Archive for May, 2009
My dear friend Moot Mommy’s husband, Moot Daddy, was recently laid off. This after a duly diligent (and possibly psychic) Moot Daddy approached his CEO and asked, point-blank, “Am I okay here?”, only to be emphatically assured, “OF COURSE!!!”—but a mere two weeks later? Down came the axe. For Moot Mommy and Daddy it’s a familiar story—many people they know experience similar situations. Suddenly grocery lists grow money-fangs and roar and gnash impolitely, the land line is ditched, COBRA comes into play and the spouses do their best not to turn on each other in moments of extreme WTF. Moot Mommy takes it into the bathroom when she must depressurize the tear ducts. Moot Daddy brings on a few hard laps around the block when he must vent his WTF. They both try very hard to think of the sacking as a blessing—for instance, Moot Mommy is convinced Moot Daddy was never appreciated properly by his Management and since the sacking he’s already had several promising job interviews and been thrown some nicely paying freelance gigs. Well, all righty! Moot Daddy himself admits he wouldn’t mind a change of working venue and a pay raise. Super-duper! They are very positive, Moot Mommy and Daddy, considering they’ve lost half their income and have a toddler entering the need-my-own-swingset phase. I learn from watching them, the way they listen to each other without scorn or exasperation, even when the other is saying something completely ridiculous and irrational, like, “Maybe we should move to Vietnam,” or, “I don’t need health insurance–you and the baby can have the health insurance,” or, “I guess we’ll be eating peanut butter for the rest of our lives.” Following is a little list of Whistle While You Work-ish items Moot Mommy finds extremely helpful in this time of crisis. She passed the list on to me and I’m now going to share it with you:
1. When you wake up, no matter how you feel, smile. Seriously—you have to try it to comprehend the impact smiling when you wake up can have on your entire, entirely unpredictable day.
2. Brush your teeth (hair, not so much—but a clean mouth coaxes the psyche up from that horrid dark lake called The Blues).
3. Shout the word JOY at traffic instead of F***** or F***head or F****** A****** M***** F*****.
4. Remind yourself that you forgive everyone who ever did anything nasty to you. You don’t ever have to condone their behavior, or tell them in person that you forgive them, but do tell yourself, “I forgive everyone. I forgive everyone. I forgive everyone.” (Another trick on old-man psyche, makes him want to put on a dress and flirt shamelessly with his reflection.)
5. Play music. Often. Some personal favs are:
Madonna’s “Ray Of Light”
U2’s “Beautiful Day”
Anything by Jess’ca Hoop—music so weird your psyche doesn’t care what’s happened in the real world, it just wants to listen and pretend to be on LSD.
Jill Scott “Livin’ My Life Like It’s Golden, Golden, Golden…”
Indigo Girls “Closer To Fine”
Fred Neal’s dolphin song (good luck finding it, but if you can…)
Dixie Chicks (so many)
6. Look at your child(ren). No, I mean: LOOK! Those developing limbs, deft fingers, coconut-white teeth, beautiful, elastic skin. Your gift(s).
7. Flip through your wedding album.
8. Talk to family or friends, or phone, or email, or blather briefly on Facebook—just keep in touch so you don’t feel alooooooooone.
9. Pamper yourself inexpensively (cookies and milk, glass of wine, bath and a book, a new T shirt from Target, a few “minutes” at People Magazine.com)
10. Decrease the caffeine in your morning half-caf coffee (for now).
11. Don’t stop working out.
12. Say this: We have enough money.
13. And this: All is well.
14. Remember: This, too, shall pass.
15. Remember: This, too, is wicked exciting!!! Ha ha!!! (more maniacal laughter as is also good emotional outlet…)
16. Remember: Breathe.
17. Remember: Your therapist has good ideas and has seen plenty of people-in-crisis. Make an appointment to check in.
18. Remember: Tell your husband you love him.
19. Remember: Say, “Thank you.”
And finally, number 20: Remember to remember (somehow).
Thanks, Moot Mommy! Good luck to you, Moot Daddy and Hamlet Jr, my favorite little family. I know everything is going to be just fine (don’t throw that frying pan at my head, Moot Mommy—metaphorically or otherwise: all is well, all is well, all is well).
Weekend Edition nattering pleasantly, I cruised up the coast to SB, two bags of donatable items in the back seat of S’s infuriatingly sparse, no-frills-whatsoever economy car (that he adores), a low quilty helmet of marine layer overhead from NoHo to the piece of coastline actually flanking the ocean, past La Conchita and its deadly sagging cliffs, past the pier leading to the faux island hiding oil derricks, past Rincon Point and its diehard surfers and the sweet, many-windowed house there I privately covet, through Carpinteria, Summerland and voila: fire? What fire? Not a burn area was to be seen, gray sky gauze medicating old mountains and foothills. It was as if gargantuan flame-walls had never terrorized the city.
I stopped off to see Gallerina Sister. Bleary-eyed behind the counter, surrounded by amazing paintings, she was dressed in the same jeans she’d been wearing for 3 days and a borrowed tee shirt. On the computer she showed me photos of fire-ravaged neighborhoods (“here’s where so and so’s house was, and here’s so and so’s and here is so and so’s house standing, but look—next door the so and so’s lost theirs and here…let me know if you come across any furniture or other big homey items in LA so I can pass the info on, look–here was so and so’s home…”, etc.). She confessed she was nervous about returning to her home once the evacuation order lifted. “Yeah, I do need clothes,” she said, slumped on her seat, “but smoke damage, rubbled houses on my block, worrying about the displaced—all the damage is exhausting.” And it was basically the same with everyone I spoke to—the red, bleary eyes, the exhaustion from monitoring the fire, from avoiding falling ash and heat, everyone wrung from the shock and empathy for those who had lost their homes. “The newspapers and TV are alarmingly non-informative,” Blood Sister told me when I stopped at her house. We were standing amid the ash coating her lawn. At the house behind hers, we heard water running and splashing as neighbors hosed off their patio. “They’re not supposed to do that,” Blood Sister said, concerned, rubbing her eyes. “We’ve been asked not to water outside until the fire is more contained. People have been really great about it.” Startled, we noticed sun on our arms and looked up. The marine layer was melting. Not enough, though, to see the mountains. Helicopters muttered in the distance. Yesterday, Blood Sister delivered Costco vittles in bulk to the local humane society overrun in animals, some boarded, some separated from their owners and dropped off by good samaritans. Then Blood Sister made her way to the local pound and scrubbed bunny cages and helped cool the rabbits down with “ice pillows”, baths and soothing combings of ash from bun-fur. “There are plenty of volunteers,” she told me with a sudden smile. “That’s the good news.”
Later, after delivering my donations, heading for LA, battling paranoia about being away from my baby for so long for the first time ever, SB glinting in the sun, beginning to emulate its most charming picture postcards, becoming once again the terminally pretty toy-town I grew up in—I missed, in my LA residency, the sense of community so prominent in SB, where despite a lack of information from the local news media, many residents—displaced or not, homes destroyed or not, exhausted from damage or not—roust the good samaritan inside and become proactive in a time of crisis. They open up their shops and hotels and homes to shocked tourists and the evacuated, down to the smallest displaced bunny. It occurs to many residents to reach out and help. In comparison, LA in day-to-day life often feels stuffed with the types that, no matter what crisis is going on around them, will hose off their lawn chairs. All I wanted to do was get to the condo, grab my husband and child and return, once and for all, home.
Gallerina Sister took this on her iphone. The power was out everywhere this afternoon, including her gallery, so they shut down and she fled to the Mesa, to Blood Sister’s house: aka Fire Central. What should have been a 10 minute drive turned into an avoidance of city gridlock and deposited Gallerina Sister over 20 minutes later (outrageous for our small town) on a street right above Blood Sister’s. She got out of the car and walked up the precious rise of a view-ridden park—a tranquil, greeny place resembling a little piece of the top of the world. Her legs were still shaky: From her downtown gallery she’d seen flames on the nearby Riviera, enough of the fire to give her a sense of its ferocity—enough to put the shake in her legs. She’d been evacuated from her home the day before, to her surprise. She’d tried to drive up her street and was told “no,” even though official mandatory evacuations hadn’t been made public, yet. Luckily a neighbor was able to grab some clothes and things for her and for her daughter. Luckily she doesn’t have any pets to worry about. Hopefully her house isn’t burning. Blood Sister joined her at the park and they watched the drama for a bit, then retired to Fire Central and watched the Jesusita rage on TV with Blood Sister’s family, Blood Sister’s ex-husband and his dog (also displaced), comfort food and the kind of libations you choose when shock is testing your norms. They’re still watching. This fire, both of my sisters assured me, makes the Tea Fire tiny.
Tomorrow will be interesting. The winds are supposed to abate for the day and the smoke clear until the next sundowner. No one seems to know exactly how many acres and houses have burned. Talk about a reveal…
UPDATE: 5/7/09 Still no word on whether Gallerina Sister and her daughter have a house to live in. The winds will most likely kick up again later today. I can’t watch the news anymore after the reporting on horror stories about animals.
UPDATE: 5/7/09 (still!) Gallerina Sister’s house is standing. She viewed it through a friend’s birding binocs. Her daughter’s boyfriend’s family home, however, gone. Winds aren’t kicking up like yesterday, yet fire rages at the top of the mountain. There is scant local reporting and much confusion. Heartening stories of some animals being beautifully saved.
UPDATE: 5/8/09 The fire has launched in two different directions. People are being evacuated who never, ever thought they would be. If the winds come up again today as expected—-
UDPATE: Click here
Wounded birds had a thing for me, appearing on doorsteps I frequented, pavement, balconies, my favorite beach, displaying their injuries, pitiful gimpings, tragic wing breaks, dangling broken legs. I could be out walking and my eye would be caught by a flutter I knew instantly was a message, a flutter-cry for help. I don’t know how I knew, but I was always right. I responded to every SOS, cradling the injured party in my hoodie or pocket of my purse, zooming it for rescue and a Bird Person or vet experienced in optimism and bird bodies. Once, I saved a house finch who had a run-in with a pop-up sprinkler when the pop-up popped down and took her leg with it. The vet I found was the same Dr. responsible for removing the voiceboxes from the peacocks residing on the green, green (and apparently bird-hushed) grounds of the Playboy Mansion. As this vet cooed over my bemused wild finch, he suddenly amputated the mangled leg. Snip. Just like that. The finch didn’t even flinch. He told me Amelia (I was prone to naming my rescues) would probably live two years in the wild if I nursed her back to health and released her, three years if I kept her in a cage. Of course I was going to give her an extra year of life! Once Amelia was hopping expertly around the cage I purchased for her (a definite mansion, a Tara cage–huge and white and perch-filled), hopping blithely from her swing down into her seed bowl for a feeding-frenzy, then back up to perches as though she’d never lost a leg, my conscience took over. Setting the cage on my patio, I opened the white bars and retreated inside my apartment. Amelia’s cousins (at least, I hope they were her cousins) sailed down from the trees and perched on the cage, tweeting madly, as if urging escape before the huge hairy monster watching at the window changed her mind. When they flew off, Amelia followed. Bye-bye, sweet house finch. Though I scanned the trees with my opera glasses, I never saw her again. For months her cage sat empty on my patio, gathering dust from the Hollywood Hills, the abandoned birdie-mirrors reflecting me solo in hideous smog-light with a glass of wine and a pen poised over the notebook on my lap, nervously watching the world zipping by, alone but for Charlotte (the man-hating cat), utterly birdless.
But then I saved Mr. Peabody, a cobalt budgie who fainted in front of my security gate. I almost stepped on him. It was as if he’d been placed there for me to rescue. I cupped him in my palms, ferried him to my kitchen and moistened his beak with water until he came to. And then I set him in Amelia’s cage. He clung woefully to a perch for 24 hours, then switched on. Alert, chirpy, checking me and his new digs out, Mr. Peabody proceeded to be delightfully trill and entertaining for the next 4 years.
Mr. Peabody and Charlotte were my homies. They moved with me up North for a year, moved back with me to Echo Park, were comfort when I came home from a dubious date or party that failed to produce Mr. Wonderful (oh yes, I was searching). Sweet, funny, full of whistles and fond of preening strands of my hair if I pushed them into his cage, Mr. P was the epitomy of affection. He would never let me hold him, refused to leave his cage (unlike Amelia), but he encouraged me to spray water on him for a bath and on rare, magical occasions, he would press his head against the bars and let my fingers sift his warm down. He thrilled visitors with his terminally merry, vibrant sounds, joining in the conversation during my potato soup parties, lemon drop socials, or poetry get-togethers.
Sometime during my sojourn in Echo Park, I had a blind date with Mr. Wonderful, S, my future husband and a year and a half later I was traveling with S before moving in with him. During my absence, bird-sat by a friend of mine, Mr. Peabody expired, fell off his perch, whether dead before, after or because of the fall, no one will ever know. My friend was devastated. He handed me Mr. Peabody in a white box we both sobbed over. Mr. Peabody was the Tom Hanks of parakeets, the Jimmy Stewart of budgies. Everybody f****** liked him.
Meaning to bury Mr. Peabody, but wanting a perfect place, I stored my dead bird in S’s freezer. And there he has stayed for three years. S suggested we bury him in North Hollywood Park, but what if a dog or one of the park’s aggressive squirrels dug him up and—? Too horrible to contemplate. S suggested a mountain burial, but we started trying to get pregnant and stopped going on hikes. We frequent the beach, but that won’t do. And although my mother offered a portion of her yard as funeral plot, we keep forgetting to take Mr. Peabody out of the freezer when packing the minivan for Santa Barbara. This time, we won’t forget Mr. P, S and I proclaim, but we always forget, our arms loaded with T and his million things. My sister the Santa Barbara gallerina contacted an artist who specializes in painting dead birds. This artist expressed interest in painting Mr. Peabody and his frozen cobalt glisten—but what would happen to my bird after the session? Cremation? Burial? Dumpster? I’ve never been contacted to organize a dead-bird-drop-off and I don’t ask my sister about this artist anymore. Although a portrait would be nice…
But soon we will be moving into our very own house with an extremely large yard. There I plan to bury Mr. Peabody. Finally, a resting place I am comfortable with! Also, S made it very clear that Mr. Peabody is not to go anywhere near our new refrigerator. For three years my husband has organized our freezer to make room for the white box, framing it in Trader Joe’s soy chicken nuggets, sliding slim packets of vegetarian bacon over the top of Mr. Peabody’s crude coffin. How I miss my bird! And yet I’m so relieved to give him a burial after all this time. “Yeah. Couldn’t come fast enough,” S says wryly, side-stepping Charlotte (even though she has decided not to hate S and tattoo his arms with her claws, but tolerate him, especially because he’s the one who feeds her). But S knew Mr. Peabody and he, too, was smitten. We wish he could have survived the transition to our married life.
Farewell, Mr. Peabody. You were immensely loved. We will hang hummingbird feeders and seedbags from our new eaves in your honor and a place a birdbath in our rose garden. I would, in a budgie’s heartbeat, save you again if I could.
UPDATE: Dead mockingbird in the carport, saw it just as I was pulling in. I think it’s the same one that’s been dive bombing cats prowling the area. It’s birdie Spring madness around here, many swoopings and noisy complaints and birds on the wall holding twigs in their beaks. I’m sorry the MB was dead, but as a still fairly sleepless mother I am also a little relieved I didn’t have to do the rushing to the vet thing—although in the name of Mr. Peabody, I would have.