31 July 2007

Mamma mia

Bad dog, no no! No updates! No general chattiness! Bad dog!

Too many concerts, bracketed by a less-than-24-hour-trip to Las Vegas (good friends, good fun, another concert), a broken dishwasher, and too much to do before I hop on another plane next week.

And no, I'm not recounting the conversation in which the spouse told the children that HPV is named for a pope...

Go listen to some good music: "Mamma Mia" from the album Abba by Abba.

17 July 2007

Who are you?

Lately I've noticed that there's been a lot of clicking on that nifty little link "My Complete Profile." But if you've taken the plunge and clicked, you'll have seen that my complete profile is anything but.

It's human nature to be curious, at least if you have an ounce of intelligence. Who is this person I'm preparing to share some time with? Is this some nutjob and do I want to indulge in her thoughts?

If I'm even remotely interested in what someone has written, I click on that link on others' blogs, too.

So, why did I leave it all out on mine? It just didn't seem important. I also don't like talking about the nuts and bolts comprising who I am.

I like storytelling, obviously, since that's all I've pretty much done here. All the stories are true, with names changed to protect the guilty, except for those that are clearly marked fiction. The only name I haven't changed is Milton's, the cat who eats edamame and canteloupe, because Milton is who he is and there's no changing that.

But do I want to quantify myself to the world in 100 words or sentences or less? No, because that might tell you who I think I am, but you have to read the posts to get down to who you think I am.

That's an important distinction. And you can read more about my thoughts on that here, if you really want to. Just scroll down to "Borges."

I am gratified that I have a core of regular readers who apparently enjoy this stuff. And I'm amused and gratified that others I don't know pop in and take the time to page through some of it.

That the son wants to be one of my regular readers (and wants to invite his friends!) is rather less gratifying, and while I snarked at him last night, "Why do you want to read this?", the spouse made the wise observation, "It gives him a different window to see you through."

Which is really what I'm saying here.

So enjoy the view. It won't always be pretty, but I'll try to keep it interesting.

Go listen to some good music: "Who Are You" from the album Who Are You by The Who.

16 July 2007

Home and dry

Eventually, I will laugh about it. That's the way it usually goes, and I can't claim there was any tragedy, just a lot of work.

Vacation isn't supposed to be work. Vacation isn't supposed to entail lying awake all night wondering if there are bedbugs crawling all over your body (yes, one of the motels we stayed at was that bad). Vacation should not entail dressing your teenager.

The trouble started on 4th of July. The son successfully dislocated his patella (again) taking a swing at a pinata. Fortunately, we weren't far from home and we stuck him in the immobilization brace and gave him his crutches. Got him home and slapped some ice on the offending knee and tried not to worry. A call from his doctor the next morning confirmed that yes, it was the brace for the next two weeks, and I was to call for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon when we got home from the trip, just to be on the safe side.

I tried not to tell his doctor that we had intended to be caving in two days.

Because the spouse's schedule is loopy at best and because this is one of my summers to meet friends in odd places and see concerts, trying to schedule a vacation was a bit of a challenge. We finally figured out that we could carve out a week in July. The spouse neglected to mention that the way he had it planned, we would be flying home on Friday the 13th, a plan I nixed immediately upon realizing that was what he intended. It's not that I'm so worried about Friday the 13th, but I'm not a happy flyer at the best of times, and somehow, that was just tempting fate.

So I organized it such that we would leave on a Saturday and return on a Saturday.

Fate, of course, had other plans.

On Friday, the son, already limping about in the immobilizer, suddenly announced that he had a sore throat. I took his temp and it was hovering around 99, so I wasn't terribly worried. But before bed, he told me he was feeling terrible, and suddenly his temperature was at 102.5.

The spouse and I quickly conferred. Someone obviously didn't want us on the plane that was leaving at 6:45 the next morning, and we cancelled our flight out and the first night's hotel, hoping that whatever the kid had, it would quickly go away and we'd be able to salvage some of our time away.

The fever slowly abated throughout the next day, and the sore throat lessened somewhat. I waited for the next family member to fall to whatever the son had, but that didn't happen. He seemed sufficiently better that we took a chance on rescheduling our flight out and got the last 4 tickets on a flight that would get us into Texas with a reasonable chance of salvaging a good part of our trip.

But there was airport security to get through. With a kid wearing a thigh to calf brace loaded with metal and hollow aluminum crutches.

I am not known for saying anything nice about government employees EVER. But I have to say that on this entire trip, TSA came through with flying colors and I will, with pleasure, endorse those security agents at the airports through which we traveled on this trip for their kindness, courtesy and sensitivity to the son's predicament and the fact that he was setting off alarms all over the place. To a man and woman, at the height of summer nightmare travel, they were admirable. So TSA SNA and ABQ, thank you.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We finally arrived in El Paso, the son triumphant in a wheelchair while I rescued luggage and the spouse requisitioned the rental car. Naturally, we were all ravenous and the spouse had gotten a recommendation for a place called The Cattleman's Steak House. A bit tough to find, but we did eventually, and sat down to steak and beans and mushy corn on the cob. One thing I can say about those Texans: it's easy being green because you won't be eaten. Was there a salad on the menu? Nope. Anything green? Well, I guess the cole slaw drowned in mayonnaise dressing almost qualified, though the kitchen had done its best to eliminate the greenest cabbage leaves.

Then we were off through the Texas desert, New Mexico bound, hoping we'd get to Carlsbad Caverns before dark.

The spouse is extremely fond of wandering off the beaten track, generally as far as is humanly possible. Usually I'm game because I prefer back roads and the unusual things one finds there. The unusual things this time were a dead snake and a hailstorm, as well as the Guadelupe Mountains (the spouse will happily go on about its Permian origins, but I've got space limitations here); the drive was quite attractive, and the sun was setting as we crossed the border.

The spouse put the pedal to the metal up a not very friendly road, and it was quite dark by the time we got to the caverns. I took heart from the fact that I hadn't seen any cars coming down the road, and we eventually figured out (no thanks to the temporary signs erected all over because the visitor center was closed for renovation) where the cave's natural entrance was.

As we arrived at the amphitheater, the ranger was just ending his talk. Everyone sat quietly and in under five minutes, not quite drowned by the din of the insects, we heard a low whir. From the mouth of the cave issued a misty black ribbon that rapidly turned itself into a spinning vortex spiraling upward like chimney smoke that then blew in a stream off to the south.

Bats, thousands and thousands of bats, exiting the caverns to spend the night feeding.

They were eerily beautiful and their numbers were extraordinary. A ranger told us the next day that that evening's flight had been "a really good one." And it was. The bats just kept coming and coming, spiraling up and then off. Exiting the cave, they almost seemed to shimmer. It was truly an awe inspiring sight.

And the next day, the caverns themselves did not fail to inspire awe. We've visited a lot of caves and these were pretty phenomenal, even though physical limitations prevented us from doing the more extensive exploration we'd planned.

The less said about Carlsbad proper, the better. That was were I spent the night awake worrying about bedbugs, with good reason. Worse, the place turned out to be the same motel we'd stayed at 13 years earlier and gotten our license plate stolen, even though it had, to its peril, changed hands in the interim.

The remainder of the day was spent at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. The less said about THAT, the better. Let's just say that in this debate, I'm Scully. The Alien Green Chile Pecan Brittle was good, though. And green.

Go listen to some good music: "Home and Dry" from the album City to City by Gerry Rafferty.

03 July 2007

Food, glorious food

Food is a somewhat contentious issue here at home.

My mother...well, there's just no sense going there. Sometimes she's really on, and sometimes, she's oxtail stew.

My mother-in-law cooks satay and pot roast quite well. She won't eat anything I cook from a plate that I give her, but she will eat what I cook off everyone else's plate. The exception would be the Christmas goose. She and the spouse fight to strip the goose of its crackling skin as soon as it comes out of the oven. It's quite a sight.

My father-in-law will not eat poultry (unless I make him fried chicken), leftovers and most vegetables.

The spouse tries very hard to hide his vegetables. I have to tell him that he doesn't get dessert unless he consumes them. He also eats fish "with long teeth," as the Germans say. If I wanted to punish him, pickled herring and broccoli would be a perfect meal.

The son refuses to eat savory sauce of any sort. His pasta must be dry, and gravy is reviled. He also won't drink milk, which I suspect is a latent reaction to a milk allergy that I didn't recognize.

The daughter, who has outgrown her milk allergy, does not like bread. Nor does she like shrimp or ham. Of all the family, she has the most take it or leave it attitude toward food.

I dislike pasta, a familial staple, and I loathe cooked tomatoes. I also don't care for fried food or mayonnaise. I don't eat chocolate. I like chocolate, but if I eat it, I develop a strange compulsion to eat everything in sight. The cat hides when I eat chocolate.

Now, the cat, he is formidable. The cat eats edamame. The cat eats muffins. The cat eats biscuits. The cat eats hummus. The cat eats mayonnaise. The cat eats tofu. The cat eats butter. The cat eats any form of meat. He will not eat lettuce, although I enjoy decorating him with it when I am washing salad greens, but he likes to play with green onion tops. Who knew? Food must be hidden from the cat because he will climb on the counters and steal things. Or worse, lick the butter. Mostly, he likes gow and around 9:30 every night, he runs from person to person yelling, "GOW!" No one dares say "gow" at any other time of day because the cat will expect gow now.

Gow is fairly disgusting. In English, gow is Royal Canin Urinary S/O diet. The cat gets very expensive special food because he launched himself out the window as a kitten and successfully injured his kidneys. The expensive food serves to keep him out of the expensive cat hospital where he goes for expensive treatment for UTIs. This has worked out well, and he certainly likes gow, but we can't stand the smell. Then again, wet cat food...meh.

For obvious reasons, including neutered male cats' tendency to gain stunning amounts of weight, we limit the table scraps he receives, which doesn't please him. At dinner, he sits, looking pathetic, between the spouse and I, with his right paw lifted in what looks like a canine offer to "shake." But this is his begging position. We have no idea where he learned it, as he came to us as a 5-month-old rescue, who'd been dumped by owners not once, but twice (in itself odd, because he's an immensely sweet-natured cat, though his nightly recitation of "GOW! GOW! GOW!" is sufficient to drive one to distraction).

When not eating, thinking about eating, bathing after eating or asleep dreaming about eating, the cat enjoys chasing bugs, or as they are more commonly known here, boogs. He stalks them, pounces and plays. Earwigs are not a favorite because they have a terrible tendency to fight back, and I've had to remove an earwig dangling by its pincers from the cat's nose. This does not stop him from killing them with gusto, however. Waterbugs are apparently inedible and only good for batting practice. Moths, however, are delish. Spiders are a very special favorite because...oh come on! They taste good! Except for the legs. He carefully removes all legs before neatly scarfing up the body.

I get to clean up the legs, of course. It's enough to put me off my food.

Go listen to some good music: "Food, Glorious Food" from the musical Oliver!, book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart.