Friday, August 31, 2007

Viva Lyle!

This is Lyle. He got a shave down yesterday at the vet, so he looks like he's lost ten pounds. He's also still quite sleepy from anesthesia.

Lately I've been thinking about the woman who gave me Lyle. I was in my early 20's and Airy was a couple of years older. We worked together in a medical supply factory. She told me about her new kitten; he had changed her life and she didn't understand how she ever did without him. It made me want to get one, despite the fact that cats make me sneeze and get bloodshot eyes. Several weeks later, Airy said she wanted to give me her cat. I went over one night after work and got him, though with grave reservations. I didn't know if I could handle this responsibility, this kind of long-term commitment, this kind of threat to my immune system.

Airy loved Lyle. But her home was her castle. She'd gotten married young and moved out of her mom's house into her husband's. That turned into a crazy situation and when Airy left, she left with the clothes on her back and not much else. So she worked really hard to save up enough money to make it on her own and have a nicely furnished apartment - the first space in her life that was truly hers. Lyle was shredding her furniture and she couldn't take it anymore.

I'm assuming that's what the problem was, because she didn't really say and I know that shredding is what Lyle started to do immediately at my place. He ruined the spines of my LP records and all the books on the lower shelves of my bookcase. He gutted the padded rails on my waterbed. He took the upholstery off a love seat. There was no sense getting mad about it either. He liked getting chased around the house and spanked, and would claw something loudly whenever he got bored and wanted some action. Many's the time I threatened to take him to the pound.

There were times when he got fleas and I couldn't afford flea-killer spray, so I got fleas too. Lyle hated to be brushed, and there were times when his long fur got so matted that shelf-like clumps on his ass became his litterbox. He has to be sedated before he can be properly groomed, and I spent money on vets and grooming when I could barely pay bills.

But I wish I could find Airy so I could tell her thank you, thank you, thank you so much for giving me this cat. He's got the greatest bossy personality and he keeps my feet warm in winter and his eyes are beautiful because he looks like he's wearing eyeliner and he's such a loving, affectionate entity who's seen me through the tumult of the last 15 years, virtually all of my post-college life. I looooooooove him.

Yesterday the vet gave Lyle a clean bill of health. He's 15 and he has feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, a disease similar to HIV in humans. Unfortunately I found out about the disease and had him tested for it while my other cat, Lyria, was dying from it two years ago - she was only 9. I still at times get tearful when I see black cats because they remind me of her.

So now every time I take Lyle to the vet for maintenance, I'm worried that they'll find something wrong with him. But this time the vet said his blood work shows that he's actually in really good shape for a catso his age.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Here in the south, there has been great cultural innovation in the realm of contractions: I mean the single words cobbled together out of two, like can't for cannot, won't for will not, and shouldn't for should not.

Today we'll look at the word "whont'cha", a contraction of why don't you. The Microsoft Word spell check function lights up red underneath it.

"Whont'cha stop and get some beer on your way over?"
"Whont'cha do me a favor and shut up?

Last week I went back to my hometown to do Reflexology treatments for my grandmother and her sister Fabiola. It took some time because Fabiola has a touch of Alzhiemer's and kept forgetting that she'd just been called to come over. I did their feet, and then they wanted to go out to lunch. We went to the cafe downtown. I have fond memories of going in there after school to buy hot dogs when I was about 12. The owner of the café, Ray, was always asleep in the corner booth.

Ray's dead now and somebody else is running the cafe. Seems like it's painted with lighter colors now but other than that I think it's pretty much the same - same upholstered swivel stools at the bar and same brown formica table tops. Fabiola started to reminisce about Ray. It was interesting because in all my experiences of him he was boring, seeing as how he was mostly unconscious and all. But she remembers him differently.

They used to work together, but then Ray left the mill to run the cafe. Fabiola said she used to go in now and again for coffee or a burger to go, and he'd ring her up, give her her change and say, "Baby, whont'cha slip your old man a pill?"

Here are the things I loved about that story:
a. It cast Ray, who I knew as the grease-spattered town narcoleptic, in a surprising role as player.
b. It was clear in the way she related the story that Fabiola didn't mind being hit on and found it entertaining.
c. It showcases southern verbal culture, for example, "whont'cha."

I roared with laughter. I've heard rumors that back in their day, my grandmother and her sisters turned a lot of male heads. I've heard that my grandmother played a mean guitar before she got married and used to perform, with a friend of hers, at local events. I asked her why she doesn't play anymore and she said my dad and my uncle dragged her guitar around like a toy when they were little until there was nothing of it left. My brother told me she stopped because our grandfather was a musician too, one who was perhaps jealous because his wife was a better singer/guitar player than he was, so she gave it up to save his feelings.

There's hints here and there that they lived deeply textured, interesting lives, that they would have been people I would have chosen for my friends. That they could sell the movie rights to their life stories.

But they don't part with their stories very often, and that makes me sad.
Photo Credit: Wyatt

Monday, August 6, 2007

My head feels like a rotten melon

I mean I have a headache, toothache, some kind of ear issue that makes me reel like a drunk if I tilt my head the wrong way, and my eyes are sore. So my head feels on the inside what I imagine the fermenting, hot, nasty mess on the inside of a rotting watermelon would feel like. I do not mean that the exterior of my head feels squishy to others. Yet.

Wyatt and I won't be buying any houses and I'll continue to garden in the planter on the balcony. I haven't had any nibbles on the end of my employment line, which I have baited with many resumes and online applications. So if I don't get any action soon I plan to go to massage school this fall.

I've been trying to settle in to our place and make it mine as well as Wyatt's. It's not easy moving into somebody else's space. You tend to feel like it's always going to be the other person's. I have also found that you tend to feel like any space that used to be yours is still at least a little yours. The other day Shalluck and I saw painters going in to my old condo unit, which I recently sold. Shalluck must have seen me scowl, because he said, "So is it kind of like seeing your old boyfriend out with another girl?" Indeed I found that a very accurate analogy.

Today I was setting up my desk in the office/guest bedroom and I found some notecards with writing prompts I made up when I was a teacher. The notecards have the first line of an advice column letter written on them, and students were to finish the letter the way they thought the writer would have. Truly motivated students also wrote a response to the request for advice.

OK - Here are some of the prompts - feel free to finish any of these letters and post them in the comments section.

Dear Marlene,
My mom won't let me put nail polish on my eyelids.

Dear Marlene,
I was trapped under five tons of jellybeans six months ago. I've been trying to eat my way out, but I'm sick of jellybeans and I still have two tons to go before I see daylight.

Dear Marlene,
Every day when I go to school, a dragon burns up my homework before I can turn it in.

Dear Marlene,
I can't stop eating crayons.

Dear Marlene,
Bat wings are growing out of the sides of my head, and I'm too embarrased to go to the doctor.

Dear Marlene,
My grandmother gave me a jacket made of thumbtacks for my birthday. It will hurt her feelings if I don't wear it, but it makes me bleed and it's uncomfortable.

Dear Marlene,
Please advice me on the ethics involved here - my father wants a shrunken human head for Father's day.

Dear Marlene,
My mother will only buy me shoes made of taffy.
The above scene is along a trail near the New River.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

New River

There’s nothing like a canoe trip to put a strain on a relationship.

Neither Wyatt nor I have much experience with boats. We took a four-hour trip down the New River last Sunday, and the fact that we finished it without cursing each other or threatening to move out gives me faith that our marriage is solid.

I’ve seen other people steer canoes, but I couldn’t communicate what I’ve seen to Wyatt. I couldn’t understand why when I’d call out “There’s a rock!” we’d head right for it and hit it. I found myself trying to steer from the front by switching sides with the paddle and paddling harder. I got cranky and pissed off. I was unpleasant.

So then we switched places, and I found I wasn’t any better off because Wyatt is quite a bit larger than I am. His weight in the front, and the fact that I couldn’t see around him, made things difficult. In fact, it made things worse, and we started floating in circles. So on top of being frustrated, I was embarrassed. And when Wyatt started offering me tips on how to row more effectively, I thought I would burst a blood vessel.

We switched places again and things went a little better. The countryside up there is beautiful. There’s an awful lot of development going on, though. It's no fun to look at new construction when you're supposed to be out in the wilderness.

I’m thankful that Wyatt is much more patient and gracious than I am, and has the ability to take off the frustration-tinted glasses and see reality in a non-negatively charged fashion. “We did well, considering we didn’t know what we were doing and it was our first time,” he said, and that inspired me to relax a little. I realized, hey, we’re out of town, we don’t know anybody here, nobody’s here to criticize or evaluate our canoe performance. Why was I being such a perfectionist? I don’t know, but I think I do it a lot. At a subconscious level, I believe scouts from professional teams are evaluating me as I do all things, and I feel compelled to get super-serious about everything from doing the dishes to finding the most efficient route to drive across town.

There was a full moon Saturday night, and lights from fireflies winked in the silvery darkness at the campground. The camp ground was full, but with quiet folks thankfully. The sound of the river made for a flawless sleep.

I love this flower we saw on the bank. If anybody can tell me what it is, let me know.