You Say Its Your Birthday; Its My Birthday Too

Today was the magic day.

I hit 50.

Its a tired cliché to say it all went so quickly. Its rather like the vacation we are on now.  You plan and save and it all seems so far away and then voilà there you are.

I can honestly say nothing has gone according to any plan I ever had.  If it had, I would be single, living alone in a small neat house, surrounded by books and antiques.  There would be maybe a couple of cats for company.  And I would have lots of money.

As it turns out, I am happily ‘married’ to the most passionate side of my soul, have two spectacular children, three cats and one dog.  Our house is small, but decidedly not neat and the antiques are in short supply.  Money, well…I do have books.

There are many things I would have rather not gone through to get to this point in my life. Really – many things, but as the other really exhausted cliché goes, I wouldn’t be the person I am now except for those experiences. (Sometimes, I would like to have known that person – the one without the other stuff, but I don’t want to be visited by three creepy guys in the night on Christmas Eve just to see what might have been.)

But here I am, pudgy waisted, greying of hair and happier than any solitary life would have ever provided.  I have 50 years of life and wonderment to reflect on.

Bashert gave me a book of memories and letters from friends and family.  It is wonderful.  Its a treasure for me and those who read this and contributed will be getting thank you notes…eventually.

Bashert gave me a special memory today to put in a new edition. Get your mind out of the gutter, its not that type of memory (at least not yet – day’s not over).

We had been touring Colonial Williamsburg all morning.  We were tired and hot. Yoda had reached his limit and was getting a bit, shall we say vocally high pitched about something he could not have.  So we thought it best to come out of the midday heat and get some refreshments.

We stopped into Chownings Tavern for lunch.

Our waitress was quite delightful and quite the salesperson.  Before you knew it we were all quenching our thirst on some of the tavern’s homemade root beer and dining on the recommended house specialty sandwich (which I will not reveal because I am now going to rot for eternity because I broke the one kosher law I have kept since 1999, but man, was that sandwich worth it!).

We saved room for dessert, but before it arrived at the table, Yoda had to visit the ‘necessity’.  So up the stairs we went, with me explaining the entire way up that he was lucky it was in the house as the lavatories were outside back then, blah, blah, blah.

When we returned, a man appeared at the table side and proceeded to ask who it was who had the birthday.  Yes, they do this even in 18th century Williamsburg.

I was treated to a rousing rendition of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” followed by a lovely tin whistle serenade of “Brian Boru’s March”.

They even brought out my piece of apple pie with a huge mulberry candle in the middle of it.  They let me keep the candle. Yoda asked if we can use it on his cake in a couple of weeks.  Cool.

The waitress then took our picture with our ‘shutterbox’, making sure to move all 21st century items out of the way first.  Except the visitor tags we were wearing and the San Diego Zoo baseball cap I was wearing and well..we have a great shot of the three of us to remember the occasion.

It’s a memory I will cherish. I’m smiling even as I write this.

Thank you, my love.

Here’s to the next 50 years. May the memories keep coming and may I remember at least half of them.


Who Is She Today?

One might think that my daughter suffered from dissociative disorder, with all the personalities that spilled forth when she was a child.

One never knew at any given time who might pop out.

The woman who always checked us out at the grocery store was known to ask who she was that day.

Once it happened, there were generally clues, such as dress or demeanor as to who had appeared, but length of time the other personality made reside was always a guess.

In the morning she may have been Dorothy complete with gingham dress and ruby slippers, but by the afternoon she may have transformed into Laura Ingalls, with bonnet and pre-braces (the polite way of saying bucked toothed Melissa Gilbert).

Her personalities ran the gamut from Shira, Princess of Power to Atreyu, the Warrior of The Neverending Story.

Atreyu was actually pretty impressive. AURYN was an old peace sign on a leather string. Her costume was a one piece jumper that she could unbutton to show AURYN. She used an wide suede watchband of mine from the 70’s as Atreyu’s armband. Falkor, the luckdragon was a stuffed dog with floppy ears.

Once when I had to send her to her room she went in as a rather pissed off NeNé, but when I went to check on her a bit later, I found Sleeping Beauty asleep in her reading chair.

I think by far her best personality was Arielle, the mermaid.  My mom or sister, not sure which anymore, made her a mermaid outfit that she eventually wore slap out.  When she donned the magic costume, she also added her well worn Blankie as her long hair.

I would pin it under her chin and she would toss it back in the manner of Cher.  Arielle would then mount the rock jutting from the ocean and sing the most heartfelt rendition of “Part of Your World” one had ever heard.  I would wait with bated breath for the moment when she would rise up with the music crescendo.  I could see the waves crashing all around her.

She always put on a fabulous show.

NeNé began to integrate around age 6.  The other personalities made less and less appearances until I noticed they came no more.  Being someone different was now regulated to Halloween, theme days at school and costume parties.

I still have the little mermaid and Atreyu’s outfits.  I keep them stored with the last thin remnant of Blankie.  Every now and then I run across them when cleaning out closets.

All the organization gurus say that I should get rid of them, but I wouldn’t trade that closet space for anything.

As soon as I see those costumes, I am transported to the days of NeNé’s multiple personalities and the magic they created.  Sometimes I can even hear Falkor’s hearty laugh or the ocean crashing around me.  Magic indeed.  That was one psychiatric diagnosis I could live with.

Happy birthday, Munchkin.

Illegal Leopard

I was in a business meeting last week and was surprised and delighted to find OwL there.  OwL was once a producer on the albums of that band of legendary – nay, mythic status – Illegal Leopard, for which, I have the privilege of designing album covers.

OwL was involved with the band through Predator or Prey.  (For those few of you who don’t know the sequence of albums, this was the one just before Genius, Money Maker’s Farewell).  OwL’s decision to leave had as much to do with MM’s retirement as it did with the opportunity to take the TMS job when Juan’s sentence in China came to an unexpected, early end.

It was tough to see the tight knit group lose such valuable members at the same time, but MM was tired of the touring and the guys at that time weren’t ready to become an exclusive studio band.  Of course that changed later when Silk had to do that stint on the road gang in Mozambique.  He said he didn’t want to see another road for a long, long time.

Anyway, it was old home time at that meeting.  I forgot the original reason we all ended up there.  Ese and Homes were beside themselves with joy.  I mean its been over a year since we were all together, with the exception of Money Maker, who is still basking on the beaches of the Recherche Archipelago.  Dynamite couldn’t blast her off!

Can you imagine the energy with Ese, Homes, Silk, OwL, t’s Girl, Just Yule and Crooks in the same room? Wow.

We were having such a great time that we rolled over to OH’s grill so that we could all have a couple of drinks, (the soft kind for Crooks, please – didn’t want a repeat of the Mosquito Strut fiasco) and relax.

Oh, how I wish I had some recording equipment in there!  The impromptu unplugged stuff was magic.  Silk brought out his harmonica and they were off.

Home’s a cappella version of “My Cup is Gone” brought back such memories of the Bangladesh Uh-Oh Tour.  I caught Crooks wiping a tear from his eye.  “Gets me every time.”, he said.

They did a shortened version of “don’t listen, miss diane” with new vigor.  It was just plain awesome. It was if the South African ban had never been there.

Memories of Ese’s Cali City, 34 minutes of bone chilling guitar solo on “that stanks nasty” came flooding back.  The cops had to stop the stage stampede on that one.  Good times.

The guys said they are still involved in the litigation that’s tying up album sales.  R Costa is just not letting up, but they’re not too worried – they never are.  They are hard at work on the new tribute album.  Ese gave a quick few bars of the first cut, “Ted, Where You At?”  Poetry.

Ese said they talked Just Yule into sitting in on a couple of sessions. He had a short set recorded on his MP3 and let me listen. You could hear the trombone singing in the background, bringing out such depth to “out on love” and “Cara Muche”.  Man, JY can make that thing come to life!

I think the biggest single, however is going to be “¡JAMm”.  This cut is the culmination of all the years these guys have been together.  You can feel the mixing of their voices and the way the instruments play off each other so easily.  It’s a combination only those who know each other so deeply can reach.  The live version they performed for us that afternoon was simply amazing.

I think if they can get out from under that ball and chain created by the riots in Botswana after Homes, well, had his little public issue, this album is going to soar past the fabled stratosphere of the tour compilation disc, Change of Spots.

It was really hard to break away that afternoon, which by that time had become early evening.  But OwL had an early morning meeting with her new group, Bedroom Slippers.  Crooks had to get back to the Centennial operations.  They guys and I hung out a little while longer until Silk reminded Homes that he was his ride to his enforced training session that night.

Ese was off to an audition for a new triangle player, although we all knew there would never be another like Money Maker. Those leopard go-go boots would always be too sexy to fill.

It was such a great time.  I’m really looking forward to designing the cover for this new album, whether it gets to full distribution or not.  It’s going to have to be one sweet design because the magic these guys conjure just cannot be captured by reality.

I’ll make sure that OwL (and MM) get signed copies and hope that soon the rest of the world will once again be able to immerse themselves in the alchemy of Illegal Leopard.

(*Fingers crossed that the extradition committee is through debating by release date and the verdict goes in our favor!)

Enter, the Roach


In my home, I am the killer of bugs.

To be accurate though, I should say I am the killer of roaches.  Other bugs and insects often have a second chance in our home, but roaches no.

I have been roused from deep slumber to eradicate an insect that had all my family members screaming and literally standing on furniture.  Yes, it happens in real life.

I admit that I do not relish my title at times.  I have been known to recoil with a yelp when taken by surprise by a shifty bug, as in the other night when I felt something on my thigh and reacted with a sharp intake of breath and a swipe sending the creature sailing across the room.

But for the most part I do my duty with stoic efficiency.

The other day my partner and son were out, she teaching and he attending intellectual day camp, so I was sitting on the sofa reading.  Out the corner of my eye, I saw a flicker of movement.

I turned to look and there was one of the largest roaches I had ever seen in my life crawling sideways across our barrister case.  This was no water bug or palmetto bug, no this was a full grown, beauty of a cockroach.

Now, when one sees a roach of this magnitude, it does give one pause.

First came the thought, “Wow, that really is a big roach.”   The second thought was I was glad my family was not here for this one.

My intellect told me that I was disproportionally larger than the insect.  I knew that it would not come at me with dripping fangs and a hypnotizing stare.  I knew that it had been driven inside by the intense heat of the day and was just looking for relief.  I also knew that it had to die.

I shuddered to think if this giant prehistoric scavenger escaped to roam free and was discovered by any other member of my family.

I am not tremendously afraid of insects. I have a healthy respect for most and can find some quite interesting.

Arachnids on the other hand, I do not tolerate in my general vicinity, at all.  A result of being bitten on the face by, and I quote, “an aggressive house spider’, that sent me to the emergency room and ultimately left two divots in my cheek.  If they hang around outside fine; that’s their domain – just stay off my grill and thresholds and we can live in peace, but come into my house or vehicle; the kid gloves are off.

But once again, I digress.  Back to the enormous roach in my house.

I had to devise a plan of action because as we all know roaches are tricky things.  They flatten themselves out and scoot through the tiniest of cracks.  Once false move and that sucker was going to be inside the barrister case taunting me from behind glass.

The problem was it was on the glass by this point.  My first weapon of choice would not be available for use, although I’m pretty sure I could get away with breaking the glass with my shoe once I revealed the impressive size of the intruder.

No, I had to come with an alternate weapon of destruction.

Did I mention that the living room was in a state of disarray (more so than usual, my smarty pants friends)?  Our a/c was on the fritz having leaked onto the carpet so all of our furniture was pushed into the center of the room making it a bit difficult to navigate.

This was not going to be an easy target.

It was a lose-lose situation. If I moved too fast it was behind the glass dancing and wiggling it’s antennae at me; if I moved too slowly it would meander into the tightly packed heap of articles out of striking distance where it would later pop out and scare several years off my partner and son.

I had to develop some sort of action plan quickly.

My eyes finally spotted a piece of copy paper that could be reached somewhat easily.  Not the best weapon since its not very flexible and has the potential for letting the roach flatten out and escaping, but it was the best I could find in the moment of hunt.

I snuck up on the creature with hand hovering low.  I then did the quick cover and squish move, however as many of you other bug killers know, roaches don’t always squish on the first try.

Headless and one wing cocked at an odd angle, the roach fought back.

Periplaneta americana Linnaeus turned around and came at me.

I confess that I did the ‘ew, ick, gross, watch out’ dance for just a second, hopping from foot to foot.  But then my inner hunter came out and said, “Bring it on!”.   La Cucaracha didn’t stand a chance.

I steeled myself for the final showdown.  My breath quickened and my muscles drew taut.  Determination overtook my being.  I would not be defeated by this germ carrier.

Down came the paper with a mighty thrust and the feisty little creature was literally putty in my hands.  Good had triumphed once again.

My family would never know the danger from which they had been saved.

But, that’s the life of the bug killer.

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

I love knots.  Always have, don’t know why.  I don’t sail, have never done macrame or looming or anything that really calls for a concentrated effort of knot tying.  They just fascinate me.  I mean, have you ever seen a monkey’s fist? The simplicity, yet elegance of a well done Flemish/eight knot? Brilliant.

Where would Celtic love be without that knot? Or the Windsors? How would you tie down that dang kangaroo?

Tying of knots began long ago.  It started when Homo habilis first tied a rock to a stick or made hide clothing.

Archeologist have found artifacts that are up to 10,000 years old, but the only written reference to knots before the 18th century was found in a medical record.  It references a 4th century physician describing the making of slings, with nine different types of knots.

Don’t get me wrong here I love knots, but I’m sure his patients would rather he had spent his time figuring out an anesthetic rather than how to tie up their arms.

Anyway, the art of knot tying is ancient, but like many old things, very handy to know.

If you’ve ever had to help a friend move and tie down a pickup truck load of stuff, a little knowledge of knots can be really handy, as well as, impressive – especially, and I hate to say it –  if you’re of feminine persuasion. Femmes take note.

There is even an International Guild of Knot Tying! I know geeky.

Knots can be generally put into one of three categories separated by use:

Stopper – knots used at the end of a rope

Hitch – knots used to hitch or tow

Loop- knots used to connect

And like all specialized activities knot tying has its own vocabulary, knotology – if you will.  It’s not quite as complicated as legalese or some government agency, but it takes some getting used to and sometimes makes sense.

The end ofthe rope being used for knotting is the working end.

A bight is any slack section in the middle part of the rope.

The standing part is the main part of the rope, or that section of the rope about which the end is turned to form a knot.

A loop is bight that forms at least half a circle.  Bringing the end parts near each other forms a closed loop; leaving them apart makes an open loop.

When the ends of a loop are crossed, the rope is said to have taken a turn.  If the end is passed over the standing part, it is an overhand turn and if it passed under the standing part, it is an underhand turn.

One last term:  when either end of a turn is put back through the loop, in an over-and-under sequence, the turn becomes a so-called overhand knot, a building block in making other knots. It’s basically the one that all stored string gets itself into whenever left alone.

Got all that?  ‘Cause now we are going to tie a very useful hitch knot.  Rescue workers and law enforcement use this one.  How you use it is your very own business.  It’s called the Handcuff.

You will need a good length of rope about 3 feet will do.  I use clothes line to practice with.

If you think you can’t do this, look down at your feet.  Are your shoes tied? Ye Gads, the Velcro generation!  Do you own a pair of shoes that have laces?  Then you can tie a knot.

The Handcuff Knot:

Form two loops in the middle of the rope.  

Place the right loop over the left loop.


Pull the left sideof the right loop down through the left loop while pulling the right side of the left loop up through the right loop.  This was the hardest part for me to get.  Just keep trying and the lightbulb blinks on.


Place the two loops you have created around the victim’s, er, assistant’s wrists. Pull slack out of the knot.

Voila’!  That stuffed dog isn’t going anywhere.

I once tried getting a friend who was a security analyst (as in figuring out how people got things out of secured warehouses, security) to be my assistant, but she wouldn’t have it at all.  Guess she’d seen it in use.

Really, once you get past the image of cheap seafood restaurant decorations knots can be very interesting and possibly helpful. One little knot has aided me greatly in my time management efforts when it comes to ending meetings.

Its called a noose.