Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Cats Are Pointless

I am sick of the cats. There is not one cat-hair free zone in the house. And what is the trade-off for this? Nothing. They perform no function, offer no service, fulfill no responsibility or real pleasure. I took this up with them recently.

First to be confronted was Emily, the 16-year old Himalayan-Siamese mix who limps stiff-leggedly around and spends 22 hours a day in her hair-filled bed where she snores. Emily was making her gimpy circuit around the dining room rug when I stopped her. "Emily," I said. "EMILY!" (she is also hard of hearing) "What good are you? You do realize, don't you, that in some early Native American cultures, you would already be in some solitary hut in the wilderness? Or, in primitive Inuit communities, they would have placed you on a sheet of ice and hacked it off, waving a last goodbye to you on your little floe? Do you know why? Because you are no longer a contributing member of the family. You don't play, you don't like being on laps, you can't make it onto anyone's bed to cuddle up at night. All you do is sleep, eat, drink, and shed. Emphasis on the SHEDDING. And you hiss constantly at Travis-cat. And you yak up hairballs like there is no tomorrow. Your special food is expensive. You are not covered on my insurance. You bite when we groom you. Your days are numbered, got that?" Emily sat down. At that moment, Travis eased his way into the room and, unwisely, stretched luxuriantly.

"Hey, Travis," I said, turning to him as he lay down for the hundredth time that day, rolling onto his side. "Don't think you're getting off easy here. You disappear to God-knows-where in this house for hours at a time, spreading your hair as you go. Not to mention the piles and pools of cat-yak that apparently only I can see and step in and have to clean up. You get bored and pick on Emily, jumping on her and tackling her. So we buy you huge cat toys which you will not interact with unless someone plays with them with you. That is not the idea! WE do not want to play with a little ball tucked inside a circular track or a pink puffball on a spring. YOU are supposed to. You will not lie in your own bed; no, you sneak into Emily's. In fact, you have very few positive interactions with anything. I am concerned that you have no meaningful life goals. And no, sneaking out everytime someone opens a door to the outside more than a half-second is not a meaningful life goal. And this not using the litterbox for your "solids" is really becoming tiresome. People put pets to sleep for things like that. And when I say "people", I mean "me". Shape up."

It is to both cats' credit that, during this entire diatribe, they maintained eye contact with me. Travis even rolled off his side and assumed the Sphinx position. And there was no hissing, for the record. There has not, however, been any significant improvement in any of the areas I spoke on. That is disappointing.

Really. Both the cats were rescued cats. You'd think they'd be more grateful.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My husband and I were watching The Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. It's a compelling look at the dangerous life of commercial fishermen. In this episode, the finale, the men were finally headed home after battling sub-zero temperatures, deadly gales, ice-covered decks, and months of life on treacherous seas without their families. A couple of the guys were below deck, chatting about their homecoming, and one man was teasing the other about how his life on ship was actually easier because he was going to have to go home to plan his upcoming wedding. "Yeah, " the other lamented. "She's insisting on purple flowers and purple this and purple that. Her favorite color is purple. And I guess I'm in charge of the music now. I don't care about all that. I just wanna get married."

I turned to my husband. "How typical," I said. "If it was up to men, everything would happen with people sitting in recliners, wearing their sweatpants and eating cheeseburgers off of paper plates."

My husband looked at me, wounded. "Hey!" he said. "I hope you're not lumping me in with all that."

Inwardly, I chided myself. He was right. This was the man who looks forward to the Shaw Festival every year and enjoys the plays. The same man who enjoys going to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The husband who takes me to concerts and wine tastings that are his idea! I turned to him and smiled.

He said, "I don't wear sweatpants."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

Just when I like to think I am rising above the common herd, I am slapped back among them by succumbing to one of my trashy, common indulgences. We all have them, whether they be food, cinematic trivialities, or Ronco-type tchochkes, and it's best we just get in front of them and admit to them. Okay, at least to some of them.

FOODS: Circus peanuts, Hostess sno-balls, Spam. Believe me; that list gives me no joy. Especially the Spam. Please do not even tell me how horrid Spam is or how it is made from offal, or how it is made from genetically engineered boneless, hairless creatures called Spaminals that look like dog-sized guinea pigs. I do not care. I believe it is balanced out by circus peanuts, those bright orange, gigantic peanut-shaped candies that are a cross between marshmallow and cotton candy and are inexplicably neither peanut-flavored nor circusy. So shut up.

MOVIES: Napoleon Dynamite, Imitation of Life (1934), Planet of the Apes (2001), The Birdcage, So I Married an Axe Murderer. None of these movies has a single thing that merits any cinematic kudos. But I don't think any of them is really horrible, either. Certainly none of them is, say, analagous to Spam. But a 47-year old woman should not be saying on any given night, "Honey, let's watch "_________" (insert title from list above). Yet, if one of the movies I've mentioned is on when I'm flipping through channels, I stop flipping. Or if one of my sons pops in his copy of Napoleon Dynamite, I don't object. Especially riveting is "Imitation of Life", a movie in which one underlying message seems to be women who succeed in business will ultimately ruin their lives, and miserably. Oh, and I have a special fondness for Leo di Caprio when he is all blue and shivery in Titanic.

MUSIC : No one should be embarrassed by his or her musical tastes--unless that "taste" runs to country music--and I am not embarrassed by mine. That being said, my children are constantly amused by my CD and vinyl AND cassette collection. "Mom," they often laugh, "you buy, like, one CD a year. And that one is lame." In my defense, I have absolutely no Andrea Bocelli, John Tesh, or Josh Groban. (My mother would, but she does not want to be bothered with learning how to "work a CD player.") I used to pick up the boys from summer school gym blasting The Backstreet Boys "Millennium" CD just to test their mettle. Also played at top volume was my special mix of The Tubes' "White Punks on Dope", Queen's "I'm in Love with My Car", and The Babys' "Isn't It Time", among other classics. Hey, here's one for ya: Curtis Steiger. Anyone remember him? He was good. Whatever happened to him?

T.V. : The Apprentice, Nanny 911, What not to Wear. All of these shows are pointless and cruel and terrible. They deliberately show people at their worst and most vulnerable. Often, people cry and admit weakness. Still more often, people look devious and conniving. (Okay, maybe not so much that last part on WntW.) All the more reason to watch these shows! Let's face it: we watch so-called "reality television" so that we can see other people suffer in tough situations while we are sitting on our comfy couches eating peanut M&Ms, judging them. (The people, not the M&Ms.) Now I'm wandering from my point. My point is, I shouldn't be watching these ridiculous, empty shows which are devoid of enlightenment. But I do. And, obviously, so do plenty of other people. Sigh. I should be watching a travelogue of Portugal on PBS. But I'm not. But neither are you. So there.

I'll never be Oprah, who uses $300 soap, or Martha, who only uses eggs from her very own chickens. And I can't be one of those people who says, when you remark about something on television "Oh, I never watch tv; I don't even own one." I have too many little guilty pleasures that keep me firmly planted in reality.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Graduation: Now That Would Make Some Reality Television

Despite being a high-school teacher for 24 of the 25 years of my teaching career, I don't go to graduation unless it is absolutely necessary. It has been absolutely necessary twice: when my sons have graduated. Last night reaffirmed my longstanding aversion to commencement.

Oh, it's not really the graduating class. For the most part. And if it were, they at least have an excuse. They are young, wearing ridiculous hats with tassels, and are the stars of a pretty major production, one that rivals any off-Broadway spectacle for planning, cast size, and length.

No, sadly, it's the audience. These people turn an event whose theme is "Pomp and Circumstance" into "The Jerry Springer Show." They blow air horns whenever they feel like it, scream "their baby's" name randomly during the entire ceremony--including the benediction, set up such a hollering campaign when their graduate's name is called that the next student's name is obliterated by their bellowing, and otherwise insinuate themselves into what is supposed to be a relatively dignified and momentous occasion for the rest of us.

One of the wonderful benefits of being a teacher at my school is that I was able to present my sons' diplomas to them at commencement. Instead of a board member handing it to him, I could inconspicuously walk up from my seat on the track (we hold graduation at our stadium), hand him his diploma, give him a hug, and walk back to my seat. I was thankful that my son--both of them, actually--did not stop and do "The Cabbage Patch" dance move, pump his fist, scream "YESSS! Finally!", stop-whip out a cell phone to make a call, do the "Heismann Trophy Stance", or anything else. But none of those, all of which happened more than once, was the crowning touch of the night. This was:

The announcer called "Jose Jimenez" (fictitious name used here). The boy stepped forward. Suddenly, a teenaged girl broke from behind the fence and onto the track. Infant in her arms, she rushed onto the field. Jose, grinning broadly, motioned to her. Diploma in one hand, he took the baby in the other and then walked back to his seat where he held the infant in his arms for the rest of the ceremony.

I found that far more objectionable than the very overweight middle-aged woman wearing the patent-leather white platform high heels, micro-mini denim skirt, braless halter top, and ponytails who minced her way onto the track to take a photo and then wobbled back to her seat. Okay, maybe not far more objectionable. (She was just plain awful.) And don't get me started about the girl in the "muffin top" jeans with the back fat and boobage. I mean it, now. Do these people not have mirrors? And do they not care that they are going to a graduation? Not a garage sale?

And, do people never, ever SHUT UP anymore? Do they have to talk during everything that does not directly concern them? They talked during the alma mater. They talked during the National Anthem. They talked during the benediction. They talked during everyone else's names. They talked during the speeches. It set my teeth on edge. The teacher in me wanted to stand up and say, "All RIGHT! That's ENOUGH! QUIET!"

Thankfully, it's over. I don't have to attend another single graduation. Ever. No, do not say "the grandchildren." I'm not going. Unless I'm deaf. And even then, I'll have to wear some very dark glasses. Very dark.
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