Science Diet

thOver the years, I’ve owned five cats. Each lived long lives on a steady diet of Meow Mix. The only exception was when daughter Laine’s cat Figgy went into renal failure at age 13. He was put on a special food that cost a million dollars a day, which he enjoyed for two weeks before he died.

Indy—our son Harrison’s cat—lived to be 150 years old eating Meow Mix and whatever critters she would scavenge.

When Little Mister came into our lives eleven summers ago, I figured what was good for the others was good for him, too. However, for the past year, an increasing number of hairballs have been hacked about the house. Maybe it was time to upgrade his diet.

A month ago, I went to Fort Bragg Feed and Pet to buy Lucy her gourmet dog food. What about Little Mister? asked the voice of my conscience. Lucy’s nuclear Catahoula puppy energy has probably given him an ulcer.

science-diet-senior-age-defying-cat-food_1I wandered the cat food isle and found Science Diet Age Defying cat food for Senior 11+. The writing on the package claims: “Precisely balanced, easy-to-digest nutrition to fight 4 important signs of aging in 30 days.” Maybe my husband Gary and I should also eat it.

I bought the food, eager to help Little Mister defy aging. Returning home, I filled his bowl, and he started gobbling it. (I wish this could be a testimonial to Science Diet, but he also enjoys eating gophers and rats.)

What exactly are the “4 important signs of aging,” I wondered. The writing on the Science Diet Senior 11+ bag isn’t very clear. One bullet point states: “Defends the body and brain against aging.” What does that mean? Will my cat lose his flabby tummy? Will eating this food stop him from hallucinating that my legs are monsters that must be attacked?

LM3The bag also states: “Nutrition to improve skin & coat in 30 days*.” The * makes reference to “vs. previously fed U.S. grocery foods.” Does this mean that European grocery foods might be on par with Science Diet or even superior? Since Little Mister refuses to travel abroad, I won’t be able to contrive an experiment to measure this claim.

“Supports long-term heart & vital organ health.” At the age of 11+, is long-term considered 30 days? And how am I supposed to determine if Little Mister’s heart and vital organ health has improved when I’m not certain it was compromised in the first place?

I searched the back of the bag hoping to gain additional insight.

Under the banner of “The Precisely Balanced Benefits of Age Defying” there’s a claim that I found especially intriguing: “Precisely balanced nutrition…to fight litter box accidents….”

What, pray tell, is a litter box accident? I’ve never been fond of litter boxes, but now that I know they can cause accidents, I’m even less so. Little Mister has never had one. He’s exposed to enough danger fighting off cats who attempt to overthrow his hold on the vacant lot next door. He must also be highly vigilant to avoid Lucy’s attentions. I won’t add the potential of litter box accidents to his already hazardous life.

Thirty days have passed and I’ve discovered:

LilMr1Before starting this diet, Little Mister could barely do one crunch. He’s now up to almost five before viciously attacking me. His brain function also seems to have improved. When he sees me coming at exercise time, he turns and runs like a cheetah. This food has defended him well against his aging body and brain.

As for an improved coat, his fluffiness has always allowed him to be a good-looking, vain creature. (He just told me to say he’s even more gorgeous now.)LilM

The claim Science Diet makes that this food is made of “natural ingredients & high-quality proteins with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in a smaller kibble that is easy to chew & digest” appears to be true.

I’m happy to report that in the past month, I’ve only discovered two hairballs and not one pile of puke. (Those of you with elderly cats know this is a true miracle.)

Since I don’t own a stethoscope or MRI machine, I cannot prove the Science Diet claim that this food “Supports long-term heart & vital organ health.” After 30 days, Little Mister is still alive. We’ll consider that success.

Little Mister likes his Science Diet. If it does little more than lessen my guilt over bringing a puppy into his world, I’ll keep buying it.1441214_10152206094356844_1136025372_n

Welcome Wagon

If I worked for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, I’d start a Welcome Wagon. I would design and deliver gift baskets to new residents. Mine wouldn’t be your run of the mill, welcome to our wonderful community, isn’t it beautiful, have a pizza on me type of basket. When someone decides to move here, they already know it’s a great place. My baskets would feature some of the more quirky aspects of our small town.

Let’s say you’ve moved to Fort Bragg. We’ll sit at your kitchen table drinking lattes from the Mendocino Cookie Company and start with the least controversial of topics—global warming. The weather along our coast is fickle. Some whiners complain it’s too windy or rainy or foggy. What sissies. They should not be allowed an opinion until after they’ve spent a winter in the Midwest. In the past few years, the effects of climate change have benefited our area, ushering in increasingly warm, sunny days. This makes it hard to remain a hater of greenhouse gases. To keep you focused, I’ll give you this bumper sticker:

The basket will include a copy of page 31 of the California Driver Handbook which specifies the right of way laws at four-way stops. On second thought, scratch that. Those laws are useless in Fort Bragg. Instead, I’ll add a flashcard printed with the rules of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. This is how right of way is determined in our town.

If you find yourself at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut (an intersection complicated by left-hand turn lanes), you’ll know it’s your turn to move after you’ve been honked at twice, flipped off once, and rear ended.

DSC02395The highlight of the basket will be my patented Taaka Vodka/M&M candy gift (made for less than ten dollars). As you open the Taaka to take a slug and toss back a couple of M&M’s, I’ll caution that this is a great place to live if you don’t have anything to hide. Similar to high school, gossip is a popular form of spreading “news” in our town.

I’ll tempt you to reveal your secrets by claiming I was once a roadie for Van Halen. If your story isn’t equally as entertaining, I’ll stir in a few spicy details before passing it around. You’ll become an instant celebrity.

Your basket will also contain a coupon for a free Gird Your Loins class at the Mendocino Sports Club. You can cash this in after you’ve made the mistake of opening your mouth to express an opinion and need to learn how to defend yourself from attack. We are a passionate and polarized community when it comes to such issues as the Dollar Tree Store or Taco Bell. Dare to take a side and you will be pummeled by the opposition.

tacobellWhen The Fort Bragg Advocate News asked for comments on their Facebook page regarding the future building of a Taco Bell, one woman innocently posted: “Yuck! We don’t live here, but plan to someday. One of the reasons we love Ft. Bragg is because of so few corporate chains.”

Poor, naive thing—she knew not what she started. The cannonballs fired immediately:

“Ft. Bragg doesn’t need you here.”

“Interesting that most of the ‘anti establishment’ nut jobs are not the people born in Fort Bragg but those who are transplants.”

“There’s enough of these lunatics ruining the town, they don’t need more.”

Her response: “Why are you all being jerks just because I expressed an OPINION?”

One of the greatest gifts of living here is the lack of suburbs. It’s difficult to remain a snob when you can’t huddle within your own socio-economic class.

More than twenty years ago, I took my first trip to The Purity. I stood in line with a man who had a wire coat hanger fashioned as an antennae around his head. He clutched a plastic gallon jug, half filled with red juice, to his chest and spoke lovingly to the box of doughnuts he was purchasing. I avoided going to that store for several months until I learned that trips to Safeway or Harvest put me in line with similar folks.

Like me, you’ll learn to accept people for who they are—not for the status they hold. As a result, you’ll have friends from all walks of life—from the intellectual to the illiterate, the wealthy to the poor, elderly to youngsters. Since this gift is far too large to fit into a basket, I’ll substitute a candy bar purchased to support Little League, a $25 gift certificate from Triangle Tattoo, a dollar gift certificate from the Dollar Tree Store, and a promise from someone to take you on a pub crawl through the Barmuda Triangle (the configuration of three of our oldest downtown bars: Tip Top, Welcome Inn and the Golden West).

Toward the end of our visit, you will question if you made a mistake by moving here. Quite the contrary—four-way stops aside—you are one of the luckiest people on earth.

No Complaints

bethany

Bethany the Fierce

As my trainer Bethany puts me through exercise paces at the gym, we chat about one of my favorite hobbies—complaining. For the past several months, she has made a conscious effort to avoid the activity. “Do you know how hard it is to not complain?” she asks. I can’t imagine. Like parasailing, hang gliding, and scrapbooking, I’ve never tried it.

I take this as a challenge and declare that if I can go the rest of the afternoon without complaining, I’ll reward myself with nachos from Los Gallitos (with extra guacamole). It’s two-thirty. If I eat dinner early, I’ll only have a few hours to endure.

When I get home and click the garage door opener, the door stays closed. For several months, the door has mocked me in this way—just haphazard enough to keep me from calling someone to repair it. “Son of a—“ I suddenly remember my vow. I force a smile, make a conscious effort to not grumble, and park the car outside.

I enter the house to find my husband Gary, who’s been presenting flu-like symptoms all morning, in his recliner. He asks if I’ll go to The Purity to get him Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and some juice.

A whine starts in my brain and threatens to erupt into foot stomping. (Just so you don’t think I’m heartless, this would be my second trip to the store for him today.) My tantrum is quickly squelched by the memory of my pledge. I like going to The Purity. And I won’t have to mess with the garage door opener because the car is parked outside. I happily go to the store.

cat(7)The afternoon progresses swimmingly until the cat Little Mister appears, screeching at my office door.

Oh no. I’d forgotten about the demanding cat.

I think of Jesus and how He maintained serenity despite His many trials and tribulations. (Note to self: ask a theologian if there’s mention of a fat gray cat in the New Testament.)

During the past several weeks of our dog Lucy’s recovery from knee surgery, Little Mister has been sorely neglected. Instead of my usual annoyance (I have work to do!), I muster compassion and pet him as he rumples the paperwork on my desk. When he tries to climb onto the computer keyboard, instead of yelling, I gently pick him up and spend a solid five minutes settling him on the rug.

By this time, it’s three-thirty and I’m feeling quite pure of heart. I wonder if four o’clock is too early to eat dinner, but remember that’s the time for Lucy’s second rehab walk of the day.

CGCAfter countless obedience classes, Lucy and I are pretty adept at our walks. However, her limited outside time during her weeks of recovery makes each walk a challenge. The resident blue jay taunts her, the kitten who has taken over the field in the back needs to be chased, the cat poop buried under bushes must sniffed out and eaten.

She’s very strong and singularly focused when she wants her way. Given the fragility of her knee, I have to be careful not to pull on her. I must be ever vigilant to avoid distractions and coax her with treats. A twenty-minute walk is exhausting. (Or I should say was exhausting until I stopped the habit of complaining.)

I take deep breaths and determine this will be the best walk ever. I evade the bird, kitten, and cat poop pitfalls while carrying on a stream of light chatter—telling her she’s the best girl, so smart and wonderful. We pass a guy sitting in his truck. I say hello and he offers the kind of wary smile one gives a crazy person.

At four-thirty, I receive a text from the house sitter that she’s not available over Mother’s Day weekend. It will be the first Mother’s Day in three years I won’t spend with my kids in San Francisco. Part of me wants to cry and thrash about, but the new well-honed saintly part suggests I’ll find another way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

By five o’clock, I’m on the phone with Los Gallitos. At five-thirty, I’m sitting in front of Judge Judy scarfing down nachos. By six I’m stuffed with a feeling of wellbeing—a combination of yummy food and a successful three and a half hours of avoiding the traps of self-pity and martyrdom.

I must admit this was an enjoyable afternoon. I’m thankful to Bethany for bringing enlightenment. I might even try this non-complaining thing—and definitely those nachos—again soon.angel

Giant Bra Ball Revisited

Purity copyYou know how it is—you have a Giant Bra Ball in your garage and don’t know what to do with it. You haven’t been able to park your car inside for years. It’s time to get serious about finding it another home. But where?

This particular Giant Bra Ball was made by San Francisco Bay artist Ron Nicolino in the late 1990’s. He intended it as a whimsical way to bring awareness to the serious issue of breast cancer. When it wasn’t displayed on a flatbed trailer parked outside of the Pier 23 Café in San Francisco, he hauled it behind his pink Cadillac up and down the California coast. In July 2001, it was featured in Mendocino’s Fourth of July parade.

You might think such a ball is unique, but it isn’t. During this same period, another was constructed by San Francisco artist Emily Duffy, thus igniting the infamous Giant Bra Ball War.

It all began after Nicolino was denied his vision of “Bras Across the Grand Canyon.” He searched the artistic community for anyone who might make use of his collection of donated bras. Duffy answered the call. They attempted to collaborate on an artistic piece, but were unable to agree about who should get credit for the original Giant Bra Ball idea. Nicolino ended up keeping his bras and started rolling them while Duffy sent out a plea for donated bras and began rolling her own. Except through their lawyers, they never spoke again.

Duffy’s ball is part of the permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

nicolino3But where is Nicolino’s? My July 2014 blog post “A Ballsy Idea” attempted to find the answer.

Nearly eight months later, I received a cryptic electronic message from Nicolino’s daughter Ruby: “I know where it is.”

A tickle ran up my spine. Through email exchanges, Ruby told me that Nicolino took the Giant Bra Ball with him when he moved to Washington State in 2002. After he passed away in 2009, it was transported to a secret location in California.

If Nicolino’s Giant Bra Ball isn’t in your garage (it actually could be in mine—hiding behind a mountain of other stuff), I imagine it somewhere dark and lonely, checked on occasionally by family and friends. Wouldn’t it be great if it could once again see the light of day?

Ruby would love to see it installed in an art gallery or institution for breast cancer awareness. She also suggested that it might be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to charity.

Ruby mentioned Burning Man and this got me thinking. Perhaps the organizers could plop the Giant Bra Ball down in the middle of the event. As they unroll it, they could distribute bras like party favors to people (who I understand are otherwise naked). At the very end, everyone would rip off their bras and toss them on top of a bonfire. Nicolino’s creation would go out in a blaze of glory.

All this thinking has given me a bit of indigestion, but here’s another idea:

Why don’t we buy it? By “we,” I mean Fort Bragg or Mendocino. It’s just the type of quirky, yet socially relevant art that our community embraces. I visualize it attracting attention in a number of locations.

On top of the Tip Top

On top of the Tip Top

An attempt to beautify the ugly AT&T building

An attempt to beautify the ugly AT&T building

 

After 100 years or so, I think it’s time to replace the Time & Maiden statue on the Savings Bank of Mendocino

At the head of the new coastal trail at Glass Beach

At the head of the new coastal trail at Glass Beach

At the home of my friend Marcia

At the home of my friend Marcia

In the parking lot of The Purity

In the parking lot of The Purity

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for this Giant Bra Ball. I really do want to start parking my car in the garage.

(Thanks a bunch to super talented and all around great guy Tony Arguelles for the Photo Shop magic.) (And for the photo of the Savings Bank of Mendocino.)

Notes to Younger Self

Recently, I stood in an exercise class next to a thirty-something-year old woman. While waiting for the instructor to arrive, we quipped about how even though the class kicked our butts, we kept coming back. Somehow the topic of age came up and I proclaimed that at the age of sixty-one I feel in the best shape of my life.

A look of horror melting into pity darkened her unwrinkled face. She took a step away. I believe she stopped breathing. I decided right then and there to out burpee her in the upcoming session. I did, too—even as stars flashed at the black edges of my peripheral vision and I felt dangerously close to a heart attack.

Driving home, still bitter about the young woman’s reaction to my age, I got to thinking how I wasn’t much different when I was young.

When I was four and my friend Mrs. Biklen told me she was forty-five, I couldn’t fathom such a number. I imagined it to be the infinity concept my first grade brother and his friends talked about. Twenty years later, she delighted in turning sixty-five because it made her eligible for Medicare. I wondered how anyone of such an advanced age could be the least bit happy. How could she possibly focus on anything besides looming death?

Now that I’m rotating towards Medicare eligibility and note the looks of revulsion when I confess my age to youngsters, I realize I’m only getting back what I once gave out. I still have a vague memory of what it was like to be young. While some things about growing older are downright ridiculous, many are beneficial. With this in mind, I’d like to send a few notes to my younger self.

You’ll wear shoes like this. The good news is that you’ll consider them stylish.shoes

You’ll be repaid for all the times you impatiently honked and cursed at older drivers by being honked and cursed at by impatient youth. The good news is that you won’t care.

You’ll stop going out to parties at ten at night because you’ll be asleep. The good news is that you no longer have friends who stay awake past ten.

Ninja2You’ll have a twenty-five-year window—from the ages of fifteen to forty—until you become invisible to the public eye. Before your feminine wiles and creamy good looks disappear, use them often to get your way. The good news is that once you’re invisible, you’ll realize your lifelong dream of becoming a ninja.

You’ll stop fighting your hair, cut it super short, get up each morning to run your man-comb through it, and let it have its way. The good news is that crappy hair or not, nobody notices you anyway.

You’ll take fewer things for granted—sleeping through the night, an iron-clad digestive system, and bladder control. The good news is that there are drugs to take care of all of this.

You’ll have kids who grow up and accuse you of needing hearing aids. You’ll accuse them of mumbling. The good news is that they no longer live with you so you don’t have to talk to them.

lemonsYou’ll issue proclamations to fruit in the produce section of the grocery store. “If you think I’m going to pay a dollar for you, you’ve got another think coming.” The good news is that you’ll find the act of shaming produce highly satisfying.

You’ll consider housekeeping a task done only to impress company. The good news is you don’t have to be too thorough because you’ll have stopped associating with people who complain about leaving your house covered in dog and cat hair.

You’ll look back and see that you wasted far too much time worrying about the future—your health, financial security, whether you’ll have a date for the carnival. The good news is that everything works out just fine.youngself

Parking Lot Grace

mycarI exit The Purity and walk across the parking lot towards my car. An eighties-style mini-van with patches of missing blue paint whips around a line of parked cars and screeches to a halt as if to avoid hitting me. It is several feet from making actual body contact, but screeches nonetheless. Burning cigarettes dangle from the corners of the lips of both the driver and his passenger.

The passenger jumps out like he’s late for an important interview. He takes a few sprinting steps and stops in front of me. With his thumb and forefinger, he pulls the cigarette from of his mouth. His face is bright, lit by a smile of anticipation.

Perhaps he’s a fan of It Happened at Purity.

I’m on my way home from the veterinarian where I’ve learned the sad news that our dog Lucy has to have another Luxating patella surgery. I’m in no mood to sign autographs.

He’s of slight build, about my height, short blonde hair, wears a camo T-shirt, and looks vaguely familiar. He pauses and opens his mouth. Perhaps he’ll say My buddy wanted to run you over, but I told him not to.

Instead, he says, “Ma’am?”

I’m thinking here it is—he’s going to ask for money. A couple months ago, I found a dollar in The Purity parking lot. It’s in a cup holder in my car. I keep waiting for someone to ask so I can give it away. This could be the day.

“Yes?” I say.

“Have a nice day.”

This makes me smile. “Thank you. And you, too.” I start to walk past.

He takes a drag off his cigarette and with smoke exiting his nose and mouth, says, “I really like your blouse.”

My heart fills with gratitude for him. He has lightened a very dark day.

I get into my car and pat Lucy on the head. “It’s amazing how little it takes to keep us going, isn’t it girl?” She wags her tail, looking out the front window, excited about where we might go next.1385952_10152162649041844_1036009523_n

How to bottle beer—in 22 easy steps

beer71. On a visit home, your son brings a beer making kit. His fiancé, who gave it to him a year ago, has threatened to re-gift it if he doesn’t use it soon.

beer52. Son and fiancé boil up the brew, pour it into a large jug, and top with a thingy. The instructions say to store in cool, dark place. They wrap it in a sheet and put in the downstairs shower.

3. The morning of their departure, four days later, remind son of the hooch. He’ll review the instructions and read aloud that it’s not to be disturbed for two weeks. (Two weeks!)

4. Maintain a calm, even tone while you suggest he pour it down the drain. Straighten your spine, shoulders back, head held high in defiance as he places a hand on your shoulder and uses his hostage negotiator tone (one he perfected during his teen years to defuse your bat-crap-crazy reactions to some of his antics)—“Come on Mom, you and Dad can do it.”

5. Begrudgingly admit that you can as you review the things you are no longer capable of doing—the splits, staying awake past ten p.m., recalling your mother’s maiden name. Embrace this opportunity to impress your adult child.

6. The night before bottling, son calls to remind you. It’s a good thing because you want to pretend you forgot, let it expire beyond the two-week deadline, and toss it out.

beer67. Read the instructions. Read again—and again. One more time. Learn a fun fact: the sludge at the bottom of the jug is called trub. Think about watching the suggested online instructional video.

8. Sleep fitfully.

9. In the morning, take a Lorazepam to reduce anxiety over your fear of accidentally siphoning trub into the bottles. In the meantime, sanitize the bottles and review the instructions. Think again about watching the online video.

beerinstructions10. Once the medication kicks in, enlist the assistance of your Baby Daddy. Give him the job of sucking on the end of the siphon tubing to get the flow going and inserting it into a bottle.

11. With one hand, hold the racking cane in the jug, ever vigilant to keep it away from the trub. With your other, place your thumb and finger on the tubing clamp to stop the flow when a bottle is full.

12. Baby Daddy yells, “Stop! It’s almost full! I said stop!”

13. In a panic, pull the racking cane from the liquid.

14. Baby Daddy sighs, “Damn, we lost the suction.”

15. After a couple of filled bottles, begin to enjoy the process—that is, until you start on the capping. How much pressure is too much pressure? Maybe you should watch the video.

16. Let Baby Daddy take over as you stand back and wring your hands. “You’re going to break the bottle. You’re going to….”

beerlucy17. Before you know it, you’ve got 10 bottles of beer. Let Lucy (or whatever you call your dog) sniff for quality control. Feel proud that you accomplished your task with a minimum of bickering and trub in the bottles.

18. Store the beer in a box. Place on the back porch in case one explodes. (Thank friend Larry for this tip).

19. On your next trip to see son, deliver the beer. Watch a smile cross his face as he praises you in much the same way you have always praised his successes. See that smile fade after he takes his first sip. “I don’t really like it.”

20. It’s Pecan Pie Amber Ale. Must be an acquired taste.

21. Give yourselves pats on the back. You did something you never imagined—something you’ll never do again.

22. Make son buy you dinner.

The reluctant brewmeisters.

The reluctant brewmeisters.