Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kindergarten Baby Anxieties


Bee started kindergarten just this Monday. I have very mixed feelings about this as it was not an easy task picking out a school for her. Sparky and I both thought long and hard about it, but ended up choosing her charter school based on the fact that it started one week later than the others (more summer for us) and it starts at 7:50 a.m. vs. 7:45 a.m. To a little girl who loves to sleep and is not much of a morning person, five extra minutes in the morning are huge.

The other things I like about her new school is that besides having an ambitious academic program (she has homework everyday, even on the weekends) the emphasis is on dance. Which seems like the perfect thing for a little five year old. Each day, after the rigors of learning math and reading skills, the children get to exercise and move around and dance. It just seems like a good, healthy thing for them to do each day. So that is definitely a plus. Also, they are required to wear uniforms. Sparky and I like uniforms. In fact, I would wear one myself if I could. But since I’m not in a profession that requires one, it seems kind of weird. 

We plan on being very involved in her schooling, which I think is important; the parents at her new school must volunteer for at least 15 hours a year. The parents all seem enthusiastic, the teachers are nice, and the principal is very friendly and knows all the kids by name. My misgivings, though, come from a campus that is all asphalt and concrete. There’s no grass, and the few trees are trapped in planters and look sad.  In short, it’s very much of an inner city type of place, and seems particularly wrong in verdant Echo Park. The kindergarten shares this campus with another separate elementary school that has been around forever. They have tried to beautify the grounds with large pots full of plants, and maybe when these plants get bigger and fill out the place will look nicer. 

But aesthetics seem like they should be a minor thing. We wanted to send our Bee to a school in our neighborhood, and not ship her off to some fancy private school that we couldn’t afford. What we hope for is that she gets a good education, and that she’s as happy and well adjusted as can be as she begins her school journey that will last for the next seventeen to twenty years. (The twenty years would depend upon whether or not she goes to grad school. Although I don’t think you need a degree to be a fairy, and I know you don’t need one to be a rock and roll singer, so the twenty years of schooling could be a moot point.) And if it really blows there we can always enroll her somewhere else for first grade. In the grand scheme of things as Sparky says, “It’s just kindergarten.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Squirrely McNutty


Last week was something of a bittersweet time for the Misers. Shortly after learning about Piano Man's demise, Sparky discovered a baby squirrel lying on our patio in the backyard. At first he thought that our cat Lila had caught it and that the poor thing was on its last little legs. His first thought was to put it out of its misery. Bee was screaming because she thought it was a dead rat and I didn't even want to look at it because I thought it would be broken and bloody. But when Sparky poked at it the little squirrel moved a bit and curled up into a teeny ball. I then looked at the baby and saw that it was breathing and seemingly whole. We decided that it had most likely fallen out of the tree and Sparky guessed that a Red-tailed hawk had gotten its mother which caused this little guy to fall out of its nest. We also decided that he was a boy and put him in a box lined with an old cotton t-shirt. I looked up what to do on the inter web, and after comparing baby squirrel pictures we decided that he must be about four and a half weeks old. He was tiny and very cute and we very much wanted this little guy to live. We named him Squirrely McNutty, and Bee placed a little knitted red heart in the box with him to keep him company. 

Sparky then called our local veterinarians who told us to bring him in. This vet office had recently changed ownership and were now open until 10:00 p.m. weeknights. They also happened to have a wildlife expert on hand, so it seemed like serendipity. The woman at the front desk cooed over the baby when she saw him and asked his name. She then took Squirrely McNutty to the back to be examined by the expert. She asked us what we wanted to do with him, if we wanted to take care of him ourselves or if we wanted to hand him over to them. I told her we wanted to do what was best for Squirrely McNutty. But then Sparky chimed in that he thought that we should care for him ourselves, and that it would be a good learning experience for Bee. The vet wanted to keep him for a bit to give him some nutrients and some badly needed fluids, so we were told to come back later that night to pick him up and to get instructions for feeding him.

When we got home, I received a phone call from the vet's receptionist telling me I needed to get some kitten formula for Squirrely McNutty - and she told me that he would need to eat every three to four hours for a couple of weeks or so until he was able to hold solid foods in his little paws. Wow. I realized that we were probably not be the best people for this job after all, especially since Bee starts kindergarten this week. I told her that I wanted to release Squirrely McNutty to them since I knew that they were better able to care for him. Their plan was to nurture him for a few days and them turn him over to a squirrel sanctuary where there would be other orphaned squirrels for him to play with.  She told me that he had opened his eyes and wrapped his little paw around her finger. She was completely smitten with him and I knew that Squirrely McNutty was going to a-okay. Bee cried when I told her that Squirrely McNutty wasn't going to come home with us after all. Sparky and I feel a bit sad as well but we are happy that Squirrely McNutty will live and that we saved his little furry life.

We are hoping that his eventual recovery will lead to a release ... in our wildlife sanctuary, our backyard!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Piano Man


A few weeks ago I received a text from Sparky that said: "I think they took Piano Man away tonight! Cops were there w P-woman for 3 hours. A white car came and left. No piano music tonight." Bee and I were up in Seattle visiting family when this occurred. A few days later I received this message: "Piano Man & Rat Dog are back! It looks like Rat Dog had a shampoo! Haven't actually seen P-man but there's noodling on the piano..." Sparky also reported to us that some guy has been cleaning up P-Man's house, and that he has noticed the heavy smell of Lysol and various pieces of furniture and bedding had been hauled outside to be thrown away.

Piano Man has been our next door neighbor for quite some time now. And although he seems pretty bonkers he's also fairly harmless, and we have come to enjoy his eccentric piano playing over the years. His dog, a small black scruffy creature, is really annoying because he constantly yips and yaps  and nips at my heels every time I walk down the alley. But he too seems fairly harmless.

When Bee and I returned from the PNW I noticed how quiet it was over at Piano Man's. But I didn't think it was that big of a deal because in the past the P-Man would go through long stretches without playing the piano. We just always assumed that it was because he was back on his medication which probably caused him to stop manically playing his beloved instrument. We never really knew what his medical condition was, but imagined that he was bipolar or something similar. He had told us that he was on disability but never gave us any details. So we just filled in the blanks by supposing that sometimes he went off his meds and would have crazy music playing bouts of energy and then he would go back on them and the drugs would render him silent. And sometimes in-between he would listen to CDs, mostly seventies music like Elton John and Fleetwood Mac. 

This recent silence coupled with the police sighting made Sparky and I uneasy, and we started to worry a bit about Piano Man. Maybe he was still away, we assumed. Sparky must have mistakenly heard piano noodling that day. But away where? Had he finally been committed by Piano Woman? It seemed pretty obvious that Piano Woman did not like Piano Man as we had heard her yelling at him and his dog a lot. She really really did not like his dog, and told him so quite often. "I hate that dog!" she would yell at him. Which made me feel sorry for Piano Man and sorry for  Rat Dog even though I didn't like him either as he was always barking and trying to bite my ankles. 

Then last week as I was outside hanging up laundry I heard Paul McCartney & Wings emanating from the house next door. I took this as a sign that Piano Man truly was back because that was one of his most favorite bands. I told Sparky that I was sure it was the Piano Man. But Sparky had doubts and told me that it was probably just The Guy who was still busy cleaning the house who had been listening to the radio. There hadn't been a Piano Man sighting in weeks so I started having doubts as well. A few days later, Sparky voiced the idea that Piano Man was dead and that was why he haven't seen him in so long. Sparky surmised that Piano Man had said the wrong thing to some gang bangers who then killed him, which would explain all of the police action from a few weeks back. I found that scenario to be highly unlikely, but maybe Sparky was right about Piano Man being no more. We both looked up obituaries on the inter web but found nothing about the P-man. So Sparky decided that next time The Guy was working next door he would ask him what was going on over there.

Today, Sparky saw The Guy and ran over to talk to him. Here is what The Guy said: Piano Man was dead, he apparently had drank himself to death. He was found face down in the house, his body had been there for a few days and had started to turn. Prior to this Piano Woman had asked him for a divorce and the papers had just been signed to make it official. P-Woman was currently living next door to the house with her sister, who was The Guy's wife, and he was currently cleaning up the place to make it inhabitable once again. Piano Woman had just gotten back from a trip with her sister and refused to step foot in P-Man's house ever again. OMG. The Piano Man is gone. We never knew that he had a drinking problem as he never seemed drunk but that would help to explain his erratic behavior. Plus we had often heard him retching his guts out very loudly early in the morning. We just thought he had allergies. Poor P-Man. We are saddened by your sudden death and are actually going to miss you. Rest in peace, Piano Man, and play us a song tonight.  

Well, the night was falling as the desert world
Began to settle down
In the town they're searching for you every where
But we never will be found, oh no

Band on the run
Band on the run
And the county judge who held a grudge
will search for evermore

For the band on the run
For the band on the run...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 9 - Saturday Night At The Movies

Saturday morning marked the fifth day in the hospital. Honestly, I was surprised to find myself still there. Being in a hospital makes you feel suspended from the rest of world, as though you are not a part of society any longer. My life in that isolation room had taken on an unreal and dreamlike quality and time seemed warped, moving both fast and slow at the same time. I still did not know what afflicted me but I had ample time to think about it. I stopped reading "Just Kids" right at the part where Robert Mapplethorpe gets sick because I couldn't bear to read about him dying. I figured that I would read the rest of the book after getting out and hopefully was in a better space. So instead I downloaded a bunch of books onto my iPad by female comedians like Tina Fey's "Bossypants", Mindy Kapling's "Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?" and Sara Barron's "People Are Unappealing: Even Me" as I was more in the mood for some shallow and light reading then anything that was heavy or profound. Funny books were all I could stomach there on the inside.

I was scheduled for two ultrasounds in the afternoon to check for any cancer cells that may be lurking in my body. I was again wheeled through the massive labyrinth of hospital corridors and taken down to where the sonograms where performed. Since I was to have two separate ultrasounds done, I was taken down twice and seen by two different technicians. The tests were both fairly uneventful as they didn't hurt or anything, but they did take forever to complete and were very impersonal.  The technicians barely spoke to me as I laid on the table in the small darkened room but instead worked the sonogram wand with one hand and the computer with the other. They both seemed to be concentrating very hard while they performed their tasks. It felt like they were doing a very thorough job for which I was thankful, and then finally it was over.

Two pulmonary specialist also visited me that Saturday afternoon. The first lung doctor (who was older than me) told me that because of my age he seriously doubted that it was lung cancer. He still wasn't sure what it was, but wanted me not to worry and to hope for the best. I liked him quite a bit and he promised to visit me later when they had more information. The second lung doctor (who was younger than me) told me that because of my age there was a likely chance that it could be lung cancer, and that we should proceed with caution. What the hell? The first guy made me feel like I was too young to get lung cancer and the second guy made me feel like I was suddenly the perfect age for lung cancer. And that made me feel old. And kind of depressed. I told Sparky about it when he came to visit me and he told me not to worry, that everything was going to be all right, and that he could tell that I didn't have lung cancer. He said this with great conviction and it cheered me up because I really believed him at that moment, and his intuition in these matters has been remarkably accurate over the years.

After Sparky left, I ate my bland saltless dinner and decided that I was going to spend Saturday night in the hospital watching a movie! I had my own little flatscreen TV hanging on the wall but had not watched it at all. "The Blind Side" was showing that night and my sister had recommend it to me, telling me that her oldest son really like it. She assured me that it had a happy ending which was really my only criteria. So I watched it that night and enjoyed it quite a bit. It made me cry, but in a sentimental kind of way. It's not the type of movie I would ever seek out at the movie theater or rent from Netflex, but it was perfect for what I needed that Saturday night in the hospital. It was the only thing that I watched on the TV while I was there, and I will always associate Sandra Bolluck and the movie "The Blind Side" with my stint at County/USC.

(to be continued...)