Cat and Mouse

Woke up around 3am. Warm, snoring dog lump against my back as expected but the heavy cat lump between my feet was missing. Briefly considered going back to sleep, but i realized i hadn’t seen my cat, Huey Newton before bedtime. Fearing that he was trapped in a closet, or worse, i got up to investigate his usual spots in the bedroom.

He was in the living room, riveted by something behind my guitar. Gradually waking up, i thought he had cornered a bigass spider… He was focused like a laser, so I turned on a light. Preparing myself for the worst, i jostled the guitar to see what he was watching.

Oh, it was big alright! Huge for a spider, but small for a mouse… a tiny mouse. He tore out from under the guitar, under the Christmas tree, with Huey in hot pursuit. Huey was playing with him, not eating him. Batting at him, keeping him in play. No sanctuary, preventing him from going under furniture.

Fully awake, i realized i needed to do… something… but not sure what. Huey continued to move the little mouse from place to place, but he had nowhere to go. He cornered the mouse by the fireplace. i grabbed a cardboard box, trying to work with Huey to chase him into the box. Fail. They both scooted back to the middle of the room… and downstairs.

Shaking off the last remnants of sleep, i followed downstairs. Huey was lying casually on his side by the billiards table, keeping the exhausted mouse in front of him. i put down the box and Huey made a move, driving the mouse into relative safety.

Cute little thing. Tiny. Not moving, but still breathing, apparently worn out from extended battle. Now what to do with him at 0300? It was really cold out, our first night of sub-zero temperatures. Seemed heartless to put him outside, but i couldn’t keep him. Thought about putting him in the garage, but remembered my mouse troubles from last year… A small rodent drove me nuts all winter.  Why invite trouble?

Not knowing what else to do, i took the box out the front door, shook the little mouse gently into the bushes, thinking he could burrow down near the brick wall for warmth. He was so tiny, he just landed on top of the shrub. And didn’t move.

It was freezing. i was barefoot, and wearing nothing but a bra and shorts. Went back inside. Felt rotten. The little thing had just spent hours being terrorized by a cat, and was now going to freeze to death.

i checked this morning and he was gone. Didn’t root around in the bush looking for a corpse, allowing myself the delusion that he was ok. Somewhere. Burrowed into the mulch, weathering the cold night. Perhaps to enter the house again, in his limbic-driven need for food and warmth. Or to find safe harbor elsewhere, surviving the winter to grow and breed and make many happy mousebabies in the spring.

It’s just a mouse. An unwelcome pest intruding into my territory. Had it been a spider, i’d have had no concerns – encouraging my cat to play with it, torture it, and ultimately kill it, leaving the corpse as a warning to others.

Selective compassion – based upon what criteria? Cuteness? Number of legs? Difficulty disposing of the body? Perceived threat?

How do we decide what lives and dies in our worlds?

Mr Mouse takes a tripimage found here

EPILOGUE

Another night with restless animals, this time, the dog decided to blow chunks somewhere around 4am.  i didn’t bother getting up to deal with it, knowing he’d ‘recycle’ most of it, and i could get out the portable shampooer (my beloved SpotBot) before leaving for work.  Which i did…

After tackling the biggest spots, i had extra cleaning solution in the reservoir, so i parked the SpotBot on a newer splotch halfway down the stairs.  It looked like it had once been a hairball, with some pieces of leaves thrown in for good measure.

Retrieving the ‘bot, i reached down to pick up a leaf stem.  Which wasn’t a leaf stem at all… It was the tail of a very small mouse.  Might have been the same critter from the night before, or a new intruder.  In any case, my cat ate this one.  And after reading Rob’s comment, and doing a bit more research via the Center for Disease Control?  i’m quite happy that it’s dead…

Turns out that  “Cute<<Threat”  in the presence of new data.

Hospital-ity

Renovation to Mom’s house is nearly complete, an occupancy permit has been granted, and after over four years, there is a glimmer of hope that she will get to live in her own home again before she dies! (Plot synopsis here, if you’re new!)

Why, after fourfuckingyears, has this become a priority for my niece, DQ, and her husband, BJ? Progress was sporadic from the start, since BJ needed time off for vacations, deer hunting – not to mention his paying jobs. I had considered several options to increase his motivation over the past few years, but Mom didn’t want to make anyone mad.

The motivation came from an unexpected source – BJ’s parents. When DQ and BJ first married, BJ’s parents bought the house out of foreclosure, offering to rent the house back to them. This arrangement worked fairly well – until September, when BJ’s parents announced their plans to get a divorce. The house must be sold. By Christmas. Essentially, they’re being evicted!

Taking Mom to the cardiologist when this was breaking news, she let me know that DQ had been putting pressure on to change the deed to the house before moving in. For her protection. My reaction was a bit less than enthusiastic…

daisyfae: FUCK THAT!

Mom: I know. I don’t see any reason it can’t wait until after we move in, but she’s worried that the rest of the family will cause trouble and she’ll be homeless.

daisyfae: She has earned compensation for taking care of you!  No one is arguing that! She can always sell the land you gave them. [grinding teeth] You just tell me what you want to do and i’ll make it happen…

Mom: She’s putting pressure on me to set up an appointment with the attorney.

daisyfae: Under no circumstances are you to go to see the attorney to change your will, or the deed to the house, without me present. This will not only protect you, but it will protect DQ should anyone ever think there was coercion.

Mom: That makes sense. I just don’t want her to get upset with me…

daisyfae: Tell her it’s my schedule. i really am busy at work, so taking a day off is going to be tough.

And that’s where we left it…

The message was apparently delivered. A few days later i started getting passive-aggressive pings from DQ about setting up an appointment with the attorney. i was polite – and my schedule really has gotten tough.

This is unpleasant and stressful.  i became engaged in another round of “Trailer Park Mexican Standoff” via e-mail. Trying to take the heat for Mom, without causing any trouble. My instinct is to call bullshit, and be a far more direct, but Mom requested the sideways approach.

It didn’t surprise me to get a call from DQ as i was leaving work last Thursday. Because i was driving, i let it go to voicemail. Just not in the mood to deal with the bullshit. Retrieved the voicemail when i got home.

DQ: Took Granny to the doctor today because her cough has gotten worse, and she’s been very weak. Doctor sent us directly to ER. They’re going to admit her – probable pneumonia. I’ll keep you posted.

Well.

So much for my righteous indignation. When shit hits the fan, DQ does an excellent job taking care of Mom. All squabbles set aside. Priorities firm. We’ll sort out the legal stuff later.

Visited Mom over the weekend, and she took a few minutes to write a note to The Boy. Wished him a happy birthday. Told him she’s proud of him. Didn’t mention her troubles.

hospital-ity

She’s home now, and is doing much better. We came up with a new plan of attack.  We’ll get back to the regularly scheduled bullshit later…

Vignettes

Steam rolled my way through the month of October.  As the dust settles, i am somewhat surprised to find myself in mid-November.  Beyond the obvious plot twist launching my son on a new path, there have been a metric ton of other things happening… A brief update seems in order until i can catch my breath and organize my thoughts.  This isn’t a full list – far from it.  Just pixels and snippets and nuggets and slices… a reminder that i remain a very lucky woman.

- Since returning from the trip to Florida to visit my sister, a ‘sprained’ finger has failed to heal quickly.  Aggravating as hell, the sprain wouldn’t quit hurting, stop swelling and get better.  That’s because it isn’t a sprain, it’s broken.  Had to put on a splint, which gets in the way of… well… everything.  It also draws a bit of attention, and has started a few conversations with strangers.  “What happened?”  “Well, the short version is ‘i broke it’.  The long version is a tale that must be told over a pint or two…”  A tale that ends with me proving my machismo and winning a bet…

???????????????????????????????

- After two weeks, i got a call from The Boy Sunday night.  Ninety entire seconds of talk time, with the sound of a barking drill instructor in the background.  Now that he is settled in ‘downrange’, he can get letters.  Wrote up two pages last night.  Not typed.  Hand written.  This is not trivial, given the broken finger on my right hand.  It felt weird.  It felt good.  When was the last time i wrote a letter?  Can’t remember.  Once i started writing – it came back to me.  Downright enjoyable…

- Had some strange weather recently.  Powerful thunderstorms, with almost a hundred tornadoes, rumbled across the midwest on Sunday.  Bad things happened across the region.  Looking for storm damage the next morning, i was greeted with this catastrophe on my front porch!  The horror!  The carnage!  One friend summed it up nicely – “If your Christmas Tree falls over and smashes your Pink Flamingo…You might be a redneck.”

redneck

- Studley and i continue our horseback riding lessons – with an added element of adventure.  Our instructor has introduced a new game to our weekly lessons – Hoofball.  The object is to work in teams of two, getting the horses to move a large ball toward a goal line.  Horses are not particularly smart animals, so they have to be slowly socialized to the ball.  Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve been part of that training process.  Last night?  We played our first hoofball match!  Very fun, and very scary – turns out, it takes a long time for a horse to get used to having a giant ball rolling around the arena!  They’re getting better, though.  And we’re getting better at staying on spooked horses!

hoofball

image found here

- A year ago, i got involved with an ad hoc group of nutjobs artists and musicians to bring the first “Dia de los Muertos” event to our lovely city.  This year?  Bigger and better.  They needed a parade vehicle – something that could tow a flatbed trailer carrying a dozen musicians.  My Jeep was the perfect solution.  Rather than just tow the parade float, i got it in my head that i was going to have one of the giant skeleton puppets that were created last year “drive”…

parade

There were some unexpected challenges, but we pulled it off!  Not content to have the skelly just ride along, i also decided that he needed to wave to the crowd.  In the detailed photo below, you can see that Studley had duct taped the left arm of the puppet to my arm… which could explain why i’ve had a rather severe bout with tendonitis in my left shoulder and elbow for the past few weeks… We’re already planning for next year – i will have a fully animated skeleton, shooting fire from his nostrils!

skelly

- Another entry in the “What the fuck was i thinking?” binder…  Last March, i started a project to modify an upright piano into… something else.  Taking most of the summer off for travel, i’ve recently re-tackled the project.  The past two weekends have found me up to my arse in sawdust and power tools… but it’s coming along nicely.  This will get a full post when it’s done – which should be by Christmas.  Unless i perform an accidental amputation…

sawzall motherfucker

- What’s up in The Trailer Park?  Lots.  Good news and bad news, and “are you fucking kidding me?” news.  There may be an end in sight – and Mom may get to move back into her own home after four years of endless promises and threats.  A little afraid to say anything because i don’t want to jinx it….

Message in a Bottle

On Sunday, Studley and i drove The Boy to Capital City, where he was to spend the night prior to shipping out for Army training on Monday. He had to be checked in by 3:00pm, but didn’t need to be back until much later, so we took him out for dinner.  Resourceful as ever, i found an upscale establishment featuring acres of football on flat screen TVs, and scantily-clad lovelies delivering beer.

The Boy demonstrated great restraint – ordering a grilled chicken salad and coke, while Studley and i worked our way through the autumn beer menu, bashed a variety of deep fried appetizers and shared a hamburger the size of a watermelon. At Basic Training, The Boy will certainly have to demonstrate discipline in the face of temptation. We figured it would be good for his training. It was the least we could do.

We discussed the timing of Christmas break, and speculated as to whether i’d be able to send him a small gift box. With only a few weeks into his training, i wasn’t even sure i’d have a mailing address for him by then.

Studley: Used to be that all recruits were forced to write a ‘safe and sound’ letter upon arrival. [in his best Drill Instructor voice] “YOU MAGGOTS GET OUT A PEN! YOU WILL TELL YOUR FAMILY YOU HAVE ARRIVED SAFE AND SOUND. MAKE IT SHORT AND SWEET! THIS IS NOT SUMMER CAMP! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” That was right before you disappeared off the face of the earth…

The Boy: They might still do something like that. Another way to let us know they own our asses…

daisyfae: But you also might have a chance to write sometime when it’s not forced! i want to know whether your communications are voluntary or directed! We should figure out a code word to add… something that lets me know if you were forced to write it!

The Boy: A word I would never use. “Refreshing?” “Delightful?” Yeah, they’re words I wouldn’t use, but if the DI reads the letter, I’m liable to get beat up…

We went back to inhaling food and drinking beer, while The Boy picked at his salad. It still seemed important to develop a code. It finally hit me…

From the time he could write his name, The Boy made it a point to sign every birthday or Mother’s Day card with both his first and last names, as if i need to know which Boy Fae is offering his kind regards on my days of recognition.

daisyfae: i’ve got it! If you are forced to write a letter, just sign your first name – “Boy”! It will look completely normal to anyone screening the letter, and i’ll immediately know that you were directed to write! If you have some downtime, and they give you the opportunity to scratch out a few lines, sign as you normally would, “Boy Fae”. It’s perfect!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My daily alarm startled me at 0600 Tuesday. i grabbed my phone from the bedside table to silence the beast, and was surprised to find a text from The Boy, time stamped just past midnight.

“It’s me letting you know that I arrived safe and sound – Boy”

text message in a bottle

image found here

Of all the words of mice and men…

When The Boy was small, he liked to be carried in front of me, with his arms wrapped around my neck, and his legs around my waist. “Baby Monkey” is what we called it… i had to stop this when he was around 6 years old, as the flying leaps he’d take from the sofa into “Baby Monkey Position” nearly broke my neck.

bad little hombre

It was also around this time that he declared his intention to become a bird. Spending hours on the swing set in the back yard, he’d race into the house, excited to tell us that he’d swung high enough to almost fly. “I think my feet are starting to become claws!”

kinder

Eventually, he gave up his dream to become a bird. Coming home from work one evening, i was surprised to find a Ken doll swinging from a shoelace – one end attached to his neck, the other anchored on the stair railing. An audience of GI Joe dolls action figures watched in stoic silence.

daisyfae:  “What’s this?”

The Boy (at 9 years old):  “War criminal.”

i continued upstairs to the kitchen to start dinner. After abandoning his dreams of feathered flight, my son wanted to be “An Army Guy”, and was now apparently in training to serve as Judge Advocate General.

futbol ruffian

He held to this career choice into his early teens, but a combination of the politics of war and his entry into The Wilderness Years* pulled him in other directions. He started working at the age of 16, and found a transient niche in the pizza industry – which carried him through most of his academic years.

Last year, he started his first “grown up” job, working as a field auditor supporting the electrical power industry. With a few weeks training, he was sent into a hurricane in preparation for storm damage management. He got good at this job, earned a promotion and banked a shitload of money. He lived on the road – hiking through meth labs in the Ozarks, and urban war zones in the south.

powerman

It was just interesting enough. Money and benefits were good, but it wasn’t satisfying.  The work was of no consequence… had no meaning.  We’d discussed motivation during one of his visits home between work assignments. He read a lot. All the time, in fact. History. Philosophy. Bukowski, Hemingway, Vonnegut among many others. He made the best use of his time on the road.

???????????????????????????????

The Boy stopped in at the homestead on his way to an assignment in Oregon. i was a bit surprised to find him in residence when i returned from my dive trip to Saba in September.

daisyfae: Aren’t you supposed to be headed out west?

The Boy: Got a different assignment. Heading to Georgia.

daisyfae: Cool! Less driving, i guess. Where in Georgia?

The Boy: Fort Benning.

daisyfae: That’s weird… Counting shit on power poles on an Army Base?

The Boy: Not exactly…

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’ – K. Vonnegut, Jr.

As he approached his 25th birthday, he realized that the window of opportunity to pursue such a grand challenge would be short.  No regrets.

This afternoon, his father and i watched as he boarded a plane for Georgia.  He is An Army Guy.  He earned a direct accession slot for Special Forces. He’ll be damn good at it.

swearing

* “The Wilderness Years” – an unregistered trademark from a man who kept me off meds and ledges while my son was wrangling the demons.  Thanks, kono

Moment of Inertia

Sensory deprivation of sorts.  Maximizing pleasurable sensations to deny less pleasant sensations. Floating, floating, floating…

A long weekend visiting my sister, T, in Florida. I brought The Boy along for a little rest and relaxation – he’d been working hard at his job for over a year without time off. He was out on the boat chasing big fishies with T’s partner, The Captain.  T was in her office, posting grades for her graduate class.

i was in the pool, sprawled on a raft. My face covered with a hat to prevent further sun damage.  i let the sunscreen do the work on my appendages. Warm to the bone.  It would have been downright hot if i didn’t have my hands, feet and arse dunked in the cool salt water beneath me.

Floating, floating, floating… Warm in the sun, cooler when a cloud happened to get between us. Bouncing like a slow-motion pinball when i’d hit the edge. Spinning a little, with assistance from the gentle breeze.  Somewhat Brownian motion.

In that moment, i could account for the well-being of the people who occupy a substantial portion of my brain space.  Mom?  Glimmer of hope regarding the home renovation, now in the fourth year.  Her health? Shitty, but stable.  The Girl?  Doing well with her new job, and surrounded by good people.  The Boy?  On a boat, chasing fish on the ocean.  Studley?  On the same boat, sharing the adventure and chasing fish.  My sister, T?  Settled comfortably in life with her partner, The Captain, after a fairly difficult run last summer.

In that moment.

Eyes covered.  i let the sun warm me, and the water cool me, and the wind spin me slowly around the pool.  My frame of reference was skewed – “am i facing the house, or the waterway?”  Absolutely certain that i’d echo-located the sound of the central air compressor, i knew the house was to my left.  Peeking from under the hat that covered my face, i was surprised to be pointed squarely toward the waterway.

i played this game over and over.  The sound of the yard man’s leaf blower from across the canal.  Confident that i’d kept track of the source of the sound as i slowly careened across the surface of the pool.  Another peek.  Another failure.  Floating, floating, floating…

The game kept me squarely in that moment.  No need to drive away dark thoughts and worry about what lies ahead.  The sun was warm.  The water was cool.  The breeze was gentle.  Letting the pleasurable sensations take charge.  All was well in that moment.

Floating, floating, floating… Lightly toasted, completely refreshed.  i heard the boat approaching the dock and went to greet The Captain and her crew.  i had been in the pool, in that moment, for three solid hours.

None of us are big enough to stop the world from turning.  Sometimes we can make it feel as though we’ve at least slowed it down…

floating

Taming of the Shrew

She resents me, although she’s never met me. It has nothing to do with who i am, what i do, what i believe, how i look, how i live my life… The simple fact that i exist… that’s enough.

Weddings and funerals are inherently emotional events. A crash of Venn Diagrams – we assemble to celebrate, or reflect and remember. Memories and pinning points both sweeten, and poison, the atmosphere.

It was a genuine delight to be invited to the wedding of Studley’s son last weekend. It’s been five years or so since the divorce, and while he’s moved on with his life, his ex-wife has wallowed in a bitter stew. Knowing that my attendance at the wedding could create discomfort for the newlyweds, i offered to step back – wanting to do nothing to draw attention away from the celebration of their marriage.

The young couple considered the offer – but came back with a resounding “We love you! If anyone there has a problem with it? It’s theirs, not ours – and certainly not yours. Please celebrate with us!”

A small wedding.  Knowing that there would be a moment when we’d be introduced, i considered a greeting. “Nice to meet you” wouldn’t cut it, as it wasn’t nice to meet her. Rather than lie, i needed something else. i settled on “Your children are delightful! You must be quite proud!” – which is what i said when her son introduced me as “Dad’s friend, daisyfae”.

For the wedding, i chose the blandest, dullest, most boring outfit i could conjure* from my wardrobe – long navy dress, white sweater, coral scarf.  Didn’t stick around for the formal family photography session – not my gig, didn’t even need to be there to watch.  Stayed clear of the dance floor while the mother of the groom was out with her children. When Studley and i eventually hit it for some swing, i found a spot on the dance floor that was out of her direct line of sight.

Arriving back at the hotel after the reception, we met with Studley’s daughter to sort logistics for a breakfast meet up the following morning. The Girl Child had the ex-wife in tow. No way out. The Girl Child hugged her father and me as we moved toward the elevator. i reached out to shake the hand of the ex-wife, and wished her safe travels. Refusing my hand, she waved and said “good night”.

She resents me, after just meeting me. It has nothing to do with who i am, what i do, what i believe, how i look, how i live my life… The simple fact that i exist… that’s all.

And sometimes, that’s how it will be. Onward…

move the fuck on

* not a tremendous challenge.  i don’t shop.  i have underwear older than my children…

Objection!

Given the choice, i would not collect turds in a plastic bag.  But i do this twice a day. i own a dog, and live in an area with shared green space.  There is no choice.

It came as quite a shock last week to receive a letter from Ms. Butkus, the managing agent for my condominium association, stating that a written complaint had been received regarding my diligence in turd recovery.  After a brief phone call to Ms. Butkus, i learned that my dog was also accused of shitting in the street.  Furthermore, the letter stated that the offended neighbor collected the street turds on my behalf, and was further offended when i refused to accept them.

Looking back, i had almost predicted this scenario back in 2009 as Mr. Pickles and i got settled into our new home.  Needless to say, i was somewhere between royally pissed off and amused when the shit hit the mailbox last week.  Ms. Butkus recommended that i provide a written rebuttal.  i was delighted to comply.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Ms. Butkus,

On September 18th, I received your letter regarding an alleged violation of the God’s Waiting Room Condominium Association (GWRCA) rules.  In that letter, you stated the following:

It has been reported that you do not always leash your dog and are not picking up after it. Please note the association rules state that dogs must be on a leash and the owner must immediately clean up after it.  Thank you for your attention to this.

During our conversation today, you provided additional detail regarding an alleged incident on August 4, 2013. I am writing to formally refute this allegation.  Not only was my dog not running loose that day, I did not participate in a rude exchange with a neighbor regarding a bag of feces.  I wish to enter the following four items into the official record:

1) My dog, Mr. Pickles, has a mental deficit.  At my previous residence, he learned to tunnel under the fence in the yard.  While in the streets he demonstrated no concern for his own safety.  As this was a significant hazard for an impaired animal without “street smarts”, I have ALWAYS kept him leashed since joining the God’s Waiting Room community in August, 2008.  Whether it is for a longer walk, or a brief ‘mercy break’ late in the evening, I consider it unsafe to allow him outside under any circumstances without a leash.  If accused of allowing my dog to roam unleashed, perhaps the complainant should provide a description of the free-range dog in question.

2) I walk Mr. Pickles twice each day (7:30 am and 4:30 pm).  I immediately collect his feces in plastic bags, as required by the GWRCA regulations.  The bags are knotted, and stowed in a sanitary trash bin in my garage, until Sunday night when the trash bin is emptied, and these bags are placed in the dumpster and taken to the curb.  On Sunday evenings, there are at least 14 such bags in my trash bin.  If there is a need to provide proof that I am diligently cleaning up his feces, I would be delighted to allow any concerned neighbors to view the weekly collection.  It is quite impressive.

3) On our walks, I see dog droppings along the street – Mr. Pickles is rather adept at finding them for me!  He is a Chocolate Lab, weighing approximately 90 pounds.  His feces scale accordingly.  The roadside feces piles we find are quite small.  Although I am not a zoologist, veterinarian or trained professional, I suspect that the dogs that leave these are substantially smaller than my dog.

4) As further indication of Mr. Pickles’ mental deficit, he has the habit of walking in a counter-clockwise spiral as he evacuates his digestive tract.  This results in a unique fecal signature.  Rather than resort to more elaborate means of testing, such as the “DNA PooPrint” recently in the news, it would be quite simple for a concerned neighbor to capture photographic evidence of my alleged disregard for GWRCA regulations.

I enjoy living in God’s Waiting Room, and try to be a good neighbor.  I am insulted and disturbed that another resident has indicted my behavior without due diligence, thus bringing my integrity into question.

In the United States, a citizen is innocent until proven guilty.  This must certainly hold true for the residents of God’s Waiting Room – yet anyone can report a neighbor for the mere suspicion of performing unauthorized landscaping, harboring illegal tenants, running a brothel, or operating a meth lab without documentation?   I respectfully request that if there are additional reports that I have violated GWRCA regulations, the individual reporting said violation should be required to provide some form of proof – as a minimum, a description of my dog.  In the age of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, even a clandestine photo of the alleged violation wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Thank you for allowing the opportunity to refute these accusations.  At no time on August 4, 2013 did my dog run in the street.  At no time on August 4, 2013 did my dog defecate in the street.  At no time on August 4 , 2013 did I refuse to accept a bag of dog feces offered to me by a neighbor.  In closing, I paraphrase the words of the late Johnny Cochran, Esq.  “If the poo doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” 

Respectfully,

Daisyfae Harper

Objection

$5, 5 Years, and 5,000 Miles

Lavender tassels graced the handlebars of my ancient Trek hybrid bicycle for the last five years.  Studley picked them up on a whim, and presented them to me as part of a birthday present, thinking they would be a fine addition to my goofy-assed ride.

And they were perfect.  A reminder that it is dangerous to take oneself too seriously.  For me, and those i have encountered as i become increasingly visible as a cycling advocate in my little corner of Earth.

Conversation starters at monthly community rides, those cheap plastic streamers were my small means of making bicycling accessible to those who were intimidated by the spandex-clad racing crowd.

My constant cycling companions, the little purple streamers would sometimes wrap around my wrists when we’d encounter a tough headwind.  Caressing me, as if to say “There, there, darlin’… Every little thing, gonna be alright!”

me and my tassels

We had just finished a tasty breakfast at a favorite summer haunt, and were returning to the bike rack when i noticed something wrong.

daisyfae:  What the fuck?  Do you see it?

Studley:  What?

daisyfae:  Do you see it?  My bike?  DO YOU SEE IT?

Studley:  Yeah.  What?  The tassels…. SHIT!

daisyfae:  They’re gone!  Someone took them… SOMEONE STOLE MY TASSELS!

fuck you

Gone.  In the hour that it took for us to grab lunch, someone passing apparently decided that the tassels no longer belonged on my bicycle, and removed them.  Five dollars worth of plastic that simply could not be ignored.  Not the bike computer.  Not my crazy frame-based lighting peripherals. Not the tool kit in the trunk. My god damned tassels.

Over the course of the past five years, and five thousand miles, i have left that bike all over this fair city.  Chained to bike racks, in “bad” neighborhoods.  Attached to the car late at night.  The tassels have been ignored.  Until this day…

Seeing my de-tasseled bicycle, i was over-powered by a disproportionate degree of rage.  Who would do this?  Why would someone do this?  Would the thief love the tassels, or simply play with them for a moment and discard them?

Hitting the trail and heading home, i was overcome by tears and anger.  i gave into the beast and hammered the ride home…

Studley:  I know you’re pissed — go on, i’ll catch up at some point.  Besides, I’ve got the keys to the car!  You’ll have to wait!

daisyfae:  EEEEEEE-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Eventually i succumbed to the heat and exhaustion and slowed down.  Still angry, bewildered, and in no small way heartbroken.  Caught myself looking along the path for a glimpse of my beloved flair – possibly toyed with and discarded.

Allowing myself to be consumed by anger only for the ride home, i had decided that there would be new tassels.  i made plans for a stop at the discount store on my way out for the evening.

Howling with indignation as we completed the ride…

You can steal my tassels, but you shall NOT quench my whimsy, you thieving motherfucker!

Sea Leveled

Dive Leader Caroline swam up to us in the dark. She did a roll call to make sure all five missing divers were within range.  We’d gotten caught in a current during the safety stop on a night dive, and were surprised to find ourselves at least a quarter of a mile from the boat when we surfaced.

Once she was assured that we were all there, she said: “Everyone ok?  Do you need assistance?  That’s what I’m here for, so let me know if you need anything!”

A few feet away in the dark, there was a laugh, followed by “How about a couple of legs?”

His were blown off in December, 2011.  An Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) specialist for the Marines, Dusty ran to assist a fellow soldier who had just stepped on an improvised explosive device, and tripped a secondary device – bombs designed to kill those aiding victims of the primary bomb.

About the last thing i expected on my trip last week was a double amputee diver in our group.  When you have a dozen divers living in very close quarters for a week on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, connections happen with lightning speed.  i quickly learned that there was more to him than his disability. 

The sun came up Saturday morning, and we put our dive gear out for collection by the crew by 0730.  Dusty brought out his “sea legs” – designed for use in salt water – and put them with the flippers and vests alongside the hotel.

gear

Saba is a tiny island – only five square miles of volcanic rock.  The airport hosts the world’s shortest commercial runway.  The harbor isn’t much bigger.  Getting on the damn boat, as it rocked and rolled against the dock, presented a challenge.  i was a bit tentative as i grabbed the boat rail, timed my step to match the pitch of the boat and held onto a member of the crew for stability.  Dusty passed his gear to the crew, and stepped on board.  Crew and divers looked on quietly.  No one complained about the difficult entry.

Getting on the boat

He was nervous about the diving because it had been about two years since his last dive – not because of the prosthetics.  One leg was a bit heavy, so he rigged a ‘water wing’ to see if it would help with buoyancy.  It was worth a try, but didn’t really help.

water wings

The final day of the trip was spent farting around on the island.  We hosted a ‘happy hour’ by the hotel pool, and invited our dive boat crew to join us.  Reuben, one of our crew, told me how amazed he was by Dusty.  “We noticed that NO ONE on the boat, crew or divers, complained about anything all week long!  And it was because of THAT guy!”

Dusty diving

We did the night dive on Tuesday.  As the sun set, ten of us dropped into the water.  i’m not overly fond of night dives – one friend describes them as “underwater drug raids” as you see floodlights carried by your dive mates sweep wildly through the dark waters. i decided to go along since the reefs of Saba are loaded with amazing coral and a metric shit-ton of fish.

The dive went as briefed – down to about 40-50’, standard night signals at ‘half tank’, watch for the strobes on the boat, keep dive time to about 45 minutes.  We chased one octopus around for five minutes, found a gargantuan lobster and then went off to look for other critters.

When it was time to ascend, Studley and i caught up with three others – Dusty, his father-in-law Ron, and Rick (our dive instructor).  Even at the relatively shallow depth for the dive, a three minute ‘safety stop’ at 15-18 feet is required.  The current had picked up a bit, so we stayed in a close group as we hovered in the dark water.

Studley and i had lost the boat while concentrating on our depth gauges, but figured one of the others knew the location.  When we bobbed to the surface, we realized that none of us had any damn idea where the boat was. We saw some lights a good distance away.  If not our boat, a boat.  Good enough.

Low on air, we filled our buoyancy control devices (BCDs) and prepared for a long surface swim – roll on your back and start kicking.  Maintain verbal contact with your buddies.  Periodic roll call and heading check.  After about five minutes, i turned to look for the boat.  Didn’t seem to have made much progress, but we could now see two sets of lights – our boat and another.

Good enough.  Roll and kick.  Repeat every few minutes.

Eventually, we heard Caroline’s voice from the dark.  Relieved that we’d been located, we continued to kick toward the boat.  Another heading check?  The current was too strong, even when we tried cutting directly toward shore.

Caroline suggested we circle up, and wait for the boat to come to us.  Within a few minutes, we could see the boat turn and move toward us.  Snagging the current line behind as it came alongside, we all waited to climb up the ladder.

Relaxing a bit, i felt my thighs screaming from 30 minutes of surface swim against an unyielding current.  i watched Dusty leave the water first – climbing the dive ladder, his prosthetic sea legs outlined sharply by the floodlights on the boat.

Once we’d shed our gear, and the boat was headed back to the dock, we did post-dive forensics to sort out what went wrong – and how the situation could have been avoided.  No finger-pointing, just an ‘after-action report’. The subject soon changed to the barbecue and chilled keg of beer awaiting us at the hotel.

No one complained.  Everything we did?  Dusty had done without his fucking legs.

nice kicks

This young man – without saying a single word – collected my license to bitch.  i may let him keep it…