Thursday, March 30, 2006

What’s the Opposite of Stockholm Syndrome?

Why do I have the nagging suspicion that if I were held captive for three months by extremists, an offer of free psychiatric care would be extended…to my captors?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Can I Get a Fitness?

Just stewing about the fact that Mr. Right probably lost 7-10 lbs. with his little flu encounter while here I am struggling to fit in my jeans. With shorts season around the corner, I had best knock of the Dorito-fest and ice cream orgy. How depressing. I recently bought one of those Fitness Balls to help me tone up. I don’t get it. I’ve been working with the Fitness Ball for six weeks now, and haven’t seen any results…

Day 1

Have to have the Fitness Ball. It’s the hottest new workout trend.
It will help build and tone my core muscles! Think about it during the entire banana split.

Day 2

Saw a Fitness Ball at the store. Knew I could do better than that on price.
Notice chocolate is on sale and buy a bag. What a value!

Day 17

Still pricing Fitness Balls, closing in on a good one, I just know it.
It’s either the red one by the Burger King or the purple one behind Culver’s. One of those.

Day 28

Find a cheap Fitness Ball in just my size! (extra short) No video with it, just the ball and a pump. I’ll buy the video separately. The ones that come with aren’t any good anyhow.

Day 29

Discover no one sells workout videos for the Fitness Ball. What’s up with that?
Complain about this to Louise over brunch at the all-you-can eat dessert buffet.
Oh, I think there were some eggs and bacon there too.

Day 35

Find a video AND have a coupon for it! I’m in business now!
So happy, I buy a Slurpee™ on the way home.

Day 36

Become very exhausted by using that stupid little foot pump to inflate said Fitness Ball.
Only left leg is toned. And sore. Take nap.

Day 37

Put in video.
Seems to be divided into segments of warm up, cool down, various workouts, etc. Nice!


Give up in heap of agony 12 minutes into the program. I’m not even sure if that was the ‘warm up’ section or not, might just have been a ‘demonstration’ section.

Day 38

Too. Sore. To. Move.

Day 39

Between aspirin, move ball to various places in living room so husband can walk past.

Day 40

Leave ball in front of TV on the theory that I can do a few sit-ups or push-ups during the commercial breaks.

Day 42

Name ball Bouncy to personalize the workout experience, as in,
“Honey, could you move Bouncy? I can’t see the TV.”

Day 43

Banish Bouncy to the basement where it can keep the Step™, Nordic-Trac™, Ab-Buster™ and tiny trampoline company.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Silence of the Germs

Whew! Blogger was down last night so I had to post early this morning. If that sounds like I’m bitching about a free service, you’re right. So what’s your point?

Attended the author signing in Oak Brook and had a wonderful time. Many great stores nearby! Next time I’ll make a day of it. Louise went with me and we arrived twenty minutes early and grabbed some seats in the front row. There was a young gal who looked like she was doing homework in the opposite corner of the last row. As we browsed another young woman took a seat. Yep. That was it. Packed house of four. One of them was a homeless person who just wanted a place to sit and get warm. Later, a woman who blogs and wants to be published joined in. Hey, that was my gig!

As expected, Wendy and Jen were very personable and enjoyed talking about their books. They did some selected readings and then took questions as shoppers milled around. I can’t help but wonder if Margaret Atwood gets 500 How Do I Get an Agent? questions. I did feel kind of bad no one was asking about metaphors or story arc, but perhaps memoir just doesn’t lend itself to such analysis. As nothing in either book seemed improbable or outrageous there wasn’t a lot of Frey-esqe grilling. It’s amazing to think agents approached them on the quality of their writing.

They were polite enough to pose for pictures afterwards as well, so they can join my Hall of Shame (authors unfortunate enough to be in a photo with me) that includes Christopher Paul Curtis and Mark O’Shea. (Near Misses: Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson and Amy Tan. Apparently they have Staff to keep souvenir hunters away.)

Although my writing may not be to that level, I do think a hook is the defining factor. Wendy wrote of weight loss, Jen of unemployment. My big theme? Development. The loss of farmland and open spaces to sprawl. How trees are slaughtered for Wal-Mart parking lots and the notion that Change is coming and you can’t stop it. I’m not the only voice crying in the once wilderness. But I am the most sardonic! More on this as I get serious about branding my blog. I don’t know if changing the url will be needed, but I’ll keep you posted.

In other news:

Am I the only one who thinks the only way for justice to be served is for Gov. George Ryan to get the death penalty? I’m so sick of some people trying to paint him as this big saint who is a hero for the anti-death penalty cause. It’s disgusting. His move was A) political and B) forced, as the evidence of wrongdoing in the convictions was so strong. Quit making him into Mother Teresa. And don’t get me started on her, either!

Have you heard about Bag Borrow or Steal? It’s Netflicks for party chicks. The premise is that for a monthly fee members can rent high-end designer purses. We’re talking $1800 Louis Vuitton and Fendi totes and handbags. Beginning at $19.95 a month, you can request a bag, have it shipped to your house and use it all you like. When you’re ready for a change, mail it back ($9.95, and there’s additional fees for insurance) and get the next one. Lisa and I sat down at work and tried to figure this out. It would take a good $1800 a year to use the program. Now, who exactly would I be showing off for? Coworkers? Get real. I live on the prairie. Styles take ten years to make their way to the Midwest. Who in the cubicle down the row would recognize Prada if it bit them? Well, other than Lisa, no one, that’s for sure. Oh! I know. I could take Chico the Drunken Chihuahua about town in one! If I was cool enough to be invited to a party where a designer handbag would be appreciated, I’d be rich enough to buy a closetful. Although I must admit the whole idea has me thinking of founding…

Have a special event coming up? Have you the cutest outfit, like ever? But, like no shoes? Bummer! Well, like, if you’re a size six, your worries are so over. Just come to and email us a photo of that special ensemble. Magically overnighted to your door will be the perfect size six shoes for that outfit, guaranteed!*

Gosh, here I am wondering why U. S. Highway 173 is a skating rink (this has been the mildest winter on record, yet Route 173 is more dangerous than the Donner Pass every time it dips below freezing. There are even studies being done to see if certain curves are ‘engineered incorrectly’. No, you idiots, it’s called Plowing and Salting. Try it.) when the answer appears on the front page of the Chicago Tribune today. Seems ol’ IDOT paid some $500, 000 to advertising agencies to get the word out that the Dan Ryan Expressway project starts Friday. Hey! Lookie there! I just mentioned it! On my blog! I’m sending them a bill!! Among the suspicious charges is $25 K for imaginary t-shirts and pens. Oh, that blog mention has to be worth… oh, about a mere $1800 or so. You know, rental Chloe purses for a year.

Confidential Message to Mr. Right: No, it is NOT too much to ask that you get sick by appointment only. If you really loved me, you’d fly me to Italy to see the real ruins of Pompeii. Stopping off in Maranello, of course.
*Offer Not Available in Philippines

Chicago Hopeless

I’m sorry Mr. Right, but if everyone got two fluffy pillows, there’d be chaos, wouldn’t you agree?

Worst. Weekend. Ever.

Germ Boy asked for some orange juice at one point. Sounded like a request I could handle, so I foraged about kitchen. That’s the room with fridge, right?
Found some frozen concentrate and tried chopping it up in lukewarm water to speed things along. Heck, sick people can’t taste anyway. Only two ingredients, one of them water. I can handle it. Kind of.

I pour him a big glass over ice so he doesn’t notice my speedy delivery of something that didn’t exist a minute ago. He drinks it and heads back to bed. I head to the kitchen again to put Peach Schnapps in my glass before adding ice and juice. Whee! This is a party.

This reminds me a very funny thing that happened in Key West. One night Louise begins peeling an orange and offers me some. “Oh! Where did you get that?” I exclaim, thinking I missed some roadside stand or the fruit-laden tree right outside our room. “I brought it from home”, she replied. “Let me get this straight… you brought an orange all the way from Wisconsin to Florida??” Guess I’m just lucky she didn’t make me roll down the rental car windows so we could fling them out yelling, “You’re home! Be free!!”

So I spend all day Saturday on the couch (having slept there Friday night) depressed and fearful of contamination. If he stirs, I can always use a broom handle to push some more Thera-Flu through the doorway. Around noon I offer him some soup that I’ve been simmering on the stove all morning. Ok, more like held up a can of Chunky vs. Wolfgang Puck and asked if he had a preference. Do you have plain chicken noodle? he asks, being difficult. With an exasperated sigh I find some generic chicken noodle and microwave it.

I don’t even read. I just watch TV. What a waste of two days. I think I slept eleventeen hours. The absolutely only redeeming thing I can say about the whole weekend is I learned exactly what makes a Hemi a Hemi is by watching a DVD about great Mopars of the past. I think my favorite is the 1970 Challenger T/A. Burnt orange would be nice, that bronzy color.

I spend most of Sunday boiling the bedding and washing it with bleach and sterilizing toothbrushes and toilets, etc. And being bitter. Very, very bitter.

Oh, sure, he offered to go on Sunday. Yes. A two-hour train ride, just what you need honey. Let’s infect the general populace. And train toilets are such fun! Yeah. Never mind.

About now I’d like to point out that HE’s the one who got the flu shot this year. Now I’m convinced the government is using them to kill off the elderly who are using Medicare benefits. There’s something in them that MAKES you susceptible to the flu. Or at least ruining your spouse’s life. I missed Pompeii, and the exhibit is now touring Tokyo. Great. I missed seeing ancient people and dogs preserved in the fetal position by volcanic ash to watch the husband spend the weekend in the same contortions.

Tomorrow: Tales of Meet the Authors at Borders! Or, why you should feel sorry for people who write soul-barring literature and have to put up with weirdos who just show up hoping for how-to-get-published tips.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Can Opener is Over There; You Know How to Use the Microwave

Had this big weekend going downtown to see the Pompeii exhibit planned, perhaps even catching a performance of Wicked (another one of those still-kicking-myself for not thinking of that ideas), and now it's down the tubes.

At 2 p.m. Mr. Right left a message on my cell phone that he was leaving work early because he didn't feel well. He's got to be dying for that to happen, so goodbye ruins of Italy, hello ruined weekend.

So when I get this message at 4:45 p.m., I call and find out he's home in bed with the flu. Have you been near any live chickens? I ask warily. Assured that he hasn't, I hang out at work until 5:20. No one wants to see a movie with me, so I go to the health club and grocery shopping, and... well, I guess I have to go home sometime, don't I?

I hate sick people. I avoid them like the plague they are. Nurturing and patient are qualities I was not issued. The people in that long line weren't pushing or complaining. Thank goodness I charged right over to snatched up talents like Natural Accessorization Sense and Cool Car Appreciation instead. Hmmm. Perhaps I should go make sure his tissue box matches his barf bucket or something.

I know! To cheer him up, I can wrap the Ny-Quil bottle in tinfoil. See? I'm thoughtful.

Met the Authors!

Went with the black pinafore and flowered blouse. Good call!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lifestyles of the Rich and Blogging

Getting ready for the big trek pilgrimage to see Jen and Wendy, the blogging authors I mentioned earlier. Agonizing over what to wear, as Jen has pages of her site devoted to chewing up celebrities who violate her fashion sense. MUCH snarkier than any What to Wear or Joan Rivers tirade, so I’m understandably nervous. Should I dress up? Down? Conservative? Funky? What will make her snicker the least? The last thing I need is her refusal to check out my site because anyone who would wear THAT can’t possibly have anything funny/profound to say.

As someone who is never seen in the same outfit twice (ask my co-workers, I’ve been there almost ten years) there’s bound to be some missteps along the way. Learn and move on, that’s my motto. But that’s work. Not celebrity stalking. Can’t gush about being her number one fan in mismatched accessories.

Mr. Right suggested my Key West Outfit. He would love to hear what Jen thinks of that. That’s the one where I later found the flaw caused by some careless child laborer who couldn’t sew a decent seam for fourteen hours straight and now I’m stuck with an imperfect top. Mr. Right hates this outfit, as it doesn’t ‘match’. This is the man who sees nothing wrong with two unrelated couches in our living room. Yeah, I’m going to take his advice. The man is a software tester. His idea of high fashion is a new pocket protector. Does this USB drive make my butt look big?

The KW top and skirt are silk and of similar colors*, but not patterns. It’s kind of a boho gypsy-type outfit. It’s not supposed to match, and for me this was a leap of faith purchase, as I’m not usually drawn to such ‘cutting edge’ type frippery. But I do “do” weird, and, well, there was a lot of incense and funky music…

Now Wendy, Wendy will be nice. Bet she’s sweet and kind to me. Then she’ll tell me to keep moving, she has real fans to meet. Later, she will stage whisper to Jen, “The nerve of her, using a coupon for my book…”

In totally unrelated news – a friend at work told me she did some pet-sitting last week, and among her charges were two turtles, Sam and Ella. Get it? SAMANDELLA? Too precious!!

*Found the cutest pair of Candie’s to go with them today and had a $30 coupon so they only cost me $5.34 with tax!! Score!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Write Me In

Think I know why I’m not writing anything…I’ve been unnerved by reading Bitter is the New Black, and now I feel anything I post won’t be infinitesimally as good as the Jennslyvania blog. As soon as I get past this bizarre ‘stage fright’ or what ever it is, I’ll be fine. But for now, no big issues or even story-arc posts.

(Well, maybe one little comment – I hear a Super Wal-Mart is coming soon. Why on earth we need yet another one in the area – there’s one being built a mere 8 miles away and the next closest is about 22 miles away – is beyond me. Except for the fact that Wal-Mart is hell bent on total world domination, and will succeed in making us all slaves. I guess that’s as good a reason as any to put one in every town in America. Walmerica. As with any evil entity, I have to stand back and admire their awful success. Their methods, although heinous, are at heart very smart and simplistic. Of course I’m jealous I didn’t start the chain, who wouldn’t be? But as the one who has to watch Wal-ing of civilization, it grates.)

Did my civic duty and voted. Born in Chicago, I’m entitled to Vote Early and Vote Often! But I restrained myself. Nothing like staring at a ballot full of uncontested races and ‘No Candidates’. As I’ve often said before, it’s just so disgusting that people like myself who don’t have money are too busy working several jobs to run for meaningful offices. This leaves things like congressman and mayor to those who are already wealthy from family connections, insider deals and shady business transactions. Only they can afford to take these jobs and meddle further with my life while fattening their pocketbook.

Saw an article in the paper about Burn Fat Without Trying. It was a little health missive about how daily chores can burn calories.

Among the pursuits listed: Cleaning Rain Gutters: 340 calories. Ok. Household chore I could feasibly find myself doing. More like Watch Husband Clean Rain Gutters: 24 calories. Laughing as cat climbs ladder to explore roof and husband almost falls trying to capture him: 58.

Accordion playing: 122 calories. Who plays the accordion? I’d be glad to expend twice that to get them to stop.

Shoveling coal: 476 calories. Well, here’s another I’ll encounter in daily (after) life. Turning on gas fireplace: 2 calories.

Washing the dog: 238 calories. Is that you or the dog? How about Washing the Cat: 435 calories. Trip to ER for stitches: 132 calories.

Ad came in the Sunday paper for shoes. What’s up with that? That’s like mailing out little vials of crack on the theory that someone on the block will get addicted. Great way to drum up business.

So there’s this page in the paper: H NGER on a white background. Beneath in smaller letters is the phrase, “ The problem can’t be solved without you.” Oh. So that’s it. Put a U in for hunger. I was trying to put an A in for hanger. Figured it was an ad for spring clothes or something. Don’t forget the hangers for all your new outfits! Made sense to me. I could use some more padded hangers.

What to say about this last one? Did you hear about the
49-year-old woman who was arrested for DUI? Seems she was doing a few shots with Chico, her Chihuahua, before going to the local elementary school to pick up her son. Oh, and she had her other 3-year-old in the car with her at the time. Not surprisingly, she was arrested again for the same offence only a few days later. Do I even need a punch line here? Just wish there were photos...*

*The really scary thing is a Google Image search for "drunk Chihuahua" yields hits

Monday, March 20, 2006

Have to pretend I live in a democracy and cast my vote tomorrow.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of the two-party system. And yes, it's a system. The only thing stronger is the
cult of celebrity, but that's a story for another night.

Promise I will write more; I've just been too tired lately. Perhaps with spring will come a burst of energy and creativity. Yeah. Right.

Enjoy your balanced day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Touched By His Noodly Appendage

It's official! I'm a Pastafarian.

In one of those oh-so-horrible why-didn't-I-think-of-that moments I had the pleasure to discover the Flying Spaghetti Monster and learn the truth between the pirate/global warming connection.

(I was also quick to note FSM is not depicted as covered in tomato sauce... Coincidence, Kane Citizen?)

The Kite Killer

Public Enemy Number One
Have you heard the reports from Pakistan about the ban on kite flying? Seems citizens were killing each other while using glass-coated or metal kite strings to conduct kite duels during the spring festival of Basant. Seven deaths have been reported in the past two weeks, including a four-year-old boy. Hundreds of arrests have been made, as citizens ignore the ban, refusing to be grounded for their own good. Guess they need to plant some kite-eating trees.

Wouldn't they be better off cracking down on something really dangerous, like Maypoles? All sorts of opportunities for mayhem there. Not to mention gaiety.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

That’s Mrs. Jack Bauer to You

Just saw a
Fox News report that said in today’s information/internet age, it seems keeping your secret identity as a clandestine government shadow organization agent is pretty hard. The report cited websites and freedom of information acts as part of the problem.

What ever happened to the good old days when the British government disavowed all knowledge of 007’s existence? Oh, and by the way, when filling out a credit application for that new car, don’t put down Secret CIA Agent under “occupation”. It’s a real giveaway.

After hearing the report, I just wanted to fake a website ‘outing’ me as a high-powered operative. Might give some of those creepy developers pause before ticking me off.

Reading: LOVED Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster and really enjoying Stiff by Mary Roach.
Watching: The Incredibles. Very good, well done. Really enjoyed King Arthur (Clive Owen, Keira Knightley: is she annoyingly gorgeous or what?) and its take on the legend.

Greenspan Book Deal

Penguin Books just won a bidding war rumored at $8 million to publish Alan Greenspan’s memoirs. Heard they beat out competitor Random House for the rights. Random House is notable for publishing A Million Little Lies by Jim Frey. Greenspan will have a collaborator (i.e. professional writer) assigned to help him create a book, which I doubt will ever recoup their investment. Random House could have had Frey ghost-write it as a big payback. Among the bombshell revelations according to Frey: Alan cheated his way through NYU, contributed an uncredited solo on Sentimental Lady, and of course, there’s the raging affair with Ayn Rand.

I Do This All The Time!

Why You Have No Protected Rights, Man

survey conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that less than 1% of respondents could identify five 1st Amendment rights, yet 20% could name five Simpsons.

I Want Her Life

Same Dif

I’m On Her Side!

Anna Nicole Smith
continues to struggle for her claim against the estate of her former husband J. Howard Marshall II, a Texan oilman who died at age 90 after 14 months of marriage. Fighting her is her 67-year-old stepson E. Pierce Marshall. The court case has dragged on for more than eleven years. Why doesn’t she just marry the son too?

Shoe What?

My Hero

A January poll of 600 affluent adults with household incomes of $150,000 or more showed men own an average of 12 pairs of shoes, women, 27. What kind of amateurs were they asking? On a Friday afternoon there are more than 27 pairs of my shoes simply strewn across my floors. And my income is nowhere near $150K. Although I must admit if I quit buying shoes, my savings might approach that level.

Price Check Register 4

Came home with my loot from the dollar store last week*, and Mr. You-Got-Me-A-Name-Brand, Right? seemed skeptical regarding the bag of 1000 generic cotton swabs on a stick I scored for a mere buck. Like what, admitting to the ENT specialist you perforated your eardrum with something less than Johnson and Johnson’s is more humiliating than having a genuine Q-Tip brand surgically extracted from your ear canal??

*You’d think I was going to a strip club; I was so excited about spending that stack of singles…

So That’s the Problem

Now I know how alcoholics feel when they finally admit their addiction. You know how those little checklists run in the Dear Abby-type columns? Things like: You Have a Problem With Alcohol When… The other morning I’m listening to a local radio station air a commercial for a dermatology practice. A sympathetic doctor explains she and her partner see many patients who lack social confidence, avoid social interaction, don’t want to leave the house and dislike having their picture taken. Ohmigod! I’m an ACNE SUFFERER!! Who knew?

Under the Influence of Incense

So I’m getting ready to wear my way cool hippie shirt bought in Key West when tragedy strikes. It’s a reversible tie top to wear over a shell, and I decided to wear the teal-colored side out in honor of St. Patrick’s month. Now, I could care less about a bunch of drunken Irish, but the opportunity to wear my favorite color is not something to pass up. Like gemstones, I’ve never met a shade of green (whoa, Freudian slip, I just typed greed…) I didn’t like. So I needed to steam the wrinkles out of the silk before wearing. During this process I noticed a flaw in the sewing. On one side of the shoulder was a seam or small length of stitching that did not belong. Not a dart; it did not appear on the other side or other shoulder. It was a mistake. Either the stitches hide a flaw in the material, or an error was made during the sewing process. Great. Some eight-year-old in Sri Lanka wanted to avoid a beating and I have to suffer for it! Doesn’t anybody take pride in their work anymore?

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'm Not the Published Me, and Very Bitter About It

Just have to post a plug for two of the coolest blogs out there – run by women who both gained book contracts from their on-line rantings. (Yes, hope springs eternal!)

First is Wendy McClure, Oak Park author of I’m Not the New Me, Riverhead, which I favorably reviewed here last summer. Wendy runs a website called Pound that details her struggles to lose weight and – gosh, is this some sort of a theme or something? – basically get a life.

Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass,Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, is also a Chicago area resident who had a life – and then lost it when downsized. Her blog chronicles her struggles to become a writer and keep a roof over her head. Jen knows there is nothing wrong with the universe that can’t be solved with a pair of new designer pumps, if only she could afford some. Penguin books came to the rescue and now she too is a published author. And wearing cool footwear, I’ll bet.

Both ladies will be signing their books at the Border’s store in Oak Brook on March 23, and I really think I should go. If nothing else, it will make a good post. In the meantime, would you please pester HarperCollins to produce “I Need A Life! Or at Least a Three Book Deal” by yours truly?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Crash in Brokeback Puddle

Target Customer Base

Do check out this link detailing a tiny Midwestern city’s reaction towards a park-district application to host a rowing event for the Gay Games of Chicago. Nice to know bigotry and intolerance are alive and well in small town middle America. Most of the comments during the hour of public comment had nothing to do with the actual application, just opinion on the ‘gay lifestyle’.

Sunita Stone of Crystal Lake said the Gay Games do not fit with what she calls the city's wholesome environment.

Wholesome? I, for one, don’t consider rampant development wholesome.

"I didn't want to have to be explaining a lot of things to my kids," Stone said.

You don’t have to. Just explain there are some people you should hate. The more vague the reasons, the less they can refute them with real-life encounters. My guess is her kids could explain way more than she’d care to hear.

I just want to know what I’m going to do with that vendor’s permit and pushcart full of sparkly pink satin jogging shorts if this falls through.

Complete Creative Control: Priceless


What an incredible rip-off! I just went to the MasterCard site to enter and guess what? You have to use their images! They've already filmed the ad, they just want captions! Nice to know my credit card company thinks I'm a total moron who can only be trusted to fill in a blank. Think I'll cancel my account right now. Try and collect on my unpaid balance, you fiendishly repressive usurers!

Do you think American Express will allow me to Express Myself??

Priceless Post

Have you seen MasterCard is sponsoring a contest to make one of their famous ‘priceless’ TV commercial from some lucky entrant’s idea? I’m working on my entry now:

Packing Boxes: $75
(Tight shot: hands wrapping vase in newspaper, placing in box)

Moving Van: $250
(Interior shot: movers taking furniture out of little apartment while old lady fusses at them to be careful. Her adult son has a box in his arms and smiles sheepishly)

Attorney Fees: $2000
(Backlit shot: Son shaking hands with attorney over paperwork)

Never Having to Deal with Mom Again: Priceless
(Pull-back shot: Son waving good-bye to confused Mom left on steps of nursing home.)

Voice over: You can’t put a price on self-absorption. For everything else, there’s MasterCard!

Fade to Black

And The Winner Is...

I'd look like this, too.

Who would you thank if you won an Oscar? I admit it. I’ve always longed to have one of those gold statuettes* thrust into my greedy mitts and majestically reply “I’d like to thank the academy…” But who else? Those ‘little people’? The ones behind the scenes? Mom? Jesus? Your co-stars? Family? Friends? Your producer, director, agent? Could I really pass up the chance to thank the other nominees for really sucking so I could win?

Let’s face it. I’d thank my car.

*Best Original Screenplay

Keyed Up

As promised, the continuation of the vacation report…

The next day we checked out of the (good) hotel and went back to downtown Key West to finish our shopping excursion and hopefully see the ‘southernmost point in the U.S.”

After parking the rental car, we embarked on a full day of walking. After hitting some shops, we had to walk some distance to the southern marker. It was a cone shape monument to tourism; every 15 seconds someone would stand in front of it, have their picture snapped, and the next crew would assemble. If you were a pickpocket or had a hankering to steal a camera, this would be paradise. Amazingly, everyone seemed to have their camera handed back to them.

We shuffled through the line like the out-of-towners we were and (finally!) set off to find a beach. I swear that beach must have been five miles away. We walked forever, watching the houses deteriorate with every block. Pretty soon broken glass and cannibalized cars littered the streets. Even the chickens looked a little seedier. These homes were on desirable plots of land, and I couldn’t understand what the situation was. Did residents let the exteriors fall into disrepair to avoid high tax assessments? Did they want to hold on to their property since they knew they could not live so close to the ocean if they sold out? Or feared if they sold and the area gentrified, they would lose the original flavor and ethnic mix of the area? If so, admirable, but why not sweep the streets?

Still no beach. We asked a man sitting on his stoop; he said there were two beaches, and pointed us in the direction of the nearest one. It wasn’t so near. We came to a State Park and could see where a cruise ship had docked. For a $1.50 entry fee (each), we were allowed to walk still further in our quest for water. A sign noted this was voted Florida’s favorite state park. Perhaps I was missing something as it was winter, but I just couldn’t see it. Our hike culminated in a rocky beach and icy ocean. No sand in sight and the stones were very painful on the feet. We waded in but never did get up the courage to submerge fully; it was just too darn cold. Overall, a letdown as far as Florida Beaches go. Perhaps there were better areas in the park, we just stopped at the first one we came to and spread out our towels. I got a grand total of 23 minutes of sunlight, and with an SPF of 45, not a darn bit of color. If I ever return, I want to come when it’s warmer and spend a whole day basking.

We hoped to catch a trolley back to civilization, but no luck. Walked all the way back to the garage and set off in a hurry hoping to make our four o’clock reservation at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. To say this was the highlight of my trip is an understatement; more like the highlight of my life. In two hours I learned more about Sea Turtles than I had in five years of aquarium visits and nature specials. It was the difference between reading a book about the Civil War and meeting Abraham Lincoln.

The woman who conducted to tour was a former teacher from Carbondale, IL who began as a volunteer at the hospital with no prior marine biology experience. She now has a paid position caring for the turtles and was the most informative and personable tour guide imaginable.

For many years, the hospital was closed to the public. The site was a hotel and had a salt water tide pool for the guests. A new owner of the property decided to stock the pool with game fish for his own and guests’ enjoyment. Often the kids staying at the motel would ask where the turtles were (due to the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon). The owner decided to research what permits were necessary to keep a sea turtle in captivity – leading him to start a rehabilitation center for injured turtles. Now it is the only facility of its kind on earth, and one of the leading Herpetological surgeons in the country donates his time there. Until Hurricane Wilma, the only way for a layperson to see the facility was to book a room at hotel. The hurricane damaged the hotel rooms to the point where the owner is now considering his options for the property. In the interim, it was decided to open the facility to tours as a source of revenue. As a charitable corporation, the owner absorbs many of the costs associated with the facility, with grants, donations and volunteers keeping it afloat. They even have an ambulance!

After an incredibly informative slide show discussing types of sea turtles and the threats they face, we were allowed to see the operating room. Each turtle is given a name and medical chart, and our guide told us what medications they were on, etc. The most insidious ailment is Fibropapilloma tumors – an infectious soft tissue tumor cased by a herpes-like virus that turtles catch by swimming in waters where humans bathe. Think about that the next time you visit a crowed beach or public pool…*

The tumors are disgustingly huge pink protrusions that can occur in the cornea, blinding the turtle and leading to certain death. Green sea turtles are especially vulnerable; some experts estimate 90% of Green Sea Turtles in U.S. waters have them. Turtles brought to the hospital with tumors are assessed by x-ray; internal tumors are untreatable and lead to euthanasia. External tumors can be removed by laser, but as the tumors contain such a large blood supply, multiple surgeries may be required to remove all growths safely. Although anesthetized for the surgery, return to salt water (a wonderful curative) is very painful on the open wound. Once tumors are removed, the turtle is kept in captivity for one year to monitor reoccurrence. Once free from growths for a year, the prognosis is excellent and the turtle returned to the wild. Where she can then be killed by monofilament line, oil spills, boat propellers or the ingestion of a plastic bag. Yes, the future of the sea turtle is pretty bleak. Unless this whole bird-flu thing really steps up and wipes out mankind, I’m not too optimistic for the plant and animal life on this planet.

Then we walked into the treatment area. Right before my eyes was a real live (ok, just barely) sea turtle! He was in a blue plastic kiddie pool with a damp towel on him, propped so his head was lower than his back flippers. He had some type of repertory infection and they were hoping the position would help drain his lungs. Only time would tell if the antibiotics would have any effect.

To my right were some little plastic containers, slightly bigger than a shoebox. In each swam a baby sea turtle no bigger than my palm!! These were washed ashore during Wilma and brought in by residents who found them on driveways or yards. I can’t believe I was that close to these cute little hatchings. As soon as they were determined to be healthy, it’s back to the sea for them. The hospital does not wish to interfere with the cycle of life and keep the turtles until they are grown, so despite the dangers they are released. One however, had a major problem. He could only swim in a tight little circle, forever paddling clockwise. He got little physical therapy sessions where they tempted him to swim in the opposite direction with squid and shrimp treats and little flipper massages. Check out their
wonderful website for photos and further information.

Uses of names with ‘he’ and ‘she’ designations is arbitrary. No one knows the sex of these reptiles, unless an x-ray revealed eggs or something.

I loved seeing the turtles up close, although it really brought home the plight of these poor creatures. So many were scarred beyond recognition from boat propellers or fishing mishaps. Missing limbs, deformed shells, the inability to sink or swim properly, tumors – it was all very sobering. I wished I lived near enough to volunteer there, I’m sure they could always use someone to wash towels or scoop turtle poop out of the tanks or something. Until then, the best I can do is make a donation and tell everyone about it. I’ve already spoken with a woman who says every year for 12 years family has vacationed in Key West. She said her children always asked if they could visit the turtles and she was very pleased to hear they could now tour the facility.

Our guide even recommended a good restaurant nearby and we headed there just in time for Louise to get some great photos of the sunset. My camera stinks, and I really need to get a better one soon. We had dinner outdoors on the water and then it was off to my favorite destination, the Dirty Pelican Hotel. Ug.

So we check in well after dark again, and the room is slightly larger but certainly no cleaner. We were opening suitcases, settling in, when a flush of the toilet decided to come up rather than down. So it’s off to office to ask for a plunger. Gee, I don’t know where one is, and the supply closet is locked, says night desk clerk. So he starts walking around knocking on cabins to see if there is one out on loan! Sheesh. So eventually he says we can have another (bigger) room for the same cost, as they can’t fix the room we have. So we pack up the toothbrushes and head to the next cabin over, the Marlin Room. Oooh! Do I get a free marlin? No such luck. It’s a much bigger room with a full kitchen, but no marlins, real or stuffed in sight. What do I find in that bathroom? A plunger. Fortunately it was not needed.

Next morning it was back to the airport, and although I certainly wish my vacation were longer, I couldn’t wait to leave the Poopy Pelican behind. The city of Miami is to be commended on hiding the airport so well. The money they saved on signage lined some politician’s pocket, I’m sure. Anyhoo… once inside it took some doing to figure out which desk to check in at. Once settled, I decided to visit the ladies’ room. Mistake! As I walk in a siren begins to shriek and the emergency lights come on. Confused, everyone inside exits back to the lobby area. No alarm there, but the men are exiting their washroom as well. What kind of bizarre bathroom alarm was triggered? Terrorists couldn’t exist in that filth, so I can’t imagine. The noise was so loud I decided I could wait, as did a few others.

The flight to Chicago was delayed over something really silly, like they didn’t have some sort of equipment that moves one plane out of the way for the next. Our plane was on the ground, waiting, it just couldn’t get to our door. An hour later we get on the plane. I sit by a window and watch Mr. Union Baggage Handler in action. Now I’m totally against the concessions airline workers have had to make, the government bailouts, etc. but this guy was really giving the job a bad name.

First off, he was working alone. He had the golf cart-type vehicle hooked to two trams of luggage. He had not even started with the luggage, and all passengers had been seated and belted for some 15 minutes. He ever so slowly turned each piece of luggage around, looked at the tag, (good for him!) and in slow motion placed it on the conveyor leading to the cargo area of the jet. No rush. He’s paid for an 8-hr day whether that’s one plane loaded or twenty. And it sure looks like that figure is closer to one. I could have done the job faster and more efficiently, but apparently that’s not the point. The point is to go really slow, yet somehow damage the suitcases along the way. Drop them on the conveyor at precisely the correct angle to miss the rubberized ramp and hit metal. It’s an art, and he’s perfecting it with my $10 Wal-Mart bag. Yawn.

We land in Chicago greeted by snow and 20 degree weather. WELCOME BACK, LOSERS

*But this did cure me from surreptitiously touching one. Sick sea turtles don’t need my germs.