Monday, April 27, 2009

A Team Effort

Apparently, Mischa views everything I do as a team effort; she follows me around the house, settling in right next to me. And sometimes, she even settles in right on top of the things I'm working on. Such as my work-paper basket on the downstairs desk...

(By the way, the sheet in the background is draped over a chair because Mischa wants a fort from which she can launch attacks on my feet when I walk by. I do a lot of decoration based on what my cats like, it seems...)


For the past several nights, I've had vivid dreams of Mom and Dad... and the dreams have had their own sort of continuity. Each dream has built on the events of the night before--not in a narrative way, but in a "continuing what we were talking about" sort of way. If I wake up in the night, I find myself almost eager to drift back to sleep so that I can revisit them once again, picking up more or less where I left off.

What struck me about last night's dream was the analytical nature of it. I had noticed that, while I was seeing Mom in her late 30s (when she was still healthy, before emphysema began to impact her life), I was seeing Dad in his mid 40s (when he had overcome the disruptions in his life that his diabetes had caused, and before changes at the Rome News-Tribune left him less satisfied with his job). I asked why, since Mom and Dad were only a year apart. "You see us when you think we were happiest," Mom explained. "That's the way it works. People see the ones they loved at their happiest. It may even change from time to time, as people remember other happy times. But we can see all the different times, all the different appearances, at one time. We see you as a child, as an adult--we see every day at the same time."

It was a wonderful dream moment--vivid, and one of those little narratives that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Great Forward Strides

I'm quite happy to report that Anna has wholly recovered from whatever ailment struck her last weekend. For several days, as I reported earlier, she was unable to eat or drink, nor could she control her bowel movements. For a fastidious cat like Anna, that was a sure sign of serious problems.

Dr. Lane, an old friend and a wonderful vet who owns the Cat Clinic of Cobb, gave her subcutaneous fluids and several medications on Monday, the 13th. It didn't appear that we were seeing any significant improvements through the morning of the 14th, and I was becoming more concerned that something was seriously wrong with Anna. I made arrangements to take her back in for more fluids on Wednesday morning.

However, Tuesday night was a turning point: she began to drink on her own and to eat sparingly but steadily. By Wednesday morning, she was eating and drinking regularly, and she was wandering the house just as she always did prior to her illness. I postponed the second round of fluids, taking the vet's office up on their offer to see her almost immediately if the situation deteriorated.

Thankfully, we never had to make that second trip to the Cat Clinic. Anna has improved every day, and now she's absolutely back to her old self. I still have no idea what was wrong, since the tests revealed no toxins or infections--but Dr. Lane's treatment of the symptoms was remrkably efficacious, for which I'm eternally thankful.

A Life in Four Colors (Part Twenty-Five)

My childhood was graced with no shortage of lovely girls, it seems. Some of them were quite willing to accept my company, and it was quite a while before I realized that society's rules for boys and girls differed from society's rules for same-gender friendships.

I can't recall the first girl to whom I was attracted, but I know she lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that she was a neighbor during the months we lived there while Dad was in the Air Force. I only know of her because of a photo my parents have--a blurry black and white photo that shows an almost-two-year-old me bestowing a kiss on the cheek of the anonymous lovely young lady.

I am told that soon after that, when my parents moved back to Cedartown, I made a fast friendship with a young girl named Kay Sanders, who lived near our home. It's odd that I recall the name and remember the house on Olive Street quite well, but have only the vaguest memories of Kay's face and doubt I would recognize her today. I hope I can be forgiven for such sins of omission, though, since I wasn't quite four years old at the time.

The first girl whose company I particularly enjoyed was my cousin Julie. I recall announcing shortly after my fifth birthday that Julie and I were going to get married. The family seemed to hide their shock quite well. (The relationship wasn't as semi-illicit as it sounds, since Julie was an adoptive cousin with no direct blood relation to me, so the law would not have frowned on the marriage.) Alas, as Julie and I grew older, we also grew apart, although I still value her as one of my favorite cousins--and I've been blessed with many, many cousins.

Next came Allison Rohner, a young girl who lived nearby and whose mother was a close friend of my mother. Allison and I were friends for several years, although she never shared my interest in comics, thereby creating an irreconcileable bond. (Hey, I was six at the time, and didn't know any better.)

The first girl who shared my interest in comics was a young girl from our neighborhood that I met soon after we moved to Marchmont. She lived off Pressley Drive, an older dirt road not far from my house, and we became friends because of that proximity. We played together a great deal, she read my comics, and occasionally she would make the rounds to local stores on my comic book quest. But Rhonda (whose last name has eluded me for some thirty years now) had many other interests, and her group of friends included people with whom she went to school. While we lived less than a quarter of a mile apart, she lived in the county and we lived in the city, so we attended different schools in different systems. I recall my parents' reaction the first time I asked if Rhonda could spend the night; when I was nine years old, it didn't occur to me that there might be some problem with that, since other friends had spent the night at my house on numerous occasions. I do recall that Rhonda was the first girl with whom I shared an exploratory kiss; I don't think we were interested in one another, but more interested in finding out what kissing was like.

Tricia Mullinax was the first girl with whom I shared a serious kiss; that happened shortly after my tenth birthday. Tricia, too, was the daughter of a family friend, and we became friends out of familiarity, I guess. Tricia was cute and flirtatious, and I found her appealing in a way that I had found no girls appealing prior to that time. She explained to me at one point what a french kiss was, and we experimented at it in our juvenile way; I don't think either of us ever figured out what made it so salacious, but we both seemed to enjoy the attempts well enough. Alas, Tricia and her mother moved away months later, and that friendship-with-minor-privileges went away with it. Just as well, I suppose--Tricia never liked comics, though monster movies were goofy, and couldn't understand why I liked plastic model kits.

The first classmate towards whom I ever felt attracted was a slender, doe-eyed girl named Jeanelle Phillips; she was in the fifth grade with me at West Rome, and I was taken with her lovely eyes and her shy, endearing smile. Alas, Jeanelle was the first girl in whom I was interested who had little to no interest in me; my juvenile flirting rarely evoked more than the faintest of smiles, and I soon came to realize that Jeanelle did not share an interest in me.  In retrospect, I could have probably saved some moments of awkwardness had I realized it sooner; it wasn't until I went by her house one morning hoping to walk to school with her that her brother made it clear to me that wasn't going to happen. Thankfully, the fifth-grader's heart heals quickly...

After that time, the closest girl friend I had (to be differentiated from a girlfriend... she was a friend who was a girl as opposed to someone with whom I was romantically involved) was Pam Astin, another child of a family friend who also happened to be a classmate. Her father worked for a chemical/petroleum company, I believe (I seem to recall it was Gulf or Shell, but I must confess that my attention was more focused on Pam than on her father); I do recall that he struck me as knowledgeable in a very technical way, and I enjoyed hearing him speak of his work. Her mother was outspoken, gregarious, and jocular, and I always enjoyed her many visits to our house. Pam and I spent time together at school, and we sometimes spoke on the phone; I considered her a friend, but for reasons I could never explain other than sheer thick-headedness on my part, I never attempted to date her as I grew older.

Aside from Rhonda, though, I never found a girl who was willing to share my enthusiasm for comic books. I remember thinking more than once what a remarkable thing it would be, to find a girl who actually enjoyed comics the way I did. I had seen letters in various comics from an Irene Vartanoff, so I knew that there were girls who shared my insatiable appetite for comics... but I never imagined that I would ever actually meet one of them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Smashing Toys

I won't even attempt to summarize, since there are so many points made by Steve Ditko in this essay about the editorial urge to tamper, alter, and modify. Read it for yourself and get a further glimpse into Ditko's very strong feelings regarding heroism, values, and creativity.

Holding Her Own

Things aren't great with Anna, but she seems relatively stable right now. Dr. Lane had to give her subcutaneous fluids; afterwards, we took her home. Unfortunately, soon after we got home she lost control of her bowels, and the stool was disturbingly red, indicating blood. Dr. Lane had me bring her a stool sample immediately; she checked and felt that it was less worrisome than it appeared, since the blood seemed to come from the rectal area (probably caused by the irritation of the diarrhea) and not from the intestinal tract. The remainder of the stool was mucus that was probably loosened by the introduction of a lot of fluid into her system.

(Hope you're not reading this just before a meal or anything; I know it sounds almost as unappealing as a Papa John's pizza...)

No more problems since then, although Anna still isn't eating or acting normal. I guess "no decline" is about all we can hope for right now...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Trying Time

Friday evening, everything was fine with Anna, our older (by six months) cat; she was happy, playful, and wonderfully normal. Saturday morning very early, she began throwing up, and she refused to eat. By Saturday evening, she had developed diarrhea, was lethargic, and quit drinking any water at all. Today was no better; I tried using an oral syringe to give her water, but each time I did, she would throw up soon afterwards.

Anna's a delicate girl; she's very slender for her size, and doesn't really seem to enjoy food very much even when she's healthy. She's light, small-boned, and very wiry, with thin skin and fine fur, and always seems docile and subdued. She's quite different from her sister Mischa, who is robust, hearty, thick-skinned, heavily-furred, with sturdy bones; Mischa loves food enough for two cats, and she's a gregarious, playful cat.

So when Anna quits eating, it's a concern; she doesn't have a lot of extra body weight to hold her over through a few days of fasting. And when Anna, who loves human contact more than anything, doesn't purr when her head is scratched or her back is stroked, then she's feeling very bad indeed.

Thinking back on it, this is the second pair of cats we've had with one strong a robust, the other delicate and subdued. Asia had much in common with Mischa in that regard, while Tisha was a lot like Anna (I still remember when we first brought Anna home to give Tisha some companionshipl; it was amazing how similar the two of them were, although they looked nothing alike).

When your cat is ill, it's hard to think of anything else. So tomorrow morning I'm going to be at Dr. Lane's office at opening to try to find out what's affecting Anna. I'm hoping we have good news by the end of the day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Life in Four Colors (Part Twenty-Four)

I'm not really sure why Phil Patterson and I quit spending so much time together. Phil had been my comic book buddy for a couple of years, as well as my Beatles buddy, but as time passed, we somehow ended up moving in different directions. I suspect that's a normal part of growing up, and it seems to happen so gradually that there is no moment of transition.

Phil and I still spent some time playing together and talking comics--and in particular, we spent time hanging out at the city water tower that was constructed just a hundred yards or so from his house. It was a great place for playing--surrounded by piles of sand and gravel (part of the construction, I suspect--and was close enough to walk to, but far enough to be out of sight from Phil's mother. We spent a lot of time there, climbing the sandpiles, sitting in the shade of the tower, sometimes playing on the adjacent railroad tracks.

But as my friendship with Phil began to wane, I found myself spending time with John Ball, a schoolmate whose interest in comics was underscored by his proximity to the stores where I bought my books.

A brief Rome geography lesson: the main thoroughfare in West Rome is Shorter Avenue, and most neighborhood streets branch off that. John's family lived in the first house on Shorter Avenue, directly behind the Dairy Queen and only two hundred feet from Hill's Grocery, Couch's Grocery, and Candler's Drugs--the three places I've already mentioned as prime stops on my weekly comic book treks. I lived on Marchmont, which was about a quarter mile further down Paris Drive, so John was not only geographically closer to me than Phil, but he lived on my "comics route." I'd often see John and his brother Jimmy out in their yard when I was walking to the various stores to see what comics had come in; they'd see me when I was coming back with books, and I'd stop to show them what I had found. Gradually, it became a habit to stop at John's house on my way to the store and see if he wanted to go with me; eventually, he and I began spending time at one another's house.

John lived in a much older rental house. By today's standards, it would be considered almost run-down, but we never thought anything about it. To a ten year old, a house was a house was a house... it didn't matter that it didn't look new or well maintained. I remember there were things about it that were particularly fun: next to the Dairy Queen was a small putt-putt golf course, and we could walk over there and play miniature golf in the spring and summer evenings for a very small admission charge. We were supposed to play one round of eighteen holes, but we'd often replay the first seventeen holes 2 or 3 times before letting our ball drop into the collection box at the eighteenth hole.

John and I liked the same comics, including an growing interest in Marvel Comics, which had become the number one publisher in the field as far as I was concerned. While I didn't have every Marvel superhero comic, I had at least read every Marvel superhero comic; I actually knew every nuance of Marvel history, and had memorized all those details. John was similarly obsessed with Marvel, so we would spend hours discussing favorite stories, best and worst villains, artists we like and artists we didn't like... all the things that kids love to discuss.

John and I also had one more thing in common: we both had younger sisters who were almost exactly the same age. My sister, Kimberly, and his sister, Cathy, were always trying to get into our rooms and go through our comics and records, so we shared a lot of sister complaints with one another... the sort of thing that ten-year-old boys love to do when they feel put upon by the burden of dealing with a three-year-old sister. (Ironically, Kim and Cathy would become friends later on, shortly after John's family saved up enough to buy a house on Beverly Drive, one block further down Paris than Marchmont.)

The one interest that John didn't seem to share with me, however, was a desire to create comics. I loved to attempt to draw my own comics; John would make occasional attempts at it, but his interest was marginal at best. He preferred to read other people's stories to making up his own, while I was convinced that I had a whole world of superheroes in my head that, once put on paper, would surpass anything that Marvel or DC had to offer. I created character after character of imitative design and dubious originality, and John would show a polite interest in what I was doing, but I could tell that he didn't feel the creative urge like I did.

I think that was why our comic book friendship was relatively short-lived. We had common interests, but not common passions, and that was destined to take each of us in different directions in just over a year.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

How Would the Teleprompter Have Responded?

A wonderful inside look at the Great Orater at work can be found here, in this piece from the Guardian: Too bad that he didn't just let his teleprompter answer it, since he's obviously clueless when he can't simply read the proper response:

Barack Obama, the World's Greatest Orator (™all news organisations), didn't exactly cover himself in glory when the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson asked him a question about who was to blame for the financial crisis. Normally word perfect, Obama ummed, ahed and waffled for the best part of two and a half minutes. Here, John Crace decodes what he was really thinking ...

Nick Robinson: "A question for you both, if I may. The prime minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany both blame Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right? And isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?" Brown immediately swivels to leave Obama in pole position. There is a four-second delay before Obama starts speaking [THANKS FOR NOTHING, GORDY BABY. REMIND ME TO HANG YOU OUT TO DRY ONE DAY.] Barack Obama: "I, I, would say that, er ... pause [I HAVEN'T A CLUE] ... if you look at ... pause [WHO IS THIS NICK ROBINSON JERK?] ... the, the sources of this crisis ... pause [JUST KEEP GOING, BUDDY] ... the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to . . . pause [I'M IN WAY TOO DEEP HERE] ... a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that have taken place in the global financial system ... pause, close eyes [THIS IS GOING TO GO DOWN LIKE A CROCK OF SHIT BACK HOME. HELP]. I think what is also true is that ... pause [I WANT NICK ROBINSON TO DISAPPEAR] ... here in Great Britain ... pause [SHIT, GORDY'S THE HOST, DON'T LAND HIM IN IT] ... here in continental Europe ... pause [DAMN IT, BLAME EVERYONE.] ... around the world. We were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and er ... pause [I'VE LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT AGAIN] ... the highly integrated, er, global capital markets that have emerged ... pause [I'M REALLY WINGING IT NOW]. So at this point, I'm less interested in ... pause [YOU] ... identifying blame than fixing the problem. I think we've taken some very aggressive steps in the United States to do so, not just responding to the immediate crisis, ensuring banks are adequately capitalised, er, dealing with the enormous, er ... pause [WHY DIDN'T I QUIT WHILE I WAS AHEAD?] ... drop-off in demand and contraction that has taken place. More importantly, for the long term, making sure that we've got a set of, er, er, regulations that are up to the task, er, and that includes, er, a number that will be discussed at this summit. I think there's a lot of convergence between all the parties involved about the need, for example, to focus not on the legal form that a particular financial product takes or the institution it emerges from, but rather what's the risk involved, what's the function of this product and how do we regulate that adequately, much more effective coordination, er, between countries so we can, er, anticipate the risks that are involved there. Dealing with the, er, problem of derivatives markets, making sure we have set up systems, er, that can reduce some of the risks there. So, I actually think ... pause [FANTASTIC. I'VE LOST EVERYONE, INCLUDING MYSELF] ... there's enormous consensus that has emerged in terms of what we need to do now and, er ... pause [I'M OUTTA HERE. TIME FOR THE USUAL CLOSING BOLLOCKS] ... I'm a great believer in looking forwards than looking backwards.