Proof of Life

I had better luck today! I didn’t get as close as I would have liked because I didn’t want to scare him into the basement again. I feel confident that it is my same old owl because he has the same asymmetrical left “ear” tuft.

It’s weird, but it really hurt my feelings when he hid from me the other day. It was a flashback to those early tween years when you realize that life isn’t like the movies; your crush doesn’t always (or ever) crush back. That’s the “crushing” part.

I guess that’s why I love dogs so much.

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He’s Back! (And so am I)

I took a hiatus from blogging for a bit. I’ve been traveling for work and for fun and it’s been difficult to write. I’m home for the foreseeable future, however. So here’s to getting back into the routine!

More importantly, Owlbertson is back! I saw him in his tree a few days ago! I stopped to get a photo of him to post here, but as soon as I got out of my car he jumped down into the hole he likes to perch in and disappeared. So maybe that’s why I haven’t seen him in such a long time; it turns out he has a basement!

So, no photo. Sorry about that. Instead, here is a description of a conversation I had last night with a ten-year-old.

I went to see the Avett Brothers with some friends.  They were playing at this huge venue here in Utah called USANA, which is far away from downtown Salt Lake City, near the foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains. My friends each brought one of their children, which was fun. It also made us behave a little better than we sometimes do when we go to see live music when we are completely off Mom duty.

It was between sets and I suddenly smelled a cloud of marijuana funk wafting over from nearby. I could see on the kids faces that they registered the stink, and for some reason I decided to tell a fib about it. Maybe to protect their innocence just a little longer.

“Oh no,” I said. “Smells like there’s a skunk!”

“Yeah,” said the ten-year-old girl. “But where could it be?” looking around at all the people and wondering how a skunk could possibly be mingling among us without a mass freak-out.

I pointed toward the mountains just beyond the stadium. “Out there, somewhere, I guess.”

“Huh,” she said. “Must be. But the funny thing is, I went to a country music concert a few months ago, and there was a skunk there, too!”

“That is a coincidence!” I said.

It’s a lot harder to protect kids from the “skunks” of the world now that it was when I was growing up. Then again, I grew up in Utah County, the capitol of Mormondom, in the 80s, and we truly did have more skunks than joints. *Sigh.* It was a simpler time.

 

Dark Wings, Dark Words

Things that have been getting me down, in order of least importance to most importance:

1.) It has been raining a lot.  Like, A LOT.

2.) Game of Thrones is over.

3.) I haven’t seen Owlbertson in weeks and I’m starting to accept that something has happened to him.

Yes, I know. We need the rain. Shows come to an end. And it is never a good idea to name a wild animal. One must accept these physical laws or face certain heartbreak. But… still.

I have one of those constitutions that is susceptible to influence of dark weather. The winter ended some time ago and tomorrow is the first day of June, which I consider “real summer,” not just the technical summer that starts after the equinox. And yet, you wouldn’t know it.  Here is a photo I took of a parking lot a few days ago:

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I’m not kidding.  Those ducks are floating in parking spaces. It’s been intense. And I live in a desert, so… not what I signed up for. But I heard a report on NPR yesterday that our reservoirs are full for the first time in years and that’s good for both urban and wild ecosystems, and so I’m dealing.

As for the Game of Thrones thing,  I won’t give spoilers or bore you with my assessment. There is nothing original left to say. And it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Let’s say that I loved the last season and the finale, and it gave me everything I was hoping for. It’s still a bummer.  Remember the last time you turned a page on the last Harry Potter novel and you knew that was it? There was no more? It’s like that. There are no new twists or reveals coming from that world; it’s done. And I’m mourning it like the loss of a long followed but never known personally celebrity. You didn’t care about me, but I cared about you, and I’m sad that you are gone.

The owl is a completely different matter.  The owl is someone that I knew personally, if not intimately. In fact, I’m pretty sure he or she didn’t like me very much. But once I spotted that owl the first time about a year ago, I became obsessed.  It was the highlight of my walks and I looked for it every time I went passed that tree. It was so exotic and amazing to be able to see an owl in the light of day! And it was something that I looked forward to during the sometimes very lonely hours of working from home.

It is fortunate, therefore, that – after many years – I was sent in to my company’s headquarters in New Jersey for a few days this month. I had a chance to interact with my real co-workers face to face and I underestimated just how much I miss that, working from home. I was delighted to see that, coincidentally, my coworkers have their own wild companions attached to their wing of the corporate office.  They call it the raven’s nest.

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This is the story that I heard while I was visiting.

Our company’s CEO, who doesn’t have a name (weird, right?), but let’s call him Maximilian Von Richypants for the story, also has an office in this building. One day, he came to work after months of jet-setting and big-deal-making, and discovered that two besotted ravens had begun to build their honeymoon home outside the window of his office.  The nest is one thing… the poop which accompany’s it is quite another. There is also a considerable amount of noise. Maximilian snapped his fingers and a butler in a tuxedo appeared (I don’t actually know what happens at my company). The butler was instructed to “deal vis zees birts!” (My CEO is actually not a German commandant.) The butler clapped his hands twice, causing a flurry of activity, and then used the pristine white cloth draped over his arm to blot the sweat of Maximilian’s brow, telling him that everything would be alright, “sir.”

Some version of this happened. Then, the following Monday, my lowly co-workers came to work to discover that the birds, reacting to the destruction of their nest, had decided to rebuild on the other side of the building.  They rebuilt quickly and soon there were eggs.  I had heard about the ravens and the “baby watch” on a few of our conference calls. There was quite a celebratory mood on the line when the two hatch-lings made their first appearance. Any yet, seeing it for myself was special.

By the time I arrived the “babies” were four weeks old and indistinguishable from the parents, each of which was larger than my Yorkshire terrier. Ravens are quite intelligent and one of my coworkers demonstrated this by tapping on the glass, spurring the “baby” (seen above) to tap back in imitation.

In fairness to my CEO, the poop streaks are no small distraction. And there is more than just poop. You can make out parts of rats and mice, for instance. There is nothing sterile about it. And in pharmaceuticals, sterile is the name of the game. Imagine having the owner of a startup company over to your office to discuss a buyout and having that mess behind you while you try to convince her that her brain child and labor of decades of love will be in good hands here.  There’s comedy value there, but it’s not very practical in this world.

Except imagine the delightful Forbes article about the CEO who actually loves science and biology, to the extent of keeping a rookery outside his office! I would read the shit out of that.

I went for a walk in the park yesterday and enjoyed a few minutes with the new Canada goslings. They are ridiculously cute.

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I hope that Owlbertson migrated or found a better tree without a mega-fan watching his every move. But it is good to be reminded that life goes on. The rain gives life and there is also death, and it is all they way that it is supposed to be.  I’ll find new wonders in my environment and remember the importance of keeping those human connections alive, also.

Now, let us all join hands and sing “The Circle of Life” together.

Allergy Season?

I had a tough time of it last week. Each morning I woke up feeling like a forced recipient of collagen injections. But it wasn’t just my swollen lips. The inside of my mouth was raw and itchy. Brushing my teeth was agony, and I skipped it a few mornings, thanking The Universe for the fact I work at home.

This was Monday:

As luck would have it, I had just started this online diet thing and I made a lot of little changes in my diet over the past month. Trying to pinpoint exactly which one was causing the problem was tricky. I tried to revert back to my old diet without returning to ALL the calories, but by Wednesday my face was swollen, too.

I was miserable. My sister reminded me of the time this happened when I was a kid. That time, the culprit was Sunny Delight. I pulled up the website and looked at the ingredients and noticed grapefruit. I just finished off a 12 pack of generic grapefruit seltzer and purchased a second box. The have zero calories and I had been drinking 4 a day.

I stopped drinking those right away. I also cut out all citrus fruit, and now I’m mostly back to normal. My gums are still a little sensitive but my head is it’s normal deflated size.

I am bummed, though. I love grapefruit. I love all citrus fruit! I love the smell, I love the taste. I love cooking with citrus. I named my blog after lemons, for one thing. I really don’t want to cut it out of my diet.

I’m hoping that it was a reaction to the fake flavoring in the seltzer that did it. Or even that it was just a result of an overdose. Maybe I can have the real thing in small amounts? Moderation is the key, they say. Meanwhile, I have a grapefruit in my fruit basket but I’m afraid to try my luck and eat it to test the theory.

The really annoying thing is that I was trying to get healthier and find alternatives to… say… vodka. Or wine. So I drink a bunch of fruit seltzer and I get punished for good behavior. Thanks a lot, Universe. You are an asshole.

Things are nearly back to normal now. I haven’t binged on booze as a reaction, though it has certainly crossed my mind. I’ve made some ice tea and I’ve drank a lot of plain old tap water (without so much as a damn lemon slice, like a goddamned savage). I’m trying to keep it all in perspective. Two steps forward, one step back…

But if cutting out citrus completely gives me a case of scurvy I’m buying vodka and making myself a screwdriver. I’m only human, even if it looks like my lips are made of polyurethane.

Brunch at Tiffany’s

I worked at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts when I was in college back in the 90s. I was on a work study program, and I actually started in the work shop, in the basement.

This may sound like a mismatch, and it was, but not for the obvious reasons. I took shop in Jr. High school and, all things considered, I did pretty well. The class was one year long but divided into three sections: wood shop, technology, and metal shop. My wood shop teacher loved me. He gave me 150% on one assignment because I carved a 3D design when everyone else had done a 2D cutout. I rarely saw the tech teacher but his student teacher told me flat out (and in front of the entire class) not to come to him with any questions because he had no intention of helping me. “I know you are only here to meet boys.”

I was thirteen and I would not have known what to do with a boy if I managed to get one’s positive attention. And anyway, I spent each day of class just trying to stay out of the path of those trolls. I don’t know if there were particularly nasty personalities in that group or if it was the result of getting too many thirteen year old boys in one room with power tools, but those boys were the worst! They were both mean and dangerous and they made every day torture. They were constantly trying to humiliate me into quitting, or at least crying. If I said anything in class – right or wrong – I was teased for it for the rest of the period. One day they would roll the spot welder into place behind me and set it off to burn my arms and singe my clothes with the flying sparks. The next, they would wait for me to walk into class and then they would strip the skinny nerdy kid of his pants and push him toward me. It was an exercise in tolerance, and I survived it, one day at a time. I hope that skinny nerdy kid did, too.

The metal shop instructor in the final section of class was helpful but stern. I never got a sense that he knew I was in any way different from the 29 other male students. Then one day I got called down to the office and learned he had nominated me for student of the month. Maybe he wanted to reward my fortitude? Or maybe he felt bad about putting the spot welder on wheeled castors to begin with. I’ll never know.

Fast forward a few years, and I was looking for a work study job at the University of Utah. I saw a post at the art museum and thought it would be fun to work there. I think I listed two things on my job application: 1.) my year of shop training in 8th grade and 2.) the fact that I got the highest possible score on my AP art history exam. I got the job. I may have been the only person who applied.

My boss in the museum’s shop was what we would now call a “hot mess,” though by the time I met him he was cold and lumpy. On my first day, he told me to “earthquake proof the Pre-Columbian exhibit.” Then he went back into his office where he sat at his desk and stared at a corner in the ceiling while medium priced scotch directly from the bottle. We never spoke again.

I had no idea what to do or where to start. Maybe if this weren’t the year 1995 it would have occurred to me to look up “how to earthquake proof old ceramics” on the internet, but it wasn’t and I was screwed. I walked around the exhibit trying to get some ideas. I looked for ways to suspend the smaller objects from the ceiling so that if there were a quake they would swing around but never hit the ground. Or each other? But still be out of reach of thieves or handsy children? I decided it wouldn’t work but I was feeling like I had made some progress by having a bad idea and eliminating it and that seemed positive. Then I noticed a large mask under filtered light. It had a strangely familiar texture. I leaned in and read the card next to the plexiglass box which read, “made of animal skin.” It was the generality that made it come together for me. Human. It was definitely human skin. I was convinced. I still am. If I had ever found a way to secure that collection I might have left that particular object to fend for itself.

I still had a work ethic back then and I couldn’t just not work. Having no clue what I was supposed to do and a distinct fear of trying and failing, I was stuck. Then I noticed a shop-vac in the corner. It was one of those trash-can sized deals on wheels with a suction tube like an elephant’s trunk coming off the side. I named it R2 and it was my only co-worker for a while. I showed up to work three afternoons a week and I vacuumed every nook and crevice whether it needed it or not. And it didn’t. Not at all. At the end of each shift I emptied R2 and then I went home. Until one day I showed up and was informed (not by my boss, but someone else) that I had been transferred to the gift shop. For a few seconds before the relief set in, I felt that I had let all of womankind down. I had a shop job, and I failed. Then I headed upstairs to the lobby and the sunlight and I left R2 behind without so much as a backward glance.

My new boss was a man named Brad who rarely came in to work, but when he did he was over dressed and wearing too much foundation. On the days that he didn’t come in, I was told he suffered from migraines. I interpreted this as code for a penchant for late nights and hangovers, but I don’t really know. I just know that I was again left alone, but this time with post cards, a cash register, and some clear expectations.

This was not the MET or MOMA. Sometimes I would go days without a customer. There was plenty of time to do homework, but in the summers I read entire Steven King novels while sitting behind the register. Once in a while I had a customer, and they would want to pay with a credit card. On those occasions I had to run through the museum and ask everyone in their offices to hang up their phones. “We made a sale! I need to use the phone line to run a charge!”

The 90s were an adorable time to be alive. I’m sorry if you missed them.

One day I was sitting at my station, writing in my journal or something, when the security guard stopped by to ask if I needed a bathroom break. Her name was Debbie and I just adored her. She was sweet and worldly and she had one deformed tiny hand, not unlike the Kristen Wiig “Dooneese” sketches on Saturday Night Live. At least, that is what it made me think of, many years later, when I saw them. Debbie told me that when she was growing up, her mother always made her use her tiny had to clean out the garbage disposal and she was always frightened it might turn on spontaneously.

“Yes!” I shouted, hopping off my too tall stool. “Thank you!” But as I landed, the stool fell back and hit this weird waist high block thing that we used to push in front of the cash register area when no one was on duty in the gift shop. (It was very secure, obviously.) The block made a thunk and tipped on its side in the direction of the glass wall that was the only thing separating the gift shop area from the ten foot tall Tiffany crystal doors. I was told that they were a gift from Louis Comfort Tiffany to the LDS church in the late 1800s, but church leaders didn’t want them because they featured winged angels. Mormon angels don’t have wings (because Joseph Smith saw some angels and he said they didn’t have wings, and man who sees angels and talks to them in the woods and then reads secret books by putting his head in a hat and using magic stones to translate them into English is not weird. Angels with wings? That’s silly. Amazing what bunk some folks believe in. We don’t want those. Give them to the university in case they ever get an art museum.).

I leapt between the falling block and the glass and stopped the impending crash with my body, the right angle edge of the block crushing into my full bladder. Luckily I was 19 and I didn’t piss myself so that was the end of the drama.

“Woah,” I said. I looked back at the Tiffany angels, which are not the classic blue and green of the classic Tiffany lamp shades that you are probably picturing. They are long elegant slices of crystal with frosted angel designs carved into them. They could be the doors leading to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. For a moment I imagined them shattered and skittering in icy pieces across the floor. At the time, the museum’s director was a diminutive octogenarian and man shaped ball of rage named Frank Sanguinetti. I had witnessed a few of his milder temper tantrums by then and I was imagining my new life as his forced butler or maid as I tried to work off the debt of the priceless art I had destroyed. I would have been buried in his garden beneath the irises within the week.
“Don’t worry,” Debbie said, helping to unpin me with her little hand. “I always get clutzy on my period, too.”

That is when my head exploded. Yes, but how did she…? And was it true that…? Now that I think about it… Oh my goodness, yes! Why had no one told me before! This should be common knowledge! There should be a PSA or a warning label on forklifts, at the very least!

There have been a few occasions since that day nearly 20 years ago where I have watched a woman struggle with a task or gravity and, if I felt I knew her well enough, I repeated Debbie’s phrase. “Don’t worry, Sweetpea. I get like that when my red sea is parting, too.” (Side note, I just googled euphemisms for menstruation to find a funny one and was reminded that there aren’t any, so I just made that up. I did learn that in Japan they call it the “Arrival of Mathew Perry” which is the best thing I ever heard but I failed at finding a way to make it work here.) And each time I have witnessed a similar series of responses. Incredulousness, recognition, connection, amazement, horror, and finally amusement and laughter. Maybe not in that order exactly, but the moment usually ends with laughter. But there is always that moment of recognition. That moment of “Damn, she’s right! Why didn’t I put that together myself? And why don’t they mention that in those fifth grade maturation videos?”

I don’t know the answer. It would have been nice. But as far as I can tell, it is still a well-kept secret.

I’ve been thinking about all of this the last few days, ever since I got the devastating alert on my phone that read the Cathedral of Notre Dame was on fire. It hurts to think about the loss of history and human accomplishment. The last I heard, they still didn’t know how the fire began. It seems they have out-ruled arson, but I read that there was some reconstruction work going on somewhere in the cathedral. Which isn’t a surprise. 800 year old buildings have a lot of maintenance required.

I just hope whatever stared the fire was some faulty piece of equipment being operated by some man. Women have suffered enough to build our cred with power tools. That is one disaster we simply do not need.

Sick Burn

I met some girlfriends for brunch this weekend. I saw Mandy park in the parking garage and waited for her so we could take the elevator up to the brew pup together and saw, as she walked toward me, that she was already cracking up. I was just about to ask if she got some pre-brunch bloody Marys in her when she said, “I just took this photo of this bumper sticker…”

Here is the photo she took (I’m sharing it with her permission):

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I have not been able to stop laughing, since! I need this sticker!

If you aren’t a skier or if you don’t live in a skiing culture and are wondering why this is funny, I’m afraid I can’t really help to explain. You just have to trust me: It’s funny. And a little mean.

It also reminds me of this story I heard many years ago from a boy I briefly dated. He was a very good skier (I assume he still is, but we’ve lost touch) and he worked in the industry. This is not to say that he was a “professional skier,” but he sold skiing equipment and worked at resorts and then spent every penny he made traveling to new places to ski.

Back in the 90s he was working a celebrity skiing event at Big Bear in California. It was some kind of charity drive and a bunch of actors attended for a ski day. Apparently the talk of the day was the fact that Richard Dean Anderson (the original – and to me: the ONLY – MacGyver) showed up in jeans and proceeded to ski in them all day. The snobs were aghast! But according to my friend, RDA was a great skier and he out-skied everyone. EXCEPT Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Apparently, no one out-skis Arnold Schwarzenegger.