Thursday, December 8, 2016

Anyone need some free, non-toxic rodent control?

Early this summer, some bastard was eating the cherry tomatoes in my garden.

That was so NOT cool.

One of the main reasons I plant a garden is so I can stand out there and eat sweet, warm Sun Gold tomatoes right off the vine. But just as they were getting ripe this year, they were disappearing.
All evidence pointed to a rodent, one that laughed at all of my attempts to stop it. I had just about given up any hope of enjoying those tomatoes myself when the dog stepped in.

That was cool.

One evening at dusk I walked into my garden and saw a grey shape hiding on one of my pots. Realizing it was my rodent thief, I called my dog over and pointed at the shape just before it took off.
The dog chased the thief into the bushes, and about 90 seconds later, she came prancing out of the bushes with the thief in her mouth.
I have never been happy to see one of my animals kill something, but I was thrilled to see that thief dead. And the dog was thrilled to see me so happy with her.
She knew she had done something awesome. It was a great day for both of us.
Now every time I go into my garden, the dog won’t leave my side. She stands taut and ready to spring at any sound or movement, waiting for me to point again and say, “Go get ‘em!” 
I need to stock my garden with rodents. Or find someone else with a thief they need to get rid of.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Who wants to go to McDonald's on Thanksgiving? Me.

We had Seaside Beach to ourselves on Thanksgiving.
My favorite Thanksgiving as an adult began when my husband and I woke up with suddenly no one to cook for but ourselves. 
So instead of spending the day in the kitchen, we decided to drive the dog to the beach. And stopped for Egg McMuffins on the way.

That was cool.

I didn’t always feel it would be cool to be in a McDonald's on Thanksgiving. I wasn't ready to wave the white flag of, "I'm an orphan. I've got nowhere else to go."
So after my immediate family dissolved when I was 15, I spent many years hovering around other people's holiday tables, hoping to be invited to sit. And though I usually felt like a stray cat let inside for just that day, any family table was better than none.

Then when my husband and I created our own family table, we began hosting friends and family there, and I loved offering a place for anyone I knew needed it. So at first I felt adrift again when we found ourselves without any guests to host, or any gathering to attend on Thanksgiving.

But soon, I felt the freedom in not being tethered to a family table. The freedom to eat whatever I want, with whomever I want. Even the freedom to decide I'd rather go to McDonald's instead. So I was certainly grateful to find the Ukiah location open that Thanksgiving, as were a lot of other people:

Like the man drinking coffee and charging his computer. Maybe he was on the road and very happy to find a place open on a holiday, like my sister and I were the New Year’s Day we spent in a small town in New Mexico. At first we had fun, standing in the hotel parking lot at midnight and setting off sparklers, something that had been illegal in California since we were kids. But the next morning we realized we had no food, and with no grocery stores open we worried we might have nothing to eat all day. Until we saw the lights and life at McDonald’s. The restaurant was a refuge for me that day, and many times since.

Like the couple sitting with their young kids, smiling over plates of eggs and pancakes and sausages. Maybe they were also on the road, or maybe the father treats the family to McDonald’s on holidays to give his wife a break from cooking everything. My favorite Thanksgiving meal as a kid was the year my parents took my sister and me to a restaurant. Not only was the food much better than what we had at home, my mother was relaxed and smiling because she hadn't cooked all day.

Like the teenage girl eating with a woman, perhaps her mother. Maybe the girl was like me at that age, left with one ill-equipped parent who hated American holidays and decided that with his wife gone, he could finally stop celebrating them. Maybe that girl was perfectly happy eating chicken McNuggets on Thanksgiving because she didn't have to buy all the ingredients and cook them herself.

Now, I certainly recognize that any McDonald’s likely only opens on holidays to make more money, and I also recognize that any business open on Thanksgiving will likely be forcing some employees to work. But I’ve worked plenty of holidays without resentment. In fact, another of my favorite Thanksgiving meals was with my co-workers while we put out a newspaper, because it had better food and more grateful smiles than most family tables I’ve eaten at. And even if all employees working on Thanksgiving aren’t treated to a good meal, I still choose to believe that most of them are grateful to have a job.

For those who prefer their family’s table and never want to go to McDonald’s on Thanksgiving, I hope they never have to. But those of us who are no longer part of a family gathering -- either by choice, circumstance, or a little of both -- might really like having the option of finding food and community elsewhere.

Like the man in line ahead of me at the Harvest Market in Fort Bragg on Thanksgiving who reminded me of my father. Not only because of what he was buying -- a six-pack of beer, a bottle of booze, a tin of sardines and a jar of olives -- but because he chatted with the checker as if that were his main social interaction for the day.

And like my husband and me, who could still eat delicious turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy the day we went to the beach because of the cooks at Harvest Market. And I remember smiling as we ate our holiday meal in the car with to-go containers balanced on our laps and the dog behind us, anxiously waiting for a taste of turkey. Smiling because I wasn't at a family table, but I felt more at home than ever before.

As for this year, we are hosting again, so I will be in the kitchen hoping the gluten-free changes to my galette recipe aren't a disaster. But I will still be smiling, because while it feels good to know I no longer need to sit at a family table to enjoy Thanksgiving, it feels even better to offer a seat at our table to others.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I fell in love with our neighbor's dog through the fence. And when they abandoned her, we adopted her.

We brought our first dog home on Halloween.

That was cool. In fact, one of coolest things ever for both humans and dog.

But that first day wasn’t cool, because she wasn’t a dog yet. She was a 60-pound chimpanzee on a pogo stick who launched herself at everything that moved, especially the cats, turning them into hissing blurs of fur.

Afraid one ring of the doorbell from a trick-or-treater would make the cats disappear forever, we turned off the porch light and prayed for no visitors. And when we finally crawled into bed with the dog secured in the garage because we didn’t think to get a crate, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “What the f--k did we do?”

What we did was adopt a 13-month-old dog who had never been taught any manners or even taken for a walk. I know that because I watched her all those months in my neighbor’s yard, where nearly all of the time she had nothing to do but watch me. 

So she dug a hole under the fence to stick her head through and see me better. Soon I was talking to her all the time, greeting her by sticking my hand through a knot hole in the fence so she could lick it, and playing chase with her by running from one end of the fence to the other. 

At night I’d sit at the fence and call to her. She would come and lie on her side, stick her leg through the hole she made and I’d hold her paw, telling her some day I’d take her for a walk.

But the week my husband bought a leash for her, we noticed she was no longer in the yard. I looked for her in the animal shelter and there she was, in the very last cage, after being found wandering in the hills several miles away. I wasn’t sure it was her at first because I had never seen her ears or even her whole head before. But she knew it was me immediately, jumping up and pawing through her cage to reach me.

After giving her owners 10 days to claim her, we legally adopted her and finally on Halloween night, we brought her home. The next day I borrowed a crate so she could sleep in the house, and after seeking help from a dog trainer, I quickly got her to stop jumping on me. 

It took much longer, however, before the dog and the cats could be left alone together, then even longer before I could walk her without her pulling on the leash, and even longer before anything left in the back yard would not be chewed to bits.

I don’t think she will ever learn to avoid skunks or to not run up to new dogs, despite one taking a chunk out of her side for being rude, but she learned the driving routes to and from our favorite parks so well that she will tap my shoulder with her nose if I make what she decides is a wrong turn. 
I spent more than 40 years as a devoted cat person, but few things now give me more joy than watching my dog running free, then sprinting back to me, her tongue flapping. Or watching her play with other dogs, like her first love Simon.

That first night, we were scared we had brought home an uncontrollable beast. Now the only thing that scares me is imagining life without her. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Let your hair down -- even your hair down there

The musical Jekyll and Hyde has a song called “Confrontation,” in which the “good” Dr. Jekyll argues with the “bad” Mr. Hyde about which of them deserves to live in his body.
In a recent fundraiser for the Ukiah Players Theatre, “Bring on the Men,” the song was given a brilliant twist: a man telling his gay urges he was going to kill them. And the struggle was conveyed brilliantly by Casey Frey, who switched back and forth from solemn to animated as effortlessly and completely as a rubber band changes from taut to loose.

That was cool.

So cool, in fact, I felt that performance alone was worth the hefty ticket price. What I liked even more, however, was when UPT executive director Jenny Peterman described why she had chosen a show full of men in drag to be the theater’s fundraiser.
On the surface, there seems to be no better way to get women in particular to shell out $40 a ticket than to promise plenty of men in panty hose, then throw in a free drink and dessert.
But Peterman said the show was about more than fun. It was about having the performers step into someone else's shoes, and in the process hopefully learn a bit more than how to walk in high heels.
“I never understood how 'tolerance' was supposed to be the preferred response (to those who identify as something other than strictly heterosexual),” said Peterman. “I believe love and acceptance is the only humane response.”
This show, Peterman said, even helped her performers, who were arguably already particularly accepting of different lifestyles, learn some things about accepting other people’s choices, most notably about how much hair they choose to remove.
“These guys are shaved and plucked and tucked within an inch of their lives,” she said, explaining that while “before there was all sorts of bawdy talk about their partners’ bodies and who likes a little hair or no hair at all. But now, after they know what it’s like to have to remove it, they’re like: ‘Do whatever you want.’”

That was super cool.

Because learning to accept what other people do in other bedrooms is relatively easy. But learning to love every hair your partner brings to your bed? Now that’s love and acceptance.
The men of "Bring on the Men" (l to r): Tucker Morninglight, Brian Maneely, Chuck Mordock (purple shirt), Casey Frey, Oscar Medina Montelongo and Justin Kester (lying down).      Photo credit: Chris Pugh-Ukiah Daily Journal

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kids still love Star Wars, and now there's a girl Jedi for them to love!

I recently got to watch a class of fourth-graders release tiny steelhead trout they had raised from eggs into a creek.
“May the Force be with you,” many of them said to the fish, hoping it would help them make it to the ocean, then eventually come back to spawn.
That was cool.
As someone who remembers seeing the first batch of Star Wars movies when I was their age, I love that kids still love Star Wars.
And I love even more that girls now have a girl Jedi to admire.
I remember playing with Star Wars action figures with my best friend and having intense arguments about whose favorite character was the hero, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. I argued for Luke, she argued for Han.
But if the action figures we were playing were from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we wouldn’t have been fighting over who the hero was. We’d fight over who got to play her. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Will Lyle Lovett ever play "Creeps Like me?" Why concertgoers should be able to pay extra to hear their favorite songs

My CD of "Road to Ensenada."
I don’t have the patience for concerts. Even if I’m enjoying the music I usually can’t sit through more than a couple of songs, so I rarely buy tickets for live shows.
But I made an exception for Lyle Lovett’s current acoustic tour with Robert Earl Keen. I thought if Lovett didn’t have his Large Band with him, I’d be more likely to hear the slow songs I favor: “Road to EnseƱada” being at the top of that list.
So I paid $75 for a ticket and made the long drive to U.C. Davis’s Mondavi Center in the hopes of hearing that song. And about an hour in, he played it. As many times as I’ve listened to a recording of that song, there was definitely something magical about finally hearing it performed live.

That was cool.

But … it also got me thinking about how disappointed I would have been if he hadn’t played it. And about all the other songs I’d love to hear; the more subversive ones like “Creeps Like Me” or “Sonya” that likely aren’t crowd-pleasers.
So I’m wondering if musicians can offer persnickety fans like me a way to add requests to our ticket price. I have to admit, I left soon after Lovett played the song I wanted to hear. But if I knew he was going to play another of my favorites, I would have stayed longer.
I don’t care where I sit, I was sitting as far back as you could get and the acoustics were still great at that venue, so I don’t need to pay more to sit closer. But I do care what songs I hear, so I would happily pay more for the chance to hear a certain song.
I’ll let the artists or the promoters work out the details. Maybe if at least 20 people pay $50 extra for a song, it will be added to the set list?
Just think about it. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Best Claire Underwood line yet: "Do you regret having them?"

My favorite part of Season 4 of Netflix’s House of Cards, other than the return of Paul Sparks as writer Tom Yates, was when Claire Underwood is asked whether she regrets not having children. Her response: “Do you ever regret having them?”

That was cool. I thank whichever of the writers came up with that.

Even when asked between two childless women, that’s an incredibly personal and potentially heartbreaking question, since one could have tried desperately to have children while the other never wanted them.

But in that scene, I think the woman asking the question was really saying, “Don’t you wish you had my life?” which can often be the subtext behind that question, along with a secret desire by the person asking it to have their life choices validated by the other person admitting they regret theirs.

Instead, Claire lets her know that she likes her life just fine, thank you.