Sunday, September 28, 2008

Going to College

I don't know if I've already talked about this, but you know...I've been hit on the head. And you all have actual lives of your own, so you don't need to remember the details of mine anyway...

We are at the juxtaposition of several milestone events in our life. Katie, our last child, just turned 18 and she'll be going to college next year. Sage, our old red Chow dog, is 11. She's severely arthritic and in declining health. Katie and Sage have a love for the ages, and Katie has declared her intention to take Sage with her when she goes away to college, even though Sage is unlikely to live much longer than Katie's first semester or two.

Also, Lori is anticipatorily bereft at the death of Cuppy, our one-eyed phlegm-fastic Devon Rex cat. She's unable to even consider the possibility of that day, and has instead decided that Cuppy too will be going away to college with Katie. "Going to college with Katie" has become our euphemism for death. Someday Lori and I will be going to college with Katie, and we're determined not to leave our lives in such a fucked up mess as my mother is leaving hers for me.

Yesterday we discussed the implications of the day when my mother Goes to College With we'll either have to get into that house and sort through the mountains of crap, or just burn the place to the ground. Lori told me about her grandmother who started giving away the things she valued most at the end of her life, so they would end up in the hands of the person who would also value them most after her death. I love that idea. I love the idea that towards the end of your life you can set down the anchor of physical possessions that trap you into a particular way of living, and walk your last few steps unburdened. I love the idea of coming into the world with nothing except potential greatness, and going out with nothing except memories of a life well-lived. In between, we're all free to choose how we define those things for ourselves.

To me, there's not much that's more irritating than adults who are still processing the minutia of their childhood well in their adulthood. At some point we have to look at our parents, acknowledge that, despite their flaws, they did the best they could with the tools they had, and forgive both them and ourselves.

I have, I think, mostly stored my childhood away peacefully. I'm pretty happy with who I am today; I'm proud of my own kids, and I think I mostly did a good job raising them; and I love my life with Lori more than I've ever loved any time in my life before. So what I want to say to my mother is that this is her chance to stand in the doorway of her life. Look at it from the outside and acknowledge your successes and failures and your impact on the world. Pat yourself on the back for the things you did right and forgive yourself for the things you did wrong.

Then look at it from the inside. Remember all the times you made yourself be brave, the times you went out of your way for someone, the times you were able to dig deeper and persevere longer than you ever thought you could. Celebrate your strengths, and the strengths you've passed on to your children.

Then get rid of all that shit. It won't protect you from death. Get rid of that fucking paperweight of a motor home, the broken lawn furniture, the rusty bicycles, the mountains of magazines... Let it all go. It's all going into a dumpster as soon as the ambulance pulls down the driveway and starts you on your journey to college with Katie. Amassing more mountains of useless crap at the end of your life will not make you live longer, nor will it improve your legacy among the people who knew you best. You'll never be able to make a fortress of possessions around you that will be strong enough to cheat death.

Like so many of the object lessons of my life, this one comes from the "If I can't be a good role-model, at least I can be a horrible warning" school of thought: The only person we're ever in competition with in life is us. It won't do anyone any good to get one more lick in at the end. Put down your possessions, tell the people you care about how much you love them, and how much you've enjoyed having them in your life. And then forgive yourself. You did the best you could.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends

Here's where I'm at these days:

I've been a suck-ass blogger. Instead, I've been manhandling (womanhandling?) my mother's living situation into something that might make it possible for her to survive the winter. Unfortunately, that also puts us both into "the system". I'm becoming a connoisseur of social workers, bureaucrats, political appointees, and lackeys of every stripe. As much as I tell myself that my tax dollars pay their salaries, when I say "Jump!" they say, "Of course. But first, we'll need you to fill out these 90 forms, and provide 100 kind of unattainable documentation. Then there will be a series of interviews determining your eligibility to request a jump. You'll receive a letter in the mail in 6 to 8 weeks, outlining your rights and responsibilities with regard to your jumping request. If you fail to sign and return the documents included within 72 hours, it will invalidate your jumping request and you will be considered ineligible to petition for another jump for 12 months. Have a nice day."

Or my other favorite: "I know it says on the door that we're the Department of Jumping, but we just collect the requests and record the actuarial data. Actual requests for jumping are processed at our office in Springfield. A caseworker has been assigned to evaluate your mother's jumping status, however unless you have documentation that states that your mother is dead now or plans to become dead in the next 3-5 business days, we can't begin to process her request for at least six months, as there are many more qualified people ahead of her who have already died. Have a nice day."

I, who hates the phone more than just about anything (except my mother, who stubbornly refuses to join the ranks of the dead no matter how much I encourage her), have been on the phone a lot lately. Rep. David Phelps' personal assistant is my new best friend. If I survive the next 6 months I plan to offer her sexual favors in exchange for favorable legislation on the Elder Self-Neglect bill.

So friends, fellow bloggers, and lurkers hoping for lurid descriptions of hot girl-on-girl action (and you know who you are), prepare for a winter of hand-wringing angst intermixed with explosive filial frustration. Or a tragic gun accident, perhaps a novice deer hunter mistaking a tiny-headed elderly woman for a 12 point buck. A daughter can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Brian's Song

Once again, I've wandered away and left the blog alone and neglected. If Lori didn't drop by and feed it occasionally it would have starved long ago. Lately I've been busy, and I've been saying pretty much what I'm inclined to say on a couple of message boards that we are active in, so I'm pretty much tapped out when it comes time for blogging.

But the other day I was explaining our cat Brian and his magnificent athletic abilities and my daughter recommended I post his story here.

Brian's Song

We have a cat, Brian, who is not very bright. He had a little oxygen deprivation problem at birth and you can tell he's a few bricks short. He spends a large part of his day staring blankly into space with an empty look in his glazed eyes. Brian's favorite thing in the world is when Katie dangles a shoelace over his head and then flicks it up into the air. Brian will just up to the top of the doorframes to grab that shoelace, and he'll jump for it all day long. As long, in fact, as someone is willing to stand there flicking a shoelace. We call that the String Game, and although all the cats will play it for a while, none play it as well or as long as Brian. We think Brian doesn't have many options for upward mobility in his life, but he is the undisputed master of the String Game. So K*tie and I have Brian's String Game career pretty much mapped out for him.

Brian will enroll in a high school with a respected String Game program. Even though he's not very bright, the athletic department will provide him with tutors to keep him eligible for his spot on the Varsity String Game team. If he can get his ACTs over 18 by taking the test over and over and over, he can get into a Division I school on a String Game scholarship...maybe Notre Dame or Florida or Michigan...somewhere where he can get some national exposure.

Since he'll only squeak in on academic probation, he'll have to redshirt his freshman year, but that'll give him a chance to practice with the team and "fill out", which means take a higher dose of steroids.

Brian's sophomore season is his breakout season, and he takes his school to the String Game National Bowl Title. Of course, Brian flunks all his classes and is about to lose his scholarship, but that's okay because he's going to turn pro at the end of the year.

Brian signs with an agent and makes himself eligible for the draft. He gets chosen in the first round of the String Game draft by an expansion team that plans to build their franchise around him. He'll be making $15 million his rookie season, in spite of the fact that he can neither read nor write nor ever hope to live independently. He hires someone to fill his kibble bowl, and he has a team of people to clean his litter box and replace the light bulbs in the lamps he knocks over.

Over the next five seasons, Brian makes over $200 million and goes to the Pro Bowl of String every year. Then he blows out a paw making a routine leap in practice one day, and his String career is over.

Brian gets a job doing color commentary on ESPN3. His responsibilities are limited to reminiscing about his own Hall of Fame career, and being a foil for Howie Long. But his retardation becomes glaringly obvious in front of a camera, and Brian gets less and less air time.

The paw never healed right and Brian's been taking ever increasing doses of painkillers for years to get some relief. Over time, Brain descends into alcoholism and catnip addiction. He loses his job with the network, spends his time gambling on unsanctioned String Game tournaments, and eventually hits bottom: broke, addicted and alone. His high-living friends have abandoned him, moving on to the next party.

Finally, Brian gets into a 12 step program and slowly works on becoming the cat he once was. He repairs his relationship with his brother Slipper and takes a job coaching inner city cats on String Game fundamentals.But all those years of hard living have taken their toll on Brian, and he dies quietly, in his sleep, of a heart attack.

Brian was 7.

A made-for-tv movie about Brian's life has been optioned to ABC and is in pre-production. His family will memorialize Brian's inspirational story of hope and sacrifice by offering the rights to Kitty Kelley, but we'll require a $10 million advance, and a fieldhouse built in his honor at his alma mater.Kwachie and I will be promoting his image on posters and cereal boxes, and eventually as a Saturday morning cartoon and a set of limited edition commemorative litter boxes.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Jon Stewart Home-Run

I know that some of you (shout-out to the Canadians) are getting tired of our political kerfuffle, but some things are just too good not to post. If I knew how to put this video over on the sidebar and keep it playing for the next two months, I would:

Monday, September 01, 2008

Where To Start??

I feel like I should be blogging about Sarah Palin ... but I wouldn't know where to start, and so many people are doing a better job of it than I could even hope to. So, start here, with one of my new favorite bloggers:


I feel like I should be blogging about the Republican Convention and how they're using Hurricane Gustav to make themselves look like they give a good goddamn about the country, but I wouldn't know where to start, so here's a letter to God from Michael Moore that I thought was an enjoyable read:

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Dear God,

The other night, the Rev. James Dobson's ministry asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be cancelled.

I see that You have answered Rev. Dobson's prayers -- except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.

Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.

Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized -- and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush's FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.

But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, "There you go again!" So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.

So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.

But now it appears that You haven't been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America's "wholesale slaughter of unborn children." His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.

So this is my plea to you: Don't do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven't sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time -- they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don't know what, Bush's head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government's response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W's to help save the Gulf Coast.

So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It's done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I'll leave that to the followers of Rev. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.

Your faithful servant and former seminarian,

Michael Moore

I should even be posting about the ducks, but I don't know where to start. Last week they started laying eggs and they're delicious. We've gotten five so far ... but we lost two ducks. Not to the egg-laying process, but to predators. Richard's drake and one of the black cayugas were taken from their pen last week and their little carcasses were left in Richard's field on the path to the pond. I'm bereft.

That's all the news from Nowhere today.