Monday, January 27, 2003

Old Owed Ode

"A dragon lives forever but not so little boys/Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys/One gray night it happened Jackie Paper came no more/And Puff that mighty dragon he ceased his fearless roar"

I'm writing this less than 24 hours after having to make the decision that the next breath was too painful for Mr. Max to endure and his quality of life was likely not to improve much. I choked back the tears as I looked into his eyes one last time as the vet administered an overdose of an anesthesia as Max gasped for air. We had one last week together at home after he spent a week in the intensive care unit, and specifically in an oxygen cage/tent as a fluid in his lungs that was diagnosed as cancerous meant his time was very very limited. (The first time I visited him in the ICU he was facing away from me and as I turned him around there was a tear in his eye. The vet reassured me that it probably wasn't from pain or sadness but an effect of the extra oxygen. Still I was devastated)

I brought Max home thinking we might have a night or two left together. I was lucky it was a bit more. The first night back I stayed up and watched his every breath and couldn't help but think of the past 12 years we spent together. He was weak and food, his lifelong love, no longer interested him so I had to feed him through a tube in his nose. Away from the stress of a foreign environment his breathing did indeed get better and there was even one evening while he was lying on my chest that he began softly purring.

We had an extra week. But I knew I was postponing the inevitable. And now he is gone.

I don't want to turn this into an ode for a beloved pet because I've done plenty of that in the eleven year history of this publication. Every pet owner thinks their pet is special and though I like to think Mr. Max had an idiosyncratic personality unlike any other, he was a cat and he did cat like things. He liked to lay in the sun and minus that he would sleep most the day by a heating vent. He loved two things- he loved his meals and he loved having his belly rubbed. He fascinated me. He amused me. He educated me. He kept me company. He comforted me. Now I have to find the way to go on with just his memory inside and not the warmth of lying next to him each and every night.

"His head was bent in sorrow/Green scales fell like rain/Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane/Without his lifelong friend Puff could not be brave/So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave"

When I was a wee lad my parents gave me a collection of 45s. I played those songs over and over and though there were many I loved from "Yellow Submarine" to "Funiculi Funicula" from "I'm a Lil Teapot" to "A Little Bitty Tear" my favorite without a doubt was "Puff the Magic Dragon." A dear friend (the one who was kindhearted enough to accompany me to the vet) has accused me of liking sad songs. At the risk of confirming her perceptive suspicions perhaps it all began when I played "Puff" over and over. The song is about friendship, about growing older, growing apart and eventually about loss. Tonight it is the only song I can listen to. Jackie Paper had his Puff, Sherman had his Peabody. I had my Max.

Every Saturday night for the past eleven years I have put together this newsletter. And while working on just about every newsletter Max would be off in the other room, looking out the window or sleeping in my bed. He would inevitably get up and decide he would check to see what I was doing. He would peak his head around the corner and usually saunter on over and hop up into my lap. Yeah it was hard typing with a drooling kitty between me and the keyboard but I didn't mind. I don't know how long it's going to take for me to stop myself from looking around the corner for my friend.

I already miss how whenever I got home Max would greet me at the door. Sometimes he would meow, other times if he was particularly hungry or anxious about the amount of time he was left on his own he would bellow. Other times he would look to see who was entering and seeing it was only me, nonchalantly turn and walk away.

At the risk of sounding like one of those old gray ladies living with 65 kitties I must say that Max was one of the best friends I've made on this planet despite the difference in species. He understood me to the extent that no matter the day I had or the phase I was going through or through my many different moods he knew just what to do to forever melt my heart. I treasured every moment and loved him dearly.

Monday, January 20, 2003

A Little Bitty Tear

A Little Bitty Tear

"It's such a sad thing to see beauty decay/It's sadder still to feel your heart turn away..."
-Bob Dylan

I can't believe it's been

More than a decade

Since our paths

First crossed

So many days in between

and between you and I

we've felt every one

I was in my light blue period

When you first arrived

And I learned so much

By watching you

Just worry about what's

In front of you

Not what's behind

Basically I learned

how to survive

you learned the boundaries

of where you could roam

you looked outside

for an extension of our home

through the many different jobs

through the pain and the loss

sitting simply on my chest

was sometimes all that it took

to pull me back from

the outside in

the many walks we've taken

quite the sight

hat and pipe, leash and grazer

I held you close

When dad said mom was terminal

And you wouldn't leave my side

Getting a latte treat every weekend

With your gaze through the

Picture glass window

A silent meow

That made me grin

there was the azalea incident

visiting you in the ICU

tubes sticking out

and sadness in your eyes

but we got through

and enjoyed so much more

when will this end?

Too soon I fear

But I won't forget

It's forever etched

A true loyal friend

Of a stripe never seen again

Monday, January 13, 2003

My Favorite Blonde Martian

I should begin this week as I probably should every week- with an apology. I apologize to Al, Carl, Ty, and anyone else who works at the warehouse. Last Sunday as I got in my car heading off to complete production of this publication I noticed a god awful stench in my car. I sez to myself, I sez, "What the hell died?" The odor was so pungent I actually had to drive with my windows open days before it was fifty degrees in January. Brrrr, my high school friend voted class airhead Chris Jones, would have said.

I entered the warehouse dripping with more than the usual leeriness knowing when I was done I would have to open up the trunk of my scratched car and look for something in a state of decay. But lo and behold (and a bottle of bread!) as I was running off copies I noticed that the smell was in the warehouse as well. Hmmm, my post-college friend, Stephanie Jane, would have said.

I got home in a car not only still smelling but also downright chilly. As I was getting my lunch prepared I looked over and noticed that Mr. Max who now spends almost every minute of every day lying in his lil kitty hammock, up and sniffing curiously at my shoes. It then dawned on me that the unlikely coincidence of the same awful smell somehow having found its way in both my car and the warehouse might instead have something to do with me personally. Yup I sure stepped in something.

So if you guys arrived at the warehouse Monday morning and it was smelling of something terribly ripe, I am truly truly sorry. I would have gone back and cleaned anything I might have tracked around up, but darn it I was too busy trying to get the smell out of my car's floor mats.

But enough (or way too much) about stinkyness. How about something pleasant? I don't know if I've ever mentioned it but I have a certain fondness for Sandra Bullock. This fondness has more to do with how she reminds me of a "friend" from the past, a friend that remains with me more than a decade since I've last seen her than it does with me thinking Sandra is an extraordinary fabulous babe. I'll admit she isn't exactly hard to look at but I think she'd be my favorite actress even if she looked like Bela Lugosi.

That said have y'all picked up your copy of this month's Vogue? Oh my God. A now former workmate gave me the magazine as a going away gift. And what a gift it is. The cover shot of Sandra actually made me gasp. And the inside photos are among the best I've ever seen of her.

The cover pic alone almost is enough to convince me that there is indeed the existence of a higher being. Such beauty isn't normally found in fashion magazines after all. Yes the picture reveals a lovely shot of Sandra's bosom pushed up by a red and white dressy tank top (and a strategically placed black strap around the ribs) and yes that is what may catch the eye of most readers. But for me it's the eyes, it's the hair, it's the look on her face. This is the face of a gal that a fellow stuck in a decade long stupor would actually finally get off his arse for and maybe go out and do something eccentric like buy a white parakeet to give to her.

It's a picture I can't stop looking at yet still sheepishly don't want to let anyone see me looking at. The past is gone and you gotta keep moving forward. I've never been a great believer in one dimensional images but this one, dare I say, does something other than rob one of one's precious little soul.

Indeed I feel so inspired I think next week I'll go out and try and survive in an entirely different setting, an entirely different state of mind. Every three years I seem to jump out of the current and make a job switch and 2003 is no exception. I look into the picture of Sandra's eyes and I see 1988 all over and my first government job that included flinging voter registration cards into a bin and now years later there is so much more I'm going to be counted on doing. I stopped caring but things have changed.

Monday, January 6, 2003

02 Woman of the Year

Previous Winners: 1992: H. Ross Perot, 1993: St. Francis of Assisi, 1994: Newt Gingrich, 1995: Cal Ripken Jr., 1996: The Bob Dole Campaign, 1997: Dolly the Sheep, 1998: El Nino, 1999: Belinda Jensen, 2000: The Taco Bell Chihuahua, 2001: Randy Moss

As the selection committee gathered to begin the process of voting for the Newsletter's 11th annual Woman of the Year, members made it very clear that this year they finally wanted to select somebody who accurately reflected what the award is all about. Unfortunately since the turnover on the committee has been historically high due to the internal and sometimes public tri-partisan bickering bringing deliberations at times to a complete standstill, no one remaining was quite sure what the award really is supposed to be about. Still there was a general feeling that some of the last few recipients were picked more for the flash and attention than for being the best representation of the Woman of the Year.

Fortunately committee members agreed that this year unlike past years there was an abundance of qualified candidates and the challenge was not like in the recent past about selecting the lesser of two evils but rather making a tough decision between several intriguing possibilities. Among the nominees:

Michael Jackson: The image of an increasingly less than human looking Jackson dangling his blanket covered newborn over a several story up balcony was the most unforgettable news image of the year. Remember the good old days when the man was merely eccentric, collecting the remains of the elephant man, sleeping in an oxygen chamber? Now he's just plain weird. We repeat a newsletter mantra, "Has Jacko gone Whacko?"

Lindsay Whalen: the Gophers' star point guard is a tremendous player with multiple skills, the ability to penetrate to the basket, wonderful court vision and above all else cockiness to want to be the one the rest of the team relies on when the game is on the line. Her response to the defection of Coach Brenda Oldfield was award winning stuff in itself. Whalen stoically faced the press and said the team didn't need anyone around who didn't want to be there. And as a new season has started with the Women Gophers ranked in a place no one could have envisioned a mere two years ago (top 10 in the latest AP poll) Whalen has newsletterly like backed up her words without saying anything else.

Winona Ryder: Caught red-handed the skilled actress proved she is always on. Her defense? Admirably that she was just doing research for a part. In the end being a convicted shoplifter however didn't seem to be what the Cheapo Newsletter Woman of the Year should be all about.

George W. Bush: Maybe it was all the talk radio committee members had playing while involved in the selection process but there was a palatable sense of the shift to the right felt even before the November election. Americans have made it clear they can agree on two things: they hate taxes and they don't trust big government. Give credit to the Republicans and particularly their painfully inarticulate but highly popular leader Mr. Bush for cashing in on these two themes. That some taxes are sure to rise as the economy tanks at the same time as government expands its role in our lives in the name of the war against terrorism (or is it Iraq?) and that the turn to the right continues somehow suggests G.W. is some sort of secret genius. His opponents underestimate him while the public doesn't bat an eye at the inconsistency and incoherency of the message. Is there any more accurate reflection of the words that appear on this particular page week after week?

Spike the Vampire: TV's best character from TV's best show is delightfully complex. He's the forlorn and scorned poet; he's the frolicking yet forever failing not good enough and too disturbing to be Buffy's boyfriend. This season he sacrificed his sanity for the restoration of his soul. That was a familiar trade for many on the selection panel.

Randy Moss: Yup the committee was this close to naming its first ever two time winner. The running over the traffic cop incident was typical Moss- an overly publicized act of immaturity. His rambling apology to everyone on the planet except the traffic cop was classic Moss- he's gonna be who he's gonna be no matter the consequences.

The 2002 Newsletter Woman of the Year?: The Cheapo Newsletter. The search for a permanent name has been as fruitful as spitting into the wind. But being elusive doesn't necessary mean being meaningless. In the end committee members had to agree that the best representation of what the newsletter has been for the past 10 years is the newsletter itself. Never missing publication for any week during the past decade (yet still managing to miss a beat or two for sure) the newsletter is as predictable as it is inscrutable and that has been its everlasting sole redeeming quality, its very reason for continuing on. As the company it chronicles continues to change in a world that more and more has come to be about searching for the familiar in an ever evolving (and harsh) environment- just being there week after week is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And the newsletter itself has been a constant 'gesundheit' if nothing else.