No, I didn’t want free checking with my metal, thank you.

“When your Uncle John and I were small children, Mother used to give us each a quarter to ride the bus into town to see a double feature at the Ridglea Theater. One day, John and I decided to just stay on the bus to see where we’d end up. The driver eventually intervened, and we got home safely, but we didn’t make it to the movies that day. Times have changed, haven’t they?”

Indeed, Mom’s right. Life isn’t what it was in the early 1950′s, but one thing is the same: Ridglea Theater is still a great place to see a show, even several generations later.

That is, at least for now.

The Little Bell and Wesley (and Dio, duh)

Yesterday I received a disturbing email from my husband, Russell (who’s done so many shows for Fastlane Concerts at Ridglea that the theater jokingly put a sign on one of its doors which reads: “Russell’s Room”). After scoping his included link to Kevin Buchanan’s article, I flipped out. Apparently, Bank of America is considering purchasing the historic Fort Worth building and transforming it into a financial institution sans music and community fellowship and my dear old mother’s childhood memories. What an enormous slap to the face of North Texas.

For the last twelve years, Wesley Hathaway and Richard Van Zandt have leased the beautiful, old theater on Camp Bowie. The couple, who met in college and have been together for the past thirty-two years, utilized the Ridglea’s architecture and distinct artwork as a backdrop to showcase local, national, and international musical acts for the Fort Worth area. Aside from providing a unique venue for crowds of one thousand plus, Wesley and Richard’s theater is also responsible for a lot of customer traffic at surrounding restaurants, gas stations, and small businesses within the immediate block. Wesley, formerly the Assistant Science Curator to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, says she only learned day before yesterday of Bank of America’s intentions. “I didn’t know until a reporter from the [Fort Worth] Star Telegram called and asked me what I thought about it. That’s how I found out! We still have almost a year left on our lease, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She and Richard, who also previously worked in the same prestigious, north Texan museum as the Omni Theater Director, confirmed they are booked with lots of upcoming shows and have heard nothing from Bank of America at this time that would suggest cancellations of any kind. In fact, they haven’t heard from BOA about anything, and that’s unsettling for not only Wesley and Richard, but also for an estimated thirty employees who stand to lose work after the demolition.

“I understand the owners [of the building] need to make money. It’s a business,” Hathaway stated, “However, this is the last beautiful, grand building of this type in our area. You lose part of your heritage every time you tear down something historical like this. I see it happening all over the country. People are just not cherishing heritage, and it is a tragedy for the community when things like this are allowed to happen.” Van Zandt added, “Do something with the building instead of demolishing it, you know. The west side of Fort Worth really needs a Community Arts Center. The city could host all kinds of classes and events here, things that would benefit people while preserving the structure.” Richard also pointed out the Ridglea Theater was eligible to have been noted officially as an historic landmark, but the last owner failed to designate it as such.

Richard Van Zandt, photo by permission of RVZ

“Of course, we’d be sad if we couldn’t continue to do these shows,” Wesley admitted. This all comes at a time when the theater is up, yet again, for “Best Venue” in the Fort Worth Weekly. Having previously won the same award for at least eight years, Wesley and Richard have been proud local music fans have selected their venue for similar accolades throughout the years in the Dallas Observer as well as on AOL and in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. She says the two of them will miss the musicians and fans she’s come to love — the very people from all over the world whom I know herald her as the pink-haired First Lady of Texas Metal. “This building — the beautiful mosaic floors and old paintings — it feels like home to the people who come here. The bank isn’t going to care about that.” Wesley fears if BOA is allowed to take over the building, the Ridglea’s historic art and music history will be lost forever.

Beyond the music and the magnificent mosaic flooring, losing the Ridglea Theater to something so sterile and impersonal as a bank would be, perhaps, the hardest blow of all. The Ridglea is the chassis for a slew of extremely personal memories for so many of us — not just Mom. Matt Arnold, my co-worker, was bummed to hear the news, “Are you serious? You know, I saw my first show in there.” He wouldn’t be the only one to claim that honor, of course. I’m sure all the kids who have attended Rock Camp USA during the summers at Ridglea thought it was pretty cool to say that was where they played their first show. I’ve seen a handful of couples become engaged there; Wesley says elderly people have approached her and relayed stories of when they decided to get married while at the Ridglea many years ago. When I asked which was her favorite memory of the theater so far, she paused and said, “I don’t know, Kristan. There have been weddings and so many wonderful events and music over the years. The place has a lot of history for so many people from all walks of life. I mean, it’s where Richard and I took our kids to see the very first Star Wars when it came out. I just don’t want us all to lose it.” I get that. None of us wants to walk into a bank and reminisce about . . . anything. We want to be able to stand in the entrance of the theater and relish it for what it really is: a multi-generational tribute to north Texans and the strong-willed, surviving champion of Fort Worth culture.

When my daughter graduated elementary school, Wesley and Richard gave her a beautiful piece of art, which read:

‘What do I get for this,’ I said, and the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters and clock radios and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and I said, ‘But this is just stuff,’ and the angel smiled and swallowed me in her arms. ‘I’m so glad you said that,’ she whispered to me, ‘I knew you still had a chance.’

After I got off the phone with Wesley last night, I sat in Bella’s room and stared at the words in the painting. I thought about how appropriate they were now, how Wesley and Richard do what they love. Next to the graduation art, my Bella keeps a rubber band ball Wesley gave her years ago when they first met. The extra “Russell’s Room” sign is above the piano in our back room. These kind reminders amplify my sadness because they prove the Ridglea Theater isn’t just a place in Fort Worth that Bank of America wants to tear down. It’s a place in my home and in my heart, a place where my entire family has grown in both the very distant past as well as in the last few years. There is no price you can attach to a structure that serves as such a chapel of memories. The idea of passing by Where It Used To Be makes my stomach turn.

This isn’t set in stone, and there’s an opportunity to save the venue and building from the fate of Bank of America. Wesley has posted an official statement on the Ridglea’s website with information regarding where to write, etc.

City Councilman W.B. Zimmerman
, District 3 Office
, 1000 Throckmorton St., 
Fort Worth, Texas, 76102

Telephone: 817-392-8803 
Fax: 817-392-6187

E-mail:District3@fortworthgov.org

Also, there’s a hefty discussion on the “Save the Ridglea” Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=103599513025822

Cherish heritage, one and all. Save this Ridglea Theater, Home Sweet Home.

Over/Out.

While looking for Gerhard Richter

Warning: Graphic illustrations.

I love search engines. They always lead me exactly where I never knew I needed to be — like straight to this masterpiece on Etsy.

poppyseed

Perhaps, it was so unexpected because I’d been executing a “Gerhard Richter” search when I discovered this treasure. Really, two things here: (a) What is going on? and (b) What does this have to do with Richter? Luckily, the artist included the most specific caption ever:

Shihonage depicts an eleven year old girl who has complete control over a man with a knife who attacked her in a poppy field. She is using the Aikido technique and this work of art is a tribute to Aikido; a way of harmony, japanese martial art, and author’s wish: May all weak in the right win over strong who comes with violence and delict!!! Girl Power!

This man fucked with the wrong fifth grader. Bonus: It’s only eight-hundred and something dollars! I’ll have to pick this up for Bella right away. Every eleven-year-old girl should have one of these hanging on her bedroom wall.

(You’d think any poppy field attacker worth his weight in salt would at least don a pair of socks with those work boots. Sheesh.)

Further examination yielded the kind of results that force you into retrieving back-up opinions/support. I blew instant messenger up with my pal Heather.

“Is that Bella’s new Etsy site?”

After explaining this was not the work of my twisted child’s mind, Heather was relieved, “Wow, looks like she’s tickling her attacker.”

For one reason or another, the whole thing became even funnier when we learned the painter was male instead of female, as I’d assumed by the profile photo of what appeared to be an old woman. Heather corrected: “Sorry…at the bottom of the page it says that ‘she’ is a male.” And he’s a young guy to boot. Armed with the additional knowledge, Heather and I browsed the rest of the site with further confusion.

euw

At least he’s got a low sperm count to go with that frighteningly large penis. And maybe a C.S.I. file, perhaps?

moreeuw

There is a definite theme here. And a woman with a blue face. Note the “handle” on the upper right hand side. This must be a lunch box.

elephant

The figure in the window has the right idea.

pee

In case you have ever wondered the travel path of your urine after it’s been flushed, the mystery is revealed. Here, I believe this man’s urine has waged some type of reverse assault. Obviously.

antlers

I fear what might happen to me if I speak ill will regarding this. At any rate, Kidrobot should put these guys out as a designer vinyl toy line. The horse/T-rex with the antlers is worth wading through blind boxes galore. And that orange penis guy! Yowsa! What a hottie. I’ll bet he eats people in rural Czech Republic.

Alas, the tour de force is still the poppy field attacker guy for me. The others? As Heather so eloquently put it: “I’m laughing so hard I’m gonna pee myself!”

Maybe you’re still wondering about the Gerhard Richter part, though. Oh, gawsh. Ain’t it apparent? Gerhard’s work is a “huge influence in all that I do.” Someone should notify Mr. Richter so he can die a happy man.

I love stuff like this. Maybe I don’t like these paintings enough to shell out nearly a thousand dollars apiece, BUT I think the art definitely serves its mighty purpose — respectfully, something different to each of us. That’s what expression’s about anyway. Props to this guy for believing in himself enough to brave the mean waters of a million lurking bloggers. I’m doing it, too, buddy.

If you’re interested in purchasing anything I’ve coldly trashed above, I’ll gladly send you links to the artist and any other information which might expedite the delivery of this colorful penis and animal madness. Otherwise, feel free to add your own interpretations below.

“The voicemail you are trying to reach is full.”

 

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

 

Two reasons for failing to return/answer calls and chronic lateness:

  1. I got rid of my purses two months ago, keep forgetting to buy a new one, and am toting around a record bag that looks more like a diaper bag than anything a normal person might use. Thus, I can’t hear or find my phone inside that enormous thing;
  2. There’s been an extra amount of ass-wiping going on at work recently — both good and bad varieties;
  3. I’ve been slammed with an awful lot of What I Always Wanted.

I guess that’s more than two excuses. Cut me some slack. Let’s time travel.

April 1st:

Russell turned really old, and Tyson Summers was cool enough to crank out a super-fast commission even though he was moving at the time. I was expecting something really simple because of his circumstances, but within the first twenty-four hours, Tyson wrote:

I’m almost finished. It’s a risque piece based on deep ellum / fair park. I love the statue at fair park of the lady and cactus. I’ve used a very pretty nude model in halftone dots standing in the middle of a cartoon cactus. The two big characters of the cactus are landlord / property owners fighting. On the cactus will be 4-icze and a boarded up tunnel. Shazam, I think I’m almost done. The background is pink with my stars looking on. I added a halftone dot Uni looking after the lady as well.

T

Tyson's Cactus Lady of Deep Ellum

Russell loved it.

First Weekend of April:

The Bell and I met Madre in Austin to celebrate this year’s ATPE awards; she was one of the top three contenders for Texas State Teacher of the Year. While Mom tried staying awake during boring meetings, Bella and I toured the Capitol, the Austin Museum of Art, and T O Y  J O Y. 

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

April Never Ending:

The Bell needed a new bed, so we punished her with hours of IKEA. Sometimes, IKEA can be so sad. Luckily, Russell had a plan.

sadbedbed2bed3bed4bed5Alas, another case of IKEA blues was defeated.

Ongoing Family Bidness with the KLG (is gonna rock you…):

Grace asked me to quit calling her “Gracie.” Sniffle, sniffle. 

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

With a side order of May:

Isata and her family deserve more than just Honorable Mention; she’s a great kiddo with great parents and an incredible back story.

I loved Isata about five minutes after I first saw her as she handed my very sad Bella Monster a toy and patted her on the back. It was 1999, and I’d just dropped Bella off for her first Mother’s Day Out, which — for neurotic moms like me — was more like Mother’s Day to Freak Out. 

Isata came with a bonus prize — her parents. Idrissa and Ada left their native country of Sierra Leone in the early nineties. Recently popularized by the film Blood Diamond, Sierra Leone was amongst one of the world’s most unstable regions at that time due to, perhaps, the cruelest gang warfare and rebel fighting in modern history — fueled entirely by our greed for diamonds and Sierra Leone’s corrupt leadership and shaky relationships with its Liberian neighbors. Isata’s folks tell incredibly sad stories coupled with extreme optimism. They understand what matters in life in a way that isn’t as humbling or demoralizing as much as it is liberating for me. Truly, their spirits set me free.

Last week, I drove Bella over to Ada’s braid shop in Irving. (Ada has superhero fast braiding fingers.) Idrissa ordered pizza for us while we chatted about the girls and foreign affairs and how Bella had been handling the divorce all this time later. We talked about their African Muslim wedding in which Bella stood in Isata’s place of honor when they were four years old. I listened intently as Idrissa shared stories about his sister still living in Johannesburg, South Africa: “They asked me to come, but I cannot. The region, it is too dangerous even for someone like myself.”

Bella and Isata talked on the other side of the salon about the Black-eyed Peas and Hannah Montana and Paramore and The Jonas Brothers, though. That part of the world was far away.

There is so much more to add, but for the sake of sacrificing another five million in text, I’ll wrap it up with Isata’s most recent parting words: “Kristan, I love you. You are my second mother.”

I needed that an awful lot this past week. I love my families and am immensely grateful.

kristan and ada

kristan and ada

the bell and my other daughter, isata

the bell and my other daughter, isata

You can’t stop this party:

On Friday, I accompanied Bella’s honor choir to the yearly competition at Sandy Lake Amusement Park. (I need some coffee and a pretend cigarette already, and I haven’t even gotten but one sentence into this excuse for not being able to return your calls.)

O.

K.

One parent. One grandparent. One teacher who is retiring next week and can’t walk. Twenty-six fourth and fifth grade WIIIILD and CARAZAY KIDS. When I think “Last Friday,” I also think “Xanax.” 

To the four parents who canceled at the LAST MINUTE: you lost out, but there was no fun lost (except for the little guy who threw up all day, but you know…poor kiddo).

bellabumper

First Place Division!

First Place Division!

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

scrambler

Saturday, Saturday, yes, Saturday, oh, Saturday, Saturday:

I wrote all about the whale scarf Julie made in L.A. via her Spiderbot Etsy store. Well, Russ and I managed to make it through the morning rain to the Etsy Dallas convention at Southside Lamar, and it was something else. I didn’t see anything I liked more than the whale scarf, which I wore like a medal, but I did find some interesting items for our jewelry-making endeavors. Russell stopped to investigate a funny doll.

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

I tried to be sneaky, but Russell knew I’d gotten the monster for him before we even got home.

“Let me see if I can find those snacks in your purse.” [Grin]

“Russell, why are you smiling like that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” [Grin]

“Ugh, here’s your monster.”

“Thank you.”

Later that afternoon at the Grapevine bead convention (yes, you read that correctly), we found loads of cool stuff for projects. I bought black, bead wiring for jewelry crocheting, so if you receive something that looks like a bird’s nest, well, just humor me. I’m trying. I have to do something besides bitch and moan about politics, you know. After waging war on the Vote Yes campaign for the past two months, I’m ready for something less controversial — like wire crocheting the Big Bang Theory. Wait…

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

There were so many booths at the bead convention that we lost track of time and spent four hours inside that thing. I call it the “IKEA Phenomenon”. At one point, I stopped to admire a woman’s wire coiling and button bracelet, and she was kind enough to demonstrate her technique. Everything was fine until she added, “…and if you will recall [insert famous beading guy's name here, unknown to non-fanatics]‘s 2002 cover for Bead and Glass Magazine, there was, I believe, an instructional guide to this method in that issue.” That was when I realized I was way out of my league, thanked her, and quickly turned around to giggle with Russell as we made our way into a different room of the exhibit.

“Russell, I think I know what I sound like now when I talk about stuff like, ehhhh, I dunno…4AD record cover art around people who aren’t V23 fans.”

“Yes, that’s exactly how crazy you sound.”

Luckily, I spotted a ring artisan in the next area and quickly forget about my plaguing new revelation.

Last Night:

Lori is thirty-seven this week. I don’t know how that happened so quickly. Russell and I attended her anniversary dinner with Xtos, so I could present her with trinkets appropriate for an old lady, heh. I explained to Lors that my company recognized my ten years of service this past week, so I’d decided to give her a similar token celebrating her twenty years of service as my girl. There was sushi. A glass of wine. Oh, god, there was creme brulee. Then we both fell asleep during the movie while X-tos and Russell laughed at us (but not before Lori’s top semi-fell down at the restaurant). Hurray for pocket cams times ten thousand.

Birthdays come but once each year.

Birthdays come but once each year.

As dinner ended, Russell passed a napkin across the table.

“I love you!”

I got out my pen and scribbled, “I love you more!”

That’s when he dug around in his pocket for a moment, tucked something into the napkin, and passed both back across the table toward me. He said, “You don’t love me more than I love you.”

Wrapped inside the dinner napkin, was a beautiful new ring:

xo, totoro.

xo, totoro.

 

Maybe you guessed it: from the aforementioned ring artisan at the bead convention. He’s a sneaky guy, that Russell.

Right now:

I think I’ve covered much of the “What I Always Wanted” portion of my excuses for not checking voicemail and returning many calls. One of the great lessons Idrissa (and Ada) taught me goes something like this:

“In America and in no other country in the world, there is a sense of nothing but work, work, and work. It’s 24/7, this working. There is no time for family or happiness because so much emphasis is put upon job and career. Here, you are only about your job; it is who you are, and people think they must achieve success in that way only. In Africa, my father was surrounded always by his council and many bodyguards, yet from the time the sun came up until the time the sun went down, I was by his side. He made the time for me because I was important to him; I meant more to him than his duties. He made sure everybody knew this, too. In America, we must remember to love each other and to care for one another as if we are also family.”

I have time left for Now. I’ll call you back later.

Dan Deacon and the Temple of Dayum

 

Dan Deacon (on screen) with Teeth Mountain

Dan Deacon (on screen) with Teeth Mountain

This is about Dan Deacon. But, first, you have to meet my friend Sam Ward.

About Sam:

  • used terms like “sustainable” before concerned and emaciated Emo kids were here to save us from ourselves;
  • crafts objects from wood —  like complete drum kits;
  • responsible for any mixtapes I own from 1988 featuring both Slayer AND Laurie Anderson;
  • grandson of heavily quoted American writer William Arthur Ward;
  • has dated Virgos almost exclusively for over twenty years.
Yes, he really made these.

Yes, he really made these.

Ok, now I can begin.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up my quirky, drummer pal, Sam, with important news: “Hey.”

[clunk, clunk, clunk] “hey.” (Nothing in Sam’s life includes capital letters or exclamation marks or urgency.)

“Something is happening at The Modern Art Museum next week. You probably have to go.”

silence. Sam detests large museums because “they never hang art by regular people.” I love the irony of this because Sam and The Modern have pieces of art by the same artists.

“Sam, seriously.”

“okay. what’s happening?”

Dan Deacon is playing there after hours. Russell will be out-of-town with some band, and I really want you to go with me because you’ll dig it, plus I don’t want to see it by myself because [running out of air] that’d be like witnessing a UFO alone even though I’ll have my camera — it’s just not the same. Have you heard any of the Dan Deacon stuff?”

“no. what’s it like?”

I scrambled for a relevant descriptive that might pull Sam out of his cave.

“It’s Flaming Lips — like Flaming Lips-15-years-ago-Flaming Lips — and Tortoise and Crash Worship.”

pause. “the cool flaming lips?”

“Yes.”

“i opened up for tortoise once.”

He was gonna do it. I could tell. 

“it’s at the modern?”

“Yeah. It’ll be real…percussive.”

“okay. if i’m not in austin. fun, yeah.” The part about Austin was unnecessary as it’s always an implied stipulation with Sam: Austin first, puppet show last. The end.

Sam, rambler of random facts about Nikola Tesla and general badass

Sam, rambler of random facts about Nikola Tesla and general badass

So Dan Deacon is an electronic music nerd from Baltimore. This is a compliment. Right now, with backing help from fellow Maryland musicians Teeth Mountain, he’s touring the sort of show you’d pay to see twice — on consecutive nights, even. 

img_3697

Lost shoe by the Warhol self-portrait sums the evening up.

Within the span of one hour, Dan Deacon and TM managed to turn the west lawn of The Modern into an unexpected abyss of unity for the complete gamut of total strangers. It was like being in a cult for people who hate cults. Except for a few nanoseconds here and there, Dan played the entire show enveloped by the crowd while Teeth Mountain, wearing Dharma Initiative-esque jumpsuits, plowed through the set on a stage rigged with epilepsy-inducing lights. Dan might be the best new-music Jesus I’ve seen in forever, dividing the fans as well as the haphazard, gallery stragglers into groups, who eagerly ran relay races and formed human tunnels. My face hurt from laughing so hard.

With people I’d never met before.

Out of joy. Real, total, absolute joy. I know “joy” is silly, but, man, that is the right word for it.

(At about 5:20 or so I get dragged into the relay, cackling like a friggin’ loon.)

The whole sixty minutes was as close as I’ll ever get to being a cast member of “The Electric Company”. Sam pointed out: “yeah, russell is going to wonder what the hell he missed when he sees the pictures you took.”

“It’s like Crash Worship without the red and blue-painted naked people.”

“minus the danger.”

“Right.”

“yeah, i’m real glad i came, k.” 

 

Henry Moore is shitting bricks in the netherworld, I'm sure.

Henry Moore is shitting bricks in the netherworld, I'm sure.

Good, Sam liked it. That meant Dan and his TM orchestra weren’t pretentious. They were tight enough not to bug Sam’s pissy ears. 

Two hours later, I sat on my sofa and watched the video directly from my camera. I couldn’t even wait a few minutes to upload the movie files to my laptop, so I just sat there holding the tiny viewfinder up to my eyeballs. And I laughed all over again. 

When Bella got home the next afternoon from her overnight visit with Nana, I threw the laptop in front of her. She watched the footage — all of it — with the biggest grin on her eleven-year-old face.

“Mom, I want you to take me next time, ok?”

I promised I would.

When we got to the part of the video where I was dragged into the relay race, Bella keeled over in a fit, “PROMISE you will take me. Promise!”

“I did!”

“Promise again.”

“I promise. I promise I’ll take you the next time Dan Deacon plays nearby.”

“And can I do the part with the relay race, Mom?”

“I insist.”

So attend. Drag your wooden drum-making, curmudgeon-y friends. Take your kid. Kidnap your mother! Catch Dan Deacon while you can.

Drox

I’m not sure I can accurately describe what it felt like as I watched the veterinarian’s assistant weigh my fourteen year-old dog to determine the cost and amount of necessary whatever-it-is-they-use for euthanasia. My friend and ex-husband kneeled next to the scale and told our old border collie it was “okay,” but I couldn’t decide if we were traitors or Jack Kevorkians or saints or terrible dog parents or what for having let him suffer as long as he did.

64lbs = sixty-something bucks, or $102 if you wanna hang around.

We hung around. Seemed like the right thing to do after all the years he put up with us.

Hydrox, by Michelle McLaughlin

Hydrox, by Michelle McLaughlin

Hydrox was born on January 8, 1995 — the last-born, runt pup from a litter of five. It took his mom 45 minutes longer to have him. He was so tiny and with sharp claws, like a little black and white rat. I used to carry him around on my shoulder because he yelped for attention constantly. God, he really was the most adorable puppy ever.

My ex was in the Marine Corps, so throughout those years we spent away from home, Hydrox was often my only friend. In the mornings when we lived on the west coast, Drox and I walked to the top of the mountain behind our home and watched the fog settle, sometimes revealing the distant ocean on a clear day. Hydrox loved watching the sunrise and the sunset. During twilight walks, he sometimes ran off to play with a coyote pal he’d made, which always flipped me out. He never needed a leash unless we were going to be taking the cat with us (but that was just because Hydrox’s pet cat, Edie, would only walk on one if she was leading the caravan). He didn’t mind sucking it up for the cat — or any cat — and seemed to think it was his duty to make sure all felines throughout the course of his life were cleaned daily and kept in good spirits.

While I was pregnant with The Bell, Hydrox gained sympathy weight and lots of it. We went to Subway every day back then. I always ordered Drox a meatball sub as he watched patiently through the window. One afternoon, the owner invited him inside, gave my dog his own Subway Club card, and insisted we eat in the restaurant at a booth. When a customer complained once, she told the guy: “That dog is one of my best customers, and he’s welcome to sit in that booth as long as he wants.” It’s the sort of thing that would probably make Subway’s corporate office cringe, I guess, but, hey, Hydrox was a lot more hygienic than some of the other regulars.

Hydrox used to stare at my tummy when The Bell would go crazy in there. He’d listen to her, step back in shock, lay his head on my gargantuan belly, and jump back again. I’ll never forget the day we brought Bella home and watched carefully, neurotically as Hydrox and his Edie cat peered into the carrier. He licked Bella’s forehead, but I could tell he was incredibly sad about being knocked down a notch on the totem pole. My mother’s favorite photo of him was taken by her the next morning as he and Edie waited anxiously outside our bedroom door.

Shortly thereafter, the USMC active duty was at an end, and I packed up The Bell and pets and moved back to Texas while my spouse finished school in Florida. Once again, Hydrox was my closest friend. He was up with the baby. He was down with the baby. He and Edie cat kept the “vampires and the elephants and the werewolves and all those sorts away from The Bell.” I thought he was the best baby accessory ever — always there to clean up the floor after mealtime, always there to alert me when there was a tasty, er, dirty diaper.

A year or so later, Edie was stung by a wasp in the throat. My former husband was mowing the lawn. I heard the engine cut off. Rustling. Then the door opened to the house: “Kristan, Edie is dead.” Hydrox followed us to the edge of the half-mown yard later that day, nudged her small, black body, waited as we heart-brokenly buried her. Then he sobbed on her grave for two hours until my ex dragged him back into the house. People who say animals have no feelings are full of crap. Hydrox mourned the death of Edie for such a long time. I still feel like crying when I think of his whimpering on that fresh mound of soil a decade ago.

Loved: polka, wooly bears, Hot Chocolate’s song “You Sexy Thing,” snacking on pepperoni pizza bones while watching the movie “Babe”, strawberry Nutrigrain bars, Dr. Doolittle, kitties, “T-rex” bones, sneaking into bed, truck rides IN the cab, cat food, Shark Week, Abe, trips to Subway, Little Jenny, California, butt rubs, posing for photographs.

Hated: The TV show “Flipper” (after we left the TV on an Animal Planet “Flipper” marathon and went to work one day; He was never the same with Flipper after that), blueberry Nutrigrain bars, dog sweaters, leashes, Hawaiian shirts, my close friend Chuck, bubblegum, car rides, Elvis, our old roommate Drew, The Anti-Chewing Cone, being called “fat.”

Memorable moments:

Hydrox attacked an Elvis cardboard cutout thinking it was an intruder once.

The day we put a hood over the litter pan, Hydrox was found in the living room dragging the cat box around because he’d gotten it stuck on his head.

We told Bella that he was “Jeff,” our first-born child, who turned into Hydrox on his sixth birthday. She didn’t fall for it. My ex pointed out this morning that the Jeff story never translated well for others, but he still cracked up thinking about it anyway.

Hydrox suffered for a long time. Just his luck, he was allergic to grass and fleas and, gosh, who knows what else. We called him the Six Million Dollar Dog because his vet bills felt like that much. We even discussed pet health insurance a few times. I know that sounds insane. Hydrox’s “dad” used to tell our friends that he thought Hydrox had really died a long time ago, but my love was keeping him alive in some weird zombified, Pet Cemetery way.

When I divorced, Hydrox was devastated. I left Drox because I had to. It kills me to think he probably thought I abandoned him these last two years, that I only came to say hello for a couple minutes once or twice a week. I thought about him all the time, about how he seemed slower each time I was there, about how grey his black fur had gotten. He couldn’t see well. He couldn’t hear because of all the ear infections. When the ex told me Hydrox had begun falling down the stairs, I knew it was time.

This morning I met my old friend/ex-husband, at that place I used to live. We drank coffee; I petted his cats. The portrait I’d had taken of a six month-old Bella with Hydrox and his favorite bone hung above the desk. We dug up the leash from the last time we took Hydrox to the vet and gossiped about a bunch of idle chit-chat that had nothing to do with what was about to happen. Then we helped Hydrox into the backseat of my truck.

At the vet, I tried to behave like it was just going to be another annoying allergy treatment or something so “Jeff,” our first-born, wouldn’t get too nervous.

“He’s 64lbs.”

My ex-husband didn’t have to say anything. I knew we both remembered when Drox was twice that, the lug. As I turned from the scales to the reception desk, I got overwhelmed by it all. The lady handed me a Kleenex and told me she was so sorry, and I believed her. I’d hate to have to see that sort of thing everyday.

While we waited in the little room before the vet arrived, we told Hydrox how much we loved him, how he’d always been such a good friend. We were “sorry.” There was “gonna be a place,” we told him, “where he wouldn’t have to take baths all the time.” Drox nuzzled his snout in the crook of my elbow. I hate to say, but he was really scared, and I feel awful about that.

Then it was really time. I stared into his brown eyes until he wasn’t behind them anymore. My ex bent to the ground, and the vet told us, “Hydrox seemed like a nice dog.” That’s what everybody said.

On the way back, I noticed two spots on my sleeve — from his snout, still damp from when he’d buried his doggy nose there.

I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t believe it was fourteen years. Already.

In a few minutes, we’ll pick The Bell up from school. It will be the first day she’s been alive without Hydrox, and I hope she isn’t mad at us for not keeping her home. There were zero easy decisions with zero right answers today, but I know one thing for sure: I loved him.

And for what it’s worth where ever you are now:

Dear Hydrox,

Thanks. I know you were a mind reader, so it’s not like I have to really say anything else, but I was pretty upset earlier and forgot to say some stuff.

I always told you the truth. You always listened. I’m still sorry I made you wear the green sweater that one winter. And the cone, I’m sorry I paraded you around with that thing on in public.

You were the runt, but you survived your mom, your three brothers, and your sister. So, you won. Nyah. Stick it to ‘em.

I’ll be alright. I promise.

Go get Edie now.

I love you again, Hydroxygen.

XO, Mom

And if that hambone could speak from beyond the grave, he’d have one last thing to add, I know:

So long and thanks for all the …meatball subs.

Hydroxygen, January 8, 1995 – January 26, 2009: First-born, loyal friend, faithful compadre, wonderdog.

Battling Joan Jett (All Hail)

Sometimes, as I wait for smart things to happen in my life so I can avoid writing about what I ate for breakfast, I embrace my online, serial diarist. You know her, right? The one responsible for that incoherent blathering often peppered with sappy song lyrics? Yeah.

Well, this serial diarist has been talking in her sleep. Reportedly, I’ve done some amazing things I can’t fully remember. Russell has been telling me about them forever, but I knew he wasn’t joking around when The Bell began backing up his claims.

There is is a sign on the fridge, which reads: “Dear Mom, It is NOT Saturday.” This was placed there by Bella a couple of months ago when I emerged from a deep sleep, ran into the den where everybody else was wide awake at way-before-sunlight in the morning, and explained how our ship was in a hole. Something like that. Then I argued it was the weekend, and everybody needed to get back in bed. Russell kept me from running outside in my robe while Bella laughed uncontrollably.

When he put me back in bed, Russ sneaked Bella off to school himself. Thank God. I would have driven us to the Arctic Circle.

The other morning Russell woke me up laughing.

“You don’t have anything to worry about. Joan Jett doesn’t like guys, you know.”

“What are you talking about, Russell?”

An embarrassing story followed about how I yelled into his armpit, “…and I don’t care if you ARE Joan Jett. Get your hands off him NOW.” Russell told me all about how he tried to cuddle up right before I became rigid and tried to punch him in the side. At lunch, he bragged to our friends, “My baby tried to beat up Joan Jett last night.”

Our pal Ken scoffed, “Joan Jett would kick your ass. You know that, right?”

This past week, Russell woke up because I was reportedly “petting his armpit and talking to a kitten that was very cute.” He even swore I pecked his armpit, which bothers me since I am not prone to unwittingly, physically placing my lips on surfaces known for high bacterial activity. Blech.

I recounted this dream for friends on Sunday who agreed it was more information than they required. Pussies. Nothing wrong with the old kitten-in-the-armpit dream. Pfft.

During the course of the last seventy-two hours, I also painted something for Russell. When I woke up, my hands were in the air and I remember plainly asking him what he’d done with my missing painting. Then, realizing I’d only dreamt my masterpiece, I neverminded it all and rolled over. Russell ribbed me for it anyway.

(Hm, I left out the part where he prohibited me from walking out of the house as I opened the front door to “let the animals back in.” He figured I wasn’t talking about the dog, who was asleep in bed, or The Bell’s crawfish, who isn’t much up for leaving its soupy, crawfish-y, converted, plastic storage unit.)

I wonder what happened to my fantastic dreams, the ones where I went to Fantasy Island-esque places. This must be some domestic byproduct of Settling Down.

Un-Baked Alaska Forever

Twenty years ago, my mother set sail forever on her great Alaskan cruise. This was not a fantasy getaway or anything; instead, it was just her typical weekend sojourn in the kitchen, attempting to conquer whatever-it-was she’d seen that week on the cooking channel. Most of the time, this really worked out to my advantage. However, not many weeks have escaped us since The Great Baked Alaska Tragedy in which Mom hasn’t smuggled the incident into casual conversation.

“…and so I convinced The Bell to order her sandwich on wheat bread after that. Why do kids like white so much anyway?”

“Kristan, that reminds me. There’s fresh Amish Friendship Bread on the counter. Grab a piece, but stick it back into the oven when you’re done so it’ll keep at the right temperature. We wouldn’t want another Baked Alaska incident.”

No, we wouldn’t — not that it would matter, though. I mean, Mom couldn’t possibly get more mileage out of What Happened even if it’d happened twice. (I think.)

On that fateful afternoon, two decades ago, Mom completed her Baked Alaskan project. For those of you who haven’t been fully briefed on fad dessert trends from a million years ago, BA is really just a giant blob of ice cream covered in whipped something-or-another and then briefly thrown into an oven. It’s supposed to resemble an ice berg, but looks more like a gallon of delicious Blue Bell trapped in a hardened, sugary prison. Something along those lines. Anyway, when Mom was finished, she arranged her masterpiece on a set table and painstakingly took a candlelit portrait. I’m serious. Then, after stuffing the dessert into the freezer for safe keeping, Mom waited for her dinner guests.

That’s when I arrived with my best friend, who not only sampled the dessert, but also left it out…

…to melt.

At the time, I felt awful about it, and, man, Mom was rightfully pissed off. I slinked away for the rest of that weekend in order to avoid The Wrath of Mom. 

Today I retrieved the cranberry salad from Mom’s fridge as we all crowded around the holiday table. When I closed the door, I cracked up because stuck behind a magnetized framed, there was the portrait Mom took of her beloved Baked Alaska — from the late eighties, during the last breath of the Reagan admin, just months before the Berlin Wall was torn down, when George Michael and Elton John had yet to officially leap out of the closet. There were a few recipes tacked to the door with various magnets, a drawing Isobel did a while back, and that photo of the baked sore spot. Point: Mom was NEVER gonna let the Alaskan thing go. 

“Did you find the salad?”

“Yes.”

“Well, close the door all the way and MAKE SURE IT’S SHUT. We don’t need another Baked Alaska moment on Christmas.”

Or New Year’s…

Or Valentine’s…

Or next Wednesday.

And yet, the teeth-grinding, fist-clenching, eye-squinting Mom-isms would be missed if they were suddenly gone.

Infinity Plus One

A few minutes ago I threw some frozen fruit and a McDonald’s yogurt parfait into Russell’s old blender from the 17th century (a-hem, perhaps slightly newer, but you get the idea). I watched my half-frozen sludge as it swirled around in the glass.

Slow.

Fast.

Stir.

Slow.

Fast.

Daydream . . .

I love him. I love that I can’t stop thinking about him. I love that he took my sick kid’s temperature before he had to leave for work. I love that he doesn’t mind if there are dishes in the sink because I was busy writing that day. I love that he knows how to get to all the museums without directions. I love that he is beta-testing whatever that stuff is that he was talking about the other day.

 

how to kiss a beta tester 101

how to kiss a beta tester 101

 

Swirl.

Slush.

Twiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrllllllllllll.

More blueberries.

More thinking . . .

He bought this fruit for me. He bought this coffee that he hates because I like it. He leaves notes and drawings in my purse. He buys me orchids to kill. He means it every single time he says he loves me. He still holds me in his arms as we sleep. He even pulls the covers around me when I roll over.

And so, with this feverish child-o-mine beside me and our makeshift fruit smoothies as witness, I want the world to know I love you thiiiiiiiiis much, my Totoro man.

 

awesome totoro rendering, courtesy my russell

sweet totoro rendering, courtesy my russell

 

Or, as you’d say, “Infinity plus one.”