Fiddle Dee Dee, I’m Thankful for Russell Crowe

My name might as well be “Maximus Decimus Meridius”, and I am here to explain myself and my family and how we classify as GLADiators.  Sure, we count our blessings every November and then give mighty thanks for…stamina!

Personally, I defend spider monkeys as I chastise NASA, who brought manKIND Tang, for daring to consider radiation experiments on those sentient darlings with the prehensile tails. Courageously, I embrace the “Vegan” community. I chat with foreigners long into the night and learn about other cultures and beliefs. I praise free-form poetry efforts by budding writers, young rock-stars’ home-made music videos, or slide-shows of somebody’s grand-kids.  Facebook serves as my “ham radio”, a glittering hold-over from the ’50s when families gathered into basements and sat around some old codger friend as he spoke, ignoring annoying static, with disembodied voices lord knows where in the universe.  I am now that solitary, persevering codger hovering over the newer plasticized Dell version of “wanna communicate with the world?”  And I do. Don’t you?

Insomnia’s a gift when one wishes to save “virtual” humane-sheltered animals’ lives and assist in arranging transport across state lines–to prospective owners or to Boxer havens in Arizona, Yorkie Romp-Abouts in Connecticut, Senior Pets’ sanctuaries in Texas. “Move ’em in.  Move ’em out.”  (Why doesn’t each state simply look after its own?)   Friend Susan Schroeder sums up the formula: “Pull, vet, healthy to go, short-term board/foster, then transport!”  HOME! 

When messaged back from potential yet reneging FB rescuers: “Whoa, we already own two Schnauzers and a 18 year old cat at our house–no room”  or “Personal traveling is impeded by pet ownership” or “That poodle on death row is black…we prefer an apricot color”, I silently wince. However, “Now is not a good time” prompts a hastily typed “Now is the ONLY time!  (Expletive deleted!)  Drop the pretense and ADOPT!”  Thumbs up! 

“No crying allowed” in the online arena, but sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I sob. Continuation of carpal-tunnel-producing-typing prevails as I persist in posting photo albums featuring dejected, forlorn, homeless pups, kittens, dogs, and lactating cats with newborns scheduled for “heart-sticking” in every “shelter” (often a misnomer) in North Carolina and in Youngstown, Ohio while gassing’s the modus operandi in all of Georgia. Punishment for this sensitive soul…but someone has to do it and millions are!  Facebook’s so highly populated that it qualifies as the third largest country in the world, and I am part of a legion of soldiers sustained by never-ending cups of strong coffee. Gonna keel over and die at this keyboard–all for the preservation of the animal kingdom!

In the offline arena, we consider ourselves rugged individualists, for instance golfing when we feel like it–no league play–or swimming at Burnworth after trudging three blocks through our neighborhood on sweltering summer afternoons. We volunteer unendingly, never travel, and do without nutty luxuries. I write a couple of nostalgia columns.  Don answers questions about community developments and lends a sympathetic ear to his customers, whether those queries arise at work or out dining at which time I channel Lewis Black as I converse about the day’s activities–and politics!  I am a book-keeper and an amateur veterinarian.  We trip over our family of furry children forever underfoot. Our Himalayan cat named Dalai Lama once sent me to the emergency room.  We respond to door-bells ringing and land phones and cell phones, too.  At least one of us earned a Phi Beta Kappa Key, but that family member moved on to greener pastures.

Our home, except for its endearingly modest status, cannot be distinguished from that cinematic house in New England where jittery Kate Hepburn and perplexed Cary Grant chase a leopard all over the grounds of the estate only to be interrupted by a tiny pampered dog burying a valuable dinosaur bone which can never be retrieved.  BRINGING UP BABY meets CHRISTMAS VACATION every day.  Happy, contented exhaustion and confusion never cease.  Something breaks…we figure out how to fix it or pay the huge honking bill.  Over and over again.  We mow our own lawn, rake leaves, and shovel snow–over and over again.  We survive medical tribulations and the accompanying angst–over and over again.  For fun, constant music emanates from our Bose system and spontaneous competitive card games pepper our days.

My dad, toward the end of his life, sighed, “Does busy-ness never end?” when I asked him to pick up some heartworm pills at Doc Waterfall’s clinic formerly beside the Presbyterian Church.  After a lifetime of assuring that we kids had pets and that those vital, revered members of our family had wonderful medical care, Daddy thought those days were over–i.e., walking down the alley behind Smith’s funeral home to that little red building which smelled of ammonia and fuzzy critters.  “Our Ft. Wayne docs charge more than C.C.’s vets,” I pleaded as my sporadically Bob Cratchitty, “ever a new bride on a budget” mind calculated the total bill. I suppose “life-styles” we have crafted, and furthermore seldom can crawl out of, will indeed end one day, but “In the meantime, all we’re given is this in-between time” and should relish each moment with gratitude.

Author Oscar Wilde believed  that only dull folks recorded their thoughts or chronicled their activities in memoir fashion.  Hey, Oscar, while one is living through all of this frantic cyclonic activity, the daily grind qualifies as anything but dull, buddy!  A legitimate “De Profundis”!

For example, while playing House Frau, I once attempted to thaw, via a constant trickle from the bathtub faucet, and then roast my very first and last, dear, free, tiny turkey several seasons ago when Kroger issued bonus points in exchange for vital statistics about each customer which generated those pesky little cards on our keychains.  A water main on our street busted for starters, and I felt so guilty. Never again!  I harbor no desire to emulate Betty Crocker nor the fabulous young cook next door, at the time, who demonstrated the proper size blue speckled pan for my carcass which I truly felt I should name. Jeanne positioned herself as if hosting a cooking show, in her dining room across the driveway from my kitchen window, and held all the required “fixings” aloft as I leaned on my sink laughing at her rather than copying each move. My burgeoning credo at that instant: Why not just allow turkeys to live out their lives?

The final result a culinary and animal welfare disaster, I sulked and grieved while repeating Scarlett O’Hara’s remorseful melodramatic statement following her shooting down a Yankee intruder, “Well, I guess now I’ve done murder.”  We manage, though, to have plenty of ingenious casseroles as we celebrate our vegetarian holiday so that “as God is our witness, we’ll never go hungry again”!   Until about midnight?  And wouldn’t Scarlett qualify as a gladiator?  Who else in all of literature, filmdom, or TV-Land substituted a curtain rod for shoulder pads, courtesy of Bob Mackie? 

See you at the movies. While others engage in traditional “Black Friday” shopping, I’ll be spending “The Next Three Days” in the dark with my idol Russell Crowe while enjoying pop-corn and milk duds, “cine-muck” (Critic Gene Siskel’s word for discarded gum wads and spilled sticky soft drinks) beneath my weary feet!  

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