Not at ALL What You Thought

Friday, July 21, 2006

Of Wordplay and Angels and Secret Societies

I really liked the documentary. What I didn't like was drivin to get to the theatre to see it. Among other things.

Yes, I consulted Mapquest and found more or less intelligible directions. But what good does that do me, the woman who can't find her way outside Hampton or Newport News without drama to save her life? What good, I ask?

So I'm drivin down Granby Street, like the directions say, I think, and suddenly, I'm wondering, "Am I goin in the right direction? After all, folk can go down or up Granby, last I checked. I could very well be goin in the wrong direction. And this is crucial because it's what? A tiny bit before 7 pm, and 7 pm's the time the Naro's doors open, a half hour before the movie starts, yes, and my sister promised GAMES. Can't play GAMES if I don't get there on time." This is the kind of thing that runs through my mind every time I visit a place I've never been to before.

Bout the time I'm gonna do a U-ee and face the opposite direction on Granby, my cell phone rings. It's, R, my rolling mechanic --and a member of my church. (I tried to tell y'all.) His main job's finding disabled trucks and takin 'em back to the shop. He's in Norfolk, finding disabled trucks there, and wonderin what in the world Gine's doin there, too, endangerin Virginia drivers everywhere.

"I'm tryin to find the Naro," I replied. "Do you know where it is?"

"The what?"

"Naro. Naro movie theatre. N as in nigger*, A as in apple, R as in racist, O as in orange."

"Oh. I dunno. Gimme a minute." In a minute, he's tellin me that I'm going in the right direction and giving me several landmarks, street names and numbers as future proof. Of course, by then, I've done the U-ee, but I'd never tell him that, no, not if you pulled out my nails. So I do another U-ee, and it's now, what? Somethin after 7 pm, and Goobs is whining, "We're gonna be late!"

"Oh, we're not gonna be late," I say reasurringly, mostly for myself, because I haven't seen any of the landmarks R mentioned. I just don't see 'em. But then the girls are yellin, "Bear right! Bear right!" because the johnbrown Mapquest directions say so. And it's too late, I've passed the place where I'm supposed to take Monticello off Granby, so I do another U-ee.

We're gonna be late.

Interminable story short, I start seein those landmarks and numbers R told me about, I find the johnbrown theatre, and much later, we find a parking space behind a strange (that is, unknown) restaurant about a block away. We take a lovely short walk down cobblestoned sidewalks, passing a cute little shop here, and a quaint diner there, and a tiny bookstore the other place, and there's the Naro. A cute, quaint, tiny old restored theatre. The doorway's really jammed, and I ask the lovely young man holding the door where Will Call is.

"There," he says, pointing just inside the door. A coupla intellectual types are sitting at a longish table, checking sheaves of papers against the claims of folk comin in the door. I have some sheaves of paper myself: a printout my sister gave me on my birthday. It has my brother-in-law's name and confirmation number on it, in addition to the Naro's address and the time the doors open (among other things). Proof that somebody bought three tickets to this movie.

I give one of the intellectuals, a round, effusive lady, my confirmation number. (I can see that this is one of the columns on her sheaf of paper: "Confirmation Number".) But she chuckles and asks, "What's your name?"

I give her my brother-in-law's last name. Ain't there. Then I see my last name, my first name and my brother-in-law's first name. I give her that name.

"There you are!" she says and gives us three tickets. We go on in. We are not late. We have time to buy popcorn and sodas (outrageously, infuriatingly cheaper than at the AMC theatres at home). The Naro concessions sells, in addition to popcorn and gummy bears, roasted cashews and brownies. Wondrous. I pour myself some (free) ice water, and we look left. We look right.

"Either of these doors goes to the auditorium?" I ask an usher.

"Yes," he says, "but you can sit in the balcony, too." I have to say my first thought is completely contrary to the way I spelled Naro for R: My folk've sat in enough balconies.

"Let's go in," I tell the girls, and they follow me. As we go through the doors, one of the ushers hands me a postcard with a miniature poster of the movie on one side and a crossword puzzle on the other. "Finish this and put it in the bowl. There's a drawing," he said.

Goobs, as always, is very, very aware of how many white people surround us. I don't know why. Gotta be my fault, although I can't figure out, yet, how. She whispers very loudly that she thinks we're the only blacks in the joint (though not, of course, in those words). We sit down about halfway down the aisle. I get to work on the puzzle, which proves to be really easy: it's titled "Puzzling Movies," and I'm a movie buff from way back. I couldn't pick out Tab Hunter in a crowd, of course, but I know that's the guy the puzzle refers to when it offers "Actor Hunter." Even Goobs knows what goes in the "Seven Percent ____" blank.

"You made me watch that movie," she whispers.

But, alas, although we weren't too late for the movie, we didn't have time to finish the puzzle and drop the card in the bowl. Oh, well. (Later, Goobs will say she didn't think they'd've given us a prize anyway: "'Blackwell?' they'd say," she said, giggling, "and then when we stood up, they'd say, 'Uh, not you.'" I don't know where she gets this stuff.) While I'm workin on the puzzle, though, our hosts, whoever they are (actually representatives of WHRO, our local NPR station), are expressing surprise at how little like geeks we all look.

The crowd titters. After taking up as many postcards as are proferred, one of the hosts says, "There'll be two previews." I'm pleasantly surprised, both at the warning, and at the paucity of trailers. Good trailers, too: Peaceful Warrior and Scoop. Even the girls seem interested.

And the documentary started. Wordplay follows several crossword puzzle champions to the annual crossword puzzle championship. Like the Naro's host tonight, I fully expect these "champions" to be geeky. I'm wrong, though. They're all fascinating people. To me, at least. One, Ellen Ripstein , the only woman the movie pays much attention to, tells us that a boyfriend used to make fun of her for winning, and she replied, "Well, what are you champion of?" Good for you, Ellen.

The other champions are men. All of the champions are white. Well, I dunno about that, actually. Close to the end of the documentary, I saw a gorgeous black man in conversation with somebody at the Championship (and I gasped), but who knows who he was? (I'll go through the list of folk on the website and see if I can find him again.)

For me, this is food for thought (unfortunately for those of you who've been cringing since I spelled Naro). Why aren't there more blacks at that championship? Is the answer as easy as saying, "Blacks don't do crosswords"? Because that don't work where my family's concerned. (After all, there we were at the johnbrown Naro, watchin the johnbrown documentary, enjoyin it at least as much as anybody else there.)

Daddy bought the Encyclopedia Britannica to end dinner-table arguments. Mama reads only non-fiction: biographies. So does the brother who lives with us: politics, science, and history. Our oldest brother reads nearly everything, but he really loves Stephen King and Dean Koontz. My sister reads anything that looks interesting; she's read Toni Morrison, Sue Monk Kidd, Ben Carson, Frank Peretti (though she's nea'bout given up on him). My friends (some of 'em are black) are voracious readers.

And, oh, yeah: we do puzzles. Juice and Goobs like Sudoku. My brothers used to do those three dimensional wooden puzzles when they were kids --because Daddy brought them home from overseas, thinkin they'd like them. They did. My sister and I like crosswords. We buy them. But, you know, I'd never heard of the cult surrounding the New York Times crossword. I had no idea that Will Shortz (whom I just happen to have heard of before the movie) was regularly getting nasty mail about his crosswords. I didn't know that the Monday crossword was different from the Sunday crossword.

A lot of people couldn't care less, would say, "I don't care if you do wear dreadlocks; you are a geek if you care about that kinda stuff." But I do. Here is yet another society I never knew about. Bothers me. Yeah, I know: ain nobody bar me and mine from this "society."

But something did.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit, yes, this is what I said. It was the first n-word I could think of off the bat.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Merry Birthday to Me! (Mixed Bag)

I turned 45 yesterday. I don't feel any different.

First thing in the morning (and I do mean "first thing": about 520 am), I was lettin the beasts out, as usual, and I noticed my brother's birthday present to me on the kitchen table. Wrapped. Bigger than a bread basket. Next to it was an empty bag with a signed IOU stapled to it. (Said IOU was my brother's idea. Knowing that neither Juice nor Goobs has a job, he had asked the girls to contribute what they could. And then he refused to take a Sacajawea dollar* from Goobs.

Makin adolescents feel like poop's as difficult as shootin fish in a koi pond. He made them sign the IOU. Ups to my big brother.)

I tore up the IOU, read my bible and went back to bed without opening the gift.

Got up a coupla hours later because I had choir rehearsal that morning. Showered. Opened my brother's gift to me. It was a miniature rod and reel.

My sister and I fished with Daddy when we were in our tweens and teens --because he loved fishing, and we loved hangin out with him. Daddy used to watch me fling that rod and reel, and he'd yell, "LOOK at her! Girl casts like a MAN!" To this day, I'm proud of that.

But I haven't fished in years. Daddy died ten years ago May.

The girls got up. "Happy Birthday, Mommy! What'd [Uncle] give you for your birthday? Did you see the IOU?" I hugged and thanked them. Showed them my rod and reel.

And then, "We asked him to take us around to find something together. We told him you'd asked for a bookmark. He showed us a torn piece of paper and said, 'Like this?' He doesn't get it. Wanna see what we made for you?"


Juice pulled out a former shoebox. It now has aluminum foil covering, various aluminum foil balls, a LOT of sugar, and a cardboard rake.

"It's a Zen garden," said Juice.

"I love it," I said, laughing. I really did. I raked the sugar for a while. Goobs gave me a handmade envelope, thick with handmade coupons, like "1Free Spanking (for Juice only)." I really loved that, too. (Yesterday, I used the coupon with the device, "1 day of being angels (no fighting)." Might need a refund on that gift.)

Went off to choir rehearsal. On the way, we listened to Tye Tribbett's Victory project, loudly, as prescribed, and sang, loudly, as prescribed. By the time we got to the church, about 11 am, I was thinking that I'd need to take my mild hoarseness seriously very soon. Went into choir rehearsal.

I don't know if I've told y'all about my church. Originally, the edifice was a Jim Crow movie theatre (as in either No Blacks Allowed, Period, or Blacks Allowed in the Balcony Only): the Regal, it was called. About the time my pastor decided we'd buy it, it had become a crack house, headquarters for dealers, home for homeless, Bordello-in-a-Pinch, stray cemetary, etc. He really didn't believe we'd get money for renovation. And this is a man of faith, you know. But the financing came to pass, and now we have a church made gorgeous (oh, follow the links. ain nobody gonna bite ya) through sweat and the breaking of willing backs. What is now the pulpit and choir stand was the place the movie theatre's screen came down.

Except for a small space in the very center of what is now the sanctuary, the acoustics leave a lot to be desired. So we (singers, musicians, sound technicians) work really hard at choir rehearsal. Add the quasi-choreography, not to mention the stress of working with more than forty headstrong, holy, grown folk, and choir rehearsal (at least ninety minutes a pop) should have the Weight Watchers' value of "intense aerobics".

No, really.

We rehearsed several songs, then three or four more, and, since I had to lead a pretty loud song, loudly, my voice was about shot. (Clearly, I need to consult with H about Vocal Common Sense.)

After choir rehearsal, the girls and I'd planned to eat out somewhere fun (as opposed to "expensive"). V, one of my most adored choir directors, remembered that it was my birthday and offered to pay for my lunch. I accepted. She stayed behind to work with the band some more and met us later at Cracker Barrel, a favorite restaurant.

Didn't take long for us to get a table, or it didn't feel that long. After all, while waiting, I sat on Cracker Barrel's rocking-chair-filled front porch and listened to Juice and Goobs tell me about their dealings with infants, toddlers and kindergartners during choir rehearsal. The girls've learned that I'm inordinately entertained by babies and baby stories, so they regale me at every opportunity.

(Upon reflection, I don't understand this. Maybe my girls've inherited my addiction to other people's laughter. Or maybe, like a lot of the people who know me, they just like makin me laugh. Anyhow, at any given time, I have loads and loads of baby stories on tap. Here's one:)

Pre-schoolers love Juice. The feeling's apparently mutual, because, when she got old enough, she decided, on her own, to become a volunteer at our Children's Church. Since then, every pre-schooler in the joint makes a beeline for Juice whenever she walks into a room (thereby creating stories for her mother to enjoy). Yesterday, while Juice was minding her own business (for a change) R's five-year-old son climbed onto Juice's lap. Shortly after that, Pastor's five-year-old daughter climbed aboard, too.

"Get off!" daughter said. "You're in the way!" (I was laughing already. "R's Son was sittin there first, wa'n't he?" "Yeah," said Juice, laughing too.) Fortunately, Son's mama came to take him home, so there was no bloodshed (as we've come to expect with Pastor's Daughter). Another pre-schooler, C's daughter, pointed out, to anyone who'd missed it (by my estimation, an extremely small number of folk), Juice's boobies.

Meanwhile, Goobs was playing Put the Sock Back on My Foot Forever with another tenor's infant daughter. You know how babies do: they remove all footwear; patiently watch an adult reattach it; baby snatches it all off again and expectantly hands it to the same adult. If the adult ever decides that she doesn't want to reattach the footwear anymore, the baby screams.

This game is like unto Pick Up My Spoon Forever, which has rules similar to Pick Me Up and Hold Me Till I Wanna Get Down, Put Me Down, and Then Pick Me Up Again.

The Cracker Barrel hostess called my name, and we went in. (V hadn't showed up yet, but she had called to tell me what she wanted to eat.) Cracker Barrel's one of those no-frills, home-cookin joints: wood, quaint daguerrotypes, and ancient ads as far as the eye can see. As we followed the waitress** to our table, a voice yelled, "NO! You cannot eat here!" It was G, one of my pastor's brothers, finishing up his lunch. He was sitting with three other Pastor-related gentlemen: reading from left to right, closest to farthest away, Dr. B, the sage but jovial professor of our indepth bible class, M, Pastor's oldest son (a BABE by any estimation, but too young for me), and G, the gigantic head of church security.

(It's almost cultish, the time we spend runnin into church members. It's like FG owns the Eastern Seaboard. Keeps a Christian on her toes, at the very least.)

I patted G on his considerable bicep and greeted everybody before sitting at our own table.

"Hey, Cuz," said G (which is how he usually greets me because his sister used to be married to my ex's maternal uncle).

It wasn't long after the girls and I had ordered (eggs and bacon, catfish platter, and chicken and rice, respectively --oh, and V wanted grilled chicken and collards) that V showed up. V loves men, and the feeling is mutual, so she spent quite some time greeting our brethren before she sat down. She embraced M, still standing while he sat, so this meant considerable bosom-to-face contact. All the while (I could tell by V's poked-out lips) she was crooning to him like a baby, rocking back and forth. I watched and giggled, giggled and watched, until Juice and Goobs, whose backs were to the Brethren's Table, had to watch and giggle, too. I tried to chasten V when she finally took her seat, but was still giggling too much to convey earnestness. Soon we were both cackling like dirty old ladies.

During most of the meal, we were laughing --at choir rehearsal, choir members, musicians, the rigors of preparing for the annual Church Conference, and life in general as single Christian wimmins. And as I just love baby stories, my girls just love any stories my church friends tell. They're invariably irreverent.

Yes. Our church stories are irreverent. Sue me.

Nearly all of my friends cuss, y'all. Don't get me wrong. They (most of 'em) love Jesus and His peoples. They're compassionate and intelligent and ruminative. But when they get mad, they use words like damn and hell. (The compassionate, intelligent, ruminative friends who do not love --or know or care about-- Jesus use even stronger language when they get mad. Or even when just makin non-mad conversation.) I used to believe that people who said they loved Jesus and cussed were just lyin. I used to believe that people who cussed did so because they had little imagination.

Since then, God has sent a lot of cussin people 'cross my path, the only way, I reckon, to prove me wrong.

So whenever I hang out with my daughters and my friends, my daughters get very quiet, big-eyed and -eared. (I mean, you can actually see the growth of their eyes and ears.) They're very carefully, otherwise inobtrusively, taking mental notes. They're consigning conversation to long-term memory, for future savoring and dissemination. ("My mama's friends are crazy! Listen to this. . . .")

After lunch, the four of us ran off to Ross's, and then, after V left us, the three of us went off to Mama's. Mama gave me a handwritten birthday card and a gift card, and we talked about whether my brother was really gonna move out. We talked about her upcoming surgery (on her leg --circulation problems). But she was very vague about the date. "Ain no need for everybody to know when I'm goin in the hospital." I feel very strongly about bein there to breathe on family if and when they're in the hospital, though, so I wheedled nearly a total commitment from Mama about notifying me.

The girls told Mama what Uncle'd given me for my birthday. Mama, always aware of big eyes and ears, said nothing. The girls told Mama what they'd given me for my birthday. About then, the girls remembered that their father was probably on his way to our house to take his daughters off for a visit. We ran away home.

My brother was up. (He works nights, most weeks, so he sleeps much of the day.) After the girls went off with their father, my sister brought my nephews over with cards and hugs. My older nepphie, N, stayed near the front door, away from the dogs, and my younger nepphie, M, went after the gigantic puppy and played with him the entire brief time his mama, standing close to where I sat on the big couch, visited. Every once in a while, she'd tell one dog or the other to get its cold, wet nose away from her exposed knees. My sister talks to the dogs in the same way she talks to our kids. (Mama infuses more syrup: "And you, young lady, stop chewing on the carpet" to Nimue, for example.) In addition to the cards, my sister gave me (and the girls) tickets to WordPlay. The girls came back from their Daddyvisit, bearing McDonald's. Their cousins' attention, beaten down by boring adult conversation (about N's recent basketball game), picked up, and M washed his hands so he could mooch French fries with his brother.

"Daddy said 'Happy Birthday,'" said Goobs.

"Thaaaanks!" I said, to my ex-husband's back. My sister smirked and told me the last birthday-gift details: "Your tickets'll be at Will Call. Y'all should prolly leave an hour early," and, having directed her boys to hug Auntie again, took them on home. My brother passed through the living room.

I thanked him for the rod and reel.

"Will you use it?" he asked.

"When was the last time you saw me fish?" I asked. He remembered, aloud, those fishing trips with Daddy, disagreeing with me about how old our sister and I were at the time. (Though he had fished with Daddy, too, he'd never fished with us and Daddy, so I don't know where his certainty about our ages comes from.) The conversation ended.

*Honey, I don't know.
**I'd like to apologize for using this un-PC term, but I'm not gonna.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Our new puppy has puppy needs, puppy tendencies, puppy energy, a puppy bark, eats puppy food, probably thinks puppy thoughts. But he's not puppy cute. He's too big to be cute.

At seven months, he weighs about forty pounds, and is slowly outstripping our five-year-old mutt, Nimue, in size. His paws are "as big as cookies," as Juice puts it. (And, because she's my daughter, she means Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, but not only because she likes them; the comparison is just. . . .apt.) The bridge of his nose (if dogs' noses have bridges) spans nearly four inches. When he yawns, spectators think of caverns. (And this is one reason why Nimue doesn't like playing with him anymore; when he playfully grabs her, it's invariably with that toothy cavern, and invariably about her neck, and invariably in a near-choke hold.) When he executes a puppy lope, spectators (okay, I) think of the Trojan (British?) Bunny from Monty Python's Holy Grail. His coat is more than "thick" or "long"; it's also shaggy. When he lies down, listeners (those who can't see him lying down, I mean) believe someone's breaking into the house. (Yes, somebody actually said that.)

I'm tryina tell ya this is a beast.

But sweet. He loves affection and attention of any kind, even disciplinary. Wags his tail when he's being tipped over or yelled at, or even if somebody, anybody, walks by while he's resting from his Herculean labors. He sleeps in a crate all night, and at 530 am, when I come in Goobs' room (where the crate resides) to let both dogs outside, the whole house can hear Frody's gigantic tail thundering in a joyful wag against the walls of the crate. Strangely, Frody is easier to tip over than Nimue (yes, we use Alpha Dog techniques on the poor puppy, so we know), I think because he's so biddable. Usually. He wants to lick everybody. All over. (With his tongue, that'd take only one determined swipe, really.) And, like I said, he barks like a puppy. Early in our relationship, we were trying to talk Frody out of the utility room upstairs to the kitchen (that pup finds stuff on the floor everywhere and wants to taste all of it), but he wouldn't leave. So I grabbed him by his collar and shoved him into the kitchen. He finally trotted off in the right direction, but barked --yipped-- at me over his shoulder. The girls nearly died laughing at his "backtalk." They think his bark is "cute."

There's very little to find cute about a puppy this big, poor thing.

And because he's such a big puppy, we often attribute his puppiness to dimwittedness. The same slowness to understand we saw in Nimue, who was a fist-sized puppy, the same stubbornness that we called "precious" and "awed" over, we have little patience with in this huge puppy. While as little as a few months ago, the girls were trying to talk me into letting them keep Nimue in bed or on the couch with them, when Frody tries to make those trips, they automatically grimace and push him away: "Ew! Get off, you stupid dog!" Yeah. We call him "stupid". Frody has tiny eyes, probably in comparison to the rest of him, so even his eyes look clueless most of the time. Even in repose, when he's not panting, Frody tongue sticks out of his closed mouth. He just looks low IQ'd. One evening, during the time the vet said Frody's activity should be restricted (yes, Frody'd become a eunuch not long before), Frody lost all of his self-control and began running to and fro through the living room. He lost his directional sense, too, if he'd ever had any, and ran head first into a wall. (I thought I saw plaster crack.) I wish I could say that this was the first time Frody's run into a wall.

Nuff said.

But I have hopes for Frody. For one thing, he's part Rottweiler and, depending upon whether you want to believe the vet or the shelter, part Shepherd or Husky. All three of those breeds are pretty smart dogs, right? He's already learned to control his bark and to sit, lie down, and come on command. I believe that one day his puppy mind will catch up with his burgeoning size, and the intelligence promised by his genes will come to the fore.

I reckon. At forty-five and [no, I'm not tellin you] pounds, I'd still like to believe that you can't tell everything you need to know about a dog by watching him for three weeks.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Family Thang

Last night, my pastor spoke about covenant, the churchy concept concerning the fact that people deliberately choose other people in their lives. Early on in his message, he repeated the oft-repeated dictum, "You can't choose your family," but added that not everybody we love, or are related to, or know, is in a covenant relationship with us --nor should they be.

Covenant is important, and should be entered into only with large gravity. This sounds, I know, like marriage, but, apparently, some marriages aren't covenant, primarily because the folk in 'em don't want that kind of marriage.

Well, what is the thang, anyway? It's a relationship I choose for my good. Ideally, I can trust this person to "cover" me: to keep my counsel, to hope the best for me, to pay attention to me (on occasion), to stand up for me --to my face and behind my back, to believe that my presence in her life is important. And I offer the same (at the very least) in return. Where this relationship is concerned, we speak of cutting covenant.

(You know, I think the concept did begin with marriage --or at least sex with a virgin, who would subsequently bleed-- and/or circumcision. There is blood/pain as well as intimacy in the history of this thang, but I personally refuse to actually cut or deflower anyone. It's a figure of speech, y'all.)

Over these forty-five years, I've come to realize that, while I can hang out with, be friendly, and even love anyone (and I do mean anyone), I can't cut covenant with just anyone. Not everyone gives a flip about me (nor, of course, should they); I don't give a flip about everyone (nor, of course, should I). Certainly, some of the folk with whom I've cut covenant are family, despite the fact that not every member of my family can keep counsel, for example.

(I'm looking at you, Goobs. Everybody knows you ain no refrigerator. If you think it's interesting, you pass it around, like crab dip and crudites. Mommy loves you, though. Mwah!)

So I can't consider all family in covenant with me. Last night, as I listened to pastor talking about what covenant was not, I thought about my relationship with one of my big brothers. He lives with us. Now. But he and I have recently decided that he should be looking for another place to live, I primarily because I've realized that, even though the house is mine, and I had asked him to move in because I wanted to help him, he doesn't respect me. Among other problems. But the disrespect, especially with my daughters as witness, is where the other problems come from. It hurts to know that we can't live together.

(Is that a grown-up sibling thang? Do other brothers and sisters, sisters and sisters, brothers and brothers somewhere live together in peace till they die, or is the family dynamic --a coupla adults forcing little kids to live together and love each other-- too unnatural to survive long past puberty?)

Here is a silly, tiny example of the disrespect.

My brother moved in after we got Nimue (the medium mutt). During the first days, my brother'd lecture us on the proper place for dogs --outside. "A dog is an animal," he'd intone. "It wants to be outside." He began with this assertion of his better knowledge of dogs, and graduated to other assertions: that we should rub Nimue's nose in her --evidence of elimination control; that Nimue hated dry dog food; that Nimue's neurotic fears (like the remote) were due to our inability to treat Nimue "like a dog." And he refused to call her "Nimue." To him, she was just "Dog," though probably not with a capital "d". My last Mothers' Day card "came from" the girls and "the yody* dog"!

(And the most annoying thing about this is that Nimue was so smart, she soon learned to respond to that name, especially since my brother was often hollering, "DOG!" while slipping bacon grease in her bowl. I don't know what he'd do about names if he was staying, now that we have another dog.)

It's silly, isn't it? That a dog's name would come between a brother and sister? But this is how I see it: the dog's name is something the girls and I decided on; it's part of, yes, a rather common delusion. We believe that Nimue sees us as her "pack." We see ourselves that way, too. (I'm the Alpha, or Big, Dog.) Or, rather, we see her as a member of the family. Naming her (and referring to my daughters as "your sisters") symbolizes that. It's not necessary that anybody else believe that. It's not even a "Love me? Love my dog" thang. But accepting the names of our dogs is part of accepting --and respecting-- what we choose to believe about our dogs. It's just a "you have a right to your particular delusion, so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else" thang. Everybody else, even people who wouldn't have a dog in their houses, calls the dogs by the names we gave them.

My brother refuses to do that.

I do love my brother. He's knowledgeable, mostly warm-hearted (dotes on my daughters, for example), and generous. But he works my last nerve. I can't trust the man to suspend his disbelief in this small thing. Or, to be truthful, right many bigger things, it turns out. It began with the dog, you know, and then it went on to What's Not Funny (the sitcoms/movies I watch), What's Not Interesting (the books I read) and What You're Doing Wrong (cooking, raising my daughters, and even resting). And that's not even an exhaustive list.

You know, I should've said something about Nimue's name in the very beginning, but I'm the easy-going, quietly-obsessive, anthropomorphic type.

*Honey, I don't know. The man speaks German like a native; maybe it's a German thang.

Me (roundish human)

Frody (really big puppy-mutt)

Nimue (medium mutt)

My Old Musings

Questions (for Heather)!
1) How old do you wish you were? I'd like to be 26 again (but only if I could be the size I was when I was 26).
2) Where were you when 9/11 happened? At work, in my office. The student assistant was watchin everything on her PC.
3) What do you do when vending machines steal your money? Punch buttons, then give up, too --if I can't find somebody who'll give me a refund.4) Do you consider yourself kind? I do not. I'm mean, and I carry a card. Or I will, soon.5) If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be? Why in the world would I "have to" get a tattoo? And in what world, where I had to get one, would I get to decide what it'd be?6) If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be? I wanna learn Spanish!7) Do you know your neighbors? Kinda. We wave and talk about things from time to time.
8) What do you consider a vacation? I just like getting away sometimes. Most of the time, being able to sleep in at home and just lie around is great!9) Do you follow your horoscope? Nope.
10) Would you move for the person you loved? It depends on WHERE.
11) Are you mean? Didn't I just say so? Don't ask me again!
12) Do you believe that opposites attract? Yeah. But I don't know if I believe they stay together.
13) Dream job? At home, editing novels.
14) Favorite channel(s)? Any except Spike TV.
15) Favorite place to go on weekends? The movies!
16) Showers or Baths? Can't I have both?
17) Do you paint your nails? I used to. More geared to toenail painting these days (for some reason).
18) Do you trust people easily? Nope.19) What are your phobias? Drowning. Zombies.
20) Do you want kids? Do I want my own, you mean?
21) Do you keep a handwritten journal? This blog is the closest to that in years.22) Where would you rather be right now? Home.
23) Who makes you feel warm and fuzzy? My daughters. My friends. My students.
24) Heavy or light sleep? Light.25) Are you paranoid? On occasion.
26) Are you impatient? Nope.
27) Who can you relate to? I try to relate to everybody. That doesn't work most of the time.
28) How do you feel about interracial couples? I don't care, as long as they're good to each other.
29) Have you been burned by love? Yup.
30) What's your life motto? "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" --Julian of Norwich
31) What's your main ringtone on your mobile? "Again" by Donnie McClurkin.32) What were you doing at midnight last night? Lying in bed, wishing I were asleep.33) Who was your last text message from? My pastor.34) Whose bed did you sleep in last night? Mine own.35) What color shirt are you wearing? Jean.
37) Name three things you have on you at all times? Draw's.
38.) What color are your bed sheets? Black and white.39) How much cash do you have on you right now? A two-dollar bill I won't spend.
40) What is your favorite part of the chicken? Thigh.41) What's your favorite town/city? Hampton.
42) I can't wait till: My one summer class ends!
43) Who got you to join myspace? My daughters (but they don't know that).44) What did you have for dinner last night? Beans and Franks. Yum.
45) How tall are you barefoot? 5'5.
46) Have you ever smoked heroin? Nope. 47) Do you own a gun? Nope.48) What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Grape juice.
49) What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex? It's still a secret to me!
50) Do you have A.D.D.? Nope.
51) What time did you wake up today? 545 am.
52) Current worry? Getting the heck out of debt.
53) Current hate? Lies.54) Favorite place to be? At home on the big couch, in front of the TV, with a couple dogs at my feet and the girls on the love seat.
55) Where would you like to travel? Maybe Australia.6) Where do you think you'll be in 10 yrs? Here.
57) last thing you ate? Peanut-butter and cheese crackers.58) What songs do you sing in the shower? Gospel.
59) Last person that made you laugh? Christina.
60) Worst injury you've ever had? I've escaped really bad injuries. . . .okay, a cat scratch years and years ago. (I still have the scar.)
61) Does someone have a crush on you? I've been told so.62) What is your favorite candy? Those milk chocolate Ferrer Rocher thingies.
63) What song do you want played at your funeral? I don't plan to die.
10:27 AM

Monday, June 12, 2006
Adopted! (pt2)
So we sat in the johnbrown animal shelter for hours. Apparently, adopting a critter takes about forty-five minutes of paperwork.
(I dunno. That's what I was told at the time, okay?)
Good thing I was entertained while waiting. There was a couple there, waiting for their third adoption. Had a couple bad experiences, they did. First dog was a violent Labrador. (I had no idea they came in that variety. You say "Lab," and I imagine selfless doggie in service to the sightless and, if need be, hearingless. I imagine a water-loving, Alpo-eating, child-nurturing beastie.
Apparently not.)
This Lab went a long way toward demolishing a house, using his crate to bang holes in the walls, eating said crate's hinges, and, when said hinges were replaced --with metal hinges-- the dog ate them, too. And, having freed himself from the crate, he went straight to the couple's special room (set aside for their wedding paraphernalia) and pooped everywhere. The husband came home and ("without even changing his clothes," the wife said) decided to take the dog back to the SPCA. "This," he said, "is crap, literally and figuratively."
(And here, as a forty-five-year-old mother of two, I would like to apologize to anyone who feels offended by the use of the term pooped. I mean, I would like to, but I'm not. I'm just not. So there.)
I was likin this couple. I began likin 'em when I overheard the wife say, "That guy's buying those bunnies to feed them to a snake." I agreed with her. That guy looked like the type who owned snakes, and, unlike those of us who would buy bunnies for non-snake-feeding purposes, he chose two right away. No hemming and hawing, no "what sex is this one?" no goin in rhapsodies over their cuteness. When the shelter employee asked, "Which ones?" He said, right away, "This one and that one." Not even a pause between "and" and "that." He was big, buzz-cutted, t-shirted, jeaned, and no-nonsensed. This was a man who had a snake to feed, and an impatient snake at that.
He walked out the door, entering the dog pen section, and the wife whimpered, "He's gonna feed them to a snake!"
"Yep," I said, though nobody'd asked me anything, "He's gonna feed those rabbits to a snake." The wife sobbed, her face on her husband's back.
"Don't get snot on my shirt, baby," he said. We watched the doomed bunnies philosophically and noticed something. One of the doomed bunnies was being chased by another, slightly larger bunny. (The other doomed bunny was in a separate cage.) When the bigger bunny caught the little one, it would climb aboard and hump vigorously. The little bunny would get away, and the bigger bunny would catch it again. Climb aboard again. Hump some more. And on and on.
"That ain right," said the husband. "That's kinda sick."
"That's disgusting," said the wife.
"'No' means no," I said.
"Oh, please," said the woman next to me. "They're rabbits, y'all, not people." The woman next to me was tiny, beautifully-coifed (no buzz-cut for her), and -dressed. She had her two kids, a boy and a girl (both fascinated by the bunnies) with her. They were pretty, too. They'd come to the shelter to find a dog, too, but not a puppy because they mama was not up for training another puppy.
"Puppies are destructive, like that Lab y'all had," she said. "You know, I saw a puppy in there today that was just like that --he was just rippin and tearin at the newspaper in his pen. Just shredded it."
"That's the puppy we're getting," I said.
"That's your puppy?" She screamed with laughter. "What? you gonna keep him in a garage?"
"No," I said. "He'll be a house dog."
"Really?" she said, looking at me as if to more certainly locate the holes in my head. Meanwhile, the wife was still moaning over the bunnies. "Why didn't y'all ask him what he was gonna do with the bunnies?" the woman next to me asked. And, as if on cue, the buzz-cutted one reappeared. The woman next to me nudged me surreptitiously.
"So. . . .whatcha gonna do with the bunnies?" she asked with a big, innocent grin. There was a strained silence. Then, "I'm givin' 'em to my girlfriend," said the buzz-cutted one.
"Is his girlfriend a snake?" the husband whispered to his wife. The wife emitted a muffled moan. "Give me your email addy," Buzz Cut said. "I'll send you pics of the bunnies, all safe and sound."
The shelter employee pulled the chosen bunnies out and put each in a cardboard cat carrier. "There ya go," she said. Buzz Cut left us, and the wife moaned again.
"Ha, ha," said the husband to the horny bunny, now all alone. Not long after that, somebody paged the employee over the PA system. (Bunnies, it seems, are supposed to go away in shoeboxes, not cat carriers.)
Soon, the couple was called to get their third dog, and shortly after that (certainly not forty-five minutes), they called us for our puppy. We went into a back office, spacious and clean, carpeted --and gila-monstered. There was a huge, green gila-monster in a cage that took up a good quarter of a side wall. The room also had two big desks, file cabinets, and three bulletin boards covered with pictures of cats. We sat down at one of the desks. A friendly yellow cat wandered around and visited with each of us, pretty amazing, considering that he was mostly blind.
"We think he can see shadows," one of the employees said. "He's never bumped into anything. But his retinas were detached. He lives here."
"Aw, what a sweet kittie," said the wife, at the other desk. "I can't have one. I'm allergic." An employee came to our desk, her hands full of different sized papers. "Fill this one out and sign," she said. Then she read another sheet to me before I signed that one. "You can't give this puppy to anyone but the SPCA. You can't return him to the SPCA after two weeks. If you return him, you can't get a refund, only a exchange. You must schedule a spaying or neutering at an area veterinarian, or you will be fined $250. Today, we will inject a identity tag under the skin of your puppy, but we won't register the number for two weeks. Adopting a puppy from the SPCA entitles you to a free veterinary exam, a collar and a leash, and the spaying or neutering will come at a 25% discount. Here are some coupons. Here is a list of the innoculations your puppy has already had. Give that to the vet. Fifty dollars, please."
"Wow," I said.
And Frody was ours. The processing took about ten minutes.
3:08 PM

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We have a new puppy!
I didn't want it. I'm satisfied with Nimue, the four-year-old mutt we have now (beast on yer left, there). She's obedient, adoring and adorable. But this puppy needed a home, and every time I tried to ignore that, I felt a twinge of guilt.
Twinges of guilt suck, even when they have no right, really, to twinge.
See, my best girlfriend has neighbors who spoil their kids. Apparently, they've got money to burn, so the kids get all kinds of electronic and outdoor toys, scads of sugar and fat-laden junk food, and, if they ask, puppies. These kids, being more or less normal, asked --and got the puppy formerly known as Max, a Rottweiler mix. ("Mixed with what?" you ask, but the answer is variegated and undependable, coming, as it is, from no dog expert.)
After buying the dog, these parents realized that they didn't want one. And they hated this one. ("Why?" you ask, but the answer is nauseating and otherwise disturbing: he was a big puppy, about, at any minute, to become a big dog.) In fact, they hated all dogs, they realized, and if it weren't for those pesky kids, they'd be able to get out from under the dog thing.
But the kids loved the dog, though not enough to take care of it. Max became an interactive toy, one they left outside in the rain. Yes, with a dog house and automatic feeder, but still. The feeder fed the birds. The waterer became a bird bath. And the puppy, in an attempt to make friends with a neighbor dog, kept sticking his nose in a chain-link fence until it bled.
I had never seen this puppy, but my girls (from now on Juice and Goobs, in order of birth) adored it and felt sorry for it. So, of course, I came to feel sorry for it, too. I told my girlfriend to tell her neighbor that we'd take the puppy. Girlfriend's daughter overheard the conversation between grown folk and ran off to neighbor's chirren, horrifying them with tales of soon-to-be stolen puppies. Neighbor caved to chirren.
But I kept hearing more and more tales of neglect, so I kept urging my girlfriend about the puppy, and girlfriend kept urging neighbor about him. Finally, during a pre-Memorial-Day cookout at girlfriend's (her hubby grills a mean piece of chicken), I got to talk to neighbor who expressed all her feelings about dogs. I reiterated that I'd take the puppy. ("You want me to back the truck up to your house around midnight? Don't tell your husband. He needs to be convincingly ignorant of everything.") This, by the way, is when I learned about the nosebleed, which, at the time, sounded much worse than it was: "And now," neighbor said, "the dog's nose is bleeding. What do you think causes that?" Nauseated, because I was thinking of an inner nosebleed, I managed to say, "I dunno. Take 'im to the vet." And, yeah, when she asked me if I was sure I wanted the dog, I reiterated that: "Take him to the vet first."
So you might be within your rights to argue that it was my fault what happened next. The neighbor called one Saturday morning and left a message (because we were out): "Max is available. You can come pick him up anytime." We got the message in the afternoon and called girlfriend's neighbor. Left a message. Called again. Left another message. Called and called and left message after message. (Okay, that was Goobs' idea. She really, really wanted the puppy and was frantic at the possibility that girlfriend's neighbor didn't know that.)
Never got a call back.
But on Sunday, girlfriend called and told me that neighbor had given the dog to the SPCA shelter. We were all pretty disgusted, especially after I learned that the shelter was closed on Sunday.
"I don't have the money to adopt a dog from the SPCA," I said. Girlfriend said that she had the money and would get it to us so we could get the critter. I accepted.
"I'm talkin to [neighbor] tryin not to let the disgust show in my face. [Girlfriend's husband] said, 'Y'all leave the dog in the yard for weeks, but can't wait twenty-four hours for [me] to come pick 'im up." Said husband marched over to the neighbors to get the details.
(I 'clare, I wouldn't want Girlfriend's Husband comin over to my house to roust details outta me. Man's 6'6", athletic, and righteously indignant? No, thank you.)
He finds out that neighbor, thinking my adoption was contingent upon the vet visit (and not willing to take the dog to the vet), shoved the puppy off on the shelter. And then bought a $400 puppy for the kids. I am not lying.
So next day, girlfriend gets me the money, I pick up my girls, and off we went to the SPCA.
Truly, it was a riot. Like I said, I had never seen the puppy before, so I had to rely on my extremely excited daughters to find it. They did.
This is a HUGE puppy, at least as big as my four-year-old mutt. He has Border Collie/Rottweiler markings and a heavy coat. And he's very vocal. It was "Let me out! Out! OUT!" the entire time we were there. And the top of his muzzle, the skin just after the nose proper, was raw, near bleeding. (I was relieved about that, but still squeamish. How would we get that to heal?)
I should say here (or should've said earlier) that I hate the SPCA shelter. It's depressing. All those dogs and cats (not to mention the rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and, seriously, a gila monster) sittin in cages, lonely, certainly uncomfortable, and some even under sentence of death. Whew. And let us not speak of the pervasive smell of soiled newspaper. Or the truly deafening noise.
More later.

9:43 AM

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Decisions, decisions
. . .
I'm still thinking about emailing my "resignation" email to everyone. I'm not really resigning --just leaving a new post in an old job. Being asked, in fact, to allow someone else to take it.
I hate the very idea.
And the ridiculous part is that this is no plum post. I have more responsibilities than money, still. And far from getting the credit for the good stuff I might do, I'm more likely to be blamed for errors somebody else (read "the boss") makes. But I was just hitting my stride when I was asked to let somebody else do it.
After an "excellent" evaluation.
And one year.
So should I send out the nasty "I was yanked for no good reason" email to everyone now? Or at all?
Here's the letter. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
My Heroes,

For the past year, I have enjoyed the challenge and privilege of working with you as [my former position]. I had planned to continue in this role for at least another few years (as my predecessors have), but circumstances beyond my control require that I leave it. While I will continue as assistant professor to the department, [my boss] insists that I relinquish the position to Professor Back Stabber. My most recent evaluation was "excellent." However, since there exists software to help the [usurper] more easily and efficiently accomplish those responsibilities vital to the position, and [the boss] and Professor Back Stabber feel that she is better qualified than I to implement that software, they have decided that she should avail herself of the released time attached to the position.

Beginning August 2006, we will refer all [my former responsibilities] to Professor Back Stabber.

Thank you for your kind attention and cooperation in this matter.