Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloweeners

So tonight is Halloween. My office is in Salem MA, and I actually had visions of horror in what would be my commute home. Most of my office bailed at about 2pm. I ended up working on a little sudden emergency project that kept me there until almost 4pm. On my way into work this morning, there were already tourists in costume stumbling through the streets. Are you kidding me, people? Grow the hell up! It's 9am. Don't you have JOBS or some shit??? Good Lord.

And, I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera with me this morning. I figured I'd have no time to actually walk around town because I was looking to leave at a reasonable hour and had several hours of work ahead of me.

But on the way in, sitting in traffic, I could have taken dozens of pictures of goofy goobers just lolling about town.

This in mind, b y 4pm I could hardly imagine what horrors would await me when I got out of the building.

All told, I was pleasantly surprised. The crowds were minimal, streets weren't yet closed, and I beat feet out of Dodge through Pickering Wharf with little difficulty.

Whew.

By the by, I do have one comment to make.

People, when someone stops to let you cross the street, move your everlovin' ass.

I'm not kidding.

I didn't just invite you to take a Sunday Stroll with me, hand in hand, through Central Fucking Park.

Move your fucking, fat, distracted, ASSES out of my way.

You wandered out into traffic, by all rights, being outside of the crosswalk I should have mowed you down like Deathrace 2000.

I am David Carradine, and you are worth 200 points.

So get the hell a move on.

This afternoon, no fewer than ten people did this to me. I actually rolled my window down at one woman and yelled "While We're YOUNG! or at least while I am."

Bite me. Fucking Tourists.

Oh, I was so pissed off.

But it only took me an hour to get home, when it usually takes me about 45, so all told, it could have been worse. Totally.


I got home at 5pm, and Geoff and I got ready for the halloweeners. I'd purchased about 20 dollars worth of my favorite candy (yes!) because my kids weren't trick or treating this year. Jess is at Lizzy's celebrating her 17th birthday (tonight!) and Geoff wasn't interested in going out. He wanted to hand out candy. So we went out and I wore my witch hat/wig thing and we squeezed our glowing rats in the candlelight. We had several dozen halloweeners come by, and I was able to get some nice pictures of kids from the neighborhood.

Doug got home incredibly late. His Friday traffic nightmare is usually pretty bad, and so he brought wine and some hot dogs and we sat out until 8pm, a full half hour after the halloweeners were done, just talking.

It was such a beautiful night, that it is actually a shame I didn't stick around Salem and enjoy the festivities. And watch some tourists getting mowed down.

But it was better being home, though.

I'm heading downstairs to watch Zombie movies with Doug. Geoff is heading to bed. Jess is with her friends.

To steal from PG Wodehouse, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

More later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mr. Buckeye, The Sweatshirt and the Ajax Mobile

"In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land,
Eleven warriors brave and bold whose fame will ever stand.
And when the ball goes over, our cheers will reach the sky,
Ohio field will hear again the Buckeye Battle Cry!"
-Ohio State Fight Song

Back in Early September, one of my best friends on Earth suddenly lost his dad. And my memories of this man are forever tied to an old Ohio State University sweatshirt.

The news of Al Knoeppel's passing came as a big surprise to me. Rob had called me on a Wednesday afternoon and his message didn't sound pressing. He said "give me a call, when you get a chance."

I had just talked to him on Monday, and he was flush with happiness with his new job and new community and all the cool things he was experiencing. On the Wednesday voicemail, his voice wasn't sad or down or different, so I kind of backburnered the call, thinking he was going to simply tell me just another wicked cool thing about the new job. Not that I didn't care or want to talk to him, it was a crazy time for me. I was stupid busy with work for the rest of that week, and then the weekend came and I simply forgot to call back.

On September 12th, he called me back again and said, "Well, we buried my dad yesterday..." which stunned me.

"Rob, why didn't you say that it was urgent, or pressing, or that there was something wrong... Why didn't you call me back again after the first call?" I kind of cried at him, and realized quickly that I was being whiny and selfish. My attitude was wrong. My ego was in the way. I felt left out of the loop as his father was dying, and really would have liked to have known. But... It wasn't my place to be kept informed of up to the minute decisions and events as things were going on so I checked myself quickly. I felt like there maybe would have been something I could do for Rob to provide an ear and comfort... and maybe I would have gotten in the car and headed down to Charlottesville to hold his hand and hug him after Al was gone.

"I did call you. I called you a bunch of times and talked to you," he answered.

"Um, no, you didn't, honey ..."

"Oh, well then it felt like you were there with me and I was talking to you through everything."

That overwhelmed me ... that somehow he felt connected enough to me even though we hadn't yet spoken. I'm constantly praying for him, he's on my short list of daily concerns and lift ups for mojo and joy and peace, so perhaps yeah... I was doing something for him. But I didn't know it.

Rob told me the story of what happened to his dad. He collapsed in his driveway in the on Wednesday morning before heading out for his daily walk with his neighbor. After some time in the hospital and medical efforts that were attempted to bring him round, they knew that it was futile, it wasn't going to work. Rob and his mom made the decision to let him go. But before they removed support, Rob had one more thing he wanted to do with his dad.

Saturday during the day, Rob watched the Ohio State football game with Al, who obviously couldn't see it or hear it. Al was a rabid Ohio State fan. So Rob wanted to watch the game with him, one last time. He sat in the chair next to his dad's bed and gave his father the play by play. Ohio State was losing, and Rob said "Come on dad, we gotta help them win!"

Rob told me that he was cheering, yelling and talking to his dad as if his dad was sitting on the couch next to him in his Ohio State Sweatshirt. He said anyone who would have walked past at that moment would have thought him insane. But he was routing for the Buckeyes, with his dad... and believe it or not, Ohio State made a remarkable comeback and won the game.

It all sounds so very Mitch Albom, or so very "a special Hallmark Channel movie," and one would at that very moment hope that Al would wake up and reach for Rob's hand and the victory of the Buckeyes would be Al's victory over death. If I was writing the script... that is exactly what would have happened.

But it wasn't meant to be. The following morning he was gone.

The hospital chaplain came in to spend time with Rob and his mom. She asked Rob, "Tell me about this man."

Rob answered, "This is my dad, and he loved me."

And that is the truth.


When we were in high school, Rob and I would get together an assortment of other good friends and drive all over Huntington, Long Island.

We'd occasionally imbibe beverages legally intended for people older than we were and act goofy. We'd hang out at Coindre Hall, overlooking Gold Star Medallion Beach. We'd go to the Huntington Bay Beach Club and try to fool the cops by pretending one of us was a member. We'd drive backwards through the drive through at Burger King, mostly to let ME place the order, since I never got the chance to do so, not having a driver's license. We'd cruise up and down Rte 110 an Rte 25A, beeping the horn of the car and stamping on the brakes in rhythm to "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles. We were just enjoying our little big town and the nightlife available to 17 and 18 year olds in the mid-80s.

We had a lot of fun in high school, especially the summer after we graduated.

Over the course of our high school years we spent a great deal of time in a USS Nimitz sized station wagon owned by Rob's dad. Mr. K worked cleaning offices, and his station wagon smelled like cleaning solution, so we lovingly (and sarcastically) referred to the beast as "The Ajax Mobile."

One night, we stopped by Rob's house because it was rather cool out for what should have been a hot August night. Rob ran upstairs to grab sweatshirts for us, because we were headed to the beach for yet another night of being silly. I made chit chat with Robs folks while the warmer clothing was retrieved from upstairs and we beat feet out the door to go have fun.

Rob chucked me a red sweatshirt that was nice and big (wouldn't fit me today because I'm ... twice as nice and big) and it was worn perfectly. It was his dad's old Ohio State sweatshirt, and I think it was at least 10 years older than I was at the time. We had our fun out in the world, and I got dropped off at home, with the sweatshirt.

Said sweatshirt went to college with me, and I wore it a lot at the beginning of my Freshman year ... I was totally missing Rob, but not his dad. I didn't really give a second thought to the man who owned it, and who probably would have liked to have worn it on a nice fall afternoon watching his favorite football team. I loved that sweatshirt. It became a part of my life there for a few months.

At Thanksgiving I went home, and par for the course went to Rob's one night during that long weekend so we could go out again and have some fun and talk about our new lives at different schools.

I made the mistake of wearing the sweatshirt.

I'll never EVER forget the look on Al's face. "I've been looking everywhere for that sweatshirt!" He bellowed.

Oh, sweet merciful crap.

"Where'd you get it! How'd you get it!" He pointed at me with his eyes flaming.

Pooping my pants in abject terror because I totally thought that Al was going to kill me, I threw Rob under the bus and pointed at him. He started berating Rob and I took the sweatshirt off and folded it up and returned it to its rightful and very grumpy owner.

Again, we beat feet out of there and I felt small and stupid and terrified and also had a good laugh at a grown man flipping out over a sweatshirt...

God, I wish I hadn't worn it that night. Dimes to dollars I'd still have it. I loved that thing, and I could see why he was all bent out of shape five ways to Sunday for having "lost" it when his kid loaned it to one of his stupid rotten friends who ran away to college with it.

Anyway, for years and years after that all I could think of when I thought of Ohio State was him and that sweatshirt.

I so wish I had it now.


Al died a month and a half ago.

I've been processing the events that Rob and his mom and his siblings have had to go through, and where they are now. I talk to Rob every couple of weeks, and I feel there is such an emptiness in his life. His dad was a presence.

Rob said recently that his dad was a hard man to get to know. I think that is the God's honest truth. I always felt very connected to Rob's mom, Kathy, and could spend days and days talking to her. But was always a bit intimidated by his dad.

When I would talk with him I always felt pressure. He'd ask me questions like what I was planning to DO WITH MY LIFE and why I wanted to study English in college, where did I think that would get me, and why I was doing this and why I was doing that. Where did I see myself in five years, ten, twenty. Who thinks of that kind of stuff at 17?! And who needs someone else's dad pressing them about it... yikes. I totally freaked me out and made me nervous.

At the time, I felt like a blithering idiot and not a very smart person. I felt that any answer I would give wouldn't be sufficient, smart, good decision. I felt kind of judged. What I didn't realize he was holding my feet to the invisible fire made of making good decisions and doing good things to lead to a really good rest of my life.

At 16 or 17, I just thought he was mean and overlordy.

No one ever asked me questions about what I wanted to do and why. No one made me offers or gave me things to think about. I wish I'd paid closer attention to him and not ended up terrified of him. I wish I'd recognized his brusk attitude was actually him caring about where his son's good friend was going to end up one day.

He was a presence, for sure... commanding, demanding, blunt and direct.

After the sweatshirt incident I basically avoided him when I came home from college and would get together with Rob, not because I was afraid of him but because I was embarrassed.

For making a bad decision and walking off with a man's beloved sweatshirt.

A few years back, Al and Kathy moved to Virginia.

Rob would tell me about their cool house, how it was exactly what they always wanted. I wanted very much to go visit, especially when Rob was a student at Mr. Jefferson's University, but I had kids by then, and was working my butt off at jobs that I didn't like or want thinking about the decisions I'd made that didn't have me on a path towards a Ph.D. in Shakespeare Studies somewhere.

But I had my kids, and my awesome husband, and my life was here and Rob's family was elsewhere. If they were still on Long Island, I think I would have stopped in to see them more than the two times I did once I had the kids, while my folks were still living there. But they'd moved away, and I never got to see him again.

Hey Al, just so you know, I think I turned out okay. I may not be rich, or perfect, but I'm probably much happier than I was in 1984 or so back on Long Island when I stole your sweatshirt.

I've got some good kids, you might like them.

And I'm still friends with your son, and hold him close to my heart forever as one of the best friends I have ever had or ever will have.

So thank you for not killing me for stealing your OSU sweatshirt and for tolerating me those many years ago. And I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to say now that I get it. I get what you were trying to do back then in the pre-sweatshirt stealing days when you scared the crap out of me.

I'll miss you. And I'll never forget you.

Especially when watching College Football.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It takes a village to make an Eagle

We have a very active Boy Scout Troop here in town, and I'm pleased to have my son involved with it. One of the boys is working on a very excellent Eagle Scout project and before the winter swoops in with her cold and bitter winds, a lot of work needed to be done. J asked at the last meeting for volunteers and I told him I'd come.

Boy, that was a lot of work. And I'm glad I went.

J started the project Labor Day weekend, and is enhancing an already existing pathway down to the pond, putting in gravel and picnic tables and little BBQ grills, one on either side of the path. One is handicapped accessible in design, and the path is good for fishermen and people who want to put in canoes. The entire area was overgrown, and no one was really using the path to put in canoes because they were going down around the bend to put in.

This is adjacent to where J lives, and he uses the area a lot, and felt that getting it cleaned up and set up would tie in with the Mass Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and our town, and it would benefit people who just want to come and have a nice picnic... not just to fish or canoe. There's no swimming in the pond, and no motorized boating, because it is back up water supply for the city of Haverhill... so there isn't a need for a boat launch or what have you.

His plans were all accepted by the town and only one person in town pushed back... a guy who lives down the road who feels this is "his" pond and calls the police when someone is fishing because he feels that the pond shouldn't be fished. The police officer who stopped by today told us they logged 3,000 complaints FROM this one man in the last year. About people fishing. Or driving on his street, or turning around in his driveway.

He is against the plan, and I kind of anticipated that he'd be the kind of jerk who would come undo stuff, or push stuff over or do some damage, but so far all he's done is complain and not act on his complaints. He inists that the plan will bring pollution into the pond. The town says that people already use the pond and that they will take care of emptying out the trash barrels. J's plan states the the Boy Scout troop will police the location and keep it clean as part of the project going forward into the years, so he has no complaint about whether or not it will be cleaned up on a regular basis...

Regardless... the project is underway, and he can grump all he wants about HIS pond being used. It's already used. May as well make the space look nice and have less poison ivy.

I went over at 10:30 am (after waking up at 10:25 am) and had my shovel and rake in hand. The boy's mom met me with a cup of coffee, and we set to digging. I was the only volunteer there. I guess that starting back in August other people came and helped do a lot of clearing and work, but this particular weekend it was J, his mom and dad, and his two younger brothers... both of whom spent a lot more time taking swipes at one another than actually working. One actually left to go fishing with a friend. And that worked out well because the youngest brother left behind turned out to be my partner in crime and he and I did a lot of work together.

We moved tons and tons of dirt, tons of gravel, filled in the pathway almost to the road with the gravel, filled in at least one of the two picnic squares with gravel. I called Doug at about 1:30 and asked if he wanted to come help because there was no way I could keep going at the rate I had been from 10:30... and the rain was coming so we had to get as much done as possible. I think that aside from the one post hole not being dug deep enough because the auger got fried, that they got to just shy of everything being done. The picnic tables and BBQ grills will arrive sometime next week, and will go into the ground either as soon as they come in, if weather allows, or they will go in sometime in early March. J turns 18 in March and the project has to be complete before his 18th birthday.

Cross your fingers that it can happen.

They got us lunch and we sat around chatting for about 20 minutes about how they love to fish the pond and work their farm. They are a wonderful family and I love their kids. J makes me laugh a lot... he's such a kind and wonderful guy with the best smile. It was an honor taking the time to help him out. I left at 4:15, doug stayed until about 5

The way I see it, it's essential for me to help. Someday my son may want to do a complex Eagle Project. I hope that the families in our troop will help us out the same.

J's younger brother has his Eagle project coming up this April. It's a one day thing, so in comparison it's not that big a deal. His youngest brother told me that he hopes that his Eagle project is a "one hour project!" because J's is so big, then his brother C's is one day, so logically it follows that his will be the shortest. We had a good laugh at that...

So yeah. Working for someone else's project as hard as I think I worked today was rough on my fat, old body. But the end result and benefit is something I'm proud to participate in. And hopefully, our willness to help will shine goodness down on Geoff when it's time for him to do one.

It takes a village to make an Eagle.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting off my butt to write an entry

So Keri left a comment on my last entry encouraging me to write every day, even just a little bit. I've actually considered doing that nanowrimo types of things but to be honest, after sitting at a PC all dang day sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit at one here at home. But for Keri, I will write. And for Bree too, who sends similar goadings in my direction. "You need to update your blog, woman." Yes, I do.

The past couple of weeks since Gordon's passing have been busy. I feel sad when I come in and he isn't there to greet me, standing up in the cage and chewing on the bars to get me to come over and give him some love. Geoff is starting a merit badge in Boy Scouts that focuses on pet care... but we don't want to do dogs as the pet he's caring for because there is a Dog Care badge as well, and you can't overlap the requirements. It is against the rules.

We may end up getting another small furry friend sooner than later...stand by for more details on that.


Doug and I are going to his cousin's wedding in Western PA in early November.

The kids weren't invited to the wedding, which posed a problem for us as to what we were going to do with them.

And the dogs.

There were a number of scenarios... If the kids were coming with us, we'd have to pay $90 a day to kennel three dogs. So that didn't fit in our life's budget for sure. We could pay our dogsitter $60 a day, but still that is too rich for our blood right now.

Bringing said kids with us meant that we'd have to stay at a hotel. Leaving them to hang out somewhere unfamiliar while we go out to a family function isn't my idea of fun or fair. Jess said she didn't care, she'd be glad to go and just sit in a hotel room and watch cartoon network and read books, but I think there may be some rules and laws about leaving a 16 and 11 year old alone in a hotel room... and I had visions of Geoff disobeying her, her screaming at him, and him running out into the hallways and lobby all higgledy piggledy crazy like. That wasn't going to have the opportunity to happen. Nope. No kids alone at hotel room.

We offered to have Jess babysit for Doug's sister. Which would guarantee they were in a house, safe, and Geoff would have fun with his cousins and Jess would get climbed on by the two little ones who absolutely adore her. But my sister in law wasn't sure that her 4 year old would be comfortable being left with Jess, because he doesn't know her. So she made arrangements for her kids to go to their other grandparents' house. I couldn't just say "hey, can MY kids go there too?" because I don't know these folks at all... so that got dashed.

Which brought us to scenarios of leaving them here. Jess is old enough that I'd leave her here solo to watch the dogs if there were something we could do with Geoff out in Western PA... (and Nance -- it's just a little too far from where you live for us to drop him off and chillax and play with Felina for the evening, not that I'd force ya to take him or nothing... heh). But I wouldn't leave her alone with Geoff. She's a little too cruel, a little too mean, and a little too ignorey towards him (not to other kids, just him...) so I don't like the idea of her being in charge of him longer than a few hours in the evening. Four days would be impossible.

I don't think she'd hurt him or neglect him, but she would bitch about it all the live long day and I'd never ever hear the end of it. So I couldn't even deal with that noise.

Plus, Geoff needs a ride to school on Friday and Monday, and she doesn't drive. So ...

Long and the short of it is, we're having my mom come up and stay with the kids for a couple of days.

Football season is over that weekend, and Jess got her rehearsal schedule and thankfully she doesn't need to be anywhere on Saturday or Sunday.

So it all works out. Thank you mom.

I don't even necessarily want to go to the wedding, and my laundry list of reasons beyond the fact that we're leaving the kids home is long.

We have no money for hotel, gas, gift, clothes (for me, Doug got a brand new suit for the last wedding we went to in September 2007). I don't really know Doug's cousin, I think she was like 8 when Doug and I got married, and in 20 years I've seen her a handful of times... so I don't know her adult personality, what to give as a gift, what her friends are like. It's an evening wedding and all y'all know I can't hang like I used to and I like to be curled up in bed at 10pm. And because it is just the two of us, I think we're staying with Doug's parents. At their house. Not at a hotel with a pool and hot tub. So I feel sad that I don't get to soak and swim and relax.

But we're going for Doug's family. I know his grandma wants to see us, and she'll be disappointed that the kids aren't there but that's what happens sometimes. They're not invited because it is a kid-free wedding (to save money, and because it is at night, and stuff) so it's something that we're just gonna have to do. Sigh.


Geoff's football team is has 2 wins under their belts so far in an 8 game season. Two games are left. Geoff tells me he doesn't want to play again next year because it hurts too much. I didn't know he could be such a softie. But the thing is, the kids like him. They really like him. They get excited when he shows up, they rally around him when he can't run as fast and they cheer for him. I noticed this last year. And this is the kind of thing I think he needs... because Lord knows in other situations in life he isn't going to be surrounded by such fraternal love and support. I told him that he can't make the decision to quit during the season. At the beginning of the summer next year when registration time rolls around, that's when we can make the call. And I'm hoping he'll choose to stick with it.

He tells me "I've got so much going on. There is so much stress. I'm thinking about next summer with Shakespeare and Boy Scout Camp and then football starts and it is way too much."

I kind of had to laugh a little.

I compare what he's got going on with other kids in his grade and he's got nuthin' comparatively. There's one boy in his class who is playing football, is on 2 travel hockey teams, is doing CCD at his church twice a week and Boy Scouts ... When does that kid have time to do his homework?

Geoff's got it easy. I think we've got him involved in just enough. Boy Scouts is once a week and occasional weekends. Football is seasonal with two practices a week and one game on a Saturday or Sunday. Shakespeare runs for four weeks in the summer (eight if you do both sessions) and that's a world away right now so he can't really factor that into what he's doing as "stressful..."

Kid needs to get over it.

And if he wants to talk about stress, let's look at my life. There ya go.

Speakin' of stress -- I'm now late for work. Gotta jet. More later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

leaf peeping, babies, and zombies

Today was our college homecoming. I don't think we've gone to homecoming since before I was pregnant with Geoffrey, which would be like 1996 or 1995. We tend to stay away. Not because we don't like our alma mater. It's just way too insanely crowded, and thanks to the power of the Internet, I'm in touch with a lot of people I want to be in touch with. Thank you Al Gore, inventor.

dogs on trailSo today, Doug decided we should go leaf peep. We started quoting this newer TV show the kids are into called "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack," when one character tells Flapjack they're going peeping, and Flapjack says "But you said peepin' was wrong!!!"

If peepin' is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

We ended up driving out to Ashby MA, to the Willard Brook State Forest. We've been out here millions of times over the years, from before kids to changing a baby on the hood of the car in the parking area ... it's a beautiful place. There was a lot more fall color around out house than there was in Ashby, which was weird. We had the dogs with us, and decided to let them out to take a run. We ended up taking a MUCH longer hike than we intended, and now I'm sore head to toe. I am so out of shape.

But -- it was so beautiful and amazing. I'm glad we got out of there before sunset. We didn't bring any warm clothing, or the backpack (because we weren't supposed to be out there that long!) but I had visions in my mind of us being way off trail and lost and hating life overnight with three hungry dogs and a very cold, cranky me mixed in.

We drove up into Keene NH, drove over to Peterborough, and surrounds. We accidentally discovered Pickety Place deep deep deep in the woods (they didn't look open so we left), and Parker's Maple Barn. On these way deep inna woods dirt roads, there are these two places, buried way back in the leaves. Dude. If we were dog free I would have liked to have had dinner at Parker's. I saw them profiled on Phantom Gourmet and it looked good!

It was a good day out. Fun. Pretty. Not quite peak leaves but gives me hope for this time two weeks from now. Horray for fall. My favorite season.

HannahIn other news...

My girl C had a baby.

The baby, Hannah, came on Monday of this week and she is amazing and beautiful, and my girl C is amazing and beautiful. I'm really happy for her.

She'll be out on maternity for a while and already I'm feeling her absence. I miss her coming into the office I share with Tammy and saying "What up, bitches?" and flopping her pregnant ass down in the chair for a visit. I will miss her. I'll miss playing practical jokes on her (we got her good twice in a couple months... and she didn't cotton to it, so that made us laugh harder. Tammy and I are indeed bitches).

But she's got this beautiful little baby, and I'm really happy for her and Jamie. I feel like just yesterday was her wedding, but it was so much longer ago. Tempus, it fugits.

Gretchen and I took lunch on Thursday and went to the hospital for a visit. Of course, camera was in hand. There are a pantload of pictures if you're at all interested in looking at smooshy newborn cuteness. Go visit and see.

Welcome to the World, Hannah. Nice to meet you and I look forward to many years of your amazing cuteness, evolving and changing and becoming even more cute. Welcome. And God bless you, kiddo.

Topsfield Fair 2008The Topsfield Fair is running in our neighboring town.

We normally wouldn't go because of the cost, but we know people who do the bee house... and who are all around amazing folk. They gave us a couple passes, and some free ride tickets for Geoff. I took a pantload of pictures. Thank you Kathy. You rule.

I wanted to get there with more light, but I'm happy to say my new camera does an amazing job in low light... so my night photography abilities just skyrocketed. The photo set is here if you wanna go see.

Geoff got to ride a pantload of rides and I got some fried dough, and that, my friends, was all I wanted. A happy boy and a face full of fried dough. Mmmmm. Yay.

2008 Zombie Walk - Salem MA and 100 strangers, - #8And finally, last Sunday afternoon Jess and I joined up with Henry and Mia, and we went to the First Annual Salem Massachusetts Zombie March.

The announcement on the website said that the gathering would begin at 2pm at Collins Cove, where there would be Zombie games like kickball and frisbee and stuff, and the march would commence to downtown Salem at 4pm.

We arrived at around 3pm, and there were about 20 zombies, and just about as many people standing around, gawking.

I approached some people and a guy said "oh great. More photographers." So I asked who the organizer was, because I'd emailed back and forth. I figured out quickly the organizer was the poor gent who bemoaned the fact I was there without zombie gear on but with my camera in hand. I wanted to buy a T-shirt to support the cause, because the city insisted he pay for a police detail... and I didn't think that a couple of zombies would really NEED a freaking police detail.

I don't like it when small organizers get the shakedown from The Man, know what I mean?

So he smiled and shook my hand, sold me the t-shirt and we had fun watching zombie kickball and taking tons of pictures. I got a couple zombies to reenact a scene from Romeo and Juliet, seeing as we were at a playground and it was Salem and all... it brought back some good memories from the summer, and they were willing to play along.

I noticed, if nothing else, no one there was unwilling to be photographed. If you're going to make a public spectacle of yourself, your willingness to have someone take your picture is usually high. Most everyone there didn't roll an eye (in or out of socket) or object if I asked.

2008 Zombie Walk - Salem MAI also joined into the fun and took some fake blood and poured it all over my face and shirt, because I'm nothing if not a joiner. I figured, hey... I won't just be a gawker. I'll get into the fun. I didn't come prepared, but luckily someone had plenty of fake homemade blood and I was able to "borrow" some for the occasion.

The march was to begin at 4pm, and at about 3:45, zombies and zombie resistance fighters were filing in from all over the place.

There was a zombie bride and zombie banana. Zombie soldiers and zombie hippies. Zombie hoboes and businessmen. There was a whole freaking zombie family... I would guestimate there were 300 zombies there by 4:15pm. The organizer didn't get things marching (or shuffling or stumbling, whatever it is that zombies actually do) until almost 4:30. Mia had to get home by like 5, so we marched with the zombies to Salem Common and then turned around and went back to the car.

I was suddenly rather self conscious about my fake blood being all over my face and sweatshirt. Surrounded by other blood coated undead beasties I felt rather comfortable. Walking around with just Jess, Mia and Henry, well... I felt like an ass.

A good time was had by all, I do believe. I hope they do it again next year.

Right then. If you want to see all the zombie photos, and trust me -- there are some good ones... click here.

On that note, jeeesh it's late. My parents are coming up in the morning for Geoff's football game. I have to get up and tidy and stuff because all this running around with the undead and looking at babies and leaves has made me rather not here to clean. So that must take place in the morning.

More later.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fer Cryin' Out Loud Already; the official really dead honestly I'm not kidding he's gone Gordon Obituary announcement

I haven't updated since the last exciting Gordon news, because I have been all super busy taking care of him three times a day. My dishes, my laundry, heck even my kids didn't get any attention over this past week because I was all about the guinea pig. My great news of Sunday has shifted to Bad News Thursday.

I just got home from work, and Gordon was in his cage, on his side... unresponsive. So I did what I did the last time. I lifted him up, he's stiff as a board and ice cold, hard as a rock.

It's officially official and not a zombie/Lazarus kind of situation. He's dead.

It's so sad really. He was working so hard over the last four days. Actually, I should say that I was working so hard over the last four days. And I thought yeah, if he's crippled and can't walk right and flops around all the time, I'm okay with that. I can hand feed him forever. I can give him syringes of water and orange juice concentrate. I can hand wash him so he doesn't stink of piss, and then lovingly dry him, twice a day. I can continue to squeeze his little butt so all the poo is out.

But it isn't to be.

My willingness and accepting heart as Nursemaid to a Rodent meant nothing in the greater unknown science of God and things. Gordon just wasn't able to recover from whatever it is that kicked his ass. I think maybe he had a stroke or something, because only his front right leg worked. The front left was stuck pointing straight down his body, and guinea pig physical therapy just wasn't helping. I'd position him in a nice stance, put a piece of orange or a kiwi or some cabbage in front of him and hold him upright. He'd eat, with gusto. He'd cuddle. We'd clean up and sit on the couch. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It's over. And I'm sad. But I'm not sad that he's not suffering anymore.

And on that note, my friends, that's all I gotta say. My sails have no wind in them. I'm wiped the hell out.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Miracles, Zombies and Guinea Pigs

Last night, Gordon ate a giant leaf of cabbage and 2 pieces of orange. He sat on my shoulder while we watched "My Name is Earl" on the DVR. Later on, Jess went to see him at 11pm before bed, and I went to bed after midnight totally worried about him. So this morning, I went down to check on Gordon first thing.

I approached the cage and called out to him. He didn't raise his head. I opened the cage, calling to him... stroked him. He didn't move.

Crap. Are you kidding me? All this effort and he dies THIS quickly? I lifted him up gently because he'd nosed himself into the corner and I turned him around. He didn't move or try to struggle or express that he wanted food or anything.

Late for church in the first place, I gently stroked him, closed the cage and went upstairs. I told Jess, I told Doug. I got in the shower and cried. We decided not to tell Geoff until after we got back home from church. Doug and I discussed where the safest place to bury him would be.

I sat and wrote a little journal entry, thinking that so many of you have cared a lot about what is happening with him. I sat here and cried a little and watched this little video from 2006 of Geoff and Gordon.


We left for church... I didn't go near the cage again because I didn't want Geoff to see me and ask to see him or hold him before we left. We just left.

And then, we came home, told Geoff, let him have his cry and talk about how horrible this was and he wanted to kill himself. We talked him out of that because there are three other pets and don't be silly.

I asked him to come help me build the box.

We had his football cleats shoe box, which I've been using to shuttle Gordon to the vet. Inside the box I placed my favorite flannel pillowcase, the only piece left from a set Doug and I received as a wedding gift, and my favorite thing to have next to my skin in the cold winter.

I reached into the cage, and he wiggled into my hand and peeped.

I nearly plotzed myself.

"Hey!" I yelled to Doug in the kitchen, "He's not dead!"

"It's a Christmas Miracle!" yelled Doug. "Or, he's a zombie!"

So we had a good laugh and held him and passed him around. Doug asked me what I was thinking this morning and I said "Um, you TOTALLY would have thought the same thing too if you'd found him the way I did. Shut up."

I guess it is a good thing no one relies on my abilities to determine whether or not someone was dead, and that I'm not the state medical examiner.

Our mourning has turned to dancing. Everyone is downstairs feeding him and holding him and rejoicing.

I hope that this isn't a temporary respite and that he's going to be alright... Whew. Scary!

Speaking of Zombies, I'm heading to Salem MA today to watch a zombie march. Perhaps I should bring Gordon. My little Lazarus Pig.

My life, wtf sometimes. Honestly.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Guinea Pig Ass Squeezer

This is a chock full entry, with an update on my lack of sleep and the adventures I'm having in owning a guinea pig. I hope you're ready!

I've spent the better part of the last few weeks in a mild state of anxiety because of the neighborhood situation thing discussed in a previous entry. On Thursday night we had a second neighborhood meeting, invited the church to come (which they did) and share their side of what we've slowly uncovered through research and due diligence.

Folks were encouraged to leave the torches and pitchforks home and for the most part they did. I'm amazed at how pleasantly derisive some people can be, without being outright asshats. Under the breath mutters and tongue clucks reign out here in the woods. It's semi-polite society, with a few truckers and farmers and laborers thrown in. Small town USA.

As usual, one guy always loses it at these meetings. The woman who has been kind of spearheading all of this really held the meeting together quite well for 90 minutes and then this guy went off like the devil in the church in the middle of a crowded room (to steal from Dave Matthews). I brought the meeting to an end, and the moderator/spearheader dismissed us and that was that. There's another meeting, run by the church, next Thursday. I have a feeling it will be equally divisive, if not more so, as people begin to dislike the plan more and more.

Thing is, I know that SOMEthing is going to go into that space. It is inevitable, it is unstoppable. The church proposes a large number of units and a daycare, all on about 2 acres of land, (with septic? where's the leeching field?) situated on one of the most dangerous corners in town.

If they fail, it opens up the opportunity for another developer to come in and under the 40b laws, put in a bigger development. And they'll get the town's blessing to do it because our town is at about 4% 40b mandated housing now, and we have to be at 10%. Or, they can put in a strip mall, and that will bring all kinds of traffic to the corner. Doug almost doesn't disapprove on that one because hey, if we can walk two doors down to get pizza that'd be nicer than driving across town. But I really don't want to live two doors down from a commercial strip.

So the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don't. And I'm of the mindset that we should really work with the church, not against them, and convince them to downsize the plan to something more akin to what fits in the neighborhood. A few others agree, others don't want them to do anything, so it seems we're not going to make everyone happy.

Regardless, for days and weeks now I've been unable to sleep at night, filled with anxiety. I haven't had this kind of experience since I worked at the college (up to the year 2000) and was flat out stressed and miserable about everything.

Add a layer of the whole banking bailout stress with everyone talking about how we are about to enter a period worse than the great depression, and that makes for sleepless nights.

Add another layer of a very sick guinea pig... yes. He's sick, and I'm worried. Who worries this much about a 2 pound animal, a rodent? Me. I toss and turn at night worried about what is going on with him.

Add another layer of Geoff going off to a 2 night sleep over program at a nature education center, and the uncertainty that he'd behave himself over two nights and three days of being cooped up with most of his sixth grade class, and yeah. I'm a bit frazzled.

Work is the only steady, reliable, not totally stressy thing in my life right now. When did you ever think you'd hear me say that?

Anyway -- I've been rather exhausted from all of this. I have a lot going through my mind but don't necessarily want it out on the web. Especially about the project in the neighborhood. Don't poop where you sleep, right?


File this under TMI, if you like to skip it, it involves a Guinea Pig and poop.

Poor old Gordon the Guinea Pig.

A few weeks ago, he came down with some sort of upper respiratory infection. Guinea pigs are prone to them. I am not sure if it is my fault or not, or just what happens. I bought cheap bedding/litter for his cage because I'm trying to save money and the stuff we've been using for 3 years is a little pricey. Well, he got ill, and had this horrible stuffed up nose, horrible clogged and caked up eyes, and a death rasp for breathing. We went to the vet and got him on antibiotics, which seemed to clear things up rather quickly. The breathing got much better, his nose wasn't all the way clogged, and the weepy eyes were still there but nowhere near as bad as they'd been.

Earlier this week I noticed that he wasn't walking, or even moving. He was just sitting in one spot in the cage, and lifting his head around when we came through the room. Normally, he'd rush over and start gnawing the cage for attention, but there he was. Sitting in the middle.

So I lifted him up to hold him and he was just drenched in pee and poop. Rather uncomely for such a regal pig. So I grabbed some paper towels and rushed him to the sink to bathe him.

While debating what I should use to wash him (Dial antibacterial, dog shampoo, Herbal Essence... hmmmm) I noticed this STENCH filling the room. So I walked over to pig, who was desperately trying to escape the sink, and I noticed the water was just a putrid greenish brown. He must be much filthier than I'd initially thought. Ech.

I decided to change the water, lifted the pig up and discovered that now that he was sopping wet, I could see that his bunghole was clogged with a marble sized poo. For you or me, that'd be probably a grapefruit sized poo. Ouch.

That was the stench, the water was softening things up, and the poo was trying to make its way out.

Great. I now know what I have to do.

I drain the sink, lift the pig and hold him, squirming for his life, over the toilet. I squeezed his belly gently, massaged him, and encouraged the poo to its natural progression -- downward with the help of gravity. Did all this while screaming for Jessica to come and help me. What she could help me with? Who knows. I just wanted someone else there in case I completely freaked out.

Most of the poo fell, and I opted to set him back in the warm water and allow that process some more time.

Herbal Essences for you, pig. No Dial antibacterial, no doggie shampoo, we're gonna make you smell pretty after this.

The nugget wouldn't budge, so I ended up using a Q-tip and hating myself for anally raping my pig. But once I got that thing cleared, normal poop just started flowing out of his butt. I held him over the toilet again, counting 10, 11, 12 plops into the can.

Drained and refilled the sink, got the pig washed, got some towels and massaged him nice and dry. Boy was he happy. Fed him some kiwi, and figured all was well.

I got up the next day and discovered the same situation. Pig in poop, not moving. I thought for sure that cleaning poo out of his butt was the solution, but I picked him up and realized something that I'd glossed over the night before. I could feel all of his bones. His hip bones, his spine, his rib cage. I have never felt them before. He was always a good chunk of pig, and now he was ratty and skeletal. Gasp.

His back left leg was also swollen, something I'd failed to register during Night Of Poop. That's why he couldn't walk. Not because he had a butt of poo pellets, but because his left leg looked like he had lymphadema.

Doing some internet research ("to the internet!") I kind of determined Gordon has scurvy.

Arrrgh. Yes he do. He be afflicted with a deficiency in C. Matey. He's a scurvy pig. Not a dog, not a knave, a scurvy pig. Arrrgh.

I took him to the vet to confirm the diagnosis. And she agrees... she gave me detailed recommendations, she said he probably won't make it, but if we're diligent and careful, we could cure it or at least give him a happy and comfortable end of life, however long that'll take.

Our family now has a daily Guinea Pig Maintenance Program.

We have to give him water by syringe, because he can't stand up to drink from his water bottle. Two or three times a day we've got to pull him out, hand feed him the water, make sure he's getting C drops, clean him, clean the cage, do physical therapy with his back legs so the muscles don't atrophy (yes, guinea pig physical therapy..) and stay on top of it.

She said that the reason why his ass is clogged is he can't reach down and clean himself up, because he can't stand on his hind legs. I watch him try, and it breaks my heart. I see him poop, and he goes to pull out the pellet and chuck it across the cage, and he can't do it, he falls. It's like an old man who can't wipe his own arse after using the can... So that's the reason for the backup and the giant nugget. So she showed me how to help him out, and I've got to do that several times a day or it'll repeat. Nice.

Her prognosis for his recovery was iffy. He could clear up completely, he could last a couple weeks, he could last a year or more just like this... she doesn't know. She said the fact that he's eating is great -- as long as he's eating, there's a chance. We have to give him very high in C foods, and orange juice concentrate.

So I am now the sleepless, tired, guinea pig ass squeezer of Essex County. Nice to meet you.