, of course. Slow. Gentle. Needs to rest all the time. Nessy!!!

There's a male hummingbird who comes to the feeder sometimes, but I think he must have other feeders that he's frequenting. I mostly see Nessy and Buzzilla. I was going to name the male Bob (just in case another male showed up so I could name the second one Weave), but a good look at my cat Hector standing on his hind legs to see the male's ruby-throat through the dining room window changed my mind. The male hummingbird is now named Kitty Pot Pie, forever and ever, amen. And if you haven't seen pictures of my twenty-pound cat, then that name might not make sense. If you *have* seen Hector, then the reference is obvious.

Maybe next year I'll get a second feeder and see if I can't lure some more hummingbirds to my yard. I can't wait to see what Buzzilla would think of that!


Nessy finally sneaks in a minute to perch for a sip of nectar. Posted by Hello


Buzzilla attacks the feeder in her usual hover-and-destroy posture. Posted by Hello

Declaration of Independence!!!

OK! I give up; I give in; I acquiesce; I can no longer fight it! I want a *regular* blog, not one that I can only add to when talking about leaving my house. Why? Because I NEVER LEAVE MY HOUSE!!!!! Well, relatively speaking, anyway.

So this is it. While I'm not changing the name of my blog (Bay's Travel Blog), I hereby and by the by officially declare that the word "travel" can mean many things, and if it means I'm cleaning out a desk drawer, well, then, that's what it means. For the moment. Or any other.

There! I did it!!!! Now try to keep up with me!