"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT with Mr Crisco, or the stinky kid!

I've been travelling a lot this summer and I've decided plane trips, when you travel alone, are like a turkey shoot! Duck, don't make eye contact with that greasy looking guy...he may...gulp; sit next to you!

When I was younger I know I enjoyed the mystery of a trip. My mom always said I was the last one off the plane with a string of good looking guys carrying my luggage. Since I lost the magic of innocent persuasion a while ago...I now want absolutes...like WHO THE HECK IS THAT PERSON SITTING NEXT TO ME!

The way they load planes now-a-days, you never know "what" or "WHO" will be seated next to you. It could be a Yeti, Mr Crisco, or something out of a tale by the Grimm brothers.  The worst is when you bid on a ticket for one of the left over "not sold" seats you end up with 4-5 connections before you get to your destination.  When you do that I can assure you that your fate will be the dreaded middle seat.  Who ever decided that the three seat configuration was the way to go should be shot! I remember as a kid travelling by plane to New York each summer, and the planes had a two seats on each side thing going on...so at least one side of you could breathe, and not be crushed by a person sitting on each side. (Which seems to be my destiny)

Ahhh. "The Middle Seat". Who will get that seat????  It could be you, or if you are in a row without a couple to take two of the seats, you have to worry if you will be seated next to characters from an alien movie. Not fun. I have experienced both those situations when travelling to meetings and conferences for my school board position.  I would have to travel alone as none of the other board members, (mostly men) had schedules that meshed with mine. Never the less, I pressed on...and was often squished in that middle seat by rotund passengers on each side of me.

Now if you take a good look at the arm rests of plane seats you will discover that under the arm rest there is an opening. Quite easy for the person sitting beside you to SLOP their adipose tissue through the opening and onto your lap.  On one unfortunate trip I was the bologna in the sandwich of two large men who had lots of fat pushing into my side and onto my lap from both sides. I remember they were seated before I arrived and I almost cried when I saw them. After I was somewhat situated I looked for the seat belt, then I decided...no way was I going to fish around in the piles of tissue for the restraining device, and really there was no need as I was so packed into my seat I couldn't move if I wanted to...

 I had my own dualie-air-bags, already deployed sitting on both sides of me. Interesting that the Stewardess seat belt-Nazi did not even notice or call to my attention to the fact that I was not...OH NO, can you even believe it?...NOT buckled.  I guess she did not want to fish around for the seat belt either.  So there I sat for 3 hours not able to move as both sets of shoulders extended into my space along with everything else,
and I was pinned there like a bug specimen ...unable to move.

On one of my recent trips two young teen boys had the middle and aisle seat while I had the window seat. Okay I thought not too bad. The one in the middle had not hit his growth spurt so there was no fighting for possession of space going on. I did notice however that the two parents were across the aisle...blissfully removed of parental duties.  And they were also away from the unusual smell that began to waft toward me like a green cloud. They must have know the kids had eaten some sort of gaseous food the night before and that's why they abandoned the kids, emancipated them, so to speak...for as long as the flight, at least. 

Within 15 minutes I was gasping for breath wishing the air bags would drop from the ceilling...for at very very frequent intervals various bowel eruptions produced a blasting hot wet-poopie smell.  As my eyes began to tear-up, I gaged and cranked up my air-vent to full and had the stale recycled air hitting my face, then finally I leaned forward to breathe the air from between the seat in front of me and the window. I was doing all within my power to get some relief. I was wishing I could open the window. Of course that is ridiculous but by then I'm sure many brain cells had died, and all reason was lost.

So AHHHHH! The middle seat, If it is empty, it's Nirvana. Yes, the vacant middle seat is the wish of all who travel alone. We hold our breath (even without air cheese happening) pray, and await the closing of the cabin door. We lone passengers are dreading the arrival of the third in the row to spoil our flight, our air, our space, our brain cells, or our sanity.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WARNING! Do not read if you are faint of heart! "Sucked into the abyss of Government Double-speak"...and never seen again!...We discovered the Social Security Department is worse than the DMV...oh how can that be! I must be in the land of OZ!

I flew to Arizona, rather than have Patrick travel home this weekend because he had an appointment to meet with a person from the Social Security office. He did this because the Social Security office in California is sooo busy.  Oh how foolish! Government agencies no matter where they are seem to be overly busy and have absolutely no concern for the people they profess to "serve.

We already knew that government agencies were bastions of inefficiency by going to the DMV. Most people know from personal experience the DMV is a black hole that sucks the life from your bones.  And, when we discovered that most transactions at the DMV could be completed at the Automobile, AAA club we ran to that company to sign up. Avoiding the DMV is the main reason for our membership. Not for the maps. Not for the flat tire fix or towing...it is for the direct caring access to services by a staff that knows what they are doing and how to smile.

The only time we returned to the DMV after discovering that we could avoid the line and foul moods of government employees by joining AAA was for driver's test exams for our children, (four times for our first driver, Patrick Michael, who still has a bit of a lead foot.) I think two of the girls took two times to pass the driving test...Megan took the driver test in a stick-shift 1/2 ton truck because my car was at the shop.  She passed on the first try, I suspect because the tester had pity on her. 

To contact a real live person and make an appointment at the DMV office; it is necessary to wait on the telephone line at least 45 min after you find your way through the mechanical voices and punch enough numbers on your phone to cramp your hand.  I learned to simply carry the phone with me while it played elevator music and then do laundry or mop the floor, all the while waiting to speak with real live, possibly sentient being...albeit, "grumpy" possibly sentient being. 

Much to my chagrin Patrick suggested I try to get an appointment to talk to the SS person the same time he was scheduled. Of course the  phone wait for the Social Security office (all calls to make an appointment go to a central office, not the individual one in your area...which to me would be more efficient; but no one asked me!) The wait was about the same as the DMV, 45-60 min. And so I took up my familiar "at home" duties to fill up the wait time (I hope they didn't think I was sitting there doing nothing while waiting.)

Several times I thought a person was there on the line only to discover it was a different mechanical voice interrupting the elevator music to inform me how much they CARED, and how they are serving over 2 million persons on Social Security. (I said to myself..."If there is such a big demand...How about hiring more government workers to answer the phone...but that would be too easy, ehh Obama?")

 Once the Kingston trio sang a song that resembles our experience on the day we went to the Social Security Office. "Oh he never returned, Oh he never returned and his fate is still unlearned...he may ride forever through the streets of Boston...He's the man who never returned." Every elected official should be ashamed and try to fix the system or the minions will one day rise-up in rebellion!

Sorry I am ranting, even when I think about it my blood boils. But, we really needed to see a living person due to the fact that none of the documents on line or in printed form answered our questions. Questions about our money and how much we would receive, when it would come, how much they would take out automatically for Medicare and other such pressing questions...we needed to speak with an official representative in order to make decisions about our future...sooo, fools that we are... we finally made an appointment! (that was after the obligatory one hour wait on the phone line.)

The Friday before the appointment Patrick received an automated call that said we were to arrive at 11:00 instead of 2:00. So after having a tough time finding the place we ran in at about 11:01 had our bags checked for weapons and were directed to the place where you check in, We took a numbered piece of paper that was our GOLDEN ticket. I then looked around...Oh the humanity!!!!!

We sat down in the black metal waffle-hole seats that were uncommonly wide. "Hmmm, these seats are generous, "I wonder why they went to the expense."

Then I realized that every chair was packed, and I do mean packed! Other than at a water park in Virginia, I have never see such a large gathering of incapacitated very large rear ends. 
Unless of course you are at Wal-Mart
And the wait began... and we waited and waited...At 12:00 an agitated woman ran out from behind the closed doors of the inner sanctum and screamed. "Quit coming to the windows and interrupting interviews.  Today is the first day of our new system and you MUST be patient." She then glared at everyone in the room.
So all of us sitting there shrunk into the metal seats the best we could and tried to mentally prepare for the long haul.  Everyone watched the numbers on the slowly changing notification signs tick off. We were all hoping we would be next but then I realized the numbers skipped and went forward and back. (I think that was so you didn't realize others were taken in front of you) I kept checking the number we were given and wondered if we could ask someone about those who had make an appointment...if we went in first, or was the policy...the first shall be last. But there was no one to ask! This query came to me because it seemed every Tom Dick and Harry that arrived and took their ticket after us...had already been to the window, and or the "interview" room. Finally our number was called (it was 1:30, or 2 1/2 hours after we had arrived)...we were summoned to the magic window by a woman who scowled at us and obviously had; an upset stomach, needed to use the restroom, and also had arthritis, rheumatism, cramps and a headache. 
After a few questions we were sent back to sit...we now moved closer to the elusive interview door.  Patrick was, by now mumbling at the grinning photo of Obama on the wall wishing he had a box-cutter.to slash off the smile. And I knew at this point why we were checked for weapons....good move by the SS department which I'm sure has had patrons "Go Postal." And who could blame them!
Okay, so I admit, I was mumbling too. And I got louder and louder about having an appointment at 11:00 and how it was now past 2:00. How we had been patient for three hours, and maybe should come back later when they were ready to serve their customers...and that the new system sucked!
So Patrick hears me and says, "Maybe we should leave and sign up on line."
I begin to fume as I respond, "Are you kidding! No way! This is like being in line for the Matterhorn at Disneyland and the cars are stuck, and how with so much time invested...you refuse to leave the line...It's like that." I say quite loudly..."And besides..."I'm going to the bathroom."
"If we haven't been called by 2:30, I'm leaving," he calls after me.
"No were NOT." I yell back.
When I return, I see a lull in the people at the magic window and boldly go where no one has dared to go...but I'm determined to conquer the demon and approach the indigestion riddled, crampy, headachey woman and timidly ask, "So, since we had a reservation...um, appointment at 11:00, how much longer do we have to wait because it's almost 4 hours and I don't think I can take much more of this waiting patiently.
"You had an appointment? What's the name, hmmm, I see no appointment."
"Yes, we did have an appointment."
"Why didn't you say so?"
"You never asked, but we did, when we checked in...we hit the button that asked if we had an appointment and pushed the thing YES...we have an appointment."
"Did your ticket say you had an appointment, It should have said you had an appointment."
"Look lady, it only had a number, we have never been here...we didn't know what the ticket should say...it had a number...so waited for that number!"  I was getting louder.
"Oh, there it is...now I see it's in here. You know this is a new system...sorry. I'll have the next agent talk to you. I thought you were walk ins."
"Yea, Lady. But even if we were walk-ins every other walk-in I've see come in after us; has come and gone ten times over." Of course I screamed this on the inside...as I did not want to make the key-mistress mad.
Soon we were able to complete our business and we were out of the office by 3:00. (the day was shot; so-to- speak, and by that time I was really ready to shoot someone or something.) We were handed papers to fill out for Medicare and were told we needed to bring them back to the office...and also that we should not forget to make an appointment as the wait time would be much less.
So as we left the building in the setting sun I decided that our sojourn at the social security office beats any DMV I have ever visited.  I really think it may beat the guy who died while waiting to get into the emergency room at Martin Luther King hospital. (At least he was out of his misery) And as a permanent reminder of Government Inefficiency and our pain and suffering from the long wait...I have been permanently branded in my rear by the ventilation holes adorning the seats at the Social Security office!

I have the best idea ever!!...for maximum efficiency the DMV, AND the Social Security office should both turn over their jobs to the Automobile club. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Apache Spirit Ranch,

So after many moons (so to speak) Here I am ready to give up half my mind. I have a tale to tell of Lies, romance and mystery...or in other words...our trip to Tomstone Arizona!

"Let's not sit around," says he!  "Perish the thought," says I. "I've only worked some horrendous hours...three 16 hour shifts in a row, so let's drive somewhere to see more sand."

Now mind you we are in Arizona at Patrick's condo next to Intel where he has been loaned out by the L.A. Office of Turner Construction.  In fact most those working there are from somewhere else I discovered. Chicago, New York, Mississippi, to name a few places. Arizona is not the bastion of beauty in my eyes...lots of sand for a beach...BUT WHERE IS THE WATER? They think to trick you... those tricky tricksters...and even put up lots of palm trees. Well to me, a palm tree means, Goody! Soon there will be waves and birds and boats...NAY NAY tis a lie, a lie I tell you!

those who put up such deceptive landscape should keep their eyes on me since I have my gun...on my hip. Well no I don't, but I could here in this state. But I digress. This is a story about our fun trip to Tombstone. Along the way I must have fallen asleep, but no loss. Just more sand and an occasional cactus.  20 miles to Tucson. Yea! Nay nay, again...only more sand and one lonely tall building marked the town. The few hotels I spotted looked old, seedy, and sandy. So "lets wait til Tombstone to get a room."

About an hour later there we were. Now I must admit...it was a slight climb to get there, maybe 500 feet or so. What a view. And on top of this mound of dirt was the town, looking like a run down Knotsberry farm without the rides. (Like it was when I was a kid but without the berries.) 

By now Patrick was determined to quell my sour attitude and find a nice place to stay so out he whipped his handy phone. The magic happened..and there it was...Welcome to Apache Spirit Ranch! The rooms in the 2x2 inch screen on his phone looked okay. I hoped for some shred of cleanliness at least.

After wandering around town with it's many fake cowboys waiting to have photos taken with the tourists....and then hoping to pocket a few dollars, we decided we were tired and wanted to get to "The Ranch ". I called and a foreign accent assaulted my ears..."Ver r u?"

Oh boy, I thought...this may be bad...and thought better than to ask how long it would take to drive back to Phoenix.  So after 45  min of wandering along a dirt road around cactus and some old fence...we arrived at Apache Spirit.
The Lovely German Girl, (no wonder I couldn't understand her) showed us our room.  We left the old barn where the registration desk was located and wandered down a street that had storefronts decorated as if it was a western town.

"U zee, de ruums r decorated like the fronts. Zat vun, de Bordello, zat vun de black schmit place, and all are inzide like it sayes. Ve hef fer yu, de Jail..."

With glee she opened a door and we peered in to see bars and cells, handcuffs and manacles on the walls. After she gave us the keys and left with a funny smile on her face, we could not stop laughing. "Honey can I handcuff you?" I asked...and then after the shock...I felt the beds, and with my "Princess and the Pea" imitation deemed they were at least bearable for one night.

"I think we have been transported to the twilight zone...." I said. And Patrick responded with "but dinner is included, and if we want to stay for a while tomorrow we can help with the cattle and go on a ride on the dusty trail. Like I did as a teenager on the family ranch.

After about a 30 min. nap we heard the unmistakable sound of a dinner triangle being rung. We trudged along the street with a few others who exited from their "storefront rooms." I felt out of place in my UCLA tee-shirt alongside my husband in his Seahawks ball-cap as we eyed the western garb they all wore.

I felt like we had missed wardrobe call for "Gun-smoke." Polished boots, stiff levis, sparkles and sequins covered everything. New cowboy-hats were worn by everyone we saw. We were definitely underdressed. It wasn't until we got closer I realized all were speaking German, the same as the accented receptionist.

The dining room was beautifully appointed. The tables were placed in a horseshoe shape with everyone facing each other.  "Oh boy", I thought, "this will be fun dinner conversation."  No one seemed interested in trying out their English on us and we were surrounded by throaty words which sounded like everyone had consumed too much dairy and tons of phlegm involved.

Then from behind me came a high pitched giggle, and a low rumble in (thank goodness) English. Into the empty space beside us sat a large woman and a man in worn cowboy garb, and his shoes were covered with mud. We soon discovered they were the entertainment for the evening. At least he was anyway. She was his new squeeze. A well-endowed freshly divorced woman from Tombstone. 

The food was well cooked, delicious and elegantly served. Surprise! After the meal, the barmaid invited everyone into the small lounge for the entertainment. Cowboy Bob, our dinner companion from Nashville was quite unexpected. His voice was rich and his guitar was mellow. Although his dinner conversation had been quiet, when he was on stage he transformed into the western singer his audience expected. The dark beer drinking crowd requested Johnny Cash songs by the number. Yet when he sang "Ghost Riders in the Sky" everyone except us had no clue this was closer to a real Cowboy song than most of the others he crooned.

The music had a strong beat that demanded toe-tapping and Patrick and I swayed and bounced to the tunes. I noticed none of the Germans moved at all. They sat like statues and hardly smiled. I decided they had no love of music or were a bit deaf. The stiff backed men continued to ask for Johnny Cash and a few Beatles tunes.

After the first music set we left the beer drinking crowd behind and retired to our room decorated with manacles and handcuffs. When we lay down to enjoy a little TV we discovered most of the stations were in German. Ehhh? Yes the stations must have been broadcast from some obscure German holding in the US.  The Twilight Zone continued.

The next day we were able to talk to the receptionist and learned the resort was owned by a, (go figure) German man who advertised heavily on the continent. She told us, "Many Germans want to experience western life just like they see in the movies."

We drove off down the road in a cloud of dust and wondered if the folks in the cowboy garb really believed they were having a true western experience or if they knew it was a fantasy.  I decided it really didn't matter, they were having fun. But I knew no real cowboy would have ever been seen in so many sequins. 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hold My Gum!

"Hold my gum I gotta sing"
Is not a simple request
It's a sign of love, may I suggest
To hold the sticky blob for another,
Is only for sweethearts and not for your brother

No Ordinary life if You Marry the Youngest of Five Boys!

He was tall and handsome with broad shoulders and thick curly dark hair, and very shy. I was drawn to him right away, and he tells me he knew we would marry after the moment he saw me when I was the night librarian at the college we both attended.  I found out he was the youngest of five boys....actually much younger than his brothers, France, Don, Leon and Scott. His next oldest brother Scott was almost ten years his senior...so the new baby Patrick (the only one born in a hospital) became the teasing target of the four older brothers. When we were around his family he was always on alert for a prank or practical joke.


Now this was new to me as I came from a quite formal New York family where everyone wore suits and rode the train to work in the big city. Our family moved to California 3,000 miles across the country when most of the silent film studios were moving and switching to "talkies". My dad was a controller for a sound studio and a money manager of golden age films. He spent most of his days at a desk balancing accounts and telling directors how much money they could spend. 

Patrick's dad had been a stock man and rancher on the Arizona Strip where the older four brothers were born. I guess you could not have found two more opposite people if you tried...as far as our background and upbringing went.

Patrick's older  brothers...Scott, Leon, and Don at the rancho

I remember as a kid going to Sequoia National Park and my brother Timothy and I begging our dad to stop so we could look at the huge trees. I had on a frilly dress, ruffled socks and patent-leather Mary-Jane shoes.  My dad was the kind who went on a trip for the drive and was content to see the sights through the windshield of a car. If he did stop it was only to do the "Chevy Chase" bounce-once-look...and then want us to get back in the car. I don't think I had been camping or even on a picnic until I met Patrick.

In the summer when growing up we would drive to New York from California my brother and I were placed in the back seat with a roll of lifesavers and a comic book....this was to keep us busy in the back seat for the daily very long drive...it took us exactly 3 1/2 days to drive to New York...the Catskill Mountains. My grandmother's house was huge, they ran a boarding country farm where they took in city folk for vacations away from the city. The kitchen always smelled amazing, and grandma would take me on long walks and explain about all the weeds and flowers, naming each and telling me how you could make a tea to heal different ailments. Maybe that's why I became a nurse, I think my grandma was a healer, she learned about plants from her mom who was part Indian.

We would then go into the city to visit my father's family. It was formal and everyone wore suits and ties to breakfast that was served on china placed on a white crisp tablecloth. My dad figured a place was not good enough to eat at unless they had tablecloths...I know in all his 82 years he never went to a fast food place.

So I fell in love with a country boy who teased and played tricks because he was subjected to such things by his brothers on a daily basis. My background was formal and quite stiff. Teasing was not anything I understood or was used to. On our wedding night while I dressed in my beautiful lingerie, Pat's comment was, "So you brought your curtains"...the next day while in the shower...he dumped a bucket of cold water on my head, saying, "Why are you mad..my brothers do that all the time and think it's funny." He couldn't understand why I was crying. I got used to the teasing quickly and even learned to dish it out a little. But he was always doing something new...like hiding in the closet and jumping out to scare me or one day when I was doing dishes and looking out the window over the sink...he jump up into view wearing a horrible scarry mask. My screams could be heard for blocks...great fun..he thought.

I had heard for weeks before our wedding that his brothers were going to kidnap him and chain him to a wall somewhere...or put a ball and chain around his leg and chain him to a train going to San Diego. As a preventative Pat even hid all his old shot puts to stop them from using them for the deed...I refused to go to the church building for the wedding until I got a call from my Dad that Pat had arrived to prevent me from being left at the alter. And during the reception the brothers showed up with a freshly painted ball and chain they had made by pouring cement into an old basket ball and putting the end of the huge chain into it and letting it dry. The thing was huge and heavy. Then Scott, the next oldest brother had spray painted it all black. Don, the second oldest and worst tease decided it would be bad form to actually chain Patrick to the wall since the paint was still wet and ruin his rented tuxedo. 

I was so worried about what wild scheme they had concocted that I was prepared with a hacksaw in my suitcase. I had even purchased several extra blades just in case! I was learning it was best not to fight, but to outwit the brothers.

Through the years I've found it is best to ignore most of the teasing and other things too...it has worked for me rather than overreact and cause an argument. For the most part it has been a good plan except for the fact that I may ignore some things I should be paying more attention to...

But after 47 years of marriage my advice is...if you plan to you marry the youngest child of a large family, "Buckle up and be prepared for the ride!" It will be full of twists and turns, lots of nonsense, and most importantly full of fun.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chased From the Light

Chased from the light 

Do the demons want your soul?                                               
     And chase you from the light to where it’s dark and cold 

Do you have the strength of spirit?
     To push away the whispers; and in your heart admit

That you have strayed from the path
     And suffer from your inner wrath

Do you know that if you have fallen in disgrace?
     There is only one who can erase

And make your inner self white and clean again
     Just open up the door and let Him in

Lay your burdens at His feet
     And all your fears He will defeat

You’ll feel the love He has to give
     And in His light forever live


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Family Fiasco!

I was in the UCLA Olive View hospital cafeteria eating an overcooked dried out grilled cheese sandwich with so little cheese it should have been advertised as a bread sandwich. My nursing students were sharing dog stories and discussed an array of chubby Pomeranians, golden retrievers and adorable lovable pit bulls?
As it was the last clinical day with my students before Easter my mind tracked back to a memorable dog story that just happened to occur the Saturday before Easter quite a few years ago. Our first dog was a Labrador retriever/blood hound/cocker spaniel mix. He was quite odd looking but very sweet, loyal and exceptionally protective to all the family. He considered us all his pack and fiercely guarded the kids and me…and tolerated the pack leader, Dad Patrick.
As tradition in our home went, the Saturday before Easter Sunday we dyed eggs. Those eggs would then magically be hidden around the yard for them to discover the next morning before we left for church. By then four of our children were born. The youngest Megan was barely four years old. Rebecca was seven, Colleen nine and Young Pat was eleven, almost too old for the egg game to be played out the next day. But he participated so he wouldn't be left out, and also to have an opportunity to tease his three sisters. Pat had invited the neighbor boys Richard and Steve Kuroda to join us. (They both had a crush on Rebecca)
I had all the dye, bowls, vinegar, boiled eggs and doo-dads for decoration assembled on the patio table. The patio was concrete with a shade cover and hanging baskets full of plants. I dutifully watered the flowers to have a pretty view out the back window and keep my eyes from landing on our falling-down back fence.

The fence separated us from a twenty two acre plot that had recently been sold to a developer. A strip mall was to be built on the land within the next few months. They had given us notice they were building a ten foot block wall along the back of all the homes to shield them from the noise and unsightly view. The construction of the wall was to take place in a few weeks so our sorry wood fence would be replaced by a nice new tall block one at no expense to us. I was excited as I knew our budget could not have handled such an extravagance. I even asked big Pat to move the bee-hives he kept next to the old fence so when the construction crew tore it down we wouldn’t have bees all over the place. (Another story)
Looking back I realize it's a bit ironic because Patrick had several places where he kept his bee hives; one of them was in a field next to Olive View Hospital which is where those hives eventually landed. But anyway…because he didn’t have the time to move them properly he put them alongside the house near the back door off the kitchen. (He said at the time they would only be there for only a few days, but I think they ended up there for several months)
There was a small patch of dirt near the falling down fence where I had been doing some of my impromptu teaching with the kids about planting, water and food. We were going to make sure when the fence finally came down our little garden of lettuce, carrots, beans and tomatoes would not be touched. We watered the dirt diligently and plants were starting to sprout. I remember the lettuce by that Saturday was at least two inches tall and I know we each had our own vision of a great harvest from our small cultivated plot.
So there I was with bowls and the newspaper spread out, the eggs cooked and spoons at the ready. The kids gathered around the table trying to carefully place their eggs into the hot water when I heard several dogs barking from behind the house and past our tumble down fence.
“Oh no,” I thought, “Some dogs are loose!” I ran to the back fence and saw a man slowly walking along the fences at the back of all the houses lining the lot.
I yelled, “Hey mister, we have a dog here, and our fence is low in a few places so please take your dogs out away and into the field so they won’t hop the fence. Our dog is pretty protective and this is his yard.”
He continued along, as if he didn’t hear.
“Hey mister,” I yelled louder, “Please get your dogs away from this fence, we have a protective dog here.”
“My dogs are nice and friendly.”
“Well mine isn’t so please take your dogs away from our fence!” By then he had reached the spot where the fence was only about four feet high and both his dogs easily glided over the fence and right into our little garden.
"Tuna Fish", our dog, in a totally protective posture bristled and growled, but when both dogs bore their teeth he jumped on the large collie and also managed to down the other one who looked like a bull dog. He had them both pinned in seconds. Tuna managed to hold one under him and had the other by the neck.
This stranger then jumped into our yard, grabbed a piece of fence board and began pounding and beating our dog on the back and head. Using the moment to escape because Tuna loosened his grip from the blows, the strangers’ dogs ran past the patio alongside the house right into the two live…humming bee hives.
The man followed his pets, and just like a “Three Stooges” movie, immediately he and the dogs ran back the way they went in, right into our waiting unhappy dog…AND the wrath of a mother…The man reached down and picked up the board again and began to beat on our dog…Having had enough I jumped on his back to try and stop him and while trying to avoid the waving wood I began to slip off. I hung on for dear life and in doing so, pulled down and stretched the neck of his sweater around his elbows…The knitted material pinned his arms to his sides and he was now off balance but continued to wildly brandish the wood as he went across the patio…breaking most of my planters sending pottery, plants and dirt across the table and into the Easter egg dye making a huge mess of our little project. All the while I hung on to his back like a tick on a bucking bronco.

The boys turned on the hose and were squirting at the dogs and the man (including me clinging to his back) trying to stop the melee. The girls ran inside and yelled for their Dad. He was taking a shower and when he heard the commotion quickly tried to get his pants on while soaking wet. He was struggling and hopping over to the window to try and discover what I was yelling about. As he stumbled around the corner and over to the picture widow he was shocked at the sight he saw. The pots on the patio were swinging like knockers on a bell, his wife was riding around clinging to a strange man’s back yelling like a banshee, the boys were manning the hose like firemen putting out a blaze and all the while the man with his arms locked to his sides was waving a huge hunk of wood scattering eggs, dye, and plants everywhere.
I remember sliding to the ground because by now the stranger was slick with sweat and water...my grip on his sweater finally let go. Dad Patrick then grabbed our dog and shoved him into the garage. (Tuna was growling with his few exposed teeth. He lost most of them from a high fever he had as a puppy because when we bought him he had distemper. I guess he was planning to gum the other dogs to death.)

By the time Patrick returned to the back yard, both of the interloper dogs were over the fence and half way across the huge lot. The stranger followed his dogs so fast, when Patrick, chased after them, he couldn’t catch up. He could see them far in the distance crossing the main highway. He got in the car and tried to find them, but never did. Later he told me he wanted to make sure the guy was okay, but I've always figured he was planning to punch 'em. The stranger and his dogs had vanished, never to be seen again.

(Here is Patrick, Colleen, Becca and Megan in 1979, and Me with "Tuna.")

Tuna was bleeding from his floppy ears and needed some antiseptic on his many scratches. Later, when I finally stopped shaking and gathered my composure I went to the store. Along with more eggs, dye and treats for the kids I bought our loyal dog a huge bone. We all mourned the demise of our little garden, and I didn't replaced my hanging plants.

The neighbor boys were impressed with my skills and I became an icon. "Don't mess with the Mom." They said, "She's a good fighter." They backed up the stories told for the next few weeks at Strathern Street school with some colorful details. All our kids bragged that Tuna and I were spectacular by providing the best egg dying and Kung- fu exhibition ever.

I think Patrick is still amazed by my behavior, and to tell the truth...so am I. But I guess you never know what you are capable of doing, until it happens.
We moved away from North Hollywood to Santa Clarita after Michael was born a year later. Our new home had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a stream full of tadpoles behind it, and a block wall all the way around.

Tuna died of old age a few months after the "Stranger" incident and is buried in the yard he so valiantly defended.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


On the way home from Arizona on February 26th 2013, I sat

in the second row. As the plane began to take off the stewardess

began to give directions waving her hands and doing the double

crossed wrists demonstrating the exits. The demo for the seat

belt was a bit hard for her as her nails were so long they

impeded her ability to close the seat belt. Then as I watched the

fiasco of the Oxygen mask and her fumbling to get the small

elastic straps between her fingers, I began to worry. I wrote this

little poem to address my concerns.

No Code!

I heard the nails go clickety-clack

And shuddered to think of a heart attack

Should the girl giving the demo and wearing the wings

Do CPR on a passenger while wearing those things?

Could she save my life in manufactured talons?

I think not! More likely she’d end up a fugitive felon

She could puncture a lung or probably something worse

Hey, I’ll take my chances; Stop Her! I’ll end up in a hearse