Monday, February 21, 2005

C'mere honey, gimme a lip lock and all your GERMS

I love my husband.

I really, truly do. He's my best friend, my partner in life. We share everything. Including sickness.

Okay, so he didn't know he was sick last week and I do like how he kisses...mmmmm.

And then he came down with a walloping case of brochitis. Of course he passed it onto me. Four days later and he's feeling perky, fine, great.

I'm still sick. My chest feels like an elephant is sitting on it. You may ask, "Why Bonnie, how do you know? Has an elephant ever sat on your chest?"

No, but one time an elephant squeezed DH's butt at a circus. But, that's another story...

I haven't been this sick in months and months. And the antibiotics aren't doing their job. Fever and chills all weekend. I'm coughing like a TB victim. Right now there's a polka band and 1,000 Polish dancers stomping in my head. They're playing a really bad tune as well and singing off key.

Maybe tomorrow I'll feel better. Right now I'd like to curl up under the covers and pass out.

Of course my animals always sense when I'm sick.

This is why I've had four hours of sleep in the past three days, well, also including the wheezing and coughing that kept me up. But every time I'd start to drift off to sleep, the female dog, Tia, would snore. A real window rattler. Then Tiger, the male, would decide, "Hey LETSGOOUTSIDEAGAIN. IWANTTOPEEONABUSHAGAIN."

At 11 p.m. 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

By 7 am. the bird was whistling "Dixie" and then vocalizing because, "HEY WHERE IS MY BREAKFAST YOU LAZY FART FACES! GET UP AND FEED ME NOW!"

Sigh... I sure hope I feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Haiti, again

Looks like I’ll be heading back to Haiti next month. Try, anyway. Memories of the last trip, in which we drove no more than 1,000 yards to the departure terminal at the airport, are still fresh. Visiting Haiti these days is like spinning a roulette wheel. You just take your chances. Right now everything is quiet, as long as we avoid the slums. UN troops have been sweeping through there, engaging rebels. Lots of gunfire, tanks, the usual stuff.

There’s about 1,000 US troops from the Army and Navy as well in Gonaives. They’re on a three month mission to rebuild schools and provide medical care. Nice to hear our military is on a humanitarian mission. And the effort, boy is it needed. The bishop there is saying how terrible conditions are. Really, really awful still. And people seem to have forgotten about Haiti in light of the horrific tsunami disaster in Asia. Everyone is jumping on the fundraising bandwagon to help tsunami victims. Which is great, but I’m a cynic. Rock concerts, books written and their proceeds going to help victims, the intentions are wonderful.

But will the aid truly go to where it’s needed? And do most people understand how long and difficult the road to recovery is?

I’ve seen disasters, many of them, in the 11 years I’ve covered poverty in this hemisphere. Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and Nicaragua, killing thousands. Earthquakes in El Salvador. Floods. Fires. You name it. The media coverage gets everyone’s sympathies charging to the forefront. People are generous. And then the attention dies down, and they forget. They go on with their daily lives.

I only truly learned the enormous scope of how damn long it takes to recover when I visited Grenada about seven years ago. Interviewed families living in these 6’ x 6’ wood shacks supported only by the termites holding hands. They were called “Janet houses.” Government built temporary houses after Hurricane Janet swept through Grenada on Sept. 12, 1955. 500 people died.

1955. And these people were still huddling in these shacks built as “emergency” shelters. Since then another hurricane, Ivan, made a direct hit on that island. I seriously doubt the Janet houses made it through Ivan.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Roofies

Took the day off. Getting roof repaired. At last, when the next hurricane hits, there will be NEW roof shingles to blow off. Roofers found interesting assortment of pesky critters nesting in the rotting wood. Termites. Whoa boy. He said they're wet termites and will die if they are dry. Wet termites? Does that mean they like to party with Jack Daniels? Said termites damn better well be going on the wagon, because I don't relish waking up to having the fixed roof fall down on us as we sleep.

My dad died nine years ago today from heart failure. Was thinking about him as I did taxes to the tune of BANG BANG BANG overhead all day. Dead old Dad. I mean, Dear old Dad. He hated tax time. He'd sit at the very same kitchen table where I sat today and keep up a low grade hum like a generator, only it was a hum that had sentences like this, "&#@*&# taxes, IRS &#*@&#*@&, I can't &#*@#&@, MARIAN! Where the &#*@&#*@ is the &#*@#&@ receipt?"

I miss him. No one could swear up a storm like my dad. One can only hope there are no IRS auditors in heaven. At least one thing's for sure... you can't take it with you. I once tried telling that to a charity that kept sending letters asking for money, only they were addressed to dad. It was a pretty painful reminder he was gone (I had his mail forwarded to my house after he died to pay the medical bills). I kept asking them to take dad off the mailing list. Finally I wrote them a nice little letter like this:

Dear (name of charity),

They say you can't take it with you. They were right. I didn't. I'm dead. Please either take me off your mailing list or change my address to the Fountainhead Memorial Park, Plot XXOO. Sincerely, Harold Fischer..

It worked. Never heard from them again.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Does size matter?

Fark has an amusing article from Glen Aubrey, NY on how an “explicit snow sculpture” of very large male genitals had locals gasping. Six feet tall. Some laughed. Some complained to the sheriff. Said sculpture was removed the following day.

I wonder if the ones who complained felt inadequate.

Six feet, yeah, I would say that’s a little overdone. It reminds me of the very amusing scenario I encountered in Jamaica last year. In downtown Kingston, near a hotel where we stay, there is a park called Emancipation Park. They unveiled a bronze sculpture of a naked man and woman. They are facing each other. They are about 11 feet tall. The man’s equipment is displayed to the world and it is rather large equipment indeed.

When I remarked on this to one of my co-workers, she laughed. The penis size stirred a huge controversy in Jamaica. People complained the man’s genitals were “too big.” The sculptor who created the statue says she did not purposely enlarge that particular part and noted how the man has muscles in his torso and butt and the female is also well-endowed.

Of course no one’s complained about the breast size. Just the penis.

The sculpture is supposed to represent freedom from slavery, same reason why the park is named Emancipation Park. One jocular newspaper columnist called it “The emancipated penis.” He noted that simply because European statues have small ones, doesn’t mean Jamaica must. The Gleaner, the local paper had a column simply titled, “Jamaica Aroused.”

Ironically, there is ANOTHER sculpture of a nude couple, only they complained that man’s equipment was “too small.” If you’ve ever been to Jamaica and flown into Norman Manley airport, you’ll see it on the drive from the airport as the road hooks to the left on the way to Kingston.

Which brings to mind Goldilocks and the three bears. I could steal a line from Sex & the City and call her “Goldicocks,” but I won’t. Goldilocks and the three (what should I call it? Penis? Manhood? Purple warrior? How about Bronzed Male Part?) Bronzed Male Parts. One was too big. One was too small. Surely one could be “just right.”

I think they should remove the big guy and replace it with the smaller guy. Then have the classic Bob Marley lyrics underscored beneath the man’s smaller equipment: “We're coming in from the cold.”

Shrinkage. Solves everything.

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My dad, my first hero

I started a new story this week. It’s different from anything I’ve ever written and as I write it, I realize what is driving it. It’s a tribute to my dad, who died nine years ago next week. Dad was the first hero in my life.

He wasn’t the kind of obvious hero you’d read about in romance novels. In fact, my mother would have pointed out that he was a pain in the posterior. Her favorite saying, “You could drive the Mother of God up the walls!” That was often applied to dad.

He was a design engineer by trade, and for him the word “anal” was invented. Dad used to pour over his designs, waxing eloquently in engineering jargon that I could never comprehend. For me it was far easier to understand Klingon than Dad.

Dad wasn’t a hero you read about in papers, a guy who fought in WWII and stormed the beaches at Normandy or risked being downed by Japanese anti-aircraft fire as he soared over the skies. He wasn’t eligible to fight in the war. His brother, Don, was a fighter pilot. He got the medals and the praise. Dad stayed at home, courtesy of bad eyesight and having to take care of his family.

But he did his part. Dad designed parts that went into the airplanes that fought in the war. He was most proud of these designs. Dad worked for Grumman Aircraft Engineering. They built military aircraft and designed and built several U .S. Navy aircraft that had stellar reputations for aeronautical engineering.

In his spare time, he put together airplane models of the planes he had helped design. One of these sits now in a place of honor in my curio cabinet. I wish I knew what kind of plane it was. Somehow, now, 9 years after his death, it seems important to me.

Dad grew up in Jamaica, NY. His family was pretty well off until his father lost all in the great crash and the Depression set in. I remember Dad talking wistfully about how he always wanted to go to college, and never got the chance. He had to stay home and get a job to support his family. So dad worked running errands on Wall Street instead of going to college, and as he said, “You’d look up as you walked the street because in those days, there were always guys tossing themselves out of windows because things were so bad.”

He’d talk of poverty and how they’d make coal last in the winter by putting it in a can wrapped in newspaper to preserve the heat. He talked of stretching a dollar until it cried. There wasn’t any choice in those days.

But most of all, he talked of those Navy planes he’d helped design and how proud he was he did his bit for his country.

As I’m writing my new romance, which has for a hero a Navy SEAL, I’m thinking of the typical heroes who fight tough, who are known as the best combat specialists in the world, who have seen active duty combat. And my hero isn’t modeled after them, as courageous as they are. My hero is modeled after my dad. A guy who was kinda quiet, never really achieved his dreams, but was determined to make something of himself, despite all the obstacles. I never did know what planes he helped design, or what missions they flew. I was too busy and too impatient to be off doing my stuff.

I just wish I had listened closer all those years ago.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bird brain

#@*#@^ bird. Yesterday I'm running amok, trying to get ready for work and hustling Tia out into the back yard. I step out onto the sunroom in my underwear and the bird lets loose this low, shrill wolf whistle. I just stared at him and said, "You know, you're a very rude bird."

He replied, "Yeah."

He could have a wide vocabulary and say much worse things. The imagination reels at such possibilities of what he could have said yesterday...

"Nice panties! Yard sale?"
"Whoa! Cover my cage, please! My eyes, oh, my eyes!"
"Are you losing weight? Your ass has shrunk."

Sigh... Maybe that's why I love my dogs so much. They give love. Affection. And they don't talk.

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Musings

There’s a Zen sand garden on my desk with a miniature rake. A gift from a friend, it’s supposed to soothe my troubled spirit. Through raking the sand, I will find enlightenment, and peace.

I’m raking like crazy , as if the sand were a pile of dead autumn leaves. No smooth, serene tracks in the sand for this neurotic writer. Yup, I’m scraping and tossing sand, zigging and zagging. It may not lead to enlightenment, but it sure as hell makes me feel better seeing those crazy patterns in the sand, like the chaos of my life.

Amazing how much better being home with my hubby, my two doggies and plenty of rest will make me feel. My depression, which now I realize was partly physical (&#*@&#@* hormones!) is abated. I gave myself permission to read for pure enjoyment as I did in PPD (pre-published days). I devoured two books and felt sated, thank you very much. I slept, something I had not done all week in Honduras. And with much TLC by hubby and rest and a good movie, I was able to tilt my world back on its axis. And introspection, which can get quite maudlin and self-pitying, is sometimes best presented in a mirror image. Such as the movie we saw.

Sideways. (Spoiler alert) Quite funny, very entertaining but for me, the true revelation was the hangdog, bassett-hound English teacher hopeful author who was awaiting word from his agent on his first novel being accepted for publication. His words in the film, “I’m a thumbprint on a skyscraper” in regards to his writing, were brilliant. And I saw in this middle-aged, somewhat frumpy, fussy wine taster and melancholy writer, a glimpse of myself. Miles is anxious to get his novel published not just for the sake of seeing it in print, but to aspire to something greater than his mundane existence. Divorced, “Officially depressed,” he actually has a meltdown in a winery after he phones his agent and gets word that yet again, the novel has been rejected by a publisher. The agent, a female with a gentle, soothing tone tells him it’s not marketable.

Miles goes ballistic and drinks the chum others have tossed away into the spit bucket, spilling it all over his blue shirt. The dregs of what wasn’t good enough for others is what he feels he deserves. God only knows what is in that bucket of salvia-mixed chardonnays and merlots and pinots (maybe a secretly tossed Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill?). Later that night when DH and I were watching The Last Days of Pompei on the discovery channel, I learned about fulleries. These were the ancient Roman laundries that actually used human urine to get out stains from laundry (because of the acid). Slaves did the dirty work, stomping about in vats of urine to get those togas clean and bright and white again. And I thought of Miles again, left with the dregs of waste. Yeah, poor, angry Miles, probably feeling like someone’s piss boy when he gets the news of his novel being rejected and dumps the used wine all over himself, like some kind of dyslexic baptism. Instead of being made clean, he wallows in waste.

Watching Miles and his dour, mournful face was like peeking at myself in the mirror (well, without the beard and mustache and certainly without the high dome forehead and mournful brown eyes, plus he has no boobs, well, maybe, but mine are bigger). How many times have I been tempted to figuratively wallow in self-pity and drown myself when I get bad news? And life goes on. Yup. There always will be times when you hit the bottom of the wine barrel, but then there is, as Miles so aptly illustrated, that special bottle of ’61 Cheval Blanc.

It becomes a celebration when he opens it, in the most perfect setting, a fast food restaurant. While noshing on fried onion rings. And that little scene for me, more than the knock on the pretty waitress’s door at the film’s end, signified real hope in real life. If you keep all the good stuff bottled up and tucked away like a bottle of rare wine, it’s going to go to waste. It will peak and then slowly die, and lose its flavor. And eventually, turn to vinegar. So better to swallow the offerings in a greasy spoon than keep it bottled up, even if the only person appreciating its rare, excellent bouquet is yourself.

Who wants vinegar when they can have the rarified experience of a good bottle of wine? I see inside myself a plethora of stories like that bottle of ’61 Cheval Blanc, waiting to peak. And if I keep them bottled up, tucked away into a dark corner and never uncork them and let their effervescence bubble, and sample their bouquet, they’ll just sour and I’ll be the one turning to vinegar. I don’t want to be vinegar. I want to be wine. I want to make others happy with what I have to give, and give the best I’ve got to give at that moment. The bouquet is zesty, heady and bold, piquant on the palate, even sharp and a bit acid. Others might spit out, but if one or two people smack their lips and proclaim, “Wow!” then it’s all worth it. Even if the only person saying “Wow!” is me.

http://www.bonnievanak.com



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I need a change of scenery...

To lift me out of this depression... hmmm...


Ah, I feel much better now. Posted by Hello

http://www.bonnievanak.com

The lost chance

I can’t distance myself today from what I saw last week.

The scene plays over and over in my mind, an endless loop. The child condemned to die.

No melodrama here, just plain old reality. More so than the baby who died of starvation the morning we arrived at the hospital is the child doomed to die for lack of a simple operation. Isaiah. Four years old, he lay in his crib, his pale legs like matchsticks, his breathing shallow and labored. A tube shoved down his nose, an IV stuck into his skinny arm. His mother stood by him, stroking his forehead, pushing back the thinning brown hair from his eyes. Tears flooded her own eyes, dripped down her cheeks as she told us the story. The silent plea in them was unmistakable.

Help save my baby from dying.

We couldn’t.

It was too late, and the mere fact socked me like a sucker punch. There was help there, you see. Isaiah suffered from a blocked esophagus. Each time he swallowed food, he vomited it back up because his throat would only swallow so much. He became thinner and thinner. But luck was with him because there were two American doctors at San Pedro Sula who were set to operate the morning we visited. They would cut a hole in his esophagus and Isaiah, after healing, would be a normal little boy again.

But the night before, his mom, who had kept a steadfast vigil at his bedside for the 22 days he was at the hospital, had to go home to tend to her other children. In her place, she sent her older son. And the older son, despite doctor’s orders, thought his little brother needed food. Maybe he couldn't understand. The reason why doesn't matter. He fed him.

Isaiah went into convulsions. The surgery was cancelled. I asked the head nurse if they couldn’t do the surgery. She said, “He’s too unstable.”

“And when he stabilizes? Can the American doctors operate?”

“They are leaving today.”

The doctors, who could have saved his life, would have, but they couldn’t and were leaving Honduras. So I stood there in this little boy’s hospital room, knowing what the mom probably already felt. Her son was going to die.

He could have been saved.

I thought later of lost opportunities in life. Everyone has them slip through their fingers, out of sheer bad luck or ill timing. A great job, a book published, a dream fulfilled.

For Isaiah, it is a life saved.