It’s not as impressive as Jesus appearing in a piece of toast, but it did make my day.
Happy 4th of July.
OK, I’ve never done a two-blog. I try to be very concise. Give you a nibble, not a 3-course meal with coffee. But if I wrote ALL the strange things that happened to me on Saturday in one long blog, you’d hate me for taking up so much of your time.
So part two of my day.
Having survived a marauding lady deer, we continued our hike. Anders loves to give me options of the routes we can take, and as I considered the two that he proposed, I wished that somehow we could end up walking past these houses that I’ve heard are perched up in the woods. I mean that literally. Occupants of these homes have to walk up long, winding dirt paths from the car park to get to their houses. Cool in nice weather. A bitch, I’m certain, in the rain with groceries and a crying child. This thought had nothing really to do with the two options he gave me. It just popped into my head. I noticed it, and let it go. Very Northern California of me. We chose a direction and set off.
Now again, we do a lot of hiking. Over the course of 20 years with this man, I’ve taken a million steps. Most of them have been with a dog in tow. Never has a dog of mine killed a defenseless bunny, but guess what? Yup, today was the day. She did one of her signature hop moves into a bush, I heard the distinctive crunching noise of something going very badly, and when I turned and gasped, she dropped the adorable, gray, still-trembling but very much in the last moments of its life bunny. I stood there with my hands covering my mouth, muttering, “Oh noooo, nooo, nooo,” endlessly until Anders snapped me out of it and told me there was nothing to do.
My dog is now a bunny killer. Certainly the world must be coming to an end soon, because this just was so not ok with me. We continued on, and at this point figured there was nothing to lose to go down some new paths we had never tried before. I mean, what are the odds of MORE strange things happening? I let the man with the internal compass lead, and after having not passed another living soul for an hour of walking, we passed a mom and young girl in a deeply wooded area. Soon thereafter the trail dead ended. Unless this young girl was part goat, I’m at a loss to understand where they came from. Because it seemed so … odd … we continued to look for the path. Stomping through undergrowth and through a little creek, we realized that there was nothing on the other side and we needed to turn around. As I looked down to pick my way back across the water, I noticed a submerged old glass bottle. Now, I love finding old bottles in our yard. It happens every so often, when we are digging somewhere, as our yard back during the turn of the century when this house was built was the dump. And here were funky old bottles just half submerged in the muck, calling to me. Cool. Very very cool. I dug up two and was going for my third when Anders told me it was getting dark and we needed to go back down the trail to find another way out.
Do you know where this is going? The way out, a path we had never gone down before, was the SAME one I had wished to find. We passed the houses tucked up on the hillside, and even some woman carrying up her groceries. As we exited this area, there was a wedding reception in the grove of redwood trees, yellow lights twinkling and beautiful people in love.
Had my thought really manifested in this action? On this day, it sure did.
So. We made it home. Didn’t get hit by a car, or see a streaker, or have any other animals burst into song. It seemed that the crazy part of the day was over. We made appetizers, I made a fire in the outdoor fireplace, we poured ourselves a nice glass of wine and sat down for a game of Scrabble. A party at the house above us was in full swing, the happy conversations of young people laughing mixing with the music we had on the stereo.
I commented on how much I loved the moment. Perfection.
Until the sound of something unexpected thunked off the wood trellis above our heads and smashed onto stone somewhere near. And the party sounds above us ceased right about the time Anders screamed “Your Party is Over.” My lame-o “That was so uncool” hardly encapsulated how un-cool it was.
Some dumb-ass drunk kid decided it was bright to try and pick us off with a missile of a glass Bud bottle thrown from 150 feet away off their deck. Because it might have been the end of the world for one of us, and then it would have been the end of the world for the one left.
So, in review: Deer. Bunnies. Glass bottles both old and uncovered from decades in the muck and new and thrown with a crash into our midst. Ideas coming to life. Weddings. And yes, the cops. In my house. Any one of these situations would have made for a unique day. You know, dinner table conversation. But mixed together into a melange of strangeness, it qualified, at the end of the day, as quite a day indeed.
Was your Saturday as strange as mine? Please tell me yes, it will make me feel better.
Roxy the bounding dog. This is a 6 foot tall fence.
You ever have one of those days when so many strange things happen that you sort of wonder if there’s something in the air? For us, last Saturday was one of those days. That was also the day that some sliver of the population believed would be the final bow for the human race. And I’ve got to be honest with you … I started to wonder myself at a certain point.
It started with a stalking. From a deer. Not known for their predatory nature, this deer decided that Roxy, our dog, needed to be followed. Badly. Roxy was on the end of a leash, connected to Anders, who was walking next to me. We were taking an (up to this point) lovely late afternoon walk in the neighborhood, when we both noticed the sounds of what we believed were steps of a fast approaching sprinting runner behind us. When we turned and saw it was a large deer making tracks directly at us, with a car behind, we simply assumed that the car had spooked the deer, who was simply trying to escape PAST us and disappear into the brush.
As normal deer do.
But the deer stopped when we turned. What ensued was a strange ballet, where we turned to walk away, and the deer continued toward us. We’d turn, the deer would stop. The woman in the car behind us, bless her, leaned out the window and said, “I think that deer is following you. It looks like it wants your dog.”
We walked much faster, and the deer continued after us. “This deer looks sick,” she offered. She then used her car to gently herd the deer away from us and up a driveway, so we could make our exit. We started walking quickly away, looking back at the deer who had paused on the driveway, only to take off again THROUGH the yard and brush to follow us. Our angel in the Prius didn’t abandon us, but she continued to parallel the deer to keep him off the road.
Now, it’s hard to jog and look behind you, so I focused on the road ahead, and staying up with Anders. And when I heard her voice from behind me saying, “He’s coming at you!!” I ran a bit faster. Sounds of a car speeding up, slowing down, and a horn honking ensued. And then, straight out of a slasher film, I hear her loud and clear, “He’s coming! RUN! I MEAN IT!!“
Oh yes, we ran. There is no shame here. I put it in gear and ran as fast as my legs could take me, wondering how in the world I would ever outrun a deer, and hoping for a fork in the road that would give us at least a fighting chance of ditching this crazy thing.
We ran until we no longer heard the car, or the clack of hooves on pavement, and then we ran some more. We chose a tiny off-road trail, and even so, Anders kept turning around, convinced that this deer had an ability to track us via our scent.
For the following two hours, in between huge stretches of silence and then the occasional, “That was sooo weird” comment, we contemplated reasons for this interaction. End of Days was my first offering. Animals, sensing The End, were losing their minds, clear as day. Anders suggested that perhaps this was Roxy’s mother, as our dog has often been likened to a deer because she hops really high when she runs. I threw down the idea that this deer just wanted to be friends with Roxy, but didn’t know how to show true affection through dialog. Anders of course turned things sexual (men!) and suggested that perhaps Roxy and this deer had a thing going on, and she was one of those “stalker types”. We ended up thinking that this wasn’t a well deer, and perhaps in her declining state she thought that Roxy was her baby, and was instinctively trying to herd her.
On a scale of one to 10, this pegged 10 as a lifetime “strange thing.” But it was simply the first of many. More tomorrow.
We cleaned out Hans’ room last week. Installed a proper bed with storage underneath, so his room has lost the “college dorm mattress on the floor” feeling. Because we live in a house with jewel box-sized rooms, streamlining is in order. The IKEA credenza that held all manner of flotsam and jetsam collected from 12 years of living as a young boy in America was dutifully emptied into bags, dumped on the dining room table, and gone through item by item.
Things that were So Important in days gone by have lost their pull. Bouncy balls from the dentist. Matchbox cars from almost every visit to Grandma’s house. Polished stones. Bits of crystal. Teck Deck Dudes. Bottle caps. Strange little plastic things. And, unbelievably, the air soft gun pellets.
Do you have a young boy too? Do you know of these things? And the pull that they had every waking moment outdoors? Gripped by the zeal of a treasure hunter armed with a metal detector on a beach in Maui, Hans would scour every path, park, and patch of dirt for these little round beads. Some colors were everywhere, dropped out of the mouth of an air soft gun like crumbs from Gretel’s pocket. Green for example. But not the see-through green. Those were hard to find, I think. Blues hardly ever showed up. Same with white. My son collected them in his pants pocket and stored them in his room, first in a glass jar, then in a see-through plastic container with dividers so he could separate the colors. This took a lot of time when he was little. The separating bit.
I longed for the day when this fascination passed. When we could go for a walk without staring at the ground, advancing one s-l-o-w foot after another, hunched over like an arthritic octogenarian. Pass it did, into perhaps the Lego fascination or the Teck Deck Dude collecting. Everything passes into something else in life, and this past week I marked the growing up of my son, by liberating the tiny bb’s into my garbage can, and the glass jar back into my cupboard.
And for those wondering, yes, these are all my pictures. Taken from my handy dandy Cannon G11, mostly without any fiddling after the fact in those fancy yet as-yet unlearned programs like Photoshop. I fiddle as I shoot. That is why digital is so fantastic for me. I’m not completely sure how to manipulate all the aspects of F-stop and depth and speed and all that, but I have a bit of knowledge. And I try. If it sucks, I throw it out. If it is cool, I push it a bit more. (Full disclosure: I did uber tint one photo a while ago, but then I hope it was obvious that the boy and the sky wasn’t banana yellow naturally. Oh, and I did pick up some gorgeous pictures of handbags and rings made out of food that someone else took. I’m good, just not THAT good).
My soulful, piercing, disconsolate, smirking boy, Hans.
Having just witnessed the ball of fury that is this performance from Katie Makkai (yes, please click this link and watch the video first), I find myself wanting to give her a giant hug. And not for the reason you might think.
Katie gets words like I get words. She can, of course, also memorize a whole hell of a lot of them in a row, and deliver those words with such bravery and sincerity and force (and levity) that I can only sit here and wonder.
But her performance, combined with the mosh pit sample sale I visited this morning in the lobby of a business here in Mill Valley, has compelled me to write today about the word “cute”.
What a horribly overused little word.
Women shopping, no matter if they are responding to shoes or baby clothes or dishes, will nine times out of 10, utter the word when describing what they see. Today I experienced a public bathroom that was being used as a dressing room for athletic wear, and right on cue, when a woman pulled on a top and turned to ask for feedback, the chorus would warble: “Oh, that’s so cute.”
You can hear it, can’t you?
I’d like to emphatically state that perhaps, just perhaps, a white cotton yoga top is not cute. In fact, to my mind, precious few things are cute. Baby animals might be the only true cute things in this world. The yoga top in question was well-fitting. I thought the design was unique, although it had a strange way of framing the woman’s boobs. Her girlfriend did mention that, but still deemed it “cute.”
“Really?” said the wearer, doubtful.
How can a sex-kitten high-heel shoe be cute at the same time an Ugg boot is? It can’t. A sexy shoe is hot, or makes a woman look like a vixen. It is fetching. Or bad, said in a way that takes three seconds for that word to leave your mouth. “Oh, girrl, that shoe is baaaad.” Which means, of course, that the shoe is very good.
What I’m getting at is sometimes one word just won’t do it. You need a good slew of them, to round out exactly how you feel. As Hans is struggling to use interesting verbs to describe his writing, I am cheering for unique adjectives to seep into his storytelling.
Category: things I wouldn’t believe if it hadn’t happened to me.
This is me swimming. I’m in my in-laws lovely lap pool, and I was trying to get a mile in before dinner. I was chugging along, in my own head, when BLAM, I’m met in the pool by 45 pounds of paddling dog. Her name is Dazey and she is a lab puppy. I knew that she could swim, of course. It’s always one of the things that is exciting for kids to do: attempt to get the puppy in the pool to see how well she can swim.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how well she could swim. In a straight line. With turns at the end.
Oh yes, Dazey wasn’t a splash in the pan. She was in it for the long haul. And so there we were, doing laps, side by side. I would get to the wall and do a flip turn, and Dazey would simply turn around at the wall and head for the other end. Her little paws and legs were pumping, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s easy to lose track of your lap count when you have a dog as a swim mate. She stayed with me, stride for stride.
I eventually got out.
She didn’t. So committed to swimming was she that we had to fish her out of the pool three times that night.
Hans is growing out his hair. It is longer than mine, straight bangs hanging down in front, just allowing his eyes to peek out. He’s always liked it straight down, while I have always thought that he had a handsome forehead. Just like mothers have done for millenia, I sweep it off his forehead and he mashes it back down with both his hands.
It’s his hair and his face, and I’m going to let him look like he wants to look.
Except that now, with his locks creeping ever lower, he looks more like Justin Bieber with each passing day. The teen singing sensation. Justin is something like 16, looks 12, and he is very hot right now. Which would make you think that Hans would be happy about looking like him.
But he’s not. When we call him J.B., he get’s that look on his face that says he’d like to hurt us. Anders can’t help himself, and teases him to no end. It’s all in good fun, but Hans sees it as being mean and teasing, and can get so wrapped up in it that he has come to tears. They went so far as to make a bet that Anders would pay Hans $5 if he made any reference to J.B., and that included singing any song, using a napkin as a microphone, or playing with his hair. Of course, as he considered it, Anders sang, “Maybe, maybe, maybe …. Ohhh!”
That was last weekend. This weekend we went for a bike ride with friends into San Francisco, and somehow J.B. came up. Stern looks from Hans. Funny comments from friends. All in fun. On the ferry ride home, with the two grown men flanking Hans and razzing him and calling him J.B., and Paula and I facing them, I turned to her and said, “Wouldn’t it be hysterical if the guy on the announcement on the boat said something about how they had a special guest on board?”
I was kidding, of course. I wouldn’t do that to my kid. But it would be fantastic.
And then, as if the Universe was listening, exit stage right Anders to go to the bathroom and enter stage left a young girl of about 14. She came right over to Hans, with a pen and a piece of paper in her outstretched hand. “Would you please sign this?” she asked Hans, looking from me to him and back at me. Hans, who obviously thought his father was involved, looked at the floor and shook his head. I smiled at her, because I was SURE she had been put up to it, wondered how on earth Anders had managed to get someone so convincing so quickly, and kind of wanted her to go. But she wasn’t leaving. “Please, please. Just sign this.”
I told her that he wasn’t who she thought he was, and by this time Hans had turned his back to the poor girl and buried his head in the seat. He was that embarrassed. But she wasn’t buying it. And then she said, “I don’t care. Just have him sign it.”
Of course, he didn’t, and she left with the same pen and the same piece of paper unmarked. When Anders returned to our seats and I told him what happened, he had a look on his face that absolutely told me he hadn’t set Hans up. And he confirmed it when I asked. Paula said, scouts honor, she would have fessed up if she’d been involved, and Johnny hadn’t left his seat.
I mean, what are the odds?
But I want to talk about chard. Rainbow chard, to be precise. Because M.N. has created something so diabolically beautiful that I have a hard time cutting it and eating it. I know it’s good for me. And I even know how to cook it, chopped up and sautéed in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and crushed garlic, and finished with pine nuts and a little goat cheese. But those Corvette yellow and fluorescent pink stalks are glorious in their rediculousness. I mean, food is not supposed to be this color.
And so, such benign neglect has created the Jack And The Beanstalk of Chard.
This photograph was taken with my arm outstretched over my head, pointing UP. Yes, that’s right, my chard is about 7 feet tall. It reminds me of the zucchini plants we came home to after a summer week away when I was a kid. That benign neglect produced steroidal-looking Louisville Slugger-sized zukes. Haiti could have been fed with our zuke crop that week.
I do not know what I am doing in my garden. Like the rest of the yard, I am a “try it and see” gardener, learning as I go. I read the magazines, and have a worn out copy of Sunset’s Gardening and the Golden Gate Gardening Guide, but I can never really fully grasp the precise measurements of nitrates to phosphorus and fertilizer to water. Or how deep and wide the hole should be. Or where and when and how the crops should be rotated. (Do people really follow all those rules?) I have learned that a drip system will save your plants from dying, and that giving those plants food (in the form of compost and fertilizer), will make them happier. I’m not sure why that wasn’t more obvious to me, but I guess a number of plants had to die before I made the connection.
So while I have a hysterical chard plant that has even drawn the attention of my neighbor, because she can see it OVER the hedge between my garden and her house, I also have lovely little lettuce plants that grew themselves from seeds that germinated in the old lettuce I never pulled out before it bolted. I am enjoying a salad as I write, created from a big beautiful head.
My only piece of advice here is something that I learned the hard way. Actually, two things. You don’t have to pull out chard by the roots if you want to harvest the leaves. You can simply snap them off from the outside, and more will grow. But then, you have to stay ahead of it, or you too will have a giant chard. And you can slice off a head of lettuce, leaving a couple leaves and inches at the bottom, and a new little enthusiastic lettuce plant will start sprouting in its place.
The first thing said to Hans when he walked into his new school was, “Why are you wearing your pajamas?”
He wasn’t, of course. He was wearing jeans. Extra skinny Levis jeans. That just happened to be plaid.
This stuck me as particularly funny, as Hans had originally chosen his canary yellow jeans for his First Day Outfit. They used to be even more bright yellow, but somehow the family Laundress had mistakenly thrown them into a batch of whites that were being highly bleached due to some particularly nasty stains. (Note: turmeric is a bitch to get out of white clothes.) Instead of being angry, he admitted they had gotten “even more cool.”
Even so, I thought that bright yellow jeans with bleach blotches might not be the way Hans wanted to make his grand entrance. I was scared that perhaps kids might think he was weird. So I told him that bleach-spotted jeans were too trashed looking for day one, and so he pulled out the plaid pair.
“Wow,” I said. “Now those are much more subtle.”
“Mom,” he fired back, stretching the word out and bending it around his raised eyebrows, “it’s ok. It’s fine. They’re plaid.”
They day I found the pair that looked like someone had gone mad with a Sharpie, I knew I had found the best Christmas present ever. The Internet is basically the only way to go to find extra skinny Levi’s 505 jeans, although Tilly’s had the red ones on sale at Christmas time. Sometimes you can find them at Macys.com. We found the black and white checked pair in a ridiculously expensive clothing store in Amsterdam. They are two sizes too big, but Hans didn’t care. They were marked down to $5 US, and they are made by a company called Cheap Monday that has a bunch of Right Wing Christian fundamentalists all up in arms because they have a skull and crossbones on their logo. The green pair are also from Amsterdam, from a Dutch company called Scotch & Soda.
Some days when Hans puts together his outfits, I have to just sit back and smile. I’ve tried to talk about using a light hand when it comes to color and pattern. You know, dark black jeans with a bright purple top is great. Or polka dot sweatshirt and lime green pants are great, just leave the black and white checked hat off. But for Hans, it’s all about color and texture and ACTION. If he could wear nothing but graffiti, he would. For him, stripes and checks and dots DO all go together, and some days, they don’t look half bad.
Until you are an adult looking back on your choices. And you wonder what the heck your mother was thinking, letting you out of the house like that.