HOW DRY I AM

There’s little that dampens my spirits here in the sunny state, including the weather. Which hardly dampens anything given the drought. While east coasters are getting busted for robberies and murders, some Californians are jailed for watering their lawns. With the amount of cloudbursts they get in the other end of the country, at least the grass will be greener there come spring. Though when it’s pouring, someone will have to humor all the invited attendees awaiting in gardens along with women holding bouquets.

Water can sure suck the joy out of a wedding. But water rationing can really suck the satisfaction out of vegetable planting and playing Slip ‘N Slide. Conservancy controllers are constantly threatening us, but I like to look at the bright side. At least I’m not being threatened with black ice. Have they looked to the west? We’ve got one big hunk of hydration encompassing this land to sustain us into the eighty-first century. Forecasters say that rain is predicted this weekend, and very possibly the winter of 2017. This prognosis comes from The National Weather service… in Egypt. There are meteorologists, those climate monitors and their acting chiefs of consistent disappointment, who have a hard time discerning which way the wind is even blowing. The way I see it, I’d like to get to heaven a half hour before the devil turns this place into a stinking furnace. While they can’t promise us precipitation, they can promise to fetch pails of water from the Pacific, and sift the salt out enough to satisfy our snapdragons and water gun weaknesses. Because of all sixty minute bathers and the water pistol participants in America, apparently we’ve run short of H2O.

I remember the days when we could run through steady streams that the sprinkler supplied without ever hearing, “Turn that water off!” Although my mom would shout, “Don’t you fill those water guns again or else.” She also said not to let the water tidal wave its way out of the bathtub while I was body surfing. But I just wanted to be euphoric for five flipping minutes. As I got older she’d ask me to shovel the sidewalk. I wanted to call our local weatherman to tell him I just shoveled four feet of “very little precipitation” away from the front door. Then ask that due to prediction error, could he kindly come shovel the rest. After being heavily blanketed, I realized where the term “under the weather” came from. Here in Cali, we crave a cloudy day hoping several droplets will dump on us to wet our milk thistle.

I grew up on tap water, well water, and drinking fountains….that once ubiquitous free source of wetness. Before long, they’ll be attaching meters to them and asking for a fee. I usually take my empty water bottles and refill them with water from the faucet. I got a finger pointed at me for turning my recycling regime into such an atrocious act. But I can assure you that many have drank at my house and few have keeled over. If I share my food with anyone as well, it’s either because I like them a lot, or it possibly fell on the floor and I don’t want it anymore.

When I go out to a restaurant they want us arriving hungry and thirsty. I’m usually asked if I want tap water, sparkling water, mineral water, Evian from the Alps, dew lifted from plants in the rainforest, or an aquifer from groundwater studiers of San Diego. A whiskey and tap water works just dandy. I want to inquire if their spring water comes from a spring, or from boreholes adjoining farmers who couldn’t strike oil and had to settle on making millions by bottling rain puddle reserves.
The most famous weather predictor so far has been that groundhoggish fella. I’m not sure why we get extended forecasts from a woodchucking rat type rodent who typically miscalculates the outlook. My guess is that he really doesn’t want to come out of the darn hole half the time let alone see his shadow. I’m sure he’d rather stay snug as a bug in a dry toasty place with a plug until the weather subsides.

We need a typhoon right about now. Weather predictors say they can foresee the precise time when one is approaching, as if it’s a real service to boat owners. I noticed Noah hasn’t been around lately. If he was here now on his ark looking down at the cracked drylands, he’d need to tell the animals to swim at their own risk. I suppose it might be better than all that water that is so turbulently willing to wash you away while you’re scrambling to get aboard a safety barge. With all that togetherness, I’d hate to get kicked in the head with the hind foot of a hippo. I pledge allegiance to the flag, to most animals, and to all the swimming holes of America. So if they dry up as well, I’ll be spending a lot more time in my bathtub. Even if it did rain for forty days and forty nights, at what point does it stop being good for the grapes? Because I need them for fermentation both now and forever, Amen.

God did have the good sense to surround me with this ocean. Although He must have thought I liked snorkeling with sharks and moray eels. If the drought keeps up, I’m ready to do some rain dances. Where is Gene Kelly when you need him? I will also need another Noah ready and waiting for my carnival cruise adventure. Only with an updated version of the ark, say with partitions and plumbing. And a wet bar. And a cute bartender. Although knowing me, I will miss the boat and be standing there with a doomed look on my face saying, “Darn, was that ship sailing today??”

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

SWEET SAILING

It seems our children are all having children. Assuming they are old enough to remember the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and falling victim to the high waves of a storm, which is very symbolic of parenting. So to all of you setting voyage, I hate to be the bearer of bummer news. But caretaking comes with some turbulence and the need for a good fitting life jacket. Take it from me. The advanced fetal monitoring system and owner of three fine female vessels.

I wish I could have ruefully studied that entire living arrangement before going through the painful task of labor. What did I know. I figured you have a great time conceiving, go through a few ouches during delivery, hold a cute newborn until they can walk, then set seasonal haul records by chauffeuring till you’ve spanned the continent. Little was I aware that some scary animals inhabit the waters. And sometimes those animals can bite the very hand that feeds them. Thank the Lord I didn’t have boys. Although being a male has its advantages. Especially if the doctor assesses the baby’s private frontal projection area and says, “He’s going to be very popular!”

I set sail three times, which made it hard to elicit sympathy from other shipwrecked mother’s. I got out of my berth every day to the same rituals. Although brushing my teeth never added any splendor to someone actually paying attention to something I had to say. Then came the squabbling. I don’t like to be entertained while I’m thinking. Just like I don’t like to be interrupted while I’m eating. I began suffering something called structural failure. In other words, losing my mind. It got to the point of more frequent inspection of shipmates and their surroundings. There were enough clothes on the floor to outfit Edmund’s entire crew. And you’d think they wouldn’t want to shower in such a yucky rain locker. But asking my girls to clean together was like having Hitler interact with Bin Laden. Since they shared bunks, I wanted to erect barbed wire between their beds to cut short any conspiracies to kill each other. That’s when I had more stunning frequencies of unclear thinking. I, the captain, did try keeping a tight ship. It’s funny how a swig of straight vodka followed with a Courvoisier chaser seemed to make the madness mellow. Not that I ever advocate alcohol or anything.

I traveled through some high velocity winds. It usually meant sparking getaway cancellations, itinerary changes, and our mutt fleeing out the doggie door. I urged anyone else in the path of these storms to take cover. They packed enough of a punch that I felt an evacuation to Tahiti was in order. Hurricane threats stayed in effect for much of my children’s remaining stay at home. They could have deserted, since some sailors were grumpy over food shortages and meal choices. I said, “This isn’t the Carnival cruise line!” One day I was experiencing with ground beef and told them to throw some BBQ sauce on it and they would think it’s ribs. There were times I called a truce ready to treat them to steak, knowing full well they would rather take a trip to Taco Bell or the mainland mall with several hundred of my dollars to blow.

One time the impact of category three winds appeared which typically followed daily boredom or lost sneakers. Minutes after that mood dissipated, sustaining gusts mounted again after one brutal outlash. Sometimes lightening struck, scorching my eyes at the sight of report cards. I declared an emergency and disaster efforts were called in. With no formal training, I could have issued more storm warnings. I landed in sick bay, visiting many a doctor in those days. Along with my dentist who once told me that I needed a crown. I totally agreed with him that a tiara would suit me nicely.

Any enlightened individual will tell you it’s better to have children than not. Of course it’s the exhausted commander with stretch marks who will buck that theory. I hate to dissuade anyone from foaling a possible oceanographer, bodyboarder, marine architect, or pirate. We all love Captain Jack Sparrow. And if you have Sparrow’s state of mind, you may be compelled to try his comedic influence. But I can assure you that you’ll need more than that. Like degrees in mathematics, mechanics, nursing, technology, superior credentials in communication, and a personal injury lawyer. Not to mention practice aboard another person’s ship before sailing out to sea. Which theoretically is time aboard a tanker, not a tugboat. And be prepared in case the ship capsizes.

I also recommend cutting coupons for just about everything, if you catch my thrift. In the time it took me to sign up for pre-school, I had already done all the trigonometry, linear algebra, and extended calculus to estimate and allocate future financials. Hopefully there will be some clear skies ahead after your own daughters come to you with shorty shorts, made from the finest scissor cuts in Gap clothing. And I realize it’s quite a standard strategy to see boys flinging wee wee over the porch railing that leaves morbid looking marigolds. But I do suggest the little nippers stop breast feeding by the time they grow teeth. Get stern. Boobs are not objects of prolonged production.

At least there is one perk to being predominantly old-er. My granddaughter wouldn’t think of looking at me doltishly. I made all my mistakes with the first two then had a more prosperous voyage with the third. It’s such sweet sailing with a grandchild. My children have all since sailed into the sunset. Otherwise I would have square knotted my neck to a hull. For the sake of encouraging aspirants navigating a career in child rearing, you could either abstain, or know all the distress signals. Plus how to compensate for an enormous amount of motion sickness.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend edition of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

LA CAGE A FOWL

She wears nothing but feathers. I’ve considered wearing nothing but feathers for Halloween. I eat cashews. She loves cashews. Which fortifies her for another round of pick-up lines. But the similarities end there. I’ve spent my life in the openness of a grand world and she’s been a caged creature from day one.

One of the highlights of going to my boyfriend’s house is his parrot Chula. The advantages of having a sharp beaked bird around is that she can not only converse with me, but pry open tuna fish if I can’t find an opener. Which can be a source of relief when I’m clenching my cuspids into a can. I’m growing attached to the multi-talker. Going into this relationship, I knew up front that in the event of a breakup, my guy would get sole custody of the chatterbox.

When Chula began to mimic me, I tried teaching her to say, “Patty want a cracker.” But I had to put her into the category of child rebelliousness when she doesn’t do anything I ask. She does cooperate in carrying on other conversations. I’m just glad that car alarms and weed whacker noises aren’t part of her vocabulary. Luckily I haven’t heard her swear like sailors, or other people I know. But I do swear that she’s been diaper deprived. Maxi pads might be in order considering the floor is continuously marred with parrot poop.

It’s a good thing my guy doesn’t have a dog or a cat or he would have extra excitement. And Chula doesn’t slobber all over me or meow for a meal. In order to ascertain which applicant was most qualified for the position as a pet, my fella didn’t have much choice. His mother passed away and willed the winged one to her son. He couldn’t say no, but says the parrot is pretty (as in needy) and wants his undying attention. I say she wants a chunk of me. But mostly a chunk of the woodwork, because she confuses his home for a national forest. If she’s let loose, the woodcarver can sure change the look of molding. She takes a chunk out of me and she’ll be joining the Dead Parrots Society. I doubt it’s any different than being stung by a stingray. That’s been trapped. For a lengthy period. Chula hasn’t begun aggressively targeting me…..yet. Although I haven’t tried crawling into her cage trying to play with her toys. I wouldn’t think of demoting her to secondary status. I know who her favorite person is. But she needs to know who his favorite person is as well. Except if her pupils are pinning, I’ll know I’m in deep trouble and need to find a new boyfriend.

The cutest was seeing Chula sneak into the living room while we watched a movie. She stood behind the sofa, which is a long sectional, conniving how to get to the other side. Her clipped wings wouldn’t allow her to become airborne. She positioned herself where the part of the couch separates, trying to look through the crack to find us. But because of her intelligence, she figured out how to maneuver her way around the furniture. She stopped and stared at us as if to say, “Why are you watching a movie without me?”

My man has a healthy level of attachment with Chula, provided she doesn’t peck him to the point of bleeding. She needs him, no matter what his needs are. But he’s loyal. I’ve watched her strike her pretty boy when she’s been ignored. When she nips at him, he gets stern. “Now Chula!!” But that’s as far as it goes. There’s no time out. And a spanking is totally out of the question. He just calmly tells her to be careful or she’ll end up like the chicken in the freezer.

One day she stood on the floor staring at her reflection in the stainless refrigerator. I could have sworn she said, “Mirror mirror don’t you stall, who’s the fairest of them all.” But I was probably just hearing things. That alone would have confirmed she’s female. Even the most astute pet owners can’t spot the difference, unless the female asks for better lighting to accentuate her lovely looks, or the male asks for a burger and a beer. I thought my beau was such a lady’s man. So he was shocked to learn that his bird was a man herself.

Fooled by this common misconception, he could have done DNA testing. Or at least felt the width of her hip bones, or for multiple nipples. I’m no parrotologist, but differentiating between a gal parrot and a guy parrot depends on the egg laying. So I’m surprised that he, nor did his mother know the identity. Although being cleverly cagey, I’m surprised the motormouth didn’t just flat out tell them herself. I mean himself.

This new knowledge came through a pet store employee after having a conversation concerning African Grey’s. With a fair amount of certainty, a veterinarian could diagnose this. And also advise that it isn’t tweetable. Once my beau found out his bird was a boy, he stopped calling him Chula and changed his name to Cholo. A term that implies an ethnic male typically dressed in loose fitting Levi’s, a hairnet, dark sunglasses, and covered in tattoos involving Catholic imagery or calligraphic messages. I think we should drive right down to the mall for some skinny jeans, a bandana, and shades….seeing that he’s a rebel with a superiority complex who is fully capable of hollering at homies. Although tattoos wouldn’t show since they’d be covered with feathers, unless my man does a sleek shave job on his buddy so the inked markings become totally noticeable.

I’m not sure which sex makes the better pet. Now that we’ve determined Cholo’s gender, whistling contact calls to me is alright now. As long as his motivation isn’t to mate.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

CATCHER OF THE RYE

In the good old days, a girl could go into a store with a dollar and walk out with bread, milk, cookies, a couple of candy bars, and a box of Puffa Puffa Rice. Gals can’t do that now. Too many surveillance systems.

This wo-man can totally live on bread alone. Especially if it’s rustic or raisin. It might be the same satisfaction that Buddhist monks experience. Although nothing mitigates the tummy ache of hunger quite like a steaming plate of pasta smothered in parmesan with a good basket of bread to sop up the sauce with. Sometimes I drink water or wine, just to surprise my circulatory system. And I wouldn’t think of eating soup without a warm Panini sitting next to it. I’d bake myself, but it would take me every bit of several days just to activate yeast and break down glutens. I tried baking once, and ended up pulling a hunka burnin’ love out of my fiery kitchen kiln since I never clean the thingamabob. Just the fact that I need sunglasses to see past the oven door tells me not to use it.

Although I never knew I could feel so sexy kneading bread. And it’s even more sultry slaving over a breadboard with Rod Stewart playing in the background. I’ve been known to clear a kitchen doing a raspy imitation of Tom Waits while massaging dough dressed in my dainties. I’m probably the only person who had flour as hair spray. But there’s no need for me to convert into a kneading nut. Not when I’m surrounded by patisseries, which are the greatest invention since sliced sourdough. And I have zero use hanging around that handyman’s heaven called Home Depot unless they build a bakery. I’m also not into this gluten free fad, and I’ll tell you why. I obeyed my mother. Sometimes. Even when she fed me some suspicious looking mushrooms. But when my mother told me to eat my white bread, I did so. Even though it can leave people fatigued, forgetful, with the runs, almost dead, and came way before celiac disease became so popular. Supposedly there’s enough in one tiny crouton to cause trouble. There’s also enough vodka in one small pint to cause trouble but you don’t see me giving up martinis.

Some of us are born happy. But scientists are starting to unriddle how the rest of us should learn to lighten up. Some say the answer lies in flourless, leavened bread. But I can’t see fighting flour wars as a way to keep smiling. I feel sorry for all the cheesy garlic breadless people in third world countries. I’ve experienced my own hardships. Like the loss of earring backs, and a loaf of rye after I mistakenly left it on the roof of my car speeding away from the grocers. I circled back, but only found flatbread with tire marks. Just yesterday I was in a restaurant ordering crusty rolls. They brought me rock solid slabs of butter and I had to chisel my way towards double happiness. Though my pipe dream of being super skinny again continually clashes with my chewing. I’m certain that trolls hide in my closet and stitch my clothes tighter every season.

I treat bread as necessity, just like I consider martinis a necessity. I sometimes use a French baguette for sopping up that sauce as well. I did it more when my girls were young. It made mommy cry when they’d leave the crumby evidence of emptiness in the bread box. And I would have had a happier husband if he didn’t have to stop at the store on his way home from work for a loaf, or another bottle of Seagram’s. I’d leave him phone messages at work, “Danger Will Robinson, danger! We’re out of pumpernickel and happy juice!” He also passed up those five or six chances to pull the trigger. Patterns become ingrained in childhood. I realize now why Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. His mom probably cut off his crusts and he never wanted to do it himself as an adult.

I’ve grown out of cartoons, clothes, and slinging rubber bands at people. But I’ll never outgrow the love of baked goods. Cravings are a constant companion of most people. A slow yearning for asparagus can be overcome by a fast longing for Hawaiian buns. I didn’t realize how bland my life was until I drove on California’s highways, and discovered brioche. According to public arrest records, a large percent of robbers are bread users. So cash wasn’t their only objective. And I’ll betcha any amount of pita rounds that Jenny Craig has half a dozen pecan cinnamon twists in her freezer right this minute. I get it. I smell those Cinnabon’s at the mall. And it’s seven miles away. The only time I didn’t eat bread was when I dropped my sandwich at the park and a goose came along and pulverized it. I wouldn’t do well at any hunger games unless there was a race for rye.

There was a rumor that John Lennon said, “Give a piece of wheat a chance.” During their bed-in, he probably broke a lot of bread with Yoko. That man couldn’t really live on snuggling alone, could he? We spend our days in a sensory cyclone, buffeted by smells that detour us into a hankering state. Often enough, that detour takes us to the refrigerator, or a restaurant. As aromatic as it is, I’m a sucker for the warmth of a baked and buttered anything. I can even snag a little bread snack at church, which convinces me that God is on my side. Or the root of all flour weevils.

So much for my taste bud tendencies. Since we all are governed by pleasure principles, we want what we want when we want it. And at this very moment, I want a piece of banana bread.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)