Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ready Or Not --

Waist high in the daily distractions of ill pets, I stepped out onto the street the other day and found myself face to bumper with the following announcement:

I'm confused.
Is an RSVP expected?
I think I'll call the number and see who answers.
We will keep you posted.

Pet Update

In our household during the past week no beloved pets have died.  Scraps the Cat continues to enjoy all the food she can manage and even walked down stairs to complain about a late breakfast this morning.  Go figure.
Just an update for those of you following the drama of the pets here at witsendmagazine.
Good times.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life Is What Happens --

-- While you're busy making other plans.  (John Lennon)
While Scraps The Cat has been sorting through memorabilia and deciding what stuff to take with her, her feline house and soul mate Rudolph Valentino Catz (Rudy) died.  Out of the blue as though he couldn't wait for Scraps to get her act together his liver failed.
Losing a pet is really hard.
Even when Scraps finally calls it quits, we will still weep and try to find ways to fill the hole in our hearts and home that was her life.  Her passing will be sad but certainly not unexpected.  After all, she's walking around with no bone in her right front leg.  Rudy's death took us by surprise.  Listless for no more a day or two, yesterday morning he could barely walk.  The vet said that something 'really bad' destroyed his liver.  She said that even if there was a treatment it probably wouldn't work and if on the slight chance it did, recovery would be long and full of discomfort.
Her eyes filled with tears and she suggested we say goodbye.  So we did.  It was a heart breaking and at the same time obvious decision because the cat had gone downhill so quickly and so completely.
Little furry lives take up a lot of space.
Last night Scraps sat in the corner where she last saw Rudy and cried a mournful cat cry of pain that her morphine couldn't touch.
She's better today especially after a second helping of organic yogurt and sardines.
Rudolph Valentino Catz.
One of a kind.
But, then, aren't they all.

Now You're Really Asking Me To Sacrifice

Target Stores is in the news these days, and not in a way that could possibly make them happy. One of the first corporate giants to take advantage of the Supreme Court's recent ruling lifting the prohibition of corporations donating to political candidates, they recently gave $150,000 to Tom Emmer, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate.

According to Huffington Post, Emmer is a far-right Republican who supports Arizona's draconian immigration law, wants to abolish the minimum wage and even gave money to a fringe group that condoned the execution of gay people., a liberal advocacy group, has called for a boycott of Target Stores by anyone who supports gay rights, immigrant rights, progressive politics, and opposes the Supreme Court's inexplicable decision to allow corporations to fund electoral candidates.

I am an unapologetic liberal and I believe in the power of boycotts. Even more, I believe in the power of negative publicity, and Target is getting plenty of it. I gave up grapes for a good part of the 1970s to support United Farm Workers and I gave up oranges to boycott Anita Bryant. But give up Target? The place where I buy my chinos and t-shirts? And cat litter and rawhide chews for the dog? Now you're really asking me to sacrifice. Gulp. Okay, I'll do it. Kohl's, here I come.

Fond Memories

Whenever I visited Rudy and his sister, Scraps, Rudy would rub and rub around my legs, often stepping in front of Scraps so I would pay attention to him first. Always stepping in front of Scraps to assure he would be the first in line to be fed, played with and loved. I used to pick him up, sit on the stool in the living room and love and love on him. What a great furry animal he was. Oh Scraps had her time with me but only after Rudy. Scraps was polite and always relinquished her spot so Rudy would be first. I know Rudy appreciated and loved his sister for this because Scraps loved and appreciated him right back as I did. I'll never forget Rudy - he took a piece of my heart yesterday as I'm sure he did with Mary, Leslie and Scraps. Rest in peace Rudy - you were one of God's greatest creations.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Good Lesson From Haiti

Just because we want to doesn't mean we can.  That what we learned from hard hit Haiti.  Haiti needs someone who cares to take charge of things.  Hip-Hop star Wyclef Jean wanted the job.  Unfortunately he didn't qualify.  Huh?  He didn't meet the residence requirement and so the country said no thanks.  Imagine that.  A country following its own rules.
Possibly Haiti's loss in the wake of some many losses.
Nevertheless.  Rules are rules.
I wonder if that applies to the Constitution of the United States.  We'll see.
In the meantime, Wyclef Jean says he will continue to help his homeland just not as president.  And also in the meantime, he will keep singing his songs.
No hard feelings, apparently.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meanwhile Back At The Death Bed

Scraps the Cat apparently has not yet received the memo that her days are numbered.  Tonight she ate her yogurt and, for a refreshing change, sardines.  She then moved on to regular dry food and finished off the banquet with a bite or two of the regular canned food.  She jumps up on her favorite footstool and as I write this insists on sitting in my lap to oversee her publicity.
Come to think of it, Scraps has the right idea.
After all, this just in.
All of us have days that are numbered.
Scraps, instead of focusing on today's number, chooses instead to focus on life's pleasures.
Okay.  You can say she's a cat and just doesn't get it.
I disagree.  Not about her species but about whether or not she gets it.  The level of her insight doesn't much matter.  What I'm learning from her is that life is worth living regardless of the number of bones left in your right front leg.
Keep on dancing, Scraps.

It's Never Too Late To Say 'Me Too'

Last Friday morning Stephanie Miller came out of the closet.  People asked why now and why didn't you do it before and why did you wait so long.  Here's the thing.  It doesn't matter.
I have for years listened to her 6 AM to 9 AM talk show.  I think she's brilliant.  She's funny and analytical and always a fierce advocate for social justice.
Was I surprised when she disclosed that she is a gay woman?
I was.
Did I care?
Not at all.
Here's what matters.  She reached a point where it wasn't enough to advocate for the rights of others.  She, by her own admission, reached a point where she needed to say her own truth.
Judging from the giddy atmosphere on her show that morning, this was a liberating experience.  But then living a secret life is rarely in the long run healthy or satisfying.
So, a week late, congratulations, Stephanie.
It's never too late to tell the truth.
Nor is it ever too late to say, "Thanks.  Good job!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

2 Instead of 1

Today, I was out doing a driving favor for my sister. While waiting in the car at the grocery store for my sister, a man knocked on my window and asked if I could give him a jump start as his VW wouldn't start. After moving my car closer so he could use the jumper cables, his car started. As I was talking with him, he told me he had a 5 month old in the back car seat who needed to get home to eat. He also told me he was a widower whose wife died during child birth. I gave him a big hug and told him I would pray for him and to hang tough. He had tears and a smile on his face as he drove off. You just never know when you will be called upon to perform a kind deed. That's life!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Um, Not So Fast...

On Tuesday, we took our beloved cat, Scraps, to the vet and came to the realization that she wouldn't be with us long. On Wednesday, we went to the gourmet grocery in Encino and bought her favorite foods: lox, organic banana yogurt and a little container of caviar. On Wednesday evening, the Other Family Human wrote a beautiful tribute to Scraps' life. People are still commenting on it.

And if Scraps could read, she'd be able to read it. Because she's still around.

The vet told us to write down Scraps' favorite activities and when she stopped doing more than half of them, it was time to consider bringing her in for the Final Moment. On Wednesday and Thursday, it looked as if that would be soon. She was listless, uninterested in food, and only opened her mouth when forced to take her painkiller and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Then, Thursday evening, something happened.

We walked into the room with the cat food dish, and caught her chowing down. She now rubs up against us again, wanting to be petted. Saturday evening, she jumped up on the couch. How, we can only guess. We figure that with all the good grub and attention, she has postponed her road trip to see how long she can play this one out. Keep it up, Scraps. We're with you till you're ready.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ready To Hit The Road Again

Scraps the Cat, always the consummate adventurer, is packing her bags.  She says that fifteen years is long enough to stay in one place.  In fact, she adds that it's a little longer than she had planned but leaving one of her nine lives behind would be like leaving money on the meter.  You can't get it back.  So Scraps is going to hang around, apparently, just until the meter runs out on this last life.  She's confident that she'll get another nine the next time around.
Scraps has a tumor that is aggressive and lethal.  Already she's missing bone in her right front leg.  Not that she's noticed the missing bone, though.  She still walks around, on what we can only imagine, and supervises most of the daily activities such as cleaning the litter box and reading the mail.  She despairs that we'll ever get it right but feels an obligation nevertheless to keep an eye on things.
Canned food is no longer as thrilling as it used to be and she finally confesses that it was never that thrilling to begin with.  Throughout the years Scraps has displayed a rather sophisticated sense of taste.  Caviar thrills her just about as much as it, well, thrills me.  She loves the stuff.  Lox is another favorite.  She says that her liquid morphine isn't half bad either.  So is organic yogurt and good cheese.  Not that processed stuff, she's quick to explain.  But good cheese.
So Scraps is walking around singing snatches of her favorite Willie Nelson song, eating whatever she wants whenever she wants, keeping an eye on Rudy and laughing at Barney, the family dog who is about ten times her size.
The vet says we will know when Scraps has had enough.  So I'm trusting Scraps to keep us in the loop.
Scraps says that she should eat all of her favorite foods before she takes off and I agree.  I tried to buy caviar in Pomona today but the folks in that particular Albertsons never heard of the stuff.  So I told Scraps that if she wanted to hang around for another day I'd bring some home tomorrow evening.  She's thinking about it but I'm pretty sure she will decide that another day will be worth it.  After all, she's a busy cat with places to go.  She's already chosen her next life though she's says she can't talk about it right now.  I'm certain that somewhere along the line she'll whisper it to me.
And until then, What the hell, there's a dance in the old dame yet.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ya' Gotta Love Jet Blue

Earlier today a Jet Blue plane landed without incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.  While the plane was still in motion moving toward the gate, a male passenger--ignoring the still on fasten seat belt light and instructions to stay seated--got up and opened an overhead luggage bin.  A flight attendant--also male though gender, I'm sure was no determining factor in this scenario--also got up and said stuff to the passenger probably along the lines of 'you've gotta stay seated' or 'return to your seat' or some such.  What happened next is a bit of a reporting blur.  The door to the overhead bin may have hit the attendant's face or a piece of luggage may have hit his head or perhaps just long hours in the sky slammed into his skull.  At any rate the story now clear, he walked back to the galley, activated the emergency chute (remember that the plane is still in motion) grabbed a beer and, before he descended onto the taxi way via the emergency chute) returned to the passenger cabin long enough to shout, "F--k you all!"  He then, beer in hand, jumped onto the emergency chute, ran to his car parked nearby, drove to his home in Queens, and drank his beer while waiting for the police to arrive.  He was charged with misdemeanor mischief and carted off.  I imagine Jet Blue will have a few words to say to him and probably also ask for the price of the beer.
You just have to love Jet Blue and this guy who lived out the dream of every employee who sucks up the last straw and comes back for more.  Today this flight attendant, harming no one, said enough.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Infamy Doesn't Begin To Describe It

Just a few days after an historic court decision in favor of human rights, this country marks two anniversaries of devastation.
On August 6, 1945, a B-20 bomber affectionately named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed northwest toward Japan.  The bomber's primary target was the city of Hiroshima which had a civilian popularion of almost three hundred thousand.  A little after 8 that morning the B-20 opened its bay doors and dropped a 9.700 pound uranium bomb over the city.  At least one hundred thousand people died immediately.  The casualty toll continues.
This weekend marks another deadly moment in this country's history.  On August 7, 1930, the last confirmed lynching in the northern United States took place in Marion, Indiana.  A white man was shot.  Even before he died, three African American teenagers were thrown into jail.  When the man died a short time later, a mob of about two thousand people broke down the walls of the jail, brutally beat and then lynched Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.  With the rope around his neck, James Cameron expected to also die.  For no apparent reason other than he was the third and the youngest in appearance, he was returned to the jail.  He was later tried, convicted of being an accessory to murder and served time in prison.  His sentence was later commuted.  He went on to serve as the Indiana State Director of Civll Liberties and founded three chapters of the NAACP.  He said, "If Indiana can forgive me, I can forgive Indiana."  In 2005 the United States Senate officially apologized to Cameron and the two young men whose bodies were left hanging from tree branches.

Billie Holiday sings the haunting tribute to the the Indiana lynching and to all such acts of inhumanity.  Few gains come without losses.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

After The Party

Day dawns and the celebration begins to look like perhaps New Year's afternoon at the end of the parade.  Yeah, Proposition 8 was over turned, declared to be in violation of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.  And the fight goes on because still same sex couples are not allowed to marry in California.  Okay.  The Judge has to decide whether or not or when to lift the ban.  It may be tomorrow and it may be years from now.
What amazes me in all of this is the seeming inability of people to tell the difference between their religious beliefs and constitutional rights.
And what terrifies me is that this country is increasingly headed toward rule by religion and of course by religion I mean conservative Christians intent on making sure we all believe and behave exactly the way they do.
Be very careful.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It Is So Ordered!

And so it is that once again same sex marriage is legal in the State of California.  To not allow same sex couples to marry, Judge Walker today ruled, goes against the Constitution of the United States of America. In his ruling, Judge Walker stated that the plaintiffs demonstrated by “overwhelming evidence” that Proposition 8 violates constitutional equal protection rights.  California can no longer enforce its voter sanctioned ban on same sex marriage.  In his words, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.  Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”
And so today in California it is so ordered than adults who love each other can make that declaration public and legal.
It is so ordered!
It is also so ordered by conscience and common sense that we safeguard social justice for everyone.  If one person's constitutional freedom is at risk then no one is safe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Judge Walker's Decision

Sometime tomorrow afternoon United States District Chief judge Vaughn R. Walker, who presided over a trial earlier this year on the constitutionality of California Proposition 8, will release his long awaited ruling on whether that 2008 ballot initiative violates the United States Constitution.  The ruling is expected to be released sometime between one and three.  That time frame is a lot more manageable than those given by the cable company or the gas company or the mobile vet.  At any rate, however the judge decides, lawsuits will be filed.  This issue is far from resolved in this state.

Okay.  So Al Gore may not be the best spokesman on behalf of marriage but he is a consistent spokesman on behalf of basic human rights and social justice.  The right to marry is not an issue of religion but one of justice.  At this point in the steady march of the LGBT community toward justice, it seems that the only people who really care about impeding that progress are the ones terrified of life's possibilities.

Monday, August 2, 2010


My stuff can be your stuff and your stuff can be mine.

We all have stuff. How valuable? Who knows? Can we ever divest ourselves from stuff? My recent experience with my stuff netted me more than $1,000. I was surprised. My usual modus operandi (M.O.) is to give it away, donate it or just toss it. However, I decided to find out how much I've been throwing out all these years. More than $1,000 was amazing. With these hard economical times, I need to buckle down and be more frugal. No more garage sales. No more shopping for sales. No more stuff!! Please!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ray Hoagland Live At Bed Bath and Beyond

Well, probably not really because if that were the case he would be well over a hundred years old and would certainly have ventured past that bend in the Pleasant Valley Road -- a event far more unlikely than being alive and living well over a hundred years of age.
At least, though, his sense of honesty in business was alive the other day at Bed Bath and Beyond into which we had wandered to replace our age worn quilt.  Near the check out counter I saw the new Dyson blade-less fan and just had to stop and marvel at what to me is nothing less than a miracle of technology -- a fan with no blades.  I put my hand in it and lost no fingers.  There were no visible moving parts.
Still excited about this product for which I have absolutely no use and no intention to purchase, I said to the sales clerk something like, "Wow!  Have you ever seen anything like that?"
The sales clerk stared at me for a long moment before replying, "It's a fan.  It doesn't have any blades."
My enthusiasm could not be diminished.
"Yeah," said I.  "That's the point.  How does it work?"
The sales clerk proved that not all enthusiasm is contagious.
"I don't care how it works.  It costs over three hundred dollars.  A regular fan -- one that has blades covered so well you couldn't get your fingers to the blades if you wanted to -- costs about fifty.  Use your head."
We paid for the comforter and left the store.
That sales clerk won't get any awards for pushing merchandise that people can neither afford nor actually need.
However, if they start giving out annual Ray Hoagland Tell the Customer The Way It Is awards she will receive the first.
By the way, we weren't going to buy the fan.  Who would?  I mean, it's a fan.  It just doesn't have any blades!"