Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the horror, the horror of a hug

Today Lola started a new evening writing class.  After I picked her up at school, I suggested she might like to brainstorm ideas for her new writing project.

First Lola loftily informed me that the purpose of the first class, "after we spend a bunch of time saying "oh I am Lordwhatever from Blabbledom", was brainstorming and that the people who lead the class would have a list of suggested writing topics.

Clearly her mother was not needed, but indefatigable for once, I persevered.  "It might be a good idea to go in with some ideas of your own, though.  I know how picky you can be."  On a prior occasion, Lola had despaired of ever coming up with a good idea to write about and shared that she thought she had shot her bolt with her hit article on urban chickens.  "I'll never have a good idea like chickens again."

Lola accepted this point and told me that one of her friends had given her a suggestion.  This friend said Lola should write about "hugs:  heartfelt or HORROR-FILLED?"  It turns out that the friend's little brother had suffered a dislocated arm from a hug.

"Lola, that's awful!  What monster hugged him?"

"It was one of his little friends, not a monster."

I shared with Lola that I had suffered some horrible hugs myself.  Lola wanted details.  The first memorable Hug of Horror occurred when my first husband and I traveled to the Saline Valley.  We shared a love of natural hot springs and camping in the desert, and we had learned that there were some beautiful natural hot springs located near Death Valley, where some hippies and hippy-adjacent people had created a clothing-optional community.  When we arrived at the Saline Valley enclave, we were greeted by a tiny older naked man, with lots of flowing gray hair, who was of questionable cleanliness.  This man was very friendly and welcoming to us, talking to us about the hot springs, the people, what we could expect, what we might like to do, and so on.  Then he asked me  for a hug, explaining that he had to be faithful to his wife but she let him hug other women.  I was at the time a cute, trim twenty-something, and I noticed our new friend only wanted to hug me, not my husband.  The last thing I wanted was for this dingy, naked stranger to hug me, but he had been very kind to us, and I felt stuck.  I let him hug me, pressing his unclean and naked parts up against me, for as short a time as I judged polite and then disengaged.  It was not enjoyed.

The other horrible hug Lola had herself witnessed, but she'd forgotten it.  There used to be some benches by the subway station in the Castro, which have been cut apart and taken away because homeless people used to spend time on them.  I myself thought the particular homeless people who congregated there added color to the neighborhood and didn't detract from it; they never panhandled me or hassled me, but other people in the community wanted them gone.  When the homeless people still had a place to sit or lie down, one day one of them called out to me as I was walking through with my family.  He asked me for a hug, saying he was unhappy and really, really needed a hug.  Without hesitation I hugged him, although in the back of my mind I was wondering whether he would stab me; he was definitely troubled.  After the hug, he called out to me sincerely, "Thank you! Thank you!"  The Sober Husband told me, "You were very brave.  I thought he was going to stab you", which called into question why he didn't intervene if he thought his wife was in danger.  Did he want his wife to get stabbed?

Lola pondered these hugs.  She now had three Hugs of Horror she could write about.  Hugs, she felt, were a far scarier thing than one would think.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Coney and Notconey

Over the holidays we catsat for a friend of ours who has wonderfully taken in two cats with feline HIV.  These cats were unadoptable and could not be kept at the city shelter, but the city employees didn't want to euthanize them as they were very attractive cats with warm, friendly personalities.  Thankfully my friend M. stepped up and took them home, where she has taken painstaking care of them.  A local cat lady has donated a life subscription to her raw foods for these cats, and M. can take them in to get veterinary care for free, which relieves the financial burden on her of taking two cats with a serious condition.

These cats don't look sick.  They are beautiful, fluffy, and energetic, but they must be kept indoors and can't mingle with other cats.  Their raw food diet is kept refrigerated and needs to be served to them twice a day.  Although M's temporary housemate was willing to feed them, he is not a cat person and was not about to provide the hours of attention these cats normally receive from their doting owner.  So we were enlisted, to come by and play with the cats and give them some love (and also check on their litterbox).

M's housemate obviously fed the cats, but he didn't tend to their litterbox noticeably.  He also didn't play with them very much.  Every time I arrived, always with the stalwart Lola at my side and normally with Iris as well, the cats were ready for endless playtime.

One of them had a rash on her chin which she picked at, so she had to wear a cone of shame.  The children dubbed them "Coney and NotConey."  They loved ridiculing Coney when she tried to groom herself with her cone on, licking the inside of her cone and putting her paw up to it.

The children devoted themselves to photography of Coney and Notconey, trying to get pictures of them airborne as the children whipped them up to a frenzy with the cat toys.  The frustrations of nature photography were all too apparent, as the best shots seemed elusive.  They filled my iPhone up with over a hundred pictures of those cats in no time.

Driving over to M's place one day, we passed near her place of employment.  I had a thought.  "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we went to M's salon?  You know she is always showing everyone all these pictures of her cats on her phone.  Now they have a break from looking at pictures of those cats, and we could take my phone in and make them look at pictures of M's cats on my phone while she's away!"  The children thought this was hilarious and were definitely up for it, but I was too lazy to inflict this prank on M's colleagues.

Since M's return, Coney's skin has recovered to the point where she no longer needs to wear the cone of shame.  I shared this with the children, who were disapproving.

"Coney isn't that cute; she needs to wear the cone to be cute!"

"What will we call them now, if they can't be Coney and Notconey?"

The sentiment among the children was that if M. expects any more high quality catsitting, she'd better put that cone back on.  The children's love is not unconditional.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

not the lilies of the field but the feral cats of the alleys

The most recent feral kittens I have fostered were the subject of an inquiry from a gay couple, who were interested in possibly adopting them.  I invited them to come to my home and meet the kittens, two calicos who were recovering from a terrible cold and becoming socialized.

One of the men was blind, but as I had a very close friend in college who was blind, I know how to host blind people (speak directly to them, describe the room to them, narrate anything happening).  That wasn't newsworthy.  What was interesting was that this man was extremely Christian, in a way you don't normally run across in San Francisco.  I know many devout people here, I know people who have strong faiths, but I had not run across anyone who lives here who speaks in this way of witnessing, with little gaps left where it seems what is being called for is a "Praise Him!" as the only response.   I didn't think I'd ever met a blind, gay Christian before, definitely a small segment of our population.

It turned out God had indicated to these men that they adopt these particular kittens, which was fine by me and seemed fine by the kittens as well.  The kittens took a long time to recover from their ailment, and I invited the men back to visit again on another occasion.  This time the kittens were in no mood to be friendly and chose to have almost nothing to do with their potential adopters.  I was a little worried that a good placement might fall apart, and I voiced that to the Sober Husband.  "But didn't God tell them to take these kittens?" he asked.

"God says lots of things," I said darkly.

But I shouldn't have worried.  Today the adoption is going through, but as I'm ill, it's being handled by another cat lady (a more senior and important cat lady than me, who gave me the kittens to foster to begin with).  She was a little worried that the placement might fall apart and wanted to know what the men were like, and I told her that God had told them to adopt these kittens.

"Really," she said.  There was a pause.  "I'm an atheist, you know," she said in her thick European accent.  Another pause.  "I'm glad you told me this.  I wouldn't have known how to handle it.  I'm not used to that kind of thing."  I could tell this was a moment of culture shock for her.

"In my ten years of doing this, this is the first time I've had God tell someone to take one of my kittens," I shared.

"I"m so glad you told me about this," she said again.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

describe me

The little paragraph describing this blog is woefully out of date.  I virtually never drink any more, certainly not "too much."  I exercise more than three regular middle-aged people combined (hell, maybe more than ten regular middle-aged people).   I'm more fit than the Sober Husband these days, always eager to point out when he is out of breath and I'm not.

Fabulous prizes await if someone writes me a pleasing yet roughly accurate soundbite for this blog!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

intricate, high level planning

I ran across a discussion of Burning Man preparation by chance on line, and one person urged others to send him their email address, as he's been going for years and has an Excel spreadsheet for a packing list which he enjoys sharing with others.

Spreadsheets?  Lists?  Here's how my friend N. and I planned last year:

I arrive at N.'s home.  Before we start planning, she suggests we have a cigarette in the backyard.  After her smoke break, we go indoors to get serious.  I pull out a notebook and a pen.

N.:  "What do you want to drink this year?"

A discussion follows of cocktail options, which is pretty much pointless because it was completely predictable that we'd want to drink the same things we drank the two years before:  shandies (N.) and sparkling wine (the D.H.), and maybe we'd do something with tequila, and it might be good to have some vodka just in case.

After I note that I will buy sparkling wine and tequila and that N. will bring beer, soda for making the shandies, and some vodka, the conversation stalls.

N.:  "So, will you bring everything you brought last year?  I'll bring everything I brought last year."

Me:  "Yes.  Oh, can you bring a dishpan?"

I make a note:  "N:  dishpan."

N.:  "Was there anything else we needed to plan?"

Me:  "I don't think so.  I don't know why we thought we needed to have a meeting."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


At my "lit club", the reading class I lead at Iris's school, a fifth grader said with a passion, "I want to complain about this book.  There weren't enough murders."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

the healthy lifestyle doesn't pay off

I.  Feeling like crap:  Lately I've been suffering from headaches, pounding headaches every day.  This is particularly maddening because I'm exercising, eating healthily, staying hydrated, getting lots of sleep, and avoiding alcohol.  The other day I woke up with a horrific headache, worse than a hangover, and this irked me more when I pondered that I hadn't had a single sip of alcohol in over three days.

II.  Looking like crap:  As part of his "Pacifying The Hostile, Crazy Wife" program, the Sober Husband bought us tickets to an annual event I'd long wanted to attend, the Edwardian Ball.  I'd never tried to attend as the tickets are expensive, it tends to sell out, and it requires buying new clothes, a thing normally despised and avoided by the Sober Husband.  But!  I had complained bitterly that he never arranges for us to do fun things as a couple, and he was hellbent on proving that wrong, and he even initiated some shopping expeditions to get us outfitted.

I visited Dark Gardens, San Francisco's famous corset store, as part of the planning for the Edwardian ball.  There I tried on a corset and was appalled.  Somehow I looked fatter in it than out. Practically every fat San Franciscan woman I know relies upon corsets to make herself look amazing and desirable, but yet when I, who has lost fifty friggin' pounds, put one on, I looked significantly heavier.  

Even odder than that was that I appeared relatively flat-chested in the corset.  Somehow my natural DDs looked like Bs.  This made no sense to me, as usually women with small breasts look amazingly buxom once they are hoisted up by a corset.

I was so depressed by what I saw in the mirror at the Dark Gardens' fitting room that I felt like taking to my bed and never appearing in public again.  A supportive friend shared that she, too, had tried on a corset, thinking it would work the same magic for her it does for every chubby woman she knows, and she had also ended up looking both fatter and flatter.  "My D cups looked like someone with B cups trying to look wenchy",  she said, and, as misery adores company,  this cheered me up.  Also, I was cheered up by the thought of saving the over $500 that the Dark Gardens corset would have cost.

But still, after all this freaking healthy living, I should feel divine and look like a goddess in a corset.  "That just goes to show that all that health stuff is stupid," opined a child.

Friday, January 18, 2013

another "how not to take a compliment" lesson, courtesy of the DH

Recently I was talking to a man, someone significantly younger than me, and I noticed he was fidgeting a lot.  "Why are you twitching like that?" I asked.

"I feel nervous talking to you, because you're so hot."

I gave him an incredulous look.  "I am forty-eight years old!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

another expensive, faux British possession

As many people know, I've been locked in a struggle with the Sober Husband over whether to trade in my Volvo.  I'd been driving the Volvo for over five years without complaining until it suddenly lost power while I was driving in heavy traffic.  Then it did it again.  Both times there was no error code, and three different mechanics could not find any plausible cause.  My favorite of these mechanics told me earnestly to get rid of the car as soon as possible and didn't charge me a cent.

However, the Sober Husband saw this differently.  After all, the Volvo was practically paid off, and it was perhaps a better car than I deserved.  He himself had driven an ancient rusty Monte Carlo for part of our marriage (remembered fondly as "the Garbage Car" by the children).  "There's a value in driving unreliable cars," he said.  "Poor people would make that decision differently."

"Just because someone will risk their life in an unsafe car because they can't afford another one means I should?"

"I just think I have a higher tolerance for unreliable cars than you do."

He ended up having to live by those words, as I said, "That car is dead to me" and refused to drive it any more.  So the Sober Husband took the Volvo (which maddeningly never failed him) and gave me his Prius, which had two strange and upsetting failures during my brief tenure as its primary driver.  Some people recommended to me that I find some sort of new age healer to cleanse my chakras of the evil car-killing emanations I must be sending forth, but I refrained.

After some time went by, the Sober Husband began to carp about driving the Volvo.  "It costs me ten more dollars a day in gas than the Prius."

"Trade in the Volvo for something else, and I'll give you back the Prius," I said.  "That car is still dead to me."  This inevitably got the Sober Husband to make remarks about my economic policies and unrealistic expectations for cars.   These discussions never went anywhere, but at least I was able to wrap them up more efficiently once my psychiatrist supplied me with a great line.  "My psychiatrist says you do not value my life highly enough," I would say when the Sober Husband direly discussed the economic foolhardiness of getting a younger, more reliable car.  The Sober Husband never figured out a good response to this line, and it was always an argument-killer, but we were no closer to a resolution.

Then in late December, following a rather large spat between us over a variety of other causes, the Sober Husband said one morning, "Today I'm going to take you to get a car!  Whatever car you want!"  Later that day as we were filling out the papers to purchase a slightly used Mini Cooper Countryman, he said to me, "I guess now is the time I should tell you there's a recall out on the Prius.  The driver can lose control of the steering at any time, with no warning."

"When were you planning on telling me?"

"You weren't speaking to me."

As I drove the Mini home, I realized that now my Aga is not my most expensive possession any more.  I also pondered that my two beloved and extravagant-for-my-station-in-life possessions both have British brand names but are not actually British (the Mini was made in Graz, Austria; the Aga came from France).  Evidently I fall into a certain consumer niche, the faux British category:  someone who seeks out things which look like they are vintage English but demands non-English engineering.  Undoubtedly there is a marketing term for this, and probably it's not flattering.