Friday, November 11, 2011


Take care of your teeth, people. My teeth are my weakest physical feature. I count myself lucky. Better my teeth than my liver or some important internal organ. But it still sucks, and as such, I should take extra special care of them with fancy toothbrushes, flossing, and REGULAR DENTAL CHECK UPS. After college I went almost five years without visiting a dentist, and when I finally built up the courage to go, I paid the price with a nice root canal and crown.

I was then a good girl for quite a while . . . until the last year and a half or so. Granted, I've been busy and distracted with other things, but I recently noticed that one tooth in particular was looking pretty sketchy, so I finally dragged my self into the dentist. I love my dentist, and especially my hygienist, but like many people, I HATE sitting in that chair having tools stuck in my mouth and tasting and smelling all the nasty dental tastes and smells! Today I had my second root canal, and I'll be back in a couple weeks for my second crown. Boo! But at least they can fix me up, and at least I'm finally back on the dental hygiene wagon. Don't let this tragedy happen to you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Hooray! My peccary is finally a reality on the new conservation carousel at the Los Angeles Zoo! This very special carousel showcases rare and endangered animals from around the world, and plays mellow gold music (instead of the usual sickening music box tunes). And no two are alike. In addition to my peccary, there's an armadillo, a gorilla, a chimpanzee, an okapi, a red river hog, a pronghorn, a lion and a tiger, a seal, a giraffe and a zebra, a baby elephant, a couple token horses, and a large praying mantis, to name only a few.

In a major fundraising effort, each carousel animal cost $25,000. Luckily for me however, there was a raffle for a free animal at one point, so I bought a $150 ticket (not expecting to win, but figuring it couldn't hurt to support the overall cause in my own small way), and my name was drawn! It was announced at the Beastly Ball this summer, and I think there was general pride and happiness that a volunteer should be the person to win such a prize. My first thought was to choose the armadillo, in honor of Dad, but he was already sold, so I chose the delightful peccary, which has special significance to me and Mr. G. But what do you know, the peccary and armadillo are side by side on the carousel. Yay!

italian ashes: venice

I swear this is the last entry about ashes for a while.

Venice. Everyone loves Venice. Mom had a special fondness for it. Almost an irrational fondness for it! Of course it's a wonderful place to visit, but one of the main reasons I wanted to go on this particular trip was specifically to make sure I could scatter some Mom ashes there. It's very important that she be there, and I know Dad would be happy to be there too. So we hopped on a vaporetto and cruised the Grand Canal.

There was a noisy gaggle of Italian teenagers crowding our boat for the first half of our journey, but happily they disembarked somewhere in the outer lagoon, so we were then able to have the open-air back section to ourselves. It was quite chilly and breezy, but I attempted to discretely deposit their ashes -- one canister at a time -- over the back edge of the boat and into the Canal. This way they can flow throughout the city, up and down the waterways, past the decrepit palazzos, under the many bridges, around the gilded gondolas, and soak up all that Venice has to offer.

Unfortunately, in my nervousness about getting caught or reprimanded, I was hasty, and soon realized that most of the ashes had accumulated on the edge of the boat instead of falling directly into the water! Dang! And if you know anything about anything, it's pretty clear that this isn't just "dust" on the back of the boat. I tried to casually brush it off with a rolled up map, but to little avail. So, Mom and Dad are cruising the Canal on a boat instead of in the water. You might envision them sitting back there dangling their feet in the cold water, enjoying the views. Eventually, they'll blow off or get rained on or something, and ultimately become one with the waters of Venice.

I still have plenty of ashes to spare, so perhaps I'll take them with me to Hawaii at Christmas. It's not a place they ever visited or expressed interest in, but I'm sure it's beautiful, so why not? Mom's sister Joyce has scattered her ashes in a few scenic spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. And I'll definitely take her to Cannon Beach up in Oregon some day. Until then, I guess wherever I travel, I'll bring them along too (one way or another).

italian ashes: san gimignano

Next stop: San Gimignano, one of the most beautiful and historic of all the Tuscan hill towns. We walked along the ancient city walls, and found a beautiful courtyard surrounded by olive groves and medieval towers. A harpist played and sang under a tree, and we almost felt transported back in time. Walking around Siena, Ravena, and Padua, I never found spots that seemed appropriate for Mom and Dad to rest. But this corner of San Gimignano called to me.

For Mom, a view of Tuscany through a narrow doorway in the old stone walls. She can see rolling green hillsides, blue skies, olive groves, and an old church in the distance. Maybe she'll sit and listen to the harpist. Maybe she'll take a walk down into town and have a gelato or buy herself some silly tea towels and miniature replicas of medieval houses.

For Dad, a view of Tuscany through the ramparts, under some gracious trees with the sun streaming through their leaves into an otherwise shady stretch of the old stone walls. Maybe he'll sit and contemplate the lives of those that have come and gone before him in this historic setting. Maybe he'll have a picnic of boar's meat salami and beer. Regardless, I hope they're happy here. I feel a little happy thinking of them being here.

italian ashes: florence

Now for Italy. I brought both my parents to Italy with me for my wedding and honeymoon, in color-coded containers of course so as not to confuse them, and to pass through airport security discretely. I don't know what the rules are for crossing international borders with human remains, but I do know that it's illegal to scatter them just anywhere. For whatever reason. They're hardly a bio-hazard -- they've been cleansed by fire for god's sake! Anyway, blue scientific jars for Dad and red spice jars for Mom, and a determination to spread them around Italy, a place they both loved (especially Mom -- man, she was obsessed with the entire country! Rightly so).

In Florence, I took them to one of the highest points in Boboli Gardens, with its stunning views of the rolling Tuscan countryside. It's an immensely pleasant place to be, dead or alive. In fact I wish I was there right now. Last time I was there, prior to our wedding trip, was with Mom in 2008. We trekked up to this particular garden, but it's hard to imagine her making that trek in more recent years, knowing what I know now about her heart condition. :-(

Anyway, there were pink rose bushes on either side of the main garden path, so I sprinkled some Dad on the left, and some Mom on the right. And there they lie, each under their own rose bush, looking up at the blue sky but protected from the bright sun. And if there are such things as spirits -- or even ghosts -- I like to think of them sitting on the edge of the wall looking out at the beautiful scenery when everyone else has gone for the day.

Under Mom's rosebush, I encountered this little green lizard. He/she ran at first, but then gave me a cautious backwards glance over his/her shoulder. Hello, little lizard! Somehow I thought this would've been more appropriate under Dad's rosebush (he often called me "Lizard"), but this lizard was waiting for Mom. Maybe because of all the lizard adventures we had in Paestum on our 2008 trip together. We counted 20+ lizards on our short walk between the train station and the temples, and there was even one in her lap while we ate lunch!

reunited in austin

My parents both went to the University of Texas at Austin. I think they probably met before Mom was technically a student there, but UT is certainly where their romance blossomed, and they were married in Austin in 1966. Dad was a college buddy of Mom's older brother Tom, which is how they met, no doubt when Tom brought his buddy home over some college break, and Joe noticed his cute younger sister sitting haughtily in the back seat of the car (at least I think that's the story I was told). So naturally, I felt it was important that they both reside there in the afterlife somehow.

My uncle Dwight (Mom's other brother) lives in Austin, and had already scattered her ashes under a big beautiful oak tree near the LBJ Library. It's a gigantic old tree, in a peaceful meadow on a quiet corner of campus. He took me there, and showed me where he'd placed Mom, near some low-hanging branches, the sunlight glinting through them from under the tree's canopy. I placed Dad there too. He would totally go on a tirade about being in proximity to anything having to do with LBJ, but it's a lovely location, and I think part of him must have secretly enjoyed those tirades in life. Rant on, Dad, rant on.

I wandered the campus for a while, and scattered some Dad ashes in a nice turtle pond near the infamous Campanile from which Charles Whitman shot dozens of people in 1966. My parents both walked that route frequently, and could easily have been among the victims. Luckily they lived to die another day. I'm happy that Dwight brought Mom to campus, but UT was really Dad's place. It was a highlight (if not "the" highlight) of his life, and I swear a day didn't go by that he didn't talk about it (or at least think about it privately). That era defined him, at least in his own mind, so it felt especially necessary to bring him back there, to let his spirit enjoy campus life once again.

I went to Waggener Hall, which is the current home of both the Philosophy and Classics Departments, my parents' two majors. I don't know if this was the case in the 1960's, but I figured it was a good gesture (at least) to scatter some Dad ashes here too. Outside of course. But I did buy a UT Philosophy Department t-shirt in his honor.

ashes, ashes . . .

I've been meaning to write about ash distribution for some time. You may think me morbid, with my seeming obsession with scattering my parents' ashes all over the world. But what can I say? It feels right. And for whatever reason, I feel compelled to document their dispersal in this blog. (See earlier posts about Dad on the beach, at Grandma's grave, and around San Francisco.) Why do I even bother? Do I really believe that some part of their soul or essence will remain in these locations; locations that mean something to me, or meant something to them? Perhaps. Or maybe I just don't want to be burdened with a box full of human remains, and so I'd rather distribute them in a tasteful and loving way. Or all of the above.

This spring I scattered some of Mom's ashes around La Jolla shores: up on the cliffs where we had her memorial gathering, overlooking the Pacific Ocean; and under the Pier that juts out into the ocean from her former office at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Now Mom and Dad are both scattered on the shores of La Jolla, but I took care to place them at opposite ends! Not that it matters, since their ashes were almost immediately washed out to sea where everything co-mingles anyway -- just like our souls or energy (or whatever it is) rejoins the greater energy force (or whatever you want to call it) when we leave this earthly sphere. But they both needed to be scattered in La Jolla because that's where I was conceived.