Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things that made me happy this week.

Taking pics of my pets in the dark with the negative setting.
Gir's thinking, golly, my human gets weirder every day. 
Cookie's ok with the weird; he knows a treat is coming his way any second. He wouldn't look away if a bear came crashing through the window (watch out for the window-crashing-bears-of-Kansas; they break in, delete your dvr recordings, eat all the strawberries you were saving for lunch, and usually don't clean up after themselves).

This is happy and pretty, a twofer. 
So pretty. I wanted to pet it, but I dug deep, and found a tiny bit of restraint. 

I can't begin to tell you how happy I was when I heard about this on the news. 
They actually use brooms. 
They have playoffs and finals and a world championship.
They have a magazine called the Monthly Seer. 

We're driving to Tennessee for the National Storytelling Festival that same week,
or I would absolutely pull the kids out of school and sit on the sidelines and celebrate 
the fact that sometimes, people are awesome beyond the telling of it. 
This is happy-making at its best. 

I just found out there's a team in Kansas. 
Just when I thought life couldn't get any better:

Here's more people discovering that playing like a kid is the secret to happiness:

professional snowball playing

It turns out the Quidditch teams aren't the only ones having a blast.
More happymaking.

This vid is at the top of the happy list. 
It's not the funniest of the series, but its got the least Jersey Shore type language. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I should have stayed home and knitted by the fire.

Cat in the Driver's Seat. The lesser known sequel to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This is Gir, The Sweetest Cat In The World.  He's on my lap in the car while we wait for the person in front of us to wrap up their business with the bank teller. I don't actually drive around with Gir on my lap (I take his welfare very seriously). It's just that we're on our way to the vet after the bank, and it's bad enough to wait in line for very long, but with a cat crying in a cage next to you for long minutes with no end in sight, well, it's awful. So I've turned the engine off, and gotten him out and settled with me.  Gir is happy now, and I'm a little bit happier, because, hey, cuddly cat, but we still aren't moving, and the car in front of me must be signing mortgage papers because I can't think of any drive through bank business that would take this long. 

Maybe it's not bank business, I think to myself. Maybe the teller and the driver are long lost relatives.  Or maybe they were best friends in high school, but they lost track of each other because the teller left before his senior year was over to follow his favorite band but wound up studying the Purple Martin of West Texas because the band broke up after their West Texas concert and after a night wandering stoned and lost in the fields behind the stage, he discovered the heartache caused by his disbanded musical heroes was soothed by the joyful chirruping of local birds. He was soon sending field reports to his high school counselor who was deeply moved by such devotion that he changed our Fearless Bank Teller's status from "drop out" to "work/study release", thus enabling him to get his G.E.D. diploma. He lived on fiddle head ferns and cricket legs and bathed in the one working stream of the West Texas Badlands.  He taught himself colloquial and formal Purple Martin, went on to document the rival Pink Polka Dotted Martin language, and then began a brief but effective stint as ambassador during the Martin/Turkey Vulture Kerfuffle of '09.  A young, rebellious Purple Martin (with shaved tail feathers and a beak piercing made of cedar elm twigs) consented to speak to a later reporter who embedded with the Turkey Vultures while she documented the eventual Peace Treaty of 2012 and recalled that our Fearless Bank Teller had lost patience for the constant politicking, illegal bribery and egg stealing that defined the conflict between the Purple and Pink Polka Dotted Martins and the Turkey Vultures and had left to research the nest building habits of the eastern Arizona Bullfrog as a palate cleanser. Amphibian nest building is a far cry from avian linguistics, as anyone knows, so the Fearless Teller's time among the bullfrogs was short and unsatisfying. Mud-covered, discouraged and looking for a new direction in life, he took his specialized skills in avian linguistics and politics and applied to the undergraduate program of Western-West-Far West Texas University to further pursue the pithy patois of feathered friends. He was not accepted, because just that week, the school's linguistics department had received a donation of ten million dollars. The department did what any god-fearing Texas institution dedicated to higher learning would do, and donated the money to the football team, who used the funds to hire a manicurist and hairdresser to foster morale of the team. The university then quickly dismantled the language program to help focus further donations that might wander in from devoted alumni.  Heartbroken, Our Hero hitchhiked his way north, paying his way with funds gathered by pickpocket Martin loyalists in gratitude for his diplomatic skills. He ran out of cash in Lawrence, Kansas, where he took a job as a teller at a Bank of America. During a break one day, he looked out at the typical Friday afternoon traffic of miles of cars waiting to go through the drive through teller window or the lone ATM and questioned his manager as to why a financial institution such as this one, newly flush with bailout billions, hadn't considered freeing up a small portion for an additional ATM. His superior advised him not to think about it, explaining that over-thinking wasn't the Bank of America way, and assigned him to the drive through, where he would be too busy to entertain seditious thoughts. He was busy and yes, not over-thinking, when he met his old high school friend through the bulletproof glass. He had only begun to chronicle a few details of his life since they'd last met to his long lost friend, who expressed her shock and joy because by amazing coincidence, she had been teaching herself Purple Martin through the Rosetta Stone language series, and had been longing for a partner with whom to practice this obscure but useful language and they had only just begun to gratefully and happily ponder at length such a happy twist of fate when their serendipitous reunion was rudely interrupted by the shocking sight of a crazed woman repeatedly and violently banging her head on her steering wheel, the car horn yelping when it hit her left cheekbone every two seconds, while the cat she'd inexplicably been holding shot out of her arms and was now hanging upside down by its claws in the car ceiling like a furry bat and shaking and squalling like a category 3 hurricane on the verge of wiping out a quaint seaside town.  As they watched in disbelief, the obviously insane woman was now attempting to back out of the drive through line over the raised sidewalk and grassy meridian so she could park in the bank lot that was beckoning just five feet away. They quickly resumed their conversation while valiantly ignoring the demon harpy because such unspeakable rudeness shouldn't be rewarded with attention, and also because it was obvious wasn't going anywhere even though she hadn't realized it yet, since Toyota has yet to invent a minivan that can climb a five foot tall retaining wall. After a life-affirming but scant forty minute conversation they regretfully drew their communion to a close and made plans to meet the next day, where they could further nurture their long lost friendship without any pesky time limits and perhaps even, though certainly gauche, indulge for just a moment their frustration due to the unbelievable rudeness of Certain People Who Bring Cats To The Bank before drawing their exchange back again into higher spheres of birdsong and companionship. 

After this touching scene ended, I restarted the engine and took my place at the teller window, incandescent with rage but grateful that all was not lost since it was still not five pm. But the window was dark, oddly enough. Not a soul could be seen inside the bank. It was closed. The ever helpful Bank of America had started their weekend while I waited (and waited) and now I had to drive out and all the way around the block to get in line at the ATM. There were two cars in that line as I left, but you know how this turns out don't you? If you guessed that ten cars pulled in before me just as I got went around the block, you're right, of course.

Gir's been inside this bag since we got home an hour ago. I know just how he feels.
Bonus Guessing Round: If you guessed that I missed the vet appointment because of a flat tire that I discovered after depositing a furious cat back in his crate, you get ten Gir points (they're small but cute).  If you are an overachiever and guessed that by this time freezing rain was blowing sideways into my face and up my skirt while I filled the tire, why are you wasting time reading this? There's big money to be made with your own psychic hot line.  Expect a call from a woman in Kansas asking if it's safe to leave her house again.                         


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What I thought Kansas was like before we moved here

     Just like some people think that locals in NJ are running around with bowls of spaghetti in one hand and a machine gun in the other, (or freaks with low hairlines who go around picking fights and flipping tables)  I had some misconceptions about Kansas before we moved here.

This is what I thought every square inch of the state looked like:

This is partially true, only the reality looks more like this:

This is the big secret about Kansas: it's gorgeous. You can't believe how beautiful it is.  I've never seen sunrises and sunsets like this anywhere I've lived. And the air smells so good. It's better than perfume. After living in NJ and playing in the City all the time, the Kansas air is such a happy surprise.

Here's what I thought the schools would be like:

Here's the reality:

The high school is huge. It's even got an Olympic sized swimming pool inside. The middle school is huge too, and both schools have an insane number of students. The schools here are good, really good. Beyond the academics, there are so many clubs, special interest groups, and sophisticated social policies.

The other thing that surprised me about this college town is how young most everybody is. There are many more people on the lower end of thirty than people over forty and above.  I'm delighted to be 42 (or 43, I never remember), and I still don't consider myself one of the aged infirm. But holy cow there seem to be a lot of young and youngish types here.

This town makes me feel like this:
Looking Good!
(I owe it all to clean living and Olay Regenerist)

Here's a typical Lawrence, Kansas citizen:

The graduating class of Free State H.S. 2012.  Self fertilizing. 

Because we've already established that I'm clueless and judgy, here's what I thought the average Kansasiananianan looked like:

They DO look exactly like this, they just don't wear sports coats over their overalls. 
That would be tacky.

Actually, Lawrence-ites are hip. Even, dare I say, hipster. It's like little Williamsburg here sometimes. It's awful. The hipsters, I mean. How much longer can this trend hang on? It was funny when skinny, bearded guys in the Burgh wore My Little Pony t-shirts. It was. The verynextminute it stopped being funny, but they were off and running. It's not ironic anymore, it's gross. Last week there were swarms of hipsters holding hands with other hipsters, cuddling in the parks, making the world an ickier place, and you know what's next, right? Right. Hipster babies. Kill me now.

This is wrong. 

Don't you dare tell your child that Kipper the Dog is ironic. You don't make enough money for your child's eventual therapy. Worse than that, when they rebel as teens, they are going to turn into republican stockbrokers. You couldn't see this coming? Idiot hipster.

Here's another thing that surprised me about Lawrence: 

There are a lot of pot smokers here. It's surprising the places you can smell it.  I'd like to blame it all on the hipsters, they certainly deserve to be blamed as much as possible, for anything possible, but it's as likely to be the (cheerful) farmer as well as a (cheerful) neighbor or the (cheerful) college professor. There was even a pot plant growing in my flower garden. I thought it was a stray native plant so I left it alone. It was one foot tall one day, and after a week of rain and sun, it was four feet tall. I saw the leaves and thought, no, couldn't be. But I looked it up online, and it surely was; my very own not so little pot plant.  Turns out you can't compost it, because it grows like a weed, and takes over the other plants. I put it in my garbage disposal to get rid of it. I don't know how it got in my flowers. The guy across the street from me smokes on his front porch during thunder storms. Maybe a seed got blown away from him. On the other hand, there were quite a few renters before we bought the house. I haven't discovered any other illegal greenery lurking in my garden, just an endless parade of rabbits bent on eating everything in the yard (voraciously hungry bunnies... maybe they're "disposing" of the pot plants before I can find them and working out their munchies on my yard).

 Lawrence is a little oasis of liberalism surrounded by a sea of bible belt conservatism. It's unusual, to say the least. There's a town called Liberal, Kansas, but it's not, really. Lawrence is the best kind of liberal. There are gay-straight alliance clubs in the schools, and a sort of straightforward innocent activism that is taken for granted. The parents come to school meetings, the neighbors go to the city meetings, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities, there's a big, active, library that goes out of its way to welcome kids, teens, even homeless people. There is an unspoken attitude that if you care, you take action, you don't just talk about it. It goes without saying that I LOVE THAT.


And now, something I don't love 

The police here have it out for me. No I'm not stoned and paranoid. I don't smoke or drink. What I do, is I  drive. And sometimes, I park. The cops here have a standing policy against both of these.  I got a TWO HUNDRED dollar ticket for going ten miles over the speed limit. That's it. Not weaving, not tailgating. Just ten miles over. On a fast thoroughfare.  I'm sorry, but in Jersey that was considered going under the limit, and irritating to everyone else on the road. In the City? If they had time, the cops would have given me an award for such thoughtful, awesome driving. I also have three parking tickets now, in one year,  after 25 years of never getting one.  They were for the meter running out. Oh, you say, how could you leave your car in one of the few and precious parking spaces here in Kansas (because space is precious here in Kansas...oh, wait, a minute)  for hours and hours past the meter so that other desperate drivers were left circling endlessly? Well, I say, I freaking didn't. I was five minutes past the meter. No, I'm not exaggerating. The parking cops here stand and WAIT for a meter that's about to run out so they can ticket it. I watched it happen, and LAUGHED and of course when I got to my car, it had a ticket (I should have expected that).  The other parking ticket was for skillfully inserting a minivan into an impossible but actual parking space at the eye Dr, and coming back to find a fifty dollar parking ticket because one of my wheels was TOUCHING, not ON not OVER, TOUCHING the white line. When, again, they should have given me a damn medal for amazing parking while maneuvering between two giant trucks that were over their lines. They didn't get tickets. Yes, I'm bitter. Come park here, you'll be bitter too. 

Here's another picture of how pretty Kansas is (and there are no parking meters in the pic, bonus)

This is in the country obviously, but there are roads in Lawrence with shops and businesses on one side, and fields like this on the other side. Like a Van Gogh painting. That's the thing about Kansas; it looks like a painting, or a movie.  It doesn't look real in places. Happy, happy surprise. 

See? As pretty as a painting.