I’d use a more colorful name but she’d probably sue me. Like she’s suing an 11-year-old boy for throwing a baseball. In a dugout. At a Little League ball field, where presumably baseballs are thrown and sometimes not caught. But wait, if Elizabeth Lloyd has chosen to insert herself into the media, in her money-grubbing way, she’s a public figure, right? So I can call her whatever name I like and she has to take it. Perhaps I need to brush up on my libel knowledge, but in the meantime, I’m going to call her Asshat.
Here’s the story, in case you were paying attention to real news that actually matters and missed it: Asshat was at a Little League game in New Jersey two years ago, watching her son play, and was hit in the face by a ball. She was sitting on top of a picnic table next to the fenced dugout where a catcher, Matthew Migliaccio, was warming up his teammate, the pitcher. Migliaccio overthrew the ball and it hit Asshat in the face. According to the local newspaper, He ran over to her to ask if she was ok, and she told him she was fine. Says Matthew: “I went over to see if she was okay, and she said that she was fine and not to worry about it. About like three weeks after, she came and gave me a hug and she told me that it wasn’t my fault.” Asshat said to Matthew, “I know you didn’t do anything wrong.”
However, two years later — just days before the statute of limitations would expire — Asshat decides that errant ball was thrown “intentionally and recklessly” and she needs half a million dollars for it. WTH??
Asshat claims that Matthew assaulted and battered her.
This claim is insulting to anyone who has truly been assaulted and/or battered. I’m sick.
So is Matthew. Poor baby was minding his own business, probably playing MW3 on the Playstation like the 13-year-old boy who lives at my house, when the doorbell rings and he is served papers. A 13-year-old child was served papers. Matthew said, “I think it’s pretty mean to sue someone after you told them that you knew it wasn’t their fault.”
Pretty mean indeed.
Matthew’s attorney, Anthony Pagano, says the case is bogus and the family will not settle with Asshat. “What are we gonna do, take his bike? He’s 11,” Pagano said.
Fact: 11-year-old kids overthrow balls. Fact: 11-year-old kids do not always catch overthrown balls. Fact: Elizabeth Lloyd is an asshat.
The overthrown ball traveled more than 60 feet before it hit Asshat, who was sitting 5 feet from the fenced bullpen. Reports conclude that while Matthew is an avid gamer, playing on 3 different teams, he was 11 years old at the time of the “assault” and didn’t exactly have a cannon of an arm like one sees in the major league. Matthew’s father says ”It’s absurd to expect every 11-year-old to throw the ball on target. Everyone knows you’ve got to watch out. You assume some risk when you go out to a field. That’s just part of being at a game.”
Hear hear. Guess what, Asshat — life is risky; get a helmet.
The news of our beloved Red Sox trading Kevin Youkilis got me thinking about loyalty. It’s an under-appreciated trait, IMHO, and its value tends to be most noticed in its absence.
Youk was one of my favorite players, both for his on-field production and for his feisty attitude. He spoke his mind and took the heat that ensued from fans and press who prefer their players to shut up and play. He was part of the Red Sox from 2001, and was an integral part of the roster that my family fell in love with in our early days of Sox indoctrination. I’ll never forget this little Sox fan asking me what his beloved Nomar did wrong when he was traded in 2004. This loyal fan didn’t yet understand that baseball is not just his favorite game, but a business as well, and players are commodities that are moved and used to ensure financial success. It’s a hard-learned lesson and one that removed forever a piece of my little guy’s innocence.
Despite Youk’s last name, he’s not actually Greek but this Greek girl considers him an honorary countryman. In the wildly successful book Moneyball, author Michael Lewis christened Youk “Euclis: The Greek God of Walks” and the nickname stuck. I appreciated Youk for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his record for most consecutive errorless games at first base (until Casey Kotchman came along, anyway). He’s scrappy and intense, and as Boston Globe writer Jackie MacMullan so aptly described, “He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store.”
I’m thinking he could easily pass for a crew member on “The Deadliest Catch” as well. All part of his charm. His Gold-Glove-Award-winning, three-time MLB All Star, and two-time World Series champion self will be greatly missed by this member of Red Sox nation. Upon my first visit to Fenway, a decade ago, I couldn’t understand why fans uniformly booed Youk when he came up to bat. I quickly realized they weren’t booing but chanting “Yoooooooooouk!” I hope to see many jerseys sporting #20 when we go to Fenway in August. I’ll be wearing mine.
Is it strange to feel so sad seeing our current favorite player hugging an outgoing Sox mainstay? Is it weird to feel bereft about a player’s departure from a favorite team? Is it naive to want everything to stay the same? Sometimes loyalty brings great sadness; to pledge oneself opens one up to vulnerability. And unfortunately, loyalty does come and go. I learned this firsthand when given a cancer diagnosis.
A crisis, whether health or other, galvanizes some and chases away others. Friends show their true selves, for good and for bad. Some of the people I most expected to be there for me upon diagnosis and in the trying days beyond were the first to depart. The reasons are as varied as the people. I imagine fear is top among the list of reasons people flee when a close friend is given shockingly bad news. While everyone knows in their rational brain that cancer isn’t contagious, the proximity of a dreaded disease causes some people to distance themselves from the afflicted person. Personally, I don’t get that, as I was brought up to believe that a time of crisis is the best time to be by a friend’s side. This lesson was reaffirmed and underscored tenfold as new friends appeared on the scene in my hour of need. Y’all know who you are, and I thank you, again and again. Another reason for the exodus is lack of loyalty. My sweet mama used to tell me it’s easy to be a good friend when everything is peachy, but the real friends, the loyal friends, will be there when things aren’t so peachy. As usual, she was right.
Confucius said, “The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith.” I’m not much of a scholar, but I do treasure loyalty.
If our annual reunion weekend of my Duke girlfriends had a theme each year, this one might be “Making a Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear.” But seeing as I have a mini sow at home, who is such a valued member of our family that the idea of using her ear, or any other body part, for a purse is utterly repulsive, we’ll go with another cliche. Perhaps “Making Lemonade from All the Lemons We’ve Been Given.”
I had every intention of waxing poetic about my dad for Father’s Day, but the words aren’t flowing in a way that will allow me to do justice to the topic. Instead, I’ll resort to letting pictures do the talking for me. A picture is worth 1,000 words, right?
My brother and his kids arrived from New Jersey on Saturday for a long-overdue visit. My dad is in hog heaven with all 4 of his grandchildren together. My parents waited a long time for grandkids, then got 4 in 5 years. My brother and I both had a boy followed by a girl, just as my parents had. While these 4 kids have never lived in the same state, they enjoy each other’s company as if they have grown up next-door to each other.
They don’t often sit down for a meal together, but when they do, they have a ball.
This visit has been full of fun. Nothing makes my dad happier than being surrounded by his grandkids. It’s a mutual adoration society.
Splashing in the pool, riding amusement park rides, and hanging out — good times.
We miss you, YaYa, but promise to have fun and to love each other nonetheless.
Greetings from the lovely San Luis resort in Galveston, TX. I’m sipping a cold one poolside with my dad & brother and celebrating their special day. My bro & I haven’t spent a lot of time together since his move to The Garden State a few years ago, so this is good stuff. Our dad has been itching to have all 4 of his grands under one roof, and it’s finally a reality.
My dad is pretty awesome. From him I learned many things, not the least of which is the value of hard work, sticking to one’s guns, and marching to one’s own beat. I could wax poetic on this subject, but blogging via iPhone isn’t my forte, so I’ll leave you with my favorite of Dad’s many saying (It’s just what you do), with promises of more to come.
I’m not sure “stagnation” is an actual word, but I like the alliteration so it stays. It’s my blog, after all, and I can make up words if I want to (but I’m still not comfortable ending a sentence with a preposition, hence the parenthetical aside).
Ok, with that out of the way…on to the news.
Susan Love announced that she’s been diagnosed with leukemia.
My immediate response to this news: Dammit.
Dr Susan Love is someone I respect and admire, and she’s done more for the breast cancer cause than a room full of Komens, IMHO. Her book, Dr Susan Love’s Breast Book, is considered the bible for those with breast cancer. Her focus is on research, not ribbons. The mission statement for her organization is this: “The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation works to eradicate breast cancer and improve the quality of women’s health through innovative research, education, and advocacy.” She mobilized the Army of Women to get women of all ages, races, and stages involved in research. I’ve participated in several AOW studies, from simple online surveys to blood tests, and believe wholeheartedly in what she’s doing. Love says, “The key to ending breast cancer is to learn how to stop it before it starts.” YES! She also says,
“I have spent my whole life working in the field of breast cancer. At this point I am frustrated that we are still doing the same treatments with about the same results as when I started thirty years ago. Now that we can get to where breast cancer starts we have the opportunity to eradicate it. I am excited and impatient. The road is clear. We can go slowly or quickly, but everyday that we delay another 592 women will be diagnosed and 110 will die. The cost is too high to hesitate. This is our job not our daughters’, granddaughters’, nieces’ or nephews’. We can do it and we have to do it!”
When Love announced her diagnosis yesterday, she was resolute in facing the bad news, saying “As many of you know, I have never shrunk from a challenge. I plan to bring my indomitable drive and energy to overcoming this and will be back to work as soon as possible.” Go get ’em, Susan!
Next, the science news. A 45-year-old Bay Area man has been cured of HIV and the cause of his cure is a bone marrow stem cell transplant. My friend Katie at Uneasy Pink sums up the science of this breakthrough much better than I; check it out. Long story short is that the guy, who tested positive for HIV in 1995, also battled leukemia and underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Berlin in 2007. The donor was immune to HIV, and as those cells were transplanted, so was the immunity.
Famed AIDS researcher Dr. Jay Levy, who co-discovered the HIV virus, said this case opens the door to the field of “cure research,” which is now gaining more attention. “If you’re able to take the white cells from someone and manipulate them so they’re no longer infected, or infectable, no longer infectable by HIV, and those white cells become the whole immune system of that individual, you’ve got essentially a functional cure.”
I am all kinds of fired up about this incredible news.
There is great potential, and the idea of cure research is exciting. I would love to see if spill over into breast cancer. As Katie puts it, “I understand that HIV/AIDS and cancer are very different diseases. But look at the progress that has been made over several decades. In 1983, the idea that we would be deciding whether someone was cured or not of AIDS, that we would be debating how few cells mean cure, was unthinkable. Back then, virtually everyone who contracted AIDS died of it, and in about 9 months from diagnosis. Now the average survival time after diagnosis is 24 years.”
Survival time of 24 years. Remember when AIDS first hit the scene in the early 1980s, and a diagnosis was the same as a death sentence? Now, 30 years later, AIDS experts are talking about cure research? Amazing.
Why isn’t this kind of thinking being applied to breast cancer research?
I’m guessing the reasons are many, but can’t help but think that one reason is because we’ve made breast cancer so pretty. It’s one of the most heavily funded cancers in terms of research, yet as Dr Love points out, treatments and results are the same now as they were 30 years ago. I know, I know — cancer is incredibly complex and varied, not just in terms of the different types (breast, colon, etc) but within each type, there are immense differences. Then there are the differences in each person who’s diagnosed, as well as the differences in each cell. I don’t expect a panacea, but I do expect cure research.
It’s funny — not ha ha funny but peculiar — that in trying to de-stigmatize breast cancer, we’ve ended up trivializing it. The glamor disease is marketed as rosy, fun, and celebratory, when in fact, it’s deadly. And in the cases in which it doesn’t kill its victims, it nonetheless maims them and messes them up in untold ways. Even the “lucky ones” who “caught it early” and “enjoyed the best possible outcome” are scarred, physically and emotionally.
Do we really need ads like this?
What does this accomplish, exactly? As a woman, this makes me mad. As a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, it infuriates me. And as a woman who has undergone reconstruction and is facing the hard truth that no amount of surgery will ever restore what I once had, it makes me want to strangle someone with my bare hands. Maybe I’ll start with those models then move on to the jackass behind the ad campaign.
If you zoom in on this dumb ad, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on here besides lots of skin, perky breasts, and a hand. This is what passes for breast cancer “awareness?”
Did the ad execs behind this think the hint of lesbianism would sell? Did they consider that the woman of color in the middle would be completely shafted should she be diagnosed, because black women die from breast cancer far more often than white women?
Then there’s the text of the ad: Connect, communicate, and conquer? Could this be any more vague and vapid? What the hell are they even selling? I had to look closely and read the fine print to see who put this ad out there. It’s on the very bottom of the ad — the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, which is run by Estee Lauder. Again, what the hell are they selling? Remove the pink-ribbon bracelet and this could easily be an ad for a plastic surgeon hawking breast augmentation.
I’ve had it with this side of the “awareness” campaign. Can anyone tell me what this kind of marketing does to actually help our cause? I know the research dollars have to come from somewhere, but surely we don’t need naked breasts to plead our case.
These last two are my favorite. The boxing girl, who I’ve written about before, because the idea of being a fighter when it comes to breast cancer is so pervasive, and the flip side to that idea being the ones who die from this wretched disease somehow didn’t fight quite hard enough and “lost the battle.” The “Expose the Truth” ad, from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, because the “truth” has nothing at all to do with the model they chose to represent their message. The truth is, ads like these perpetuate the idea that breast cancer is a sexy, pretty disease.
There’s a line in the movie Ice Age–during the fight between the dodo birds, Sid, and Manny over some melons–that applies here. The animals are scrambling to scoop up the melons, which are in short supply, and their bumbling leads to the melons being misappropriated. Sid the sloth gets the final melon but drops it when he’s swarmed by dodos. Manny grabs the melon with his trunk, but loses it when a dodo bites his tail. He throws the melon into the air and the dodos make a final play for it, but Sid catches it and the dodos fall over themselves, exclaiming, “The laaaaast melon.”
What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Be patient, I’m getting to it.
Just like the laaaaaast melon, this is the last installment in the northern Louisiana series. Our trip last week has provided such good blog fodder, like this post about the trip itself and this post about puttin’ up corn and this post about skeet-shooting and this post about the best practical joke in a long time, maybe ever.
This wrap-up features a FEMA trailer, my favorite girl acquiring a new skill, yet another cute dog, a slave grave, and wisdom gained from the country. To say that this trip was a huge departure from the everyday minutia of my normal life — kids, pets, suburbia, and searching for the new normal after breast cancer — would be quite the understatement.
The FEMA trailer sits behind Mama & Papa’s house. Bought at an auction after its displaced residents no longer needed it, the outside looks what I imagine it looked like while being used as temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans in August 2005. The inside, however, has been outfitted with some custom woodwork and a few of Papa’s special touches to create a mighty fine fishin’ trailer. In fact, on the table is Papa’s computer-generated shopping list of supplies he’ll need for the next fishing trip.
The last of the 145,000 FEMA trailers used to house displaced people in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina was recently removed from New Orleans. Many of the trailers were sold by FEMA at auctions, and some were used to house workers assigned to clean up the Deepwater Horizon/BP mess in April of last year. After housing some 770,000 newly homeless who were displaced after Katrina destroyed 75 percent of housing units in New Orleans, the trailers have been snapped up by outdoorsy folks who need a place to hang their hat after a long day fishing or hunting.
It was cool to see this piece of history. FEMA trailers were such a ubiquitous part of the storm, and will remain a symbol of the size and scale of the damage Katrina inflicted. Living along the Gulf Coast myself makes me patently aware of the power and fury of hurricanes, and Katrina was a doozy.
On a much lighter note–Macy’s new skill. My favorite girl learned how to drive a 4-wheeler. All by herself. As ubiquitous as FEMA trailers were in NOLA, 4-wheelers were everywhere we went, and at age 10 my girl was a bit long in the tooth to be just learning. That’s what you get as a city-slicker, however.
Macy wasted no time in learning, and did well for a city girl. With Molly the dog leading the way, Macy explored the trail that winds through our hosts’ property. Wish y’all could have seen her face as she had her lesson from Amy. It was a curious mix of wonder, excitement, concentration, and reverence all stirred together. Like the complex and many-faceted girl she is, I suppose. A lot of kids would take that 4-wheeler and gun it, tearing all around the property, but this girl was careful and methodical about driving. I hope that’s the case when she turns 16!
Another cute dog was on hand, bringing the total of new furry friends to at least 7. We met this little charmer at Gina’s house as we sipped a glass of wine by the pool before dinner. She belongs to a neighbor but comes to Gina’s to visit. No bigger than a minute and so meek she crawled on her belly to greet us, I couldn’t resist pulling her into my lap. Her name is Jill, but the charming northern Louisiana pronunciation is “G-eeeeeel.” She reminded us so much of our sweet doggie friend Lima. Perhaps they’re distant cousins.
It was also at Gina’s that we saw the slave grave and expounded on the story of Josephine. On one of the many nights Amy stayed with me in the hospital during my countless hospitalizations thanks to mess that is cancer, she told me the story of Josephine, and it was amazing to be on her turf after hearing so much about her.
Listening to Amy tell me about Josephine while I endured yet another night on scratchy hospital sheets fighting that dadgum post-mastectomy infection was a memorable escape during a time of hardship. It’s the story of a young girl who lived and worked on the Shelton Plantation in the mid-1800s, which is now the site of Gina’s beautiful home and acres of beautiful woods. It’s believed that Josephine’s father was the plantation owner and her mother was a slave. Deep in the woods lies this grave marker. It’s a simple yet beautiful grave marker, and an interesting piece of the past. Coming across the grave site in the woods was a profound experience that reminded me that life is fragile and fleeting. This girl was just 19 and a half when she died–curiously enough, at the same age as Amy’s brother, Sam, who is also buried on Gina’s property. The family decided in the wake of Sam’s tragic death to officially designate a portion of Gina’s land as a family cemetery. It’s a beautiful and serene patch of woods that invites lingering, contemplating, and remembering. My mom’s gravesite is the last place I’d go to feel close to her, and to me the conventional cemetery does precious little to invoke a sense of connectedness to the departed one. If she were laid to rest in a beautiful and sacred spot like this, however, it would be a different story, and I can imagine sitting under the tall trees and talking to my sweet mama like we used to do every single day.
I’ve heard a lot about Sam and know by the way his sisters speak of him that he was someone special. Losing someone you love is hard, hard, hard to take, and when that someone is young and killed unexpectedly like Sam was, the tragedy is especially long-legged. I’ve learned on my own that grief is a heavy and long-lasting thing, and I felt that lesson keenly while in the woods the other day. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, one of my all-time favorite books, John Irving writes:
“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time — the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers.”
I know this must be true of Sam, too. It was a privilege to be present in this lovely place, and the feeling of being there will stay with me.
The woods seem never-ending, and the blanket of trees served as a rugged and insular backdrop as I contemplated Josephine and felt the absence of Sam in this close-knit family. I never got tired of looking at the woods. My favorite girl kept saying, “The trees go on for days!” Indeed they do.
I learned from this quick trip is that it’s good to get out of town and savor the purity and goodness of the country. Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray that “anyone can be good in the country.” What a fantastic thought! As if the fresh air, wide open spaces, and relaxed pace in the country aren’t enough! Spending time with a family that truly and genuinely loves and treasures each other is a beautiful thing; being enveloped by such a family is an honor. I’ve always wished for a sister, and after being around Amy and hers, now I really wish I had one.
He’s a coyote, not a wolf. My bad. But let’s not become distracted by the matter at hand, which is hijinks. My lovely hostesses got up to some hijinks on our last night in Louisiana, and everyone was in on it but me.
A coyote in the bathroom is par for the course for these girls. In fact, they’ve been pulling this trick on unsuspecting houseguests for years — literally. Is it any wonder I love these girls?
A little history: Sister Wendy, whose bathroom is pictured above, has a friend, Hanks, who is a biologist. Hanks and his wife, also a biologist, have access at their workplace, the Monroe branch of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, to some fine, preserved animals. “Choppa” is one such animal. Apparently Choppa was due to be retired after 30-some years baring his teeth, but was too fine a specimen to be thrown onto the trash heap. Hanks rescued Choppa, and like many other wayward animals, he came to reside at Wendy’s house.
Sounds like a nice, altruistic story of coyote adoption, right?
Nuh-uh. While Wendy & her hubs Lester are the epitome of altruistic when it comes to rescuing abandoned animals, having amassed quite the menagerie of strays, their altruism is certainly equaled if not outmatched by their mischief. Hence the coyote in the bathroom.
Allow me to introduce the current cast of Wendy & Lester’s menagerie. I really should let Sister Wendy tell this part because she’s much more amusing than I (again, hence the coyote in the bathroom), but she’s probably busy at this very moment in the OR helping someone transition from an old, worn-out hip or knee to a new and improved body part. So, you’re stuck with my version with bits of Wendy’s version sprinkled in for flavor.
There’s Brown Betty, who’s in charge of the pack. Don’t let that sweet face and those soft brown eyes fool you — she rules her pack with an iron fist, but I like to think she imparts her authority with love not tyranny. She had the good sense to show up at Wendy’s house, and the agreement was to foster her for a few weeks while Sister Holly found her a home. Sister Holly also has a soft spot for stray dogs who could easily star in the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, we’ll now refer to Sister Holly as King Moonracer.
So King Moonracer finds Brown Betty and says she will find her a home while temporarily placing her with Aunt Wendy. That was 8 months ago. I’m guessing Brown Betty is a keeper. Wendy refers to BB as “a work in progress” and her main talent is identifying things that belong to Lester to chew.
Baby Gretchen showed up Wendy & Lester’s as a tiny baby. So tiny it was hard for her benefactors to tell if she was a kitten or a pup. She was small but mighty and mean enough to bite right through Lester’s palm. Gotta love a tiny girl with big spunk. She has a permanent sneer from a previous injury, which is just plain funny. It’s hard to get a photo of her because she’s a little nervous about people pointing things at her, and my iPhone-attempt to snap a quick pic of her freaked her out.
Then comes Disco, whose main nickname is Biscuit, and somehow I managed to conflate the two names to create Bingo, much to my favorite girl’s chagrin. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why I kept flubbing that sweet dog’s name. Bingo didn’t mind the flubbing. She survived being shot or stabbed in the mouth as a young pup, so she’s pretty forgiving of a city-slicker who messes up her name. I love Bingo for that, and also because she has the softest face, which reminded me of my sweet Harry. And because she likes to sleep all the way under the covers, which reminds me of our little piggie.
Disco/Biscuit/Bingo has perhaps the most colorful story of all the mules in the pack. Wendy and Amy saw her running down the highway the day after Thanksgiving and noticed she had a collar so they called her over to get her owner’s info off her tag. Wendy says Disco came right to her, but jeepers creepers she was dripping pus from her jaw. Her jaw “was obviously caddywompus and not quite aligned as one would expect.” Intrepid rescuers were not deterred, however, and loaded her into the truck but had to stick their heads out of the windows because the smell was SO BAD! (emphasis Wendy’s). They cleaned her up and had Papa give her a penicillin shot, then brought her to Camp Langley (aka Wendy’s place) for a bath and some TLC. After her bath and her medical treatment, you might think that Disco was on the mend. However, as Disco shook her wet coat in the kitchen, Wendy says that “something went flying! I found some jawbone in the living room. Yes, I said jawbone.” Yikes. Wendy started Disco on antibiotics and flushed her jaw wound several times a day. “That girl was hooongree and thirsty! By Monday she was a new girl.” A trip to the vet confirmed a big bullet in her shattered jaw. Wendy reports that “most of the bone was dead, and the vet removed the jaw on one side and sewed her lip together so that it wouldn’t sag. She felt better than ever that night and has been our cutie pie since.” Talk about being luckier than a dog with two tails. As if having the most colorful back story isn’t enough, Disco also has the best nickname: Yellow-bellied-lilly-livered-long-eared-speckle-bellied-cat-head-biscuit.
At the bottom of the pack is Wayne Gretzky. About WG I have two words: sweet. heart. At first he scared me a little bit, I’ll admit, because he’s big and rock-solid. My first impression was that I wouldn’t want to meet up with him in a dark alley, but after scritching him between the eyes and having him flop at my feet, I realized he’s a lover, not a fighter.
Choppa, in all his glory with his impressive dentures flaring menacingly!
I can only surmise that the proliferation of adult beverages, including this delicious dill-pickle martini, is responsible for my less-than-creeped-out reaction to finding a snarling coyote on the vanity. If I recall, instead of a blood-curdling scream followed by a frantic fleeing from the scene followed by a need for a change of clothes, I uttered a small yelp that most likely disappointed the mischievous band of spectators. I’d give myself a 3 out of 10 for my reaction to Choppa. I was more alarmed by the fact that every single person knew what was going on but me. That kind of a hoodwinking following right on the heels of a full-blown surprise birthday party worries me. I’m afraid I may be losing my edge and will endeavor to become more observant, suspicious, and paranoid straight away.
Well, my middle name is Ann so I guess “Annie get yer gun” kinda works.
I’m not terribly familiar with guns, not having been raised around them. I’ve shot a handgun before and I think I recall shooting at tins cans with a rifle at some point (college maybe?) but in general guns give me the heebie jeebies because they’re unknown to me. But in northern Louisiana, where we spent a few blissful days, guns are as common as mosquitoes on a hot summer night.
The wise George Washington said ”Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the people’s liberty’s teeth.” I always liked the idea of liberty teeth. In this case, the firearms weren’t about liberty but about an afternoon’s entertainment.
My favorite 13-year-old has been itching to shoot a gun for a while. He talks about wanting to go deer hunting, and his vegetarian mama and his city-slicker daddy look at him like, “Good luck with that.” I will make him watch Bambi a few hundred times before I’d turn him loose with a gun in a deer blind.
We pulled into the private shooting range with our expert guide, Evan. He’s Amy’s nephew and while he’s new to the sport, he’s already a state champion. I knew we were in good hands.
I wanted to take a closer look at the picturesque pond, but as it was in the direct line of the shooting range, I thought I’d better stay put.
Then we got a little lesson on skeet shooting and trap shooting. All I knew about this sport prior to meeting Evan was that it seemed cool to yell “Pull!” Now I know a lot more.
I also dug around a little and discovered that the sport was created in the early 1920s when the industrial revolution crowded out hunting land and hunters had to work harder to find both space and game to hunt. Skeet shooting became a form of practice, and its popularity spread. The act of shooting the clay targets simulates actual hunting, and accounts for the targets’ being called clay pigeons.
A skeet shooting range is typically comprised of 7 positions arranged in a semicircle spanning 21 yards. There are two houses that launch the pigeons. The “high house” launches the pigeons at a 10-foot height, while the “low house” launches from 3 feet.
Once they’re all loaded onto the dealy-bob, you can shoot away to your heart’s content. I took a quick peek out the window of the “high house” to get a bird’s eye view. Or a clay piegeon’s view, as it were.
Straight ahead, out the “high house” window, is the “low house.”
My favorite girl spent her time not shooting but getting to know Evan’s sister, Ellis, who is not only the same age but also owns the same outfit as my girl. Kismet! The girls enjoyed the beautiful day at the shooting range playing the iPhone version of the game of Life.
Watching Evan shoot, it was easy to see why he’s a champion. He has the mark of a great athlete in that he makes his sport appear easy. There’s a grace and effortlessness to the way he shoulders his gun, squints his eyes, and tracks the target. Amy & I watched the kids shoot and hollered at the top of our lungs when a clay pigeon was struck mid-air. Evan made it look easy, but upon further inspection,I learned that hitting a target that measures 4 5/16 inches around and is barely an inch thick is a bit harder than it seems. It took my favorite boy a few tries but he nailed one, and the grin that split his face apart was worth the trip in and of itself.
After the boys had all shot, it was my turn. The gun might have been a little long for me, but I managed to nail a clay pigeon on my third try. My expert advisor noticed I was pulling the trigger before the target had a chance to crest, and my impatience the first two tries got the better of me. Once I slowed down, that pigeon was history.
Rudyard Kipling once observed that “a man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition.” I’m not going to argue with that!
Come back tomorrow to hear the story of Choppa, the wolf in the bathroom.
This is one of those posts that I feel needs a disclaimer right up front, because I already know I won’t be able to convey the fun we had, the experiences we gained, and the relationships we forged. The disclaimer should be something along the lines of the ubiquitous drug companies’ list of side effects for the various prescription drugs that populate print and TV advertising. Perhaps something along these lines: This post is intended to document the immense fun and incredible experience of a few days spent in northern Louisiana with an amazing family. This post should not be read while enduring a dismally empty social calendar or a puny vacation fund. This post may cause severe envy among readers who were not invited. Consult a psychotherapist if the side effects persist for more than four hours after reading, or proceed to the nearest emergency room if you find yourself entertaining thoughts of showing up in Bastrop, LA, unannounced.
Ok, I feel better now.
The more I think about it, the expanse of this experience cannot be contained in one simple posting, so there will need to be multiple installments. This, the first installment, is gonna cover the trip itself and the corn. Oh, the corn.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a fan of car travel and try to avoid it at all costs. That said, I would get in the car right now — not even 24 hours after returning home — and make the trip again. That’s how great this trip was. My favorite girl and my best boy and I packed up the car and headed out of Houston Tuesday morning, not knowing what lay ahead in the 400 miles between our house and our destination. Little did we know that we were in for the experience of a lifetime.
The first time my dear friend Amy invited me to her family home in Bastrop, LA, the timing didn’t work out; never again will I allow another event to stand in the way of going to Mama’s house.
Mama and Papa and the infamous Sanders sisters — Gina, Holly, and Wendy — rolled out the red carpet and put on the dog for us. First stop when we arrived at Mama’s house was a tour of Papa’s garden. I’d heard about this little slice of heaven and was beyond happy to see it with my own eyes. My iPhone photos do not do it justice. The first thing we saw upon entering Papa’s garden was asparagus, and I’m kicking myself for having missed its harvest.
I will be back in the spring for the asparagus. Mark my words, Papa!
Next is the cabbage. The plants are huge, and the ruffly leaves are pretty enough to be part of an elaborate floral arrangement. The heads, however, belong on a plate, sliced and simmered to perfection.
Our little piggie would lose her mind if she saw this watermelon, growing fat and ripe in the sun.
The corn was the star of the show, and one of the main reasons we drove to Mama’s.
We were going to get to help put up corn.
For the uninitiated, “putting up corn” refers to the process of picking, washing, blanching, de-kerneling, and freezing the delectable veggie. We’ve been on the receiving end of some of Mama’s corn, lovingly transported from Louisiana to Houston and carefully guarded and doled out upon special occasions.
This is good stuff, people.
There’s a reason Mama’s corn is referred to as “liquid gold.”
Here’s how it works: Papa picks the corn early, early in the morning once he’s deemed it ready. He can tell when it’s ready by looking at it on the stalk and by experience.
Know how many ears of corn each stalk produces?
Go on, guess.
Think about how tall and wide each stalk of corn is, and guess how many ears are waiting to be picked.
Yep, just two ears per stalk.
(I guessed 6. Silly city-slicker).
So the fresh-picked corn is piled up, ready to be shucked.
Before long, the shucking is done…
After the shucked corn is toted inside, it’s got to be meticulously washed. First the sink is scoured, then each and every ear is scrubbed and de-silked under hot water. While this step is the most laborious part, you know this germophobe loved it.
The container of water to the left of the cutter serves an important purpose: we dunk the shaved ears into the water, then run them back through the cutter in the opposite direction, to collect every drop of the milk.
We processed 192 ears, which translates into 17 quart-sized bags of liquid gold.
If Mama and Amy weren’t looking, I might have been tempted to kiss that corn good-night.
Once the corn was put to bed, we loaded up the discarded cobs onto the 4-wheeler’s trailer. By the time they’ve been de-kerneled and milked for every drop of goodness, they look like a foam roller used for painting a wall.
Usually Papa takes the used cobs into the woods and leaves them for the local wildlife. This time, however, the cobs went to Papa’s friend’s house to feed his wild hogs. My favorite girl wasted no time wrangling an invitation to go see these hogs for herself.
Stay tuned for a full report on our day of skeet-shooting.