Friday, January 30, 2009

Muskrat In The Marsh, Beaver In The Brook

Near where I live, there is a small (and I mean small, like fifteen by twenty feet) retention pond. I have named it “The Ball Swamp”, because it is a repository of balls of every size and description. There is a blue, plastic ball the size of a basketball, a whiffle ball, a yellow and black soccer ball, a big, multi-colored beach ball, a glowing green football and two smallish, red rubber balls, the type that you might throw to a dog to fetch. It is the final resting place of last halloween's rotten pumpkins and assorted pieces of trash as well. The sides are lined with skunk cabbage and fuzzy brown cattails have sprung up in the shallow water. The little marsh sits on the property line between two houses. There is a little man-made swale running into the swampy area, resulting from the builder of the two homes re-routing a natural stream that originally ran through the center of the lots to make them buildable.
The houses are each home to several children and the yards meet at the lowest point which happens to contain the pond, so every ball that rolls to the edge of either yard ends up going down the hill and settling in the muck below. The kids have, no doubt, been instructed never to go near the water, lest they risk falling in and drowning, or at least getting covered in mud. Because of its readily disputable location, I imagine that neither homeowner wants to claim it and thereby admit responsibility for cleaning it up, or at least fishing the balls out. So, year after year, the swamp dries up in the summer, floods in the spring and fall, hosts the periodic hatching of a few frogs and mosquitoes and gathers balls.

Last spring I was walking by this area with Rigby and my husband Mac in tow, and I saw a flash of wet, shiny, brown fur. I focused just in time to see a fat little muskrat navigate down the stream, disappearing into a drain pipe that runs beneath one of the driveways and empties into the Ball Swamp! The little stream runs parallel to the sidewalk less than ten feet from a main road, and one of the yards it runs through is guarded by a trio of scrappy little poodles that walk the fence perimeter most of the day. Despite all this, we have observed the glossy little fellow winding his way down the little stream several times since then. I'm delighted by his presence there and impressed at how life springs eternal and nature thrives in the most unlikely of circumstances.

This past summer Mac and I paused on our walk with Rigby, to gaze down over a little concrete bridge along our regular route. A brook that drains the higher ground to the north flows down through this area and meets up with the Charles River near the southern town line. It was a warm June day and the thick brush around the brook hummed sonorously with the buzzing of bees and other insects. Raspberry cane and tangles of bittersweet lined the banks and tiny, white, wild roses scented the air. Below in the water, small fish darted around beneath the dappled surface. We stood watching them for a moment, until my husband spotted something else floating a few yards away. He pointed out a large, fur-covered shape bobbing in the brook, hung up on a tangle of branches and weeds. It was golden brown in color, roughly the size of a watermelon and definitely dead.

Mac recalled recently seeing a big pile of sticks and branches that looked a lot like a dam, spanning the brook further downstream. He wondered if it could possibly have been made by a beaver. Maybe this carcass was a beaver! I didn't think that was possible. Don't beavers live where there aren't many people? Surely they occupy big lakes and rivers in wilderness areas, not little brooks running through thickly populated neighborhoods in suburbia. It had to be a woodchuck that drowned somehow, maybe hit by a car up on the road and staggered down here to die, swept in from the water's edge.

Later in the year as the leaves fell and the cold winds blew, we were again walking along beside the brook and came to the concrete bridge. As we passed over it, I was admiring the gold and red colors of the leaves all around it and I noticed that the landscape had changed; the entire area around the brook had become filled with shallow water. The banks were no longer distinct, and the whole area was flooded. It had been a somewhat wet year, but this was still surprising. Suddenly, my eyes fell on a sapling that appeared to have been cut a few feet from the ground, just off the road. On closer inspection, we saw that it had what looked like teeth marks, rather than hatchet marks, chiseling the trunk to a sharp point where it had toppled over. All around us we found branches that had apparently been chewed to a point in this way. Mac had been right, as bizzare as it seemed, there was apparently a beaver in the brook.

Then last week as we approached the bridge, with everything coated in heavy snow, we saw it. Now that all the vegetation had died back, the surrounding landscape was all shades of gray and white. The trees looked like black sentinels standing knee deep in the frozen water, and the brook was a sterling silver ribbon, barely moving through the ice. There, no more than twenty five yards from the road was a big dome of sticks, branches and small logs, frosted with white. We stood marveling over this and trying to decide if it could possibly be a beaver lodge, or whether someone simply dumped a huge pile of their yard waste in the water, creating that illusion. I glanced across the bridge to the opposite side of the brook and in the far distance, nearly as far away as I could see, a brown shape sat on the ice. As I watched, it appeared to be cleaning it's face and head. I alerted Mac and we quietly started moving across the bridge for a better look. As our feet crunched on the ice, the animal startled and immediately dropped into a hole in the ice and was gone. Too big for a muskrat, and too aquatic for a woodchuck, too far away to be absolutely certain, but we believe it was a beaver. With the steel-jaw leghold traps now illegal, it appears these critters are now on the come back. While this is thrilling to me, I also know that it will cause problems. Altering the landscape of private properties and turning backyards into ponds will not sit well with the occupying army that has claimed this place for humanity. What about the body we saw bloating in the sun on the brook last summer? Why did it die? I wonder about that, and about what will happen next.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Didn't Expect This...

I always imagined that I would be bored if I had no job to go to each day. In the first few days immediately after I was laid off I was anxious and gloomy, full of dread. After a day or two spent handling technicalities, ie: applying for unemployment compensation, cancelling any non-essential services, (bye bye manicures, salon color & haircuts, IRA contributions and life insurance policies!), I thought my days would be long and empty. An amazing thing has happened, though... the days are flying by and are full of interesting pastimes. I have been making jewelry, writing, drawing and walking outside every day. I wish I owned a decent camera because I see so many incredible pictures in nature every day. I'm planning on sewing some clothes even though I have not touched a machine in over 20 years. I spend time playing with Rigby and I have lost ten pounds because my butt isn't glued to an office chair all day. I stay up as late as I want, and I sleep as late as I want. I have been sleeping through when I was used to waking three or four times each night. I have found all these fascinating blogs that I look forward to reading each day. I feel no stress. I actually have time to exercise and most importantly, time to think!
There are the obvious problems of having no money and no health insurance,(and those are big ones, believe me), but strangely enough, I am sort of loving this new lifestyle.
The company I had been with for the past seven years told me that the plan was to hire me and the others back as soon as the economy perked up and sales kicked in again. On the day I was cut adrift, my biggest fear was that they would not hire me back quickly. Today, my biggest fear is that they will...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Voice In The Night, Epilogue

The events I have related in the preceding posts actually happened, and are presented here to the best of my recollection. Over the years when the subject of strange phenomena comes up in conversation and I tell the story, people inevitably come up with what they think are the most probable explanations for what I experienced. Some say that I was most likely asleep and dreaming. Others suggest that someone was playing a trick on me. Still others think that perhaps an actual, living person was out there, trying to lure me away and harm me. I have examined all these theories and I am convinced to this day, roughly forty years later, that none of them apply. First, I remember thinking that I must be dreaming at the time and literally pinching myself, hoping with all my heart that I would wake up. I was, and still am, certain I was fully awake. Second, there were no kids near my age in that neighborhood that I was aware of at the time, and certainly no one who would have known my name or been aware of my obsession with cats, as I lived nearly an hour's drive away and had never visited for more than a few hours at a time before that night. My grandparents were pretty serious people, and elderly, certainly not prone to fooling around or playing jokes at two or three o'clock in the morning. Third, if there was a pedophile out there with bad intentions, he would have had to scale the concrete and stone wall with no stairs or ladder and without being detected, and since the door was open and I was completely defenseless, why didn't he just come in and get me? I don't know what it was that I heard, but I believe it was something that could best be defined as paranormal. I have had several other weird experiences, including two occasions when I saw things that I could not and still, to this day, cannot explain. Maybe I will tell you about them sometime.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Footfalls In The Darkness

A week or so after my ill-fated sleep-over, I was visiting again, during the day, this time with my mother. "Nanny", I said, "I think your house is haunted".
"Well, child", she began slowly...
My grandfather, who was puttering around in the dining room laughed, "Don't listen to her, she's from the old country, ya know! She believes in leprechauns and banshees, she'll tell you a fairy story!" he chided.
"Tell me!" I demanded, and my grandmother began a tale of a time when she had just moved into the three family house on the south side of Boylston Street as a young bride, fresh off the boat from Ireland.
Pa was a policeman working the night shift in those days, and Nanny was at home alone from dusk until dawn. It was in those days before children had come, and she had only a small dog to keep her company.
One quiet, late evening as she occupied herself with household tasks, she became aware of the sound of footsteps coming from the bedroom. Her little dog was standing in the hall, in an alert position, his ears cocked, growling low in his throat and peering into the dark room. In the far, northwest corner of her bedroom, there was a pass door into the tiny back room. The footsteps sounded as if someone was walking back and forth from the back room into the master bedroom. From the small dog's reaction, it was clear that he thought so too! Nanny waited up all night until Pa completed his shift and returned home. In her shaken state, she told him what she had heard.
Pa thought that she was simply suffering from an over-active imagination and downplayed the incident, but the next night the footsteps came again, and the next night as well, until Nanny insisted that Pa board up the doorway that joined their bedroom with the little back room.
Nanny held out hope that this would solve problem, until later that evening when Pa was gone off to walk his beat in the city, and the knocking started! Something was pounding on the boarded up door between the rooms! Her little dog barked and whined furiously while she quaked in terror!
The next day she wasted no time in calling a priest from her parish, who came over and blessed the house. After the blessing, they hung a large picture of Saint Theresa, The Little Flower in the boarded-up doorway. Things were reportedly quiet from that day forward.
I turned to my mother and asked whether she had ever experienced anything out of the ordinary during her years of occupation of the back room and she dismissed the question with a laugh and a wave of her hand; "I never heard anything!"
My brothers had also scoffed at me...none of them had ever had anything happen to them in the back room either. But Nanny didn't laugh. She completely understood why I would never spend the night again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Terror In The Night

Around the time of my first sleep-over at my grandparent's house, I can remember having a major crush on Rex Trailer. Rex was the dark haired, lasso swinging good guy with a beautiful buckskin horse who graced Boston television in the sixties. Every Sunday morning for years I could be found watching Rex, Pablo and Sgt. Billy round up the posse in between the Hercules and Touche' Turtle cartoons.
That night as I waited for sleep in the back room, I was thinking pleasant thoughts of the kid's cowboy show as I drifted off, the lights and sounds from the busy road coming in through the door, which was open to the piazza. I felt comfortable and happy. Several hours later I awoke with a start in the darkness. I felt that I must have been dreaming, because I thought someone had called my name, waking me. It was long after midnight. My grandparents were in their seventies at the time, and fast asleep at that hour.
I have always loved animals. My mother harbors fear and loathing for anything with fur, so the only pets we were allowed to keep were goldfish, turtles and parakeets. More than anything else in the world, I wanted a cat, but it was not about to happen. Even so, I took every opportunity to beg and plead for one, and I fed every stray I could find in the hope that someday, I would get to keep one of them.
Alone in the dark room that night, I suddenly heard meowing. I pushed myself up a bit on my elbows, trying to determine where it could be coming from. Then I heard my name called in a loud whisper. I was wide awake now and there was no mistaking it. It was almost a hiss and it shot a bolt of fear through me. The sounds were coming from the doorway to the little stone balcony. Whatever was calling me, it was out there waiting. I suddenly felt certain that it wanted me to get up and walk out there. It was luring me with something it knew I wanted; a kitten. Strangely enough, I knew instinctively that it was a fake meowing. I knew there wasn't really a cat out there. The traffic was all but silent now in the dead of night, but the meowing continued and then it came again, louder this time...the hoarse, stage name. It had an other-worldly quality to it. Since the door was open, there was nothing to prevent the whispering thing from entering the room. I laid back slowly and drew the covers up to my face as I shrank down under them, paralyzed and barely able to breathe. I shut my eyes so tightly, they hurt. I felt like I was about to die, and I started to pray silently. I kept that position for what seemed like an eternity, afraid to open my eyes, afraid to breathe. At some point, I must have either fallen asleep or passed out from lack of oxygen.
In the morning I told my grandparents that I wanted to go home. I would not spend another night in that room. As I recounted the events of the night before, I saw a strange expression cross my Nanny's face and she turned to Pa with a knowing look. "Now Nell, don't be frightening the child with stories." warned Pa, before she could speak. I was not the first one to be visited in the back room at night! Eventually my grandmother told me whole story, and I will tell it to you in the next post.

Memories Of The Strange

One of my guilty pleasures has returned to television with new episodes recently. It's a reality-based show about college students who investigate paranormal phenomena and I find it addictive. It has had the effect of reminding me about some of the very strange things that happened to me when I was a child that were both terrifying and intriguing. One of the more memorable events occured when I was about twelve years old.
It was late in the nineteen sixties, and my mother's parents lived in an old three decker in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Boston city limits were a mere half mile away from their front steps. During school vacations, my brothers would take turns spending a few days with Nanny and Pa on the edge of the big city. This meant homemade chicken soup, puff pastry with real whipped cream and fudge sauce, swimming at "the tank",(an indoor municipal pool), a new Archie comic book and a fountain soda from the "Cypress Spa" with Pa, and fishing at Hammond Pond or the Brookline reservoir with my uncle Tommy. Since these pursuits were thought of by my parents as only appropriate for the boys, it was many years of lobbying and whining before I was allowed to have my turn, too. It sure beat hanging in the boring suburbs all week.
In the back of the house there was a small, cement patio area with a thin border of plants and trees surrounding it. The space was enclosed by a high fence, thus sheilding it to some degree from the raceway that was, and is Boylston street. The cement floor of this tiny yard was flecked wih pieces of blue and white pottery and cats-eye marbles imbedded here and there in the concrete with no particular pattern. When I close my eyes I can still see the bushes waving on a sultry day and smell the air of that place. Car horns, sirens and the barking of Lassie, the collie next door, created the soundtrack for my days there. It seemed to me it was a special little world.
At the very back of the house, off the kitchen was the smallest room. This had been my mother's childhood bedroom and now served as the guest room. My grandparents referred to it as "the back room." It was where all the grandkids slept during visits. It had a door leading outside to a little stone and concrete balcony (the piazza, as the family referred to it) that overlooked the patio/yard below. The first night I slept there was to be my last. More to come...stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now

What an extraordinary day today was. Just to see the people, the surging throngs of people filling the streets of Washington, DC. Women and men of every description and from every walk of life, all ages, all races standing shoulder to shoulder together in the cold, laughing, screaming and crying was thrilling. A million flags waved excitedly as far as the eye could see. Who could help feeling a jolt of joy and renewed patriotism?

Our new leader offers hope more than anything else. After years of war, fear and mistrust, we are ready for peace, ready for truth, ready for leadership.

Now comes the hard part, undoing all the missteps of the past eight years and restoring the trust and confidence that a people must have in their government.
Ahead is the hard work of bringing our economy back to life and reinforcing the sense of inclusion and possibility that so many of us have just begun to feel. It won't be fast or easy, but I do believe it can happen now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sun and Snow

For a few hours this morning, it was like a different world here in our neighborhood.
We live on one of two main roads in our town. If you drive from one end of our street to the other it will take you straight through, from the adjoining town to our east, straight into the one that borders us on the west. Running parallel on the north side is another main road which is a heavily traveled state route eventually leading into Boston. These two main roads are separated by a matrix of short, quiet little streets with almost no traffic where Rigby and I like to walk. Most of the houses are fairly close together here. There are little Cape style homes with screen-in porch additions and shoebox ranches interspersed with stately Colonials and gently decomposing Victorians.

My husband and I rent the second floor of a very old house, built in the early 1800s. There are many other two or three family homes scattered around the area as well. We have been here for almost thirty years and we raised our two children here. It is the next best thing to owning our own home, as it has an acre of lush backyard of which we have full use. It also has a barn that my husband uses for his workshop and maintains along with the rest of the property. It's surrounded by a narrow margin of woods.

Around us in this part of town are hills and flat stretches, and in places you can walk along the Charles river, or one of its tributaries for a spell.
Yesterday we got two rounds of snow. Together, I would estimate they totaled around 14 or 15 inches of light, sugar powder.

This morning Rigby and I ventured out into a sparkling, impossibly white world. The air smelled fresh and wonderful, blue jays were calling and the sun made diamonds appear on front lawns. We made our way across the neighborhood, drinking it all in. Suddenly, a great clot of snow fell from near the top of a huge hemlock tree and a thick, white curtain of snow plummeted to the ground a few feet away from us. It hit the ground with a muffled thud and billowed out like a little mock avalanche to envelope us for a moment in a cold and glittering fog.
Surprise and delight are found in the simplest of things.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Diggin' On Rigby

Rigby is possibly the world's cutest dog. Okay, I'd probably also say that about any one of a thousand dogs, but she's mine. She's a schnauzer-cattle dog mutt, but most people think she's some kind of terrier, or a strange new breed.

I have read that Schnauzers are related to Terriers. I've heard they were bred for the same purpose; hunting and catching small mammals like rats. Rigby has a hard time restraining herself from jumping on the cats and shaking them to smithereens, but she's a good dog and I have told her not to, so she hasn't. She eyes them constantly and when she gets jealous she will run over and push her nose into their sides, warning them off.

Rigby likes everyone and her one big flaw is her determination to jump up and embrace every person she meets. Despite passing obedience class with flying colors, she cannot seem to resist the impulse to do this.

At the end of each day, Rigby signals to the world that her pack has come home by singing loudly; "Arroo rooooooo, Rrroo!".

Rigby knows there are rabbits in the yard and her dearest wish is to find them and catch them. She sniffs out their trails each day, her nose to the ground as she races around in twisting patterns. Sometimes she sees deer in the back woods and warns them with a loud bark not come into the yard, so they wait until she goes inside. The gray and red squirrels chastise her in chattering tones and mock her because she can't climb trees. Rigby bides her time. Someday they might regret it!

Rigby likes to sleep with her people on the big bed, right in the middle. When Rigby wants us to wake up and play with her, she licks our faces until we do. Rigby is loved.

Snow Wonder

Good Sunday morning! Another snowstorm is in full swing. Outside the drifts are growing. We have had such cold temperatures this past week that there was not much melting at all, so the snow banks along the driveway are pretty big.
One good thing is that the temperature has climbed to about 28F this morning, and it feels almost warm by comparison to yesterday and Friday.

I am a beach bum by nature. I love summer weather, and there is nothing more appealing to me than lying on warm sand for hours, listening to the herring gulls cry and the waves slap the shore. So why do I still live here where the outside world that I so love to be in is frozen for so much of the year? Because I know of no other place where you can experience so many kinds of weather, culture and so much diverse beauty as in New England.

Here, after a relatively short drive I can experience the lights of Boston or Providence or New York city. I can ride the ferry to Block Island or the Vineyard. I can be in Kennebunkport, Maine in Dock Square or strolling on the cliff walk in Newport, Rhode Island in less than 2 hours time. I can savor lunch in the North End and dinner in Chinatown if I mosey over to Boston. In my limited traveling, I’ve often thought that I might like to stay at a sunny locale permanently, but I know I would miss this magical corner of Earth where I was born, not to mention my loved ones, most of whom are all around me here.

So now, the flakes are sifting down cloaking the spruce trees in the yard with a pristine, white mantel. The juncos are scrapping with the titmice inside the labyrinths of the forsythia hedge and I am warm and dry. Maybe winter in new England isn’t so bad after all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In The Dark Heart of Winter

By Fahrenheit standards, the temperature is hovering around zero today. In the first blush of dawn I opened the blinds in a southeast facing window and stared out into the grey and pink tinted sky.

Across the street there is an enormous maple tree. It towers above the two story home next to it, its branches completely bare at this time of year. Something caught my gaze at the very top of this tree. Clinging to a thin twig jutting up from the highest branch was, of all things, a robin! It's the dark heart of the northeast winter, mid January and the coldest day of the winter so far.

I'd have thought all of its kind were basking in an orange grove somewhere down south about now, but there it was, a brown and orange ball of feathers, attached to this precarious perch that is swaying in the icy breeze...amazing.

I am humbled (shamed a bit,really) and inspired by the example of this small creature, weathering adversity in the only way he can, stalwart against the difficult situation he finds himself in and doing his best just to survive. Thus does nature impart another lesson to me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saw it coming, but couldn't duck

On the morning I was laid off I found myself in the unfamiliar position of not knowing what to do. I sat for a moment after getting the news and thought, What do I do now?

I wasn’t sure what to feel, either. For a moment I stopped and listened to my body, waiting to see what would happen. I read somewhere that depression is really anger with no energy. I guess I felt angry on the day I got laid off, but I had no energy to do anything about it. There was nothing to do about it really, except clear out my office. I put vases and calendars and the pretty dish I kept paper clips in into a plastic bag. I’d just been laid off!

I knew it would happen when I woke abruptly at three o’clock that morning…even before that - I knew weeks ago that it was only a matter of time. My supervisor came into my office and shut the door. He had a crease in his forehead and big, sort of freaked out eyes. “Due to the economic circumstances…hate to do this…nothing personal…maybe when things get better…no way to tell, blah, blah.”

I knew with certainty he would come in even before he appeared in the doorway. When I looked at his face I knew what he would say, but still it had the effect of shock on me. I cut him off, telling him I was expecting it and I would be gone in a jiffy. I could tell by his deep sigh that this was hard for him. Hell, it was not his fault - he was just doing what he had to do. Here was a major down-side of being management. It would not be right to take anything out on him.

I will still get a bonus he tells me; 500 bucks. “Good,” I say. “I will need that if I want to eat next month.” That’s the bonus, here’s the minus…no health insurance for my husband or myself, unless I want COBRA coverage for over a thousand dollars a month, and unemployment insurance will give me half my normal income before taxes if I’m lucky. Added minus; in this economy other companies are not hiring. They are all laying workers off.

Immediately after the initial shock wore off, I noticed there was a gremlin screaming in my gut. Do something! he taunted. Say something! Get mad! Cry for cryin’ out loud! Though it would certainly be satisfying initially, I knew I would pay dearly in the long run. You will always pay dearly in the long run for childish, emotional indulgences…not worth it. There was no one to get mad at. Who should I rail against, Alan Greenspan? George Bush? Bill Clinton? Barney Frank? All the other politicians who had been fiddling while Rome caught fire? The greedy mortgage companies that told people teetering one paycheck away from food stamps that they could afford to own their own homes?

I took a couple of deep breaths instead, dispelling the thoughts and focused on the task at hand: removing all evidence of me from the building. There is no work for me to do, because consumers are terrified of losing their jobs and so they are not spending any money, which will make it more likely that they will lose their jobs, because companies cannot make payroll, because no one is spending any money.

I hung the plastic bag over my wrist and hoisted the enormous potted plant that has occupied my sunny office window ledge for seven years into my left arm. With my right hand I tapped the keyboard on my desk, shutting down the computer.

Last year at this time they gave me an award. Amid accolades and pats on the back, I got a plaque engraved with my name. “For excellence in service”, it says, in blue Lucite and gold lettering.

Today I got a piece of paper with the phone number for the state unemployment office and the company tax I.D. number on it.

Although on a rational level I understand that there is no work for me to do, and it is purely a business decision, I still can’t help feeling betrayed somehow. I decide to leave the plaque and another award from a few years earlier right there on the shelf behind my desk, in full display and stark contrast to the otherwise empty office. A mute, but fitting testament, I think.

I shuffled down the snow covered walkway to my car.

Once, not too long ago when stocks were up and everyone was riding high on the wave of consumer excess, the company president said he wished he had ten of me working for him. He never missed an opportunity to introduce me to visitors as his “favorite person.” Just yesterday, he smiled at me as though nothing had changed. Today he didn’t even come in to say goodbye to me. He owes me nothing. My difficulties are not his problem. There is no loyalty in the dog-eat-dog world of business and I have always known that. The bottom line takes precedence over everything. Same as it ever was.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Root of the Problem

If I didn't color my hair it would be mostly white. This is pretty astonishing to me. I pull back the front and under the chestnut brown, at the base, near the roots there is about a half inch of snow white hair. I can remember saying when I was younger that I intended to age naturally and just let my hair go grey when the time came. Back in the post-hippie days, I fancied that I was going to be the consummate Earth-mother when I hit middle age. This is a good example of how easy it is to say what you would do when you're not actually in the situation at the time. I always wear bangs so I can hide the white roots, as well as the forehead creases. It’s a very rare occasion indeed when I venture outside without full makeup. Vanity, thy name is Deedee.

About a year ago I was attending a function at a local restaurant and I was surprised when this lanky kid pulled up a chair next to me as I sat apart from the fray, minding my own business and nursing a gin and tonic. He had shoulder length, brown hair and one of those scraggly, too-long goatee things that I always feel like taking a scissors to, hanging from his chin. He was tall, about six three or four, wearing a button-down shirt festooned with flames and skulls. He smelled sort of like an old gym bag and he was sucking down Jack Daniels like it was his job. He immediately started flirting with me and asking pointed questions about my marital status. It occurred to me that he was probably about the same age as my son. I wasted no time in informing him of my recent twenty sixth wedding anniversary.

He apparently did the math, and after a moment, he asked me, right out if I colored my hair. Since I was about due for my monthly root touch-up, I pushed my hand up under my bangs and flattened them back onto the top of my head, exposing the silvery white margin above my forehead with a big smile. With a sort of stunned look on his face, he slunk off to the bar in search of fresher meat.

Thank goodness for Clairol.

Am I awake?

I was in that state of semi-consciousness that occurs just when you are waking up. I think I read somewhere that it’s called “Theta”. You know, you’re not totally conscious and you’re not really still asleep, but somewhere in between. It seems your mind is still rising up out of your last dream and it mixes with what your senses are picking up around you...

I was on a big cruise ship and my supervisor and the owner of the company each had me by an arm and they were dragging me over to the railing. I looked down over the side and saw a small, yellow, rubber dinghy far below, rocking in the waves next to the ship. They tossed me over the side and I fell into it, a splash of cold sea water sloshing in with me.

My supervisor, wearing an emotionless face, reached over with a big knife in hand and severed the rope that had kept the little life-raft fastened to the ship. I’d been cut adrift. The big boss raised his eyebrows and smiled with a sympathetic expression as he waved and called out “good luck!” The ship steamed slowly away from me. My supervisor cupped a hand to the side of his mouth against the wind and screamed, “It’s nothing personal!”

I know it’s not personal - If it were, I guess I'd still have a job.