Thursday, October 21, 2010


Week #3 of unemployment brings news of impending surgery next week, and some free time to observe the urban wildlife.

Just a few minutes ago, the Princess and I were sitting on the front steps, watching the ferries go back and forth in the harbor.  Our front yard is a common space between two rows of townhouses, and a pair of birds squeaked like rusty springs in the the almost-bare oak trees in the courtyard.

But I couldn't see any birds, and on closer examination we saw that the squeaks were coming from two squirrels, each perched in its own tree.  They shouted back and forth to each other, creaking and clicking from their separate branches.  They reminded me of my neighbors here in this low-income housing project, whose personal lives often spill out into the courtyard and prompt police intervention.

These squirrels are used to people, and will take peanuts and almonds from the fingers of a person who holds very still, and then shallowly bury the nut, pat pat patting down a thin dirt cover with their hand-like paws.  I watched one today place a peanut under a decaying plastic grocery bag and smooth the material over it like the squirrel was putting it to bed.  They will go through an open apartment door if its resident isn't nearby.

But the squirrels are not tame.  They are fidgety and darting in their travels across the courtyard, and always mindful of the human residents.

I don't like feeding wild animals: I think it's a bad precedent to set.  And yet, I have succumbed to the temptation to hold out a raw almond, keep very still, until the squirrel approaches and grabs it from my fingers.  It's hard not to anthropomorphize them.  They are so like us, with their trusting/terrified approach, their wary eyes, their courtyard squabbles.  Last week I was in my small, fenced backyard when a squirrel darted under the gate with a treasure to bury clasped between its teeth.  Our joint surprise at finding each other there was so familiar--"Oh, excuse me! I didn't know this one was occupied!" "Not at all, excuse me, I didn't realized you'd be coming in!"  But the yard is mine and the squirrel left to find another shallow hole for its meal.

Like a household pet, I am soon to be neutered, my ovaries and uterus removed and my shaved and de-sexed body sent home the same day.  Unlike a household pet, I will be given hormones to replace the ones that are missing, so I will not likely become overweight and complacent.  At least, not from the surgery.

This surgery is for no one's convenience (except possibly mine--who has been tormented for years by problems with those lady parts); it's not so that my wild behavior will stop or so that I will not come home full of unwanted babies.

But I can't help likening myself to the squirrels.  I am certainly human, with a thinking mind and thumbs to turn my thoughts into actions.  I am also an animal with a body that must be obeyed.

Pat pat pat.  Cover over the treasure.  I can find it here later.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Back in kindergarten (this would have been the early 80's--pre-DARE), my teacher's husband was a police officer in our small town. The teacher herself was a carefully coiffed and very uptight woman who terrified us all--not least because the angrier she got the wider her smile became. Woe on the 5 year old who sees her smile-bared teeth turn in his direction. She was nice in that fakey fake way that kids see through in a second, but that fools grownups who don't remember what it's like to be a kid.

I was almost a year older than most of the kids in my class due to the luck of my birth date, and I'd been reading since I was three. So Kindergarten was mostly about socializing me to the school environment. This was quite a change from the one-room house without running water I'd been raised in. My parents were hippies--quasi back-to-the-landers--and my early childhood was a luscious green dream of woods and leaves and fairies and pine needles and bugs and unicorns. No, really.

But, I had a hard time adjusting to school life, and my family didn't exactly fit in with the kindergarten teacher's ideals (although ironically she and my mom ended up being friends years later when my mom headed up the PTO. Another story.).

A favorite family tale of those years is when I went to school and informed my teacher (wife to a cop, remember) that my parents smoked "buzz-butts." The teacher was puzzled by this phrase, so she asked her husband, who I'm sure snickered at her and reminded her of my parents' counterculture leanings. But it was the early 80's, and to my knowledge nothing ever happened to them or to me. In fact, my parents ended up being very involved with the school governance and fundraising right up until I hit middle school.

Which is all a very long way of getting to this piece in The Agitator that points out the uselessness of the DARE program--and not just because turning your parents in for pot can now literally destroy your family, but because its methods just aren't good. I remember as a teenager looking eagerly at the DARE officer's drug "sample board," ticking off the few substances I'd tried or seen, and salivating at the new possibilities. Which, I think, was not the officer's intention in showing it to us.


D.A.R.E.: Ripping Families Apart Since 1983

When it comes to its stated mission—keeping school-age children from trying illicit drugs—the D.A.R.E. program has been a failure. But D.A.R.E. does have a fun history of teaching kids to turn their pot-smoking parents in to the police.

It happened again last week

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Busy week

That title, "busy week," refers to not the calendar week, but the past seven days.  Which featured, in no particular order:

  • A Teen ear infection
  • A scheduled and canceled Liza Minelli concert for the Princess
  • The loss of primary jobs by two adult members of the household
  • The discovery of six cavities between two people
  • The filling of three of those cavities
Sweet.  Let's have another one just like that. (Just kidding, universe.  That was sarcasm.  SARCASM.)

Seriously, though, if you hear of a job that pays, like $35,000 a year and has to do with office stuff, let me know.  I can probably make my resume fit it.  

Also, any amateur dentists want to take a run at my teeth? Haha.  :(

Friday, October 01, 2010


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