Friday, March 12, 2010

I Dream a Little Dream (of Roma)

A brief glance at my "recently watched" list on Netflix reveals a diet heavy on science fiction, which is weird. Sci-fi is a genre that has never really interested me before, with its stock characters and situations—mad scientists, newly conscious and therefore neurotic computers, big breasted aliens, and end-of-the-world scenarios—all designed to appeal mostly to adolescent boys and man-children. Still, a girl can only reread (and rewatch) Pride and Prejudice so many times (she loved the Bollywood version, but the zombie version gave her nightmares), so to new frontiers in viewing I turned.

The list includes the new Star Trek film (illogical and noisy but amusing), Torchwood (all three series; gory and gritty and sexy, oh my), Doctor Who (most recently season 4; the tenth Doctor is so dreamy; sigh; sorry, what were we talking about?), and Firefly (a cowboy-space adventure from Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; beloved by his fans, it left me cold). As a result of exposing my eyeballs and presumably my brain to all this intergalactic flash and fanfare, my dreams have become action-packed and gravity-defying.

In a recent one, I found myself rallying human troops against an impending alien invasion. I charged around a hospital-like setting, screaming instructions at a panicked citizenry on how to use ray guns and photon weaponry against the encroaching enemy. At some point, I looked down at my side, and there, on my left, where she always walked, was my Roma, all puffed up and in her prime, ready to kick some interplanetary butt. I was so thrilled and shocked to see her there that I woke up. 

Roma trotted by my side for more than thirteen years. I never felt much like a warrior or a princess during our sidewalk adventures. Perhaps because it was the other way around. Roma was the mighty huntress, scaler of tall rocks, detector of hidden treats, manipulatrix of human minds; I merely carried her kit. It was wonderful to see her. Stupid, wonderful dreams—and science fiction stories. They make anything seem possible. The dead live again; the world ends—almost; time bends and refracts; life is real and unreal at the same time. No wonder we return to them again and again; they are most illogical. 

Have a good weekend. -z

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

Back when I worked in-house at textbook company here in Austin, our department had a rivalry with the New York City office. The deal was that even though Texas was the well endowed girl every textbook company wanted to take to prom (big state + millions of ignorant school children = big kaching for sales), our company originated in New York, and enthroned in the Manhattan office was one of the pioneer women of textbook editing, a woman named Kathleen Daniel. KD presided over the development of the literature-language arts books that actually went into the children's hands. Oh, the glamor and prestige of reading lichrachur and culling of appropriate fine art! Oh, the sheer magnitude and importance of the task of distilling Great Works for the Minds of Impressionable Children! The NY office agonized over every line, obsessed over every detail, and missed every deadline. The job of the Texas editors, however, was to pry the red pencils out of the New York editors' hands and use their material to prepare the books for the teachers. We provided answers to the Deep Questions and offered classroom management strategies for teaching different student populations, such as kids with special needs or kids who barely speak English. Ours, of course, was the harder road. (Can you explain Beowulf  to a kid who is autistic and just arrived from Korea, in 100 words or fewer? Production needs it in twenty minutes.) But the New York editors looked down on us, when they considered us at all. In response, we had posted in a prominent place a postcard with the saying, "We don't care how they do it in New York."

So it always gives me a quiet thrill when I read about the tribulations of living in the Big Apple—not the bogus problems like the cost of a co-op or coffee or the ride to the airport or how Broadway is dying. Big deal. But bugs? Bed bugs? Yes! Take that, Empire Staters! Bed bugs are a huge, huge problem in NYC, where recently there have been thousands of documented cases of infestations. And New Yorkers are embarrassed. Imagine that! In a city where rats travel in armies and Democrats voted for Giuliani. The best part of the article I read this morning in the Times, though, is the doe-eyed puggle (Pug + Beagle = Puggle!) named Cruiser, an able detection dog who spends his days traveling the boroughs of New York and identifying bed bug lairs in hysterical New Yorkers' well upholstered homes. Go ahead and read the article—though if you are squeamish, you might want to skip the part about how Cruiser's handlers feed the bed bugs he needs for his training. Otherwise, it's so satisfying. "Gosh, NYC, do you feel itchy?" Then, go out and hug a fire ant or say howdy to a tree roach or kiss a mosquito, and thank your lucky stars you live in Texas.
Photo credit: Chad Batka for the NYT

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

She Feels My Pain

Last week was one of those weeks where things just kept going wrong. Sinks got plugged up, heads got bonked, paws got hurt, laundry hung out to dry got rained on. I actually had some work (though with killer deadlines), but for some mysterious reason, the fingers on one hand swelled up and turned itchy, painful, and blotchy like those fancy aubergines I saw at Central Market today. I went to doctors, frantically scribbling edits on prints-out while listening to BeeGees on overhead speakers in waiting rooms. (I guess "Staying Alive" is an appropriate tune for a doctor's office.) The doctors would examine my sausage-shaped fingers, wrinkle their brows, and say, "Huh. I have no idea what that is." And so on to the next specialist.

Since my fingers were barely working, I thought it might help to take apart my ancient computer's keyboard. One afternoon I gently pried off the keys and used a can of compressed air to blow out all the dog hair and dust.  Of course, in putting everything back together, I inadvertently reversed two keys, the s and the d. I thought I was going mad when I'd hit the apple + s keys to save and something else happened. And I was too busy to stop and fix the keys. I simply had to remind myself that s was d and d was s. I know what you're thinking. "What a sipdhit." It was really no different from the time I drove a crappy old Buick that had a clock so difficult to adjust that for six months of the year it was five minutes slow. After Daylight Savings Time kicked in, it was then 55 minutes fast. Or maybe it was the other way around. As if life isn't complicated enough.

Always sympathetic, Muzzy developed a sore paw, too. Her front right one--just like mine. I took her to the vet, who diagnosed a dislocated a toe and recommended pain meds and moderate levels of activity. At the same time, however, the vet also discovered that Muzzy has a broken tooth. It just so happens to be in the same place in her mouth as the tooth in mine that I need to have extracted. Estimated cost? Nearly $600 bucks. Same as mine. Good thing I'm working. Fingers don't fail me now.

They say that over time people grow to look like their dogs. I never was lovely and regal like my Roma. I'll never be as cute as the Muzz, who still sends the vet techs swooning, but I will feel her pain, and, unfortunately, she'll feel mine, too.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Inaugural Bluebonnet

Ladies and Gentledogs, I give you the first bluebonnets of the season.

Photo is courtesy of Sarah and Tony, who are leaving Dog Park and Austin for Nebraska on Wednesday. Wish them luck!