Gullible’s Travels

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Riding high, Alki Beach

Hi.  My name is Gil.  I am a seagull who wised up to the world and this is the story of my travels.

First, a little background.   While still a hatchling in the nest, I used to tap on Mom’s beak for feedings.  The menu?  Vomit.  Seagull regurgitation.  Not exactly the variety my dumpster-diving siblings brought home:   chunks of pizza, French fries, Cheetos.  Once, my sibs even brought home parts of a deer leg.   They fought over it.  Screamed morning till night while I, the little hatchling, was still on a diet of Mom’s vomit.  I adapted, became used to these behaviors.  When Dad hung a shingle on our nest that said Safe Place, I believed it.

Still, after a few months I wanted to stretch my wings.  There was a great big world out there I wanted to explore.

As I soared in the clouds above my oceanic watering hole, I felt a rush from the tickling breeze and believed that the world was my oyster.  Forests, mountains, sea — it was all mine.

Suddenly a disciplined white air force of fellow gulls screeched and swarmed around me.  We were being dive-bombed by an eagle.   Shit bombs explode.  Danger, Danger, my amigos called out.  The raptor snatched a fellow-gull and carried him to the top of an evergreen.  I had evaded the eagle’s hungry eyes.

It was my first lesson in communication and cooperation.  Though we scream at each other — and at you human beings — we know there is safety in numbers.

Since I’ve mentioned humans, why do you folks act like we are snarky when we scream or go after the litter you drop?  Why do we have reputations as walking garbage dumps – we’ll eat anything that moves and a lot that doesn’t —  when you’re the ones tossing that hunk of beef jerky on the pier?

Did you ever stop and think that maybe you are the snarky ones?  To survive in the wild, yes I will even go after Styrofoam cups and cheese wrappers.

I need to come clean about that beef jerky.  I snatched it away from Peg Leg.  Peg Leg is a one-legged gull.  That’s right.  One leg.  I did not ask him how it happened.  No.   TMI.   All I know is that he was hobbling over to the beef jerky and I snatched it from him.   The peeps back home in the nest trained me well.  That’s the thing about sibling rivalry – it teaches you how to be bad-ass.   Man that beef jerky was good.

So with my fill of protein that day, I was flying high.  Maybe too high.  For suddenly, an amigo is cruising along with me in the fluffy clouds babbling to me about foreign object debris.  He points his beak at one of those proud birds with the golden tails.  You know – one of your human contraptions – a jet airplane.  He warns me about colliding with a plane’s windscreen, getting sucked into engines.  Really?

But hey, knowledge is power.  My trust in fellow gulls increases.  I dip away from the airplane, land on the beach to rest.  After a decent sleep, I spot a clam saying “Eat Me.”  I down it, but five minutes later puke it up.

A bummer, you say?  No.  A hidden talent that I would not have learned about if I hadn’t left the nest.  We gulls have superpowers:  we can sense paralytic shellfish poisoning before it’s too late.  Bet you can’t do that!

The brush with the toxic clam leaves me thirsty.  And so I fly over to my favorite watering hole:  the Pacific Ocean.  How many creatures do you know who can drink salt water and live to tell about it?  Sharks, crocodiles, maybe.  That’s gangsta, son.  Another instance of Gull Super Power.

I strut my stuff on the shore, fly over to some beach grass where I find a discarded lamb chop.   Thanks to your beach litter, I am learning your chops.

Sated and content, I fly to a tree limb to rest.  But as I tuck my bill into my feathers, I hear cries from a neighboring tree.  To my horror I witness a mature, fellow gull with a chick egg in his beak.  He just robbed a nearby nest of its newly hatched Gull.  I hear the delicate eggshell crack, and watch the mature one feast on its victim.

What? 

I thought I was gangsta, but this?

No.  This was just too much.  I suddenly felt yearnings for Mom.  And so I flew back that very night to the parental unit.  Is it true, I asked Mom.  Do we eat our own?

To me, this was a simple Yes/No question.  But not to Mom.  She would not give me a direct answer.  Instead, she regurgitated some of the same old pablum for me to gobble up.

 “Oh, Gull, just eat your food,” she said.

“The name’s Gil, Mom.”

“No.  From this day forward I call you Gull.” 

“Huh?”

“C’mon.  Mangia, mangia.”

As for my siblings?  They stared at me with the hungriest eyes I have ever seen.

Confessions of a Mer-Crone

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Mermaid family

We show up regularly to water aquatics class. Mostly women — a few gents too — shaking our booties at 8:00 a.m.  The heavily tatted instructor shouts out the movements:

“Run-in-place:  take it up to a 3!”

Then:  “Now pick it up!  Take it to a 4!!!”

Jeesh.  I was happy at 3.  Why doesn’t she factor in the resistance from the water as we run?   3 could be the new 4.  I need protein.  Why didn’t I eat that egg before I came here?

“Take it to a 6!!!!!.”

Then relief comes — the cross-country ski stride.  Long, luxurious, and slow.

But not for long.

Now it’s “Raise your knees high and wide.  We’re doing tire pumps.”

Next, it’s the bicep-busting Maytag wash machines with water weights, kick-backs for rocking horse which ache my sacroiliac, and finally “the Marilyns.”   This is a set of 100 jumps where we press our foam weights between our thighs.  The instructor named them after Marilyn Monroe.

Don’t ask me why.

And show me a woman in the class who could live up to the Blonde Bombshell’s standard.

No.  We are the Mer-Crones.

Our hair may be gray or dyed or hiding under flowered bathing caps, but we perk up in the water, wear glorious smiles as our float belts carry our spotted, wrinkled, sagging  flesh around the pool.

And we are wise.   Bikinis?  Gauche.   Much more comfy to sport a 1940’s-style Esther Williams swimsuit. You know the kind — the halter one-piece with a bit of drape to cover the tum?  Nice, tight spandex to tuck the bum?

I applaud you, Lands End, for providing quality and variety in women’s swimwear.

Until I discovered LE, finding a good swimsuit was  a search for the Holy Grail.

But back to aquatics class.

I have a hard time keeping up with Mary.   Mary is 75 years old and jabs her water weights like Rocky Graziano.

If I live to be her age, will I have such stamina?

(Confession: back when I was a smirking mermaid, I used to swim laps adjacent to what I deemed The Codgers Aquatics Class.)

How times change😊.

I am in awe of the peeps in class who show up with battle scars.

Take, for instance, one of the men in the class.  “Foghorn Brad” (so named by the instructor for his bellowing interruptions) returned to the pool only three weeks after melanoma surgery.  Though he habitually annoyed the instructor with his thundering disruptions of our foot circles (shouting out REVERSE and causing the water to ripple with his booming voice), I noted that the instructor smiled, glad to see that he had returned.

And me? I shall defend being a mer-crone, whatever the cost may be.  I shall never surrender.

 

Do I Contradict Myself?

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Spotted on bike ride in our neighborhood. Message feels global.

 

I have umpteen self-help books on meditation and mindfulness.

Do I practice what they teach?

A bit of background:  As a young lass in the cro-Magnon, pre-digital era, I  signed up for a mantra.  (Partly influenced by the fact that George Harrison was playing sitar and following the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at that time).

I even recall my mantra.  But today it goes something like Om…Om…OMG I forgot I have a dental appointment at 3:00.

How do I know this?  My smart-ass phone just beeped.

OK.  I realize this is a 1st world problem, but though I am thankful for the modern conveniences of our digital age, these days I crave mindfulness.

Am I contradicting myself by being on the blogosphere?  Is this yet another distraction?  If so, I am in company with the Good Gray Poet, Walt Whitman:  “Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then I contradict myself,  I am large, I contain multitudes.”

At any rate, I left Chicago in the 1990’s and moved to Seattle.  Mt. Rainier, the Pacific Ocean, the Hoh Rain Forest — all eye candy for me and my husband.

And something else called out that was new and exciting:  the Internet.  When we arrived to this high-tech city, the Internet was just a dirt road, not yet a superhighway, nor had it become The Cloud.

The Internet was cool; I enjoyed scootering on the dirt road.   I created a health and safety intranet site for the organization I worked for.  But then, during a walk on the beach, I spotted a young man wearing a t-shirt that said “Rage Against The Machine.”

The t-shirt was disconcerting enough, but at the time I was also reading a book titled I Live In The Future and Here’s How It Works:  Why Your World, Work and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted: 

“There needs to be a way to opt out of the constant retrieval of images, audio, and information. What do we do when the Internet or computers refuse to forget?”

And “The Internet is changing our concept of location, trust, space, time and connections.”

The dark web is undeniably out there today.  But I like blogging.

Walt Whitman, will you please travel to the future and help me deal with these contradictions?

 

 

 

GPS-ing the Heart

Panicked that I’d lost my heart,
I use my GPS device to track its location.
Somewhere between brain and breastbone
I am navigated in a new direction:

“Follow the course of the road from the cerebellum along the pituitary.
Now turn left and then turn right at the atria for three beats.”

Tracking the route, I am delayed at the hippocampus.
With a name like hippocampus how can’t it be a fun place?
Long-term, pleasant memories surface:
the ice pond where I skated as a girl,
my first kiss from a boy,
swigs of Boone’s Farm Apple wine,
kelp smells scenting a faded jeans jacket creased with beach sand.

I want to dwell in the hippocampus.

“Course correction, course correction,” my GPS robotically signals.
“You are living in the past.  You are not in the now.”

What fun is the Now with its reality of creaky knees, aching feet?
I steer towards hoola-hoop days – spry and supple hips and hearts
and am led to my sisters – both no longer girls — masters of the rolls and twirls.

We sisters approach, tentatively now:  thinning hair, a wobbly gait, faulty hearing.
Our impatience and anxiety with each other –
our nervous laughter —
fearing that my tongue will speak the reality of my own truth
and I will offend.

I could be seduced into believing myself and my kinfolk are strangers –
that my heart has disappeared.

 

John Quill

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John Quill.  Imagined in a springtime walk
as a flowering 18th century poet
penning works with turkey, goose, and swan feathers,
living in a garret with no flat-screen television
only rough hewn stone, the occasional chirp of a sparrow, a robin.

A lonely but deep man.

For Sythia

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Your golden flowers.
The hue of distilled sun, and honey, and lemons.

Heralding Spring dalliance,
boughs of promise.

I clip and set you in a vase on the table.

This is So Serious

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Every now and then a scene from the movie Royal Tennenbaums, bubbles up in my thoughts and I laugh.  In the movie, Ben Stiller is hyper-vigilant for disaster.  Ben plays the character Chas and he has two little boys.  Chas has his boys practice timed fire drills in the house.   Fire alarms blaring in the background, Chas yells at the boys to go, go go!  Once they safely exit the house, Chas clicks on his stop-watch to see if he and his boys will survive or be burned to a crisp.

I can relate to Chas’s character.  I, too, have been known to awfulize.    Perhaps my vigilance for disaster began in childhood.  I had a vivid imagination and once believed I saw the outline of a bear in the darkened hallway of our house.   It turned out to be a pile of rugs.

Then, when I was seventeen disaster did hit — my Father collapsed in the house and died from a massive heart attack.

But what’s over is over.  All I’ve got is today.  Why not have faith that there is a reason for the way things happen?

Being crisis-oriented is horrible.  It robs life of joy, detracts from living in the moment.

Oddly, my worries took on a deja-vu turn a few years ago.  My husband collapsed in the kitchen and at first I thought it was a repeat of what I experienced with my Father.  But it was not a heart attack.  He’d been broiling Leeks Au Gratin and bubbling cheese dribbled down the rubber mitts he wore, burning his wrist.

The doctor in the Emergency Room lightened things up about the Leeks disaster, joked about wine pairings.

My husband still makes Leeks Au Gratin.  I just look the other way.

 

 

Sew What?

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Atta Girl!  I commend myself for measuring, cutting, pressing and sewing a curtain valance today.  The inner critic wants to berate that the rain drop pattern (white raindrops on black cotton fabric – I love black and white design) is not moving in the correct direction.  Raindrops fall downwards, the critic says.  They don’t travel sideways and they certainly don’t levitate skyward. 

If that isn’t enough, the critic starts in on my math skills:  You should have measured and cut more carefully.  If the width of the fabric is 42” and your window is 75” and you stitched the two 42” pieces together to make 84,” how come the valance looks skimpy?

Inner critics are such bores.  I silence her with a gentle voice, letting her know that instead of skimpy, I prefer the word minimalist.  My goal is a valance with a Zen feel to it – no frou-frou for me, thank you.

And if raindrops in the fabric pattern travel sideways and levitate skyward, oh well.   I call it artistic license.

Liver Days

I was edgy.  The caterwauling at 2:00 a.m. was keeping me awake.  It was the cat’s sleep or mine.  It was time to take our tabbie to the animal hospital to have her put down.
But neither of us could stand the thought of Mimi taking her last gasps on a clinical metal table.

Luckily, I discovered a local veterinarian who made house calls.

“I’m phoning the home pet vet,” I told my husband.

Showing up in her starched white doctor’s jacket with her medical bag (straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration – and this was for a pet, mind you), the vet took one look at our 5-pound cat, listened to our description of her dwindling appetite, ran some tests and confirmed that Mimi had kidney disease.

The vet recommended daily hydration injections through an IV catheter.

“It’s simple,” she said, demonstrating by lifting a lump of fur on the cat’s back and poking it with a needle connected to a plastic hydration pouch.

I have a dread of needles going into anything other than a sewing machine.   It didn’t look simple to me.

And the cat?  I could see that her feline dignity was clearly insulted:  “Huh?  How would you like carrying a plastic pouch on your back?” was the overall attitude as she skulked away.

Then the vet recommended we start cooking Mimi some liver.  From that day forward we did not own the cat, the cat owned us.

I gave my husband free reign — both with buying and sauteeing the liver and poking the cat with the IV needles.  But the caterwauling at 2:00 a.m. did not stop.  I was tired and between the vet bills and hydration bags and trips to Whole Foods for liver, Mimi was costing us.

The bigger cost, though, was my sleep.

“Eeeeeoooowwww.”   The piercing cry grew louder with each shrinking ounce of cat.
Her huge green eyes seemed to look into my soul as I warmed milk for myself in the wee hours of the night.

I felt nostalgic for the days she used to circle her kibble bowl as if she were a Cheetah moving in for the kill, crunching dry food as if it were zebra bones.   I felt guilty and conflicted in my heart about her euthanasia, but I did not offer her my milk.

“Do you think we’ll be treated this well when we’re elders,” I asked my husband.

He shrugged.

And then, on one of those insomniac nights, I happened upon a quote from Mark Twain:

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

That was it!  It was as if we were carrying Mimi by the tail and all her caterwauling was at us for meddling with her natural process of dying.   Her rebuffing food, her pleas to end it all in the middle of the night.

Set me free, I imagined Mimi screaming.

And so we had the home pet vet pay her last call.   My husband stayed true to the end in ministering to Mimi.  I left it to him to hold her in his lap while the doctor gave the fatal dose.  Tears streamed down both our faces.

“Do you want me to cart Mimi away, cremate her, send her ashes to you in the mail?” the vet asked.

“Of course we do,” we said.

“I also offer a plaster impression of paws.  Would you like me to cast one for you?”

“Of course we do,” we said.

Within a week we received Mimi’s fancy container of ashes in the mail.   And at Christmas Mimi’s plaster cast nestles in our tree.

I painted these words underneath her paw print:  Liver Days.

In Praise of the Brazil Nut

Dipping my hand into the party mix, I retrieve you, Brazil Nut.
Although you mingle well with others – pecans, filberts, almonds –
you want the limelight and will not be dominated in the nut bowl.

Meaty and long, your brown membrane peels as if sunburned in Amazon jungle
before your journey to a North American store.

You are smooth and cool to the touch.
I pop you in my mouth and roll you like a stone.

Tentative molars bite down and my saliva engulfs you.
I am fooled into believing you are a baked potato.
In flavor, you could be cousin to Ireland’s spud.

Thank you for traveling so far to feed me.