Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Remembering Spike

I was scrolling through my facebook page today.  I do this because sometimes I post things and forget, so like any self-regulating human being, I make sure that I did not drunk-post anything that I would regret.  Luckily, most of my drunk posts weigh in on the side of silly/stupid vs. embarrasing.  I am too hung up as a human being to go the embarrassing route. Both a blessing and a curse.
In any case, in this self-policing moment, I came across some pictures of our cat, who passed away two and a half years ago.  These days, we have two dogs, but back in the day, we had two dogs and a grey striped bundle of cattitude named Spike. There are times when, in my weakness, I consider getting another cat, but I just can't do it.  I feel like I have had perfection and that any other animal would be a let down.  Let me explain.

What you probably don't know about me is that I am what has been described by my sister-in-laws as a "laissez faire" parent.  Which in their lexicon, probably means I don't apply the proper level of Martial Law in the household. However, I feel that it is best that I choose my battles and trust my kids enough to give them just enough freedom to learn from their experiences, yet remain safe.  You say tomato, I say stuff a watermelon up your bum.  Same difference.

The same trust but verify parenting style came into play when parenting my cat Spike.  He was hipper and smarter than the room about 100% of the time.  A child of the streets, he was born outside, chose his owner and exercised a high degree of autonomy at an early age.  He was not about to be micro-managed by some fascist human trying to impose order on him. Who was I to tell him that he couldn't be an indoor/outdoor cat? He and I shared the same impression of litter boxes; uncouth and a hotbed of disease.  And of course, he's gotta be free to survey the flora and the fauna and occasionally make a kill.  When you don't have your testicles, you have to find other ways to assert your manliness...or so I'm told.

Spike was not a snuggler with his humans, but he cuddled with the dogs like nobody's business. If I got to apply a few lightly appreciated scratches behind the ears, I was over the moon. He forged an astonishingly affectionate relationship with his unhinged brother-dog Buzz, who really was the punishment that none of us ever deserved. Yet there was genuine sweetness and love between Spike and this lizard-brained dodo, in spite of his natural tendencies to chase and erradicate the smaller woodland creatures of the world.  And like all of us, Spike adored Brownie the Wonderdog, because only a half-crazed sociopath on crack and off his behavioral meds would dislike Brownie.

So, I stand by my no new cat rule because how many, cool, smart, independent yet loving, outdoor pooping, indoor sleeping, toast stealing, ukulele playing, dog snuggling, look both ways before crossing the street, cats are there in the universe?  I think one, and I had him.  For this laissez fair cat parent, the is no other but Spike the Hotness Monster.  Behold and appreciate...the cat, the myth, the legend - SPIKE!


This is Spike's badass look. It always reminded me of when Snoopy perched on top of a tree or is doghouse and looked like a vulture.


We call this pose "the roast". It's a more effective name when both feet are tucked under him, but he was not one to conform.


Buttered toast stealing a specialty.


Yes, he played the ukulele. You wanna make something of it?


Sharing nap space.  It was always a coup for the kids if they had multiple animals sleeping on their bed.


Yes, he is judging you. You're just going to have to deal with it.


Clearly, he feels that he can take a better photo. "Gimme that thing."




Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sharing a Super Deal To Italy

Let me say at the top, this is not a sponsored post.  I don't know anyone at Gate 1 Travel and they don't know me.  What I do know and what you probably know about me, is that I love Italy.  I always have my eye out for reasonable airfares and deals to get my American tucas on Italian soil.

So, the other day I was scrolling through the emense dumpheap of email that I get every day and a Gate 1 Email caught my eye.  I am too lazy to opt out of anything, so the quantity of promotional email that I get, fills my mailbox to the top about every week or so.

I have a friend at work who told me about the great rates that this Gate l had to Italy, so I have been monitoring it.  What I saw on this most recent email seemed too good to be true.  It had an offer for 8 days in Tuscany with hotel, airfare and rental car for $699 a person.  I re-read it half a dozen times because I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Airfare to Italy from NY is generally around $1200.  That's airfare alone. With a lot of homework and shopping, you can get a flight for around $1000, and that takes a lot of work. $699 from soup to nuts? It just seems unbelievable.

So, this company had a trip to Tuscany that costs less than a trip to Florida.  The problem is, I can't go due to work and it is burning me up. It seems almost like a crime to miss out, so I am doing the best thing I can think of as an alternative and passing the information on to you.

Below, you will find both the link to the offer.
Link:The Deal

I hope that this helps someone discover Italy and fall in love with it like I did.  Ciao, bella!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bullets Over Long Island

I have an Uncle.  His name is Ronnie.  Ronnie is fabulously eccentric, but in the most endearing way. When I was a little girl, Ronnie was my constant companion.  Whenever he came over to visit the family, I thought he was there just for me.  I would run out the door before he could even reach the walkway, grab his hand, drag him back to his car and start barking orders at him.  Take me for ice cream!  Take me to the park!  Most adults would try to talk sense into a child and tell them "Maybe later, I want to see everyone" but not Ronnie.  He would just shake his head and laugh all the way back to the car and we would take off.

Some of my best childhood memories are centered around my adventures with Uncle Ronnie.  Ronnie taught me some important life lessons in extremely inappropriate ways.  For instance, Ronnie taught me how to drive.  He was a very patient and thorough teacher, explaining how to ease the gas and brake and not to take a bend in the road too sharply. Of course he taught me all of this when I was 7.  I would be tooling down the road, barely able to see over the wheel and people would catch a glimpse of the top of my pony tailed head and double-take, some even swerved off the road.

The same thing went for shooting.  He taught me many critical lessons about gun safety...while I was firing guns at the gun range.  I fired pistols and rifles so powerful that they knocked me back and bruised my shoulder.  I never did develop a love for guns, but I can can handle one if necessary.  I am the big winner when a carnival rolls into town. No really, you should see me go.  I win all the crappy stuffed animals. Life skills, man.

A lifelong gun collector, Ronnie amassed a stockpile of guns that would rival the average military base.  So when he became unable to live alone anymore, the issue of what to do about Ronnie's guns and the closet full of ammo that went along with them became a very real concern.  Ronnie was also a coin collector.  He had containers full of silver dollars and half dollars stacked in the closets in his house.  So here we were with the conundrum of what to do with all the coins and all the weaponry.

The first order of business was to get rid of the handguns while Ronnie's pistol license was still in force.  This should have been simple, except Ronnie's house was a certifiable disaster and his once laser sharp memory had started to haze over a bit and he could not recall exactly where the license was.  The fact that Ronnie's house was 45 miles away from where he currently lived compounded the problem of the missing license.   It took three separate 90 mile round trips to finally find the paperwork necessary to initiate the sale. On the third trip, the license was finally found.  On each of these trips, we started taking the coins out of the house.

In true Ronnie fashion, the coins were stashed all over the house in two pound Polly-O Ricotta containers and Breyer's Sherbet containers, so they were heavy and not exactly the most discreet thing to remove from the house.  At no point were we interested in having the neighbors come out to see us hauling weapons and money out of the house.  It took countless early morning and evening trips to empty the house of all his coins and guns.  We then we had to sort out the valuable ones and haul the remainder to the Coinstar machine to cash them in.  There were marathon sessions at the Coinstar machine with angry people in line behind us cursing us under their breath.  It was much easier to get rid of the guns.

I suppose that you could say that all went well with the process, except for the time that we discovered that one container of coins was actually a container of 44 Magnum bullets.  I opened the sherbet container expecting to see half dollars, instead it and it was loaded to the top with shiny copper and brass bullets.  My heart leaped out of my chest in a state of intense panic. I was already home. This meant I had to store them until I could make another 90 mile round trip to his house to return them.  I was in even more panic when I finally actually drove them back to his house, fearing that my car would get rear ended and the impact would engage all the primers and I would end up going out in a hail of bullets.  I have rejected a life of crime just to avoid that exact scenario.  Not sure how your obit would read in this situation - "Here lies DG, she didn't used to look like Swiss cheese".   Lucky for me we returned the ammo safely, no hail of bullets, no Swiss cheese.

Now a days, it's me that picks Ronnie up to go on adventures, and he's the one who shouts the orders at me - "Turn down the air-conditioning!" "Take me to my house to get my coins !" "Turn off the radio!" .  I just shake my head and laugh all the way to the car and we take off.  Just like the good old days.





Monday, July 11, 2016

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You're Gonna Chew that Bubble Gum and You're Gonna Like It!


It all started very innocently.  Just another hum drum breakfast in the grey, dismal corporate cafeteria. The same breakfast run that I made every day.  I did not vary from my usual routine of - grab roll, split, insert in toaster, get "to go" box, put several pats of butter in box, grab plastic knife, return to toaster, retrieve roll and place in box. But on retrieval of the go to box, something stopped me in my tracks. I did something that I never do; I noticed the song playing on the giant 1990's style boom box that was sitting in the corner by the coffee machine. It is playing every morning, but I don't pay attention.  It is set to the generic, local top 40 station, which I completely ignore as I loathe the bland bland, repetitive songs that it spits out like so much chewed bubblegum.  It's just not my thing.

But this morning was different.  This morning I noticed the music.  This morning, it hit me in the gut like a shot delivered with the ferocity of an off his meds Mike Tyson. As I crossed the cafeteria to pay, I felt the warm sting of tears in my eyes. What in the name of all that is good and evil was happening to me? Then I stopped, took a breath and searched for this song in the creaky old rolodex of my mind (for those of you born before 1970, here's a picture of a rolodex).  It took a second, but once the correct synapses had fired, I realized that the last time that I heard that song, I was in Italy.

There is something about walking a cobblestone street, floating in and out of different boutiques and shops, where they all seem to be playing the same station.  You hear a snippet of a song in the coffee shop, step into the quiet of the street and the pick the song back up in the leather store a few seconds further. This was one of the songs that was playing in heavy rotation on Italian radio back in December when we were in Italy.

I recognized the song, it took me back to a place, it stirred an emotion, but I had no idea who recorded it.  Like most catchy pop songs, it had a frequently repeated refrain, in order to bore into your head like a demonic ear worm that sets up housekeeping for the long haul.  I went back to my desk and googled the refrain, and there like a bleached blonde, tattooed horseman of the apocalypse was the Biebs. WTF?


To paraphrase Verbal Kint, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing an unwitting old woman that she was a Bieber fan. Not to say that Italy is the devil, far from it. But as if to put a bold underline beneath its intoxicating charm, it has romanced me into liking something that by its very existence and attitude I am vehemently against.  Pretty neat trick.  

I almost lost my positive feeling for the song when I viewed the above video, which is basically a Bieber soft core porn, produced for the benefit of Calvin Klein (many shameless underwear plugs). One view of it provided a clear confirmation that I will stay on the Bieber-hater train, at least while I have my eyes open.  But when I hear this song and close my eyes, I am wandering the streets of Sorrento at Christmas time and I forget all about Biebs and his Calvins and go back to the place that I love the most, and it brings a little tear to my eye.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dog Appreciation...or Something Like It

I am sure that you have (not ever) wondered why I don't do more doggie appreciation posts.  I had done many kitty appreciation posts in the past (here, here, here), but we also have two canine inhabitants in our house and I haven't written much about them.  Now before this devolves into some sort of cat-person vs. dog-person debate, let me say that I am Switzerland on that topic. I love em' both and do not discriminate.  As a matter of fact, allow me to paraphrase Dr. King when I say; I look to a day when dogs and cats will not be judged by their species, but by the content of their character.
And there in, lies the rub.  At least one of my dogs is an asshole.

Meet Buzz
...lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye.

Buzz came into our lives three years ago after a trip to Las Vegas (aka, the root of all bad decisions). I am fairly convinced that six days in Vegas was about four too many as I came home with a brain so addled with food and drink (and drink and drink and drink) that I actually thought that getting a puppy was a good idea.  We went directly from the airport to the adoption center.  My noggin was so fogged over that I didn't even flinch when they mentioned that the pudgy little puppy that was sitting in my lap might be part Great Dane.  Nope, stripped of my better judgment and desperately in need of an Advil, I signed the adoption papers and brought home what grew into 55 pounds of anxiety wrapped in a blanket of crazy named Buzz.

Our primary concern upon bringing home Buzz was how our QCR (Queen Canine in Residence) Brownie,was going to take to the new addition. But that fear was completely misguided, because Brownie makes Mother Theresa look like Regina George.  Brownie, who made a best friend out of our cat, Spike the Hotness Monster, who offered him regular nuzzle snuggles and happily shared the napping spot in the ray of sunlight that hit the living room rug in the late morning was NOT going to be our problem.  Silly humans.

Meet Saint Brownie, our cat loving Shepherd, Basset, Lab Mix.

Ain't nothin' like a little inter-species lovin'. Brownie and the Hotness Monster mid-snuggle.


The real cause for concern was Buzz's mouth almighty. Like a toddler, Buzz was experiencing the world through the sense of taste.  But unlike a toddler, he did not grow out of the phase when he reached adolesence, rather he upped his game and moved on to the hard stuff.  Below is an example of how he chewed a metal "Beware of Dog" sign, as if to put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Pretty sure he is part goat.


And these.  Are you clocking the size of that foot?  Almost as big as his cinder block of a head.


And, more importantly, the jiggly grey matter inside of his mammoth cabeza.  Dysfunction junction.


And then there's this. No words, really.

So let's summarize up what we have shown in pictures -

1) Jaws of death -  He has the grazing habits of a mountain goat.  He chews tin cans, paper plates, mulch, shoes (particularly likes stinky sneaker insoles) pens, pencils and glass.  Yeah, he chews glass and anything else he can steal.  Which is really the heart of the matter. Like Jimmy Conway in 'Goodfellas', what Buzzy really loves to do, what he really loves to do is steal.

2) Meat Hooks - Giant paws plus a penchant for digging makes for a backyard that looks like a minefield.  And god forbid he paws you with one of his huge mitts, you end up black and blue. It's like going eight rounds with Clubber Lang.

3) Fear and Anxiety - A candidate for doggy Prozac if ever there was one, Buzz is afraid of EVERYTHING.  He won't go outside in the morning unless Brownie is by his side.  He stands at the open back door shivering, eyes darting to and fro for fear that monsters like the wind and squirrels and leaves might attack at any moment. A hot cup of crazy.

So, you might wonder why, after three years of paying to replace my kid's friends shoes, iPhones, gloves, scarves and other possessions that Buzz interpreted as snack food, why we still have him.
I don't have a lot of good answers around that question.  Except that my husband loves him.  Really has a soft spot for him, which is both sweet AND scary in its intensity.  I mean, I love him too, but he gets on my last nerve because he hogs my side of the bed and he always brings disorder to any place that is clean and he eats our shoes and he does this weird thing when he's tired where he shows you his crotch (see above). I mean, ew, who does that?  

When I really stop and think about it, it comes down to 10%.  Because while Buzz spends about 90% of his waking hours in the creation of chaos, he is the first to greet you at the door with a desperate outpouring of love and relief that you are home and when he slows down for the night, he is snugly and affectionate and ridiculously sweet. That 10% keeps me going and keeps me sane as I shovel up the kitchen garbage for the third time today or drive off to the shoemaker to have new heels put on my favorite boots.  I guess 10% is enough when its 10% of pure love. Or maybe I'm the asshole.