Search and Rescue

“How could you have lost a plunger?” the clerk at the hardware store said on the phone. “What did you do with it?”

Clearly this was a repeat customer. Her tone of voice gave her away.

Was he asking for a replacement or help in finding it? I didn’t stick around to find out, but it did make me curious.

How could you lose a plunger? How could you lose any plumbing tool for that matter? They’re large enough to trip over.

I’ve lost rings down bathroom drains, wallets at check-out stands in supermarkets. I even lost Calvin once on a walk. He gave me signs that he was sufficiently trained to obey me, so I let him off leash. I blinked and he was gone. The next thing I heard him baying like a coyote in heat. He found a hole in the fence and wiggled through to dash after a hare. I called him, but he was deaf. Unlike sheep who obey the shepherd’s voice, Calvin ignored me as if he didn’t belong to anybody. He was his own master, and that scared me to death.  IMG_0130

So much for the love and care I had given him over the years. So much for the training that didn’t stick. So much for the intense distress this was putting me through. He plainly didn’t care.

And then there was my son. This was his dog. He left him in my care while he went to college. “Son, I lost your dog. He’s probably dead. I’m sorry.”

Calvin was camouflaged in a thicket of bushes. I called louder. Nothing. I couldn’t climb the fence without tearing my body in pieces. I kept calling louder until I was hoarse. A park ranger heard me and opened a gate in the fence and let me in. I walked for miles calling Calvin’s name. Birds flew overhead. Squirrels rushed by me. Calvin was nowhere to be seen.

I never thought I’d do it, but after an hour I gave up.  I turned back and walked to the car weeping.

As I got closer, I saw a silhouette of an animal by the driver’s side of the car.

It was Calvin, sitting there, waiting for me, with a smirk on his face.

Two emotions came flooding in. The first was relief that I wouldn’t have to tell my son his dog was dead. The second, I wanted to kill his dog.

Calvin says, “My body may have escaped, but my heart was always yours.”

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SFO to JFK Not

 

As I prepared for my trip to New York, I received a text message notifying me my flight was cancelled the next morning. No explanations. No apologies. To call this 888 number. Which I did. Immediately.

After listening to computer prompts and squeaks and whistles I finally hear a human voice.

“My name is George. How can I help you?” George doesn’t sound like a robot or a foreigner.
“You canceled my flight, George,” I say.
“Only for your safety, ma’am,” he says.
“You mean New York tomorrow would have been hazardous to my health?”
“It’s for your protection,” he says. “May I have your last name?”
George pulls up my reservation. “I see you’re going to JFK.”
“Were going. Remember you canceled,” I said.
“We have another flight to JFK a bit later in the morning…oh wait, it’s full, no seats,” he says. “I can route you through LA and on a red eye.”
“I didn’t pay for all that suffering.”
“Let’s see San Francisco then. Oh, wait it has stops. You probably don’t want that. Too long for you.”
“This call is too long for me. Don’t you have other options?”
“Not if you want to land at JFK.”
“Try the Hamptons. I’d like that.”
“No Hamptons.”
“Martha’s Vineyard?”
“Martha’s on sabbatical.”
“Hey, how about New Jersey?” I say.
I hear the squeaks and whistles. George hangs up.

“Alaska’s running a third world airline,” I say to Alf. “I could have arrived at JFK by now.”
“What did you expect from an iceberg state? Their brains are frozen,” he says.
My phone rings. It’s George.
“George! How are you? I never expected to hear from you again. I thought I lost you for good. “
“No ma’am. You can’t lose me until we finish this reservation,” he says.
“Aw George. I didn’t know you cared,” I say.
“Yes ma’am. Alaska values your business. We want you to be happy with your experience.”
“Can you book me to Paris then?”
“We don’t fly there but some of our partners do, let me check…”
“No George! Just book me to New York.”
George recommends a flight into New Jersey. I take it. We say tearful farewells.

The next morning I emerge from security ready for my flight. The other passengers show up. We take up the entire gate area. My seat mate on my left was also on the canceled flight. I suspect there are many bumped passengers on this plane going to New Jersey even when we really wanted JFK. I’m suspicious, this is a clever way of filling the New Jersey flights because nobody wants to go there.

We anxiously wait for the boarding announcement. Suddenly a woman behind me says, “Oh no!”
I whip around. “What’s the matter?”
“Look at the board. Our flight isn’t leaving for another two hours.”
A collective groan goes up.
They tell us at first it’s thunderstorms. We check the weather map on our phones. You can’t fool the public anymore. Clear skies and bright sun. Then they tell us it’s finding a crew problem. A few minutes later two pilots show up and board. We sit there for another hour. Then the flight attendants show up and board. We continue to sit there. By now my seat mate to the right and I are becoming best friends. I hear her whole life story. Then another announcement. It’s the limited airspace over three airports that’s causing the delay. Flight control is delaying all flights to the East Coast. I’m suspicious again. I bet they have Millennials working things who don’t know how to stack planes in the right order yet.

Another announcement. “We’re having a paper plane contest. Anyone who wants to participate come to the counter for a sheet of paper,” the agent says. “At the time you should have taken off we’ll launch them. That way at least something gets off the ground this morning. The plane that flies the farthest gets a $25 voucher from us.” IMG_2999

I don’t know how to make a paper airplane but I want to play. “Will you build it and I’ll fly it?” I ask my seat mate to my left. He agrees and within minutes he hands me a beautiful paper plane that looks like the Concorde. Another passenger, clearly an engineer, builds an elaborate one that looks like the stealth bomber. He decides to test it. He launches it out by the corridor. It flies straight into a woman’s forehead with a vengeance. He apologizes and crawls back to his seat. The teenagers in the waiting area are furiously making theirs. One of them checks Google for directions. I embellish mine with the logo and Alaskan face on one wing. “New Jersey or bust!” on the other wing. The agent calls the race. We line up in a row. She puts the young kids in front. At her command she says, “Go!” Waiting passengers stand to watch. We launch our creations. A 10-year old wins. Everyone applauds. I hand my plane to the agent.

We go back to waiting. Even our captain can’t convince flight control to leave earlier. Finally, they call the flight. As I walk past the counter, my plane is displayed for all to see.

Calvin says, “That’s what you get for not taking me. They would have taken one look at me, fallen in love, given me treats, and escorted us straight to first class. Or maybe just me. You they would have kept in the squeeze section.

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Whites Not Allowed

As I was standing by my kitchen window a stripe of white flashed under the oleander bush. This was 6 am. I’m not that alert usually. But the movement caught my eye. I made inventory of the animals that normally visit my backyard. Squirrels. Raccoons. Bees. Ravens. Cats. But no white cat. Or my neighbor’s dog.

“We have a skunk in the garden,” I said.

“How do you know?” Alf said.

“I just do.”  IMG_3834

I waited. Out from the undergrowth there emerged a black nose sniffing in all directions, followed by a black head with two black beady eyes, and then the whole body. Its coat was thick and lush. God had taken a felt marker and drawn two brilliant white stripes down its back that merged at the tail. It’s nose kept moving. It scampered closer to the window. It wasn’t afraid of my standing there. Then in a blink it drew its tail up and fanned it out and sprayed the corner of my flower bed.

“What a odious creature,” I said.

“Why be so critical?” Alf said.

“He sprayed my touch-me-nots.”

“There’s a message in that somewhere,” Alf said.

“Fetch me the broom,” I said.

Alf went out to the garage, came back in with the broom, and handed it to me.

I went outside with broom at the ready and looked for the animal.

Gone. It had vanished.

I was going to sweep him up and dump him on the compost pile where he could gorge his little black heart out.

Calvin says, “No way. That skunk would have sprayed you first and you would’ve ended up in a bath of tomato juice.”  beagle

Another Cup

I grew up drinking Yerba mate and black tea with milk in the afternoons. I hated the taste of coffee. It tasted bitter, but I trained myself to like it. Maybe because I smoked cigarettes and that lead to coffee drinking. You can’t smoke without a cup of coffee, just like you can’t eat a bagel without lox and cream cheese. Coffee became my smoking companion, and when I quit one day I didn’t know what to do about my coffee habit. It’s partner had died. I left it alone to get cold in the cup.
Then one day I realized tea wasn’t strong enough so I went back to coffee. Solo. Black. That’s when I discovered the depth of flavor. It wasn’t a black drink. It had the complexity of wine. Now I needed to find cigarettes that were worthy of it. Or maybe not. I’d try the single life for a while. I would experiment with different beans and discover their complex personalities.  cropped-photo143.jpg
The light roasts were too bland, unfocused, I lost interest quickly. The medium roasts were intriguing, and they promised an experience, but didn’t deliver. The dark roasts made my head turn and my heart pump. Viennese coffee made me swoon. Chandeliers, ballrooms and waltzes. Rich and dark and elegant. Could I be paired with such an elixir? Would it be possible?
 
the fragrance of stars
after the storm
a sudden longing
Calvin says, “Oh my gosh, you’re turning literary on me. Now I’ll find literature in my bed.”
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Resistance Is Welcome

Alf has surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers popping up this summer. My garden has never looked so colorful even though we have the worst soil on the planet. The Sahara has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, that when broken up with toil and sweat, smiles at you for a moment, and then calls out to the clods and they come scampering back to form an impenetrable layer of steel that refuses all welcome to things green. 

Sort of like the attitude people have when confronted with the truth. It can be about anything. Health, food, books, religion, even where to take a vacation. Nobody likes to be told about something they haven’t thought of themselves. There’s an immediate revulsion. Never mind that what you’re suggesting is really good stuff, and will help them. That doesn’t seem to be the point. It’s being told something they have to do that makes them bristle. So I ask why the TED Talks are so popular, or the online seminars for turning you into a celebrity for 10 minutes garner thousands of likes on social media? Maybe the clue lies in this: if you appeal to a person’s ego instead of his well-being you stand a better chance of being heard.

There’s a word for that – pride.

Calvin says, “Hey, I run away when I hear the word bath.” 

Post-Millennial

unnamed (1)“I met this girl online. A Millennial. From India. Everything looked perfect on paper,” he said to his blonde lunch date. I sat at the counter of the Greek restaurant listening to this. The lunch date had her back to me and sat face-on to this fellow. He was good looking. Chiseled features, straight nose, good teeth. “I knew this was too good to be true. And I was right. She was looking for someone to give her a leg-up in her career. I didn’t want to date a business deal. What are you having for lunch? To drink? The lamb salad is good.” He continued talking. She never uttered a word. The food arrived. She got the chicken salad. She skewered it with a fork.

Calvin says, “I hope she stuck him with the bill, too.” beagle

Security Details

I was overweight. Me and my luggage. The agent behind the airline counter said I should remove something otherwise it would cost me $200 in fees. “Do you do liposuction?” He had no sense of humor. I lugged the bag over to a scale and hoisted it on with all my might. I was only 7 pounds over the permissible 50. “Cut me some slack,” I thought with my heart pounding. I was facing a 14-hour flight. What was a measly 7 pounds? I looked over at him. He pointed to a sign that said, “50 lb. limit.” I pulled out my make-up bag. That did the trick. But now my purse was so heavy it threatened to pull my shoulder out of its socket.

Even with TSA pre-check and an escort from CLEAR, my purse was pulled off the conveyor belt for inspection. No kidding. It overflowed. The agents were looking for a sharp object. They decided it was the camera lens I was carrying for a friend. I knew it was my nail file and dagger attitude. IMG_3973

When I got to the gate, or tried to, there was another security check with pat downs, checking of bags and screening for chemicals on my clothes. I went through that twice. I ran upstairs to buy another purse to divide my overload in two places. Both times I had to go through security. That’s the price you pay to fly to Israel.

It made me ask why we don’t do this in all our airports. Why only on flights to Israel? It’s because Israel demands it. So why don’t we? We’re too lenient and too trusting. TSA isn’t going to catch every bad guy in the first run through. We need two screenings, especially one just before boarding. That way we can x-ray your therapy dog and your neck pillow.

Calvin says, “That would mean I’d get x-rayed again, and that slab of bacon I stole from the fridge would be discovered.” beagle