I’m so happy Zebu’s graduation weekend coincided with Mother’s Day because Wildebeest came back to help celebrate his brother’s milestone. We haven’t all been together since January.
Today I was looking in our linen closet, and unearthed this shirt:
Neither Zippy nor I can remember which son owned it. I’m guessing it was Wildebeest, but am not 100% sure. Why do we still have it? Why is it taking up space in the home? For that matter, why are we holding onto half the crap in our lives?
The good news is, I haven’t come across any Napoleon Dynamite moon boots.
Tonight Zippy, Wildebeest, Zebu, and I are going to watch the Nuggets play the 76ers. I’m excited because one of my favorite former Michigan State players, Gary Harris, plays for the Nuggets. Also, I love basketball.
However, that excitement doesn’t mean I won’t be packing a pen and notebook. Yes, I’m a basketball fan. But I’m also a writer who likes to be prepared, and as Tom Waits says: Any place is good for eavesdropping, if you know how to eavesdrop.
Even a basketball arena.
This photo hangs on the wall at my brother’s house. Here he is with the smiling Wildebeest and Zebu, many years ago. I’m not sure any of them remember the exact moment the picture was taken, but love and happiness are written all over this image. It’s no coincidence that a book’s involved.
There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
~ Maurice Sendak
Every creature is better alive than dead,
men and moose and pine trees,
and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Over the past weekend, we were in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My two sons, Wildebeest and Zebu, got into a lively debate over running ability and were finally coerced by those sick of listening to that debate into running a short race. While their uncle got ready at the finish line with his camera to capture their final steps, their father (Zippy) lined them up at the starting line. But just before Zippy shot the proverbial starter’s pistol, he saw a tiny creature on the race course:
After moving the Horned Lizard to safety, the race commenced.
(NOTE: Wildebeest won by a slim margin, pulling a quad muscle in the process. The two agreed to switch “lanes” and run it again, and that time Zebu won by a whole bunch. I’m guessing the Horned Lizard is as happy as the rest of us that the two of them have, at least temporarily, moved beyond that whole running debate.)
Emma and I just took a walk to deliver some stuff to one of Wildebeest’s friends. (Friend is driving south to see Wildebeest tomorrow, and so can deliver the $5 North Face backpack I scored for him at a garage sale yesterday.)
Because I hadn’t yet walked Emma today, I figured it was a great way to accomplish two tasks at once. I also thought she’d appreciate walking through some different neighborhoods where she could smell new odors.
I guess she liked it well enough. For a while, anyway.
This is the second time Emma’s gone on a sit-down strike. She had plenty of water and a rest at the friend’s house, so I don’t feel too bad for her. Especially since just minutes after this picture was taken, she went nuts at a dog behind a fence.
In March of 2003, my family took the train from Denver to San Francisco during our sons’ spring break. Wildebeest was 9-years-old and Zebu was 7. As had millions of people around the world, we’d marched and demonstrated and written letters and called our representatives to say NO TO WAR ON IRAQ.
Didn’t matter. Bush said he wouldn’t shape his policy according to public opinion, even when it was the whole freaking planet screaming NO.
We were in a hotel when it was announced that the U.S. had begun dropping bombs. We were outraged and heartbroken. So were many, many people in San Francisco. The police were out in full riot gear, looking very nervous.
That Bush-Cheney invasion, powered by lies and fear-mongering, made the oil companies and mercenaries much richer, while destroying the lives of millions of Iraqis.
Now it’s March of 2017, and people are saying they miss George W. Bush. Unbelievable. George W. Bush is a war criminal, plain and simple, and the repercussions of his crimes continue fourteen years after he wrongly invaded another country.
Can’t really tell from the above photo, but Emma is a whole lot of Corgi. And you know what that means…
Okay, that’s still not a great representation (she’s hard to photograph because she likes to be on the move). But trust me, she’s got an unusual build. Despite her looks, she’s very strong and fast.
We’re happy to restore the household balance back to 2 humans, 2 cats, and 2 dogs. (Not to mention the approximately 2k worms in the basement.) As for the name “Emma,” it’s growing on me. She’s answered to that name for at least the last year so we’re loathe to confuse her with another. We temporarily floated “Gemma” but Zebu immediately responded to that text with “She’s adorable, but you’re gonna have to change that name.” Wildebeest said “Gemma” reminds him of some psycho female character on Sons of Anarchy.
Emma is starting to sound better and better.
I asked Zippy if he could locate some old photos from 2003, and he (quickly!) found them on a CD. And even though I wasn’t looking for this particular photo of the young Wildebeest and Zebu strutting their stuff in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist sharing it.
Because this picture made me smile. And smiles are always, always welcome around here.
Yesterday morning, Wildebeest woke up early to drive the six hours back home. At the same time, Zebu was on a flight out of London to Denver. Wildebeest got here an hour before Zebu landed at the airport.
Zippy and I haven’t seen either of them since mid-August and we all have lots of catching up to do. In the last 24 hours, there have been many overlapping conversations and bursts of laughter. Both sons are introducing new topics to the discussions, touching on the lives they’re now living, but we also keep to our usual “script” which includes Arrested Development references and cat jokes. And basketball. Always basketball in the script.
This morning it was a spirited debate re Michael Jordan vs LeBron James as Best Player of All Time. We’ve also discussed the way college player Grayson Allen trips other players as compared to Golden State Warrior Draymond Green’s kicking players in the crotch, and who deserves to be suspended. Right now, one of Zebu’s high school basketball teammates is here and they’re talking about basketball intramural games at their respective colleges.
Basketball. Basketball. Basketball.
A familiar song I’m happy to hear.
Zoey has lived with us for the past eleven years and for the majority of those years, remained in either the house or yard. She (and Coco) didn’t get to go on neighborhood walks (or open space hikes) because they were out of control on leashes. When they saw another dog, no matter how far off in the distance, they’d bark, growl, lunge, and generally behave in a bat-shit manner.
At one point early on, we spent a whole lot of money to have a personal dog trainer work with us. That strategy ultimately failed because of a lack of consistency. The dogs responded to me as the alpha, but couldn’t care less about pushover-Zippy’s commands or young Wildebeest and Zebu with their high voices and unassertive attitudes. The dogs still believed they were the alphas who needed to protect the pack.
It all came to a head years ago when I took Zoey and Coco for a walk. They went nuts when they saw another dog, and in their ensuing barking / twirling / lunging, knocked me to the ground. Both my knees were thoroughly black and blue.
That was it for me. I no longer felt guilty about having two dogs that never, ever left the yard.
And then Coco died. To help Zoey through her grief, we started walking her once a day. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been an entirely pleasant experience (one walk lasted a full three minutes because I had to drag Zoey home after she went ballistic at the sight of another dog), but I am pleased to say we’re having some enjoyable walks. Today’s, for example.
Zoey still has an alpha attitude, but she’s older and wiser (and a little less strong). I’m grateful we can give our old girl the gift of a daily walk.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
~ Helen Keller
As per my last late-night post, yesterday we were evacuated due to a fire in the open space near our home. We hadn’t experienced that before. The only other time there was a big fire, we were out of town. (Our former neighbors took it upon themselves to come in the house to collect a crate full of framed wedding and family photos. They also put a sprinkler on top of our shake-shingle roof. Good neighbors.)
So last night as we watched the fire out our windows, we had to start thinking about what we should take in case of evacuation. Zippy and I believed it would be easy to grab the basics (the animals and the same framed photos plus passports, social security cards, etc and a few clothes) and get out. But by the time we received the automated call telling us to get out, we’d amassed more than that.
I gained some insights into my personal world view.
- Jog bras (Bra shopping is a horrible experience, and I’d be damned if I have to go through that again)
- An entire box of project notebooks and journals, including those containing quotes from young Wildebeest and Zebu plus one from my three weeks spent with Marilynne Robinson at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
- Every single photo album
- Binder filled with negatives
- Gratitude journal (that I’ve been actively resenting and willfully neglecting for the past couple months)
- New container of raw cashews
- New bottles of nutritional supplements
- New bottle of tequila
- Huge suitcase of family-of-origin photos recently brought back from Mom in Florida
- Laptop, current fiction project notebook, current nonfiction project notebook
- Camera and lenses
- Binoculars, bird books, birding notebook woefully out of date re sightings
- Medical records for Zippy, Wildebeest, Zebu, and myself
That list makes it seem as if I brought every single thing I owned. Not true. All sorts of stuff was left behind. Objects that caught my eye as I passed through rooms, shuttling stuff to the cars.
- My brother’s gorgeous painting of a Jesus lizard walking on water.
- The denim jacket that first belonged to Zippy’s sheep rancher grandfather and was passed down to Zippy’s father (Stu) and now Zippy.
- Stu’s hat that became mine after he died last February because I’m the only one in the family with a head small enough to fit.
- The metal rooster that sits on top of our piano in honor of friend Michelle Begley who died in January 2015, and which also serves as mascot for the monthly Writing Roosters critique group gatherings.
- Books, many of them signed by the authors.
- The ceramic penguin doing a power salute (and showing off underarm hair) made for me by Wildebeest in high school.
- Zebu’s sticker-bedecked water bottle that’s been at his place at the dining room table since he left for Sweden in August.
- The poseable Batman featured in many blog posts over the years.
- An enormous plastic bin filled with photos that have been put in chronological order, but have not yet made it into albums.
But my decisions are a moot point. The fire was extinguished and we’re back in our house with all our stuff. Or, as George Carlin would say, all our shit.
Today’s my birthday,
lots of gifts over the years.
Love these two the most.
Joined the family August 18, 2005
Said goodbye November 17, 2016
You came to us as Cocoa, and Wildebeest changed that to Coco.
Over the years you were our Coco Sue, Susan, and Speckled Snake Dog.
No matter the name, you were always our funny friend
with the big eyes and catfish whiskers.
You could run faster and see farther than anyone,
and now you can do that forevermore.
Plus eat all the poop you want.
Rest in peace, Coco Sue.
Organize your many years of family photos so that your sons won’t be left with that overwhelming task.
Zebu and Wildebeest have been avid Spotify users for years, and now Zippy and I also have access to ALL THAT MUSIC.
It’s great to have a song pop in my head and then seconds later, I listen to it. It was years since I’d heard Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and then the other morning her voice gave me chills.
Spotify is also great for quickly checking out bands and musicians I read about in Rolling Stone, plus I discover new music while listening to other people’s playlists. Case in point, Earl St. Clair. Spotify = MORE MUSIC TO LOVE.
But the absolute greatest thing about Spotify is how it’s rejuvenated my hoop dancing. In the dark ages, I’d cobbled together a playlist of songs that were mostly good for dancing within my hoop. And while Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” are kick-ass hoop dancing songs, I was bored.
I’m now the proverbal kid in the candy store. New songs every day to inspire my hoop dance. New favorites to sample again and again without fear of getting in a permanent rut.
So on this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for:
all the incredible music that makes me want to dance,
and Spotify which makes it easy to do.
Wildebeest’s first job was at Casa Bonita where he performed in skits while people sat poolside and choked down horrible “Mexican food.” The one time I visited the Denver-area landmark was to watch him in action and fortunately, because I ate no food, suffered zero digestive issues. I’m also happy to say that I very much enjoyed the show. One of the roles Wildebeest performed that day (and on a regular basis) was Black Bart.
Wildebeest loved his Casa Bonita job and has had several less-fun jobs since then. He now lives elsewhere and works part-time as a bellhop while going to school. He works in an historic hotel that puts on a melodrama in its theatre during peak season. The other day he was at work schlepping luggage for the guests (a job he truly enjoys) when a crisis arose: one of the regular performers for the melodrama hadn’t shown up. Management came to Wildebeest in a panic and said, “You’ve done gun fights before, right?”
He assured them he had, and then Wildebeest the Bellhop put on a costume and had a shoot-out on stage once again.
Moral of the story: you never know what part of your resume will come into play.
Wildebeest and Zebu a couple days ago, working the camera in their unique ways.
(In keeping with the spirit of Rio Olympics, Batman stuck it on the dismount!)
On Saturday, Wildebeest drove for six hours to come home and see his brother before Zebu leaves for ten months in Sweden. (In the time-honored tradition of all young adults, Wildebeest brought his dirty laundry with him.)
A few minutes ago Wildebeest hugged us all goodbye, loaded up his clean and folded laundry, and headed back home. He’s leaving one home for another.
I’m hyper-aware that whenever I refer to this, the childhood home we made for our sons, as HOME, I run the risk of minimizing the lives our children are creating for themselves. But I also want them to know they are always welcome here and will always have a home with Zippy and me. This is their home. We are their home. So I use “home” to refer to here and there, wherever there may be.
Wildebeest is currently on the road, migrating back to the life he’s chosen for himself. I miss him already, but will see him the next time he comes home.
Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
~ Matsuo Basho