Monday, January 31, 2011

“Mom, can I order a monkey?"

I can remember asking my poor mother on several occasions if I could do just that.  I would usually pick my moment carefully and would experiment with different clever approaches.  When she was peeling vegetables in the kitchen, that ended with her not missing a slice and shaking her head no, giving a snort of disbelief I left to plan a better moment.  The next month when Boys Life Magazine would arrive I had a new plan of attack in mind.  My mother was helping my twin brother with homework and things were getting a little heated at the dinning room table, confusion was my moment for sure success.  Mother was just about to unload a volley of insults about the lack of interest my brother held in his academics when I blurted out, “Mom can I order a squirrel monkey, they make great pets and they are only fifty dollars?" Remember the look that the evil witch gave the magic looking glass when it was discovered that Snow White was not killed by the Woodsmen, but was flourishing in a happy new life with the Seven Dwarfs? Well the look on my dear Mothers face had it all over the evil witch.  I retreated to my room to lick my wounds and that is when I discovered the add for “Four Pygmy Seahorses, Watch the Miracle of Birth When Your Pregnant Male Gives Birth to Twenty Live Babies."  What?  I read it again and that is what it said, the male carries the eggs in a pouch and the babies are born live tumbling out of the pouch to come swim around with the three females and the obviously odd male.  All this and it was mine for just five dollars.  I ran down the stairs to find my mother alone in the kitchen, a changed person by this time, she had finished my brothers homework…..err, I said that wrong…..maybe not.  Anyway….I plopped the magazine down in front of her and before she could get the words “NO MONKEY” out I said “Did you know that the male seahorse gives birth?"  Which caught her completely off guard.  So without missing a beat I asked if it was OK if I ordered some as they were only five dollars.  I think she was so happy that this order did not involve little furry mammals or stocking the pantry with large shipments of bananas that she nodded her head yes and something like “sure you can” in a foreign language came out of her mouth, but it was good enough for me.

It was a typical late winter day when my three siblings and myself came stumbling into the house from our day of school, cold and rainy!  My Mother stood in the doorway and said that I received a package in the mail today.  She looked worried and said that she had been doing the laundry and did not hear the delivery which was left inside the outside screen door in the cold.  The package was about four inches square, surely this was not the whole shipment.  I carefully opened the little box which then held a small plastic bag of……water???  Oh….. and there floating in the smallest little bundle were four flesh colored seahorses, tails interlocked and looking for all appearances …….dead!  I gave the bag a very slight shake and they immediately came to life.  In the bottom of the box was a small set of instructions and a very small amount of dehydrated sea salt.  I quickly set about getting their aquarium set up and after the prescribed floating time I set them free to explore their new home.  ,In two weeks time, just as the add said, a small opening appeared in the diminutive males pouch and out came a small army of twenty baby seahorses.  They were so small it was difficult to count them.  I don’t know if one can still order these fascinating little creatures by mail anymore and I don’t think that if I knew then what I know now that I would order them again because they lived a fairly short life even with my best efforts to give them all they needed.  I preserved the original adults by drying them in the sun and then coating them in my Mothers nail polish…..oh yeah Mom I forgot to tell you that part.  I wonder if they still sell squirrel monkeys?

Male on upper right

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In my very best calm Father voice

I must say that while I don’t often receive phone calls from my son at work I just had this feeling, a premonition or whatever you want to call it.  I refer to it as a "Father thing"! I was quite calm when the phone rang.  The duties I was carrying out were monotonous to say the least so when on the other end I hear “DAD, I HAVE A SITUATION HERE!"  It did not sink in right away because if it had I would have panicked a little more and thought all kind of horrific scenarios.  In my very best calm Father voice I told him to calm himself and try to explain the situation.


It really is hard to hear my son when he is on the verge of tears and total frustration, an attribute that has stuck with him from birth.  As a child he would try to explain something or some situation that he felt was unjust and I would try my hardest to understand and be able to sympathize with the poor child fairly quickly before the flood of tears and snot would start cascading and then the only thing left for me to do was tell him to go talk to his Mother, in my very best calm Father voice.

I told him to calm himself again, that the reason Brooklyn was upset was because he was upset. “Nathan, try smiling at him and talking on the phone like you were talking to your best friend."

“Ok…..blah blah blah”….(that’s with a smile on his face)…..”blah blah blah….IT’S NOT WORKING DAD, YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND, AND HE’S REALLY CRYING !"

To give you a better picture of the situation at hand, when my dear son gets upset he flails his hands about and walks rapidly back and forth within a space of a few feet and talks so fast you would think he was speaking in tongue.  All actions not pertinent to calming an upset child.

So doing a rapid assessment of the situation and keeping in mind that I was at work which was a good forty minute drive I told him in my very best calm Father voice.

“Six blah blah’s and grimacing like a frightened chimp will not calm him, step away from the car and call the auto club that I pay for every year.  They will be there in a couple of minutes especially when you tell them a small child is locked in the car. “And then call your Mother."

She is only ten minutes away and she has a spare key.

There was a decidedly lengthy pause…." I got to go Dad……I’ll call ya later."  Click.

The auto club was there in just a couple of minutes but they had to take a bit of time to get the door open because they didn’t want to wake Brooklyn up.  He fell fast asleep after Nathan stepped away from the car thus removing his crazed chimp grimace from Brooklyn’s sight.  MeMa was there about five minutes later with the spare key in case the auto club didn’t show up in time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vivian the Volvo

In the spring of 1979, we drove up to the Volvo showroom in our little Nissan fastback which was comfortable for the two of us but after we loaded our two basset hounds and any belongings into the back seat……well comfort would only be found outside the vehicle.  I had told MeMa who was now carrying our first born son that if she got her driver’s license I would buy her any car she wanted.  With age I have learned not to make such statements.  But a promise is a promise and a Volvo wagon was what she wanted.  Sitting in the showroom was a beautiful baby blue wagon that won MeMa's heart before she stepped out of the Nissan. “This is the one I want”(.) Yes that’s right….period as in end of discussion.  The salesman heard her and told me that he would get the contract and left the room in a hurry.  So much for my intended haggling I was mentally preparing myself for and just said “thanks”. A few nights later we drove back to pick our new Volvo up and since MeMa was not yet a licensed driver I drove our new purchase out of the lot. Ten minutes of driving her I could not get the smile off my face, the quiet drive and the new car smell was so amazing after driving the old car.  I had to admit to MeMa that I was in love with the car.  We drove straight home and picked up Rosy and Sherman our bassets and loaded them into the cargo area.  Driving over to my folk’s house to show off the car I looked into the rear-view mirror and the dogs looked so far away but both were sprawled out on the floor fast asleep in obvious approval of “their new car”. 

Vivian - 1979

   MeMa wasted no time getting her license and in a couple of years we had two child seats in the back and three dogs in the cargo area.  It was amazing what you could haul in that car.  With the addition of a collapsible third seat added to the cargo area we usually had two more children when we entered the "soccer mom" phase of our lives…dogs optional.  Like every resident of Menagerie Manor she needed a name so she became "Vivian the Volvo" but mostly the "soccer mom" car.
   At age sixteen our youngest son Ian passed his driver exam while driving Vivian and at age nineteen our oldest Nathan did the same.  Vivian ferried us on many trips to the family cabin loaded with all the supplies that a family would need and she made several trips to Disneyland always bringing us home safe and sound.  She has hauled some enormous loads of furniture and belongings when the kids went off to college.  She has carried strays safely to their new forever homes.  In short she has had quite a career.
   Three years ago we decided that we needed a “fun new” car for our “close to retirement years”. MeMa always wanted a Volkswagen Beetle and so that is when Gertie took up residence in the garage next to Vivian who was now my mode of transportation.

Vivian and Gertie snowed in two years ago
 Vivian is now thirty two years old and still runs great, although not quite the purr as in her younger years.  But after over three hundred thousand miles with the original engine one should expect some change.  But as of late she has been parked in the garage, noticed but not used much.  About two weeks after we purchased Gertie we found out we were now Grandparents, that’s right, honestly the girl did not look pregnant and we were with her and our son the whole day before Taeya was born.  And a year later we were blessed again when our oldest son’s wife gave birth to our grandson, Brooklyn.  Gertie worked fine for one little terrorist in a car seat but they are at that fun age when we would like to take both for the day and really wear ourselves out. So this weekend I will once again as in days of old, install two child seats into Vivian, the only thing missing are those old basset hounds.  But I think Vivian won’t mind a corgi and a mini dachshund in her cargo area.  And "soccer MeMa" days are coming close and then little league and there are trips to the family cabin and…..and….and well..... roll on Vivian roll on.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back to reality

When we boarded the plane in Maui to return home the temperature was 82 degrees and when we arrived home in Portland it was 28 degrees.  Reality sucks! MeMa and I had a wonderful time over the holiday, we missed the Little Terrorists and the dogs but it was glorious to be away from all the responsibilities of home and work.  All was not smooth though, but then paradise wouldn't be paradise if the transition was without hurdles.
For starters our flight from Portland was delayed two hours, so add that to the fact that we got to the airport two hours early made for a very leisurely breakfast once we got through security. As airports go, Portland's is very nice.  The flight was wrought with turbulence and half an hour into the flight the young gentleman behind us got quite ill all over the back of our seats and the blanket that I quickly threw over our heads.  The stewardess graciously took it from me and returned with a fresh one.  So we had the smell to deal with all the rest of the trip.
It was raining when we arrived on Maui, but at least it was a warm rain.  Our first stop after picking up the rental car was Costco, conveniently located across the road from the airport. They had my single malt Scotch for a very reasonable price, my shopping was done but willingly pushed the cart while MeMa purchased things like prepared salads, sun screen, orange juice.....such a practical woman.  Then it was off to Sugar Beach Resort were we had a lovely beach front condo on the third floor.
Living room with double doors onto the lanai, which we kept open day and night.

Third floor looking down on the pool area
The view from our lanai
Our second day MeMa had booked a tour to the "Road to Hana" which was done in a twelve passenger mini bus.  I recommend this tour over anything else.   I have double vision in my peripheral so MeMa would have been the driver had we not taken the tour.  Half hour into the narrow switchback roads with single lane bridges every few miles we would have had to turn around and not completed the trip.  Our driver and tour guide Tim was fantastic and reciting the history of every landmark and waterfall as though he lived during those ancient times.  The tour also included a catered breakfast and a very nice hot lunch at a flower farm.

Our first photo on the tour "Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees"

One of many waterfalls

Poinsettia tree

Ten of the cutest little piggies on Black Sand Beach

Half drowned but so much fun! We were the only two from the bus that made the hike down to the "Seven Pools"
Can you tell which one is real?
After arriving back to the resort we had a a relaxing meal and watched the sunset.

That night we had record rainfall, and when I stumbled out of bed to start the coffee I smelled dirt!

I looked out to see chocolate brown waves and I could no longer see the sand because of all the debris.  The rains had washed all the debris into the culverts which then drain into the ocean leaving it brown as far as you could see.  And that is the way our beach remained the rest of our stay.  The good thing was that it was just in our area so we could drive five minutes either direction and have clean beaches and blue water.

Regardless of the weather we started out with, Maui was wonderful and we plan on a return trip although probably not over Christmas. Here are some shots of how they decorate there.

Christmas tree with plumaria blossoms

My favorite....wood carving of a Humpback Whale

We also went on a sunset whale cruise, drinks and pupu's  provided.

Happy cruisers

Our first visitors turned out to be a mother, her calf and an escort.
When the humpbacks visit the Islands they don't feed, they are only there to breed and give birth.

"Spy Hop" using his head like a periscope to check us out
When we make a trip to the Islands I always plan on bringing home some new orchid to add to my collection so we planned a trip to "Fragrant Orchids of Maui".  MeMa says this was her favorite day which surprised the heck out of me because she usually rolls her eyes when it comes to my orchids.  The nursery was out in the middle of the rain forest on roads that probably confuse even a resident, but with a few turn backs we managed to get there.  As we stood at the gate one couldn't help but notice the complete lack of man made noise, all you could hear were the sounds of nature.  I then noticed growing in the trees next to the gate several orchids. Stepping forward to get a better look, I bumped the gate and out of nowhere arrived a band of barking dogs.  Being the dog people we are they didn't bark long before they all turned into a mass of wiggling overgrown puppies all vying for our attention.  The owner soon appeared down the garden path so I apologized for turning her guard dogs into puppies to which she said, "Oh no worries, they are just door bells."  We were then shown the way to the orchid house.

In truth I could have gone home with dozens of orchids but I have decided that since my collection is so large that I should limit myself to one new one every time we visit the Islands.....a good plan? I immediately found my orchid .......

Catlaya 'Burana Beauty'

But then the eye roller saw the orchid of her dreams......
Dendrobium 'spectabile' a very unusual species orchid native to Ghana
I would also like to point out that my orchid only cost $15.00 and Mema's cost $50.00.....excuse me while I roll my eyes.