Thursday, November 25, 2010

gobble gobble give

Today is Thanksgiving. Mr. G and I volunteered for Gobble Gobble Give. Like last year, there were lines around the block of people waiting to contribute food and sundries, and to volunteer to package up individual meals and deliver them to homeless folk around Los Angeles. We dropped off our contributions at one door, and were handed two boxes full of packaged dinners to deliver at the next door. And then we hit the streets.

Before we headed out I had to inspect what it was we were delivering, and it looked damn good! Turkey, double-stuffed potatoes, pumpkin pie, multigrain rolls, yams-every-which-way, quinoa salads . . . and most of it looked homemade, which means not only is it probably more tasty, but it also has that personal touch. That little bit of "love" cooked in, if you will. It just makes it better, and it's awesome that so many people take the time to cook, prepare and deliver this stuff to those in need.

Like any slice of humanity, the homeless community is a mixed bag. Most people we approached were happy to see us, and gratefully accepted whatever we had to give. But some folks weren't interested: either they'd already eaten, or what they really wanted was money for other purposes, or they just didn't want to be bothered. It felt a little predatory, driving the streets of LA, looking for homeless people. It was surprisingly more difficult than you might think. There didn't seem to be that many people out, and more often than not when we did spot someone, we'd see the telltale styrofoam container telling us that some other do-gooder had gotten to them first! Dang it!

You can't help but wonder what all these peoples' stories are, especially when you have any kind of direct interaction with them. Most of them were perfectly kind and sane, and appreciative. Are they simply down on their luck? Do they have some kind of mental or substance abuse issue that we're simply not seeing at that particular moment? Can they just not function in mainstream society? And is it kind or condescending to drive around offering them food today? What if you offer food to someone who isn't homeless, but just looks that way? Is that insulting? And why don't we do this every day? Maybe we will start doing it every day, or at least year-round.

I especially liked the genteel fellow with the orchid balanced atop his grocery cart who said, "I'm not a terribly grand eater," but gladly accepted a meal; and the guy all wrapped up in blankets reading his books; and the woman sitting in the doorway who wished us a happy Thanksgiving; and the woman with the cool Chinese hat who asked for gloves and socks, and was so happy when we went and bought some and found her again on Wilshire; and the rosy-cheeked woman with the wheelchair by the 99cent store who just sat right down on the sidewalk and dug into her meal.

And I have to say that through his generous actions, once again Mr. G reminded me why I love him. He never hesitated to approach anyone and offer them food and toiletries and clothing, and to ask if there's anything else they wanted/needed for future reference. He considers many of the people we encountered part of his community, which they are of course. He knows he'll see them again, so why not have a box of blankets, socks and cigarettes in the back of your car to hand out when you see them next?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

randomly exploding cat

How can such a sweet little tabby generate so much chaos? One minute she looks like the creature on the left, calm and cuddly; and the next minute she looks like the disaster below, exploding in all directions, leaving destruction and mayhem in her wake.

Clearly she has some kind of problem, but she seems to feel fine 90% of the time. It's only when she's actually in the act of exploding that she seems uncomfortable. Otherwise she's begging for food, scratching up the blue chair (it's cheap, so I've abandoned it to the cats), snuggling on my lap, sitting in the bathroom sink waiting for a sip of water, or generally harassing me, per usual. I guess I'm glad she's not deteriorating rapidly; this is apparently a slow burn kind of thing. But the ambiguity is troubling. She'll be fine for days -- sometimes even weeks -- at a time, and then one evening I come home and all hell has broken loose, and I spend the next 30 minutes cleaning the floor, the rug, the blankets that I have covering my furniture, and of course the litter box. Sorry, if this is grossing you out, but it's grossing ME out more! I can no longer trust her enough to let her have free reign in the house like she has always had.

So I'm battening down the hatches, buying a pet gate and investing in a paper towel company, and sequestering her to the kitchen/dining area. There she has two beds, her own litter box, food/water, a big window, and room to bounce around. When I'm home and can supervise her, she can come out and be normal. But the rest of the time, she must be secured in a tiled area. The question is for how long? And will the various diet changes and injections help? And how can I ever go away on holiday again? No one wants to cat-sit an explosive cat!

Friday, November 5, 2010

time allotted

I guess I'll dismantle my Day of the Dad altar this weekend. I really loved creating it and having it here, but the marigolds are all wilted, and it just seems like maybe it's time to tone it down a bit. This cabinet already had a Mexican theme though, and I think I'll keep the one main photo and his armadillo collection there, so it won't have to change that much really.

Looking at the altar, with photos of Dad and other loved ones lost, I can't help but reflect on notions of fate, and destiny, and how much time each of us is allotted on this earth. Is it predetermined? Is there any way to avoid the inevitable? Of course each of us must die, but you never know when or how exactly it will happen.

Momo (my great grandmother on my mom's side) was lucky in this regard. She lived to be 96, and was perfectly healthy up until the very end, working in her garden and doing her tummy crunches each day, and keeping her name on the wait list for the retirement home just in case, even though she never needed it. She was smart enough to know that her mind wasn't as sharp as it had once been (although it was still very sharp), and was practical enough to sign herself up for meals-on-wheels, and give up driving after side-swiping a wall. Of course she had plenty of hardships in her lifetime, like losing her husband at a very young age with a house full of young children to raise on her own. And then finding love again in her 80s only to have her new husband die soon thereafter. But she lived a long, happy life, with a graceful exit.

Gramps (my mom's dad) was lucky too. He lived well into his 80s, and although his heart was failing him for the last year or two of his life, he hardly had a complaint up until that point. He wasn't a perfect man (who is?), but he too lived a full life, with his wife by his side, four children and a handful of grandchildren, his ham radio in the mornings and his honey bun and coffee in the afternoons.

Grandma (dad's mom) also lived a long life, with nary an illness, but she suffered with Alzheimers for the last many years (or rather those around her suffered, as is usually the case). Virtually all of her siblings succumbed to the disease, so it was no surprise that she too fell victim to it, but I know that Dad did everything he could to help her retain her dignity and feel safe and comfortable until her final days. And Charlie (my dad's dad) died long before I was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. My dad was only 10 years old when his father died from a combination of a weakened heart from childhood scarlet fever, and alcoholism. I think he was only in his mid-40's, and never got a chance to see his two sons grow up.

And then there's our beloved Wayne, who was only allowed 17 years on this planet. Much too short a life, and those closest to him will never recover from his loss. I hadn't seen him recently when he died suddenly in a plane crash many years ago, so to me he'll always be that quirky little preteen boy, full of sensitivity and intelligence.

And last, but never least, is my own dear Dad. Hardly sick a day in his life, we presumed he would live a long time, but imagined that eventually his mind might start to go, like his mother and aunts/uncles before him. But he never got the chance to go senile, or even get old really. He was cruising along just fine, a picture of health and vibrancy. Then he came down with a "flu," which was diagnosed as acute leukemia a week later, and two days after that he died from a brain hematoma. What the hell? I guess that was his life. He got almost 68 years out of the deal, and escaped quickly and pretty much painlessly, which is good for him. Who knows how many years any of us have left? Maybe our fates are already sealed, and it just remains for us to live until we die and find out exactly what that fate will be.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I've met so many good dogs recently. Some dogs are just trouble, and even the best dogs can be excessively needy and time consuming. But they can also be incredibly rewarding as well, and I've even been contemplating getting one as my next companion, once my kittens pass on, of course, which I hope they don't do any time soon (little bums).

Dogs are so pure and innocent. All they ask is that you give them tons and tons of love. And they give you tons and tons of love back. My sweet stepdog, Scudo, was my constant companion in the days after Dad died. The first few nights when I slept on the couch, he slept there with me (or rather ON me, all 60+ pounds of him), and we were a comfort to each other. Perhaps he sensed that I needed some extra love, so he was there to provide. Or perhaps something about the way I smell or sound or behave reminded him of Dad, who was also his dad, and who we both were missing. Regardless, he's a super handsome and good dog, and I'm proud to call him my brother. :)

And then there was Fred, a silky spaniel in Dallas, and silly little Buttons in Plano. Both sweet dogs just trying to be in the mix. And Caesar and Ramona in Silverlake; especially poor little Ramona, who clearly had a rough youth and takes a while to trust people. You can see sadness and fear in her eyes when she growls at you initially, but by the end of an evening with her lovely owners, she was snuggling and wagging her tail every time I patted her head. It's heart breaking to see these poor pups who've been through such hardships but still have such good hearts. And the delightful Juniper who looks like a husky little bear, and who fit right in with Ann's two darling corgis as she explored the beach with them for the first time. And Slumber and Bowie in Sherman Oaks who licked my ankles under the dining table, and later hid dead squirrels in the couch cushions. And who could forget sweet, sensitive Angus in Arizona, and his new pal Pearl who looks like another lovebug. And the microscopic Pickles who makes me so mad when she runs at me barking her head off as I try to get into my own front door, but then makes me smile with her tiny little tongue licking my fingertips once she realizes I'm not a trespasser.

I've always dreamed of having a little brown terrier, like my stuffed dog Pepper, or maybe a pug. Of course I'd go to a shelter and get a rescue dog, and of course I'd want a dog that could be happy in an apartment situation with a working mom, which could be tough. And I'd name her Daphne, or him Nigel.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

a study in contrasts

I attended my first staff meeting at LACMA this week. What a crazy place! I'd just come from checking out some leaks in the ceiling of our special exhibition spaces (!), and Michael G. came up to me directly to ask how I was settling in. That's awfully nice of him! I told him where I'd been, and he said, that's why we call it "leak-ma," as he stuffed a cookie in his mouth.

The meeting itself was in the glamorous Bing auditorium, and started with all the lights going dark, and the crowd cheering. The screen was then illuminated with the zingy, albeit somewhat cheesy, new 3D promo spot for the museum that will be playing in theaters across Los Angeles soon. Morgan Freeman narrates. This was followed by a hilarious animation of the Resnicks and their art collection getting ready for installation for the big opening of the new exhibition pavilion. You'd think we were in Hollywood or something.

Then Michael & Melody (2nd in command) took the stage and energetically thanked the staff for all their hard work recently, informed us that there would be a merit increase this year, and no health insurance increase (in contrast to many similar museums, including the Getty), and said that overall we are in excellent shape financially. MG confirmed that he's renewed his contract for another 6 years, and conceded that yes, there are some issues and challenges ahead, but LACMA has a bright and exciting future. Yay! Plus, there were 41 new staff members introduced. That's gotta be almost 25% of the total staff. That explains a lot right there -- both the energy and the chaos!

Walking out with another Getty alum, we marveled at what a contrast this was to Getty staff meetings, which were mostly doom and gloom. The air was always heavy when our director somberly took the stage to tell us that there would be layoffs, there wouldn't be merit increases yet again, health insurance costs would be higher next year, our multi-billion-dollar endowment was in trouble, and ultimately, that he was resigning. We'd leave each meeting feeling disgruntled and demoralized. Sure LACMA may be flying a bit by the seat of its pants, a bit willy nilly, a bit wackadoo, but most people are happy, the institution is ambitiously moving forward while hiring new staff and paying them well, and we have a director who is both empowered and present. Freaky!