Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Photo Challenge: DISGUISE

We're going to DISGUISE this post-Sandy blog entry as a photo challenge result.

We'll pretend that we always start off our photo challenges with links for charities like Masbia, a soup kitchen providing meals to elderly and mentally disabled folks who were evacuated, and The Red Cross, and The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. We'll also pretend we always drop in links to aid organizations for people who have been hit by disaster. Just a normal day in the neighborhood while I watch the clock to make sure I grab the laundry out of the dryer before they lock the laundry room so my friend can wear those clothes again tomorrow when she continues to try and rescue her small business. Normal normal NORMAL DAMMIT!

Hidden Cow
I simply cannot grasp what it must be like to live where Our Lisa lives. There are mountains and lakes and suburbs and apparently cows, too. I love this photo.

223/365 Candy Bandit
Even under her mask we can see how saucy Our Cindy is! (Or was. This is from last year. I'm told she didn't have Whoppers in this years mix.)

Underneath it all, I'm just a mushroom
Generally I'm not fond of mushrooms but Our Janet managed to make me like this one. He's a cute little bugger!

There are days when I don't love being a grown up. A Gonzo band aid can help to combat that.

While we're on the subject the prompt for next time will be NORMAL. Of course. Take that any way you will!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday November 13 for posting on November 14. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and NORMAL. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Updating Post/Mid-Disaster

UntitledFirst off,  I'm fine here, all the pets are fine and most of the people we love have checked in and are also fine if perhaps cold and a little stinky.

Secondly, the dog is a disaster trooper. He had to wait long periods of time before going out and he hung in there. He wasn't much interested in going out in all that wind and noise and he seemed to understand the consequences. He was, however, more than ready to hit the road this morning. We flouted the law and went into the park for a little, closely supervised, off leash time. There's some tree damage in our area, including in our courtyard, but not a ton of it. Only two trees that I've seen closing streets and those are minor streets. Much of Brooklyn got by with that sort of damage.

Untitled The rest of the city is a different story. There's no power at all below 39th Street in Manhattan. Some of that was pre-emptively shut down to limit damage and some of that was forced when a plant on the East River at 14th Street blew up last night. That plant happens to be across the street from where Miflohny, Media Guy, & Little Seal live. I haven't been able to raise any news about them since they updated before the explosion but know there were no injuries so assume they are somewhere safe and conserving energy. Their email confirmed what I'd already seen from other friends, that water was up over the hubcaps on cars as far West from the East River as First Avenue. Red Hook, Greenpoint, Coney Island, and The Rockaways were the hardest hit areas in Brooklyn with deep flooding. Breezy Point in Queens had combined flooding and a multi-dwelling fire that devastated the area.

Untitled Press conferences from City and State officials this morning outlined a recovery plan that's going to take at least a week to get us back to the bare bones of normal operation. Schools will be closed again tomorrow, though the Stock Market hopes to re-open by then. Buses will begin tonight at 5pm on a Sunday schedule and will be free. Subways, however, are largely without power and many of them are partially or completely under water. That kind of damage will take a minimum of 4-5 days to get back up and running. They'll do the best they can after restoring power with pumping, cleaning, and safety checks but they can only do so much. Trains will be restored in sections as appropriate and we'll all have to pay attention to the reports and be flexible. I'm working from home today and tomorrow. We're taking Thursday as it comes and I may go in on Friday if transportation is available and it seems appropriate. My bosses are safe, though one is stranded at home without power, and they understand the challenges and our place in the system well enough to take this one day at a time.

Untitled Back in the North Land many of my people are without power. One had a tree fall that spared the house but took out the generator. My mother lost a big tree, one that sort of defined her property, but it didn't hurt the house. She lost power but was sheltering with a generator-powered neighbor when last we spoke. No word on Dad yet but he has a phone line connected to his cable so that tends to be one of the first things that go out. I'm sure he'd only waste cell phone power if something was wrong so I'm optimistic.

Please have a thought for all the people who have had damage to their homes. Also send your healing energy to small businesses. My Twitter feed has been sprinkled with wonderful stories like the way that other small shops stepped up to help Red Hook Lobster Pound keep from losing all of their expensive stock. One flood can be all it takes to eliminate a small business all together and we really don't need any of that.

Ring in if you're in storm tossed areas. I want to know that you're OK. Falnfenix, Chili, JRH, Auntie Chili, and a few others have already checked in via social media but I'm not opposed to hearing about health and welfare again, not opposed at all. I had hold of Bethany until her power went out and am looking forward to news when she gets back on the grid.

Stay safe and warm and careful and we'll keep you posted about events here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Winning Interlude

HidingFor the moment we still have power. The weather outside is, actually, frightful but we're doing ok. Assuming these facts remain true why not update you on the weekend's other shenanigans?

Long about July there were big plans for a Starsky & Hutch themed Halloween costume. Come October Michelle and I revised our plans. She was so busy I asked if she could throw a cape on Ben, make Dracula, and I'd fashion a little Renfield out of my boy. I'd go as Van Helsing, just to support the theme. For me this would mean creating a tiny doggie straitjacket and locating some fake bugs to sell the Renfield-specific angle.

But then, of course, I had an idea. He needed a jail/asylum cell. It would only work if he could be in a cell! I'm not qualified for that sort of construction. So I sent out the call to Pony Express. She, too, is wildly busy so I made it clear that she should do this only if she was really sure she wanted to. Though she works a lot for her business sometimes she actively makes time for creative projects to feed her soul. She decided this was one of them.

Happy With Being Tolerated Since last Sunday evening one or the other of us has been in my apartment working on some aspect or other of the costume. Each time we picked up our implements of creation Eddie would walk quietly into his crate and curl up at the very back. If we needed to fit him for things we had to haul him out of there to do it. Dragging a dog out of his safe place makes you feel like a super awesome dog person.

At about 2am Friday, with the contest on Saturday morning, we discovered that the jail cell, which was supposed to be worn/carried by the dog, didn't fit him. It was just small enough that when he walked it bumped his legs and he hated that enough to refuse to walk at all. Pony Express was frustrated and discouraged by that but when I asked her to make a handle for it so I could carry it and jail him on stage she agreed. By Saturday morning he had a cool little straitjacket with buckles and straps and a tiny jail cell covered in bugs with a bat on top and a rat down below. It was spectacular.

The Great Pupkin is a pretty big event. Hundreds of spectators, at least 100 dogs, vendors and costumes and photographers and press. It's grown from the original 20 dogs parading around the circle to this mammoth, nearly independent, being. With Teddy's Girl I ran the registration table and we were so busy that Cat came specifically to wrangle our dogs so we could work faster. After the judging had gotten underway we packed up and moved down stageside. I carried half our registration materials, the dog, my backpack, and the cell down the hill and over the steps and through the crowd and arrived next to Sara with a thump.

Winners! At this point I was free to work on costuming my own dog. I dropped his jail cell on the ground so I could have both hands for the straitjacket and wouldn't you know what he did first thing? Crawled right into that cell, curled up and hid. Crate training for the win! I had to haul him out to get the jacket on him and he went back in. While this was a super good sign I still had no idea what he'd do on stage. He loves an audience but, who knows?

We lined up. I decided to unhook the fake sleeves from his front legs because they were hindering his movement. I let them hang for a strappier effect and his walking improved immensely. Ben and Michelle weren't able to get there so I had signed Ed up as "Renfield, searching for his master, Dracula." We were announced and Eddie paraded around the stage perfectly. I set the cell down center stage, lined him up with the entrance, and told him to go inside. He hesitated for a moment and I got worried. I grabbed some chicken out of my pocket, knelt down next to the crate and in he went and sat right down!

Rikke, our trainer and one of the judges, raised both her arms in triumph and the crowd went wild! Like I said, the dude loves an audience.

By the skin of our teeth we won a prize. Competition was, as always, quite stiff. We got the coveted ribbon, a toy for the pooch, and a gift certificate to one of the local fancy coffee joints, Bittersweet. That last part is the best of it because Pony Express loves coffee and she worked her ass off for this costume.

We're already deciding how we might re-purpose the cell for other costumes next year.

All photos courtesy of Catherine Kunicki.  Note my half assed VanHelsing costume with cross and holy water bottle by Sara Stopek and cool boots thrifted by Kath.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


UntitledI don't even know what to say about this. I don't want to sound too excited but I also don't want to minimize the issue. How do I lead into it so that I don't surprise you?

There's a hurricane coming.

This afternoon I developed a new arm workout. I stood in line at the deli carrying my weekly veggies and my dog through the line that results from being a day away from a hurricane in an urban area. It's a good thing I've been cleared from going to work for the next two days, I probably won't be able to raise my hands high enough to wash my hair for at least that long.

Which, I suppose, may not be a problem if we lose power and we are, of course, in an area that's listed as very likely to lose power. I have no working flashlights but I do have candles and matches. We'll be fine, though I won't be super happy about wandering around in the dark. I'm a baby like that. The biggest challenge now is planning out when to walk the pooch to avoid his discomfort and our both being brained by debris or blown away to Oz.

For anyone who hasn't heard the specs about what's going down here I'll run them down. The subways began shutting down 22 minutes ago. Buses start at 9pm. The hurricane is set to make landfall just South of the city tomorrow night. The worst of the winds and other conditions are expected from noon tomorrow to noon Tuesday. The storm surge is of concern. Zone A, the first of the three flooding evacuation zones, has been ordered to evacuate to shelters. School has been canceled for tomorrow. 

We're actively trying not to panic. In fact fingers are crossed for something as anticlimactic as possible. Preparedness is good, though, so I'll be here quietly doing the right thing.

Right after I finish these potato chips.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Majestic TestUsually it's all fun and games around here dog-wise. There's dog shaming to be done and challenges that could always be worked through and dogs come to their appropriately timely demise. Especially around this time of year the yucks are always coming. Dogs in costumes! Dogs refusing costumes! Hearty hilarity!

Last weekend I was walking with a woman I know slightly and another woman I know even less well came up to me, stood inches away, and poked her finger in my face telling me to never, ever take pictures of her dog and put them on the internet again. We will never know why because she didn't think I needed to know, she just wanted to yell. I am very grateful for the woman I was walking with because that kind of shit needs a witness.

Then Bob's stomach actually tried to tie itself in knots. I saw him the other day and he looks pretty good, though. No Pupkin for him this year but that may be a relief to the old boy.

This afternoon, after hearing some yelling from my living room window, I went down to the street to see what I could do about a dog altercation. I don't want to get into the details here because many of the ones I have are hearsay and I don't think it'd do anyone a service to have them in an easily searchable format. Many thanks go to Paw Paw Petcare, Rikke, Chuck & Buddha's, Waggy Walkers, random neighbor who hugged me even though she didn't recognize me, and the Moskal-Stopek alliance for listening, helping, and not making me feel any worse about all the crying I did. There's reason to believe that the whole thing will have a humane ending if not a good one.

This is all to say that, while I'm feeling generally kind of awful, I also feel very lucky. I'm lucky to know the dogs I know and the people I know. I'm lucky to have enough income and new income options that I can learn more about working with and advocating for dogs. I'm lucky I can afford dog walkers that I trust so much. I'm lucky that, when I picked a dog sight unseen, he turned out to be as good as he is (though far, of course, from perfect).

We're all lucky if we have animals we love and trust. So please give a pet a snuggle today. They deserve it.

Yes, even if they did just puke on your brand new boots.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Reverse

UntitledThere's a lot of talk out there about how people get rich, or even keep their heads above water financially. Everyone wants someone to be working "harder" as long as that person is not them. The story goes that the harder we work the more money we will make and the fewer problems we will have. I'm all about fewer problems.

Right now I have a few jobs. Let's consider a full day's work in two of them.

In Job 1 I get up at 6 am, I walk the dog, I shower and change into office-appropriate clothes and leave my house by 8am. I walk and take the subway to arrive at work at 9, prepare food that is provided for me and sit down at my desk. For the next 8 hours I answer phones, perform internet research, type documents, answer questions, and occasionally calculate some equations. At midday I take a lunch break which is, approximately once per week, combined with work-related errands. If that is the case my break is extended to cover both. I depart on the dot of 5pm and am home to walk the dog by 6.

In Job 2 I get up around 6:30, I shower quickly then take the dog to the park as on a day in Job 1. After gathering my things I walk three blocks to the pick up point by 8:30. There I assist in the loading of heavy items into a car service and by 9 am on the way to the job site. At the site I help unload the items, move them to the sales location, and set them up. By 11am customers are arriving. I interact with customers, make change, pitch the product, restock the table, co-ordinate with co-workers over logistics, and confer with marketers about long term plans for the company. At some point in the day I get a break to use the rest room. (A break. I could take more if I needed it but that would have an impact on my colleagues as well.) When I'm hungry I or another team member purchases food from other vendors for us to eat. Sometimes other vendors will trade items with us so we save money and our company allows that. It does not, however, make for a balanced meal. We eat at our sales location while working. By 5 we pack up, call a car service, load that car, return to the pick up point to drop off, report to our manager, load inventory and other set up materials back into the office, and go home. I am home between 6:30 and 7 to walk the dog.

So I guess the questions are, 1. in which job could it be said that I work harder? and 2. for which job am I paid more and would therefore become rich?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Tonight, rather than clean my house or blog or finish the admin stuff for my performing, I made a straitjacket for my dog. It's a dramatic interpretation not a fully functioning restraint device. I have mixed feelings about that. It's not perfect but I did make it all myself (with opinions and materials provided by various and sundry who will be properly thanked in our acceptance speech).

The Costume In Progress

 What did you spend your night doing?

*I also sang through my entire cabaret show and made 2 awesome cuts to it but that's not relevant to the photo.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Newsy Things

Day 8 of 30I'll try to intersperse some light stuff but, let's face it, we're two weeks before the presidential election and one of those guys would actually be totally fine if, due to his policies, I died based on my income bracket and my possession of a vagina. I'm not sure how light I'm going to be able to be about that bullshit.

1. First up is a beloved bookstore here in New York. Due to a couple of simple snafus in a bad economy Books of Wonder, an institution in children's books, is in financial jeopardy. Here's their plea for help. This might be what everyone on my list gets for Christmas.

2. I'm sure you've seen this video clip. I waited until someone finally included a transcript and read that instead. It's a great comment on where the anti-GLBTQ movement is coming from. I'm worried that this clergyman is preaching solely to the choir, though.

3. There's been another outbreak of gun violence. Granted I was off Twitter at the time but even accounting for that there has been virtually no air time given to this. Oh, yeah, some guy just took a gun into a salon, killed his ex and her co-workers and then himself. It was only a few people. It was a domestic dispute. It doesn't change anything. Well, you're right there, it doesn't change anything, but it should.

Untitled 4. It's breast cancer awareness month (I will not capitalize). I think everyone's pretty fucking aware at this point. Sometimes I downplay the breast cancer charities because I think they're overshadowing the ones for other kinds of cancers. Deb makes a good point in this post about her mom's death, though. It's another thing that needs fixing and until it gets fixed we can't simply go silent on it, or on lung cancer or pancreatic cancer or prostate cancer or anything else. The way we research cures is broken and our health care system may be moving toward a model where prevention isn't paid for. We cannot afford any of that, either financially or morally. Speak up every chance you get.

5. Aunt Snow went to this amazing library in Los Angeles. I absolutely want to go there next time I'm in LA. Can't wait.

6. Can you name the person that Christopher Columbus found when he arrived in America (without googling)? I couldn't. Shame on me.

7. Through Blogher I've gotten to know Wendi Aarons a little. She's one of the brilliant, funny voices over at Mouthy Housewives. Last week they got some press about their Twitter parody mashup of Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and a Ryan Gosling meme. The parody is fabulous. The fact that someone, presumably from Ryan's ranks, actually accused them of impersonating him is...some combination of sad, horrifying, and fucking perfect.

Day 1 of 30 8. Here's a map of where the 1% live. I don't know what to think of it but keep coming back to the idea that these tiny concentrations of folks have the ability to make or break a country founded on principles giving every citizen an equal voice.

9. Here is a quote that could have been written for me. I should be much stronger for all the weight I insist on carrying. (Hey, this one isn't light but at least it's not political, right?)

Just to prove I'm versatile I'm going to end us on a note that's both light and political. Watch me work this fucking magic!

10. My favorite comment on last night's presidential debate from a guy I went to high school with: "I'm worried Obama may have lost the Civil War Reenactors vote."

Thank you and good night.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jack Sprat? Is That You?

You Are The OneA couple of weeks ago Stella's person asked me if I'd be a weight loss partner with her. After some hemming and hawing I was able to admit this was a perfect thing for me and I gathered my materials and ate all the trigger food in my house and buckled down.

A few weeks before that a set of photos started to show up as recently viewed on my Flickr account. I can see some stats for that but not all of them. I know how many people are looking at which photos but it's not always clear where those people are coming from. For the most part this doesn't bother me. Sometimes it's frustrating just because I'm nosy. These particular pictures happen to be ones I took in a dressing room while trying to buy a couple of things that would fit my goal weight frame when I last conquered this gluttonous beast. I have a few of the pieces I bought that day still but not many of them fit me. One thing fits me in fact. I think. No wait, I'd been wearing that when I walked in. Exactly none of the stuff I bought that day fits me.

That's possibly not the point of the story, though. (Might be. Who knows? Let's soldier on and see.)

Someone (maybe not the same person) has been looking at pictures of me every day for nearly a month. This probably means that someone else reproduced the photo (or photos) in a blog post or article but I'll be schnookered if I know where or why.  It's kind of mean, though. I'm 30lbs heavier than I was then. I love that skirt and can't wear it. It's OK that I'm heavier but most of the reason I'm losing the weight is because I hate clothes shopping and I'm too cheap to buy a whole new wardrobe just because I fatted out of the one I already have. Seeing these shots every day shames me. Look at all the effort (shopping and getting healthier) I wasted! Look at all the money I wasted! Look at all the closet space I'm wasting on clothes I can't button now!

So instead of concentrating on the shameful aspects of my fashion blunders let's try to think of some non-shamy plausible reasons that someone is looking at pictures of me trying on clothes in a tiny fluorescently lit cube space five years ago. Old boyfriend? Potential boyfriend? Creeper? Friend who needs new clothes inspiration? Officials from Ann Taylor trying to leverage social media appearances of their clothes? Flickr worker who uses me as a sort of screensaver safety net when they boss walks up behind them in the office? Clown college looking for someone who can fit into those big, red shoes?

What else could it be?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Virtual Food

My ViewApparently in the wee hours of this morning Kath noticed that Bobby didn't seem to feel well and his stomach looked wrong. Fortunately she knew what that could mean and didn't waste any time getting him to the awesome emergency vet, VERG. He had the bloat. He had surgery. He's recovering, we hope with the great drugs, at the vet today. He's expected home tomorrow and there's no reason to think that he won't come out of this just fine.

All of this does not, of course, keep me from sitting here on my couch sobbing. Bob was the first dog to come visit and stay with me after Emily died. He lay on the couch, right where Emily never let him lay before, with his head on my toes and helped me keep my shit together. The thought of a day where he isn't here to drool on the world is horrifying.

However, today is not that day!

Thank goodness.

Love you, Bob.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Just posted the winner(s) of the sweepstakesy thingamahoochee over at Kizz & Tell in case you're interested.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Photo Challenge: NEAR/FAR

Oh man, you guys, this one was good. You're going to love it and when you do, please let the photographers know either here or on Flickr.

Where is the Great Pumpkin?
What better fall-centric shot to begin with, eh? You should know that I am powerless before any picture that includes this young man, Our Janet's grandson.

I've always admired the theatrical sensibilities in Our Cindy's photography. Where I'm often scrambling to grab a candid she envisions an image and then sets about creating it. I want to learn more about that.

This is a bonus shot from a photo shoot that I did of Our Julie's family. Her dog, Wally, in the foreground was just so eager to be part of every moment. Ed decided he required a little space from Wally's energy but still insisted on participating.

Longs Peak
If you haven't checked out Our Lisa's photostream now would be a great time to do it. She lives near the mountains and is an expert at catching their majesty. This is just one of, I think, four shots she submitted to this challenge that took my breath away.

Our Bethany has landed in her new home. They're already adventuring on a daily basis.

The next photo challenge is going to be posted on Halloween. Let's make the prompt DISGUISE. Run with it, doesn't have to be Halloween-themed, though that's valid too. Enjoy!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday October 30 for posting on October 31. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and DISGUISE. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Feeling Needed

UntitledFor many years I have spent a portion of Thanksgiving Day delivering meals for a fantastic organization, God's Love We Deliver. I donate some money to different charities every year, I volunteer with PUPS a few times annually, I'll help a friend move but, if we're really being honest, that's the only day that I set aside for actively helping people who need it. It's not much but it's more than nothing and I do keep a file in my brain containing one question, "Volunteer more?"

Last year the Thanksgiving sign up for GLWD volunteers went digital. It was a little confusing and we were all learning and by the time I got the help I needed I was told there were no spots available. I was so sad about my tradition that I cried and I sent a sad email and they found a place for me and Queen Bee. It was a very different place from where I'd been before but I got to deliver a couple of meals and we had fun together.

This year, I responded immediately to the call for volunteers and noticed that my walking delivery person job wasn't listed. There was a quick reply letting me know that I could get on a waiting list but there were none of these jobs available. They were filled, I assume, with regular year-round volunteers. I got sad again but no tears. My first thought was, "I can't volunteer!" Then I leveled out and checked the form and realized that I could volunteer doing something a little different, I could get on the waiting list, or I could, indeed, not volunteer for this organization on this day. Those are three perfectly valid and pleasant options. In the interest of not having the decision made for me by my inaction I put in to work in a different job at a new-to-me location in Brooklyn and was swiftly confirmed so at 8:45am on Thanksgiving I'll be helping to pack meals and send out walking volunteers. Given the direction this is going, though, I suspect this will be my last year helping out this particular charity.

Judges I'm sad, of course, but I'm only sad for me. I'm happy for GLWD because they're doing so well they don't need me. That's marvelous! This overflowing cup of volunteers is symbolic of the ongoing success of the group. They were originally founded to provide reliable nutrition to patients with HIV and AIDS. When they found themselves with the resources to consistently provide for that demographic they expanded to help people with other issues that kept them confined to the home. Now they're expanding again to refine the way they serve people and uncover ways to serve more of them. If everyone could manage to be as successful as GLWD I'd be thrilled and our whole society would be a lot better off.

Of course finding out that I'm not needed gives rise to an important question, a question I should perhaps have asked a long while ago, or at least been more firm about demanding an answer from myself. Where am I needed? Animal shelters? Schools? Rock Camp? None of those are going to be as simple as showing up for a couple of hours on a national holiday. Not all good work is easy work, I know that.  God's Love has trained me well with plenty of positive reinforcement and delightful memories. Now they're ready to send me out into the big wide world so I can put my training to use elsewhere. I will be forever grateful.

Suggestions welcomed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Name Dropper

UntitledIt seems that I've risen to a level in the cabaret scene where I know all the right names to drop. Today, when I might have been blogging, I was instead making a phone call I dreaded. Last week I had emailed the booking agent for the space I wanted to sing in. I had expected that I'd need to call but dreaded it. I've sung in this place before but not in a very long time. In my imagination the phone call spent a long time explaining who I am and dropping in the names of people I've worked with past and present to justify his returning my call. Except I'd have to be careful not to sound desperate.

I called and left a message but was cut off just after my name and number. The booker's machine was full. I expected that. Patted myself on the back for having tried and vowed to call again tomorrow but earlier in the day.

Mid-back pat my phone rang. 'Twas he! The Keeper of the Calendar. And he remembered me and he was happy to hear from me and excited to have me come back.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the accompanist so nothing is confirmed but it looks pretty promising that I'll be back on stage in New York in almost exactly two months. Best phone call ever.

In Case You Forgot

I have a couple of things waiting for your input.

Tomorrow at 9am (but you know I'm flexible) is the deadline for the NEAR/FAR photo challenge. Now would be a great time to enter, even if you've never done so before.

Your chances of winning a Comstock Film are extraordinarily good right now. Please enter by Wednesday at 5pm.

I'll be back later with some more words and pictures but I wanted to start Monday with some fun stuff for you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Best Representative

Unbelievably this isn't about politics. I'm working on submitting some of my writing and I could really use your opinion. If you're a reader of Kizz & Tell* please jump on over and weigh in. I'll be sending a little something to one of the commenters on that post.

*Kizz & Tell is about sex and health. If you're not comfortable with those topics or with me in relation to those topics then it isn't a blog you should be reading. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Solitude Still Standing

pre-HS costume partyI remember sitting in the ballroom at the Hampton Casino (not a casino at all) for the first time and feeling terribly fancy. The singer, not that much older than I, dressed in a school girl sort of skirt and seemed very lonely up there in the spotlight when she appeared to sing the opening a capella tune.

I remember seeing how close our seats were to the stage at the legendary Bottom Line and becoming giddy. It was not only thrilling to be near the singer but indulgent to be so close that no one else's experience of her could interfere with my own. After the show I waited in line to have her, rather brusquely, sign my book.

I remember feeling more superior and worldly when the singer came to an offbeat venue in my neighborhood. My relationship to her music seemed deeper and longer and surer than anyone else's could be (it's not). It was more important to enjoy her without the distraction of all those neighbors so I sat far away from the stage in the balcony with my feet and my wine up on the rail just breathing her in.

Last night, aided and abetted by C-ann, I saw my fourth Suzanne Vega concert. It was a 25th anniversary celebration of her Solitude Standing album and the main attraction was her singing through the whole thing in order. With the evolution of music technology it's been a long time since I've listened to a non-soundtrack or original cast recording album from start to finish, especially an album I've known so long. I cherry pick and skip for time and create playlists while some corner of my soul remains self-righteous about how no one really crafts a whole album the way a live set should be crafted any more. It's a crying shame and I'm not helping the cause at all.

For years I had only two Suzanne Vega albums, her eponymous one and Solitude Standing. I cherished the first one a little more. It has Marlene on the Wall and Small Blue Thing and, most importantly, The Queen and the Soldier. I listened to both discs constantly, though. While she sang through my second favorite last night I realized that I might have been wrong. I don't like Luka, the big money track, and every time someone adds music to Tom's Diner it makes me angry but while I remember the first album's songs as full, stand alone creations, my throat responds automatically to tracks from Solitude Standing making it very hard not to sing along full voiced even when I'm an adult sitting at a table in a fancy wine restaurant. Calypso, Gypsy, even the a capella version of Tom's Diner, these are the songs I stood inside as an 18-year-old like they were museums or churches. I knew they were gorgeous and I formed all the right words in conversation about the stained glass windows of her skill and insight but I didn't really understand them.

Untitled Forcing myself not to sing along last night I listened again both to the lyrics and her charmingly meandering anecdotes and I grasped more, not all certainly but more, of what she was getting at. I wondered, only slightly enviously, what it must be like to be singing the same song for the 25th year in a row and how she must feel about them now. When she mentioned that one song she just doesn't sing so this would be a rare performance of it I wondered if she still liked any of them. Vega graciously offered us The Queen and the Soldier as the closer of her two song encore and I hearkened back to that question again. It's a song I feel more strongly about every time I hear it, especially live, but how does it speak to her these days? Sure, I sat there picturing myself on that stage interpreting those same stories but I'd never had that opportunity. In contrast it might be an opportunity she has tried on occasion to escape.

Earlier that morning I'd summitted an enormous practical and emotional obstacle to my next musical performance. For the first time in months I could believe that I'd be on a stage again doing something I adore, something I've been actively trying to achieve for two years now. Celebrating that everyday triumph by listening to one of the women who helped to color that dream in my runaway imagination was...a melodic shot in the arm.

Thank you, Ms. Vega. You shine brighter in my estimation every time I see you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

10 x 2 = 10 (Sorta)

GrimaceHere are 10 things where there are 2 sides to the coin.

1. It looks as though the cabaret show is about to get final dates. These dates are likely to be exactly in the time periods I wanted to be sure not to be performing. (Third side: I'm going to make it work anyway.)

2. My scheme worked to offset the cost of the trip to my 25th HS reunion by working as a photographer while I was there. I was very busy this weekend and will be very busy in the days to come as I make sure my clients (clients, hurray!) get their discs on time.

3. Do you notice how those 2 things are sides, too? I'd all but given up on getting the cabaret show to happen with the personnel as it is now but the minute I focused on the photography the cabaret answers I needed came hurtling at my head. 

4. Having gorgeous families to capture is a problem every photographer wishes they had. The flip side of that is needing to make sure you're getting that beauty and reality when you click the shutter. Little pressure.

Squinty McGee 5. My drive up north was probably the worst one I've had in a few years, including the time I fled a blizzard on Christmas night. My drive back down south was so breezy I got home an hour earlier than projected.

6. I am going to a relatively small venue to see Suzanne Vega celebrate the 25th anniversary of Solitude Standing by singing it through in its entirety tonight. I would have written it off as too indulgent and expensive except that my good friend (See those pictures on her web site? I took a bunch of them.) wanted to leap too so we're going together. By the time we found out about it there were tickets only for the 10pm show. At 10pm on a school night I'm usually walking the dog and going to bed. It's going to be totally worth it. I will probably cry.

7. A friend invited me to be her Weight Watchers buddy. I have eaten everything I can get my hands on today.

Untitled 8. When I saw everyone at my 2 reunion events this weekend I did notice that we'd all changed to one extent or another but, overall, it felt as though we hadn't changed at all, even in appearance. It was weird. And good.

9. Suddenly all the visions I had for both performing and income are gelling. I am now extremely busy all the time, every minute, and the thought of being so tired is frightening. (I get a legit fear response when people talk about the sleep deprivation that comes with parenting. Similarly I never want to adopt a puppy.)

10. This morning I talked with Michelle about our Starsky & Hutch dog costumes and we decided they'd be too much work. So we came up with something even more involved. (You're going to laugh.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Photo Challenge: GO/STAY

Here we are again! Some lovely things to share from this prompt. Our Bethany, who we're honoring with this challenge, landed in her new place on Monday. I hope she has internet by now so she can check in with us.

I submitted some more recent shots but this pic of Bethany around mile 9 of the 2010 New York City Marathon just seemed like the right thing for this prompt. She's a champ.

Goodbye New York
Continuing the New York City Theme this is the last picture Our Cindy took as she headed home from her visit this summer. I wish she lived around the corner.

At this point in the challenge we needed some levity. Thank goodness Our Janet thought to provide it. I love when wedding photos make people punchy.

I'm terrified of sailing but when people, like Our Lisa, capture majestic views like this I can almost convince myself to try it again.

I can't find evidence that I haven't done this prompt before. I haven't been able to check thoroughly, though. If I have I think it's been long enough for a repeat. Since today is the anniversary of Emily's death, since Bethany has gone, since I'm road tripping and photo shooting this weekend I want the prompt to be NEAR/FAR. Can't wait to see what we come up with. As always, feel free to go all metaphorical on that prompt.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday October 16 for posting on October 17. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and NEAR/FAR. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have questions.

Three Years

Last week, before I hitched him up for the last walk of the night, I leaned down and breathed Eddie in. He smelled suddenly so much honest-to-goodness dog that suddenly all I could see behind my eyes was Emily and I missed her. Missed her even more than usual.

Em lounges

Three years ago today I lay on the floor with her until it was time to say goodbye. Sure, it gets better, but it's never good. Was she perfect? Of course not. Still, she was the best dog. The very best and I'm still bitter that she's gone.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Doggerel x 10

Good Citizens in the MakingThis quick, informative interview that our trainer, Rikke Brogaard, did with Animal Fair was great inspiration for today's 10 Things.

1. The article reminded me of Rikke's most important lesson, "I think many people think that positive means permissive but it doesn’t. It also doesn’t have to mean treats, treats, treats, all the time." A lot of people think you're bribing your dog or will only get the behavior when treats are available. I liken this attitude to the way that, for years, I would only sing songs in the key they'd been written in. Finally Jay Bradley told me, "They were only written in that key because it was good for the person who first sang it. Now take it down a step."

2. She mentions that playing with your dog is important. I am reminded of neighbors who went to a  man's house to see about adopting his dog. The dog was penned in the kitchen and the couple high stepped over the baby gate, got on the kitchen floor, and started cuddling and playing with the dog. The man's mouth hung open before he said, "You can do that?" They took the dog home immediately.

3. For my dog, and for many others, work can be play. He has much more fun trying to do a job, whether that be herding tennis players or trying to understand which trick I want him to do, than he does just walking around the park. He will, in fact, look for jobs to do, which is why we have a lot of training to do with respect to the tennis courts we pass every day.

4. Rikke is in a great position to talk about how interacting with dogs can parallel interacting with children since she's a certified dog trainer and mother to an 11-year-old. This makes it awesome for me when she explains using positive reinforcement techniques she learned with dogs on her kid. Nobody can look down their nose at her and say, "You don't have kids, you don't understand." (Also because sister is tall.)

Untitled 5. Speaking of Rikke's daughter, she is quoted as saying that for their next dog she wants a, "“small dog that does something." I have already sent an email offering to lend Eddie out until the feeling passes. I suppose the other thing I could do is ask to borrow the young lady as she's probably a much better match for the chupacabra than I am.

6. Rikke describes teaching a dog a long "behavior chain," which is essentially getting a dog to do a number of steps of choreography in a row. I really want to be able to do this with Eddie. He's already great at it when it's spontaneous. I need to become a better trainer.

7. Speaking of being a better trainer, one of my bits of homework from our recent class is to distinguish sit and down so that Eddie will perform each specifically upon request. While I was new at training I let his intelligence steamroll me and he learned that when asked for sit or down he could give either and get reinforced for it. Re-teaching that distinction is a fucking bitch, man.

8. Our class on Sunday was the first one in our quest to pass the Canine Good Citizenship test. I'm now confident that we're on the right track. I didn't want the evaluator to expect a dog who is perfect every moment of every day but I also didn't want someone who was just teaching to the test. If we pass this test it's going to be because my dog and I are comfortable in all the situations required not because we've taught him to tolerate things he hates for a short period of time or because we've learned to present the test challenges in a way he can work around.

9. I honestly think that, barring a couple of question marks, all the dogs in our class can pass this test. Maybe not all on the same day but we have the ability as long as we apply the necessary diligence and fortitude.

10. It's gonna take a whole bushel of diligence and fortitude for me and my dog to pass this test.

Hand me the Scooter Snacks, I've got work to do!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Bound to Happen Sometime

Day 279: Off To BedI am so bad at the way our medical system works. There's so much information and no matter how much of it I read, after an unseemly amount of procrastination, I always miss something. I know it's designed for me to miss something but I'm still surprised every time.

I got lucky, really. The first time I got health insurance it was only major medical and I never busted anything badly enough to use it. Then I got something a little better but I was young and didn't really need any care and the premium was entirely paid by my employer so I just didn't use it and didn't worry about it and maybe had some flex spending money which I spent to get new glasses when I left the job. My next salt mine was in my chosen field and their health insurance policy was that if you got sick you should get well as soon as possible so you didn't miss any performances and if that involved going to a medical professional they would lend you money (up to $200). That's a pretty simple system, even I could understand it. It's a shitty system but it's simple. I did get sick. I didn't have to borrow money. I did get well. End of story.

By the time I got another job that offered health insurance I was old enough that I did need to use it occasionally. Again I got super lucky because every time I wondered how much I would have to pay for something someone who knew the system better than I would look it up real quick and say, "Nothing. You don't have to pay anything." I'm pretty sure that unless I'd had some sort of organ transplant I never would have paid anything. The job sucked my soul out through the gap underneath my right big toenail but the benefits were bangin'.

Day 281: Things I Am Ingesting I got so used to this easy, intelligent system that I convinced myself it was the norm. When I moved jobs I insisted that I get a similar insurance package and, after doing my own research, found the single comparable plan available to individuals living in New York State. It was expensive but I knew how bad I was at learning these systems so I got it approved and went with it. I wound up paying about a third of the premium cost in taxes each year but I could forget that was happening most of the time. The bill climbed and climbed and eventually skyrocketed a couple of years ago. My monthly premiums were more than the ones for a family of four on most other plans. My employers rightly wanted a change and I couldn't in good conscience drag my heels over it any longer.

So, with much wailing and rending of garments I did the research and I found a plan that would save us all a lot of money. I thought I knew exactly how much and I negotiated so that we were, I thought, all coming out ahead, even though I would have to do more work in terms of managing how I obtained care.

Remember what I said about all the reading?

Being sick for months at the beginning of this year I, for the first time, hit my deductible. I wouldn't probably have known it if a kindly doctor hadn't pointed it out. I may have clicked my heels a bit because, as far as I knew, the minute that happened I stopped paying for everything! It was the most interesting thing I learned in all my reading and what sold me on the plan.

Coming straight from the kindly doc's office I picked up a prescription and was asked to pay. I decided that was a technical glitch and I'd hear soon about my refund. (The powers of denial are strong in this one.) A couple of months later when my prescription ran out I refilled it and was asked to pay again. I'm not proud of how I reacted in the presence of a pharmacy technician who must get a lot of shitty reactions but I'm not exactly ashamed either. I grumbled my way home and did some reading and discovered the crucial code I had misinterpreted (or possibly simply blocked out as being too confusing). Once the deductible is paid all the doctor's visits do not have a co-pay but prescriptions are covered in a tier system. This means that, depending on what tier of medication is prescribed, the insurance plan will cover 20 or 40 or 60% of the cost.

Day 304: New Meds Meanwhile back at the ranch I'd been prescribed a lot of medications (pictured). The ones I was sure I didn't need were the ones for acid reflux. Personal scientific investigation has finally brought me around to the realization that yes, I do have acid reflux and it does impact my breathing. By this time, though, I'd made the doctor switch to a different medication that works on the problem from another angle. A couple of nights ago I ran out of that medication. I had to wait until I was at work today to call for a refill and it wasn't until then that I noticed that the doctor will have to be called before it can be filled. While I was standing in line listening to the pharmacist calling the doc (and leaving a message) I noticed a list of prices on the wall. I casually read through them finding both acid reflux meds. The first one I'd been prescribed, the one I'd finally come to understand worked better, retails at just under $118/30 pills. The one I was currently trying to get refilled retails at just under $30 for the same amount.

Which one do you think I'm going to request that he keep prescribing?

I'm not completely oblivious (just selectively). I know that people make these decisions all the time. Many people decide not to take medication at all because they simply can't pay the cost and don't even have the partial coverage that I do. I point this out both to say that it's utterly insane and wrong in general and to mark the milestone. Today our broken health care system was finally able to fuck me in this particular, special way.

I'm pretty sure no one makes a baby book for this.