Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Little and Somewhat Neurotic Dog

This morning, I bent over to give my dog a little pet, when she whimpered as if I had struck her.

Now, I had not touched her at all. I had not knelt on her tail. I had not pinched her fluff under my knee as I lowered my great hulking frame to the ground beside her. Nothing. In fact, I had not come within even inches of her.

So understandibly, I was perplexed. I gave her the love she wanted, since she needed soothed after her shock. Then I went over her nose to tail looking for some burr that might have poked her, a tender spot that might have come from frisbee chasing. Nothing.

Hmm.

So in the end, I pet her, calmed her down, and laughed a little at her to myself, before tucking her back into her little doggie bed with a chicken treat to make her feel loved.

Which is probably the reason she whimpered in the first place.

Darcy is a big baby. That's just a fact. She cries for attention, feels better when she gets it, and remembers what she had to do to make us give her her way. She's been this way since she was a puppy. It's the way her mind works. And I wouldn't mind at all, if it didn't make me wonder when she was really hurt and when she was just limping when we're paying attention, so we give her treats.

I have witnessed that with my own eyes.

Darcy worries. She thinks she's really gravely injured when nothing's wrong at all, and when something is wrong? She crawls behind the sofa and won't let us look at her. That's how we know it's real.

This morning reminded me of a little freakish thing my girl does that other dogs that I know don't do. It comes down to paranoia, something my family has in vast amounts, if I am any example.

So here you go:

This year has been a bad year for ticks.

The country dwellers among us know it to be true; they are everywhere and in great numbers, enough that I see them from time to time, something that never happened before.

And I have a long-haired dog, so we delt with ticks last year too, though less of them.

Last year Darcy learned that tick medicine keeps her happy, so she sits still for her medicine. She also learned what tweezers meant. They now freak her out, because we used them to de-tick her fluffy self. And we found this out in mid-winter.

Mom had a splinter. So we pulled out the splinter tweezers (we have special ones) and I sat down with Mom to get her splinter out for her. And Darcy freaked out.

No! Her little doggie brain screamed. Not Mama! She can't have a tick! They're horrible! Let me nose-bump her and run around her and between her legs like this is an agility exercise. Let me herd Laura away from Mama, to protect Mama, since she needs it. Let me sniff the finger in question! That will save her!

We had to stop trying for the splinter, because Darcy kept jumping up onto Mom's lap, and when she stood up, into her arms. Shelties have springs.

But this year it got far worse. Darcy found a tick in her bed, and she must recognize the smell or something, because she became so freaked out that she avoided that bed like the plague from that moment on. She also started her very own Tick Campaign, involving her nose and any flat surface she could reach.

She starts with herself. Sniffing first the black spots on her paws and then her legs, then all other places her nose will reach, she sniffs. Once she has deemed her body clean of tick infestation, she moves on to the carpet. In the family room, in fact almost everywhere, we have carpet with little tweedy flecks. Darcy thinks all of these are ticks and sniffs them each in turn before calming down enough to sit. When that is safe, she can relax.

But never in Paul's room. She remembers finding a tick on the floor of Paul's room once. Now it is unclean and she will not stay in there, not for all the tea in China.

We can tell she's found one when her ears perk up and she angles her little head down, so the back of her neck gets extra poofy. Sometimes she will also lift up one paw, as if to protect it from whatever is on the ground so close to her, since she can't keep both out of harm's way. Then she will watch whatever it is until someone notices she's doing her little doggie freak-out stare, and we dispose of the tick for her.

And she won't rest if she thinks she has one. She will orbit the room, staring at us, until someone has gone over her with a fine-toothed comb to keep her tick-free. And on the one occasion I had one on my shirt, she stared at me until I noticed it.

Stupid ticks. Ugh. That was freaky-gross.

Does anyone else have a dog that does something like that? Is my Darcy angling toward a Laura-adjacent place in the funny farm?

I could use the company.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy birthday to me...

I want you all to know that I have just written three seperate blogs on the subject of my birthday, this weekend, and birthdays in general.

I am very tired right now, due to the use of my shiny new working DVD player to watch MASH episodes longer into the evening than was my aim. Jen, it was the one with the race, involving a bet with the new and not-quite-olympic-worthy supply clerk and the 8063rd.

In essence, none of the blogs I wrote had any level of cohesion or a real subject, in addition to atrocious spelling and missing words. That is, I typed so quickly that I left out things. Big things, like verbs.

So instead, I want to take this post to say "Hooray! I am twenty-five today!" without caring that the above phrase actually rhymes (something I generally avoid).

I plan to spend my evening eating more Culver's ice cream cake and watching more MASH episodes on my DVD player, with some knitting thrown in for good measure. I may end up also doing laundry.

That's what a big-girl birthday looks like. And it's not too shabby.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On A Much Lighter Note

Here is an advertisement that the lovely Ruth pulled out of one of our local papers circa Dec. 16, 1901:

To Library Patrons.
Patrons of the public library are urged to call for books on other days than Saturday, before four o'clock in the afternoon. After four school children apply for books in such numbers as to test the issuing capacity of the library and those who desire books can only get prompt service by calling early, while at the same time the labors of the librarian may thereby be lightened.

I don't know what's wilder, the concept that someone could advertise that and have people listen, the idea of children rushing to the library for books, or the presence of only one librarian.

The Way Things Used to Be: Or Why We Must Have National Health Care

The day after I found out I might need surgery, I got some unpleasant news. It turns out, my premium for my health insurance has gone up.

Yes. Now, instead of my workplace paying a whopping $1000.00 toward my premium, with me picking up the tab for an additional $1500.00 (hey--I could go to Europe on all that money. In style...), my workplace will keep up it's end, with me paying not $1500.00 but $2000.00.

Now, that's driving around money.

And by that, I mean if I took all that money and put it together, the Tin Can of Death I call a car would be replaced by a much, much less crappy little number, maybe one with air conditioning.

Seriously. That is a big deductible. Granted, I may not end up spending all that money on myself, but really, if I was a person who did, at some point, spend money to save my creaking, pestilence-ridden body, I might. And that would be problematic.

Let's get to the real problem.

I might have to have surgery.

At the very least, I will need a CAT scan of my sinuses, which is disturbingly close to my brain, and that kind of scan drenches you with radiation, so basically I'm having my brain irradiated. And paying for it.

Now those kinds of tests aren't cheap. And the surgery wouldn't be either. So, all this means that I will end up blowing past the $1000.00 contribution really fast. And paying for all the rest of it as if I didn't have insurance at all.

This would be what Michael Moore means when he talks about all of us who are under insured.

So not only am not making the big bucks, as I am a college grad making $20,000.00 a year, I am under insured too. And I love my job. Love It. But this is the kind of thing that could make me not be able to do what I want with my life. In fact, I won't be able to at all.

Which is hard for me to think about, because I only just now found a job in the first place.

This got me thinking, thinking about what my grandfather probably lived through: a world where you could get a job and have it pay for your life. Yes. You could go out, find a job, work full-time without needing to have various post-graduate degrees to do it, and that full-time job would come with health insurance that would pay for your health problems without you having to worry about the dreaded Pre-Existing Condition or how much of each thing you could do for yourself (like visiting an allergist) before they decided they just wouldn't pay anymore.

For example.

Say you have a heart attack. Say you are at your doctor's office, and he says, "Gee, I think you might have had a minor infarction. I'm going to send you to the hospital."

Now legally, that doctor can't send you out on the street. You could sue. You could DIE. You could die and then your family could sue.

But you also have the teensy-tiny problem of your insurance. They will pay for the blood work, the MRI, the varied procedures involved with heart problems. They will also (help) cover the costs of very pricey medications that might well offer your body some relief. Not your mind (or wallet), but your body. What the insurance won't pay for is the ambulance ride that will take you to the hospital where you can have all of those things done.

Because I'm going to fall off a roof and be impaled on a fence, Buffy-style, and then I am going to sit up and stop the bystanders from calling 911. That's what I'll do, I'll save myself all the fees related in having my life saved. I'll just stand up, taking the fence-post with me as I go, and drive down to my local ER, even as my body goes into shock, just because that's what it takes to not have to pay the ambulance driver's yearly salary out of pocket.

That heart attack thing? Happened to my dad. Not only that, but when the happy-go-lucky local hospital realized he'd had a heart attack, they insisted that he need real treatment rather than the basic first aid they can provide. Since they couldn't just let him leave either (see doctor's office, above), Dad had to wait until yet another ambulance drove him all the way to Fort Wayne, where he could be told again that he'd had a heart attack but also that it was cool, all would be just peachy.

Now imagine the vein in my finger popped like a zit in front of hundreds of people, to their Saw-esque horror and my despair. Imagine my having various surgeries to repair the heart-stopping gore that my finger had become. Imagine all the money that would cost.

Because the bottom line is, I don't have health insurance. No, not really. I have a health savings account that the library pays into, and that money gets taken out by the insurance company and paid out to the varied doctors and hospitals and pharmacies of Central Indiana. Then I have nothing. Then I am back to choosing not to refill my asthma medication because not getting that means that I can eat dinner, or see a movie, or--heck--buy gas to get to work and pay for car up-keep.

Almost all the money I make is funneled back into paying to get to work, paying to make sure I can get to work, paying for the education that made me able to find work, and so on. Forget saving up for grad school, forget the new car I desperately need. The raise I'll get at my one-year anniversary? What raise? The insurance will suck it all up like flies on honey.

That being said, the people I work for have no control over any of this. This is what happens when you work in a Republican state. Keep taxes low, at all costs, and never, never give any more to the government than its already got! This is what life is like, what it has always been like when a board, or several boards, determine how much money they are willing to shell out. And here in Indiana, no matter what your board is managing: police and fire, school district, or church, boards are notoriously unwilling to raise taxes by paying for road repair, 911 addresses, etc. And small businesses are even worse.

And that's sad. Really sad, because that means Indiana loses a massive majority of all young people seeking employment after college. Paul wants to leave. He just wants to pick up and go to some other state, without any real idea what state he will choose, just because he knows almost any state is better than here.

And I will miss him. Maybe so badly that I will pick up and leave too.

That's two down. And in only one family.

Now, I'm not saying this will fix all Indiana's problems, but imagine a world where I didn't have to freak out about filling a prescription or considering the possibility of maybe not having sinus surgery at all even though I might really need it. Imagine a place where I could relax and know that my doctor could take good care of me without my saying no to important procedures, medications, or my never visiting him at all to avoid having to make those kinds of decisions.

That place exists.

It's called Sweden. And Norway. The Netherlands. Canada. Cuba. And there are more still.

And it is worse for other people. There are people that have to put off getting treatment for cancer! And these are people who have worked their whole lives, putting money from their checks into an insurance plan that insures nothing. We aren't paying for coverage anymore, or even to offset health costs, or even the illusion of peace of mind. No one even has that anymore. We are paying for a pipe dream.

We are going to become a third world country. We will educate the world's finest doctors while individuals in this country cannot afford to be treated by them. Instead, we will import patients from wealthy countries, business people and dignitaries that want the best there is to offer. In other words, people with money.

And we will hop a plane to Mexico because it's cheaper to get our appendixes out there. Or sinuses fixed, for that matter.

We have to pass Obama's national health plan. Why? Because we don't have any other option. And if you think we do, make all checks payable to Laura B...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Mum

Now, strictly speaking, the title is okay even though it would have to be "my mum" if in a sentence. Although I did stop to consider proper capitalization before posting this.

Never mind.

It is Mom's birthday today, which again is being lumped together with mine (meaning we're celebrating on the same day), a fact that has become so normal that I've almost stopped wondering if she minds it at all.

Because our birthdays are exactly one week apart, all my life it has been considered prudent to buy/make one cake instead of two, get one fancy dinner out (instead of two), and throw one party (again, instead of two). Because I have and will always be the younger, the birthday the party was thrown on was always mine.

Mom always claimed she didn't really care about her birthday anymore, anyway, and said I should just have fun at my party. Yes, she always called it my party. Although usually the "party" was the whole family, except my dad, crowded into my gran's too-small kitchen while we all yelled so Gran could hear that it was time for cake.

But now that we are all older, I try very hard to make sure that Mom's birthday is a big deal too. Even though that is hard.

Why?

Because Mom is someone that is chronically self-sacrificing. Ask her if she wants another peice of cake, she'll interpret it as "I want that peice of cake" and moments later it will be swooped down in front of you. To your shock. Take her out to dinner as a treat and you will have to be on constant surveillance to keep her from trying to pay, split the bill, or take care of the tip. Ask her what she wants for her birthday; she'll say "anything you think of will be lovely," or "I don't need a present, Laura."

Yeah.

Also the trouble is our training. Mom has instilled it in our brains that presents should be given early, the earlier the better. Because it's more fun that way.

So this year, the present I wanted to get her was one I'd have to order, so I wanted to see if she liked it. Here's how the conversation went.

Act One, Scene One: Paul's Bedroom
Laura and Julie sitting at computer
Props: Computer (Paul's PC), Images of Knitting Case


Laura: Mom, what do you think of this?" [Laura displays an image on her computer monitor of a nifty little knitting notion case from Namaste (the Buddy Case, Cali collection)]

Julie: Oh, that looks nice, Laura.

L: What color do you like?

J: You should get any color you like.

L: Well, which would you choose?

J: They all look lovely.

L: All of them?

J: Yes.

L: Even the gray one?

J: Well, maybe not that one.

L: So what colors do you especially like?

J: All of them.

L: What would you choose for you?

J: Oh, I don't know. How expensive are they?

L: I'm not telling you to buy one, Mom; I'm asking what color you would buy if you ever decided to get one.

J: I don't think I would.

L: So you don't like them?

J: Oh, I love them. One of those would be lovely.

L: So just pick a color for fun, something you would like.

J: The one under the purple one, the olive. That's very nice. But you should get the one you like.

L: [Frustrated] No, Mom. This is for your birthday. It won't get here in time, but it will be your birthday present, so you should pick the color.

J: [Gushes]Oh, really? My birthday? I'd love the olive one!

L: Okay, I'll tell Kathy and she'll order it.

[Enter Kelly, Laura's Father, Julie's Husband]

Kelly: Jul, can you iron this shirt for me, for tomorrow?

[Stage Lights Down, All Exit]

Act One, Scene Two, One Week Later:

Enter Laura, Stage Left. Julie is seated Stage Right, knitting.
Props: Knitting, Armchair, Sensible Shoes, Freaky Green Pencil Case.


Julie: Laura, I tried to call you today.

Laura: I was at work, Mom. [Laura takes off sensible shoes]

J: I know, but I thought I would try. I was at Walmart and I saw these cases that reminded me of the ones you were showing me. See? [Brandishes pencil case]

L: [Warily] Oh, that's nice.

J: Yes, I was going to get you one two, but I didn't know if you wanted one.

L: Really?

J: So I didn't.

L: Okay.

J: So if you want one, you can go pick one out.

L: Sure. I'll look at them next time I'm out.

[All Exit]

Act One, Scene Three, One Week Later: KitchenLaura and Julie Cooking Dinner, slicing tomato, ect. Ad Lib.

Julie: Paul was asking for birthday ideas.

Laura: Oh?

Julie: And Kathy said she'd put in your order. What order.

L: You know, the case from before.

J: Case?

L: The one you picked.

J: What?

L: The green one. For your birthday.

J: Huh?

L: The case I made you choose. Your birthday present.

J: Awww! You got me one of those? [Hugs Laura] That's wonderful! That will be so much better than that horrid thing I got at Walmart. That really is dreadful. Everything falls out every which way and rattles around inside! I really did want one of those!

[Laura, having ruined the surprise of her mother's birthday present not once but twice, gives in and smiles, giving her mother another hug. Scene.]


So, I went to Barnes and Nobles and found a movie Mom and I had watched when I was in junior high, and I knew it would bring the surprise back. I bought it, wrapped it, and went about decorating it creatively to please my mother.

Paul later got Mom a birthday present only to give it to her four days early, the same day he purchased it.

I made it all the way to the day before Mom's birthday, giving her the secret present before she went to sleep that night, at midnight, because I knew I'd have to wait all day otherwise and I didn't want to.

The Buddy Case is still in transit.

So, Mom, you crack me up, I love you, and happy birthday! I hope you have a fantastic one, even though I am all the way in Wabash and not a single breath of air has made it through my nose in the last eight hours. Well, the last 36 hours.

I'll try not to hyper-ventillate as I sing to you later on. No ER trip this year! That's a streak we don't want to break (24 years and counting! For me, anyway).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I never thought it would end like this...

Yesterday, horrified by the experience I suffered at the Huntington 7--

What were they, you ask?

Oh, only me wanting to turn around, vault my movie chair, and strangle a group of teenage wads of inhuman filth, composed of sweat, oil, hair products, backward baseball caps (right Dad?), oversized clothing, androgen, and pure unadultrated Evil.

Because treating women like objects in the presence of women is so cool, and a great way to get the girls.

I told Mom what they had been saying and she was horrified to the point of sheer rage. I love my mom. She was also very disturbed by it. Seriously offended. To the point that she tried to stop me talking about it later. But it didn't work, because I told my brother, Paul, about it the second we were out of earshot.

I wanted a male reaction. Shut up, Jennifer. And I knew Paul, having lived in the all-guy dorm at MC, would have heard all this before and probably worse.

"Actually, no," Paul replied after voicing rage at the horrible perverted writhing chunks of crap I had to sit in front of. Flippin' idiot Seat-Kickers from Hell.

"If someone tried saying something like that on my floor, my neighbor, Matt, would tell them to shut up."

"And it worked?" I asked, skeptically.

"Sure," Paul replied. "Because if someone asked "Why?" Matt would just take off his shirt, point at his eight-pack, and scream at the top of his lungs "This is why!" And if Shawn saw him with his shirt off screaming that, he would take off his shirt too and scream the same thing, just because he liked taking off his shirt and threatening people."

Now, Matt isn't your most savory individual. But the fact that he would do something like that to defend women not present--in fact, probably imagined, made me happy. And it made me love MC more, because at MC, intolerance is the only reason why anyone I knew of was ever treated like crap. If you were a jerk, people treated you like one. They didn't bow down and worship you because they were afraid to contradict you.

--And still nauseated by my lunchtime witnessing of what might be the grossest thing ever--

What?

Oh, just an old, shriveled man walking past me and my mom and our yummy food over to the trash cans several feet away, snorting and shooting out a wad of nasal discharge and spit out onto the ground in front of him, and did I mention it was feet away from where we sat?

Then he walked back to work. Where was he working? At the church booth we were eating at. He wasn't touching the food, but still...

Somehow, the Best Tenderloin Ever didn't taste quite so nice anymore.

--Jen and I went off to Fort Wayne. We always have fun at Biaggi's, and this time we had arrived early enough to actually go shopping a little at the mall, where an outdoor concert was taking place.

As we exited Barnes and Nobles, something funny started to happen with my hand.

At first, it was just this weird feeling. Somewhere in my middle finger. The middle finger of my left hand.

Understand that this finger, let's call it Finger Eight, gets little to no independant use in my day to day life. Sometimes, I'll have too many shopping bags and will hook one of them with that digit, but that's it. I'm not one of those people that uses it as a Primary Driving Finger, used to impart my wisdom on other drivers.

No.

It also gets use in tangent with my left hand. Such as, say, in knitting. Or in twisting caps of things, or in opening doors.

But that's not a whole lot.

No, Fingers One through Five get most of the work in my life.

So the weird feeling was unusual. Then it evolved into a Weird Feeling. Then a Weirder Feeling. Then it became a freaky Finger Cramp, similar to a charley horse thing you get in your foot. The Finger Cramp was confined to the lowest portion of my finger, the first joint. The one closest to the palm. Look at your hand. See that little muscle there (under the skin, obviously, but you can make out the shape of it)? That's the one.

But it didn't stop there. No, it became the Super Freaky Finger Cramp when the vein in my finger became very clear. At that time, it evolved from simple pain into Real Pain. That was when it became the Super Freaky Finger Cramp of Supreme Pain.

That vein, though, looked like a bad thing. I was, at this point, flexing my finger and shaking my hand about, and since my brain just works that way, it meant that I was doing a jazz hands move, all while walking past dozens of concert goers.

The pain just seemed to get worse, though. Much worse. And because of the vein involvement, this is what was happening in my brain.

You have a blood clot. Your years of bad eating and no physical activity have come back to bite you in the hand, Laura. Your Super Freaky Finger Cramp of Supreme Pain is actually symptom one of oncoming death. Yes, you have the Hand Cramp of Death, and it has started the countdown. You'll be dropping any minute, right after your vein pops like a champange cork and you get to watch!

The Hand Cramp of Death is here, Laura. It has come for you, and--oh! Just look at all the people you get to die in front of. Here's Jen, who will undoubtedly be emotionally scarred by the horror she is about to witness. Too bad, you get to add to whatever emotional baggage your friend already has in her life with your freakish death, the perfect capstone to a freakish life, only grosser.

Oh, and look! All of these people came to watch a concert, but what they didn't know was that they really came to watch your gruesome death. Lucky the local news is here to catch it all on film!


I showed the freakish problem to Jennifer, still shaking my hand like I was having a nervous tic, and scanned the crowd for a first aid kit. What would they do? Poke it with something? Something sharp?

Meanwhile, because there was so much going on with my finger, the digit had swollen greatly, and there was an undue amount of nerve pain caused by added pressure. But the fingertip wasn't numb, which I took as a good sign.

"It's probably just a blood vessel," Jen said. "You burst it. It won't kill you."

But the thought of my blood vessel bursting like a piece of ripe fruit hurled from a high-rise window (like on Letterman) might indeed have killed me.

See, it's all about how neurotic I am. Not enough to get committed, but just enough to make me overreact about certain social or physical things. Like something I may or may not have stood in causing me to wash the sole of my shoe with bleach for 15 minutes straight, just in case. Or my never wearing a certain pair of shoes because they had walked through God Knows What in the Canterbury West Station. Or my staring at the back of an acquaintance's head all through dinner while I tried to talk myself both out and into saying hello to them.

Neurotic.

Then, just as we reached The Loft, the pain began to fade and life started to improve for me.

But this morning, that whole finger is still swollen, and now it is bruised all to heck. So all in all, this weekend has kind of sucked.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This. Is. Great.

Okay, folks. Another excursion into (good natured, I promise) Twilight-bashing.



Seriously fantastic.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Does anyone have a spare bookcase?

I have developed a compulsion that is both unhealthy and terribly fun.

You see, I love books. Love, love, love. So much that most of our bookshelves at home have been overtaken by my books. College texts I couldn't get rid of, knitting patterns, Star Trek books, Star Wars books, generic science fiction novels, heaps of fantasy, mystery, and classic novels, collections of poetry and short stories, plays, you name it--I have it. Except Shakespeare's sonnets. I need those. Plus a decent copy of his plays all together, because mine is falling apart.

But the objective of this post is not to list the books I will compulsively purchase in the next year.

There will be a lot of them.

As a part of my job, I read tons of books. That's right--I get paid to read. I review the books for my work blog, and I have come across some really, really good ones. Some that are so good that I have not wanted to check them in and give them up to the reading community I "serve."

But I have to.

And here is what is happening...

First I must say in my own defense that I had to write in one of my copies of Saving Francesca. It was analysis time, and I had to make sure that I was highlighting the portions of text I planned on referring to in the book discussion. It was Important.

But doing so marred that copy in a most shameful way that I could not endure, so I bought another one to keep pristine for future reads.

Then I went to Borders and saw a perfect copy of Jellicoe Road, a book I read before Saving Francesca also written by Melina Marchetta, a literary goddess I now revere.

So I had to get it, right? So what if it is still in hardcover, it is prettier that way. And I will keep it for all eternity. It's special. It won awards. Plus, I would not have ever picked up Saving Francesca if not for Jellicoe Road being so good!

So I bought it.

Then, the next day, I went back to meet up with my aunt again, and this time I bought John Green's novel Paper Towns, because I think I'm going to do a book discussion on that novel too, as soon as it is in paperback, because it is so good. And I will have to write in a copy of it, so I should have a nice one on hand too.

And then, on Independence Day, we all went to Books-a-Million and I had to get a copy of Marcelo in the Real World, because I'll be doing a book discussion on that too, eventually, because it is so freaking good.

Good books everywhere.

And I can't get enough of them.

Can't one of you stop me?

No.

Don't. I'd rather go on this way.

And I don't need a Kindle...or do I?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Death on Fire: Or, Why I Should Have Had Dinner with Jennifer Last Night

My car wouldn't start yesterday at 5:15 pm.

I know what you're thinking: "What else is new, Laura? I thought your car was a piece of [fill in the blank with descriptive and non-flattering adjective]. Are you telling me you were actually surprised?"

No. I was not surprised. Because I know my car. And I know going to CVS for a prescription and then getting gas was a Bad Idea. I should have gone, gotten gas, then left my car parked at the pump while I walked to CVS, got the prescription (with my Fancy New Health Insurance) and then gone back to the gas station and driven away.

But I thought that would be rude. Maybe someone else would want to use the pump, and maybe the attendant would think there was something wrong with me, leaving my car at the pump like it was in some kind of parking place. And paying for someone to tow my car would involve me pouring more money into my car than it is actually worth, which I don't want to do unless it involves keeping said car moving from work to home, home to work.

I should have known that turning my car on and off several times would lead to it getting too tired and not wanting to turn on again. But I am a hopeless optimist (stop laughing) and I thought it would start, because it loves me in a way that only inanimate objects can.

When you have a car like mine, it really has to start the first time.

It's funny, really. See, if I drove Mom's car, and it didn't start, no one would look twice at me. Or--and here's the big shocker--they might come up and offer to help me get it to start.

But in my car...well. Most of you know what it looks like, and those of you who don't can picture the nondescript gray thing with its deer-hoof prints on the hood, tape keeping rain off of the driver's seat (never did get around to taking that off) and decorative patches of rust.

If someone sees me in my car, and it not starting, they figure I know what I'm doing. Or at least what I've gotten myself in to.

They look at me, turning my key as my car struggles to force the engine to life, and they think, "Huh. Well, guess it figures." Because if they had to pick one car in the parking lot that wouldn't start, it would be mine.

They smile, shake their heads, get back into their Hummers or beat-up work trucks, and go on with their lives.

So I call Dad. It seems, magically, when I call him, the car starts. I know. It's freaky.

And I called him yesterday, too. He picked up and told me a charming story, which I will now relate to you.

Dad had, weeks ago, gone to Walmart and bought fly traps.

These were intended to capture and kill the flies that swarm toward the garage without fail, each summer. They are attracted by the cool, as well as the damp, because the people who built the house didn't put a drain in the garage floor or angle it downward so that water flowed out of the garage door. Instead, water pools near the door to the house. Nice, huh?

So Mom never uses the hose attachment in the garage to water her flowers. But Paul and Dad are not always that smart, so we invariably have some water on the garage floor at some point or other, the Indiana humidity sucks it up, and the world gets just a little hotter. It feels like the jungle at our house anyway, but whatever.

I gave up a long time ago.

Back to fly traps.

Mom hates them. She thinks they're disgusting, especially when things start to go in them and die, and they only seem to attract things to kill, not just kill the things that are there. Plus, the birds which eat the flies go into the garage to get the flies, leading to Mom, Paul, and (you guessed it) me trying to chase said birds out of the garage with whatever tools we can muster.

So Dad got rid of the fly trap, putting it into a garbage bag that he "sealed" then into a garbage can. The one in the garage.

Needless to say, the following happened.

The fly trap poured its contents into the garbage bag.

The garbage bag leaked into the garbage can.

The garbage can leaked onto the garage floor.

I know. But it gets worse.

The fly trap bait smells like what flies like the most: death.

Yes, we had a puddle of liquid dead-thing on the garage floor.

"I have to go," Dad said. "They're telling me I smell like rotting flesh. I have to get cleaned up."

He told me to call Paul. But the car started, so I called Jen.

She invited me to dinner. I said no, because I knew Mom had cooked, and besides, it sounded like fun at home.

I had no idea how fun.

Mom will kill me for telling you this, but it just adds to the fun.

Darcy smelled the dead thing and did what any self-respecting dog would do. She rolled in it.

Mom washed Darcy, then decided to get clean herself, running a bath with all kinds of nice-smelling things in the water to erase the memory of putrefaction.

As she was bathing, she heard a knock on the bathroom door. "Laura?" she called.

"No," replied the woman. "It's Patti!"

Now, Patti and her family once lived in a neat house in the middle of the woods, just down the road from us (although too far to bike ride). I grew up playing with her kids, and going on secret motorcycle rides Mom never did find out about with Robin, Patti's husband when he wasn't telling me how to cure evil things like nettles.

Patti is famous for coming into our house when Mom was ill and washing our dishes. She also would take Paul and I and feed us, or just drive us around with her while she did errands so that we weren't lonely when Mom was getting better from her surgery. I think I was just in first grade back then...I don't really remember.

Patti moved back to Michigan (upper peninsula) and took her unique dialect with her, like the word "yous" which I have never heard spoken by anyone but her. I like that word. "Why don't yous come and see us?" is an example of its use in a sentence. Sounds like it would be possessive, but it isn't.

Anyway, we hardly ever see her anymore, but yesterday, she came for a visit with her daughter. She came just as the stench of death was permeating our home and settling over our yard in a heavy cloud.

Because Dad had done something Smart. One of many things that he did that day that was Smart. He took the trap, leaky as it was, dripping death-stench as he went, and burned it in the little cement fire pit thing Mom wants to get rid of so badly. A-hunk a-hunk a burning death. So he made the death-scent airborne, a cloud of death, making our house smell like rotting flesh, like some kind of death camp, perhaps, where foolish pastors come to die.

It rolled down the river, spreading stench as it went (that is what happens to all smoke, it goes down to the river and travels along it. Something to do with air pressure). And I pulled up in my car and thought: "Thanks, Dad."

And, hot from my car ride, I went inside and saw that Patti was there, and Darcy was newly washed.

"How does it smell out there?" Mom asked.

"It smells like Death on Fire," I said.

She didn't appreciate the humor of the situation. She was to busy being horrified.

We chatted, Dad came out and sounded Hoosier, and we all had a nice visit.

And, I noticed, Darcy still smelled like death, wet dog, and a hint of the skunk scent that becomes evident only when she is drenched with water, that we can't get off her no matter what.

Groomer? Maybe? Just a suggestion, Mom.

Patti left with her daughter, and Mom hurled the dinner she had so lovingly made onto the table with dramatic sighs.

"Patti only comes when this place is a wreck," she insisted. "The world falls apart, and Patti comes. This place looks nice sometimes, you know. I'm washing my hair, and what do you know? Patti's knocking on the door!" She shot Paul a look that I'm sure meant it was his fault that Patti gained entrance into the house and access to the bathroom door.

After we ate, Dad started to list off the things Mom would now have to do to get rid of the wonderful smell he discovered. "Put bleach into the one garbage can," he said. "And make sure to put some into it too, just to be safe. Also you should bleach the garage floor. And the soles of my shoes, which need it. But make sure not to get any on the leather, because that would be bad and it would ruin the shoes."

Because the stench of death hadn't already done that.

And, here's just a big idea of mine that anyone can disregard: Why didn't Dad flippin' do it himself? He discovered the stench and made it mobile. Why didn't he get rid of it?

Because apparently, cleaning up the mess was Mom's job.

"My clothes will need washed too," he said as I slammed the open door into the garage, which let the death-stench into our kitchen, mere steps from our dining room table and the chair closest to it (mine). I gave up eating.

"Where are you're clothes," Mom asked, then repeated several times, loudly, until Dad realized that "downstairs" wasn't a real answer. "I don't remember what clothes you were wearing!" She insisted, looking more and more harried.

"On the pile," Dad answered.

Yes, ladies and gentleman. My dad, in his glorious knowledge and wisdom, had removed his clothes and placed each death-soaked article on top of all the other clothes that he and Mom and Paul had put downstairs to be washed, clothes that did not smell like death. Clothes that now did, very much, have the stench of death upon them.

You could see the wind sucked out of Mom's metaphorical sails. She just slumped, defeated, as I looked on in horror, thinking of the amount of work Mom would now do to clean up the death-stench all by herself, as Dad and Paul did their Man thing and let her. Jerks.

Then it clicked with Dad, partly, that Mom didn't know what clothes were what, and he went down to show her. Still having no idea why she would be more upset at this development than all the others.

I took a big gulp of pop, then the hilarity of the situation struck me, and I shot it out of my nose and sucked it into my lungs in the same instant as I laughed, nearly killing myself for the second time that day.

And I knew, that although it was fun, I should have stayed with Jen that night and had something to eat that, though dead, would smell nothing like it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Traveling Companions

Jen was telling me all good things about her recent travels and future plans, and it got me thinking...

I am the sort of traveler that likes to visit all the historical sights. I want to see the marble arch, the Victoria and Albert museum, the varied fountains and art museums the world has to offer. I also like to stroll around city center, eating food at little outdoor tables with umbrellas over the top of them, while I watch people playing in big fountains like the ones outside the National Gallery in London.

Here is what I hate:

I hate sitting around for half the day because someone is "tired" and doesn't want to do much. I did not go to [insert country here] to sit in a hotel room. I will go with you to a park while you sit back and relax and I read a book and people watch. I will leave you in the hotel and go do something on my own. I will have a leisurely dinner instead of fast food as I walk. But I will not spend half the morning waiting for you to get out of bed, unless I am jet-lagged.

I hate to fly. I will do it, I will try not to complain, but it will be hard for me. I need you to understand that, and try to deal with me as best as you can. I will load myself down with airsickness medication with the hope that I will feel fine when I get off the plane, because that is when my problems start. The first day after we arrive, I will be sick. I will fight through it, but I will need a touch of understanding. Like, maybe, sleeping at the hotel at a strange hour, then working my way through the pain. I will not mind if you abandon me as I curl up, trying to make myself, curled in the fetal position, realize that both Earth and my body are moving together and not independently.

I hate traveling to a different country just to spend the day at the mall. We have malls in the US. We might have invented them. Certainly, we have perfected them, because we have a mixture of stores in ours and not just the haute couture. If I won't buy Chanel at home, I won't buy it in Prague. Or in Paris, London, Capri, Rome...you name it.

I will go on a day-long hunt for French lace (good luck) or that lovely Italian paper they color by hand...something I will look back on and smile at, remembering the time I watched them make it and not wondering about what third world country churned the product out.

I don't like spending tons of money on food at every meal. Sure, I like a nice meal when I'm walking all day and night. But I like one a day. I don't like to spend the whole morning over breakfast, afternoon over lunch, and evening over dinner. I like to eat breakfast at the hotel as I wake up, then rush out and keep moving until I am too tired to continue without a break, at which point I eat lunch wherever I happen to be. Then I run around some more. When, finally, I can walk no further, I have a very sedate dinner somewhere, then go back to the hotel to sleep off the day.

I hate sleeping in filthy, crowded places. During my trip to Spain, France, and Italy, we were smashed together sometimes four to a room. We stayed in drafty, mouldy rooms with badly running water and no extra blankets or towels, and those were the three and four star places. I would hate to see a two star place.

I also hate sleeping at some random person's house. Sure you save money, but come on--if you aren't really comfortable with the person, it is just unpleasant. You feel like you are interrupting their life for your own convenience, they have to think about the food you will eat, the place you will sleep, towels, and all the other things you don't think about until you want them--like band-aids or rain gear. Then you are using their shower when they want it, or otherwise inconveniencing them.

And I hate it when people decide that their personal hygiene can take a back burner to the rush from place to place. Wearing a hat does not mean you don't need to wash your hair in the morning. You should. And you do need to.

And I hate inflexibility. Your plans will fall through. That is the way things work. Shops will be closed, museums will close early. It will rain, pour, all over you--us--and I will laugh it off and keep going. The rain will stop, and if it doesn't, we will go to another, indoor place. You will eat something that makes you sick. Or I will. It is going to happen. Drunk people will keep you up until three, road construction will wake you up at five. Don't freak out.

Crying will not fix it. Crying will make me laugh at you, harder. Just go with it. Change your reservations if the hotel is crap. Go to a different town if the one you're in has no trains leaving the day you want to go to the next place.

We will get lost. I do all the time. I will just get better directions and we will try again. It's better that way, because you get to know the city you're in and have a laugh.

I hate to "party." My ideal vacation has nothing to do with alcohol, except maybe a glass of wine with my nice dinner. If you want to get wasted, stay home and get wasted. If you want to go to a loud, smokey place to stagger about in a vague interpretation of "dance," don't expect me to go with you and don't get mad at me about it. I hate that way of life, and I will have no part of it. If you want to dance; I will not stay up all night to do it, but I will go with you. To dance. Not to flirt with random guys, not to drink until I have to drag you home...no.

Here is what I like:

I like to impulsively change my plans when I see something cool to look at, like a street fair based on something clearly medieval in a tiny English coastal town.

I like to take pictures of all the architecture I see.

I like eating native food.

I like nice British chocolate...the glory of art museums...wonderful old houses...little villages...old cemetaries...bookstores...ethnic food...buying guide books for fun...having a laugh in a park...long train rides, spreading out all the nice brochures and books, and talking about what we've seen and loved.

I like getting to know someone as we walk down random side streets closed to all but pedestrian traffic because they are so narrow. I like spending money on one very nice thing at a cute little shop native to the town I'm in, like the little place in Bath where I got my Moroccan slippers.

I like writing a travel journal. I like filling an extra bag with all books, especially when I can't buy them in the states.

I like taking public transportation and not taxis, because then you can see the people.

I like yarn stores...

And I like going for more than a weekend, if I'm going overseas. And staying more than one day in each place.

I like people who put up with my quirks, like laughing at nothing, at getting lost, at eating disgusting food, at sleeping in a hostel with a crude hiker woman who hangs up her hand-laundered underwear on a tiny personal clothes line hooked to her bunk, at the two new age women who talk about cleansing auras in a train.

And I like laughing off all our disagreements and all the things that tick me off that I listed above.

Well, Jen? Still want to travel with me? Maybe we should start small...
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