Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book review up!

Review of The Conquest

I spent my Saturday night devouring Yxta Maya Murray's The Conquest and penned a brief review this morning that appears on Musings of  Bookslut.  Do you like magical realism?  Historical fiction? An unexpected love story?

If you find this novel at your local used bookstore, snag it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Appeal of the Giraffe Cam

Over a month ago, Animal Adventure Park began live-streaming a giraffe cam.  The star of the show is the unborn calf that is taking its sweet time to be born. The leading lady is the almost puppy-like April, a 15 year old giraffe.  Her baby's daddy, Oliver, is a rambunctious 5 year old.  As a young bull, his interests are eating and mating so he is kept separate from the very pregnant April.  Despite the divider, the giraffe cam frequently is witness to sweet head touching, neck circling signs of affection between April and Oliver.  For weeks, thousands of people tune in.  What started as the great baby watch has morphed into something else.

So what is the appeal in watching a giraffe pace around a stall bigger than my house, chewing her cud, throwing alfalfa over her body, and sweetly taking carrots and lettuce from her darling caretakers, the vet, and the park owner?  Why do so many turn in for 9pm tuck in, where treats are given and the stall is cleaned? Do most, like me, watch with jealousy as the caretakers stroke the magnificent creature and kiss her belly? Or do they sympathize with the expectant mother, pregnant for 15 months, give or take 60 days? 

Whatever the reasons for tuning in, April's little family has done remarkable things for giraffe conservation and research.  It has brought people together from all across the globe.  I was watching the cam when news outlets reported the attack in London. Do you know what I saw? Comment after comment of people reaching out to strangers.  I've seen people sunk in a depression so deep find comfort through this giraffe cam.  I've seen children deciding the future is theirs and they can be a part in saving our creatures.

This isn't about a giraffe.  It's much, much larger.

April is already larger than life

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Throwing in the towel

Okay.  Here it is 21 days in and I am throwing in the towel.  Blogging every day is too near impossible with everything else going on.  Plus, and let's be honest here, I don't really have something worth saying every day!

I will continue to blog at least a couple of times a week, but I'm not going to do fluff pieces because I feel like I have to blog.  I am cooking more frequently and I am reading regularly again.  And I am writing every day - either working on fiction or doing legally type stuff - so there is that.  I just don't want to bore you, dear Reader, with drivel.  And I honestly have the attention span of a terrier.  But I do want to talk about the inaugura...  look! squirrel!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

One of the Boys

   *Since I neglected to blog earlier this week, I'll give you another taste of Thailand...  one of my 2003 adventures!*

        After talking the big talk about renting bikes in Bangkok and riding up to Chiang Mai, we decided it simply wasn’t going to happen - too expensive and too dangerous.  Especially during Songkran.  The Thai New Year puts everybody on the streets and usually with Beer Chang or Singha in their hands.  Never big on planning, Colin, Trevor, Dave and I became stranded in Ayuthua with no apparent means of getting to Chiang Mai.  This had not been part of the plan.
            “We could hitch hike?” Trevor stuck his thumb out as a tuk-tuk rattled past.  It was hot pink.  Nothing like the ones in Bangkok.  It didn’t stop.
            “Nobody’s going to pick up four white kids,” Colin said, pointing across the street to a Ro-tii stand.  We crossed and ordered the crepe-like treats.
            “We could split up,” Dave offered as I took a bite out of a plain one.  The boys dressed theirs up with chocolate syrup, bananas, or both.
            I wiped sticky condensed milk off my hands and licked my lips.  “Now hold up.  I’m not so sure hitch hiking is wise.  And splitting up is definitely not wise.” 
            We ended up not hitchhiking, due mostly to the fact I refused.  We found a bus-station that wasn’t really a bus-station on the outskirts of town.  Young men would flag down buses heading in the general direction of where you wanted to go and you could pay to stand or sit in the aisle, as most of the busses were already full of Thai families on holiday.  We ended up paying 300 baht apiece for floor space on a bus that would take us the rest of the way to Chiang Mai.  It was midnight, we had hours left in our journey, and the four of us were exhausted.  I soon stretched out on the dirty, smelly floor of the bus.  Several Thais laughed softly behind their hands and looked down at the faraangs laying in the aisle.  In an effort to ‘save face,’ I smiled up at them.  A young man handed me his blanket, red plaid and smelling of a campfire.  I placed it between the hot floor and my face, earning a smile when I thanked him in his own language, careful to say “kha” at the end.  Colin lay at my feet, his head resting on my legs.  Somewhere further up lay Dave and Trevor, just as uncomfortable.  After sleeping a few hours and immediately following my being violated by a cockroach, a seat became available.  I played the girl card and got it, but I didn’t feel too bad as the bus had cleared enough for the boys to have seats within the hour.
            We reached the Chiang Mai bus station when the sun was just beginning to light up the sky.  We caught a tuk-tuk into town and found a little roadside stand serving chicken skewers and fried bananas.  The cheap food managed to wake us.  On this, our second trip to Chiang Mai, we had connections – friends who owned a guesthouse and a friend who rented motorcycles named Mr. Beer.  We went to visit Mr. Beer first.  Mr. Beer was a bit rotund and always flashing his teeth when he smiled.  He reminded me of a used car salesman.  He cheated us, charging us more for being white but less for being students in Bangkok; we weren’t “real faraangs” and our Thammasat University ID cards opened doors and lowered prices all across South East Asia.
Jonadda guest house and restuarant
John, an Australian, and his Thai wife ran the guesthouse.  John was hilarious in a ‘surely you’re not serious’ kind of way.  The first night he took us to the top of the guesthouse, showing us the part of the building that would be their living quarters.  As we stood on the balcony, built higher than ordinance allows, he smoked and talked about how horribly stupid Thais are.
            “My friend has been a prostitute for five years.”  He laughed.   “She does it to feed her father.  She’s a damn idiot.  The man drinks it all away.  They’re all damn idiots.  They think they know things, think they’re so smart but they’re stupid.  Most women are, but especially Thai women.  No offense,” he said, looking at me. 
A few insulting comments later and we were downstairs trying to figure out the room situation.  I was the one posing the problem.  I was going to have to room with one of the guys or rather one of the guys was going to have to room with me.  This normally wouldn’t have caused complications but Trevor and Dave, my two Mormons from Utah, were uncomfortable with the idea.
            “Let’s flip for who has to room with Tommi,” Dave suggested.
            “Ouch.  Shouldn’t I pick who I want to room with?”  Nobody listened to me.
            “I’ll room with her.”  Colin dropped his bag beside mine and climbed into the top bunk.  “Goodnight.”
            The next morning was the start of Songkran, the water festival.  Imagine the world’s largest water fight and you’ve got a pretty realistic picture of the Thai New Year.  The reason Chiang Mai is so crowded for the festival is because the city is surrounded by a moat.  Hundreds of people line the streets with buckets, hoses and water guns.  Children jump from ancient ruins into the murky moat water.  The holiday isn’t just for children, as truckloads of people ranging from infant to elderly laughingly douse each other.  Traffic comes to a standstill and everyone is fair game, except for monks.  Do not wet the monks.
            Being white and on bikes made us easy targets.  We had no idea the grandiosity of the festival and had nothing to fight back with.  We were soaked within seconds.  Five gallon buckets of water with baby fish from the moat were tossed over my head.  I was a fun target because my t-shirt, when wet, did nothing to conceal breasts that are significantly larger than most Thai women’s.  The Asian men riding in the backs of trucks kept tossing bucket loads at my chest, almost pushing me off the back of the bike. The attention was making my guys noticeably uncomfortable.  They didn’t much like to be reminded of my gender on our expeditions.  Later that evening, when undressing for a shower, I pulled a dead fish out of my bra. 
            The festival went on for days.  We thought it was only a city thing but as we traveled from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai we found small groups of children waiting with buckets by the side of the road.  We slowed for the drenchings but, because I cannot drive a motorcycle and was riding with Trevor, I didn’t get nearly as wet as he did.  The only dry spot on him were where my arms hung loosely around his middle.
            “Does this stupid holiday ever end?” Colin moaned as a truck full of teenagers completely soaked our almost dry entourage when we stopped to check the map. 
            “We’ll be in Burma tomorrow.  They don’t celebrate it there.” 
            I was dead wrong.  The Burmese met us at the border with water guns.  The water had coloring in it, leaving snotty looking green streaks down the boys’ white shirts.  I had just about had it.  When a young kid of about fourteen dumped his entire bucket over my head, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I wasn’t exactly in the holiday spirit.
“Fuck.”  I broke my abstinence from foul language and followed the curse with “damn it all.”  Even whispered under my breath, Trevor heard my curses.  He spun around and took a bucket from one of the kids.
            “You wouldn’t dare,” I said.
            He raised an eyebrow in that “oh I wouldn’t?” way before tossing the far from clean water over me. 
            I stood glaring at him for a few moments before borrowing my own bucket and chasing him down the dirt street.  The kids around held their stomachs and shook with the sweet sounds of laughter.  White kids playing with them on their holiday was a rarity.  We walked down the street, taking in what we would could of Burma before we had to be back at the border. There are only day passes into the country.  We dodged truckloads of water-toting Asians.  “I love you,” men, young and old, shouted to me from pick-up beds, blowing kisses and giggling as they sped away, splashing through the mud puddles left by the festivities.  “Marry me,” one boy yelled before leaving a zig-zag pattern of green water on my shirt. 
The only white people we saw in Burma were each other.  We were such celebrities that Burmese youths asked if they could have their picture taken with us.  As the only woman, I was even more a rarity.  Children held up their arms for me to take them.  Mothers smiled when I did, brushing my skin with their fingertips and holding my hair in their hands, murmuring to each other in a language I couldn’t begin to understand.  We slipped down a back road to escape the drenchings and stumbled over four children playing in the dirt.  Two were Buddhist novices, and their saffron colored robes hung dry and loose on their frail frames.  The other two shook water from their hair and giggled.  The oldest was probably eight.  The tiny monks gestured for us to follow them and one of the other boys took my hand and pulled.  They led us down dry, quiet roads, far away from the down town insanity.  They took us to their temple, high on a hill, looking down on the city.  They posed for pictures, flashed us the peace sign, and skipped back down the hill to resume their game.  They left us to marvel in the beauty of the building and surrounding grounds.
            We soon realized that our day passes were about to end and hurried to the border, where the Burmese got in a few more buckets before we crossed back into Mae Sai.  Northern Thailand is much cooler than Bangkok, especially at night, and I shivered against Trevor as we rode through the now quiet streets to our guesthouse cabins.  I was wet, cold, tired and teetering on cranky.  I wanted a hot shower and my Bangkok bed and while the cabins in Mai Sai were a huge improvement from the various guesthouses we’d stayed at a long the way, I knew it’d be cold water and there’d be lizards in the bed I’d be sharing with Colin.
            “You look like shit… err crap,” Colin took it upon himself to tell me as I waited for him to unlock the cabin’s door.  Even though Trevor and Dave were already in their cabin and couldn’t hear him, he corrected himself out of habit.  Both of us had fallen into watching our language not because they’d asked us to but because we wanted to.
            “Damn Canadians.”  I stuck my tongue out at him and rummaged through my rip-off North Face backpack from the Chatuchak Market until I found my shower stuff.  I’d managed to jam shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, body spray, tampons, and just-in-case-makeup all in the same Ziploc bag.  I grabbed my towel, stepped down into the shower area and pulled the curtain dividing the two areas closed.
            “Wait!” Colin yelled as I started to peel off the wet clothes.
            “What?  Tell me you do not have to use the bathroom now.”  I groaned and yanked the curtain back.
            Colin laughed and stepped down beside me.  “Nah.”  He reached beside the squat toilet and picked up the tattered roll of toilet paper.  “Just didn’t want this to get wet.  I think it’s the only roll we’ve got left between the four of us.  Unless you’re holding out?”
            “I know I’ve got baby wipes and I might have a roll.  I can’t remember if I left it in Nan or not.  You can check my bag.  If it’s in there, give it to Trevor and Dave.”
            Colin nodded his head and stepped out of the shower/squat area, pulling the curtain closed behind him.
            The shower, while freezing, was a godsend.  The combining crisp smells of my cleansers put me in a better mood.  Humming to myself, I stepped, wrapped in a towel, into the other room.  Colin was nowhere to be seen.  I latched the door and put on dry, almost clean, clothes.  They smelled like elephant ass from being river-washed in Cambodia the month before so I sprayed myself with jasmine body spray before venturing out to find the boys.  I didn’t have to go far. 
“What took you so long?” Dave called as soon as I stuck my head out of the door.  They were sitting at a table in the outside restaurant owned and operated by the same couple as the cabins we were staying in.  The restaurant was on the Nam Ruak, the river the only thing separating us from Burma.
“Well she is the girl.”  Trevor rolled his eyes then winked at me.
“Shut-up Budge.”  I sat down beside him and ordered khai yat sai.  Thai omelets come over rice and covered in chili sauce.  They’re amazing.
Colin looked up from his books.  He was studying for the MCATS the entire time he was in Thailand because he was registered to take the test in Singapore in May.  “It’s okay.  I’m used to it; Candace always hogs the bath back home.  I just took a shower in their cabin, eh.”  Trevor and Dave confirmed with quick nods.  “Want a drink?”  Colin raised an eyebrow along with the corners of his lips.
I glanced at my Mormons.  I’d behaved enough for one day.  Colin held up two fingers and said “Singha”.  My omelet arrived with the beer.
“So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” I asked, wiping the sweet chili sauce out of the corners of my lips with a rough napkin.
Trevor opened the Lonely Planet.  “Well there’s this really neat place called Doi Tung that I’d like to see.”  He passed the book over to Colin who glanced at the write-up on the area.
“It’s only twenty or so clicks away.  I say let’s do it.”  He handed the book back to Trevor.
“What’s there?”  I wanted to know what made the place so ‘neat’ as Trevor put it.
“Listen,” he began to read, skimming over some parts.  "The main attraction at Doi Tung is getting there.  The road is winding, steep and narrow, so if you’re driving or riding a motorcycle, take it slowly.”  He glanced up and grinned.  I sighed and took a sip of my beer.
“Oh, it gets better,” Dave said, reading over his shoulder.  “It is not safe to trek in this area without a Thai or hill-tribe guide simply because they might think you’re a drug dealer or USDEA agent.  You may hear gunfire from time to time.”  Six eyes looked at me.  “What do you say, Tommi?”
I finished my beer and nodded to the waitress for another.  “Sounds great.”
Trevor jumped up to hug me, excited about the upcoming motorcycle trip and wondering how fast he could get the Phantom to go on those winding, mountainous roads.  “You rock.  For a girl.”  He paused.  “And you smell good.”
Dave wiggled his nose in my direction and turned to Colin.  “I’m jealous.  You get to sleep beside someone who smells like flowers and I get to sleep with Budge who, well, we’ve all smelled him lately and I think we can all agree she smells much better.” 
Our laughter echoed down the river, in and out of Burmese shacks on one bank, and through the rustic Thai cabins on the other. 
“Well,” I said, turning to Dave, “You’re the one who wanted to flip a coin.”

And so the Big Top falls...

“The circus is a jealous wench. Indeed that is an understatement. She is a ravening hag who sucks your vitality as a vampire drinks blood – who kills the brightest stars in her crown and will allow no private life for those who serve her; wrecking their homes, ruining their bodies, and destroying the happiness of their loved ones by her insatiable demands. She is all of these things, and yet, I love her as I love nothing else on earth.”

Henry Ringling North, The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story

The announcement stunned some but largely came as no surprise. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey is coming to an end after over a century of entertaining the masses. Feld Entertainment made the announcement earlier this week. And while domestic terrorists animal rights activists rejoiced, many of us were left just a bit confused as nostalgia had us longing for the circus elephants and simpler times.

But listen now and listen good - if we do not take aggressive measures, and soon, we will lose out on ALL our animal pastimes. From delighting in circus elephants to running your Papillon through an agility course to trail horses. Zoos may soon be a thing of the past, dog shows no more than a historical footnote or a trivia question. This victory for AR should serve as a warning to all animal lovers.

Don't let the animal rights activists win. Before you support them, KNOW WHAT YOU SUPPORT. Before you throw your hard-earned money their way, KNOW WHERE THAT MONEY IS GOING. Yes, there are MANY bad apples in animal sports - I will not deny that - but one bad apple does NOT spoil the bunch. Protect our sports. Fight AR propaganda. I don't want my children's children to only know about dogs through picture books and memories.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Love. Hope. Faith. Justice.

I'm not writing a lengthy blog today.  I'm not posting the words of a great man taken from us.  But I want you to look inside your heart.  If those 4 words are not there, write them.  Write them quickly.  Then follow the teachings of your heart. Always.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Political Musings

Okay... So I neglected to post yesterday.  Twenty lashes and whatnot.  I'm still proud of my attempts to write every day!  That said, I'm going to do something I swore I would not do - I'm going to make a political post.  ACK!  RUN!

Still here?  Okay.  Not to toot my horn, but I am a highly educated individual who puts a lot of emphasis on education, free thinking, and creativity.  As an attorney, I encounter laws nearly every day that I question.  I also encounter situations nearly every day where there are NO LAWS on the books when I feel there should be.  That said, I am bound by the laws we do (and do not) have.  There is a system in place - it may be broken, but there is a system.  And there is also a system to fix the cracks and heal the wounds.  That system must be followed.

So when I see the hashtag "notmypresident" - I get a little squirrely.  I hated that sentiment when Bush was elected.  Twice.  I hated that sentiment when Obama was elected.  Twice.  And I certainly hate it now.  There is a marked difference now, however.  That difference is that in my heart of hearts, I know Trump does not have the necessary skillset to serve as president.  But we have a system and that system elected him.  I'm not going to just take my ball and go home; that's not how I was raised.  You have to USE THE SYSTEM TO BEAT THE SYSTEM.  Trust me on this.  You can boycott the inauguration all you want, but it will not change the fact that Trump WILL BE PRESIDENT.  So stop pouting.  Seriously.  For me.  For the Obamas, who have so graciously extended support to President-elect Trump.  It is time to protest policies, not people.

You want change?  That is how you will get it.  Not by trying to turn back time and hoping for a different outcome.  Not by boycotting an already-elected President.