Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reinvention Intervention

Half of our extended Presidents Day weekend was spent in the car.  The other half was spent in Wilmington - a charming port city in the southeastern corner of North Carolina.

Equipped with a half-case of wine, a 6 pack of soda, 2 dogs, 2 suitcases and a tank full of dreams - we left Connecticut at 7:25 Friday morning and arrived at our hotel at 7:35 that evening.

The sun had set. The river was still.  

Mark, my captain, did ALL of the driving and I, his first mate, was in charge of entertainment (Sirius XM radio is a wonderful thing).

After 12 hours of driving, the dogs looked confused. Where's our yard? Why isn't it cold? Why are we here?

Why are we here?  Both Mark and I are entertained by the idea of reinventing ourselves - new careers, new jobs, new friends.  (I'm going to be a writer)

Mark followed me to Connecticut.  Now, twelve years later, I will follow him anywhere he wants to go.

Each vacation destination becomes a potential home port...

Saratoga, New York
New Orleans, Louisiana
Sarasota, Florida
Portland, Oregon
Lake Tahoe (California - Nevada)

The possibilities are endless!

We've even considered going back to our roots in Dallas, Pennsylvania.

We take into account climate, cost of living, quality of life, crime rate, mill rate, health care and overall hospitality.

For some illogical reason, the vulnerability of hurricanes does not dampen our spirits, but the probability of nor'easters, wildfires, mudslides and earth quakes do.

Mark spends countless hours researching areas online.  Eventually, we'll meet up with a realtor/private tour guide.

We were up bright and early Saturday morning.  After a quick cup of coffee we took a stroll on the Cape Fear Riverwalk.

Mylo leads the way 

glass venus flytrap sculpture by Wilmington artist Paul Hill, tells me that the hurricane season does not threaten the downtown area.  

It was too early in the season for most of the boats, only the diehards remain.

The USS North Carolina Battleship beckons visitors to walk her deck (we declined)

This "Jubilee" is a B & B
no River is complete without a Riverboat 

A left turn on Front Street showcases a row of well manicured lawns and well preserved historic homes.

(I have no idea what that red spot is) 

We discovered some wonderful and some not so wonderful restaurants.  5 Stars to The George which boasts that it's a unique "dock and dine experience" but warns you to secure your craft before bellying up to the bar.

I was delighted to find a lovely little Tea Room...

 that celebrated the art of tea in a grand way!  

There were many beaches to choose from and we were thrilled to find that they were dog friendly. 

Lucy felt right at home amongst the sand and sun ...

but Mylo wanted no part of it.

For me, the most enjoyable part of any trip is meeting new people and making real connections. 

Chris, the bartender at The George, explained his addiction to adrenaline and the negative consequences associated with playfully jumping off Cape Fear bridge (7 arrests, 5 citations, 3 warnings). 

(Mar)Chello, introduced himself as he was leisurely walking his children to a neighbors house.  He offered us a beer from the 6 pack he was carrying, shared some of his favorite growing up in Wilmington stories, and didn't take offense when I complimented his girls on their patience.  "I'm a boy" said his 11 year old "surfer" son.  (note to self, never ASSume someones sex)

An afternoon of house hunting with Jeff the realtor turned into drinks, dinner, more drinks, and a round of "Show Me Your Scars" (emotionally and physically).  Because Jeff's "time served in Irag" scars easily trumped Mark's "appendix and vasectomy" scar and my "look what my sister did to me when she pushed me down the stairs" chin scar, we kept most our scars hidden.

The view from our top floor hotel room, overlooking the river, was so spectacular that we kept our curtains wide open while enjoying some one-on-one time, and were STUNNED to find 2 men perched on a forklift outside our window, trying their best not to notice our naked playfulness. 

(please let me know if you find us on the internet)

As I often say, I think these things happen so that I have something interesting to write about. 

It was a long drive home, but we had much to discuss.  Our journey towards self discovery and reinvention continues. 


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All About Kerry

Today would have been my son's 32nd birthday.  Maybe it still is.  I'm not sure.

I just know that I miss him and that I feel intense sadness and loss.

For me, his birth day is harder than his death day.  I remember so much about his birth - the incredible rush of emotion that washed over me, in me, and is with me...still.

But there is so much that I can't remember.  I can't remember seeing him unhappy.  I can't remember knowing he was in pain.

I can't remember the last time I held him.  Maybe thats why he came to me a few days after his passing.  I was sleeping but it was no dream.  He was standing on the sidewalk, near the front of his house.  I got out of an old, grey, beat up car.  He was crying.  His arms were stretched open.  He held me tight.  He said he was sorry and we both cried.  I woke with his tears on my pillow.

It is still so hard for me to believe that he was gone.  I used to google his name over and over again - convinced he was only hiding.

I found his last comments under a Washington Redskin fan site.

I found his last known address.

I found his Most Improved Athlete award, under the Greenwich Dolphins swim team.

I found a reference to Kerry Magann on a freaky sci-fi video game page.

Now, if you google his name, you'll mainly find my words to him, about him - on memorial websites and on my blog.

That makes me sad.

Today, once again, I googled Kerry.  Not much has changed.

Then I googled images of Kerry Ryan Magann.

There were lots of pictures of Kerry.

Kerry smiling.
Kerry as a young boy.
Kerry holding his son.
Kerry laughing.
Kerry as he wants to be remembered.

Here are a few of my favorites...

Kerry running a 3.2 mile race.  My father on the side lines, cheering him on.

Kerry's age 13

Kerry with his sister Lindsay

Kerry holding his son Jackson

And here are some of his words...

By Kerry Ryan Magann

In the novel, each chapter begins with a section taken from one of the many writings tucked inside the trunk that doubles as Kerry's coffee table.  The passage below is one of the last stories entered into Kerry's black notebook.    

It was Tuesday night and I was home alone.  It was too cold outside and too warm inside.  Charlie Parker was playing the saxophone and I was playing with the various forms of hair I could find on my body.  

I had dreadlocked the hair on my toes, a few patches on my legs, and my big pubic mop, and had begun focusing on my nipple hairs.  They stood coiled black, and obscenely proud, strewn across the death pale backdrop of my Irish potato skin.  It was an embarrassing scene.  I felt like reaching for a shirt though nobody was inside my apartment, and I thought about my days of cigarettes, and watching clocks, and T.V. and masturbating to early morning workout shows, and how I ever managed to hold conversations with people, and how sad it all really was.  

And then I lit my nipple hair on fire.  It started on the right side, lighting individually at the ends, watching them flame and fizzle out in an orderly fashion.  I was brushing the ash into my belly button, and everything was going fine until about midway through the left nipple when one hair got rebellious and decided to spread across the remaining forest.  That mother-fucker took a good chunk of my nipple (long pause) which made me fall backwards, hitting my head on the table behind me, which knocked me out and caused a loud sound which made my landlady call the police, who called the paramedics who, upon finding me on the floor, brought me here to this hospital, with doctors and nurses that proceeded to laugh uncontrollably, while calling every psychiatrist in the city down to see me.  

self portrait by Kerry

My Eulogy to Kerry 

February 16, 1979 -  Your Dad and I watched you take your first breath.  One year later we enrolled you in waterbaby's, tossed you into a pool of blue water, and watched you swim.  

At four you recited your alphabet and earned your preschool certificate.  That summer, with your father's gentle push, you learned to ride your bike.  From then on there was no stopping you.  Starting with T-Ball, Tennis and Karate, you even wiggled your way into a first place ribbon at your first and only breakdance contest.   

At Julian Curtis school you set a record by completing 22 pull-ups.  The record stood for over 10 years.  From then on it was a steady stream of sports - swimming, basketball, football, wresting. And then of course there was baseball, baseball, baseball.  

On the sidelines was your biggest fan - your sister Lindsay. She cheered you on every step of the way.  You in return supported her with gentle love and kindness. Through her you learned to nurture, protect, cherish and adore.  

At Central Middle School you began studying the viola and we were thrilled to see your musical side. Years later you confessed that your strings never touched the bow. Your only motivation was to accompany the orchestra on their year end field trip to Great Adventure Amusement Park.

Throughout the years we watched you learn and grow and mostly, we watched you laugh.  And when you laughed it was deep and hardy, from the belly of your soul.

When you found Mary, "your faith," life became sweet.  Jackson's arrival brought an endless flood of joy to you and all those lucky enough to be near.  Again, we watched you nurture, protect, cherish and adore.

What we didn't hear or see was your pain.  Your pain was never spoken, only written and never shared.  You were intuitive and intelligent enough to hide your pain and deliver only what everyone wanted to hear.  You gave people what they needed.  You gave everything, every ounce of your existence.  You gave too much.

For those who say they don't understand, know that depression is a disease.  The conscious experience becomes an endless stream of distressing thoughts and emotions. Sadly, creative people are more vulnerable to depression.

From the Velveteen Rabbit, to James Joyce's cryptic language in Finnegan's Wake, you loved to read.  You were a deep thinker, a writer, a poet. Through writing you were able to escape.  

May 27, 2002, your daily scheduled, e-mail Horoscope read:

Aquarius - be brave, be adventurous, and boldly go where no man has gone before.  Your ideas for heightening the joy quotient in your life should be taken seriously.  You gave at the office. You've been a terrific contributor to other's existence, but now you should shift your focus to that which floats your cork.

Kerry, know that all we see in you is good.

Kerry's first birthday 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Morning After

It's the morning after the Grammy Awards. I woke to a pink sky and a mind full of music. I love the Grammy's. Regardless of who wins, I am never disappointed. Newly tapped talent mixed with seasoned geniuses. I love the diversity, the theatrics, the passion.

Today, on Valentines Day, I'm heavy into the afterglow...

All night long I was serenaded by B.o.B, and Bruno Mars telling me to not worry - cause those beautiful girls, all over the world, "got nothing on you baby, nothing on you baby..."

Why I'm still high...

Last night Mick Jagger, with zero body fat and boundless energy, pointed his fingers at ME.  

MUSE made me scream.  They are that good!  I can't sit when they're on stage.   

How can you NOT embrace the intensity of Eminem.  Purpose, power, conviction and passion.

That pop-tart surprised me. The Bieber fever may have finally bit me.  This boy walks a fine line between irritable and irresistible. ADORABLE, annoying, adorable, ANNOYING!  I can't decide!  The one thing I'm certain of is how creepy the 40 something female fan base looks when the camera's catch them bopping to his beat.  

Catty Comments and Questions: 

I enjoyed the respect that The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons showed Bob Dylan (and thanks to last nights performance my daughter is no longer convinced he is dead) but it was way to much mucus for my taste.

Katy, Rihanna, Gaga... OUCH!!! Thanks to American Idol, I am now painfully aware that you were all, at one time or another, off key.  

You say Drake, I see Lil Wayne knock off (so not as good as the real thing).

Special thanks goes to Rihanna, I now know what to do with my leftover Christmas garland.

But after watching you shake her ass on stage with Drake, I'm worried Chris Brown is going to kick your ass (again). And while we're here, please get rid of the people in the pit. They're swaying and hand waving is annoying. It looks scripted, forced, fake and at times....downright rude! 

Okay NOW (maybe) I will remember who Nicki Minaj is...

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's attempt at comedy and chemistry was awkward and embarrassing.  I am no longer convinced that they copulate and would someone please get him a sandwich.

During Matt Bellany acceptance speech, did he stumble over his pregnant girlfriends name or was he stunned by her absence? 

Did Barbra get that right? Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, wins best album of the year?  Great album, but if Kris had announced it I would have bet the house that he read it wrong.  

Barbra, knowing you suffer from stage fright makes it that much better, but it was sad to see that the force behind those big notes is gone. Thank you for holding Kris steady. As shallow as it sounds, A Star is Born changed my life. I moved from my small town the morning after I saw it. I figured if Barbra could find her passion - despite a bad perm and a bad nose - then so could I. 

Who doesn't love a good freak show!  It was a Marilyn Manson/ Madonna flashback.  Golden Latex, I dream of Gaga, horns it up and can't hatch out of her egg as she passes her paparazzi. Damn, that was good! 

Christina Aguilera trips AGAIN - this time not over the words but on the stage.  Christina, its time you sit down.
Florence - thanks for breaking out of the black mold.
Jennifer Hudson - one word... breathtaking!
Katy - loved the wedding video, and who doesn't like a ride on a swing, but where were the fireworks?

Cee Lo Green, Puppets and Paltrow, oh NO!!!

Not a country fan but I have to give Lady Antebellum credit. "Need You Now" is a powerful song and they deserving won five our of their six nominations.

My favorite upset of the night was jazz singer, Esperanza Spalding, winning "best new artist" beating out Bieber, Drake, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons.   

But the real reason why the Grammy Awards are so appealing to me has nothing to do with the performances you see on TV.

In the winter of 1999, after a 9 month hibernation, my off again boyfriend made a life altering move when he sent me an AOL instant message asking me what I was doing.

"Watching the Grammy's!" I typed.
"Me TOO," he replied.

And the rest.... is history.  

For more 2011 Grammy highlights, including video, check out Consequence of Sound

Need more rap? check out Rap Radar

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Magic in the Barn

When visiting my hometown in Northeastern, PA, I routinely stop by an old red barn that punctuates the main road leading up to the high school.  Housed in the front stall, burrowed between uncombed bales of hay, are two tired trackers and a stack of pitchforks.  To the side looms a concrete silo, and in the back is a rutted field where the dairy cows graze.

The spring and summers of my youth were intensified by this splash of scarlet against leafing orchards and verdant fields.  And in winter, when the withered landscape was still and white, my crimson barn was bursting with life.

I was amazed to learn that the barns royal hue was spawned from a homemade mixture of skimmed milk, lime, iron oxide and linseed oil.  And when I questioned why it was painted red (knowing cows are color blind to green and red), I was told it was functional not fashionable, for the color absorbed the sun's rays and kept the barn warmer in winter.

I would walk for miles to reach the magic of the big red barn.  Here I'd bounce on bails of hay, feed the cows handfuls of alfalfa that I borrowed from the local feed store, and giggle at the sight, sound and touch of their enormous, tongues.

The cows were timid at first.  The crunching sound of my keds against pebbled grit sent them tip toeing to the other side of the pasture.  Despite my welcoming wave, their hazel eyes would grow big and they'd belt out a disapproving MOOO.  My best guess was that they saw my hands as weapons, because they didn't like being milked.  

Determined to be their best friend, I ignored the number on their ear tag, and gave them all names - Lucy, Lilly, Lila, and Lulu.  In a calm, gently tone, I reassured them, "No way am I gonna touch your teats." 

I kept no secrets from the girls.  I told them how I'd given both Michael Pope and Jimmy Griffith a key to my bicycle lock and how I loved to watch them race the crowded hallways, down the uneven staircase, to the bicycle rack behind the school.  The winner got to carry my books and walk me, and my bike, back home.

My lady friends were the only ones who appreciated my singing and it didn't have to be farm songs.  They especially enjoyed my version of Creedence Clearwater's Proud Mary.  I was convinced the subtle bob of their head was their way of rocking out as we went "rolling on the river."

Bert was in charge of the cows.  You could tell by his gruff appearance and purposeful swagger, that he lived a hard life.

He watched me from a distance - made certain I didn't do things mischievous children do, like tip a cow or light a match.  I sensed Bert had a wild temper and I was respectful of his implicit rules.

Bert lived alone in the belly of the barn.  Heaps of hay and tattered horse blankets were all that Bert needed.  His diet consisted of unsuspecting moles, field mice and the occasional squirt of fresh squeezed milk.

Years later, I discovered Bert was a girl.  As with most feral cats, the males abandon the barn, returning only to impregnate, and from the looks of it, Bert wanted no part of that.

As I grew older, I continued to visit the barn.  This is where we'd park, on those moon lit nights. We'd make-out until the car windows fogged and his pants grew noticeably tight.

Bert was a reminder of the driving force behind of all the young dudes.      

To this day, I love the smell of stale manure and fresh hay, and I dream of living in a renovated barn - an echo friendly, timber-framed, living space with an expansive, sun drenched floor plan, vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, strap hinged doors and wood planked floors.

Not much has changed since the days of my young.  Four timid cows still roam the beaten pasture.  Bert is long gone, but to my surprise, a herd of cats have taken her place.  Perhaps Bert grew lonely and welcomed a wayward visitor, or two.

I've brought guests with me to the barn.  Most recently, my grandson Jackson, my husband Mark, and my 5 pound pup, Miss Lucy.

Because I now know the negative ramifications of barn cats ingesting vermin, I make certain I bring a large bag of cat food with me.  
I'll pour some kibble on a patch of grass, and then step back and watch.  I've counted up to 18 cats - all different sizes and colors. They will not allow you to get too close.  All except for a tabby cat that Jackson named Max.  He is clearly in charge.  He's the first one out of hiding and the first to sample the morsels of food. 

Because it was bitter cold this visit, we watched the cats feed from inside the car.  As we were getting ready to leave, a woman approached us from the house across the road.  I could tell from her elongated stride, pinched brows, and disapproving, stiff lower lip, that she was annoyed.  

She charged us with trespassing and accused us of breaking into the barn.  As proof of our motives, I pointed to the 25 lb of cat food leaning against the fence.  As proof of our innocence, I pointed to my manure free, 3 inch heeled, Tory Burch boots. 

I did my best to explain the magic of the big red barn.  I told her we were animal lover, that cow tagged #29 had a watery right eyes, and that they all enjoyed a good song or two.  I assured her that the cats would continue to kill mice even if they were fed.  I introduced her to our 5 lb dog in a faux Burberry coat and pearl collar.  

Did we look like a hoodlums?  

She could not see the magic in the barn. She was not open to kindness. Her vision was clouded by her immediate reality.  

It has been years since I went inside the barn.  As a sensible adult, I am content to feed the cats and talk to the cows.  

But now... my curiosity is peaked. What magic awaits behind the padlocked door?

to be continued...

For More information on Barn Cats visit: Your Best Friends

Learn How You Can Help The Animals of Egypt

The current crisis in Egypt is taking its toll on the animal population.
Please help us spread the word and donate what you can.

Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Learning to Walk (a dog)

[While attending Rick’s funeral, and with Mark at work, our friend Jay was asked to look after Lucy, our 5lb shi-tzu.  Jay took it upon himself to also write a guest blog post for Green Monkey Tales.]

It’s funny how quickly you forget the basics: their tricks, their schemes, their nifty maneuvers.  How they run, how they hide, their fake-outs, their Heisman’s.

Lucy started off by making like she was headed for the door, ready for her morning walk.  I grabbed a baggie from the closet and headed back down the entryway stairs to the front door.  Except, Lucy didn’t follow.  She just stood atop the stairs as if she had already taken her walk.  But I knew better.  Mark texted me earlier saying he couldn’t get Lucy out the door without missing his train… would I walk her?

I climbed the stairs once again but Lucy scampered into the dining room and beneath the table.  On all fours (me, not her), I reached for her.  She cowered and back-stepped to the other side of the table’s pedestal.

I know this dog fairly well and know she doesn’t particularly like men other than Mark.  Fortunately, I’ve been a dog owner for more than 10 years so I’ve been tried, tested, approved, and licensed in the doggy world as a dog lover and advocate.  Sadly, I had to put my dog down about a year and a half ago but after 10 years, you don’t forget the basics like chasing down a sneaky dog.  Plus, Lucy likes me.  Well, sort of, she doesn’t really like anyone other than Mark and Shannon.  She shows equal affection for me as she does her ripped up toys, so that says something.  Lucy refuses, however, to be picked up by anyone other than Shannon and Mark.

A couple things to note:

  • Lucy weighs 5lbs.  Seriously, she’s like a squirrel, but cuter.  The chase should have been over by now. However…
  • I watched Cujo for the first time this weekend (true story).  Needless to say, I was going to play her game.

I backed out from the table, stood up, and walked around to the other side before resuming the position.  She backed away again.

I got up, walked to the kitchen and started rummaging through the drawers. “Where the hell are the dog treats?”  All I could find were treats for Phoebe the Cat.  I considered what would be worse on the carpet for Shannon and Mark to discover: Lucy’s vomit (after ingesting cat treats) or poop (from no morning walk).

I walked empty-handed to the dining room table and tried again.  Not surprisingly, Lucy back-stepped to the other side of the table.  Once again, I backed out, stood, walked around, and kneeled one last time.  It worked.  Lucy walked tentatively toward me… before darting passed!

After banging my head on the dining room table, I cursed, stood up, turned, and watched Lucy scamper up the stairs.  I gave chase but she ran right into Mark and Shannon’s bedroom.  You know how you don’t necessarily trust—or simply want—people in your house while you’re away?  Well, you can trust me.  I hate being in other people’s homes while they’re away.  I never feel comfortable.  Despite being one of the most trustworthy and respectful people around, I always feel strange in someone else’s unoccupied home.  Needless to say, I didn’t want to chase a friggin’ dog the size of a ferret with the agility of Reggie Bush through Shannon and Mark’s bedroom.

With Mark gone until evening and unsure what time Shannon was expected back, I felt obligated to give it a go.  Once again, I got down on hands and knees and crawled toward the bed.  Lucy calmly sat beneath watching my every move.  Was that a smile?  I reached an arm under but she backed away to the other side of the bed.  Fully trained now, I stood, walked around, kneeled, reached.  Same thing.  Despite her familiarity with me, she simply refused to come out from beneath the bed.  Screw it.  I texted Mark saying I had given up and that I’d try again in a couple hours.  Round I: Lucy

30 minutes later…

I was home, trying to get some work done, but I felt bad.  I remembered all too well the mornings in which I had an early conference call and couldn’t take my dog out first thing.  I recalled her eyes.  And how she sat beside my desk without so much as a whimper.  I saved my work and headed back to Shannon and Mark’s.  I texted Mark on the way: “I know she hates to be picked up but are we talking scratches or a trip to the ER?”  (Cujo was frightening, I tell you.)

Arriving at their door, I gave the knocker a good rap, announcing my visit to Lucy and Phoebe the Cat.  I was hoping Lucy would greet me at the top of the entryway stairs (like my first visit).  I was prepared to pounce on her (that is, after seeing Mark’s response, “minor scratches lol.”)

As luck would have it, only Phoebe the Cat greeted me this time.  You need not be a Rhodes Scholar to guess where Phoebe was hiding.  I headed up the stairs, into the bedroom and kneeled beside the bed.  Winter gloves on this time (I’m not an idiot), I reached for her.  She backed away.  The bed was just big enough to prevent me from reaching the center.  I started shifting things that were stored beneath the bed (sorry, Shannon and Mark!) to block her escape to the other side.  That, however, didn’t work.  Lucy—who I’m now convinced doesn’t have a bone in her body—squirmed over pillows and around boxes to safety.

I walked downstairs and searched the kitchen for treats yet again.  Exasperated, I turned around and what did I see leaning against the wall but one of (yes, one of) Shannon’s batons.  For those of you who don’t actually know her, Shannon twirls fire.  Yes, you read correctly: “twirls fire.”  Often naked, I’m told, but that’s not the weird part as far as I’m concerned.  She friggin’ twirls fire!  But I digress…

I grabbed the baton and headed upstairs like a [reference to LA cops removed].  “Lucy, let’s go. Out!” (Yes, I started talking to the animal.) “Out,” I shouted again, “let’s go!”  I started poking and prodding and got her to move positions.  With the added length of the baton, I was able to coax her out from beneath the bed.  I stood up and walked slowly toward her but she jetted out of the room and down the stairs.  Progress.  I closed the bedroom door and descended the stairs.

Hello, Dining Room Table.  I found myself rubbing my head (subconsciously?) and kneeled down.  I angled the baton around the pedestal and poked Lucy from beneath the table.  With that, the tables turned, so-to-speak.  The minute she headed to living room, I knew she was mine.  It was like taking her queen in a well-played game of chess.  I grabbed the leash from the chair in the living from and cornered Lucy in the V of the couch.  Her last line of defense was just a pawn: the coffee table that stood between us.  I faked left, she went right.  I went right, she went left.  I stepped over the coffee table and she froze.  Checkmate.

As I bent down to put the leash on her, I realized that wasn’t wearing a collar!  (Note to dog owners: if you want your friend to walk your dog, put its collar on before you leave the house!)

I still wasn’t ready to try picking her so I considered my options.  The leash was super long, more than 20 feet, and I considered a slipknot.  Something felt wrong about that so I reconsidered.  Now I’m not proud of it—nor am I exactly sure of how the idea entered my head after deeming a slipknot to be mean-spiritedbut I actually considered tying Lucy up… like a calf.  And that’s when I noticed something: Lucy was lying down.  I couldn’t tell at first because she’s so small and so close to the ground that it always looks like she’s lying down; her legs are only about three inches long.  Lucy had submitted; she simply gave up.  If I didn’t know better, I might have thought I heard her whimper “uncle.”

I wasn’t about to fall for another one of her tricks so I slowly—very slowly—took two steps backwards and reached blindly for the collar on the living room chair.  I kept my eyes on Lucy the entire time.  I stepped towards Lucy and as I bent down I realized that the collar was one of those full-body jobbies designed for dogs that pull incessantly.  Lucy is 5lbs for chrissakes!  With no idea how to fasten this type of collar, the idea of a slipknot re-entered my mind.  But first, I gave the collar a chance.  I unclasped one of the buckles and put the strap that formed a small hole over Lucy’s head.  That left two larger holes to figure out.  Was this thing really a dog collar?  Did they have a three-headed gila monster upstairs (Google it)? WTF???

Having had enough, I pulled the remaining straps beneath Lucy’s belly (mindful not to give her the impression that I was going to lift her up) and closed the remaining clasp.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t on properly… it was on and it was around her neck.  I attached the leash and gave her a little yank.  We were off.

Finally outside in the snow, Lucy and I had a non-verbal conversation:

Lucy: “I’m not peeing.”

Me: “The f%ck you are.”

Lucy: “OK, but I’m not pooping.”

Me: “I don’t give a sh%t.”

She peed, I took a picture, we went home.  Walking up the path to the condo, I got a suspicious look from the cranky neighbor—the neighbor who Shannon failed to “vote off the island” in a recent blog post.

“F%ck off,” I thought or said.  (Shannon/Mark, if your wreath is gone, we’ll assume the latter.)

I opened the door, removed the contraption from Lucy’s neck and let her scamper in.  I tossed the leash inside the door, locked up and walked home, nearly taking a spill on the ice not 10 feet from where Lucy peed.

Round II: Jay

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life Lessons

Richard W. Phillips died suddenly at his home, on February 3, 2011.  He was 56 years old.  The night before he passed, I dreamt that I gave him a big hug and thanked him for all that he taught me.

I was 15 when Rick and I met.  I lied to my mother about an urgent girl scout meeting and instead, sat pretty in the back seat of my best friends, boyfriends car - a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro convertible, bright blue, with a wide double white stripe down the front, and pearl white interior.  Damn that car was pretty.

We were headed to a drag race.  His opponent drove a plum crazy purple, Plymouth Duster.  It was souped up, loud, and in my opinion, ugly.  

It was summer and I was shivering.  They were racing title for title.  I still remember the piercing sound of dueling engines, and the sick feeling in my stomach as they tour off down the road.  When it was over, the Camero came in a distant second.  The winner approached us and said, "Keep your car, I'll take the girl."  To my surprise, he was pointing at me.

It felt like a scene out of a movie.  Boy wants girl, boy gets girl.  Only he was no boy.  He was bold, strong, confident and determined.  At 20, it was clear to me that he was a man.

It was the first day of spring when we married.  Rick wore a forrest green tuxedo. His hair was parted just above his ear and slicked straight across the top of his head.  His brother Joey was his best man.  I miscarried our child the week before.  We cried for a long time after that.

Rick taught me how to drive and bought me my first car - an orange, Ford Pinto.  One summer, as I was driving backcountry roads with the windows down, wearing nothing but my bathing suit, I was pulled over by the police and questioned on being a communist.  When I asked where they got their information, they pointed to the upside-down, red white and blue, "USA 1" Chevy license plate on the front of the car - Ricks way of expressing his distain for the baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet brand.

Rick taught me how to fish - which meant more than just catching the fish.  He made me hook the worm,  hold the catfish with my bare hands, and remove the hook even if he swallowed it.

Rick taught me how to play cards - how to bluff and when to bet it all.

Rick taught me patience, how to sit in silence, how to breath deeply, and how to appreciate life's simple moments.

Rick taught me kindness.  He was considerate, generous and loyal.  He defined what a good man meant. Because of him I expected these qualities in all men, later realizing they were few and far in-between.

Rick was a good man, a good husband and a good friend.  We lived together for less than two years but we stayed married for almost twelve.  Our deal was simple - we'd leave things as they were until the next big bite.  The time it took to finalize a divorce would give us time to make certain it was right.

Rick was the first to remarry.  I never met his second wife.  I wouldn't see him again until 1997.  By then he was single.  We were at a bar and his brother Paul was playing the guitar.  Later that night, Rick and I talked for hours in the parking lot.  We were honest about ourselves and about the mistakes we made along the way.

Other than his hair, Rick never changed.  He remained true to himself.  When I saw him in the summer of 2009, he was happy, he was in love, and the eye of his attention, Phyllis, was at his side.

The last time I saw him was at a Forth of July party at his house.  I showed up with my dog,  a 5 pound shi-tzu, and a big smile.  I'm almost certain I was invited but I'm not certain if he knew I was coming.

Again, it felt like a scene from a movie.  The country cozy home that was once his parents, remained vibrant - only the color had changed.  True to form, Rick was surrounded in loyalty, laughter and in love.

Sandy, forever his right hand man, was by his side.  Mocha, his chocolate lab, was at his feet.  Phyllis was gracious and attentive to everyone, including me.  His nieces and nephews were playing baseball in the backyard and everyone wanted Uncle Ricky on their side.

The last words Rick said to me sum up our relationship perfectly.  With a butt in one hand and a beer in the other he said, "Tell your dog to stop chasing my rooster or I'll sick my cat on her."

Rick... thank you for the laughter, for the lessons we shared, and for a lifetime of memories.

I noticed there is a 1972 purple Duster for sale on Ebay.  It's listed at $25,995.00.  WHAT a deal!

February 7th, 2011 
Rick's brother Paul sings Fishing in the Dark in Rick's memory

Phyllis and Rick

Last time I saw Rick - with his best friend Sandy by his side 
and Mocha at his feet.  

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison