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Thursday
Jul192012

Becoming Mommy

I know it's unusual, but I just don't have a yen to have babies. I love kids, wholeheartedly...they're so wonderfully wonderful...but I'm just not cut out for the 24/7 screaming and 'no!' and chicken pox bit. Hell, I don't even know which end to hold up, and Jesus take the wheel if there's a diaper to change. I'll happily babysit a twenty-one year old- just drop 'em off at the strip club, and I'll be the designated driver. Wait, I don't drive. I can call a cab, though, and those fellas are sober, I think. But babies are terrifying- what if I drop him/her? What happens if I ooze some crazy on the babe? Dear God, what if he or she thinks of me as a freaking role model? I shudder at the thought...

But- puppy dogs are where it's at for the maternally disinclined. We have two little monsters, one Shih Tzu, one half Shih Tzu/ half Papillion (why yes, it can happen, and yes, he's an odd little boy). They are my kids, and dammit, they've learned to talk. I can't tell you how disconcerting it is to wake up to trilling and licking- Fozzie has a fondness for earlobes, Woo Bear is crotch bound, always. I won't even venture to guess...
Anyhow, they talk, and good gracious, I can understand them now. Yesterday a cat dared to enter the garden, and thirty minutes of hysteria ensued. I believe the conversation went something like this: 'Mommy, there's a cat! Mommy there's a cat!! Arf arf arf arf!', ad infinitum, to which I responded 'For the love...!'
It's rather terrifying to love another creature so much- perhaps this the biggest reason I'm not baby- bound. We had a beautiful little Papillion, Roxy Music, a few years ago, and she really was as delicate as a butterfly. She broke her leg twice from falls just inches from the ground, and both injuries sent me spiraling into days of despair. We took her to Dallas for a weekend visit and a stay in a hotel- she tried to jump onto the bed, missed somehow, and broke her neck. She died right before our eyes; it felt like the world stopped spinning and left us stranded in the emptiness of space with nothing but sorrow and tears. It's still hard to think about...
We were both so traumatized we started making plans to go to Europe, ostensibly to vacation and make music, but with an underlying desire to simply lose ourselves far away from all the memories. As our advenure unfolded, I became extremely ill- near death, actually, and that is a story of its own- and as I laid on a gurney in intensive care, I realized that I wanted, no, needed a dog. Once I was strong enough to sit up and feebly poke at my laptop, I set to work finding a furry baby to bring home- assuming we could ever survive the trans-Atlantic crossing. It was in this condition that I found Woo Bear. He was listed under "Oops!" on a local breeder's website as the unexpected offspring of a prized Papillion and an equally award winning Shih Tzu. Just looking at the few blurry photos of him online kept me hopeful that life could and would go on, and I credit him for giving me the strength to get back home. He's a perfect little alien in a dog suit, loving and beloved by everyone he meets. I didn't think I could love another dog as I loved Roxy, but Woo made it impossible to not.
After some time, we came to the conclusion that Woo needed a little brother, and soon enough, we found Fozzie Bear. In accordance to his breeding as an ancient Chinese lion dog, he is my constant companion (I haven't been able to pee without an escort in quite a while); he bows and scrapes at my feet, offering his tummy for a scratch. He cries pitifully when I'm out of his eyesight, and he incites Woo to do the same. Somewhere on the road between here and there, as I dashed into a roadside rest area and returned to cacophony in the minivan, it hit me. I'm Mommy. It's strange feeling, I confess, but I love it.

Tuesday
Jul172012

Sailing toward nowhere...

One of the least rock and roll things we do is joining C3's folks on riverboat cruises. On the plus side- river cruising is unbelievably relaxing. As the average age of fellow passengers is somewhere between retirement and rigor mortis, we young Turks make quite a splash, what with our late hours and avoidance of Bingo and bridge tourneys. This all changed aboard the American Queen...
As it happened, a television series was scheduled to shoot onboard all through our cruise. As it also happened, the Mighty Mississippi had flooded from St. Louis south to the Gulf. As we boarded in Memphis, the word on deck was, 'Shoo, I don't know where we'll dock!'. This isn't exactly comforting, but I assume that, even in my completely non- buoyant state, I can direct myself toward shore, for the love. Anyway, we boarded and just waited for watery hell to break loose.

Now, as the only night owls aboard (we thought), we got used to the idea of keeping a bartender up past bedtime, trading charm for cocktails. We were not prepared for cruising with a film crew- a posse of young gentlemen much inclined to our late night schedule. We outlasted the overnight patrol many times- the last entry in the log generally read, 'film crew and those two staggered off to bed around four'...so glorious, my parents are awash with pride...
I made friends with an older gentleman, the clarinetist of the boat band. Very talented, dear Milton, but a hound dog if there ever was one. I kept sitting on a broken chair and flipping myself upside down, lolling on the deck surrounded by broken glass and bourbon. Great panty shot, though...I guess...
Eventually we wound up in Cincinnati. I've never seen the film crew or my beloved horn man again. I will always remember the sticky nights on the deck beside the paddle wheel; I'm not sure I wish they remember me...

Friday
Jul132012

Montana is big...

After a glorious trip from San Fran to Portland, we suddenly realized we were due in Little Rock in a little more than 36 hours. Unfortunately this breath of reality came to us on the Oregon/ Idaho state line. Arkansas is truly the original Wild West, and it is a long drive from anywhere- just ask my family who made the trip from East Tennessee for C3's and my wedding, and became so road weary that none of them have dared the trek since. Anyhow, as we awoke in Lewiston, Idaho with the shock of an impending cross country drive, we made some ill-advised decisions. Some of our great passions include sending postcards from faraway places, and then collecting magnets from said outposts (I know, we're just crazy that way). Assuming, quite accurately as it turns out, that we might never get back to the area, C3 mapped out a route that had us just barely traversing Montana and South Dakota (magnets and postcards HAVE to be purchased in the state in question). Bad idea. Montana looks reasonable in the AAA map; this is so very misleading. We chose a state highway with an after dusk speed limit of 55 and an inordinate number of deer gathering. We drove for twenty- four hours (technically, Clay drove and I served as copilot and wildlife spotter), eventually hitting the wall in Soiux Falls. It just happened to be my birthday, and we celebrated with a power nap in a shady interstate motel. After a bleary pause, we got back on the road bound for Arkansas. We stopped for BBQ in Kansas City, where we discovered the glory of smoked mutton (really!). Through the night we trudged on and on and on...
The whole reason behind this ungodly tour of the country was appropriately bizarre- we had to get on a river boat set to cruise the Arkansas River. We boarded in Little Rock, steamed west to Fort Smith, turned around and headed back to Memphis. I am now well acquainted with the Arkansas River...

Despite ourselves, we managed to squeeze in a brush with fame. The night before disembarkment, we sat up all night counseling a despondent guilty Catholic bartender, slicing oranges for the coming morning's mimosas and lending a solicitous ear. As the sun rose, Clay and I slipped to the back of the boat for a smoke by the paddle wheel. Lo and behold, a newspaper photographer just happened to be on board and snapping sunrise shots from the deck of the historic Delta Queen. The next morning, we were surprised to see ourselves captured mid- cigarette on the front page of the Memphis newspaper, sunlight gleaming on the dried orange juice running down my arms. I kid you not- we've got the proof...
All in all, what began in Idaho ended in glamour in Memphis. After all, nobody else winds up on the front page in the Memphis newspaper without a drug or assault charge...

Next episode: A week with the Little People

Thursday
Jul122012

West Coast Callibration

It's no lie that the Pacific coast is its own magical beast- the earth itself heaves and brews like a discomfited dragon beneath cheesecloth. I confess to some snobbishness- I don't have any desire to visit Southern California. It just isn't my scene, but I'm sure there is much fabulousness to find. Send update postcards, please!

NoCal, on the other hand, swings like we do. There are places to get lost, quiet beaches, understated lunches sprayed lightly by sea mist. Eating is a full on sensory wonderland...grit in the succulent mussel, salt on the lips...simple and grand. The Redwoods alone are worth the transit across the dull space between the Mississippi and the Pacific (apologies to the heartland- but can you grow a damn tree?). Once you reach the western edge, though, things tend to pick up.


Further on up the highway, though, I start to find my peace. Laying on my back on a long ago fallen tree, my toes curling in the luxurious moss, I loved to gaze up the trunks of primordial giants- sunbeams wiggling through the branches to light, just briefly, on the tip of my nose, and green, green, green.

The best was still ahead- the Oregon Coast, where I, Clay, and the boys will someday retire to our treehouse at the end of the earth. On this trip, however, it was just me and C3, cruising to Mozart beneath leaves due respect, pulling off to watch the mighty waves of the Pacific batter the rocky coast, our shoes slipping on the descent- like the ocean would suck us up, too. I ate oysters everywhere we stopped- fried and topped with a poached egg, baked into a quiche, on brioche with remoulade, in the shell with a spritz of lemon- simply divine. Marion Berries (hilarious to those of us old enough to remember DC in its murderous heyday), black coffee, ham and homemade sourdough toast...simple food and salt air, my home on the horizon.

North, north to Tillamook, gobbling chunks of sharp cheddar with tins of smoked oysters (of course), sustaining ourselves on the way to Mt. Hood, where we turned east into the Columbia River Gorge. The highway is lined with waterfalls, water all the way to the sky... I dream of it still.

Next chapter: Everything really IS bigger out West...

Friday
Jul062012

Introducing the Band...

One of the most crucial parts of travelling is having the right companion(s), and it really helps if you are honest about what sort of traveller you are from the get-go. There is a delicate balance between luxury and adventure that each one of us possesses- it's just wise to find a partner whose scale tips the same way yours does. I am very fortunate to have found this in my sweet, exceedingly patient husband, Clay. I haven't driven a car since 2005 (it's better for everyone that way. I'm just not so inclined toward commanding a motor vehicle with any sort of success. Ask ANYBODY), so for the past seven years he has captained our trusty minivan, the Mighty Shmoo. He has driven through snow, rain, ice, fog, and freaking Montana like a hero. I am truly amazed by his ability to keep his hands on the wheel. In my defense, I don't sleep in the car, like a normal person might- I ride shotgun, and I take my post seriously. My spatial skills are negligible, but, by God, I can read me a map by now.

Anyhow, Clay is our fearless leader, equipped with a vast knowledge of all things geographic and meteorological. Do you know the average rainfall of every major city worldwide? Do you want to? I got your man...

He also shared my love of whimsical wandering- we spent an August roaming the West Coast without ever making a hotel reservation, and it went surprisingly well.. He's also ready to chase an exciting weather system through the night to... wherever the action is, and especially if snow or a hurricane is involved. In future posts, I'll share my list of recommended contents for your 'Oh shit, we gotta go' bag- everyone needs one. My Clay is a wonderfully strange man, and I love him beyond words.

Together we are the proud parents of two fantastic pups- Woo Bear & Fozzie; Fozzie is a Shih Tzu, Woo is half Shih Tzu, half Papillion. You know, real butch dogs. Believe it or not, they're great road buddies and far more adventurous than you'd imagine. They are both great swimmers, which is adorable until the third night spent in a tent with damp dogs. They are most protective, yet friendly to fault- Fozzie tried to befriend a hawk, innocent to him, heartstopping to me. All in all, Woo and the Fozz complete our crew perfectly, wiggly butts and all.

So here we are, minivan vagabonds, and there is so much more to tell...