Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Platinum Beehive and a Pair of Wings

Mr. and Mrs. L were the retired couple that lived next door to us. They probably bought their home and had moved in shortly after it was originally built in the fifties. Both of them were in their eighties by the time we had become their neighbors six years ago.

No matter the decade, past or current, Mrs. L was always conspicuous by her tall, platinum blond beehive hairdo. When a Cadillac drove through our quiet streets around 4:00 pm in the afternoon, you knew that Mr. & Mrs. L were going out to dinner. The telltale beehive gave them away. Even in warm weather, when she was out in the yard wearing bright pink shorts and a sleeveless floral top, the eye was drawn first to the flaxen bouffant that had the same appealing shine as old fashioned ribbon candy.

Mostly, we spotted that albino cotton candy on the hottest days of the year, when Mrs. L would be sitting in the above-ground pool next door. She would sit there, quietly cooling off, with a pair of butterfly frame sunglasses beneath that enormous beehive so that we were never sure if she was looking at us or dozing off.

But there was no blond beehive outdoors last summer. The pool was first drained and then suddenly gone, one day. Safety bars were added on the wall above the two steps to the front door entrance. Mr. L fell and broke a hip but he refused to remain an invalid for long. He was stubborn about his independence, and once a week he continued to drag the garbage cans out to the curb before slowly making his way up the driveway and back into the house, through the garage.

There were other changes. The camping trailer that had been in their driveway also disappeared. After the holidays there was a garage sale. The garbage cans made it to the curb only now and then, not every week.

Finally, the outside of the house was painted before a realtor's sign was put up on the front lawn. Another neighbor told me that both Mr. & Mrs. L had been put into a nursing home as they were no longer able to care for themselves or for each other. Mrs. L had gotten Alzheimer's, it was said.

In the nursing home, Mr. and Mrs. L had already been placed in separate rooms before she passed away. Her body was brought to Mr. L's room so that he could say his goodbyes to her.

And it broke my heart a little bit to hear about it.

Mrs. L was such a delightful, sweet lady. She would light up with a friendly smile when I would say hi to her at the market and remind her who I was. She would tell Domestic Partner, much to his irritation, what a nice son he has, even though I am only seven years younger than him.

Mrs. L told me that she had raised her family in the house next to us, that their backyard had been the place of many birthday parties and family barbecues. There had been pool parties with groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts before everyone grew up and went away, leaving Mrs. L. to sit alone in the water with her beehive on hot summer days.

Mrs. L told me the best thing when I had first met her: as a child she had been in the "Our Gang" series starring the Little Rascals.

"Oh! Were you a featured character?" I asked her. "Were you 'Shirley' or 'Mary?'"

"Oh, no," she told me. "I was only an extra. But I had fun playing with the other children on set. I have such good memories of those times."

In her own quiet and even fashionable way, Mrs. L has left me with good memories from a few short years of being neighbors. I picture a halo on top of her beehive and wings bigger than her hair do.

Maybe she'll say hi to Caesar pug and Oscar pug for me, since they were also her neighbors for a while.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Babies that Almost Were

I continue to capture kitties, our feral friends, to be spayed or neutered before releasing them back to their natural habitat (our backyard).

This week, with three sardine-baited traps, I managed to capture only one. It was the one I call "Charlie," who is a timid mostly-white cat with black splotches. She or he is more easily frightened than her/his litter mates. I'm never sure of the sex of each kitty, but Charlie and her/his siblings are over a year old, now.

Capturing this solitary cat was a jackpot of sorts. When I picked Charlie up at the FixNation clinic, post-surgery, I was informed that there had been kittens inside her, which had all been humanely aborted (it's both interesting and comforting to me that they deliberately add the word "humanely").

The clinic had already told me that it is common for many of the females they fix to be at various stages of pregnancy. Unborn kittens are aborted only if it is safe for both mother and the litter, if it is not too close to birthing time.

I was surprised, though, to be struck by a bit of sadness. I felt as if we had taken Charlie's babies away from her, even if she wasn't aware of her pending motherhood. I felt as if we had taken the chance for living a quiet, healthy life away from these unborn babies.

I am the first to admit that I am much too Bleeding Heart for my own good. As unscientific as I am, I realize that it is standard for many new generations not to make it in the animal kingdom, whether or not they are born.

I focused, almost immediately after my slight sadness, on the fact that this is exactly why the effort is being made, both by the FixNation staff and by individuals like myself - to prevent future generations of homeless animals from being born, and to halt this specific natural cycle as much as possible.

While driving home with Charlie resting quietly in her covered cage, I thought again of human babies that never get to be born. It is easy for me to claim that I am Pro Choice, but honestly, I've never had to give it serious consideration since an unplanned pregnancy is something I will neither have nor be likely to cause.

But even Charlie's microcosmic world of Backyard Kitties can bring up a lot of What If?'s, in the "It's a Wonderful Life" perspective. What if I had never been born? What if any babies who had been aborted had lived, instead? How would that affect any of our lives, individually and in our communities?

How does the fall of a sparrow affect our universe? Even if one person or one animal is but a grain of sand in the Big Picture, how far-reaching are the ripples of that grain when dropped into water? And what happens when a grain or pebble never gets the chance to be dropped and cause ripples? I know that for most of these questions, we may never receive any answers.

See? I told you I was unscientific!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Get it Right

Anyone who has visited another country has probably had the pleasure to hear or read "engrish," or delightfully mangled English. I loved getting to experience it while working in Japan, where I never quite blended into the background completely.

I lived on a peaceful street in a suburban-like neighborhood of Miyazaki. Once, on a day off, two young sisters were riding their bikes past me and they stopped.

"Are you gaijin (foreigner)?" the older girl asked me Japanese.

"Yes, I am from America," I answered.

The sisters looked at each other, their expressions lighting up in recognition of the place I came from.

"Oh, hello!" Big Sister said to me. She seemed proud to be able to speak English to me, even a single word. She rolled her L's, the way R's are rolled in Spanish. It sounded more like "ha-doh" the way she pronounced it.

I am used to the Japanese accented version of English, but I deliberately replied with my own Southern California accent. "Hello."

Little Sister piped up, and boy did she have an attitude. "No, it's not 'hello'" she informed me in Japanese. "It's 'ha-doh!'"

I bobbed my head in a small, meek bow of apology. "Sumimasen (Excuse me)."

I could just hear the unspoken words probably going through their minds: "Stupid American!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Do You Know Me?

One of my former dance partners, Jo, has made quite an impressive career for herself as a television hostess, most notably for travel programs. I think she may be the British equivalent of the hosts for those home renovation shows we have here in the US.

It was fun being with her in public while visiting England last year, and seeing people vaguely recognize her without being able to place her. She would get that look that seems to ask, "Why do you look so familiar? Did we used to work together, or go to school together?"

I was tempted to paraphrase Phoebe from "Friends" when she discovered that her twin sister became an adult film actress and was using her name.

"You're trying to place her, aren't you?" I wanted to ask passers-by in London. "You're trying to figure out where you know her from. Well, it's from porn, you big pervert! Your recognize her from porn."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Paper or Plastic Brush?

I love making my friends laugh. JB and I have shared some good laughs together while working in Japan at a theme park, especially in the boys' dressing room.

Once, while getting ready before a show, JB walked out of the adjoining restroom. Hand on hip and disgust in his tone, he said, "We really need to get a toilet brush for that bathroom."

"Why?" I asked. "Are we out of toilet paper?"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Will Remember You

In our quiet neighborhood, there is a cross in the middle of the road, right on the black asphalt surface. Some days it is drawn in bright pink, but usually it is done in white chalk. Sometimes it looks more like a plus sign. But it is renewed on a daily basis, as are the letters and numbers written on the curb in blue chalk:

Yoda R.I.P. 4-20-08 to 8-2-09

I had to assume that Yoda was a beloved pet, some one's furry baby that didn't even make it to sixteen-months-old.

One morning, while walking my dogs, I saw her bend down in the middle of the street, small chalk piece in hand. It was the younger silver haired lady from what I call the Elderly House (there are three people living there, all with silver hair).
She told me that Yoda was one of her cats, found dead against the curb one August day. She thinks Yoda may have been hit by a car.

I said I was sorry for her loss. I told her we had lost our kitty, too, coincidentally when he was almost sixteen months old.

Neither of us sounded too grief stricken, but we both agreed that the loss of any pet was something to be mourned, for literally years.

I still think of Cleo kitty, gone for a little over a year, now. I think of Caesar pug and Oscar the one-eyed pug on almost a daily basis. I picture them as angels who are watching me, knowing when I think about them, missing them. I pretend that they influence who they can in heaven, putting in a good word for me to ensure continued blessings for my earthly life.

And I check the middle of the road for Yoda's cross whenever I drive by the Elderly House. It comforts me somehow, knowing that a vigil continues to be kept for the deceased kitty, gone but not forgotten.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3 Down, 9 to Go

Tonight, I made my first attempt at trapping feral cats. So far, I've caught three. It was surprisingly easy, canned tuna being the bait I used. I'm waiting to snare one more, the fourth trap standing alone in the backyard, its cage door propped open and poised for snapping shut.

The cats are suspicious, I guess, especially the older ones.

The three I've trapped so far are from the same litter as our new six-month-old kitten, Sabina. Perhaps they are more naive and easier to catch when they're still very young. Resting quietly under towel cage covers right now are Lucie, Brownie, and Callie. There's one last sibling to trap from their litter: Fluffy.

Even if I don't catch a fourth tonight, it's still a good start. The trapped kittens, per instructions, are not to have any food and water after midnight before I bring them in for free neutering tomorrow. In the morning I will drive the caged kitties to the FixNation clinic, where volunteer veterinarians will spay or neuter them for free. I'll pick them up after work and hold them overnight before releasing them back into our backyard.

The older cats were hovering earlier, attracted almost immediately by the scent of oily canned tuna. They circled the cage traps and sniffed and sniffed. But they weren't about to give in to temptation as easily as the younger felines.

After tomorrow's trip, I am due to go back on Sunday with another batch of ferals to fix. I'm already worried that the other cats are going to be too clever and hard to catch. During my training session at FixNation, I was told that Kentucky Fried Chicken usually does the trick for the more hard-to-trap ferals.

It's a good thing Colonel Sanders is only a half mile away!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Big One

Tommy J. was one of the more fabulous Disney boys in the parade department.

In the 80's . . .

He was tall, Black, and effeminate. He usually got the better dance parts, such as Court Dancer for the float of Sleeping Beauty's castle in the Christmas parade.
He was also handsome. After serving time in the Mouse House he went to Europe to work as a fashion model. I remember spotting him in a magazine ad for Oak Tree, a men's clothing store.

I was in the backstage cafeteria for a lunch break one day, as were some of the parade dancers. One of the girls got in line and asked for a baked potato.

"Do you want a big one or a little one?" the woman behind the counter asked her.

The pretty parade performer answered just as Tommy stepped into the cafeteria. "I want a big one!"

"Honey," Tommy said, missing not a beat, "We all want a big one."