V For Something

Victory, possibly. Or Vendetta. I am not quite sure.

What it was, I was driving down the main drag of South Arlington to the gym, an experience always fraught with idiocy and mundane perils, like the construction site where I turn out of the hood (festooned with a gigantic banner engrossed with the initials ED, which means Ellis-Dale construction but given the humongous crane perched on the hillside, the last thing you want to see suffer Erectile Dysfunction, all I can say is it is a bit unnerving). People weave in traffic. They look cell-phone-dazed. It is half a mile of quotidian horror.

So suddenly there is the staccato blatting of a car horn obviously intended to attract attention, and a black sedan pulls alongside me in a meaningful way. At the wheel is a lady of A Certain Age — and I mean only a tad more certain than mine, I would say high sixties, with the stringy gray-white shoulder-cropped I-quit-giving-a-fuck hair you see on some women her age, waving at me and making gestures that at first I thought added up to flipping me off. Really? Is she a Trumpie who doesn’t like my Hillary Bernie Planned Parenthood bumper stickers? What did I do?

She gunned her car, which I could now see was a Mercedes thanks much, and seemed to be getting the window open, worked her arm out and began waggling it high in the air, the first two fingers of her left hand sprouting into a V sign. The arm thrust, danced, pirouetted with insane zest until she accelerated out of sight.

I can’t think it was just the candidate stickers. The Cthulhu religious fish? The DUKAT 2016 sticker subscribed “Make Cardassia Great Again”? Grumpy Cat?

Either she was a nutter, or someone I’d like to know. Ships in the night.

Critter Crises

Just before we start, no one was ever anything but fine. Except me. I think I had my last heart palpitations this morning, just thinking about it.

What happened was, about a week ago I asked the Engineer if he would make me just a giant bowl of braised mushrooms for supper, as I frequently do. Normally he does these bad boys (shiitakes and baby portabellas) with a whack of shallots, along with thyme from the front yard and dry vermouth and some garlic, only we were scandalously out of shallots, so he doubled up on the garlic and the whole house smelled like Lucy Westenra’s bedroom. In the end there were more mushrooms than I could eat and I left my bowl on the table while I did the washing-up. And forgot about it.

In the cold dawn I awakened and remembered with horror that garlic (like onions and all their relatives, including lilies) is toxic to cats. And that four of our six had had the run of the first floor all night. And that my dearly beloved Mr. Ferguson is the one who likes to get up on the table.

The Engineer was off to work early so he wasn’t around for me to cling to as I approached the table and saw the mushrooms, with their visible festoon of garlic chunks, nosed about and looking nibbled-on in the ceramic bowl. We had sprinkled them with cheese. The cats love cheese.

Everyone looked okay. I called the vet and asked. They punted and told me to call the Animal Poison Control Center.  Veterinarians who know their toxicology are standing by, they said.

I have dealt with “toxic to cats” before, at least in a mild way. Once, back in my old house when I was married to my Late and Ex, Apricat of blessed memory ate some azalea blossoms. I found him chomping away and seized my veterinary manual, which advised me that azaleas caused nausea and irritation and that I should cause the cat to vomit them up by placing a quarter teaspoon of salt at the back of his tongue. I am a good cat wrangler and had the salt in there faster than Mr. Zip can spit; Apricat, released, took a couple of steps away from me, turned his head back with an expression that clearly said “You swine!”, put his head down and urked a wad of melon-colored blossoms onto the beige carpet.

Here, however, I faced the possibility that the garlic had gone down the hatch anything up to eight hours ago. I tried to add up the number of cloves the Engineer had minced and divide by the poundage of mushrooms corrected for the water they had released.You get the idea. The best the Poison Control people could say is that there was a low risk of a toxic dose and that I should watch all the cats for the next five days for signs of weakness, nausea and locomotor ataxia. (They said wobbly gait, but I was busily looking it up online and reverting to the medical terminology that I find exact.) Garlic damages the red blood cells, so that the liver and spleen can be slammed with busted erythrocytes that overwhelm the normal clearing functions of both organs. It sounded perfectly horrid.

Everyone was okay all that day.

And the next. And the day after that.

And, well, everyone was okay. Either someone pushed the shrooms around and said “Blargh,” or ate some and went off and barfed in a corner which I have yet to find, or it just wasn’t enough garlic to do damage. Back in the day, some people would tell you to worm your cats with garlic. Never tried it, happily.

Anyway, don’t leave garlicky things out where your cats might eat them. And for god’s sake never let them near lilies, which pack enough of the critical chemicals that a little pollen can kill a cat. They smell like rotting ragout anyway.

The Poison Control Center wanted my Visa for more than I would charge for a half hour appointment. The workman is worthy of his hire and I paid it, but some people don’t have that to pay. I wonder what they do.

In other news, hawthorn extract  alleviates heart palpitations. Verb. sap.

 

 

 

Oooookaaayyy

So I was on my way to the gym yesterday and ran into a permutation of a recently occurring pattern of clusterfuck, road work compounded with some construction company excavating on the approach to the main road, and had to detour through some narrow neighborhood streets which are staples of my speedwalk route. One of them is slightly obstructed by a large, ballasted basketball hoop and backboard.

On this occasion, there was someone under the basketball whatsit. Only he did not appear to be practicing his shots. At closer approach, I saw a man easily my age — white-haired, at least what you could see under a ball cap, with a wiry runner’s build, cruising a skateboard in circles around the street beneath the basket and holding at present-arms a hockey stick.

Sorry no photos. I kind of didn’t want to slow down.

Better Living Through Technology

My phones have been screwed for a week. I’m actually starting to enjoy it, even though it obliges me to conduct a daily work-around of checking the Verizon voicemail box to see if anyone’s called the landline. Some days no one leaves a message; most people want to text or e-mail, which I don’t mind. All my clients who might need to connect quickly have been advised. I hate the sound of that damn thing ringing, which it seems to do all day long. As a semi-blind lady I long ago adopted speaking Caller ID, so I don’t have to run over to the phone and squint at a teensy little screen that tells me I am being called by Organizing For America or someone’s campaign committee or the Fraternal Order Of Police, or any one of a hundred charities, causes and scams whose phone-bank representatives will, if I am so foolish as to pick up, address me by my first name with obnoxious familiarity and ask how I am today before trying to shake me down. Now I just get to hear a robot voice tell me these things.

Robot voices are big these days. In fact the only calls I have gotten in two days, on either cell or landline mailbox, are from the Verizon Robot Lady who advises me primly that “you recently called about trouble with your phone line. We believe the problem has been resolved. If your problem is resolved, press 1. If you are still encountering problems, press 2.” Then the mobile phone screen goes blank and I can’t get it back in time to press 2 and the robot lady hangs up on me and calls again later. I am mightily fed up with the sound of her voice and would like to sic Barney the Dinosaur on her, if I could find either one of them.

Every day or so someone tells me that they gave up their land line years ago and don’t miss it yada yada. I get the point, but this number is on business cards that have been floating around for years, and sometimes after a twenty-year gap people have found that card and remembered the great massages they got at Spa Lady back in the day and they call up. Plus, cell phones are no good for talking. My stepmother, Vacuums-With-Snakes, likes to call and chat every so often and I can guarantee you the call will drop twice before we are done because she only uses a cell.

When my dear friend Dorothy died — she had unexpectedly listed me as next of kin — I was left standing in my office with one client leaving and one arriving, waiting for a Fairfax County cop who had found the body in her condo to work his way out of a cellular dead spot so he could utter a complete sentence before being cut off.  That is crap. (I always thought that when people died and the police needed to notify you they actually sent an officer in person, but I guess this is better living through technology. At least they could use a real phone.)

Anyway the first time we could settle on a service call is Saturday, so I can count on a few more days of luscious silence around the house. The text message noise is a polite little triple plink, down a perfect fifth and back up. I can live with this.

George Takei Liked My Tweet

Image result for Allegiance show logoSo I went and saw Allegiance. This is a musical show about the internment of over a hundred thousand Japanese-American citizens and legal immigrants who were forced from their homes by armed soldiers soon after Pearl Harbor, told to take only what they could carry, and confined for four years in camps across the western part of the country. Just the thing to inspire choruses, comic turns, and dance numbers, right?

Right. It worked.

If you have not come across it before, this production, which premiered in 2015 and had a five-month run on Broadway, was the brainchild of George Takei, the onetime Mister Sulu and modern-day social activist who may well be the oldest Twitter addict in existence. (Favorite alltime quote: “Back when I was young, it was illegal for me to marry a white woman, and now I’m married to a white dude.” Bears on the book of the musical. We’ll get back to that.) Takei’s family was one of those taken out of their houses and loaded onto a bus — poignantly, he describes his mother lugging a sewing machine because she was sure they’d need to mend their clothing — and he lived and went to school in the camp till he was nine and the bomb ended the war and everyone got a bus ticket and $25 to go out and start life anew. Yeah. (Real reparations were finally paid during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.)

John Tateishi says the experience was both humiliating and disorienting. “We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country.” He says that after the war most families never spoke about it. “There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way.”

But decades later and inspired by the civil rights movement, the Japanese American Citizens League launched a contentious campaign for redress. It divided the community along generational lines. (Transcript from NPR’s All Things Considered, August 2013)

In Allegiance — not directly based on Takei’s family experience, but on the kinds of experiences that happened all around them — there’s every sort of reaction to the internment, from a determination to prove loyalty by serving in uniform, to explicit refusal to sign loyalty oaths. Some internees keep their heads down; others stage protests. There’s — fairly predictably — romantic attraction between an internee and one of the camp personnel, double jeopardy since even outside the camp they couldn’t have legally married at the time. And a grandfather, played by Takei himself — who also takes the part of the family’s estranged son fifty years on — simply kneels down on the packed soil of mountainous Wyoming and coaxes vegetables out of it. It is worth the whole production to see how much fun Takei had playing slightly dotty old Ojii-san (whose origami skills come in handy when the loyalty questionnaires make their appearance). I was there on Crispin’s Day when all Takei ever got to do on camera was say “Aye aye, Captain” (except for that memorable time he channeled D’Artagnan stripped tastily to the waist), so watching him turn in two disparate and nuanced performances in the same show at the age of nearly eighty was slightly exhilarating.

It’s a musical show, so I expected the broad brush, and historians have lodged their complaints about ratcheting-up of the conflicts between internees and American soldiers, while I squirmed over a too-contrived fatal accident. And no one is ever going to nominate the fairly bland and derivative score for a Tony (though I’m still shivering over the Japanese-language chorus that arises from a stage foxed with light and dark at the moment the war is finally ended). But the music occasionally flashed — at the moments when irony and bitterness were uppermost, the breath of Kurt Weill animated the score:

Allegiance isn’t generally available yet, though this was a high quality recording of a live performance. My guess, they are hoping to see if it can be revived or go on the road before they make it too easy for someone to buy a video. I only knew it was going to be in the theater for one afternoon because I follow Takei and his Twitter feed alerted me that show was being rebroadcast on the anniversary of the Presidential order that established the camps, now observed as a day of remembrance. (When I tweeted back “got our tickets!” a little heart promptly appeared on my timeline: “George Takei liked your Tweet.” I’ll never wash my smartphone again.)

It was more than remembrance; it was a touch of verb. sap. People can fight and shed blood for their country, while others dig in their heels and resist when they see their country doing the wrong thing, can differ so much about what’s right that they go through life without ever speaking again, and they can all still be loyal Americans. I hope we can keep that in mind going forward.*

_________________________

*It occurred to me while clocking mileage that I ought to clarify that last. I am not referring to people who “differ” because they somehow have a problem with inclusiveness, fairness, due process under law, and other forms of common decency, some of them enshrined in the Constitution, some of them now matters of law. America at its best has always aspired to fairness and fraternity, even if it has taken a long time to realize even part of that ambition. I have yet to decide what to call people who, rather than argue about how best to defend them, actually scorn the ideals embedded in the Bill Of Rights, while waving American flags. 😦

 

Penguin Woman Redux

I think I’ve gotten rid of her now. Jeezus, I hope so.

It was simply the Week Of Flakes. Last Monday, the intermittent client wished on me by one of the personal trainers at my gym, who comes dressed as if going to a dinner party in the year 1953, complete with jewelry, stack heels, and matte lipstick, and commits a heaving inhale and forceful sigh about every ninety seconds while on the table; then Penguin Woman with her car blocking my driveway and her gabbling incoherent explanations; then an unexpected call from an old client who moved out of the area but got sent here for work this week and did I have a spot? Which is okay, but I belatedly remembered that this is the person who usually shows up late, takes an inordinate amount of time to undress and get on the table, an even longer time to dress again — I’m talking fifteen or twenty minutes to put on a tee shirt and a pair of slacks — and doesn’t know how to leave. I instructed the Engineer to produce cooking smells on the stroke of the clock that I expected to finish the session.

Just before Dilatory Former Client was due, there was a rap on the door and there stood Penguin Woman, now attired in street clothes that made her resemble Tweedledum or Tweedledee. “I just wanted to explain what happened this morning,” she said.

Ah. That would be Wednesday morning actually. It was now Friday.

She gabbled some more about how the car died and she didn’t know what to do and wanted me to realize it wasn’t like she was some drunk who had run up on the sidewalk. At this point, I did not care. I wanted her the fuck off my porch. She continued to ramble on about how the couple across the street had called her up on seeing her car aground there; possibly this was meant to tweak me for not recognizing the vehicle, though a note on my door would have worked wonders, I have to say. This is why I do not socialize with neighbors. Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap. That includes interactions with other humans. At least even my flakiest clients are paying me for the time I spend pretending that their screwy behaviors are normal, a transaction I am prepared to honor. This was just taking away minutes I would never get back.

“It’s okay, I’m glad you’re okay and the car’s okay, everything’s okay,” I kept repeating, wondering if I was going to have to bodily eject her from the enclosure. I noticed that she had parked the car facing the wrong way at the curb.

I think I’ve hit my quota for the year. Any  more of this shows up, I’m sending it back.

The Return Of Penguin Woman

“Well that’s fucked,” I said blearily as I opened the front window blinds. “What is?” answered the Engineer, who was walking around the top floor in a pair of workaday khakis and nothing else, kind of rocking the furry barbarian look.

“There is a black sedan obliquely athwart the end of the driveway with its front wheels halfway up on the curb,” I explained. I’m sorry, I actually do talk like that, even first thing in the morning.

We both went out front to look. The hood was cold and no one was inside. “Looks like someone hit the curb, decided they were too drunk to go any further, and bailed,” the Engineer opined.

I hate calling the cops on people for this kind of thing — I have a keen decades-old memory of parking across the end of someone’s drive on a visit to a new friend because, with no car parked there, I genuinely couldn’t see it in the snow — but then, my clients have to park somewhere and the driveway was entirely blocked in. Presently a stocky, amiable, bespectacled guy with a strong Hispanic accent turned up in a county car and ran the plates, to see if the car belonged to someone nearby. I admit that, going on the Engineer’s scenario, I was thinking more along the lines of Julio’s Repose and wondering if I should suggest a search of my property, but it is damn cold for someone to be crashing in the bushes this time of year.

Presently the avuncular parking guy came back to knock on my door. Trailing him was the Penguin Woman of my porch-zoning adventures, who lives three doors down, so called because of her singular observation, when I sought the easement, that she was fine with me building a porch or putting fucking penguins in my yard or whatever I wanted. Probably I pass the butt end of that car every day that I go clock a few miles, but how many black sedans are there in the world? Half asleep, with exploded, brassy-blond hair, bare feet, blowzy and faintly flushed, wearing a long black nightgown with a lacy bib, she looked as if one of the staff at Downton Abbey had been roused from bed because the mistress was ill or a Minister of Something had paid a midnight visit. Somewhat incoherently, she apologized and launched into a disjointed narrative of the electronics had gone out so she couldn’t even get in to the car and she had been coming from the hospital and she had been so upset because what if someone wanted to get out and she was going to call a tow truck.

I don’t know why she didn’t just leave a note with her number on my door before repairing to her residence, but then my previous encounter with this lady was equally incoherent and also featured remarks about being just back from the hospital. I think she has poorly controlled asthma. I really wanted to know how the car came to be cattywumpus across my driveway in the first place, three houses on from her own driveway if she had been coming from the west, and one-eighty from the direction it would have been headed if she had been coming from the east, but I thought that prolonging the conversation was a bad idea.

The Engineer took the subway to work and left me his car, which was fortuitously parked at the curb.

The penguin’s still out there. I doubt she noticed it.