Monday, May 31, 2010

May 22nd ~ Miss Scarlett Goes Home

Miss Scarlett (1995 - May 22, 2010)

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart” ~ John Adams

I knew you were going blind
But, if I kept your place arranged in the same way
You could find your way to the food and water
And to the premium sleeping site on the carpet covered cat tree.

Your favorite place was on the landing by the back door.
I put a soft bed there for your comfort but you loved the feel of the rug.
You loved to greet us at the back door, each morning
And you always helped me clean the garage
Rubbing your head on my leg
And standing up, patting my knee while I cleaned out the kitty boxes,
All the time purring and squeaking in that tiny voice.

I found you when you and your brother, Rhett, were just tiny little orphans
Donated to a school auction.
You were too young to be away from your mother, but she was dead,
Your little bellies bloated from malnutrition.
And so you came home with us.
And there you became part of the family.

Scarlett, you were Nyssa's favorite, her sleeping companion every night.
Even when she moved to her bunkbed/futon
You managed to find a way to stepwise jump from the floor to the end table
To the bed, and there
You curled up next to her and stayed... all night.
Your purring rocked her to sleep even after she outgrew the Rock-a-bye tapes
And too big to rock in my arms.

Scarlett, you were a mass of contradictions,
A roly-poly fur ball purr factory one minute
Prancing back and forth, winding to and fro to get stroked
In just the right place;
And in the next minute, running away from Willow or Clover.
You were the easy one, the one that Rhett and Willow could have fun with.
Cornered in the dining room, with both cats sitting a respectful, but obviously for you,
Intimidating distance away
You screamed, hissed and growled
The sound effects of a dozen cats in full fight
Coming from a single solitary little Siamese.
Rhett and Willow were amused.
You never were.

I thought we had overcome your previous illness
I thought you had fully regained your weight and except for your sight, you were fine.
I should have had them x-ray you in November, just in case.
I should have noticed the weight loss the last three months.
I should have made the vet appointment just a week sooner.

You didn't complain, you ate like a little pig, but the weight still came off.
I had an appointment for Monday, but on Friday you quit eating.
Then quickly, too quickly you went from bad to worse.
You couldn't walk or stand up on Saturday morning and nothing could entice you to eat.
Still you purred.
And snuggled
And tried so hard to get up.

So I knew, as I did with Max and Clover, that it was time.
Mr. Rhett gently cleaned your ears and even Chloe touched your nose with hers
Without hissing or hysterics.
Even Daisy sat quietly by your bed while I struggled with the decision.

You were so quiet on the way to the vet... except for that never ending purr.
They gently put the IV in and while I held you in my arms and stroked your little head
The vet quietly helped you sleep... a small single cry and then for the first time in hours
You fully and completely relaxed.
Your struggle over.
Your pain over.
Your blindness ended.
And that glorious purr silenced forever as my tears fell on you soft fur.
Rest in peace...sweet Scarlett.
~ srp

(end of post)
Friday's Ark ~ June 4th

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ours Is Not To Reason Why... Ours Is But To Do Or Die

An evening at the Met.... Posted by Picasa

So I'm being a bit dramatic, sue me. Drama was the the reason we went to New York City and drama did not disappoint while we were there.

Drama One: My brother Stephen (stage pronunciation ~ Stĕ' făn), made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman). I don't really think he considered this a dramatic event as he has sung his role many times in Europe; but his mother did, which is why we somehow ended up with over a dozen playbills. Opera playbills don't usually tell you much but they do give a pretty good synopsis of the plot line. This was the first time my folks had watched their son perform in full costume in a complete opera. Yes, they've seen him in concert with the Chicago Symphony and many times on stage when he travelled with Andrew Lloyd Webber's, Phantom of the Opera, but never in a "real" opera. They had never been to the Met or New York City for that matter. Nyssa and I have been fortunate to see him in three other operas in Austria and Italy, as well as an obscene number of performances of Phantom, but this was a dramatic first for Mom and Dad. They are so proud of their son and with their health issues and the abysmal lack of handicap accommodations in Europe, this was probably their best chance of seeing him in action. So I took them.

Drama Two: The Met itself is full of drama. Not only the actors or the backstage goings on, but the building and the grounds. In Europe, everyone goes to the opera, even children; it is a family thing, ordinary and without the glamour and pretentiousness of the Met. Yet, the opera houses of Europe are beautiful and old with great character and the opera goers may dress to the nines or casually, as many do here, but the feeling is very different.

Walking into a European opera house gives the sense of putting on a comfortable well worn pair of shoes or wrapping in a familiar soft warm blanket. Walking up the steps from the busy city street and across the vast fountained plaza to the wide doors and the tall reflective arched glass windows felt more like entering a museum of modern art; ornate and rich to be sure, but lacking that ambiance only real age can give. Don't get me wrong, the Met is beautiful with deep burgundy wall coverings and carpet and brass fixtures and handrails. It is known for it's crystal lights affectionately known as the "sputniks"; crystalline rods of variable length that protrude from the central round ball of light. These retract up into the ceiling as the lights dim for a performance.

Drama Three: The people around the Met. Watching those headed into the opera was amazing. One lady was standing outside asking for an extra ticket... yet, tickets were still available from the box office. I should have directed her back toward the street where another person was trying to sell a ticket as we arrived in the taxi. No children... I didn't see anyone that was likely to be under the age of 18... in Europe there were kids at the opera as young as seven. Then a couple walked by right out of the Hollywood glamour of the 40's. He was gray-haired, thin and distinguished in a black tux... without tails or top hat, but with a neatly tied satin black bow tie. She, from the back, was ageless... blonde hair upswept into a French twist, slender; she wore a pale blue floor length gown and a silver gray fox stole. From the front, it was clear that she was trying to hang on to her youth as the blonde coif did not match her face. She had had her share of plastic procedures but still age was winning. This couple stood out from the crowd... a bit of the past displaced in time.

I can't leave out the "other" people around the Met. Those that wait patiently at the stage door in that underground corridor to the side of Lincoln Center. The groupies, the fans and sometimes the fanatics. They wait with camera, playbills, pens and sometimes other objects in hand... wanting to grab a picture with the performers or the conductor. This night there were several.... one, a wild eyed and wild haired woman holding a large notebook that looked to have multiple tabs sticking out from different pages. She ran to catch the poor Japanese conductor and having him cornered started taking pictures, trying to get an autograph and asking him all sorts of questions. He finally managed to get free of her and she ran back to the stage door for the next snag. Some of these people follow the singers around the world... literally... but I will say no more as they also read the blogs.

Drama Four: The opera itself. The Flying Dutchman is a strange story of a ghost ship and cursed captain who is forced by Satan to travel the world, only coming ashore every seven years to search for a woman who will be true to him unto death. Only then can he be free to die himself and be at peace. His story is a myth among the sailing community, his ghostly picture hung in home ports where the waiting women and girls can view it daily. The sailor, Daland, meets the Dutchman and greedy for the wealth and jewels he is offered, bids him follow his ship home where he will give his daughter, Senta, to him in marriage.

Erik, a young hunter, is passionately in love with Senta and it is thought by most of the villagers that he will marry her. However, while waiting for her father to return, she has become mesmerized by the picture of the Dutchman, mysteriously drawn to it... falling in love with the mythical man. Erik doesn't stand a chance. Then her father returns with the Dutchman in the flesh and she pledges her love to him forever. Erik has dreamed that Senta will go with the Dutchman and die with him to release his soul from torment and in a last ditch effort to save her he meets her on the dock, pleading with her to marry him instead. She tells him she is steadfast and devoted to the Dutchman but in a gentle last embrace she wishes him well. Unfortunately, the Dutchman sees this embrace and assumes she has broken her vow to him. He angrily climbs back on his ship to leave and Senta in hysterics, runs up the dock and throws herself off the cliff to her death below. The ghost ship suddenly disappears as the sun rises, leaving Senta's father and Erick shocked and speechless on shore.

My brother played Erik, the hunter. He didn't die in this one... usually he dies in about half of his roles. But, I felt sorry for Erik, he really lost the girl before he ever came on stage for the first time. As for Senta, it was remarkable that she ran up the stairs and flung herself off to die and that was that. Usually, in opera as in Shakespeare, someone who has been smothered or poisoned or stabbed and is dying... well, they must sing an aria or speak a long soliloquy before the final breath is breathed. That can go on for quite a while. Yet, here.. Senta simply jumped off the cliff and the rest were left with mouths gaping. Very dramatic.

I think my parents had a wonderful time. Anytime Mom sat down and found someone to talk to, she always let them know that her son was in this opera. Ah, proud motherhood always triumphs. But wait, I forgot about one last drama...

The sanitation police. Never heard of them? Oh, they do exist. When I retrieved the van and drove back around to the hotel loading zone to pick up the luggage and my parents and say goodbye to Stephen, I saw that ALL the cars that had been parked on the right side of the street were now double parked on the left side. Hmmm, I wondered, that is certainly strange. So I went on down and stopped and quickly started putting the bags in the van. It wasn't a minute into the process when I heard the sound of whirring brushes and the street sweeper went by me on the left. Then another ten seconds and a car with flashing amber lights was sitting in front of ours and two guys got out. Did you know that New York City has a car that follows the street sweeper around all day and if any car in in their lane of sweeping they stop and yell and give tickets? Stephen went to talk to them and I kept trying to herd Mom and Dad and the luggage into the van as quickly as possible and hug Nyssa and say goodbye to Stephen as quickly as possible and leave as quickly as possible before they could write a ticket. I think he talked them out of the ticket and we left quickly. Really, why pay two guys to do this? That loading zone in front of the hotel was clean enough... I had seen the little hotel man out there with a pressure washer, rinsing off the sidewalk and the street space the day before. He did a better job than the sanitation department! But, now you know... if you EVER see all the cars double parked on one side of the street... BEWARE... the SANITATION POLICE are lurking in the shadows.

We went, we saw, we conquered and made it back alive. All in all, a good trip.

(end of post)

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Drove A Car In Manhattan And Lived To Talk About It

Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge
(Click picture to enlarge)

"If everything comes your way, you are in the wrong lane." ~ Author Unknown

I've been to New York City a couple of times before; always flying and relying on a cab to get me to Brooklyn or Times Square from the airport. Get off the plane, get the bags, stand in the line for the cab and then close your eyes.... and you arrive at your destination. This time I drove.

I've been on that road before, Route 13 up the Delmarva; but not headed for New York City. Essentially, the entire trip is a toll road. Twelve dollars to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and tunnels, two bucks for a bypass around Dover, Delaware, eight dollars and change for the New Jersey Turnpike and another eight dollars to go through the Lincoln Tunnel. The Lincoln Tunnel is interesting! There is a toll to go under the Hudson River INTO Manhattan, but no toll to leave. Are they trying to tell us something? "Well, can come in, but you have to pay, so perhaps you'd like to go elsewhere?"....(on the way in) "Nice of you to visit. Time to go. Hurry up. Don't let the door hit your behind on the way out." .... (on the way out)

The GPS in Mom and Dad's Honda van worked flawlessly... except for that toll bypass of Dover. I guess she was trying to save us a couple of bucks. I do have a suggestion for Maryland, Delaware and the Eastern Shore though.... interstate or limited access roads... what a concept! Route 13 goes straight up to Jersey and it is a divided four lane; but just when you are getting up to speed (55 mph) you hit another little town with stoplights, 35-40 mph speed limits and pokey local traffic. This annoyed me beyond belief. It is the prime reason why my trip to Mississippi (906 miles) took only twice as long as the trip to New York (347 miles). That section between the Bay Bridge and Dover was "The Nightmare On Stop And Go Street".

I'd never been on the New Jersey Turnpike before and it went quite smoothly for us... except they won't let you pump your own gas at the service areas. Probably a union thing. This was as easy or easier than I64 or I264 here in Hampton Roads... the turnpike driving. Then came the Lincoln Tunnel... not too bad, we didn't hit any tie ups but... on one side you are driving suburban interstate and on the other end you are SUDDENLY.....downtown New York City! There was no warning, no gradual transition, just a massive dumping of cars and believe it or not... semi-trucks into a maelstrom of honking cabs, double parked delivery trucks and busses and thousands of pedestrians with dogs. Four actual lanes of one way traffic with three cabs and two cars abreast in them... two cabs are stopped side by side in the right lane discharging passengers. A surgically augmented lady of unknown age (it is really hard to tell ages in NYC) holding a trembling Chihuahua in one hand is standing in front of the cabs trying to hail one of them. You can't drive in the right hand lane, even if that is the lane you have to turn right from in three blocks, for there are parked cabs, cars, trucks, and busses in that lane... going nowhere for an indeterminate amount of time.

City living Posted by Picasa

I always considered the cabs to be the worst offenders in this city, but I was wrong. Hands down it is the busses. Bus drivers must get their training either from NASCAR or the Demolition Derby. Cab drivers are impatient with each other and anyone who dares drive a car in Manhattan; they honk and honk and totally ignore the "NO HONKING - $350 FINE" signs on each corner. But, they still seem to be able to maneuver without bringing others to a complete stop and three cabs can still manage to squeeze into two lanes without touching. Busses, however, are demonic menaces. They don't signal or if they do it means nothing. I had a bus in the lane to the right of me that signaled left, pulled out in front of me (I stopped dead still so as not to be hit by the busses' rear end) and across into the lane to my left, almost hitting a cab. And then, without signaling at all, the bus made a right angle, right turn back in front of me to a side street. Unbelievable!

Anyway, as shocked as it is to go from suburban freeway driving to crazy downtown Manhattan streets within thirty seconds, I had the presence of mind to tell Mom and Dad to close their eyes, put their hands over their ears and not say anything until I reached the hotel. It would be easier for them that way. After managing to get there in one piece.... I took the van to a parking garage around the corner and there it stayed...until we left for home. As much as I love to visit NYC and ride the subways and shop at the neighborhood grocery.. I still wouldn't want to live there... and own a car.

I am happy to report that we all survived the trip (people and van) without a mishap.. even though I had a disagreement with the GPS on how to get us OUT of Manhattan. The GPS lady won, as it should be. In the space of one week I drove 1812 miles to and from Mississippi and then 694 miles to and from Manhattan.... I will now stay put for a time... a very long time. But... did I tell you why we went to New York? No? That will have to wait until next time.

(end of post)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Masters Of Their Universe? Wait And See.

"Masters" of their craft... Nyssa (left) and Sandy (right)
(Click to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously." ~ George Gissing, "Winter," The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1903

The weather tried not to cooperate this last graduation weekend in Mississippi... but for these two, that only added an additional air of excitement as they scanned the weather channel and the local channels, pointing out those who graduated from the program in previous years... now some on air locally. There was wind and rain and lightening, but nothing as bad as in surrounding counties. It seems that the area around Mississippi State University has this legendary "buffer zone" that magically dissipates tornadoes and severe storms as they approach.... only to have them reform north and east of campus.

For me, it was déja vu, the heavy oppressive humidity was easy to remember from our years living there but hard to experience again. When I left home at 3AM Eastern time on the 29th it was 42 degrees, cold and a bit windy. It was cold all the way south and through Atlanta... then I hit the front that stalled or at best moved at a crawling pace east.... and there was the heat. At first, not so much heat, but the humidity. Humidity so dense that stepping out of a cool car, your arms immediately become wet with condensation... not sweat. You could almost cut the air with a knife.

Sandy, Nyssa's roommate, was on the Mississippi State University forecasting team. Each year there is a national contest among the best meteorology schools in forecasting. Mississippi State has been either number one or two for the last eight years. This year they won first place for the second year in a row... beating out MIT... yes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They also won over Penn State, University of Oklahoma... even over the team from NOAA. This group was pretty proud.. and deservedly so.

So, now the Master's is done... a new and expanding direction ahead. Sandy is hoping to be forecasting on a local news station in the near future and Nyssa will be off to the University of Nevada, Reno for her doctorate studies. Combining geology, meteorology and geography into a combination of climate and earth science, she hopes to have a wide area of expertise and would like to do research and teach on the university level.

My love and congratulations to both!!!!!!

"The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things -- the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit. " ~ Samuel Johnson

(end of post)