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Don’t Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Apple pie and baseball are American traditions. I’d rather have a brownie than a slice of apple pie and I hate baseball. If that makes me un-American, so be it. Baseball is tedious and about as entertaining as watching the grass in the outfield grow.  I’ve been told it is more exciting when you’re at a game, but people at the games drink a lot of beer. I don’t trust them to give me accurate information.

All that standing around and just a few minutes of actual excitement.

All that standing around and just a few minutes of actual excitement.

Strike 1

When Oregano and I were dating for a few weeks, he called me unexpectedly on a Friday afternoon.

“My dad just got tickets to tonight’s Yankees game. Can you get to my house by 5:00?” he asked.

“Um,” I stalled. I wanted to spend time with Oregano, but sitting through an entire baseball game would be a mind-numbing way to spend the evening no matter who I was with. Before I said no to his offer, I had an idea. “Would it be okay if I brought a book to the game?” I asked tentatively.

“A book?! Why would you bring a book to a professional baseball game?” He was perplexed by my question.

“I think baseball is boring. You don’t know me that well yet, but I tend to get a bit snarky when I’m bored. I could probably hold it together for about 3 innings, but after that all bets are off.  If I have a book to read, I’ll be able to keep myself amused making me a much more pleasant companion,”  I admitted, wondering how he’d react.  It was way too early in the relationship to let my smart-ass show.

“The seats are on the third baseline behind the dugout. You probably shouldn’t sit there reading,” he explained.

At the risk of squelching our budding romance I said, “Thanks for asking me. Those are great seats. You should really bring someone who appreciates that fact and who will enjoy the game.”

Oregano agreed and took a friend. Thankfully, my disdain for baseball wasn’t a deal breaker for our relationship.

Strike 2

Several years later we encountered another baseball related conundrum. Our friend was having a birthday party at a minor league baseball game. I wanted to be there to celebrate with him, but the thought of sitting through a game was daunting.

“It will be fun. Some of our friends will be in the stands with us. We’ll be in a separate section so you can move around and talk to everyone,” Oregano said trying to convince me as we left the house.

When we arrived at the game, we ate and mingled with our friends while the players went about their business on the field. There was a lull in our conversation so I glanced at the score board. It was already the 7th inning. I looked at my watch.

“Hey, you were right. This isn’t so bad! It’s been about a half hour and we’re already in the 7th inning,” I said enthusiastically to Oregano.

“I don’t know how to break this to you, but that is the 7th inning of the first game. They weren’t able to finish last night’s game. They had to stop in the 5th inning. They’re finishing that game before they start the one scheduled for this afternoon. It’s kind of a double header.”

I became apoplectic. “What are you saying?” I was trying to process this new information. “Do you mean to tell me that there are two more innings in this game PLUS another 9 innings?” I sputtered.

Once the initial shock subsided, I turned to Oregano, “OK. Here’s the deal. I agreed to attend a baseball game. That’s a total of 9 consecutive innings.”

“Unless it goes into extra innings,” he interrupted.

I gave him the look and continued. “I don’t care how you divvy those innings up, but after 9, I’m leaving. I’ll come back and get you if you want to stay, but I can’t keep the snarky beast contained for 16 innings.”

Oregano agreed to my conditions. As it turned out, he wasn’t thrilled with staying at a minor league game for that long either.

Strike 3

A few more years passed before baseball became a topic of conversation again. This time we were on vacation in Colorado Springs. Oregano mentioned that the Mets were playing the Rockies in Denver. I know the Mets are his favorite team. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen in the thin air clouding my judgment, but I heard myself say, “Denver isn’t that far away. Go online and see if there are any tickets left for tonight’s game.”

Oregano stared at me in disbelief. “Your voice sounds like my wife’s, but those are never words I would have expected to hear coming out of her mouth. Do you realize what you just said?”

“Yes. I know what I said. If I were you, I’d jump on this opportunity. Who knows how long it will be until I make this offer again?”

Oregano quickly purchased 2 tickets to the game. When we got in the car to drive to Denver we noticed that the thermometer read 98 degrees. I have a heat activated bitch switch and I volunteered to sit in this kind of heat to watch a baseball game; clearly I underestimated the effect the high altitude had on my reasoning skills.

By the time we walked from the car to the stadium, we were both drenched in sweat. Oregano looked at my pink cheeks and glistening brow and offered these comforting words, “I’m sure it will cool off once the sun goes down.”

We arrived at our seats in left field. Holy crap! It was hot! What little breeze we’d had walking to our seats disappeared once we crammed ourselves in among the other sweaty spectators. I leaned back in my seat with a vat of lemonade. I had just gotten as comfortable as I was going to get when I heard a loud cracking sound. Everyone around me jumped up to try to catch the home run ball whizzing in our direction.  I assumed the crash position hoping I wouldn’t be hit by the ball or the people clambering to try to catch the ball.

Some lucky fan plucked the ball from the air and the crowd began to sit down. Oregano turned to talk to me and noticed that I was all hunched over. “What are you doing down there?” he asked as he settled back into his seat.

“Just staying safe,” I answered casually with my voice muffled by the arms covering my head.

“You do realize that it’s customary and fun to try to catch a home run ball,” he chuckled.

“I’ve heard that, but I’m fine down here protecting my head from the hard, high-speed projectile hurtling our way,” I replied.

When we exhausted our supply of lemonade and the sun dipped below the horizon cooling things off to a chilly 95 degrees, Oregano volunteered to go get us more liquid so we didn’t instantly burst into flames.

While he was gone, the game continued. The pitcher pitched. He scratched his crotch. He pitched again. He spit. He scratched his crotch. As sweat rolled down my spine and pooled in my underwear, I couldn’t imagine why people paid money to sit in this heat to watch this. Just then I heard the crack of the ball on the bat. Players started running and the crowd was cheering.

Oregano returned, his arms laden with liquids. “What happened? What did I miss?” he asked excitedly.

“Someone hit the ball. Someone caught the ball. Someone threw the ball and now someone is out.” I was proud that I was able to relay such a thorough retelling of the events that had transpired.

The man seated in front of us started laughing and turned around. He looked at Oregano and said, “It was a 6 to 3 play. Grounder to short stop and he threw the guy out at first.” Then he turned to me and smiled, “Not a fan of the game, huh?”

“Is it that obvious?” I asked. “In my defense, I accurately recounted the events. I was just missing some inconsequential details.”

We sweated through the rest of the game. I couldn’t tell you who won or what the score was, but the evening wasn’t a total waste of time. With that much sweating I was sure I had lost a few pounds. When we walked out of the stadium at 11pm, the temperature on the sign read 90 degrees. “See, I told you it would cool off once the sun went down,” Oregano said wringing the sweat out of his t-shirt.

“That was a memorable outing. Be sure you remember it because I am NOT doing that again,” I said cheerfully.

Oregano enjoying the one and only time I'll ever be at a major league baseball game.

Oregano enjoying the one and only time I’ll ever be at a major league baseball game.

 

Those experiences have done nothing to change my feelings towards baseball. If anything, they have solidified my opinion. Every October when television is inundated with playoff and World Series games, I am irritated that shows I want to watch have been preempted.

During this year’s playoffs, Oregano made an announcement. “I have a surprise for you. I know how much you dislike baseball, but they have found a way to make it even more torturous for you.”

“Really? How could they make it worse?” I was curious.

“There is something called sabermetrics. It’s a detailed mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records. They are showing tonight’s game with all kinds of statistics on the screen while the game plays in the background. They’ve managed to combine your two least favorite things: baseball AND math,” he chuckled.

“I didn’t think it was possible to make baseball more boring, but they’ve managed to do it. That’s impressive!” I said walking out of the room as he turned on the game.

 

 

 

**And now a word from our sponsor**

My story “Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth” is in Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays. I’m thrilled to be included in a book with so many talented writers and to be contributing to the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project. You can learn more about the project, order the e-book or donate to this worthy cause by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

All the Colors of the Rainbow… and Then Some

Fall has arrived. That means Mother Nature has one last blast of color in store for us before the winter whitewash begins. The same can be said for our clothing. Spring, summer and fall clothing are as colorful as the world around us, but winter clothing tends to be drab. As I’ve thumbed through catalogs filled with fall and winter clothing, I noticed that some of the descriptions of the colors of those clothes can be helpful and some are utterly useless. Sure, I can see the color on the page of the catalog or on the website, but I want to know if the red is more like a cherry or a cranberry. Is the purple more like a plum or an eggplant? That’s when I look to the name of the color to help me narrow down the exact hue.

Anyone familiar with buying paint or cosmetics knows that there are some wacky names for colors. Descriptions of clothing used to be more straightforward. Over the past year, I’ve taken note of some of the unusual color names I’ve come across for clothing.

The colors of a rainbow can be so limiting.

The colors of a rainbow can be so limiting.

The Culinary Collection

The grocery store is clearly an inspiration for the people selecting names for many colors. There is a smorgasbord of food names used to describe the color of clothing. Of all the color names I came across, these seemed to be the most helpful in trying to determine an exact shade of a color. Most of the names in this collection fall into one of these 5 sub-categories: fruits and vegetables, condiments, grains, ice cream and beverages. You can wake up in the morning and dress yourself in oatmeal, raisin and coffee. Not getting enough vegetables in your diet; wear pumpkin, beet and okra. You can don a shiraz shirt and head to happy hour. Have a craving for something sweet? No problem. Just wear pistachio cream or butterscotch.

The Natural Collection

These colors inspired by the world around us are descriptive, but ambiguous. Fresh air and sea breeze are seemingly similar in concept, yet vastly different in color. Other than brown smog, air doesn’t really have a color. If you feel like you need a vacation, dress yourself with a destination in mind. If you’ve planned your wardrobe well, there’s no need to ever leave your closet. You can spend a day at the beach by wearing sand, palm and Caribbean colored clothing. If you prefer a walk in a garden, dress yourself in hydrangea, rose and bark. (I’m pretty sure they meant tree – not dog.)

The Insult Collection

Feeling blue? Maybe it’s the color you’re wearing that is affecting your mood. The names of these colors don’t do much to improve the wearer’s self-esteem.

Lush – Clothing items with this name were wine colored, not the lush green of a jungle. This makes me believe that the marketers were hoping to appeal to heavy drinkers. Go ahead; spill your red wine on this shirt. It will blend right in.

Drab – Hopefully this appeals to a person who prefers a subdued color palette, not a description of their overall personality.

Traffic cone – When I’m stuck in traffic, I have plenty of time to contemplate how lovely I would look wearing something the same shade of neon orange as the cones obstructing my lane.

Elephant –Who wouldn’t feel like a million bucks when they’re  wearing clothing that reminds them of a huge, wrinkled creature? Elephants are intelligent and graceful for their size, but they can pull off the gray wrinkles much better than humans can.

The Logophile Collection

These color names are helpful descriptors, if you can decipher them. This collection appeals to those with a sense of fashion and a big vocabulary. Colors like cerulean, vermillion, ochre and jonquil all fall into this category. The most challenging color I came across was vicuña. I had no idea what that was.  Thanks to Google, I now know that a vicuña is a South American animal similar to a llama. I guess if you’re willing to wear elephant, why not wear vicuña?

The WTF Collection

Clearly, the marketing people who selected these color names were absolutely out of ideas or high on something. These words do nothing to suggest a particular color.

Flag –This isn’t helpful. Which country’s flag are they referring to? This leaves too much room for interpretation.

Horizon – What time of day should I look at the horizon to get an idea of the color of the clothing?

Heritage – I don’t even know where to begin with how useless this word is as a description for a color.

Pebble – Why stop with pebble? Why not gravel, dust, dirt, grout?  The possibilities for this generic color are endless.

Nomad – Tan is such a bland color. Calling it nomad is so much more exotic.

Midnight affair – This shade of teal must be the official color of adulterers.

Plum kitten – I’ve had cats in my life since I was 3 years old. Never once have I seen a plum kitten. Purple is my favorite color. Believe me, if cats came in that color, I’d have gotten one.

 

Not getting a clear description of the clothing I’d like to buy has me seeing red. Well, maybe it’s not red, maybe it’s cranberry or ketchup or summer sunset.

 

What strange color names have you come across?

 

Angry Bird

No. I’m not writing a post about virtual birds that are programmed to be angry. This is about an actual bird that was really angry.

When Oregano and I arrived at our cottage on Lowell Point in Seward, Alaska, we heard the cawing of crows from high up in the trees just off the beach. Not the most pleasant sound as a welcome, but we just accepted it as part of the background noise and began unloading the luggage from the trunk of the car.

I stayed inside unpacking and Oregano went back out to the car. I could hear the crow squawking loudly again. Seconds later, I heard Oregano’s feet pounding against the wood deck before he burst through the door.

“Holy shit! That bird just dive bombed me at the trunk of the car!” he said slightly out of breath from the exertion of running with a suitcase.

“Really? Dive bombed you? Are you sure he wasn’t just flying to those shrubs near the car? I saw some berries on them. Maybe the bird was just trying to get something to eat.” I offered by way of an explanation.

“No. I’m pretty sure that bird had it out for me,” he said. “There’s still more stuff in the car. I have to go back out there,” he said as he steeled himself for another trip to the car and another potential bird bombardment.

A few minutes later, I heard the squawking again followed by the sound of Oregano running along the deck.

“That bird buzzed my head. I’m sure he was trying to get me!”

No sooner had the words left his mouth than we could hear the bird walking on the corrugated plastic roofing over the deck. It sounded like the bird was pacing back and forth waiting for us to exit.

“That is one angry bird.” I said. “We need to unpack. Hopefully, he’ll lose interest in us and fly off to find another victim.”

The noise coming from the roof stopped. We thought the coast was clear until we looked out the window. The pacing had stopped because the crow was now sitting on a ghost tree just outside our window. He was staring at us with his beady black eyes.

He was staring at us hoping to keep us from leaving the cabin.

It was like he was just staring at us inside the cottage waiting for us to come out.

“Is it just me or do you get the feeling that he’s just waiting for us to come outside?” I asked Oregano.

Always optimistic, Oregano said, “Maybe that’s his usual perch and we’re reading too much into this.”

Thinking the bird would fly off eventually, I busied myself in the cottage reading through information about the area.

When I lifted my eyes from my reading material, the crow was still there. The tide was going out exposing a huge expanse of beach. I wanted to go beach combing. With all the confidence of a creature higher up on the food chain, I opened the door to the cottage and strode right past the crow on my way to the beach. That crow watched me like a hawk, but didn’t fly at me.

For a long time, I wandered aimlessly on the beach with my head down searching for interesting rocks and shells. When I finally looked up I saw that the crow had followed me down the beach and he brought his friends for back-up.  With the spooky fog and the ghost trees, I felt like I had been dropped onto the set of a Hitchcock movie. A half mile away from the safety of our cottage, I no longer walked with the same confident swagger. The only way back to the cottage was right past the tree with the crows in it. As far as I was concerned, that was not an option.

Beach-combing on Resurrection Bay under the watchful beady eyes of the crows.

I’m the tiny dot beach combing on Resurrection Bay under the watchful beady eyes of the crows.

I decided to keep walking farther down the beach collecting rocks hoping that the birds would eventually fly off on their own before the tide came back in and the beach disappeared. The next time I turned around, the birds were gone. I walked briskly back towards the cottage with my eyes to the sky. As I approached the stairs leading from the beach up to our cottage, I heard the squawking begin again. I high-tailed it up the stairs, onto the deck and burst through the door.

Oregano looked up at me, “I see the crow is still out there on patrol.”

“Yeah, and this time he had a posse.” I said trying to catch my breath.

The angry bird was back and this time he had friends.

The angry bird was back and this time he had friends.

Later that afternoon we wanted to get ice from the main cabin located across the road. That meant venturing outside and into the crow’s domain. Oregano picked up the ice bucket and opened the door. As he stepped out, I grabbed my umbrella and tried to hand it to him.

“It’s not raining.” He was confused as to why I was offering him an umbrella.

“The umbrella’s not for the rain; it’s to protect you from the crow. Maybe with the disguise of the umbrella, the bird won’t realize you’re a human and won’t perceive you as a threat,” I suggested.

“Do you really think the bird is that stupid?” Oregano asked. He was unsure of what I considered to be unassailable logic.

“The expression bird-brained had to come from somewhere. Other animals use camouflage to effectively protect themselves,” I said with my arm still extended holding the umbrella.

“They do, but I’ve never seen plaid used as camouflage in nature,” he argued, but took the umbrella from me anyway and headed out the door.

Plaid doesn't exactly make for good camouflage, but it was enough to fool the birds.

Plaid doesn’t exactly make for good camouflage, but it was enough to fool the birds.

Ten minutes later, he calmly walked back onto the deck carrying the filled ice bucket.

“What do you know? Your theory worked. The crow didn’t dive bomb me this time,” he said sounding surprised. “The manager told me the crows have a nest in the tree adjacent to our cabin. They’re just trying to protect their nest.”

“That explains the crow’s behavior. Did the manager have any helpful hints on how to be outside without the fear of being pecked to death?” I asked.

“No, but he thought your umbrella was a good idea,” he said while chuckling.

We realized that for the duration of our stay, the only way we were going to peacefully co-exist with the crow was with our trusty umbrella.

When the tide came back in and the beach disappeared, we sat safely in our cabin enjoying the view. We were admiring the peaceful beauty in front of us when we heard sounds of squawking birds and screeching humans.

“Sounds like the crow found someone else to bully,” I said as we both stepped onto the deck to see what was causing the commotion. The people in the next cabin had arrived and the crow was none too pleased about it. He was going after them with even more enthusiasm than he had when he came after us. We saw a man carrying a suitcase while his wife walked behind him yelling and wildly waving a stick in the air. It was like she was whacking at an invisible piñata.

“The crow has a nest with babies in the tree right between our cabins,” I shouted to them to be heard over the loud cawing. “Holding an umbrella over our heads seemed to distract the bird. Would you like to borrow our umbrella?” I offered.

They declined and opted to continue using the long stick method. They very quickly learned that twirling the stick above their heads like a helicopter rotor was an effective deterrent. It looked ridiculous, but it got the job done.

When the tide was out again the next morning, I stepped onto our deck, popped open the umbrella and headed right past the crow perched in the ghost tree.  From the beach, I called back to Oregano. “When we were preparing for this trip, I learned that more people are killed by moose than by bears. I read up on moose evasion techniques and how to be bear aware.  Of all the potentially dangerous animals we might encounter in Alaska, who knew the most threatening one would be a crow?”

Oregano trying to balance the protective umbrella while taking a photo.

Oregano trying to balance the protective umbrella while taking a photo.

 

He Who Shall Not Be Named

Choosing a name for another living creature is a challenge. While the thought of naming a child is daunting, there are at least some parameters to guide the choice. Perhaps there is a traditional family name handed down through generations. Maybe you’ll be naming the child after a cherished family member or friend. In any event, unless you are a celebrity trying to be trendy, you’ll be choosing a human name for your child. Naming a pet is an entirely different situation. Sure, you can use human names, but you don’t have to. You can choose any word you want without fear that the other pets in the neighborhood will tease your furry child about a strange name.

On the ride to Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary, to meet a cat named Oolong, Oregano and I began discussing potential names for the soon to be newest member of our family.

“Oolong is kind of cute,” I said, “but, I think it would be a better name for a Siamese cat, not a tabby. He’s only been Oolong since he arrived at Tabby’s Place six weeks ago. I doubt he’s attached to the name.”

Oregano agreed with me and suggested Earl Grey.

“I like the idea that we’re sticking with the tea theme, but that’s not going to work. We’ll wind up calling him Earl which makes me think of a moonshine sipping, banjo strumming man sitting on his porch somewhere deep in the Appalachians.” I said.

“That was pretty specific. Do you know someone named Earl?” he asked laughing at my reasoning. “We’ll wait until he decides if he wants to adopt us. If he does, we’ll see what his personality is like and then we’ll be able to figure out a name.” He sounded confident that we’d come up with the right name.

Oolong interviewing Oregano

Oolong begins the rigorous interviewing process with Oregano

When we entered the suite where Oolong was living, he came right over to us and immediately began the interviewing process by rubbing our legs. Once we were comfortably seated on the floor, he made sure to investigate both of us thoroughly by climbing into our laps. He tested our reactions by playing with toys. When he started purring, we knew we had been adopted.

On the ride home, Oolong sat quietly in the back seat while we resumed our naming discussion.

“We already have a cat named Linus. It might be fun to use another Peanuts character and name him Schroeder, Linus’s piano playing friend,” I suggested.

“I doubt he can play the piano,” Oregano said.

“Me, too, but it’s a cute idea to have Linus and Schroeder,” I said. “Let’s give it a day and see how we like it.”

Whatever name we choose, it must be a name we won’t mind saying a hundred times a day. I like to try it out in sample sentences I’m destined to say, “Schroeder, don’t drink out of the toilet.” “Get down from the top of the refrigerator, Schroeder.” “Schroeder just had a hairball. Whose turn is it to clean it up?

It was a weird name for a cat and didn’t even last for the full 24 hours. Back to the drawing board we went. We scrolled through lists and lists of baby names on-line. That wasn’t working. His markings and charm had an undefinable quality, so undefinable in fact that we weren’t able to name him.

Oregano noticed that the cat looked like he was wearing glasses. “Maybe we can think of a literary name for him,” he suggested.

And so we began searching on-line for famous literary cats. You’d be surprised how many cats are in literature, but their names were horrible!

When friends asked for the name of our new furry family member, I didn’t have an answer for them and kept referring to him as, “He who shall not be named.” This was how the characters in the Harry Potter books referred to the evil Voldemort, but our little tabby was definitely not evil. I tried to think of a way to make the name less threatening.

I approached Oregano with a new name suggestion, “How about Mortie?” I explained how I arrived at this name. “It’s literary and sounds cute.”

Does he look like a Mortie?

Does he look like a Mortie?

“Mortie? Hmm… sounds like some old Jewish guy in Florida with white shoes and a white belt. I’m not sure I like it,” he said crinkling his nose at the name, “but, we can try it out for 24 hours and see if it suits him.”

During the 24 hours of Mortie, Oregano brainstormed names that meant calm, peaceful and easy-going to match our new kitty’s personality. He compiled an eight page list as a Word document and presented it to me.

“Manfred?! Alastair?! Paxton?! Are you serious? They’re a bit pretentious for a tabby, don’t you think?  Those are names for a butler, not a cat,” I said in disgust as I continued flipping through the sheaf of papers he had handed me.

“Finn, Brodie and Zen?  Sounds like he is destined to become a professional surfer,” I said putting the kibosh on those names.

He's definitely not a Manfred, Alastair, Brodie or Calum!

He’s definitely not a Manfred, Alastair, Brodie or Calum!

“Yeah, some of those names don’t really work for a cat. I was just brainstorming and listing all the names I came across hoping one would work,” he admitted.

“Calum?! Wasn’t that Superman’s real name?” I asked.

“No. That was Kal-El,” he shook his head and continued, “Calum means dove – a symbol of peace. He’s a calm, peaceful cat. I thought it might work.”

I didn’t agree. The brainstorming continued and we began referring to our nameless cat as new guy.

Helpful friends called each day to ask the nombre du jour and offer suggestions. After four days and three different names, we were worried our little guy was going to develop an identity crisis. Oregano suggested using a funny old man name. Back to the baby name websites we went only this time we were searching for names that were popular 100 years ago.

Oregano looked up from the screen, “What about Otis?”

“Otis? You thought Mortie was bad, but you like Otis? Are we naming him after the elevator company, the singer or the Greek word for one who hears well?” I asked.

“Greek word? What? No. None of the above,” he just looks like an Otis.

“Exactly what makes him is Otis-esque?” I asked.

“Otis-esque. That’s not even a word.” He rolled his eyes at me.

“It’s not, but you know what I mean.” I needed to be convinced about the name Otis.

Just then, the cats came tearing through the room chasing each other at full speed. We both yelled, “Otis, stop chasing Linus.”

We looked at each other, “Yep, that works. Otis it is!”

Enough with the pictures already. I'm an Otis. Now let me get some sleep.

Enough with the pictures already. I’m an Otis. Now let me get some sleep.

 

A Proud Tradition?

 

It’s Independence Day – America’s birthday. The Fourth of July evokes memories of fireworks, backyard barbecues and a sense of pride in America. What could make us prouder to be American than an annual hot dog eating contest?

I don’t know why I am fascinated by this yearly 4th of July tradition. A group of strangers in front of a crowd shoving hot dogs and buns down their gullets as fast as possible, shouldn’t pique my interest, but I get sucked in every year. I watch the contest with equal parts disgust, nausea and amazement. I’m sure it generates business for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, but it does absolutely nothing to make me want to eat a hot dog.

To be fair, I don’t understand the concept of competitive eating. This famous contest is a glimpse into the very full underbelly of that world. Just because you can chew and swallow doesn’t mean you can compete in this contest. Competitors train for months and must qualify to participate in this televised main event.  As the competitors take their positions on the podium, their previous eating accolades are announced. I had no idea so many foods could be eaten competitively: oysters, pizza, jalapenos & chicken wings. I had no idea anyone would want to eat those foods competitively.

I’ve seen a documentary on competitive eating and training for the contests, but what I’d really like to see is a documentary that follows the winners to see what happens during the 24 hours after the contest. Sure, it’s interesting to watch someone eat 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. But, it would be more fascinating to see what happens to that person when the chewing and the fanfare stop. Part of the contest rules are that contestants must “keep the hot dogs and buns down.” How long must they stay down? How do the hot dogs and buns exit the contestant? When is that person hungry enough to eat again?

The male and female winners of the competition are always interviewed. They  look full of adrenaline and questionable meat. While it is interesting to hear about their winning strategy, what I’d really like to see are interviews with the losers. How do you feel about yourself mentally and physically after you’ve spent months training then eaten 68 hot dogs and buns and walked away a loser? Talk about the agony of defeat.

The winner of this famous competition gets a cash prize and a bejeweled belt. I sure hope it’s expandable.

Good Grief

Humor is the most effective coping method I have developed to deal with stressful situations. When that situation is sad, morbid humor is sometimes all that is left at my disposal. Anyone who has lost a pet knows that there is nothing funny about it. George Carlin said it best, “When you purchase a pet, you are buying a small tragedy.” We all know this going into the relationship, but we do it anyway.

When Oregano and I rushed our beloved 15-year-old cat, Sam, to the veterinary ER in the wee hours of the morning, we knew he wouldn’t be coming back home with us. The vet prepared the injections and said, “This first syringe has a sedative.”

I looked up at her, “Do you have any extra for the humans? Sam’s really calm right now, but we could both do with a little sedation.” I was trying to lighten the somber mood. Within seconds, Sam slipped away peacefully. Well, as peacefully as he could, what with our wracking sobs disturbing every creature with ears.

Sam trying to help us pack for a trip.

Sam trying to help us pack for a trip.

As we drove home from the animal hospital, it occurred to me that veterinary emergency rooms should also staff a medical doctor. It really makes perfect sense. Most humans who find themselves in the ER with their pets are consumed with worry or fear and would certainly benefit from some pharmaceutically assisted coping methods. There are probably all sorts of legal and medical complications that prevent this from actually happening. At a bare minimum, if prescription drugs aren’t available to the humans, the veterinary ERs can apply for a liquor license and employ a 24/7 bartender. Of course, driving home from the ER distraught and tipsy is a bad idea, so they would also need to run a taxi service.

I always wonder what is going through the mind of the surviving cat when we arrive home with an empty carrier. Is he thinking, “Holy shit! What happened to the other guy that lived here? They seemed to like him. What could he have done to be banished? I better crank up the cuteness factor or I may disappear next.”  Cats are intuitive. Linus realized we could benefit from some extra attention which he was more than happy to supply in exchange for some back scratches and brushing.

Not long after we arrived home, our friends and family began using all manner of electronic and human contact to offer their sympathies. There is no more empathetic group of people than other pet owners because we all know we’re going to be in the same position one day.

Later that afternoon, Oregano was checking emails and I was trying to distract myself with the voluminous weeds in my garden. When I came in to cool off and have a glass of iced tea, I walked past Oregano at the computer and noticed he was on the Petfinder website.

Stunned, I turned to him and said, “You’re already looking at other cats? There are still tissues wet with tears in the garbage can and you’re shopping for a new pet?!”

“Why not? We know we’re going to rescue another cat. I thought it would make me feel better to look and see which kitties are available for us to love,” he said trying to convince me. “You’re going to miss Sam and be sad no matter what. You can still do all of that while we give another kitty a loving home.”

Despite how awful I felt, I knew he was right. We’d be stupid enough to sign up for this kind of heartbreak again. I just wasn’t planning on shopping online the same day.

As he scrolled through pages and pages of adorable cats with sad, hard-luck stories I asked, “We haven’t finalized our wills yet have we?”

“Huh? Where did that question come from?” he asked me looking away from the screen with a quizzical look on his face.

“Well, I know we discussed do not resuscitate provisions in our wills, but I think I’m going to have to ask the lawyer to add a clause to that section,” I replied.

“What are you talking about?” He seemed really confused.

“I think you shouldn’t be allowed to have a smartphone or any internet access if I am on life support,” I said.

“What does this have to do with Sam’s death?” he asked.

“Sam just died. If you are already on Petfinder, I’m worried you’ll apply the same philosophy when I’m dying. I fear you’ll be sitting by my death-bed with one hand on the plug while the other hand is on the computer keyboard searching JDate or eHarmony for your next beloved wife. Call me crazy, but I think it would be tacky if you showed up at my funeral with a date.”

“I would never do that to you. I’d wait at least until after you were buried to start dating again,” he said sweetly.

“Jews are supposed to be buried the next day,” I said.

“Exactly. I’m willing to wait a day or two before I start dating.”

“Isn’t that a generous, thoughtful concession to make? You could combine my obituary with a personal ad for yourself and turn sitting shivah into a new type of speed dating. I’m such a sport; I’ll even help you write the obituary/personal ad.”

Paprika died leaving behind a cute husband with a great sense of humor who is now available for dating women between the ages of 30 and 60. In lieu of flowers, please send photographs and a brief description of yourself. All prospective dates must love cats.

We both laughed out loud for the first time all day. Like I said, sometimes morbid humor is all that is left, but it’s still humor.

 

Here’s a clip from George Carlin who applied the same philosophy when it comes to losing a beloved pet.

The Art and Sport of Hammocking – A Throwback Post

**Summer is fast approaching. Boating safety week reminded me that it is important to be safe in all your summer activities.  This post is from 3 years ago when I could count the number of readers on my fingers and toes and still have some spares. I’m posting it again now as a public service announcement to all would be hammock enthusiasts.**

 

After many contemplative hours in my hammock I have realized that there is an artfulness and athleticism involved in being able to thoroughly enjoy the hammock experience. Dictionaries define a hammock as a type of hanging bed made from canvas or cords and supported at each end. I have also learned that there is a tropical hammock. When I saw signs for Curry Hammock State Park near Marathon in the Florida Keys, my mind ran wild. Could there really be a state park devoted to hammocks?  I envisioned hammock after hammock slung between palm trees overlooking the bright blue waters surrounding The Keys. Imagine my shock and disappointment when I discovered that a tropical hardwood hammock is an ecosystem comprised of certain species of trees. Even the fun of repeatedly saying the name of the odd sounding gumbo limbo tree, only offered me a modicum of comfort as we drove out of the parking lot. While dictionaries identify hammock as a noun, we now live in a world where parts of speech merely suggest a word’s usage. I believe hammock has merit to also be a verb.

 The Art

Hammocking has two predominant philosophies: au naturel and faux naturel. My personal preference is the au naturel method which is when the hammock is suspended between two trees set a certain distance apart. The distance will depend on the type of hammock you are using. The benefit of hammocking au naturel is that you will be in the shade and, since you are tied to trees, it is easier to commune with nature. If you want more flexibility than the au naturel method offers, you can use the faux naturel method and purchase a hammock stand. These stands allow you to move the hammock around your yard to sunny or shady locations. The faux naturel method is also an excellent choice for people who don’t have many trees, have immature trees that can’t withstand the weight of an adult or have trees that are too far apart. Either of these methods will allow you to enjoy hammocking.

Once you have selected a method and location, you will need some accessories to fully appreciate the hammocking experience. For comfort, a pillow is a must.  A long, rectangular pillow works best, but, in a pinch, a rolled up beach towel works quite nicely. In addition to the pillow, you might want to consider a sway mechanism. Since I don’t have the funds to employ someone who will sit next to my hammock and gently rock me while feeding me grapes, I’ve devised a method for self swaying; a sway string. You can create one by tying the end of a length of thick laundry line to a tree that is perpendicular to the hammock.  After draping the other end over the edge of the hammock you can gently tug on the string and rock like a baby in a cradle. The sway pole is another option for self swaying. I find this to be less effective than the sway string, but if you are hammocking  faux naturel, this may be your only choice. Using a large branch that has fallen from a tree as a sway pole is tempting because it is free, but I can tell you, from personal experience, the dead branch will snap leaving you with a nasty splinter that abruptly ends your tranquility. A PVC pipe or broomstick are sturdier. If you drop the sway pole, DO NOT lean over the edge of the hammock to retrieve it. This may result in an embarrassing and graceless roll to the ground.

Now that you understand  proper hammock placement and sway mechanisms, it’s time for a pre-nap safety test of the equipment. Always check the hammock’s tension. Sometimes a hammock appears  taut and ready for an afternoon of reading and napping, only to sag all the way to the ground the instant you make contact.  It is especially important to check the tension of a hammock that is unfamiliar to you like those at a beach or resort. After you have determined that it will support your weight, you are ready to commence relaxation. Keep in mind that there are some hazards inherent with hammocking. Falling out of the hammock is an ever-present danger, so be sure that you are not hanging over any rocks. Nothing spoils an afternoon of serenity more than a trip to the emergency room for a skull x-ray and CAT scan.

Animals are another hazard to be aware of. Birds and squirrels can, and will, chew through the hammock’s cords to use this booty to furnish their nests. Check for damaged cords. A hammock can function well with one string broken, but as my husband learned the hard way, two or more damaged strings will eventually break when the weight of a full-grown adult is added and you will drop like a sack of potatoes. There are additional animal related hazards associated with hammocking au naturel. Because you are lying beneath tree branches, birds sometimes unintentionally relieve themselves on you. There is little you can do to avoid the falling droppings. It doesn’t happen often, but you must be mindful of the possibility and keep your mouth closed at all times. As fall approaches, a concern more common and more painful than bird excrement is acorns. Squirrels will sit on branches directly above the hammock and pelt you with acorn shells and caps. This is irritating, and if it continues, you will be forced to abandon the hammock until the squirrel vacates the area.

The final hazards worth mentioning are food related. Reaching for food or beverages while in the hammock can cause your weight to shift suddenly resulting in you being dumped on the ground while simultaneously spilling the food or drinks. This may be injurious to your body or pride. In addition, common sense dictates that you should never swallow anything while lounging in the supine position. This is a choking hazard and removing your body from the hammock to perform the Heimlich maneuver would be difficult for your rescuers.

On days when the temperatures are sweltering you may feel that you won’t be able to partake of your hammock. That doesn’t have to be the case. With a garden hose, sprinkler or mister you can wile away the hours in your hammock in complete comfort. This makes hammocking a joy on even the hottest days. Simply put on your bathing suit, turn on the sprinkler and get into the hammock. Water will coat your skin leaving you glistening and cool as you gently sway from side to side.

Using a sway string and a water mister enhance the overall hammocking experience.

 The Sport

Getting into the hammock, balancing your weight and adjusting the pillow involve a considerable amount of athleticism. You should never flop gracelessly into a hammock. A friend once did this and instantly turned S hooks into question marks which seriously compromised the hammock’s suspension. He hit the ground in the blink of an eye. To properly enter a hammock you should stand with your back to the center, squat like you are about to sit in a chair, grab the edge and then just simply sit down. Very quickly, with one fluid movement, fling your legs toward the center of the hammock while twisting your torso and adjusting your weight to the center. The pillow will flop around as you do this. Don’t worry about its placement until you are completely stable.

This type of hammock is for relaxation purposes only. It is not a sport hammock. Entering and exiting require a modified technique.

Holding items in your hands during the entry process adds a degree of difficulty which increases based on the items you are holding; liquids are more difficult than solids, hot liquids are more difficult than cold and holding items in both hands, like a bowl of popcorn and a tumbler of iced tea, rates the highest degree of difficulty. Beginning hammockers should not attempt the entry technique with anything in their hands until they have demonstrated mastery.

Once in the hammock, you may find that as the sun moves across the sky it begins to shine into your eyes making reading a challenge. Experienced hammockers can change position or sides without exiting the hammock, but it is a risky move for even the most proficient individual. This maneuver involves kneeling in the center of the hammock, gripping the ropes and using the core muscles to balance while the hammock wobbles wildly from side to side. Be prepared! The hammock may flip over during this procedure and you’ll find yourself clinging to its underside, inches from the dirt. At this point, it is time to concede, make sure you have a safe drop zone and let go. You might think it would be easier to get out of the hammock and re-enter facing the other direction. While that is the preferred technique for a beginner, there is no sport in that for those with more advanced skills.

Eventually, the time will come when you will need to go to the bathroom or the sun will set and mosquitoes will begin feasting on your flesh. You’ll have to exit the hammock. Your dismount should be graceful. Do not swing back and forth then launch yourself hoping to land on your feet. Initially, you may land in an upright position, but momentum will cause you to pitch forward and nosedive into terra firma. To perform a proper dismount you’ll need strong quadriceps and good technique. Sit up in the middle of the hammock and swing your feet over the side. Tilt the hammock back until your feet are on the ground and then stand up as if you are getting out of a chair. Do not try to push yourself up from the hammock, especially if it is a rope hammock. Your hand will slide through one of the spaces between the ropes and you’ll become entangled. You may even need assistance untangling yourself because you’ll be laughing so hard that it will be difficult to control muscle movement. Once you have successfully dismounted the hammock feel free to throw your arms up over your head like an Olympic gymnast. I find it adds a touch of panache.

Hammocking may look lazy and inactive to some, but there is an artfulness and athleticism to a happy hammock experience. As in any other sport, when the athlete’s performance seems effortless it is because the athlete has trained diligently. In my day-to-day life I don’t exhibit grace or agility, but when it comes to hammocking, I have an innate gift. If hammocking was an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. Perhaps I should petition the International Olympic Committee to have it added as a competitive sport. Until then, I’ll just have to keep training.

When leaves fall, hammock season is over.

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