A Conversation I Overheard

Captain: “What are you wearing?”

Eggi: “Dunno what it’s called. I’ve got the girl flu.”

Captain: “The what?”

Eggi: “The curse.”

Captain: “That sounds bad.”

Eggi: “You know, Aunt Flo.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Come on, Red tide.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Shark week.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Code red.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “On the rag.”

Captain: “…er…”

Eggi: “Ladies’ week.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Red army.”

Captain: “Red army?!”

Eggi: “Time of the month.”

Captain: “…uh?”

Eggi: “La semaine ketchup.”

Captain: “Ketchup? I like ketchup.”

Eggi: “Surfing the crimson wave?”

Captain: “Are we going swimming? I love swimming!”

Eggi: “No, no…like a visit from my relative from Rotenburg.”

Captain: “Is it someone I know?”

Eggi: “Le petit clown qui saigne du nez?”

Captain: “Ooh, ooh! Clowns! I love clowns!”

Eggi: “Oh come on. Checking into the Red Roof Inn?”

Captain: “…”

Eggi: “Oh, look, a squirrel!”

 

 

Mud Mask

This shit started when this friend I’ll call W was coming to visit with their new SO. The last time we saw W, they were at the end of a relationship, and it was rocky and bad;  words were exchanged, disappointments voiced, phone calls avoided and emails unreturned. Breakups are ugly, I get it, but seriously, people, you know the rest of us can see you? 

So ok W was coming and bringing the new SO and we were getting floors vacuumed and the sheets changed when W texted me to say the new SO was sick and they weren’t coming after all. Which meant we could stop vacuuming. Which was, despite the disappointment, sorta ok. We had agreed to take care of The Graduate’s GF’s fuzzy little dog for the weekend. He’d be our houseguest. Something else to do.

GqFHGW58TSu0aDUz2z34uAI was out in the yard with all the dogs when I got a text from my brother asking about an article that the Search Engine Monopoly suggested to him, written by J, one of my internet friends. My brother was like don’t you know this person and I was all sure that’s J. Is that a real friend my brother asked and I did not hesitate to say yes. 

I never like set out to have internet friends. I had them before I realized, really. When I moved from Seattle I felt disconnected from most of the people I saw every day. It was like we were dead to them. Of course, no one warned me. I just set off on my adventure with all my family, pets, and possessions, and no one wondered whatever happened to us. And that first year, we lived in North Dreadful, which had its downs and downers. And then we lived in the city, and there was a hurricane. But somewhere in there I made a Twitter for my cat, and ended up with some pocket friends.

J was one of the first people I talked to regularly on Twitter. Back in 2012, he caught me at peak cussing-on-the-internet, and RTed me as @HamsterRelish “what kind of twat says “va-jay-jay?” it’s VAGINA.” We go way back. 

I talk to J on three platforms, I told my brother. I’m looking forward to having lunch with him. (Not because we had plans to have lunch, but because I always imagined I would have a reason to go to J-ville and we would have lunch. Maybe get a mani-pedi. You know, friend things.)

But then standing in the yard watching three dogs run around I got to thinking about J and wondered why I hadn’t seen a post in about a week, which was unusual given that we were connected on three platforms.

And it was a Facebook post, to J’s wall, from J’s longtime SO, that said something about J being gone and that sure as shit didn’t make any sense.

So I looked up J’s mother. And she had a post saying that J’s last words were “Just love each other.” 

J could tell me which peanut butter cookie recipe to use and follow it up with a hilarious 80s song reference. J wrote beautifully about being a therapist, and had a plush vagina pillow on the couch at work. J encouraged my revolting and fanciful ideas about cat-milk-cheese. J tried on all the funny hats at Target. J could take down a Twitter troll and make them cry uncle. J called bullshit on homophobia, on racism, on sexism. J knew what Bundt cakes to make. J had names and numbers for mental health specialists. J took selfies with a mud mask on his face. J knew more about suicide than anyone I know. J knew when people’s husband’s employers were in the news and that not all news that seemed good actually is good. J knew how to DM me on three platforms, and did.

Your internet friends are pocket friends. They live in your phone. They know your pet peeves and your enthusiasms. They are real friends you see all the time. They go everywhere with you.

So where the fuck was J.

I checked all three platforms.

It didn’t make any sense. He was just there the other day, when the truck full of axe body spray exploded in Texas. When he walked his dog. 

I’ve had other friends disappear on social media. Sometimes they come back with another name. Sometimes they don’t. I’ve even had an acquaintance in Australia die. But this.

I hearted the posts from his SO and his mother.

And within minutes the algorithm was showing the posts to our mutual friends. And by the end of the day I was juggling DMs from mutual friends on three platforms. 

What happened.

Are you ok.

I am ok. Are you ok. I am gutted. I don’t understand. No, me either.

Luckily, in my weird little privileged world, there are always dogs to walk and horses to ride, and I kept going. Horses demanded my attention. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I was a little out of it, and had to tell my horse trainer, but we got to work, because I had regionals to prepare for. My new horse and I qualified for the championships, ok sure only at training level but it was coming up. An important horse show seems stupid and strange when you’re upset about someone who died, but also good and simple and true. We worked to get there. We were ready.

But then right after I’d left the barn my mare spooked and got a big cut on her hip. The barn manager texted me right away. She called for the vet and sent me a photo. It looked like a clean slice. Not too deep.

We got home and headed out to walk the dogs. Eggi was too excited for words and kept licking my face and bumping into Captain. The Houseguest looked fuzzily nonplussed, but I fitted him with his little blue collar and leash. I handed the Houseguest’s leash to the Bacon Provider, and took our two dogs myself. We were doing the short loop, through the woods. We were about a half-mile from home when I heard the Bacon Provider make a sort of hiccuping noise. I turned around to see him holding a leash, attached to a little blue  collar, buckled into a neat round loop with no fuzzy dog in it. The Houseguest was booking it back down the trail towards our house. Now the Bacon Provider is not accustomed to fuck-ups, and takes things v seriously, and he took off running after the fuzzy little punk, despite my attempts to explain that he really should not chase the dog. DON’T I shouted CHASE HIM to the empty woods.

Then I was alone in the woods with my two dogs, and my phone rang and it was the vet. She had sewn up the hole in the horse. I asked about the upcoming show. “Well,” said the vet, “if it were on her leg, I’d say no. and if it were on her face I’d say no problem. You should stick to light work for the next few days and we’ll see.”

Sticking to light work.

What happened. 

Horses are stupid.

But what happened.

There was a guy, fixing a thing, with a power tool. It made a noise. The horse scooted.

Is she ok.

She’ll be ok. 

Don’t you have a show coming up.

Back at the house, the Bacon Provider and the Houseguest looked like nothing had happened. I thought about posting something about how naughty the Houseguest was on one or three platforms but thought his owner might be sad to learn he was being a pain while she was away.  

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A couple days passed and the Bacon Provider left for a business trip. My horse and I stuck to light work. By Tuesday it was clear the stitches were holding nicely. But the stitches are right on her hip, and if she stood the wrong way on the trailer ride she might open it again. I made the decision to keep my horse home from the show. Even though it was the championships. Even though we worked so hard to get there. Even though.

I got a text from my husband sitting on his plane where he saw W’s ex who boarded after he did. Had W and the new SO made it for the weekend, they would have very likely all run into each other at the airport. JFC people the rest of us can see you. Be good to each other, even if you have to let someone go.

I walked all three dogs by myself.

I got in bed early and put a mud mask on my stupid sad face.

I got a text around 10 from my neighbor. She was away and the person who was supposed to do barn check hadn’t. Could I go over and throw the horses a flake of hay? Of course I could. I washed off the mud mask. Real life friends and neighbors are important. I went in my pajamas. Her horses were fine.

But

Dammit 

I miss you, J.

Little E at the Big E

When Cherry died in late November, we were still in the middle of remodeling our house. Captain was pretty lonely, but my plan was to get a puppy the following summer, after we would be you know airquotes-finished. But kitchens and bathrooms take frickin forever, and in March when a third person told me I had to go see S about a vizsla puppy, I did. 

I didn’t say yes, definitely on that day; I waited for the Bacon Provider to have the same experience lifting a perfect ten week old out of the puppy pen and snugging the little squirmulator because why waste words telling him about it? The litter was born between Xmas and New Years, and they were all named for toasts, so we named ours Egészségedre (Hungarian for Cheers!), and we call her Eggi.

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We’ve owned vizslas since 1992, but never shown one. Eggi looks exactly as I think a vizsla should, and is happy and eager and clever as clever and somehow because of these things it seemed reasonable and not ridiculous to show her. In addition to puppy class, Eggi and I did a few weeks of practicing dog show skills with a trainer (stopping and standing instead of sitting, trotting, being stacked, letting a person peel back her lips to show her teeth). Eggi thought it was fine, if a little boring compared to agility. I tripped over my own feet.

We went up to Massachusetts on a Thursday night on account of the early start at her first dog show on the next day. Eggi is a bit awkward about getting into the car, but once she’s in her kennel, she is a good traveller. Through the creepy intensity of dark Connecticut and late-night Massachusetts, we listened to Jack London’s White Fang. At the hotel, the hallway smelled of bleach. A solitary woman in the gym next to our room walked quietly on the treadmill until the midnight closing time. I gave Eggi a bath in the hotel tub.

Staying in a hotel with a young, reactive dog, you sneak in and out, peering into the hall and checking both ways before you leave your room.  It’s not because the dog isn’t allowed but because you don’t know what weirdness you’re going to run into. It could be another dog. It could be the housekeeping cart. It could be people with a lot of luggage. All of these things are frightening and/or exciting to an almost-8-month-old dog. The worst encounter we had was in the hall outside our room as we were coming in; someone’s tall, beefy nephew had the airquotes-hilarious idea of pretending to be very, very afraid of my dog. He shrieked and waved his hands in agitation above his head. Someone’s uncle needs to explain to this guy why he shouldn’t do this, to any dog, ever again. Not me, though. I gotta get up early.

West Springfield, Massachusetts has a giant fairgrounds surrounded by chainlink and barbed wire, called like the Great Enormous Northern American States Super Exposition Center or some-such-something, but anyway folks call it the Big E. You pay five dollars to go in, and then you drive all over the acres of pavement around many huge barns, past the midway, over on the other side of the apparently actual New England town this thing grew up around, and then circumnavigate seven huge buildings, each bigger than the last, looking for the Country Life Pavilion, or the Better Living Complex, or some such building. It was flanked by a several rows of RVs.

I looked for dogs, and Door Number 7.

I was instructed to arrive at 7:15, and I made it, despite my circuitous route inside the Big E. I parked and walked Eggi around for about 15 minutes, begging her to pee.  She would prefer not to.

Inside, it’s as big an indoor space as they make and had eight show rings surrounded by row upon row of dog crates and grooming tables.  It had the noisy quality of something big happening a block away, but you couldn’t hear anyone until they were right next to you.

Our handler T was easy enough to find (she saw me and waved wildly). I was told to go sit by the ring and wait. I got myself a large coffee and found a bench.

At 8 am, they played the national anthem. Folks turned and faced the American flag painted on the wall above the snack bar. I held my coffee in my hand. I watched one guy with his hand on his heart try to make eye-contact with another man so he’d see his take-off-your-hat-you-disrespectful-goon gesture. 

I wanted to yell play ball afterwards but I didn’t. I sat back down.

Tell folks you’re going to a dog show and they’ll say how much they loved that movie. You know the one. Yeah, yeah, the busy bee. The only people who don’t wanna tell you all about their favorite scene are the people who actually go to dog shows; I’ve never heard them talk about that movie.

Right away the handlers started bringing the vizslas that had gathered into the ring, and doing the trotting, and the stacking, and the bite-revealing thing I had tried to learn. In other rings there were other people with other kinds of dogs like beagles and French bulldogs, and spaniels and boxers and mastiffs. All the flavors of dogs. The people consisted of the judges and handlers all dressed in business attire, and a few straggling owners, some of whom looked like they just rolled out of their Winnebago in the sweats they slept in.

Each little group of competing dogs was in and out quickly, and the winners chosen rapidly. I kept my opinions about which vizslas I liked to myself. Some of the handlers were fun to watch because they moved well. The dogs lined up, the dogs trotting alone. The judge running her hands over a dog. The dogs trotting in a group. The judge pointing at one dog, and then another. You could look away and miss it. They go out, and the winning dogs come back in to compete with other winners.

Just like that movie.

Anyway, after some dogs there was Eggi’s group.

She is still a puppy and she was pretty wiggly but T made her look elegant and spirited instead of goofy and wild and of course I beamed at her and clapped when she won. Because of course she won!

Then T had to rush to another ring to go show some other kind of dog and she handed Eggi off to another handler who showed her in the next group and I guess she won again and then T came back and showed her a third time and I really don’t know what happened other than we came out with three ribbons and a lot of people being very excited.

“Do you know what she won?” T asked.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“Best of Winners for a major.” 

Dog shows are pretty stinking fun when you win. The handler even gets to take a picture with the dog and the judge. It’s validation that your dog, who is the best dog in the entire world, is known and admired for being the best.

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After that you go back to the hotel and have a nap.

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Dog shows are weird and boring when you don’t win. Some other dog who is not nearly as adorable or good as your own dog gets the blue ribbon from the judge the next day, and you go home feeling like you drove two hours to the casino and lost everything on a bad bet in the first five minutes. Fortunately, on the days that Eggi didn’t win, her sister did extremely well, so we can keep hoping about next time. 

Thursday Schooling

 

I arrive at the horse show in Vermont just before the horses do. It is raining vigorously. There are just two client horses coming with the commercial shipper, and I watch from inside the barn as they are unloaded. I lend a hand stretching a tarp over our hay. I step in to help carry a big box of tack.  I unwrap my horse’s legs.  The show groom tells me where I can find scissors to cut the twine that holds a bale of hay and asks me to give a couple of horses a flake each. She also confides that this is her last show with our barn because she is giving notice on Monday and moving to a new job. I don’t want it to be true, so I quickly decide I must have misunderstood her. I want to wait for my trainer to show up with his horses before I get on, but I can lunge. Gidget stands quietly for a quick grooming and I walk her to the lungeing ring.  

She reacts to the new place, giving the rain-gorged creek her most crooked parrot-eye, answering the whinny of another horse, letting a passing tractor blow the wind up her skirt. The show facility has a new lungeing area, shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. I’m clumsy with the gate latch. I walk Gidget into the center of the lungeing ring, into the bend in the bean, and stop her to adjust the side reins, which are new, so I’m guessing at what hole they should be on. I remember to walk with her in a large circle, showing her the situation counterclockwise and then clockwise. Gidget settles into working on a circle, trotting and then cantering, with me in the center. A big truck blasts by on Route 106, and my mare celebrates with a buck and a fart and a surge of galloping with her tail straight up. I hold on. I get her back to trotting, and then ask her to walk. I stop her and adjust the side reins again and take Gidget over to the other side of the ring shaped like a rectangle on three sides and a bean on the fourth,  making room for our trainer who has arrived with his horse.

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Didn’t it rain?

A friendly staff member of the facility comes and asks how the new footing is. We tell him it’s good. He explains how the lungeing area ended up shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. We both finish and go back to our barn to take off the side reins. 

We get on and ride into one of the show rings, because this is what everyone does on arrival day at a show. The same friendly staff member comes, shouting and shaking his fist at us, saying that the ring isn’t open, and we’re gonna ruin the footing, what with the rain. I go tour the property instead, letting my horse see everything I can. She snorts like a crocodile at the dairy cows at the farm across the street. When it’s time to put the horses away, I think about when the friendly staff member had almost finished the new lungeing ring and had three straight sides of fencing up and someone came along and told him that people want a curved shape for lungeing. I wish I could picture him farting and running or snorting like a crocodile, but I can only see him raising his eyebrows or shaking his fist.

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I think Vermont is still one of those places that we’re supposed to write poems about. You’ve got time to, if you live there, because mobile phone coverage is spotty at best, and high speed internet is a rare and prized luxury.  I lived there in the eighties, before I cared about the internet and I still wrote poems regularly. My poems were about the biting black flies in the mountains and the crabby yankees who were my neighbors in the city and no one ever read them. Then I got a paying job, and threw myself at adulthood, and (mostly) stopped writing (but especially poems).

Gidget marched around the show ring six times over the next few days, and by the last trip had mostly gotten over the creek, and the tractors, and the too-fast trucks. The cows will still be there next year. I did not misunderstand the show groom, and I will miss her.

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Every Book I finished in 2017, in order

This year I had a goal to read books by female authors. I read 58 different books, including 29 novels and 17 memoirs; I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. There are many books on this list I would recommend and there is exactly one book on this list that I hated and struggled to finish.  Looking back on this list, I see that 18 of this year’s books had death as a primary theme, including the stand-out, “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs. If you have the courage to read a book written by a woman who is dying from cancer, give it a go. It was one of the highlights of my list. 

January

Hannah Arendt’s classic, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson

Kate DiCamillo’s “The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses”

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Issa Rae’s “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”

Magda Szabó’s exquisite novel “The Door”

February 

Blair Braverman’s “Welcome to the Goddam Ice Cube”

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

March

Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Sons”

bell hooks’s “Bone Black”

“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See

“The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

“The Story of My Teeth” by Valeria Luiselli

“The Conservationist” by Nadine Gordimer

“Down City” by Leah Carroll

“Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones

“Word by Word” by Kory Stamper

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

“Working Stiff” by  Judy Melinik MD and TJ Mitchell

“The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold

April

“West with the Night” by Beryl Markham

“West with the Night” by Beryl Markham (yes, twice in a row)

Joy Fielding’s “She’s Not There”

Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”

“Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout” by Laura Jane Grace

May

Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”

Anita Brookner’s “Rules of Engagement”

Madeleine Eagle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

Chrissie Hynde’s “Reckless: My Life as a Pretender”

“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Sarah Hepola’s “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget”

June

“The Problem with Forever” by Jennifer L. Armentrout

TIna Fey’s “Bossypants”

“The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir” by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

CaKjOBGzREii8j6tNYXPLgJuly

Janet Benton’s “Lilli De Jong”

“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson

“The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffnegger

August

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot

Joan Aiken’s “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase”

“Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution,” by Ji-li Jiang

“An Unsuitable Job for a Woman,” by P.D. James

“Cover Her Face,” by P.D. James

September

“The Skull Beneath the Skin” by P.D. James

“We Were Feminists Once” by Andi Zeisler

“News of the World” by Paulette Jiles

“Shrill” by Lindy West

October

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “What Happened”

Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer’s excellent memoir “The Farm in the Green Mountains”

November

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor

“Never Caught: the Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

December

“The Children of Men,” by P.D. James

“Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest” by Zeynep Tufekci

“You & a Bike & a Road” by Eleanor Davis

Myriam Gurba’s “Mean”

My goal for 2018 is to keep reading books by women. 

My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

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Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

A shit-show

What I saw: the physician’s assistant handed me a stack of pages of pre-operative instructions, including a page of “Helpful Items,” with pictures of crutches and canes and walkers and wheelchairs (things that no one ever thinks they’re going to need) and said, “You will want a knee-scooter.” It had been hurriedly circled in ball-point pen. I did not want it. She went on, “You can rent them, but…,” she said, glancing at my feet, “If you’re going to have to get both feet done, you’re probably better off just buying one.”

IMG_3932What I did beforehand: I avoid shopping with the Massive Online Retail Monopoly, but they have all the things and also all the reviews. You simply must read the reviews of these knee scooters or you might end up with the wrong one.  As for me, I had to read the reviews of the wrong scooter after I had found the right one to figure out that I was actually wrong. I had to get the child-sized scooter, because the manufacturer makes a “regular” sized scooter for people who are larger than the average size woman.

I got the one with the three wheels (instead of four) in the hopes of not hitting myself constantly in the ankle of my “good” foot. And I got the one with the bigger, 9” tires in the hopes of not wiping out thanks to a pea-sized bit of gravel on my driveway, or succumbing to the enormous thresholds of the doorways in Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum. It came in a big box that arrived via drone only three minutes after I ordered it, and I had to put it together with the shiny, enclosed tools. It came with lots of written instructions, stern warnings about not backing up, and even has a training wheel, to put on the side opposite your good foot, for people with stability issues. I had the Bacon Provider adjust the brakes and finish the tire inflation. We took turns riding on it before my foot surgery, to see how it cornered (not especially well), to see how fast it could go (not especially fast), and to see how it stopped (well enough). It sat in the corner of the dining room like a vague threat until the surgery.

What I wore: the wrong pajamas.

Who went with me: I have to back up a little and say that Cherry turned 15 this summer and is now completely deaf. When she was a younger dog, she knew a good number of useful commands like sit, come, stay, down, don’t touch, and take it. I even taught her hand signals for sit, stay and down because I always thought that’s what good dog owners did to prepare for the day when their dog could no longer hear. Cherry’s hearing seemed to vanish suddenly and completely about two years ago, but in retrospect it was probably failing for a while and she masked the loss by continuing to seem obedient by making educated guesses about what she was supposed to do. Those educated guesses were her forte from a young age, and it was why I was able to get her to climb on top of things like big rocks or tree stumps for pictures. We are unprepared for her diminished vision, though. You cannot call a deaf dog. And you can wave all you want to a dog who can’t see, but she’s not coming to you except by luck.

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How I got tickets to the shit-show: Cherry seems to be able sometimes to see a waving hand about 6 feet away. She gets up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the yard with a great, clumsy leap. Sometimes Cherry wanders around the kitchen looking for people to stand next to, which is sweet but kind of annoying when you’re cooking. When she rises from her dog bed and starts wandering around the kitchen, then we wave our hands to try to shoo her out the door. She makes her leap off the stairs having no better plan. Some mornings we get up and she’s had more than one accident in the kitchen. The sting of frustration about this is dwindling as she becomes more and more frail.

Why I saw this show: so, the Bacon Provider had to do a webinar one morning, just a couple of days after my foot surgery. I was still unable to put any weight on the bad foot, spending most of my days with it elevated in bed, and taking pain meds.  I said derisive, colorful things about the word “webinar,” and some insightful things about capitalism. Only the cat heard me. He agreed, I think.

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Pretending to listen

Things that were not funny: before you need your knee scooter you can tool around your dining room, but it will never prepare you for the horror of a bathmat, a narrow bathroom, a pile of laundry, or a pair of shoes in your way. You can’t pick them up. You can’t go over them. You can’t go around them. The turning-radius a knee scooter is one half to two feet to large for most of this 80s museum. Also, you will come close to falling for surprising reasons, like missing the pad where you’re supposed to kneel, or smashing yourself in the good ankle, or the unexpected shoe (and it’s never your shoe, because all you need now is one sad shoe for your right foot, a sacrificial shoe, chosen to get extra, uneven wear and be forever associated with the dark days of recovery from surgery).

What it is: somehow, thanks to the webinar, I got stuck with feeding the dogs breakfast.

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Clearly on pain meds

Things that were sad: there were dog blankets all over the kitchen floor. People in my family cover the dogs with blankets when they sleep. Yes, this is ridiculous, but Cherry gets cold. But also, she is a dog, and being a dog, she wakes up and gets a drink and the blankets come sliding off and get dragged across the floor and left there when she goes back to her bed.

Who should watch their step: of course, Cherry is no longer really very housebroken so sometimes she gets up to go on the floor and other times she just poops in her sleep.

Things that were funny: so when I scootered across the kitchen to get a can of dog food and there was a dog blanket on the floor and I tried to back up, bend over, and pick it up, I was showered with dog-poo nuggets. And I don’t know if I was like, trying to nugget-dodge or maybe bounce them away from me like they were dog-poo-hacky-sacks, but I wobbled. Cherry, who was hungry, which was the whole reason I was trying to do things in the kitchen at all, was right up against me, keeping track of me the only way she can anymore.

Where I sat: so when I started to fall, I also hit the old dog, who also fell. No one was hurt, though the scooter and I were kind of tangled up and the poo nuggets were involved. Cherry wasn’t so much hurt as she was startled, and so she kind of had the shit scared out of her. The exertion of trying to get back up made her poop some more, and because she and I fell together, now she was pretty much just pooping on me. I’ve had dogs for about 25 years, but I think that was the first time I was pooped on directly by one.

When that was over, I righted the scooter and tried to stand. My pajama pants (these being the sub-optimal pajamas and not one of the two pairs of optimal, post-operative lounge-wear) got caught on one of the bigger, 9” tires of my five-star-reviewed knee scooter as I was trying to stand up so I fell again.

Where I sat on the way home: so I had to crawl around picking up the poo-nuggets, take off my clothes, wash my good foot, and still feed the dogs, and when I was done I had so much leftover angry energy I hauled the vacuum cleaner out, and took out the trash. I can’t say why exactly I sat down on the floor of the garage while I was taking out the trash, but I did. It was cold, and quite gritty, but not nearly as bad as falling in dog shit.