Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen

It's back to the Bah Humbug time of year, which is everyday excepting Christmas. The cats have pulled down most of the Christmas tree ornaments, drank the water from the reservoir; in fact, done everything cat-like there is to do to something given them as a gift, their Christmas tree. I've seen animals they've dragged in treated better.

I will probably run out of cigarettes today, which is a dreadful prospect for all concerned, except for the cats. I know they will "get me" if I display the slightest change in temperament while trying to live through the horrible withdrawals I am going to face. But, it's got to be done sometime.

I quit for 8 months several years ago and it's astounding for smokers to find out that they smell THAT bad to non-smokers. It truly reeks, and it took three days to get the smell out of my hair and longer to get it off my skin. Nevertheless, no one but the truly rich can afford to smoke anymore, and I am tired of lighting 5 dollar bills up and watching the smoke dissipate into the atmosphere. In a word, I'm cheap. I blame it entirely on my Methodist and Scottish ancestors. Not on any intrinsic set of values, of which I have none. However, I did count my Christmas cards this afternoon, as I may be smoking them about midnight...wonder what a coffee cigarette tastes like?

My friend Beth, on hearing I was quitting smoking, and only living 3 states away, promptly left for Australia until the nightmare is over. Cleverly, I haven't told my shrink or my lawyer yet. I suggest you all have masses said for the soul of my therapist, Kathryn. It's also going to be quite a surprise to my physical therapist tomorrow, poor girl. But they train those in the medical field in trauma, is how I look at it.

Tomorrow: May be much sooner if I have nothing to do with my hands and run out early.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We Are Not Alone

I've lost four beings in my life in the past year, and yet I feel them around me right now. The two oldest cats, Fudge and Bilbo, my Mother and my beloved service dog, Eddie.
But I have also connected and reconnected with enough people today to feel as if I were at a party, surrounded by other beings, who were in turn, surrounded by crowds of their own.
I think that, for me, is the miracle of Christmas.

I'm going to do some more communicating now. I think it was Ray Bradbury who said, "If the world was about to end, and we all knew it, the phone lines would be jammed with people calling others to say, 'I love you.'"

I love You.

Tomorrow: Back to Bah Humbug

Friday, December 24, 2010

I would like to post this for animal lovers all over the world.

Second Chances

by Scotlund Haisley on Friday, December 24, 2010 at 1:21am
Position on Michael Vick’s Desire for a Family Dog
Second Chances
By Scotlund Haisley,  former director of the Vick dog rehabilitation

Michael Vick says that his daughter would like a dog. In a recent NBC interview he spoke: “I miss having a dog right now. My daughters miss having one. And that’s the hardest thing, telling them that we can’t have one because of my actions.”

I personally cared for 11 of Vick’s previous dogs – the 11 who were deemed most behaviorally injured.  I was then the executive director of the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL).  Weeks after Vick was arrested, the court-appointed guardian of the dogs contacted me. She had heard about our progressive facility and was asking my team to begin the rehabilitation process. I agreed and we at WARL committed ourselves to the special needs of these most vulnerable dogs.

Dog fighting is a horrific illegal blood sport but our 11 charges were victims of more than dog fights. The prosecutor’s record reveals that they lived tortured lives in a gruesome place. They endured agonizing training regimens and fights to survive. Those designated as bait dogs had all 42 teeth pulled while tied to a rape stand. The rape stand was also used to bind females so they could be forcibly bred. The need to replace dogs who died in fights or who were murdered by Vick and his gang was constant.

Vick himself pled guilty to drowning, electrocuting, hanging, shooting and beating dogs to death. Evidence reveals that some of the hanging victims died slowly – their feet barely skimming the ground. Some of the drowning victims were shocked too. Many were savagely beaten. Michael Vick was found to be directly responsible for fighting them, for breaking their bones and spirits.

My attention was focused on rehabilitating our 11 injured souls. WARL is one of the most open and progressive animal shelters in the country. We temporarily re-structured several living areas to help the victims feel safe, and in fact to ensure their anonymity during the judicial process. WARL received no money for caring for these dogs; we did it because it was the right thing to do.

When we assessed them to identify their individual needs we found dogs who were broken both physically and emotionally. Their bones were shattered - ears were cut off - lips were ripped and massive scabs covered their bodies. They bore homemade sutures. Their collars we so tight they had to be cut off. The bath water that washed over their scarred bodies ran black.

When I looked at the Vick dogs, they cowered and I could see the terror in their eyes – hoping and yet afraid to trust. One dog refused to eat for weeks, trembling whenever a caretaker approached her. Joy was unknown to her and she was wary of our kindness.

We began the painstaking rehabilitation process, immersing each dog with an individualized enrichment plan. Soon “the Vick Dogs” became our dogs:

 Georgia,             Lucas,             Denzel,            Willie,                         Meryl,             Ellen,          
Layla,                         Charlie,             Sweet Pea,             Sweet Jasmine,            and Tug.

During the next several months, my staff and I came to know these dogs intimately. The cruelty that they endured is unimaginable; the healing power of genuine compassion – miraculous. I will always be in awe of their courage to risk trusting humans once again.

Michael Vick says that his daughter would like a dog. “I would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals.”

I believe in second chances. I’ve learned about genuine forgiveness and rehabilitation from the best. "The Eleven" were given a second chance and I saw them heal.

Michael Vick? His words, though well-coached, still say it’s all about him. I’m still waiting to hear him say how sorry he is for torturing and killing dogs. I’m waiting for him to take personal responsibility for his crimes. I’m waiting for him to admit that childhood culture isn’t the cause of his ignorance. I'm waiting for him to say his deeds were truly unforgivable.

I am not qualified to determine whether a criminal is rehabilitated, nor am I qualified to talk about Vick as an individual. In my 20-year career in animal protection I have come across thousands of animal abusers and I still do not understand how their minds work, how they can possibly commit such horrific acts. I strongly believe that convicted animal abusers forfeit the privilege of caring for animals ever again. Heavy life-time restrictions are placed upon violent offenders towards humans; surely they should also be placed upon those who are violent towards animals.

My life’s mission is to elevate the status of animals – to be with them on the journey to their rightful place in our world. I believe in their right to live a life free from the suffering caused by human hands.

Some people are supporting Michael Vick’s desire for a dog.

Not me.

Scotlund Haisley

Photo by Carol Guzy while at The Washington Animal Rescue League.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fa la la la

Stewart vs. Shinseki: January 11 and 12, 2011 in the Poff Federal Building downtown Roanoke, VA I am suing the Veterans Dept.  for reasonable accommodation for my service animal, Eddie.

Eddie has passed, but the fight for Service Animals goes on!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm Too Sexy For My Stats

It's just too exciting and too, too American, but I am thrilled to now have readers in Oz. Up till now, I have been satisfied with readers in the UK and one poor fellow in Warsaw, Poland. Facebook keeps telling me when he tunes in, and asks me if I want to "view" him. Sure, I tell FB, why not? Then Facebook shows me a map of the world with a small dot hovering over, you guessed it, Warsaw, Poland.

Yes. I thought I would recognize him from this distance. I think I dated that dot in high school.

I am writing in the light of the tree that Beth and Victor (not their real names) got me for Christmas. It's half lit, the front half, because I didn't buy enough lights (yet). Being half lit is a waste of time for an alcoholic and a tree, so I will have to remedy that today.

The cats think I have invented heaven, bringing a tree indoors for them, just as it gets too cold to go outside. Echo, the sole female, sleeps under it every night. She was one of the orphans I had to raise on unicorn meat, due to her deli-cat digestion, (sorry) so the idea that friends would come six hours to visit her AND buy her a tree (and string up night lights in it), is not beyond the realm of imagination for her. This is just something else her slaves do for her comfort and amusement.  However, I neglected to create it smelling like catnip. Bad. Human.

Although I will say this for her: Scherezade, a former cat, invariably climbed the tree, making the use of guy-wires necessary.

I'll write later on today. I have to see someone about a dog. Don't tell.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snow Cats

OK. I gave up trying to conquer the cedar tree. It's lying in the driveway until I can roll it down the hill to let whomever roosts in it who wants to. Two dear friends came to see me this weekend and saved my soft-handed bacon (in a manner of speaking) by buying me a white pine tree. We even got some of the lights and ornaments up, ate some chocolate and watched Harry Potter by the twinkling lights. These are real friends.

Actually, all my friends are real friends. I don't have many, but I have managed to cut down on acquaintances over the years. And I don't hang around people I would just drink around anymore. Inane chatter over screwdrivers has gotten to be less attractive as I age, like wanting to know who is dating who. If it's not me or one of the cats...I don't care.

I have eaten so much fudge in the past week, I may pick up a terminal disease from it. Another dear friend helped me make fudge in her kitchen with her experience peeping over my shoulder and her extensive collection of kitchenware at my fingertips. I have given fudge away to most of the known universe, and it still is stacked against the walls and counters in my kitchen. And there are still a few batches of shortbread cookies to redo.

But I have hope ('tis the season) that I can dispose of all sugar products by Christmas Day. Anyway, that's my goal.

Because of the weather, I kept the cats in for five days. I will just torture them outright next time and call Animal Control on myself. They acted like they were changing staterooms on the Titanic and looking for the lifeboats at the same time.

But this morning, I let them out into the Arctic winter. And they came right back in. They just like the blowhole for warm air that's created when the cat door is open all the time. And they want to be able to invite all their friends in when I am asleep. Like the rabid skunks roaming at will in Botetourt County right now.

After all, look at all the fudge SomeOne has to eat...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Tree

I didn't know it required full body armor to deal with a cedar tree. My mistake. My brother and I four-wheeled through his woods on Thanksgiving looking for a Christmas tree for Sissie (me). For the non-Americans among us, "four-wheelin'" is a verb in the southern part of the USA. It means to ride in a vehicle (jeep or truck, usually) where the suspension of the wheels is elevated to the level so as to pass over any small obstacles in it's path...fallen logs, deer, rivers, etc. You are a redneck if, the suspension on your vehicle is so high, it is considered dangerous (not legal) to drive on a street. Your street cred is also higher, as this is a superfluous vehicle for you and your family, the extra car.

Of course, my brother has a large economic drain called a "child"...he can't afford for his four-wheeler to be illegal on the street. I just hunch down in the seat when we ride around...why should my street cred suffer? However, the morning after picking my tree and hauling it home, I woke up looking as if I had done four rounds with Pinocchio; blisters, slivers and little bits of green were bodily attached TO ME!

Fa la la.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Could Mess Up a Free Lunch

The Roanoke Valley has four rather bohemian coffee shops named after a local mountain. The waiters are very young and extremely hip, the coffee is so strong it can walk out of the cup and leap into your mouth when ordered to do so. They are playing an old Bob Dylan album tonight and a piece of cake is $5. That's two gallons of gas, folks. Sure, the floors are cool, the furniture is collegiate and comfortable...but you can't smoke inside and the cake is outrageous.

It's not that it isn't worth it, but the owners are catching us at a weak moment, aren't they? Everything about the place screams rathskeller...a gathering place for wild and crazy youth. And we walk in with our middle-aged bodies and hips and look at the cake and think, "Boy, that would be good with coffee, wouldn't it?" The atmosphere tells us we can eat all we want and will burn it off pulling an all-nighter tomorrow.

The reality? Well, the reality is that America is getting much older. We are still hippies, we just put calories on like our parents used to. Being hip burns calories. Being a hippie doesn't. Lunch is no longer free. Every bite costs now.

And if this sounds like a rant because I bought the brownie instead of the chocolate chip fudge cheesecake...well, it is. I'm not paying $5. Sorry.

All of Roanoke has now moved into fall, which is wonderfully mellow here. We're still in shirt sleeves and sandals, and the leaves are rust, gold, green yellow and chrysanthemums are everywhere in the same colors. We are moving into the national eating season: Thanksgiving and Christmas and, to some extent, New Year's. Thanksgiving is really just so American that it is very difficult to explain. When I tutored an Arab family, I just told them that on Thanksgiving we: travel, eat, stare at TV and become comatose over the table. There really is no other ritual for Thanksgiving, unlike our other holidays.

There is no input from other cultures for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, America has incorporated the German tree, the Dutch St. Nick, the Swedish legend of the animals speaking, the carols of England, and the food and candy of almost every country on Earth. But Thanksgiving just sits there, as we do, bland as the Pillsbury dinner rolls and just as exciting.

A Roman feast is the only precedent in history. The Romans supposedly had 'vomitoriums' where one could free one's stomach up for the next 10 courses and more wine after one had filled up the first time. A never ending meal. I see that as next on the Thanksgiving plate, as it were. Forgive the pun.

Now, why did haggis suddenly come to mind?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not Again

I have finally watched Brokeback Mountain and I can honestly say that I am glad I didn't pay to see it. Despite the numerous awards it won, I kept waiting for the plot to emerge. The only one I could find a trace of is a timeline of homophobia from the '60's to the '80's. It was a beautifully made movie, and the actors were fantastic, but the reviewers kept asking the actors if they were afraid of being "labeled" as a result of their roles. Being labeled as what? Actors? Maybe someone would wander into the theater and NOT know it was a movie they were looking at or that movies are make-believe?

Megan changed the name of the chicken she named 'Original Recipe' to "Peanut Butter.' So now she has two chickens: Peanut Butter and Extra Crispy.

I'm sure she knows about the time I tried to change her diaper. She was about one year old, tottering around, excited to be able to walk. She had to have a diaper change and Aunt Alise volunteered. Once I got her diaper open, with all the steaming contents, RIGHT THERE, I changed my mind, but it was too late. I threw up all over her, the wall, the changing table, etc. I try not to think of it now that she is twelve years old, but I still have nightmares about it. She was baptized in true Stewart fashion, although her mother didn't see anything remotely funny about it. Maybe it's a Scottish Thing.

Fall Into Wonderland

My service dog Eddie isn't here to enjoy his favorite season this year, Fall. I miss him as I walk on the Hollins University campus, one of his favorite places to go, too. I think it would work out much better if our animal companions lived about 30 years. What was God thinking? Maybe he knew they could only take so much of us. I mean, feeding them Purina instead of hunting deer and buffalo for them must suck, from their point of view.

My blog statistics tells me someone in Slovenia is reading my blog. Hi, Slovenia!

I am really quite crippled at the moment, having finished my monologue about Scotland. I could write about the time I went to Cairo, Egypt, but the world is not nearly as funny in another language. Besides, it was the summer after 9/11 and my hosts were worried about security. I blend in very well in Italy or Scotland, but pretty much stick out like a sore thumb in a country where everyone's skin is not pale pink and white. I did have the good sense to wear jeans. Although Cairo is the "sin city" of the Arab world--like Vegas. What happens in Cairo, stays in Cairo.

And what was really funny there was ME, although I'm sure my hosts weren't amused at the time. Right after an attack on America, and just as the fighting was picking up again in Egypt, I decide, for the first time in my life, to become regular in my habits. I wanted to eat at the same Lebanese restaurant every night at the same time, and after cruising around a bit and looking, I decided the funnest place in Cairo was the historical Old Muslim Marketplace.

NO, not where they sell old Arabic men, but the marketplace from a very long time ago, a bit like Colonial Williamsburg. And I really wanted to join the crowds in the mosques and smoke and drink coffee and flirt with all the great looking guys I saw everywhere. So the guy I was with, who worked for a government agency, decided at this point that we should stay in for a couple of nights. I think that's when his blood pressure started to bother him. 

The really exciting time I had there was crossing the street. I am assuming most of you are used to two lane roads common in Britain and America. Cairo had the same streets, but where we only try to fit two cars in a two lane street, it was up for grabs there. It did cut down on my shopping sprees. If I couldn't buy it on my side of the street, it went unbought.

I would like to tell you something exciting is happening in Roanoke, but it's only fall. Although that is quite an accomplishment, all the way around.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Is Nirvana, Isn't It?

Marc and I had managed  to take a vacation overseas, even if we didn't have to learn a new language. And we were congratulating ourselves that the car was still at Dulles. What we hadn't counted on was arriving in D.C. on Easter Sunday. We couldn't figure out why the entire population of the city seemed as intent on leaving as we were...shouldn't the traffic be flowing the other way? It took us 3 hours to travel 4 miles. After Edinburgh and London, we thought it couldn't get any worse. And we had been tripping the light fantastic in some of the most solitary regions of the world, which made it particularly aggravating to be stuck in crowds at the end. 

Well, I am at the end of this trip. Marc and I hope to travel back to Scotland in the spring, so get ready. In the meantime, I want to continue this blog and I am entertaining suggestions for topics. You can write me directly at:

Peace Out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Easter in Hell

We spent Good Friday, due to poor planning, touring Edinburgh castle. Imagine visiting Disneyland on Mother's Day. We boarded our flight to London the next day and landed in Heathrow on Saturday. Heathrow is a MAJOR airport and one of the two largest in England. And interesting note: the population of England seems to be getting younger, as the population of America ages. I have not seen that many children in a very long time. And they were all of an age to be in strollers, or drooling, which made it that much more fun. The key to this adventure was that we were flying from London to Dulles on Virgin Airlines after British Airways flew us from Edinburgh to London.

Virgin Airlines has this silly, stupid rule that one must be ON THE PLANE one hour before takeoff. Not standing in line, not waiting for the stewardess to call your row, not walking down the plank, but seated and munching some peanuts. So we missed the flight for Dulles. And Virgin couldn't have cared less about our travel much for that.

However, British Airways did. Because we bitched a lot and the stunningly handsome guy behind the counter liked Marc's jokes. (No comment) So they put us up for the night at an airport hotel. We thought, "No problem, a bonus night in London!" Only we were an $80 taxi ride from 'downtown'.

We had these tiny bags of essentials, like toothpaste, razors, etc., but not my medicines and we had been in the same clothes for 3 days. Out of a sheer sense of outrage, we went to the gift shop at the hotel, and I bought a bikini made from a British flag as alternate wear. It was that, or men's underwear, same design. No t-shirts, no sweats, nothing present that crowds an American airport for wearing apparel. Just bathing suits. Marc, of course, just bought Megan a bear.

Parading around the hotel room in a bikini in front of my brother was not the funnest thing I have ever done, but it was CLEAN. It was that or a sheet. My jeans were just too gross. Of course, I had to climb back into the jeans to eat, AT THE BAR, but what the hell.

Tomorrow: Easter Sunday in Washington D.C.        or How I Got Enlightenment In Just One Lifetime

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Is a Critter?

For those of you not born in the Southern part of the USA, a critter is a nice word for a varmint. Possums are critters, squirrels, deer, etc. It's considered the height of hilarity to refer to a pet as a critter. If you go camping, and pick up critters and bring them home with you, it's not good. It generally means you have chiggers, or scabies or some other horrifying bug.

In Scotland, the critters are limited. Nothing insect-like can survive those temperatures. Cats are popular, being small and cute. We lived with a cat in Inverness called Mickey Mouse. As noted in the ferry blog, Scottish Terriers and Border Collies are quite picturesque and appropriate. We ran into the Norfolk, a sturdy breed of horse which resembles a Morgan, and then Shetlands. The Shetland Islands are right above Orkney. The horses are small, pudgy and hairy because of the wind, cold, and proximity to the Arctic. We didn't visit because even Marc and I have some standards. We weren't prepared for travel that far north, and they were probably inaccessible due to ice.

We stopped on the way to Orkney to see a deer. Now, this is the Red deer, a native of England and Scotland, but my American readers are thinking, "Why would anyone stop to see a deer?" Which is what Marc and I looked at each other. My English readers are thinking, "Hey, they got to see a deer!" We stopped the vehicle and all got out, ALL of us, to see one deer standing on a hill. Marc was looking at it through a telephoto lens and almost refused to give it to me. He handed it over and looked at me as if I had just popped out with a set of wings. He climbed back on board the bus, saying, I'll take a picture when I get home.

It's just another reminder of just how old the Old World is. We stopped to see trees as well, and our guide to Skye told us 'they' are rebuilding the ancient Caledonian Forest, i.e. the gigantic forest that used to cover Scotland before people needed the wood for fire, etc. We could see the need for trees, but trying to preserve deer takes a stretch of imagination for an American. We do all we can to avoid the deer, who like throwing themselves in front of vehicles to see what kind of noise they can make.

And we didn't get to see the famous Puffins on Orkney. It was way to cold for even them.

Next: London on Easter Sunday. No kidding.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stirling: Ancestral Home of the Stewarts

OK, this is the entry on castles I promised. It never occurred to me, in the American landscape, to think anything about castles except they are generally old and people lived in them, long ago. When we got to Scotland, we found that, first of all, castles were defensive structures. Armies and people ran to castles at the first sign of trouble, i.e. Someone Else Coming After Us. In this day and age of vehicles, it just didn't occur to me that a building spot for a castle would be the most difficult spot to get to as the builders could find.

The builders usually picked the highest hill in the area. Edinburgh Castle in sitting on the very top of an extinct volcano. It is totally inaccessible except along "the Royal Mile," the road built up to it. Which IS a mile long and straight up as could be made. Historic Scotland, one of the institutions created to protect and promote the historic sites in Scotland (surprise) keeps all vehicular traffic as far away from anything remotely considered historic as it can. And, forgive the pun, everything in Scotland that is historic is remote. Your tour bus lets you off at the farthest possible point and you walk uphill until you get to something interesting, like a castle.

The first we saw was on the way to Skye, Eileen Donan. It was restored to it's original glory in the 1920's by a wealthy manufacturer and is simply stunning. It looks every bit as castle-like as an American could want. It was also an interesting commentary on how modern plumbing was viewed in the '20's. The guest rooms had a bathroom sink beside the bed. I am presuming this was a deluxe item. We never found any toilets in Eileen Donan or any room built for the purpose of  serving as a garderobe. Wiki has this to say, "In its euphemistic meanings, a garderobe is either a close stool or a medieval or Renaissance lavatory or toilet.[1] In a medieval castle or other building, a garderobe usually was a simple hole discharging to the outside. Such toilets were often placed inside a small chamber, leading by association to the use of the term garderobe to describe them. Depending on the structure of the building, garderobes could lead to cess pits or moats. Many can still be seen in Norman and medieval castles and fortifications. They became obsolete with the introduction of indoor plumbing."

We did see a garderobe in Edinburgh Castle, which was updated by Henry VIII, but the room was so small it was hard to see how an adult could fit in it. The toilet had a velvet seat, which brings on pictures I would rather not think about. It was right off the dining room and nobody but the king could use that one, (not a surprise.)

Eileen Donan was not difficult for us to get to: we walked right over the bridge. But scaling the walls would have taken some sherpas and modern mountain climbing equipment. Or a crane. Or a very large slingshot.

Stirling Castle was accessible from a road as well. Standing on the castle wall, it was a long, long way down. The back and sides of the castle were sheer drop-offs looking down to the valley below. We could see for miles across the countryside. Another notable point was the wind. The wind is eternal in Scotland, from the ocean, the north, the south, etc. Standing on a castle wall, the wind was in a fair way to carry us back to the U.S. free of charge. Small children would have to be anchored. You would have to have chain mail on, just to keep you in place.

Stirling and Edinburgh Castles were extraordinarily complete, in a country where most castles are now lumps of moss, or grassy rocks standing on the edge of a cliff. Another fun fact is the size of the fireplaces. You could have parked a jeep in any one of them. It made us realize what a small, nouveau firecracker American fireplaces are. Ours are made for a few decorative pieces of wood. Castle fireplaces where made to cook a herd of deer in.

Stirling was a lovely town, with a row of historic houses built along the road to the castle. It was prime real estate, and probably slowed some armies up on their way to the 'Big House.'  We were supposed to visit Lainey, a friend of Marc's, while in Stirling, but our schedule was thrown off by a day of feverish shopping in Inverness. Marc has managed to cultivate friendships all over the world. If we had traveled to Antarctica, some scientist would have popped out of a snowbank, yelled his name, and asked him how the dogs and horses were doing.

In Edinburgh, I had another surprise for my brother. I had booked us a room on the 2nd floor of a B & B. And told him that. He didn't realize what we considered the 1st floor is considered the 'ground floor' in Scotland. THEN, the 1st floor, etc. It became less funny when it became apparent that the staircase was so small and winding that our luggage might have to be airlifted in through the windows. Still less funny than that, we could go to the bathroom if we put the luggage on the bed. And we could open the luggage if no one was in the bathroom. But sitting on the bed, looking in the luggage, and having access to the bathroom at one time was not possible. If the room had been any smaller, we would have had to coordinate turning over at night.

And silly us, in our feverish haste to celebrate our birthdays in Scotland, we didn't realize we would be touring Scotland's largest city and capital on the weekend of Easter Sunday. It was a bit like Scottish Disneyland. After spending a week being the only tourists for miles and marveling at the lack of population, we were inundated with people, mostly sticky children. 

My hamstring gave out on my last climb back up the Royal Mile. We had been walking on cobblestones straight up and down hill for a week. Marc got me to a cab station, because you can't hail a cab off of the street there, and packed me off to three flights of stairs where I spent the rest of the day renewing my acquaintance with the pound of fudge I had bought my sister-in-law, and which never made it home. I gave the poor man my credit card and told him to have fun.

Next: Critters of Scotland

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blue Skye

I'm glad we went to Skara Brae first. It was my pick and very beautiful. Marc's pick was Skye, in the Western Islands. It looks just like Colorado, only it makes Colorado look like a teeming metropolis. Marc always picks the location that looks like Colorado...don't ask me why. It seems to be his ideal of earthly beauty. My ideal is tied to water, and lots of it.

We didn't make the mistake of thinking we would be away from water while we were there, it is just more omnipresent in some places than others. They ejected us from a bus in another cold location (surprise) and we were excited to see the ruins of a castle. But castles will be an entry unto themselves: castles are generally nasty buggers left on top of the highest hill in a remote location. And they are historic, which means you WALK to them.

What was a surprise was that, if you stand in the middle of Scotland, you are not 40 miles from the nearest shore. It means the ground doesn't freeze and explains the existence of large palm trees in the gardens in the west. The seeds are carried by the ocean current from Jamaica, etc. and deposited and grow. It reminded me of the Monty Python film where the two soldiers are arguing about the speed of an African swallow carrying a coconut.

There was a phenomena of Skye that did impress me. The air was scented. At first, I thought it was some neat trick that the Department of Tourism had pulled off, a kind of property potpourri. Then we realized it came from a lack of gas and town fumes. No restaurant smells, no car exhaust, no pavement fumes: the air was clean. And it smelled lovely, like pine trees and grasses and flowers. It was vaguely depressing and I miss it to this day. I have not smelled anything like it before or since. It was a moment of Grace. I have an enduring pity for those who haven't smelled air like that.

Back in Inverness from our day in Skye, Marc left the B & B as he did every night at 10 PM, to call home.
Better him than me.

Next: What Should Have Been Stirling

Monday, October 18, 2010

Clean Fields

I am going to write about the how clean Scotland is as a country, and got confused by various word groupings which could suggest how well the country is maintained, and/or how tidy the Scottish are. Both are worth noting. It is hard for an American to envision a tidy country, i.e. one so small it can be cared for by hand with a whisk broom and a wheelbarrow. Scotland IS that small. The public bathrooms were so clean that the communities would run contests for "best decorated" or "most Scottish." They were small huts, in parking lots or the edge of a village where one could run to "...tidy up." Pictures, flower arrangements, huge paper thistles hung in the best, and I have pictures to prove it. Just an extra in the vacation that is not advertised in the brochures. (How would you begin?) And they're heated!

This amazing trend extends to their buses. I'm used to grimy Greyhounds that look as if a Lord Voldemort slept there when he was depressed. Scottish buses, on the other hand, look as if Morticia Addams had a hand in the decoration: red plush velvet chairs (not seats) that reclined, red plush carpet and a bathroom you could install in The White House and invite heads of state to meet there without any redecoration. No bus smell. It was as if Grand Dad picked you up in the old Rolls for the ride to the ancestral manor.

Scottish water heaters are almost a necessity in their climate. An instant water heater, it is a small box that is installed on the side of the pipe. When the water is turned on, boiling water comes out. After two days to Orkney and back, the North Sea and the fun of visiting underground burial chambers in the middle of winter, it is heaven. Especially when the boiling water is running into a gigantic claw foot tub in the cleanest bathroom I have ever been in. It is the hygienic equivalent of their pastries, light, fluffy, creamy and comforting.

Next: Skye     or    Is That a Palm Tree?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


is made by taking a sheep's stomach and washing it. (!) This is after it is removed from the sheep. One throws in bits and pieces of meat, what we would call chitlins, and uncooked oatmeal and blood. The stomach is sealed and thrown into a pot of water to boil for hours. It's a bit like Uncle Ben's microwaveable rice dishes, isn't it?
In Scotland, no one with an ounce of integrity will admit to ever having eaten haggis, although it's sold in tins (cans) for tourists to take home. The hostess of our B & B in Inverness, Gillian, refused to heat any up if we bought some. She said it would make the house stink.

There is an equivalent here in the South (U.S.A.) that is called, "Potted Possum." It's not really possum, but cans of it can be bought for oogling tourists to take home and laugh about. Which brings me to an interesting observation: both the Scottish and Southerners were conquered nations, forced in extremity to eat that which would not normally be eaten. Both foods are now considered jokes by the world. History is, indeed, always written by the conquerors.

Meanwhile, back to Orkney. The morning after touring Skara Brae was beautiful (frozen.) And we waited two hours at a bus stop after reading the schedule wrong and not realizing what day it was. The ferry trip back was incredibly uneventful. We landed in Thurso, starving to death, and had pastries for lunch. Bakeries are the equivalent of what Sheetz or McDonalds is for us. That is, a place where one can obtain food that can be consumed right then. We ate an enormous amount of tuna fish salad sandwiches, which were unremarkable except for the fact that the bakers put corn in it. I don't know why and neither did anyone we asked. We also ate a good amount of doughnuts, pastries, etc., which of course, a bakery would specialize in.

We took a bus back to Inverness and collapsed.

Next: The Superiority of the Scottish as Evinced by their Bus System and Water Heaters.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Life has given me plenty to cry about and more than enough to laugh about. It has rarely given me too many friends.

So many times I have sat in the dark listening to the music no one else could hear. When I accepted that no one else could hear it and decided to listen, it changed to voices and back to music. Now, I listen to the silence that exists in that space that used to hold noise. The silence that Confucius assured me is the 'language of God'.

Through circumstances, I have had a period of no TV and no computer at home placed on me. No phone, no barking Ed, rarely music. Far from being the isolating event I thought it would be, it has pulled me together. There is the silence of the cats, of the night, of storms, of the house and of my coffee pot. Each is different in it's quality of silence. All are deep silences; there is something there to listen to.When it has centered me, I can go out and listen with more attention and less pain. Except for Sunday.

I am taking a break from the adventures in Scotland today. The weather last night makes me homesick for it. On some little spit of land at John o' Groats, there is a statue dedicated to the Scottish people who have had to migrate west to the Americas over the centuries when the King hunted them or the land failed them. And let's face it, when their own wars drove them out. A man and boy face directly into the west, striding forward valiantly in hopeful desire. The woman, with her hand on her son's shoulder, clutches the shawl tossed over her head and faces the dawn. Her face is shadowed by her flying hair and she is barefoot, looking, full of sorrow back to the village she is leaving. Spray from the Atlantic booms and paws at the cliff below them. Their statues are never free from rain or ocean, and only rarely from ice. Only puffins visit here every year on their annual migration, and the few who visit Skara Brae. Those Scottish looking back.

Wikipedia states, "In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory, and usually its people have a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point."

The Scottish have a lot of jokes about the disbursement of the Scottish across the globe over the centuries. In the 1950's, Jewish author Harry Golden speculated that the Presbyterians were the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Presbyterians joke about once being the 'frozen chosen' now being the 'hot Scots' (see my post about the Scottish love of Florida.) The Scots, for the most part, love the longing that brings the displaced home again, to face what was, what could have been, and what is. We buy remnants to take home to others displaced: tins of haggis, sweaters, pictures and memories. We are lucky. Scotland is still one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We can sigh and come home happy, still longing. I don't know of any other nation who is so lucky.

Next: Less Nostalgia, More Haggis    OR   Less a Spilling of Guts Than an Eating of Them.

Publish Post

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food for Thought

My niece got two chickens last night and named them Original and Extra Crispy. Sometimes, it frightens me that my brother reproduced, but someone had to. I suppose. She's probably the best thing to hit the Stewart line since James VII of Scotland became James I of England. My brother wants me to stop spelling his name the traditional way as well. I was trying to keep him anonymous as "Mark" but I will switch to his choice of "Marc" to keep him happy.

Late at night in Orkney and nothing to eat except two packs of aforementioned 'biscuits'. Until I pulled out the four, very flat, honey buns I had snagged at White's truck stop on our way to D.C. At the time, Marc scornfully wanted to know what I needed them for: I reminded him of that as I tossed him two that night in Orkney. They had been in my backpack across the Atlantic and through Amsterdam, so they were VERY flat; but, boy, were they good.

4 o'clock in the morning and we were both wide awake with the thrill of the day. Our tour of Orkney started at 9, and breakfast was at 8. We drank the entire supply of coffee and tea left in our room and even tried a biscuit, but one of the towels turned out to have a better flavor.

Breakfast at a B & B always started the same way. No matter how hungry we were, the English tourists beat us to the dining room. Three plastic containers of cereal were always set on a sideboard and the English loved cereal. As far as I could tell, for we never tasted any, it looked like cheerios, cornflakes, and then something colored very brightly. We just waited for the real food. It was invariably bacon, eggs and fruit. We never figured out why you would need to start the meal with the cereal. It's like going to a $2 all-you-can-eat buffet, and ordering $4 worth.

We  went to Scotland in late March/early April for the prices, and because we couldn't wait until summer. But no amount of time in Roanoke prepared us for latitudes above Oslo, Norway in early Spring. And we were on an island. I had forgotten that the wind is perpetual on an island. England, Scotland, Orkney, Shetland: islands in the coldest sea below polar bear territory. The outdoor scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed in the Highlands. We were north of that. How the English went on to conquer India and Africa is beyond me...what a public relations job that must have been. Queen and Country wouldn't have begun to cover it.

So we had escaped losing life and limb to the North Sea to face a mild day of hail, snow, rain and sleet. We had this mixture everyday for at least five minutes, every four hours or so. Then, everything would magically clear and whatever we had come to see would unveil itself. It was, truly, magic.

Our fear that our tour was canceled due to the weather (it doesn't happen) was unfounded. Our guide was a very happy 55 year old about to marry a 26 year old Canadian who had taken his tour several years before. He said it made him 'peppy'. We were the only ones on the tour, except for an extremely quiet English woman who looked as if she had been born in the neolithic ruins of Skara Brae. Maybe it was the cereal.

The Scottish along this tourist route were very excited about seeing tourists so early in the season, especially this far north. Everyone we ran into either wanted to vacation in Florida or had vacationed in Florida, or was related to someone who, etc...

The first attraction was a site innocuously called Maes Howe. It was damp and we walked a half mile across a mud field to get to it. I'll save the suspense and relate we both came home with bronchitis and signs of exposure; but it was worth it. At Skara Brae, we walked straight into the village, which was built into a hill of discarded refuse, dirt and oyster shells. It was a bit like touring Hobbiton where all the Hobbits had stepped out for a cup of tea and would be right back.

By this time, the night's storm had past and the sky was sparkling and a brilliant turquoise. It seemed to be a characteristic color of Orkney. The ocean was the same color with lapis blue in the deeper areas. It looked just like the pictures of the Caribbean, only ten minutes up to your knees in this water would kill you. An impulse buy of wool sweaters at John a' Groats saved us. (The northernmost point of mainland Scotland.) American wool is short and itchy and works ok with cotton or silk underneath it. Of course, it requires the earth-harmful cleaning method of dry cleaning. Scottish wool is from long-haired sheep, soft as sable AND washable. It is waterproof as well. But don't stick it in the dryer. My sweater is now infant-sized because of a mistake.

We had lunch at the gift shop/museum while our guide entertained us with tales of his arch-rival who owned the competing tour bus. I wandered around in a daze all day...I was finally here. I couldn't hear anything the tour guide or Marc said. I didn't say anything that I remember. I think I babbled at the guide once, expressing my desire to stop somewhere. I know exactly how Harry Potter felt walking into Hogwarts for the first time. Occasionally, I would twirl around on my axis to get a 360 view and I felt as if I had been drinking champagne all morning. I saw my hand extend the credit card a couple of times and then it was over for the day.

We called home from the grocery store at a rate I estimated later would have made a sizable down payment on Princess Di's wedding gown.

Next: Skye

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Against the Grain

The boy orphan cat, Minkins, came in last night and let me know that my service animal, Eddie, wasn't his only momma. They are such a comfort now that he is gone. And Ratface is leaving my chocolate alone, although Echo inadvertently overdrew my account yesterday. She doesn't like the new catfood I am playing with.

But, to continue from yesterday: Mark and I landed in Kirkwall, The Orkneys, Scotland, in one piece, full of caffeine and adrenaline and hungry as tigers. Only I knew the truth. The friendly family unloaded their car and walked us to our Bed and Breakfast at about 9 o'clock at night. As we were walking, Mark turned to our friend and asked, "Where can we get something to eat?" I said, "I haven't told him yet." Our friend said, "Breakfast is about 8 in the morning."

Most of small-town Europe is what Americans would consider 'strict' about their food. There are times that food is served and times where you, if you haven't eaten, are out of luck. The Scottish would never dream of ruining their country with an all-night McDonalds, for instance. Or an all-night anything, for that matter, except for a pub. And the pubs operate on the assumption that beer and ale is part of a food group. And I agree that kidney pie is not something I would want to slide down on top of a belly full of beer, anymore than I would want to wash a plate of chitlins down with some Tennessee whiskey. And that far north, vegetables aren't food, as such. If it ferments, it belongs in the ale.

Now, my brother prefers meat and chocolate, but he would gladly have eaten a cabbage sandwich at this time, if it had been available. The knowledge that no food of any kind was available was a stunner. And he isn't that crazy about beer or ale. He didn't know about mayo, mustard and ketchup, yet, either. I told him, evil one that I am, that biscuits would be in the room. Our Orkney friend laughed and waved good bye.

To the English, a biscuit is what an American would call a cracker or Melba bread. Not a saltine, but a sometimes noxious compendium of grains, dried and hardened, and best left to horses. Most taste like rye bread. After the invention of biscuits, the English decided there were better things to do with grain. Much better things.

In our room, we did indeed find the ubiquitous electric kettle, instant coffee, packets of tea and two small (thankfully) packets of biscuits.

 Tomorrow: What'll You Give Me ? Or the continuing foodie adventures in Scotland. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sturm and Drang

It's 80F here in Roanoke, VA and it snowed a bit in Scotland this morning. If wishes were fishes, we'd all cast nets.

I was attempting to have a meaningful relationship on the North Sea with a good cup of coffee, when I was interrupted by a storm. 36 hours out of Roanoke, and I couldn't smoke. Well, in my pursuit of these, I found out from the friendly fellow behind the bar that everyone else was below decks, ready to evacuate to the life rafts or to stabilize the ship further, or both.

We had a funny moment when I was screaming my name over the sound of the engines, the sea, and crashing cars in the hold, and he was trying to tell me what he was called. ("Stewart! Stewart!" "Steward! Steward!") He must have been really pissed I wouldn't go below and I was slightly less pissed at not getting my coffee. When I realized what he was trying to get me to do, I froze. There was no way I was letting go of MY rail, either.

Then the ship did a belly flop and the stabilizer disappeared. We slipped behind the protection of an island and all unpleasant motion ceased. When my brother, Mark, and the other passengers reappeared, the captain wanted to know why I was sitting at a table, staring at a coffee cup. The steward managed to stay out of trouble and my slight hearing loss from too many rock concerts in high school was explained. And I got my coffee. Free.

While below, Mark met a family from Orkney bringing their new dog home. The dog's name was Storm, and Naomi, the 10 year old, wanted nothing more to do with that dog. Another thing about the Scottish: they are so self-conscious about presenting their country as the greatest tourist destination in the world, they go overboard (no pun intended.) Every dog I saw in Scotland was groomed to the teeth. The people in the villages and rural areas owned Border Collies, and people in the City owned white Scottish Terriers. We saw no labs, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Poodles, or any other type of dog  the entire 10 days we were there. All horses were native to Scotland or England. It was a bit of a mind-blower. 

On the other hand, the country is so geared toward tourism, that the Scottish will just about put you up in their own home to get you to stay. Which they did. We spent the entire time in Bed and Breakfast homes across the country. We could not have had a lovelier or cheaper time anywhere. We had to be careful not to make jokes like, "I'm so hungry, I could eat a bear!" while we were there. It was not taken as a joke.

The food: I like food. I like to eat, cook and admire food. I like it to be different. My brother Mark, on the other hand, would have eaten nothing but McDonald's if I would have let him.

Next in the series: How Not to Eat in Scotland

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Douglas Adams Said

that there is a melancholy time in Sunday afternoons, between the hours of 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock that he called The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul. I would follow that in America with the pre-prime Heart Attack Hours. More Americans die of heart attacks on Monday morning than any other time. Most of Sunday evening is spent contemplating Monday, back at work, and freaking about the kids' homework and the weekday schedule.

So here I am, sitting in this coffee house, listening to the Beatles' "Baby You Can Drive My Car" and watching twilight encroach on Botetourt County. There is that lemony color on the horizon that is caught perfectly in early Autumn.

What a timely place to placidly contemplate my destruction in an icy sea several years ago. My intro to the Scottish: they are all like my father. Same sense of humor, timing, money, everything. I always thought it was an El Paso, TX thing. It's not. It's Scottish.

So, here was this friendly man refusing to give me another Americano, or let me go outside to smoke. Not that I could have made it to the door; it was uphill at this time. And he wasn't refusing to help me. He felt keeping his hands on the rail in front of him was a smarter move. Here is the Dad think: the waiter said, "Do you see what I am standing in front of?" Yes, indeed, I had noticed and ignored the glass liquor bottles on the pretty shelves behind him. He said, "I can see letting my hands go for one of these, but for coffee? And if we make it, there will be a lot of people below decks who will be needing this more." Score one for his logic. Only another friend of Bill W. would have understood.

That made me another curiosity. He gave the foam-filled window another sidling, wild look and said, "If you don't need a drink after this, the first coffee is on me." I told you the Scottish were cheap. But, as I look back on it...what else did he have to offer at the time? I didn't drink booze and maybe he was married; or in a hurry to get back to Norway. And he was going to be plenty busy if we lived.

I asked him his name, which I will protect in case I get to go back to Orkney and he asked me mine. I just loved telling the Scottish my name was Stewart. Since most Americans associate the name with Mary, Queen of Scots, the queen of bad luck in her struggle with Queen Elizabeth I, Mark and I thought the name would be funny to the Scottish. Look. Stewarts touring Scotland. Ha ha. Which is as funny to the Scottish as telling them a joke that has to be followed by the words, "Get it?" or nervously saying, "Ha ha" afterword.

Most of the money trickling into Scotland, despite their lovely country and hard efforts to keep it a clean and sustainable resource, is from tourists from the States looking into their Scottish ancestry. Nothing can be more boring to the Scottish.

Tomorrow: How to Entertain the Scottish

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stick Your Face Out the Window

The Cats have noticed that Eddie is gone and are taking advantage of unsupervised time at home. What a shocker. At least they changed the sheets this morning. They like sleeping in the sunspot in the afternoons and rolling around.

Here comes the time of year I love best. My brother and I were cruising Scotland in late March of 2005. Orkney, near the Arctic Circle to be exact. Higher in latitude than Oslo, Norway. Yeah. In late March.
We had gotten there the night before in a very large, modern ferry (Norwegian) through one of the worst storms seen in the North Sea that year. Norwegian ships built for storms have 'stabilizers' to control the ship in the choppy North Sea. They look like the blades on an Hawaiian know; those thingys off the side to keep the ship from capsizing.

I only know what they look like because I didn't hear the general announcement and panicked screams in the lounge. I was smoking outside. A native of Orkney was standing there with me smoking, and getting some air (it takes talent to do both simultaneously) when this raucous, BLAWWWWW went off in our ears and the deck heaved. I thought Moby Dick had us.

He casually turned to me and said, "We're sinking. You'd better get inside."

It's not that I couldn't hear him, which I couldn't. We were standing in the gentle, warm draft venting from the ferry's enormous engines. If I stepped out of that zone, my face was whipped with sleet and driving rain. I kept having to clear the ice forming on my glasses, thanking God for the 'sports protection' layer I had so thoughtfully ordered the year before.  I will admit, I was thinking more of my horseback riding 'skills' than anything else then.  

It was simply that the words, "We are sinking." activated a part of my brain that has rarely been tapped. At first, I thought he was speaking Norwegian. But he had plainly been speaking English the moment before. Then he shouted, "Are you daft?" Then, he screamed it. I ran away from the maniac and shot through the door of the lounge to get away from the nut and noticed that I was on the ship alone, except for my pursuer.

who ran past me like the speed of light and disappeared further into the ship. No, wait. There was one guy behind the bar, holding onto it while the ship tilted, swayed and jolted like like we were coming into LAX on a 767 during a monsoon. The engines were so loud, I thought I was on the 50 yard line at Daytona, or wherever. You get the point.

He was the guy who had been feeding Marc and I 'Americanos' since we hit the ship. (Black, decent coffee. Scotland is very, very, very far from South America and the Scottish are cheap.) So I walked up to the bar and held out my cup hopefully, "Americano, please?"

It was hard to hear his response over some crashing, and I looked behind me and  video games were on the floor, you know the big ones the size of old pinball machines? I couldn't see how that was possible, as they appear to have been chained to the wall, but I wasn't taking much in at the moment. We had had a hell of a journey across the Atlantic to get to that point; I just wanted coffee and cigarettes. Then, I noticed that the expensive jewelry shop next to the gaming room was missing some displays and windows.

Anyway, the guy kept shaking his head 'No' and I kept insisting and pointing to the coffee machine. Apparently he was curious about me. He sidled around to where I was holding onto the bar and shouted friendly-like at me, "Did you grow up on the ocean?"

and pointed toward the window. That's when I caught a glimpse of a stabilizer. I really couldn't tell the difference between it and and deck and the storm surges at this point. I can just say I have seen one. He moved closer and I thought he was flirting with a tourist, and remarked, casually, as if I was to keep it secret, "If we go down in this water, we'll die as soon as we hit, with the temperature being what it is."

Tomorrow: my introduction to the Scottish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Art of Letting Go

I have to let go of my worries today...for most things, it's a melancholic grief that passes in time. On the other hand, there is the State Attorney General and the Governor. What a shock to realize my tax dollars are being used to investigate where and what a grant was used for at the University of Virginia. All that nice money whooshing down in the circular motion we all know (except for those taxpayers in Virginia who still don't have indoor plumbing. Yes, it's true. No toilets, no running water in the home.)

The Washington Post said, "The attorney general's logic is so tenuous as to leave only one plausible explanation: that he is on a fishing expedition designed to intimidate and suppress honest research and the free exchange of ideas upon which science and academia both depend -- all because he does not like what science says about climate change." (Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010) 

Pell Grants are almost non-existent. The 'dumbing down' of America started long ago; and Cuccinelli thinks there is enough money to investigate something that two noted Universities (Virginia and Pennsylvania) and all the countries that signed the Kyoto Accord think is a legitimate study; i.e.Most sentient beings on the planet, except the U.S. The object of the study is not important: the fact that he seems to have nothing better to do, and nothing better to do with my money, is.

But maybe he is taking a page from his boss, Governor McConnell, who thinks losing a major source of revenue for the State of Virginia is a good idea. Not that I think selling booze is a great idea in the first place. However, we all know Prohibition didn't work. But I have visited states where the sale of booze has been privatized: you can buy half gallons of Jim Beam in the grocery store along with your Wheaties and toothbrushes.

I like Canada's idea...put ALL alcohol products in ABC stores (beer, wine, booze) and none in the grocery stores. Same with cigarettes. Booze and cigarette manufacturers spend billions on pretty colors and advertising. I am not saying they target children (they assure us they don't. Why would they lie?) but by the time your kids turn 16, 18 and 21, they can find the Coors, Bud and Marlboro supplies by themselves in the dark. And someone to buy it for them, no matter their age. That's why we couldn't buy beer in Canada on a band trip...

But that would put a crimp in the Governor's retirement plans. He NEEDS that money! The problem is: I DO TOO! Donate mine to the schools so Ellen can stop buying pencils and notebooks for her classes.

I hope this blog has been helpful. Our closest printed information source is in D.C., Roanoke!

It's a good thing sometimes, that everything I let go of has claw marks in it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"There Is Only One of You In All of Time"*

This is for my service animal, Eddie. He headed to his winter pastures on September 15, 2010. He had a good long life surrounded by a world that was, for him, filled with miracles. He is running in a place where it is always spring or fall. The wind is moving swiftly through the grasses and he is following the herd. Every once in a while, he and Cheyenne stop and roll in the cow patties, or eat some horse manure. Boogie can run circles around them, despite her size. Until Marc and I begin to dream and we call them to come home for a while and rest at our feet.

I am grateful today that I can sit in this coffee house and let the tears go. I carry his chip around with me and he seems always to be in the back seat, with his nose sticking out of the window.

But now that he is a Spirit Dog, he can be everywhere at once.

Who could be luckier than me?

*Martha Graham

Friday, September 3, 2010

Still Laboring Under That?

I've started dreaming about eating chocolate kitties, so I thought I would write about something world shaking today...the guys at city hall who have the jobs I dream of closing down the City Market Building again. I always thought being a first class paper pusher was an art in it's own right. But for the City of Roanoke to pay for people to smoke pot all day and come up with these first class would be like having that job at Mattel, or Hasbro, designing matchbox cars and playing with them in the aisles. Or getting paid to play with Lincoln Logs or Tinker Toys all day.

I agree with the decision to let those who cared to, drop acid and bring us the Art is a truly beautiful building. But Roanoke, we should have known something was up when the City 'redesigned' the Market Building the FIRST time and left the upper floor looking like Spike's on a Saturday night. It always made me think of a friend's basement where 'XYZ' practiced in high school. I wasn't sure it was ok to wander around up there without a tetanus shot.

Then, They blew more money replacing the tables, chairs and floors without addressing any of the essentials: the colonies of rodentia living it up in there. (They voted FOR the new decor.) What's more cheerful than hard, metal chairs and a floor the color of mud?

It was my impression that the Center in the Square remade Roanoke's City Market to attract people downtown. In 1982 one only went downtown to look at real, live hookers and paper blowing down the sidewalk, a bit like a mini-Chicago on vacation. Since then, A Vibrant Downtown has grown up, attracting people, festivals, money, enthusiasm, admiration.

The City of Roanoke has consistently tried to fuck that up by messing with the Market Building and the lovely people who work and own businesses there. What would the successful merchants on the Market know about business and the Art of Charm?

But then, I am still laboring under the impression that Roanoke would like to look as nice as it really is: City Government excepted.

The only cure for this is a 'Jamaica Joe's' and a Hissee Fit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

And a Patridge in a Pear Tree

I came home yesterday, and there was a pack of Oreos on the kitchen counter. I've known for quite some time that Echo, one of the orphans, could draw a passable imitation of my signature, and that Ratty likes to curl up in the car if the windows are left open. But I was shaken to discover the extent of their talents. Chocolate sends me into a coma: what were they going to do with that time?

Eventually, I will write about something besides cats and my eating obsessions; when the state of the world changes enough to be noticed above these catastrophes (no pun intended.) Do any of You really think that the Gulf oil spill has been cleaned up? That our politicians are doing something about the economy besides checking their shares in Citi Bank? That a diamond sold today has been interrogated by de Beers and has sworn it is not from Sierra Leone?  No, my Dears, these are all fictional stories and much less interesting than wondering what the cats need to do with me at home that they can't get accomplished while I am gone

Monday, August 30, 2010


As a friend told me long ago, there is nothing like lying there in the still of the night, wrapped in the glorious darkness, listening to a cat heave and knowing you can't get there in time. That's what they get for insisting on elk meat. The thrill of it is rolling over and realizing they were sitting on your pillow.

Although I don't know why I am whining: I once had a litter you would think had been raised on unicorn meat. God, THAT was hard to shop for. However, the orphans I have now have a good idea that I will do just about anything to get them to eat. There is no catnip fudge I know of to persuade them to eat all they can, although in high school, we had a variety that worked really well for humans...hmmm.

The orphans were raised on organic goat milk and a supplement engagingly called, "Tiny Tiger." Since then, their tastes have become even more esoteric. I know where the best deals are on organic buffalo meat: I'll bet if they sold ostrich cutlets in the Roanoke Valley, I would be first in line...

I wonder if Schwann's sells ostrich meat? 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Need Praise...

so I feed my dog turkey. The cats certainly aren't going to think I am anything special just for feeding them. If I have to kill the cow myself, it wouldn't be anything special...I am slave and rodentia, as all humans are. I won't have to worry about how my remains are disposed of. The police won't find any.

They made my dog fat so he can't chase them. I come home from yet another Kroger run with 'Ethereal Whiskers' catfood, (a mix of catnip and ground elk) and find the last crumbs from the last can delicately balancing on the dog's whiskers. His breath gives him away like a bum drinking sterno for a buzz. I try not to smoke too close to him at those never know what one stray spark would do...

I am concentrating on Ed's weight today to avoid thinking of mine own. I don't know if my psychiatrist can sue from what he reads on a blog, (I love my meds) and I am afraid to ask my lawyer. He might tell me. That would throw a spanner in my creative nuclear reactor; and I need this outlet to keep from eating the rest of the cookies I brought home from the meeting last night (see yesterday's post) 

Friday, August 27, 2010


Ok. I consumed a pound of fudge yesterday that I bought on the Roanoke City Market. I have just finished the last of the chocolate ice cream, and have to have something to do before my meeting later on (Friends of Bill and Dr. Bob: you know who you are...) where I can snag some cookies.

Thank God people in the rooms are cheap: the cookies are nothing to swoon over. I am still below 135 lbs. (american) but not for long if I have anything to do with it. I love my meds.

Mind you, it's not easy consuming an entire pound of fudge. Yes, little ones, let me say that again. Consuming an entire pound of ffuuudddgge. I had to wake up periodically during the night to do it, but I got it done.

I am now, as anonymous says, ''One bad relationship away from having 30 cats...''
Although I think really, that the opera diva had it right when he said, "Life is all about magic and pasta."