Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back to the islands

The second time I went to the Bahamas was in May of 1992.  Bud and I belonged to a bowling league and the league decided to have a contest to see who could earn the most money for charity.  First prize was an all expenses paid (with only a few little asterisks) four day/three night vacation to Freeport in the Bahamas.  It was actually a gambling junket package that Princess Hotels and Casino offered, but it was in the Bahamas and it was almost free.  The object of the contest was to get people (theoretically, your friends) to agree to pay a certain amount of money per pin for a preselected game you would bowl (for example, 10¢ per pin and you score a 175 would mean that person would pay $17.50 toward your charity).  I was a slightly below average bowler.  I really enjoyed the sport, but I've never been good at things that require hand/eye coordination, or that require walking and doing anything else at the same time.  I could never put any of that fancy spin stuff on the ball.  I usually started the season bowling around 160, but by the time the season was over my average had dropped to around 135 or 140.  This is exactly the opposite of how it is supposed to happen.  You are supposed to improve each week.  Well, as we all know, I've never been very good at doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

So, I set out to get people to pledge some money for my bowling.  This was my opportunity to get even.  Throughout my entire work history, I had always been the person who did not have children in school or scouts who were selling candy or magazines or wrapping paper or some other fundraising hooha.  When I was in school or girl scouts, we personally went door-to-door trying to sell our wares.  Well, actually I was only a girl scout for three weeks before I was unceremoniously booted out because I seemed to have some difficulty blindly following orders that seemed foolish to me.  Which makes one wonder how I ever lasted my entire enlistment in the military.  But, back to the fundraising.  It has been a very long time since it was safe to send children out knocking on strangers' doors, so parents now do the fundraising and the kid reaps the benefits.  Parents bring the booklets and order forms to their place of employment and corral fellow employees into buying all sorts of things for which they have no use.  For years, just to keep these parents from badgering me, I ordered all sorts of paraphernalia that would sit around my home gathering dust (unless it was chocolate) until I finally got tired of looking at it and either donated it to charity or threw it out.  Now, at last, I was to get my revenge.  Every parent from whom I had ever purchased any item for their child's fundraising efforts was now fair game for my charity bowling event, and there were a bunch of them.  In the overall scheme of things, the score was never close to even.  I only did this once in my life.  Parents did it every year they had kids in school or scouts -- the same parents year after year after year.

After I got all my suckers donors lined up, I went to the Controller of the company where I worked and talked him into a matching donation.  This meant if I earned $300 from my "friends" pledges, the company would throw in another $300 and my contribution to charity would be $600.  Somehow I managed to coerce enough people to sponsor me so when I bowled a 187 game, my charity earnings were around $650.  My company kicked in another $650, bringing my total to around $1300, which by far surpassed any other bowler in the league.  I won the trip!!!!

I was so excited I couldn't sit still.  I talked Bud into kicking in a little of our own money and extending it to five days/four nights.  The airfare was the same (free) and we basically ended up paying for just one night in the Princess Country Club Hotel in Freeport since the other nights were included in the package.  As it got closer and closer to our departure date, I got more and more excited.  Bud, on the other hand, was completely blasé and uninterested.  To be perfectly honest, he was really getting on my nerves with his apathetic attitude.  Finally, when he got on my last nerve, I demanded to know what was the matter with him, and did he think maybe I should take someone else since he didn't seem to have the least bit of excitement or anticipation.  He explained that he had never been to the islands, he had no idea what to expect, and he couldn't get excited since he didn't know whether he would enjoy himself or not.  I just threw my hands up and walked off muttering.  What?  He couldn't believe me when I told him how incredible it was going to be?  Men!  Sometimes I wonder how it is we ever manage to live together at all. 

Our airplane left at oh-dark-thirty in the morning from Raleigh, North Carolina.  Raleigh is an hour and a half from our home.  The plane was chartered by Princess and was a direct flight from Raleigh to Freeport.  They offered Bahama Mamas (a rum drink you can never get enough of) in flight.  We arrived in beautiful, warm, sunny Freeport early in the day and had plenty of time to check in and get to the beach.  We received a coupon book as part of the package with specials at some of the hotel restaurants and some chips to get started at the casino.  The purpose, of course, is to get you into the casino and tempt you to spend your own money -- a lot of your own money.  It was the first time I'd ever been in a casino and I was fascinated by the noise and the flashing lights and the brilliant tackiness of it all.  I'm a bit like a crow and easily distracted by sparkly things.  I only play the 25¢ slots though.  And even then I only play until I lose a preset amount of money and then I walk away.  Bud plays blackjack, and after our first visit to the Bahamas he bought a book and studied how to be a better blackjack player. 

It took Bud less than 30 minutes to decide he was a tropical island kinda guy.  As a matter of fact, he had such a grand time, we purchased a timeshare apartment right there at the Princess Country Club so we could return often.  Why is it this guy never believes me when I tell him I know what he likes?

Monday, November 29, 2010

OMG, I'm a Parrothead!

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane
If we couldn't laugh we just would go insane
If we weren't all crazy we would go insane

... Jimmy Buffett

The first time I went to the Bahamas was in August of 1975 or 1976.  My sister, Cindy, was stationed on Eleuthera Island and I was living in Atlanta.  I decided to go for a visit.  Now the world was a different place in the mid-1970's, and a lot of the things we take for granted today just didn't exist back then.  People went to the Bahamas, but they went to Nassau or Freeport.  Rarely did anyone vacation on Eleuthera.

Eleuthera is a long skinny island, about 110 miles long.  If I remember correctly, the airport was at one end and the Naval Facility was at the other.  Cindy didn't live on the Naval Facility but she did live near it.  I was not allowed on the facility.  Though I had a high security clearance when I was in the military, I was no longer in the service.  Even if I had been, no matter how much of a security clearance you have, there's this little thing called "need to know".  Well, I didn't need to know what was going on at her facility, so there was no reason for me to go there.  The Naval Facility on Eleuthera was decommissioned in 1980.

Cindy picked me up at the airport, but my suitcase didn't make the whole trip.  My plane had stopped in Bimini and, apparently, so had my suitcase.  It went on to Jamaica and Puerto Rico (places I have still never been) before it finally made it to Eleuthera, on the day I was leaving to go home.  Fortunately, Cindy and I were still the same size in the mid-1970's.  I had donated all my Navy uniforms to her, so she had no problem loaning me a few things to wear while I was visiting.  After all, we were in the Bahamas.  How much clothing does a person need?

The ride from the airport to her apartment scared me silly.  It was the first time I had been in a country that drove on the left side of the road.  It was dark before we got to her apartment and I just could not get used to seeing car headlights coming at me from the "wrong" side of the road.  I don't know how she ever adjusted.  I've been back to the Bahamas many times, but I have never operated a vehicle of any sort while there.  I consider myself lucky when I make it across the street without being run over, since invariably I look the wrong way before I start across the road.

Her apartment was pretty basic, meaning it didn't have air conditioning.  Like I said, it was a bit of a different world back then.  She had some fans, and there were tropical breezes, but it can get downright toasty in August on a tropical island.  Another thing I had some difficulty with was milk.  I am a big milk drinker.  In the mid-1970's the milk on Eleuthera was all imported (it may still be for all I know) and was frozen before it was transported.  Well, milk looses at little something once it's frozen and then defrosted -- something like taste!  It becomes watery and bland.  I'd like to think they have figured out a better way of importing milk by now.  Maybe someone got the bright idea of raising dairy cows.  I hope someone did something, because that stuff was awful.

One night Cindy took me out to eat at the one and only restaurant on the island.  This was the first time I ate langostino, which is a crustacean somewhere between a very small lobster and a really large shrimp.  It was, of course, delicious.  The rest of the time we ate at her apartment, or at little local café type establishments.  She also took me to this really interesting place where the width of the island is so small you can stand with one foot in the Atlantic Ocean and the other in the Caribbean Sea.  We went for some walks around the town area where she lived.  One day while we were walking along a seawall barrier, Cindy grabbed my arm and pulled me over to go around a fishing line that was cast into the sea and laying on the wall.  I thought she'd gone a little bit batty on me, until she explained, then I knew she was loco.  One day not long after she had arrived, Cindy had stepped across a Haitian woman's fishing line and the woman had chased after her to put a curse on her.  She told Cindy that by crossing her fishing line she had jinxed it so she was putting a curse on her to get even.  There were a number of Haitians who had escaped to the Bahamas during the turmoil after Papa Doc's death.  Papa Doc had ruled Haiti with a mix of a rural militia, personality cults and Voodoo.   A large portion of the Haitian population believed in black magic.  Cindy didn't want us to be cursed.

One day we went swimming.  Cindy brought along her boyfriend, but I don't remember his name.  He seemed a little uncommunicative, but hey, I wasn't the one dating him so what did I care?  He and I were in the water and Cindy was up on the beach.   I was standing about 10' from shore in water up to my chest, when he pops up out of nowhere right next to me and very calmly says, "I think you better get out of the water."  I looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language and was about to tell him what he could do with his thoughts when Cindy yells from the beach, "If he says get out, then get out now."  So, I'm thinking to myself these two have both gone off the deep end, but rather than cause a problem (who me?), I just started heading for the beach.  About halfway there I turned around to make sure Cindy's friend was getting out of the water too.  I mean, after all, if I had to get out, everyone had to get out.  Yes, he was heading toward shore also, and then I saw why.  There was this nice shark dorsal fin sticking out of the water about two feet from where I had been standing just a minute or so before.  Well, I sped up my retreat just a bit, but by the time we got up on the beach I was furious.  I was fussing and fuming at whatsisname.  I asked him why in the world he had not told me there was a shark instead of just calmly telling me to get out of the water.  His reply was he didn't want me to get hysterical.  Me?  Hysterical?  Oh, something like I was at the moment because he had treated me like a simpering idiot?  Since I was now acting exactly like what he said he had hoped to avoid, I'm sure he believed he made the right choice in not being honest with me.  However, I do not believe I would have panicked.  I actually might have moved a little more readily if I had known there was a problem instead of just thinking he was a jerk.  However, bloodshed was avoided, both in and out of the water.

The day before I was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta, hurricane watches were posted on Eleuthera.  The skies grew dark and cloudy, the winds picked up and the water became very choppy.  If the hurricane were to actually hit, the airport would close and there would be no way off the island.  There was one public telephone on the entire island.  Yes, you read that correctly -- one!  But we made the trek to the telephone so I could call my employer in Atlanta to explain the possibility that my vacation might be extended due to circumstances beyond my control.  No one in Atlanta knew anything about a hurricane.  It was the mid-1970's.  The Weather Channel (which incidentally comes to you from Atlanta) didn't come into existence until mid-1982.  My boss thought I was handing him a line of hooey.  That was the second time I ALMOST got stranded in paradise, but almost just doesn't count.  As it turned out, the hurricane did not hit Eleuthera and I was able to fly back to the states on time.  My world traveling errant suitcase arrived on the same plane I was about to board, so I just had them put it right back on the plane.  

I loved everything about my first trip to the Bahamas and I swore I would return.  I've never returned to Eleuthera, but I've been back to the Bahamas many times.  Truly my definition of a blissful Utopia.  I love the latitude and the attitude.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ocean, sun, sand and gentle breezes

I might have mentioned somewhere in my writing that I am a beach person.  I enjoy going to the mountains, but I much prefer the beach.  As a matter of fact, we are going to the mountains for New Year's this year.  It should be interesting to discover what effect, if any, the increased altitude has on my whirling dervish brain.  I hope I don't get headaches, but we'll just have to see what happens.  One of the really fantastic things about living in North Carolina is you can have both mountains and beaches without ever leaving the state.  If you drive east you run into the Atlantic Ocean and if you drive west you run into the Appalachian mountains consisting of the Smokies and the Blue Ridge mountains.

When I was a child and we lived in Miami, we often spent days at the beach.  Most of the beaches were public back in the 1950's, so it didn't matter how poor you were.  If you could get there, you could have a day at the beach.  Of course, we didn't live in Miami Beach, but we almost always had an old clunker of a car that would get us there and back.  My mother told me "once you get the sand in your shoes, you'll always come back."  I had no idea then what she was talking about, but it turned out to be true.  My mother's sister, my Aunt Iris, had a small apartment building a block off the beach in Daytona.  We would visit there once in awhile, and we lived there for a few months when we were moving from Miami to New Jersey.  Daytona Beach is a really sensational place.  It was very odd to have to look both ways for oncoming traffic before crossing the sand to get to the ocean though.  We didn't go to the beach as a family in New Jersey (where it isn't the beach, it's the shore).  I went to the "shore" with friends a few times when we lived there --  Atlantic City (long before there were any casinos), Point Pleasant, Wildwood and Ocean City.  When I lived in Brooklyn with my brother Harry and his family, we lived in Brighton Beach a block off the water and I spent as much time as I could at nearby Coney Island.  Of course, Norfolk and Virginia Beach are pretty much all the same city, except there's no beach in Norfolk.  Still, I managed to get to Virginia Beach enough that living in Norfolk wasn't too hard.

While I was in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk, I got to go to Hawaii.  Now, that, my friends, is a beach!!!  My ex, Steve, was in Viet Nam and he was taking a week's R&R in Honolulu.  I flew commercial airline, nonstop from Baltimore to Honolulu, but I went military standby.  Back in the early 1970's, military standby meant you paid half price for the airfare, but, of course, you only got on the plane if there were any empty seats after the full fare passengers had boarded.  However, military were given priority over any other type of standby passenger, so if there was only one seat available, the military person got it.  I could have taken a military transport for free, but you have to go where the transport is going and that isn't always where you want to be.  Sometimes you have to hop several different transports to get to your final destination.  They also fly at odd hours, and are not noted for their comfort.  Sure it's free, but most of the time you get what you pay for.  I didn't have any trouble getting to Hawaii.  We had a fantabulous week there.  However, on the standby flight home, I ran into a little bit of a difficulty.  There was supposed to be a Boeing 747 out of Los Angeles that we would take back to the continental U.S.  I was pretty excited as I'd never been onboard a 747.   Something happened to the plane in L.A., and they sent a 727 instead; a difference of several hundred seats.  It appeared I was going to have to call my duty station in Norfolk and explain to them that I had been bumped in Honolulu and couldn't get back from leave on time.  OH WHAT A SHAME!  But, luck was either with me or against me depending upon your point of view.  There was one standby seat after all the passengers had boarded for the return flight to the mainland, and since I was the first military person on the standby list, I got the last seat on the plane.  I changed planes in L.A. and took the redeye back to Baltimore, then on to Norfolk, and reported in from leave on time.  To this day, I have still never flown in a Boeing 747.  I would love to go back to Hawaii some day.  I may never get there again, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to go there once.

I didn't go swimming at the beach when I lived in New England, but we did go to the Maine coast often for weekend jaunts.  Every time I see a picture of a lighthouse on a rocky coast it takes me back to Maine in my mind.  The little town of Ogunquit is truly picturesque and was quaint and artsy and fun.  And the roadside lobster stands are one of the best ideas anyone ever had.  Of course, we made trips to Boston and to the Boston Harbor, but still it wasn't like going to the beach.  My most favorite restaurant in the whole world is in Boston -- Anthony's Pier 4.  I went swimming in Lake Richardson in Maine in July and the water was frigid.  I hate to imagine what it is like any other season.  I only went to the coast once when I lived in Atlanta and that was just to get some fresh shrimp off the boats when they came in at St. Simons Island.  When I lived in Maryland, we went to Ocean City once, but it was too touristy for my taste and not "tropical" enough.  Still, living on the Chesapeake Bay is an acceptable alternative.  We didn't live on the bay, but we spent as much time as possible there.

We've been to the Carolina coast numerous times.  We've been on the Outer Banks.  We particularly like the Duck/Corolla area.   We've been to the southern part of the Outer Banks as well; Ocracoke and Hatteras.  But most people in North Carolina go to South Carolina to go to the beach.  We've been to Myrtle Beach a few times, but I find it crowded and tacky most of the time.  We have some very special friends, Dr. Dave and Dr. Terry, who live in Tennessee.  They are both really medical doctors and both have frantic medical practices that keep them hopping all year long.  Each year, for one week at the beginning of July, our friends rent a huge house on Pawley's Island in South Carolina, where they go and get away from it all.  Well not really, because they take their kids with them and as many siblings and nieces and nephews as want to come along.  But still it's a week at the beach without patients to see and deadlines to meet and lectures to give and articles to write.  They also invite Tim and Ann and Bud and me and several of our other friends to come along.  Most years we take them up on their offer and we all have an outstanding time.  Bud and I haven't been able to make it in the past two years, but come Hell or high water, we are going next July.  Christopher (Dave and Terry's son) actually asked Bud when he was coming back because he misses Bud's cooking.  

There are more beach stories to tell -- trips to the Bahamas and Bermuda.  Also, vacations we've shared with Bud's brother Mike and his family in the Dominican Republic and the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.  It's been 15 months since I've had beach sand in my shoes or any body crevices.  I'm actually having withdrawal.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fair winds and following seas

I might as well go ahead and finish up the tale of my U. S. Navy days.  My job in Norfolk was unique and as a result I probably had a lot of privileges not afforded most Yeomen of my rank.  As a flag writer, I was assigned to a person rather than to a particular billet.  In an admiral's case, the writer is posted wherever the admiral is posted and is a permanent part of his or her staff.  Unfortunately, Captain Fair was a wonderfully outspoken individual with a lot of personality and some strong opinions.  Somewhere along the way he had raised the hackles of someone higher up the food chain, and it was obvious he was never gonna make the admiral promotion list.  So, instead of me going with him wherever he went, he chose retirement and served out the remainder of his career as the Commanding Officer of a Naval Facility somewhere in Alabama.  I was reassigned to the next Captain who came in to take his job.

That was Captain Lindsay C. McCarty.  He and Captain Fair couldn't have been more different from each other if they had been born on different planets.  But Captain McCarty was a terrific man in his own right, and I also became quite attached to him personally.  I can't imagine how Captain McCarty might have gotten on someone's shitlist, but he also found himself in the position of not being selected for promotion to Admiral.  However, when he got ready to retire, Admiral Holmes (you remember the 4-star who helped Captain Fair shanghai me) asked him to stay on for awhile on his personal staff to complete a "few special projects".  When Captain McCarty vacated the J3 Director of Operations post they created a special billet for him on Admiral Holmes' staff,  and Captain McCarty took me with him.  Now I was really in the big leagues. 

I can't say much about what I did while I was stationed in Norfolk.  Yes, it was many years ago, and yes, most of the stuff that was considered top secret at the time is now available for anyone to read in Readers' Digest.  But I still take security clearances seriously.  I probably don't know a single thing of importance any longer, but what I do know will stay with me until my dying breath.  A lot of my job was long hours and stressful situations.  We went on alert whenever anything happened anywhere in any place in the area of the Atlantic Ocean.  We had some really serious concerns in April of 1971 when Papa Doc (Francois Duvalier) the President of Haiti died unexpectedly.  I remember that most particularly because I went to work in the middle of the night and didn't get back from work until three days later.  We also had some "fun and games" -- real war games with silly names like High Heels and Silk Stockings where we fought against other U. S. military who were the "enemy".   But, I still hadn't learned my lesson, and in spite of all the advantages and opportunities open to me in the Navy, I met Steve and fell in love and accepted my discharge at the end of my initial enlistment.  With hindsight being 20/20, it is dreadfully hard for me to believe I was quite that stupid.  I had passed all the tests and requirements to be promoted to E5, but I needed an additional six months time in grade in order to sew on the stripes.  A simple six month extension would have put me in a higher pay bracket, but noooooo, I couldn't do that.  I also had a guarantee from that same 4-star Admiral who had pirated me in the first place.  If I reenlisted, my next duty station was going to be Honolulu.  What a doofus I was!!!!  My entire enlistment was spent in Bainbridge, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia.  But, I have to believe my life turned out the way it did for a reason, and I am happy with where I am now.  I try to not regret the roads not taken, but sometimes it is really hard.  Still, I will never bemoan one single minute of my time in the U. S. Navy.

I've mentioned before that my sister Cindy enlisted in the Navy after I was discharged.  Her Navy career was very, very different from mine.  She went to boot camp in Orlando, Florida.  Even in the heat of midsummer, Orlando was far superior to Bainbridge -- remember most of Bainbridge had been condemned.  The Naval Station in Orlando was newer, and was a "real" Navy Base, though now they have disestablished it as well.  I don't remember what my sister's rating was -- it was classified.  I could tell people what I did just not very much about what I knew.  She couldn't tell anyone anything.  I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia -- not as bad as it could have been since it was near a beach, but not the best duty station in my opinion.  Cindy's first duty station was Key West.  Excuse me!  Now that had to be a tough life.  Then she was transferred.  Her next duty station was Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.  Now wait a minute here!  How is it she got all those sandy beaches, warm tropical breezes and laid back lifestyles?  Actually, it was the type of work she was doing, whatever that was.  And, I'm really glad she got stationed at Eleuthera, because that gave me the perfect excuse to go visit her.  And therein lies another story.

So in closing today I'd like to offer Tom Lewis' blessing to my Navy comrades:

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind ever be at your back,
May you find old friends waiting to greet you, there on the outside track
We're gathered together old times to remember, 'tis but for ourselves we would grieve,
So we'll sing you a chorus and bid you farewell - fair winds and a following sea.
We'll sing of 'The Leaf' and 'The Parting Glass', we'll raise up our voices in song,
No sadness today for the one who has passed, celebrate with a voice glad and strong.
A catch in the throat, a tear in the eye, but no funeral dirge will this be,
We'll roar 'Auld Lang Syne' as a victory song - fair winds and a following sea.

And those of us left here will miss a true friend, who shared with us good times and bad,
Raising a glass to your memory we'll say: “We've known you – why should be we sad?”
We honour a life that was lived to the full, we honour a spirit, now free.
You'll long be remembered, whenever we say: “Fair winds and a following sea!”
You'll long be remembered, whenever we say: “Fair winds and a following sea!”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A day in the life

I'm typing this on Saturday.  The story is about yesterday (Friday for those who are days-of-the-week impaired). I'll post this on Sunday (tomorrow, again for those who are typically a step behind).  I could post it today, but then I'd have two posts today and none for tomorrow and that would be a very bad thing.

Bud got off from work at noon on Friday so he could be my chauffeur.  I had an annual physical scheduled with my family physician.  The doctor's visit went well and it looks like I'll last another year or so at least.  We also discussed a relatively new vaccine to prevent shingles.  I've never had shingles, but I know people who have, and it doesn't look like anything I want to try.  However, I knew that in order to have shingles later in life, you had to have had chicken pox as a child.  I didn't remember having chicken pox.  I had all the other childhood diseases.  I had several different types of measles.  I had mumps on one side of my neck and stayed in bed for two weeks.  Then, on the day I was to be released from my boring prison, it was discovered I had given mumps to myself on the other side of my neck and I was confined for another two weeks.  I thought I would die!   My sisters both had chicken pox at the same time and I recall sleeping in their beds with them, scratching their itches for them, sharing food and drinks with them, and doing anything and everything I could possibly do to catch chicken pox from them.  I never had a single pox and never ran a fever so we assumed I just never got chicken pox.  But, last year my doctor ran a test on me, and it says I've had chicken pox.  Must have been the mildest case in the history of mankind.  However, just because the chicken pox was unnoticeable doesn't mean shingles would be fun.  So, we discussed the vaccine.  It costs several hundred dollars for one stupid little shot and many insurance companies do not cover the cost!  I don't know whether our insurance would cover it or not -- I'll call them to find out.  But, if it's not covered, I'm just gonna have to take my chances because there is no way in the world we can afford several hundred dollars for one inoculation.  

Also, it was that time of year again when I had to go for the dreaded mammogram.  I hate those things, but I understand how incredibly important mammograms are, especially in my case.  One of the drugs I take daily is estrogen, a known risk factor in breast cancer.  However, aside from being more than a little bit uncomfortable, I have a great deal of difficulty now when the technician says "don't breathe and don't move".  Oh, I can handle the don't breathe part.  It's the don't move part where I can't seem to cooperate.  How does a person who is persistently dizzy not move while standing with one breast schmooshed between two Plexiglas plates and tilted at a 45º angle?  Surely, modern medicine can come up with a better way to do this.  I'll bet if we started squishing some male doctors' penises between those Plexiglas plates, they'd be finding a better way sooner rather than later.

As a treat after being poked, prodded, twisted, folded, bent and mutilated, Bud said he would take me out to dinner.  First we stopped at Barnes and Noble.  Bud still had money left on a gift certificate from last Christmas, and he wanted to get some books to read and use up the gift card (just in case he should be fortunate enough to get another this year).  He got three books. I didn't even look at a single book for me, which has to be some kinda record for me in a bookstore.  Since I have over 600 books to be read on my Sony eReader, I didn't think I needed to tempt myself with forbidden fruit.  At the checkout counter, the clerk gave him 49¢ in change.  It couldn't have worked out more perfectly if he had actually looked at the prices.

Then we went to Mimi's.  I had already been there, but Bud had not.  So, of course, we got the free muffin sampler because he was a newbie.  We both had a three course meal for $12.99 each from the prix fixe menu, which I think is an outstanding deal.  I started with a Caesar salad; Bud had Ceasar salad and a cup of New England style clam chowder.  The salad was ordinary, but the chowder was really quite good.  Then we both had a Golden Seafood Duo, which is Sam Adams beer battered fish and golden buttermilk shrimp served with homemade coleslaw and french fries.  The fish was a white fish and tasty.  The shrimp were good, but there were only three of them.  Shrimp are my third favorite seafood, right behind lobster and crab.  Actually, I love almost everything that comes out of the ocean (I'm not too crazy about octopus and squid, but both are okay once in awhile).  Usually, the more seafood you put on my plate, the more you are likely to be my best friend (for a little while at least).  In my opinion, McDonald's makes the best french fries in the world, so to me the fries were only okay.  The coleslaw was flavorful, but I had just eaten a Caesar salad and wasn't too interested in more rabbit food.  For dessert we both chose fresh apple cinnamon crisp with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  All in all it was a gratifying meal at a reasonable price.  We also had some great drinks.  I had two (I don't drive remember) melon margaritas with my meal and Bud had a Godiva chocolate martini with his dessert.

After dinner we needed to walk off some of those high density calories so we wandered about the shopping center for a bit.  We found a great looking wine shop that has live music on Friday and Saturday nights and wine tastings all the time.  We're gonna mention this to Tim to see if maybe White Light can get a gig there.  That would be a fun place for all of us to go and listen to them play while we sample wine and eat hors d'oeuvres. 

Then we went to the Williams and Sonoma store.  Bud is like a kid in a candy store in there.  The goofy sales clerk kept trying to talk to me and I kept telling her "I don't cook".  She finally got a clue.  Who knew there were so many types of knives?  We have two kinds of knives in our house.  The ones Carla is allowed to use, and the other ones.  The other ones are very sharp at all times.  A normal person, not being careful, could end up getting cut.  Carla, even being careful, could end up missing digits or even appendages.  But, in spite of the fact that we already have numerous knives (Bud actually has a special knife carrying case so he can take them on the road with him), Bud is always interested in buying more.  So we checked out knives.  One knife of particular interest to Bud was a tomato knife.  WTF?  A knife just for tomatoes!  Are we being serious here?  Then he looked at a boning knife. Okay, I've heard of boning knives and I think they have something to do with fish.  Since I thought fish came already predeboned from the grocery store, it never occurred to me you would need a special knife to debone one.  Well, I just looked up the definition of boning knife and it shows just how much I know!  It's used to remove the bones of poultry, meat and fish.  I'll just stick with my proven method of gnawing the meat off a bone, thank you.  Anyway, Bud liked the blades on the knives he was looking at, but he didn't like the handles.  He liked the handles on a different set of knives, but he didn't like the blades.  So we spent about a half hour trying to find out if he could get the blades he wants on the handles he wants.  So far, the answer is "no", but we're gonna check on the web.

After our tiny shopping excursion, I was pooped.  Bud took me home, and I took myself off to bed.  But what a great afternoon I had!  I got out of the house, saw lots of other people, and got to act like an almost normal person.  Oh, and while I was at my doctor's office, she gave me the paperwork to get a permanent handicap placard for the car, so when I'm in the car with anyone now, we can get a decent parking place and I don't have to walk all over God's green earth to get from the car to the door.  All in all, I'd say it was a totally successful day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

With a little help from my friends

Today's post will be brief.  Then, I'm actually gonna create tomorrow's post, which will be about yesterday.  Are we confused yet?

We received an email from our friend Tim this morning.  I'm gonna post the whole thing here, but Tim requires a little bit of an explanation (actually he needs a great deal of explaining but I'm not going into all that here and now) and I'm gonna make comments in his email.  I'll put my comments in a different font and highlighted in green.  By way of a small introduction to Tim, he is extremely intelligent, and generally funny, though he often seems to be  stuck in the 1960's and 1970's.  He appears to channel e. e. cummings, in that he doesn't use capital letters.  Actually, he doesn't use a lot of punctuation either, so it's probably really that he's just lazy.  He hates computers, but has given in and given up and realizes they are a necessity in today's life.

Okay here's the email:

"on thursday, november 25 we will be having bernice [his mother]  and her friend lucy for thanksmas [Our holiday season which includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  We usually start celebrating after Halloween but the official holiday does not begin until Thanksgiving and we  continue the hoopla until after New Year's Eve often up to and including the Feast of the Epiphany.] lunch.  my intention its to cook a turkey breast and the event will take place at 1:30.
on friday november 26, the second day of thanksmas there will be a grand and gala feast.  because chef harold may work that day chef bud and i will be in charge of the menu other than desert [He also doesn't spell so well. He means dessert].  i am planning to request that ann make her famous potato salad on thursday, and make enough for both meals.  i think a 55 gallon drum should be adequate.  i could not help but notice at the last festivities that the girls all just got wild [maybe not as wild as we used to, but as wild as we're gonna get at this point in our lives] on champagne, and that is a good thing.   nothing brightens up a party like wild women, so i think a few bottles of bubbly will be appropriate.  perhaps i can find a bottle of wine to serve with the meal [undoubtedly he will find more than one bottle of wine for the meal and so will Bud -- California Cabernet is a staple in our diet]
i also noticed the popularity of the fire pit [It's North Carolina.  We can sit outside around the fire pit after dinner and not freeze our arses off.] at last festivities.  the building of the fire will be the responsibility of chefs bud and harold.  i will be responsible for getting better fire starters [who would have guessed there is such a difference in the quality of fire starters].
yabba dabba doo
captain cabernet [his name might have something to do with our diet staple]" 

Some of the things I know Chef Bud will be providing for our Thanksmas meal are:  a Honey Baked ham, garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, cranberry-orange sauce, and green beans with prosciutto and pine nuts. So the holiday season begins.  We have a lot for which we are thankful, not the least of which is our friends.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The name game

My nephew and his wife proudly produced a baby boy yesterday.  Well, I guess actually they produced him about nine months ago, but he made his debut yesterday.  They have named him Dax.  I think that's short for Daxton.  My nephew made a reference to him as 3D, so I'm gonna assume his middle name will start with the letter D, because I know his last name is Dickens.  I think Dax is an unusual name, but I don't think it's too far off the wall.  I have a little trouble with 3D.  Atypical names are a part of my nephew's family.  His name is George Calvin Dickens, III (and thank you for not naming the new baby the fourth).  Since his grandfather was Calvin and his father is George, my sister Cathy started out calling her son Geo (pronounced Joe).  When he got older and decided he wanted to be a model and a movie star he changed it to Geo (like the car).  I don't care what he calls himself now (he's a fireman which I think is a far superior profession); he's still Geo pronounced Joe to me.  His wife's name is Elisa, which I think is a very pretty name.  They have a daughter named Aubrie which I think is another especially elegant name.  I'm still trying to make up my mind about Dax.

One of my great-nieces had a son last year and named him Max.  So we have Max and Dax.  Kinda like all those Jolie-Pitt kids with an X in their name.  I think his real name is Maxamillion (that's how she spelled it).  Which makes me think of a guy I dated once whose name was Million.  I thought that was really odd, until I discovered he was a junior, then I thought it was more than a little peculiar.  Seriously, someone named their son Million and then he named his son Million also!

So I've been thinking about names this morning.  My mother named all of her daughters a name that started with the letter C.  All six of us are named after some member of either my mom's family or our father's family, though I can't recall any other Glenn or Cynthia.  Glenn took care of that by naming his son Glenn.  But Glenn's middle name and Cindy's middle name are family names.  My oldest brother is William Harry Knight, III.  Thank goodness he was smart enough not to name one of his sons the fourth, but they did name their youngest child, a daughter, Wendy Hope to keep the W and H from his name.

When I was younger and thought I would probably have children at some point in my life, I decided I was going to name my daughter Brandy, but only if I married someone whose last name was Alexander.  Fortunately, I never dated anyone whose last name was Alexander.   I've never even tasted a Brandy Alexander and I'm not overly fond of brandy (the drink) anyway.

We all know someone with a really kooky name -- something like Honey Bunn.  When we lived in Florida I knew a girl named Merry Christmas and another girl named April Easters.  I often wondered what were their parents thinking?  I worked for years with a woman whose first name was April and her middle name was May.  She came from a family with about 11 kids, so I figure they just ran out of good ideas.  Which brings to mind that Duggar family with 19 kids all beginning with the letter J.  They're gonna have to start improvising soon if they keep adding to their brood.

When I was in school there was a boy named Richard.  I no longer remember what his original last name was.  Anyway, his mother remarried and his new stepfather adopted Richard.  Unfortunately, his new father's last name was Pritchard.  But Richard was no dummy.  Since he was changing his last name, he went ahead at the same time and changed his first name -- to Bruce.  No Richard Pritchard for him!  But, when I lived in New Hampshire there was a local female politician whose name was Dudley Dudley.  I think she actually came by that name through marriage.  If I remember correctly she married a man whose last name was Dudley, and did not have the good sense to keep her maiden name.  Maybe she thought it would help people remember her.  I suppose if you're in politics, you need some kind of gimmick to make yourself stand out.

I'm glad I didn't have any children for a number of reasons.  I wouldn't mind having grandchildren, but I seem to have skipped a very important step in that process, so I'll just have to live without any.  Still, since I had no children, I never had to worry about what to name them.  I have enough trouble naming dogs.  Of course, our dogs are our children, and most of the time they have people names.  It takes me forever to decide what to call a new dog.  Maybe that's why pregnancy is nine months.  It gives you plenty of time to pick out the perfect name for your precious little bundle of joy --  like Mr. and Mrs. Leir did with their daughter Crystal Chanda.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gone to the dogs

Bud and I are dog people.  We have had dogs since we moved into our house in 1982.  Many of our friends have said they want to be reincarnated as a dog in our home.  Most of the time we have four dogs.  In the beginning all of our dogs were close to the same age.  It didn't occur to us how bad that plan was until they all reached old age at the same time.  We went through a really rough period during which we lost three dogs, one every six months.  After that we started planning a little better and trying to get some variation in the ages.

We typically have one Siberian Husky, one Chesapeake Bay Retriever and two Heinz 57 mixed breed dogs.  I chose the Husky breed because of their resemblance to wolves, but after our first Husky, we knew we would never want to be without one.  Huskies live out there on the edge with the lunatic fringe.  That seems appropriate.  Bud chose the Chessie breed because he is from Baltimore and always wanted a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  Both of us like big dogs.  Little dogs are cute, but they just aren't for us.  All of our Huskies have been more attached to Bud than to me.  All of our Chessies have stuck to me like barnacles on a pier.  The mixed breed dogs love both of us boundlessly since they have all been strays or pound puppies and are just thrilled to have a home.  When we were younger, we always got our Huskies and Chessies as puppies from reputable breeders, but the strays and pound puppies were usually older.  We've had a few small puppy mixed breeds, but most of them have been nine months old or older when we took them in.

Two years ago Hannah, our Chessie, died.  Unfortunately, she died only five days after we had Trixie (one of our mixed breeds) put to sleep.  We waited awhile before we started talking about getting more dogs.  We don't replace any of our dogs -- they can never be replaced.  We do, however, after a period of grieving, open our hearts to another dog.  If we could afford it and had a bigger place, I would bring home every dog and cat from the shelter.  I know that's not reasonable, but I have plenty of room in my heart for more pets.  We just don't have the room in our home or in our pocketbook.

We got Abby from the animal shelter in January of 2009.  Along about January of this year, we started talking about getting another Chessie.  We've decided we don't want to go through the puppy stuff any more, so we got in touch with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue Organization.  We have been working with them since the beginning of the year, and I think (hope, pray, keep your fingers crossed) we have finally found the dog for us.  We had our interview with the local rep for the rescue group and she came and toured our home to make sure we had a good environment for the dog.  We were put on the approved list, and started looking for a dog for us.  But, it was taking awhile.  Rescue organizations are careful about placing their dogs because the dogs have usually already suffered a great amount of trauma, and the organization wants to make sure the dog will go to loving, stable surroundings.  Also, bringing a grown dog into a home with other resident dogs is a bit tricky and you need to be aware of possible personality conflicts.  There were a number of dogs awaiting adoption, but most of them were in states far away from us and there was no way to safely get them to North Carolina.

Since it was taking so long, Bud and I decided to look into a rescue group for a different breed of large dogs.  I'm not saying which group because these people are really strange and a little bit scary.   No one from their group will probably ever see this blog, but I'm not taking any chances.  If I mentioned their name, I wouldn't put it past them to sue me for libel or defamation of character or some other goofy nonsense.  Anyway, we went through the whole adoption application and interview and home visit with this other rescue group.  I spoke with the regional director on the telephone and we had a great conversation, got along perfectly and agreed on everything concerning the care and welfare of rescued dogs.  She arranged for someone from her group to do the home visit.

A man came out to our house to check us out.  Our dog Abby is not crazy about males.  It took her quite awhile to warm up to Bud.  We got her at the animal shelter, and we are assuming she had been mistreated by a man somewhere along the way.   She just barks a lot, but she's usually backing away from the guy as she's barking.  Well, obviously Abby has better instincts about people than we do, because she actually bit this guy.  Not seriously.  She didn't break the skin or draw blood or anything.  She just nipped at his ankle.  We put her in the house, away from where we were all gathered on the deck, and he said he was okay and not to worry about it.  He finished his "evaluation" and left.  The next day, Bud and I drove for an hour and a half to go to an event the rescue group was having, where they would have some of the rescue dogs available for you to meet.  No adoptions would be done at the event, but you could see the dogs and choose ones you might be interested in adopting.  We located the regional director and attempted to speak with her, but I definitely got the impression she was a "very important person" and didn't have time to waste talking to the peasants (though I never saw her do anything other than sit on her butt in a lawn chair and cram hot dogs down her throat).  I could not believe this was the same woman I had spoken with on the telephone.  I immediately chastised myself for that attitude, and we just went on about looking at dogs to see if there was one for us.  I did manage to ask her about the man who came by for the home visit, but she said she wouldn't hear from him until the next day and she would let us know.

The next day I received an email from the woman.  We had been rejected.  Our home was not suitable for one of their rescue dogs.  According to the "nice" man who had come to our home, our yard is unkempt, our fence is in disrepair, one of our dogs is on a dog run that is too short, and his lead was caught around part of the deck making an extremely dangerous situation.  I was furious, but realized immediately it would do absolutely no good to attempt to straighten out these idiots.  They had their heads so far up their asses they couldn't see or hear a thing.  Their minds were made up, and nothing we could say or do would change a thing.  So we just let it drop.  Thankfully, we are still working with the Chesapeake rescue people and it looks like we will finally have our new baby.

For the record, the grass had not been mowed that week.  I am the most useless thing you can imagine when it comes to getting anything done.  Since I acquired my personal permanent merry-go-round, Bud has had to take over almost every job around our home.  There is no more sharing -- he's stuck with it all.  Mowing the lawn was not at the top of Bud's To Do List.  And, I don't believe I heard a single one of our dogs complaining about the grass either.  As a matter of fact, they think it's downright nifty to roll around in all that stuff.  Our fence is not in disrepair, but part of the gate is.  It's part of the gate we never use, and it probably should be repaired, but again it's not high on the priority list.  It is totally unimportant in the lives of our dogs.  We do have a dog on a dog run.  Logan is a Husky.  Huskies like to run.  When Logan is allowed to run free, he digs out under the fence and takes off.  He usually doesn't go far -- to the pond next door or down the street to herd some cows -- but I don't want him out running around loose.  So, we put him on a dog run.  It is about 25' long, plus the lead that is hooked to it and to his collar is 8' long.  He has access to water, a doggie swimming pool, dog houses, our deck, grass, trees, and the other dogs.  If that run is too short, I'd hate to see how long they think it should be.  Oh, and yes, he was wrapped around one of the deck supports.  But he wasn't in any danger and neither were any of the other dogs.  For one thing, he gets himself wrapped up and unwrapped about ten times a day.  All you have to do is say, "Logan get unwrapped" and he will go back in the opposite direction of the way he came until he is free.  But, even if he were caught and unable to free himself, the other dogs aren't gonna gang up on him.  He's the only male.  He's the alpha (really Bud is, but you know what I'm saying).  Those girls aren't even gonna think about trying to mess with him.  If I tied up all four of his legs and put a muzzle on him, they still wouldn't mess with him.

So, as you can see we are totally unacceptable parents for some poor dog who has no home and no one to love.  What a bunch of twits.  I sure am glad the Chesapeake people actually care about rescuing their dogs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's all in the name

My name is Carla Elizabeth Knight.  I am named after my mother's parents.  Her father's name was Carlos.  I don't know why his name was Carlos.  We don't have one drop of Hispanic blood in our veins.  My grandmother's name was Elizabeth Estelle, but everyone called her Essie.  Interestingly, my other grandmother (my father's mother) was named Bessie.  Knight is my maiden name.  It is the name on my birth certificate and I kept it when Bud and I were married.  Bud's surname is Masek.  It's a nice enough name, though no one can seem to pronounce it properly.  I have nothing against it.  I will answer to Carla Masek; Bud will answer to Bud Knight.  It just really isn't that big of a deal to either of us.  I have a dozen reasons for keeping my maiden name, but the main reason is, I just like it.  It's who I am.

When I graduated from 8th grade, there was a ceremony in which diplomas were handed out individually to the entire class.  We all lined up alphabetically by last name at the side of the stage and as the Superintendent of Schools called our names, we were to walk out to the dais, shake the superintendent's hand, receive our diploma and continue over to the other side of the stage, down the stairs and be seated in the reserved section in the audience.  When he came to my diploma, he called out the name "Clara Knight".  I refused to budge.  The kid behind me tried to push me out on the stage, but I wouldn't go.  One of the teachers came over to see what was the holdup and I explained that wasn't my name.  Meanwhile, the superintendent looked down at the diploma, said "Clara Knight" again, and looked at me as if I was some sort of rabble-rouser.  I still refused to move.  I could see my mother sitting in the audience with a horrified look on her face.  I finally decided rather than mortify my mother further, I'd just go get the stupid diploma.  So, I walked out to the dais, shook the superintendent's hand, accepted the diploma and said directly into the microphone for all the auditorium to hear, "Thank you, but my name is Carla."  Then I walked off the stage, down the stairs and took my seat.  My name was printed correctly on the diploma.  It was not my fault the Superintendent of Schools couldn't read.  Apparently, he remembered me because four years later when I graduated from high school, he read my name correctly.

In 1977, I worked at the Daneker Clock Company in Fallston, Maryland.  This is where I met Bud.  It's also where we met and became lifelong friends with Tim.  I was the person in charge of all administrative functions.  The company was in bankruptcy and several of us had been brought in as troubleshooters to get it back in the black.  Frank Simms was the President.  Frank's background was in accounting.  He had previously worked as a CPA at a large accounting firm, and he had worked for the IRS for a short time.  Frank's handwriting was small and precise, I suppose since he was used to entering all that information into ledgers and journals.  Though tiny, his handwriting was legible until he came to a word he couldn't spell and then he just kinda scribbled something unreadable but close.  I had recently hired a secretary/receptionist and she was responsible for typing all the letters for the officers of the company.  I had to type Tim's letters, because I am one of the few people on the planet who can actually read Tim's writing.  Anyway, Frank had handwritten a number of letters he needed to have typed, so I gave them to our new secretary.  I helped her when she came to words Frank had scribbled because he couldn't spell them, but for the most part, she was able to handle the correspondence on her own.  When she got to the end of the first letter, she asked how Frank wanted his name typed in the closing.  I told her, "Frank E. Simms, President".  She finished all the letters and put them on Frank's desk to be signed.  He was not in his office at the time she completed the typing.  Not much later Frank came back, sat down at his desk and then bellowed, "Carla, come in here and close the door."  Now neither Frank nor I were known for our jocularity.  We both had a well honed sense of humor, but typically were relatively serious natured.   As I had not proofread any of the work the secretary had done, I just assumed the letters were filled with typos and he wanted me to have a talk with her.  When I got to his office and closed the door, he asked me, in a very serious tone, what name I had told the secretary to put in the closing of his letters.  I replied, "Frank E. Simms, President".  He tossed the letters across his desk toward me, but did not say another word.  I picked up the top letter.  Each letter was perfectly formatted and there were no typographical errors until I glanced at the signature line.  There, perfectly formatted and waiting for signature, it read, "Frankie Simms, President".  We looked at each other and both of us burst out laughing.  We laughed until tears ran down our cheeks and our sides hurt.  Though the door to his office was closed, everyone in the outer office heard us howling.  When I finally got a grip on myself, I crossed out the name at the bottom of the letter on the top of the pile and very precisely wrote "Frank E. Simms".  Then I calmly walked out of Frank's office, closed his door behind me, walked past the secretary's desk where I dropped the pile of letters, as I continued without missing a step to my own office and closed the door.  I don't think Frank or I opened our office doors again until everyone had gone for the day.  I still smile every time I think of that day.  Frank is no longer with us, but he holds a very special place in my heart.

Several years later, we had all moved to North Carolina and were running another clock company, Sovereign, Ltd.  Again I was in charge of all administration as well as taking on the load of purchasing agent.  We hired a secretary/receptionist named Rhonda.  Rhonda was one of those perky people.  She was always up.  She was bright and cheerful and bubbling over with personality.  She answered our incoming calls and made everyone who called our office feel a little better for having done so.  At least until she transferred them to me, whereupon we got down to the real business of the call.  Frank was the president; Tim was the Vice-President of Sales.  Frank and Tim had hired a great group of independent furniture reps to carry our line throughout the U.S.  Since part of my job was determining which orders were to be shipped and when, I had a relationship with every one of the reps, though I had only met a handful personally.  Frank and Tim decided to have a sales meeting and bring in all of the reps from all over the country.  There would be a dinner on the first night at an upscale restaurant, where the sales reps would meet the officers, production supervisors and office staff.  The next day they would tour the factory to see exactly how the product was made.  We all met for dinner, and Tim (being the person to whom the reps reported) took over to handle the introductions.  Everything went along normally until he got to Rhonda and me.  He asked us both to stand.  Then he turned to the group and said, "and you all know our lovely ladies, (he points to Rhonda) Bubbles (then he points to me) and No Bullshit."  Of course, everyone roared.  I've never really had a nickname, but if I was going to have one, that would be about the most appropriate one I could find.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


AKA Bailey Boo Boo, or BayBoo, or Boo, or Boo Bear, or Bear

Bailey adopted us about 11 years ago.  We live in the country.  When we moved here 28 years ago it was a lot more rural than it is now, but it's still somewhat bucolic.  Of course, being outside the city means we are adjacent to the Great Mid-Atlantic Stray Animal Superhighway.  Whenever some imbecile is too irresponsible, egocentric, callous or mindless to care for the poor animal they thought they wanted as a pet, they bring them out to the country and set them loose.  I cannot even begin to tell you how thoroughly enraged this makes me, but fortunately I've never actually witnessed anyone do this, so I haven't been jailed for felonious assault, yet.

When Bailey found us, she was about 9 months old.  We came home from work one day (whenever possible, Bud and I carpooled to our jobs), and there she was outside our fence making friends with the three dogs who were inside the fence.  She was a little shy and would not approach us, but while she kept her distance, she was wagging her entire back end.  We tried to get her to go away, but every time she left, she came back again.  So we called the animal control people and reported a stray at our house.  We went to work the next day; she was still there when we got home.  I gave her some water, but we decided not to feed her, hoping she would leave in search of something to eat.  We called animal control, again.  They said they had come to our house but didn't see any stray dog.  She was keeping underneath Bud's pickup truck most of the time, so I told the people at animal control to look under the truck.  We went to work the next day; she was still there when we got home.  I couldn't stand the idea of the poor baby starving to death, so I gave her some food and water. It was Friday and we were leaving early Saturday morning and wouldn't be back until late Sunday.  We had a friend coming over to take care of our three dogs, so in the note I always leave for our pet sitters, I explained about the dog under the truck and asked that he please make sure she had food and water.  She was still with us when we got home late Sunday night.  By now our dogs had quit barking at her and they were all the best of friends, though still separated by our fence.  We went to work on Monday and I called animal control from my office, again.  They again said they couldn't find a stray dog at our house but they would go out once more.  When Bud picked me up after work and we started home, I started telling him about calling animal control again, but then I started crying.  Bud hates it when I cry.  I had decided sometime during the day that I didn't want animal control to find her; I wanted to keep her.  I was terrified because now that I had decided to keep her, I was sure the idiots at animal control would finally have found her.  But, my prayers were answered, and there she was in our driveway wriggling her entire backside.  By now, she was accustomed to me, so when she finally came up to me to be petted I just grabbed her and we took her in the house with us.  We brought the other dogs in to see her, and since everyone already knew each other, there was no posturing or attitude.  She's been here since.

We don't know what varieties of dogs she might be.  Someone who knows a lot about breeds said she seems to have a lot of Portuguese Water dog in her. She is mostly black but has the cutest white feet with black polka dots.  She is a very hairy dog.  In the winter, her coat is thick and woolly almost like a bear.  We have her shaved in the spring and then she looks a bit like a standard poodle.  She's pretty laid-back and usually just goes about her business without much trouble.  As soon as she goes out the back door she barks a lot, usually at the air, because seldom is there anything really there for her to bark about.  But once she has made her presence known to the great outdoors, she settles down to whatever it is that dogs settle down to when they are out roaming the back yard.  I know she gets smushed into the ground a lot when she plays with the other dogs.  Right now her hair has pretty much grown back from her spring shaving, and she constantly carries around the equivalent of a small tree's worth of dead leaves.  She hates to be combed (which is one of the reasons we must have her shaved each spring) and will not stand still long enough for us to deleaf her.   She is also currently masquerading as a porcupine, which I believe comes from rolling around under the white pine that is in the process of shedding needles before winter.

My Boo Bear is getting up in age.  She's getting grayer (aren't we all) and she's slowed down quite a bit.  She's never given us a moment's trouble.  She's never sick.  She's a really good eater so we had to put her on a diet and get her a special diet maintenance food.  She's always gotten along with all the other dogs, although Abby pushes her luck every once in awhile.  She never tries to run away; after all she picked this place to live and since she's discovered how good life is here, I don't think we could chase her away.  We couldn't chase her away 11 years ago, I know she's not going anywhere now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Infernos and whirlwinds - Part Two; Wind

How absitively posolutely appropriate!  Today I planned to discuss spinning entities.  So while I was sleeping someone set my personal brain blender on frappé just so I'd be in the right frame of mind.  I may have to delay this posting because I'm having a really difficult time remaining vertical (even sitting) at the moment.  No bad weather or headaches; just an awful lot of inanimate objects doing way too much moving.

Now it's the next day.  I'm still more dizzy than normal (that's just so surreal, being normally dizzy that is), but more like mix or blend rather than frappé.  So we can get back on topic, at least until I wander off in some other direction as it seems I always do.  I often dream about tornadoes.  They appear similar to the one in the Wizard of Oz, but there are always multiple funnels.  In this case, I hope my dreams have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

Rain in Florida is common, but it usually passes quickly and is different than rain anywhere else I have lived.  I can remember playing in the rain often, so there must not have been a lot of thunder and lightning.  I also remember it raining while the sun was shining, and standing on one side of the street perfectly dry while watching it pour down on the other side of the street.  Of course, tropical storms and hurricanes are not like a typical Florida rain, though they also are common in Florida.  When we lived in Florida, the most feared weather event was a hurricane.  Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes.  Basically, they are the exact same weather event except for their size.  Hurricanes are huge and usually many miles in diameter (typically 300 miles wide).  A tornado is typically 250' in diameter, but some have been known to grow as large as a mile across.  They both have extremely strong winds rotating around a center "eye".  Hurricane winds are from 74 to more than 155 mph over a fairly large area; tornado winds range from 73 to over 300 mph in an extremely compact sphere.  The eye of both a tornado and a hurricane is the area where the barometric pressure has dropped to it's lowest point (obviously with low pressure causing me to have whopping headaches, this is just one more reason I need to stay away from hurricanes and tornadoes).  I can recall one hurricane in Miami when we went outside to play during the eye of the storm, but it didn't last long and the backside of the hurricane was far more violent than the front.  I only remember one tornado in Florida.  It passed so close to our home we could hear that lonesome whistle blow (it really does sound like a freight train roaring down the tracks, but without the whistle), but no one we knew suffered any damage.

Living in New Jersey was not particularly worrisome as far as weather goes.  Yes, it snows, but seldom does it snow enough to call it a blizzard.  It's cold and wet and gray, but not really much of a disaster.  There have been tornadoes and floods and I understand there have been rare hurricanes and earthquakes in New Jersey, but nothing spectacular like that happened when I lived there.  We did have problems with a flooded basement more often than we would have liked.  Once we had to evacuate the house because the water in the basement almost reached the electrical box, but that isn't the kind of thing that gives me nightmares.

Maryland was pretty much like New Jersey -- usually less snow, but no really disastrous type weather.  I know they got clobbered by Hurricane Agnes, but that was in 1972, and they still talk about it like it was last week, because nothing even close has happened since. 

Norfolk offered hurricanes and tornadoes (and water spouts), but I only recall one of each in the time I was there.  The hurricane was mild (as far as hurricanes go) and the tornado wasn't near my home.  Water spouts are tornadoes that are over water.  They can come ashore but they are typically not nearly as strong as a tornado and dissipate rapidly once over land.

New Hampshire offers up some unpleasant surprises in the winter, but rarely has spinning winds of any type.  Of course, those gales in some of those blizzards can be pretty rough.  When the temperature is -30º F and the wind is gusting to 25 mph, it can do some serious damage to skin tissue and freeze your lungs.

However, it was while living in New England that I came closest to being blown away by a tornado/water spout (since it's journey took it over land and water quite a few times).  My ex-husband's parents had a cabin on an island in Lake Richardson in Maine (right next to Mooselookmeguntic Lake; sorry but I love that name).  The cabin was built slightly lower than the uppermost point on the island, so when you arrived by boat, you went up from the dock, crested the rise and started down the other side slightly to get to the cabin.  The only thing higher than the highest point of land was the smokestack from the wood burning stove in the cabin (of course there were trees that were much taller).  This turned out to be a really fortunate placement.  Steve (my ex) and I were there with another couple for a weekend.  It was a clouded gray day, but we took the boat out anyway.  The female part of the couple with us was about 7½ months pregnant.  After cruising around the lake for awhile, it started to get really choppy and our friend was extremely uncomfortable with all the bouncing so we turned to go back.  Before we got back to the dock, the weather turned really bad and the boat was being tossed about so severely, I was worried we were going to have to deliver the baby right there.  But, we made it to the dock about the time the rain started coming in torrents.  We raced up the hill and dashed inside the cabin.  I had gone into the bedroom in search of dry clothes when I heard the train.  I froze and just stood there staring out the window.  The others were all New Englanders and had never heard a tornado before but I was entirely too frightened to warn them.  Almost immediately I saw all the trees start to cascade like dominoes alongside the cabin.  The cabin shook, and soot and ash came down through the wood stove, but the building itself was not hit.  The tornado had followed the same path up the back of the island from the boat dock that we had (and luckily missed the boat but not the dock).  When it crested the top of the hill, fortunately it kept going upward.  The only part of the cabin that was damaged was the chimney for the wood stove.  It was blown completely off the roof.  The tornado jumped over the house and the front side of the island and landed in the lake in front of the cabin.  It kept moving across the water until it hit land on the other side and then made a path up through the trees as it headed off toward the east.  All the trees in a nearly perfect path on the back side of the island were now laying down, broken off or completely uprooted.  The outhouse, which was no more than 30' from the cabin, was no longer accessible because there were dozens of trees down between the cabin and the outhouse.  None of us were injured, but all of us were sickly pale and incredibly shaken.  As soon as the weather calmed some, we took our friends back to the mainland and they went home, choosing not to spend the night on the island.  We called Steve's folks and told them what had happened.  They were astounded because as far as anyone knew there had never been tornadoes in Maine.  But Steve and I went back and spent the night at the cabin.  The next day his folks came up and we started cleanup and repairs.  We took the boat out and went around the lake to see all the damage.  I have pictures but I don't look at them often because to be perfectly honest every time I look at them it scares the living daylights out of me all over again.

Georgia, like North Carolina, is notorious for spring tornadoes.  When I lived there in the early 1970's, I can remember driving to work one stormy morning.  The world had a greenish tinge to it. The clouds were dark and swirling and the rain was sheeting.  As I was driving on Interstate 20 headed east (I lived in Austell on the west side of Atlanta) toward Fulton Industrial Boulevard (where I worked), I just happened to look up at the clouds.  There, pirouetting overhead, was the eye of a tornado.  It was quite a bit above the ground, but I was still able to look right up through the center of it.  I almost wrecked my car.  Thank God it stayed up there, but I just couldn't shake the fear it was going to dip down and pick me and my car up like Dorothy's house.

Now I live in North Carolina.  We're not actually in tornado alley since we are east of the Appalachian Mountains, but it is pretty much guaranteed there will be tornadoes in the spring  (and sometimes summer and early fall too).  We have a NOAA weather radio and it goes off regularly with alerts for severe weather.  Tornadoes in North Carolina are not like the ones in Kansas, for instance.  The land here is not flat, and not much of it is open field or plains.  You can't see a tornado coming from miles away.  As a matter of fact, you pretty much can't see it until it taps you on the shoulder, and by then it is too late.  That's why I have the radio -- I don't like those kinda surprises.  I have stood on our deck and looked up through the eye of a tornado, just as I did while driving in Atlanta, but we have been fortunate and so far not actually been hit.  Many of our friends have had tornado damage in the last few years.  Usually, the damage is caused by broken or uprooted trees falling on houses and cars, but it is not abnormal for the tornado to actually strike and destroy buildings in our area of the country.

I love North Carolina, but every time we have tornado watches and warnings my blood pressure rises, my heart rate increases, and I start making plans to move to the tropics.  Sure they have hurricanes, but I'll take a hurricane over a tornado any day.  I'm not stupid enough to sit still and let a hurricane come get me, but tornadoes don't send calling cards, they just show up unannounced and uninvited and take whatever they please. Truly scary anomalies.