Thursday, January 28, 2010

Parts is parts

I’m heaving a massive sigh of relief, emphasis on the heaving, after spending a long weekend with my crazy, cat-loving Great-Aunt Gertrude. So glad we do this only once a year! Trudi, as she’s called by her closest personal friends (i.e. what she calls herself) is a kind and gentle soul, an animal lover and only child who tells hilarious stories about her childhood, wears dramatically mis-applied make-up, and can make even the dullest of events memorable, but not always in a good way. Her love for animals doesn’t diminish her craving for their flesh, which has led to some meals that I’ll simply refer to as unfortunate and regretful as I try to re-introduce real food to my system.

See, the problem is, the older Gertrude gets, the stranger her meat-replacements are becoming. On our first evening together she proudly set down what appeared to be a cheese-topped casserole. I hoped it was macaroni, and bravely took a bite. The texture, the flavor, the immediate unwillingness to swallow—I couldn’t even wait until she turned her head to make use of my napkin. “What are we eating?” I gasped, reaching for a water glass.

Tender bits,” she said brightly.

“Of what?” I asked, then quickly said, “Never mind!” because I truly didn’t want to know, remembering where I was. And when I saw the can in the garbage as I was helping clean up, I pushed it down as far as possible so as to resist the temptation to read the ingredient list.

On the second night things seemed initially more promising. Dinner seemed to consist of some breaded meat patties, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. But this was clearly impossible; if you knew Gertrude, you’d realize that she’d never eat anything so pedestrian. I started picking at my potatoes and vegetable, hoping for the best. “Don’t forget to finish your choplets, or you won’t get dessert,” Trudi said curtly. “Clean plate club.”

But I refrained from club membership and didn’t get any tofu pie that night. Aww.

For our final meal together I begged her to let me take her to a restaurant. “My treat!” I said, hungrily, unable to face another canned meat substitute. “Anywhere you like!” But she wanted none of it; she’d planned something special and couldn’t be dissuaded.

She spent the afternoon in the kitchen, humming loudly amidst the sound of the electric can opener, ignoring the smoke alarm’s repeated bleats. Later she came out of the kitchen a little unsteadily, bearing a large, steaming platter. All her cats came near the table and meowed demandingly. I kept trying to slip them parts of my meal under the table, but Trudi got all hawk-eyed on me and finally said, “If you don’t want the hostess cuts, fine, but don’t give it to the cats. It gives them the runs.”

Turns out I didn’t want the hostess cuts. In fact, I spent about an hour afterwards in the bathroom trying to brush that hostess cut flavor out of my mouth, while Gertrude prepared me a little doggie bag of leftovers to bring home to better half, along with her love. Even the raccoons won’t touch it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Inside outside leave me alone

Went to the store this morning and had the displeasure of ending up in line behind a woman who, for some reason, insisted on facing me/the back of the store, rather than standing in the direction of line motion and goal achievement. Worse, she just stood there staring at me, seemingly oblivious to my increasing discomfort. There are unspoken rules in our society, many of which involve body placement and direction, and most of the time we assume that everyone's read the same rule book, but, as usual, we're wrong.

In order to avoid conversation and eye contact (since the only thing I had to say was, “Hey, how about turning around?”), I suddenly became “captivated” by various items for sale in the checkout line. It’s always interesting to see the stuff they think we’re going to want at the last minute, isn’t it? The sewing kits, lip balm, razors, tape—it’s all there for a carefully reasoned point, folks; this ain’t accidental marketing. Possibly, then, you can imagine my surprise when I curiously picked up what turned out to be

a hemorrhoid treatment device, then read the packaging label. This little guy is used to massage internal hemorrhoids, which apparently calms them and reduces their size—and I sincerely wish I’d stopped right there. But I’m one of those “no paragraph unturned” readers, and besides, Mrs. Social Gaffe was still staring at me, possibly more intently now than ever, and so I persevered.

And thusly learned that another suggested use for this handy piece of rubbery plastic is doing incontinence and kegel exercises. For the next several moments my mind made frantic, yet feeble, attempts at un-reading, forgetting, erasing. My admittedly limited knowledge of hemorrhoids and incontinence (ignorance is bliss, baby!) involves two bodily orifices that would not be happy sharing the same piece of white plastic. Ever.

Luckily, that’s when the clerk finally said “Ma’am?” signaling my queue companion that her opportunity to make a financial transaction had arrived. This caused her to turn away from me at last, fascinating as I am, which is when I quickly replaced the item on its little metal display hook and noticed that the man in line behind me was also intently interested in my purchasing decisions. Just another reason why I love me some shopping. But this time I had to say thanks, but no thanks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ashes to ashes

Today my niece becomes a teenager, and as I wish her well and look back to my own teen years, the first thing that comes to mind is this terrible woman who had the unfortunate task of teaching me what was called “Language Arts” the year I was 13 (and fully convinced that I’d already mastered the language and all its arts). She somehow managed to include the phrase “Neil Diamond” in every sentence of our grammar homework, every day. She sported visible dandruff, immense amounts of polyester, terrible shoes, and my intense scorn for an entire school year. Worst of all, she kept this jar on the corner of her desk. To scare us, I assumed.

I was fully convinced that she wanted me to become part of her collection, especially because I managed to make fun of Neil Diamond in every writing assignment, and managed a few sly remarks about the way dandruff shows up on polyester in an improvised speech. Even now, when I hear the phrase, “Those who can’t do, teach,” this individual pops into my head. I assume that when she retired—for she’s surely retired by now—she returned those ashes to the parents of hundreds of obnoxious teenagers throughout the area. Frankly, I’m still relieved to have escaped her clutches. Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to a special girl.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I do believe it's true

I'd thought sea monkeys were just about the only animal I could grow on my own, but I learned something new today (one of my many new year’s resolutions): we’re getting pretty advanced in this arena, which can’t help but be good. Always nice to see continual advancement, right?

As a result, I’m planning to grow my own zoo! And I like to start big, so I got some giraffe seeds. Actually, what I purchased claims to be a herd starter kit, but I don’t know how they can guarantee that I’ll get both a girl and a boy. Still! Think of having two or three giraffes! I hope I don’t overwater, which is usually how I roll.

And because giraffes are rather placid, I also picked up some rattlesnake eggs to keep things balanced. For now I’m following the instructions and keeping them in a cool place to avoid hatching (easy to do—it feels like the world is nothing but cool places), but as soon as it gets a little warmer I’ve got big plans for these guys, and for my entire back yard.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm ready, I'm ready

I spent many risky years on the snowy roads of winter, traveling long distances, often in near white-out conditions, fingers crossed and mind refusing to contemplate any of the pitfalls I might encounter. Not so these days; something about getting older seems to compel us to value our lives, even to take measures ahead of time to ensure our safety. Sounds crazy if you’re still under a certain age, but when you get to this phase of life, believe me, you’ll share this trait with your fellow geezers.

Now I leave the house engulfed in confidence, knowing that even if that worst-case scenario I can’t stop envisioning actually occurs, I’m kitted out and have what I need to see me through. I scoff at travel advisories and instead have adopted a "bring it!" approach to bad driving conditions. That’s because I went with the ever-trustworthy AAA and got myself a 65-piece severe winter weather travel kit. Why, there’s a folding shovel, three pieces of fleece, a strobe light, and a 46-piece first-aid kit (which can be further broken down into a 13-piece bandage kit and a 33-piece aspirin kit)! Kind of hard to see, but there’s also a whistle (hey!), a few tea candles, an ice scraper, and reading materials to pass the time. With 65 pieces, I've got all the bases covered and then some!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When it gets too familiar I'll be gone

And the world gives a collective sigh, sucks it up and returns to business as usual, which is particularly cruel during a cold snap, right? Believe it: this week is one of the most-complained-about in the year, with statistics showing a record-breaking number of people faking sick yesterday simply because they couldn’t bear the idea of going back yet. Getting up extra early to scrap ice and snow off the windshield, then head off to workland doesn’t even begin to compare with the wondrous extra hours of sleep and leisure many of us were just starting to get used to before they were cruelly yanked away and replaced with—well, whatever you want to call it, it’s not fun. Little wonder this is one of the most popular times of year to contemplate, if not actually enjoy, an escape, preferably of the tropical and luxuriant variety.

And although my budget this year couldn’t absorb much beyond a glass of wine and a few hours spent messing around with Google Earth, I’m enjoying padding around the house in my new Silver Travel Trailer slippers as I wish I could really Airstream my way outta here.