Summer in the City

I would start with something pithy like, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but it’s been done. Suffice it to say I have ambiguous feelings about the summer of 2014, but that’s pretty par for the course when it comes to swimsuit season for any number of reasons. This particular summer was like going on a roller coaster expecting something thrilling and fleeting, only to get stuck upside-down for three hours dangling and wondering what you were thinking in getting on the damned thing in the first place. Then, the gears shift, and you’re back in the saddle. No harm, no foul.

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Alright, fine, I’m being dramatic. Still though, tell that to them.

First, as is my typical complaint, it was hot. Like, stupid hot. Sahara hot. David Beckham hot. That heat was coupled with an office environment that mimics our current situation in terms of climate change: completely unpredictable, with an identifiable cause that the “powers that be” choose to ignore because it’s expensive (see what I did there?). So when I wasn’t wearing a parka in June, I was blasting six fans in July trying to keep the pit stains at bay.

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Those warm days aren’t so attractive now, are they?

I also didn’t make as much progress as I wanted to get the book published, I bought paint for the living room that has been staring at me since May-ish, and my laundry room project has stalled indefinitely. A few friends are fighting serious health problems, the avocado died, and the world started to come apart at the seams (again). This is the sh$%show stage that was set for ’14.

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But the show must go on.

There were admittedly some highlights as well. I rocked reunion, and have been able to somehow continue to stay relatively skinny (praise Jebus). Vaughn got married, I went to Idaho on purpose, and I’ve been able to get things closer to the way I want them to be in terms of a work-life balance (almost). I’ve perfected my ability to sleep sitting up, and I even kept the cat alive against my better judgment.

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I’ll go ahead and call that a win. For today.

So goodbye, summer. I know that fall doesn’t officially begin until the 21st of September, but school has started and it’s getting cooler and nicer out. So that date is arbitrary. Dear autumn: welcome. Do me a solid and actually exist for a few weeks before the skies open up and I hibernate socially for the winter. Until next time, stay classy (and mind the seasons) Salt Lake.

The Audacity of Taupe

And no, I am not talking about the fact that every wall in my house is still woefully uncolorful. Which the BLERG is telling me is not in point of fact a legitimate word. But then again, neither is the word BLERG. So deal with it. I am talking, of course, of what many pundits and political junkies have been mulling over for a hot minute in the media lately. And notice that people who talk at length every day about politics are referred to as junkies. Reminds me of an educational promotion from yesteryear.

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I learned it from watching you!

I know that our president has put his foot in it many a time in statements and initiatives. Last I checked, he’s a human being. Putting that aside, every once in a while he makes a gaffe, saying something that everyone is thinking and that no one wants anyone to actually admit is what’s on everyone’s mind. Which is ironic, in that he’s saying what everyone’s thinking. That is to say, Syria is a quagmire of epic proportions and we have no clue as to what to do about it.

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And I’ll betcha most of us can’t find it on a map without color coding.

For those of you on both sides of the aisle (since no one, repeat, no one sits in the middle anymore): can either the left or the right point out a point in our history over the past hundred years where the US intervened in the Middle Eastern region and there was an objectively positive, beneficial outcome that we can brag about? Iraq? Ehrm, no. Afghanistan? Girl, please. And now, as people are beheading one another and Syria continues to implode on itself, people are pissed that the President has “no plan”? Fine, I’ll give you that he should have a plan. He’s the president. But shouldn’t everyone else have one too?

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Like, I don’t know, the rest of the allegedly free world? (Hint, they’re green)

War hawks are up in arms about how we need to go in, guns blazing, to take out ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State. The war weary want to stay at home. The rest of us are busy waiting for Russia to continue to invade Ukraine and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to start another world war. And in case y’all hadn’t noticed, Congress (who we only have ourselves to blame for electing) can’t agree on whether or not the world is round, let alone figure out what to do in terms of foreign policy. AND every. single. time Obama tries to strike out on his own without Congress he’s vilified. So what’s the man supposed to do?

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He told it like it is. In taupe.

Syria is a disaster. And because, as in any “war on terrorism”, there’s never a clear, singular plan forward that everyone can agree on, he admitted that we’re still figuring out a strategy. If you can’t see the impossible position he’s in, I don’t know what to tell you. Until next time, stay classy (and get into the fracas) Salt Lake.

Shots Fired

I am not going to go on too much of a tirade about guns and gun control. It’s been done, and frankly probably a lot better than I can. Besides, I honestly have no beef with the Second Amendment or the right to bear arms or arm bears or whatever it is we do these days. My uncle proudly works for Smith and Wesson and a number of my family members own guns or have guns in their homes. That’s not what I have a problem with. At all. I am not even going to get into the weeds about how it’s easier to buy a gun in some places than it is to get a driver’s license.

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“Could I get a double cheeseburger, a Colt .45 and a vodka to go?”

As I am sure many of you saw in the news today, a young girl, a nine year old girl shot and killed a man who was instructing her on how to use a gun. During that training, the instructor put the gun on “fully automatic”, which the girl lost control of and inadvertently shot him in the head. Because she’s f%^&ing nine. He was life-flighted to a hospital but ultimately died. A family has been robbed of a loved one and a child will have to live with the fact that she accidentally killed someone.

iwi_us_tavor_sar_16_5in_black_with_mepro_21_3259a-tfbWith an UZI.

If you want to teach your children how to handle firearms safely for their own security, have at it. Good on you. No judgment. If you think that it is important that your family knows how to properly hold and fire a deadly weapon, I’m ok with that, so long as you are reasonable and safe. But for the love, what in the hell is a child, a nine year old child doing holding an Uzi? This isn’t your typical home safety weapon. It’s quote “part of a family of Israeli open-bolt, blowback operated machine guns.”

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This is the instructor. He’s dead now. For no reason.

Submachine guns aren’t warranted for personal protection. They’re warranted for war. Period. They were produced in the 1940’s for the Arab-Israeli War. And I’m sorry, I don’t care how much you want to ensure your child’s safety. There’s no reasonable argument for giving a child a submachine gun, setting it on fully automatic, and expecting anything other than a senseless tragedy.

That’s all really. I’m saddened, but also super angry, that things like this happen. Until next time, stay classy (and SAFE) Salt Lake.

Free-Ninety-Nine

In my ongoing quest to become <GASP> fiscally responsible, I’ve been trying to find work-arounds to some of my former spendthrift habits. The library, a place you can get books to borrow for free, has been one glorious new resource that I’ve been avoiding for about a decade, and so far, it’s been going pretty well. The more earth-shattering, novel improvement in my reading life has been the free (yes I said free) Amazon Kindle e-books that I discovered, akin to me to Columbus discovering America.

419MC6938ML._SL500_AA300_Consider my mind completely blown.

To be clear, the books that I have downloaded at zero cost are not high literature. They’re trash, beach reads really, but then again most of the books I typically purchase on a whim aren’t Proust or Dickens. In the beginning I was the fool that kept picking books that were serial in nature, aka they give you the first book for free and then trick you into buying the rest of the series. After I learned about that little trick, I started doing more than a cursory look and found full-on novels.

tumblr_l8e2aikBj01qct2dwo1_500Again, not high literature. Though this one wasn’t bad…

This isn’t to say that I’ll never buy a book again. Because that’s not practical. The fact is that I read a lot (the woes of being an indoor kid), and when certain things strike my fancy, the fancy will strike back with my debit card. But until the vultures at Wells Fargo and Gold Cross are paid off, I will make do with shoot’em up bang-bang and apocalyptic e-books while contemplating November, when I will challenge myself to write the sequel to The Vassar Murders.

nanowrimoBring it on NaNoWriMo. Bring. It. On.

Until next time, stay classy (and well read) Salt Lake.

Guerilla Gardening 2.0

Nothing says summer like fresh produce. Unless you live at Castle Graystone, where trying to grow your own veggies is a battle of wills. And I can finally say that after vandalism, poor soil, and some really, really hot days, that I have prevailed. While I’ve missed the Ocho something fierce, B-Long and I have been able to surreptitiously raise squash, pole beans and tomatoes. And I am prepared to enjoy my bounty.

bounty-of-vegetablesOk, maybe not this much, but still.

B-Long came over after I got home from work today and we walked around the grounds, darting behind hedgerows and ducking behind fences to see the literal fruits of our labor. The tomatoes hidden in Hollow #1 are huge and green; I’ll ripen them in a brown bag. The squash blossoms are huge. And don’t get me started on the pole beans. It’s like the Farmer’s Market up in here, only as if the beans were planted by ninjas.

4ninjasYep. I went there. NINJAS.

The icing on the cake is that I may very well be nominated to be on the HOA board, which would be simultaneously the world’s largest time suck and something I’d find worthwhile because I would <GASP> finally be able to push for a community garden and have some clout. This will inevitably gain me some enemies, but hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, every cook will tell you that.

tumblr_leavr0lJhz1qfmj6mo1_500But look at what happened to the cook!

So we’ll see. The house is somewhat in order, Davey’s final days in SLC are winding down, and I have a ticket to go home for Christmas even though it’s before Labor Day. Because that’s how Hurricane Suzie rolls. I look forward now to some quiet time with Luna, who after a whirlwind weekend is socially exhausted and now making sure the blanket on the couch doesn’t go anywhere.

2014-08-25_18-00-02_459She’s really good at it. Seriously.

Until next time, stay classy (and organic) Salt Lake!

Requiem for an Avocado

When I was a kid, parents would come in and show the class of us little monsters how to do different things. Some showed us slideshows of their jobs, which we typically ignored. We made crafts that our parents kept even though they were ugly, turkeys made out of hand prints and ceramic pots that weighed more than Orca whales. For whatever reason, one parent must have showed us how to make guacamole (which would have been out of place in the early 90’s Virginia kitchen) and then how to sprout the giant seeds. Of the entire class, two sprouted, and only I chose to bring mine home and plant it, to my parents grudging approval.

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And so it began.

Quite possibly the ugliest plant in my collection/jungle, the avocado lived through multiple moves all over the East Coast. It survived from the house on Rochester through the transfer to the “last house we’d live in” in Delaware, to the inevitable move back to Richmond for my dad’s job. The small pot was replaced by ever more massive ones, the tree sprouting green leaves that turned brown immediately at the edges, eventually overtaking an entire corner of the sun room. I continued to move, to college and beyond, and to my mother’s dismay had her continue in her caretaking role. Even her multiple attempts to kill it were unable to defeat the scrawny plant that even a mother wasn’t able to love. But alas, the tropical plant met its match at Castle Graystone, succumbing to a too hot and dry desert climate.

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To have met its maker where it was to thrive is jarring.

After a valiant (albeit desperate) attempt to keep the ever-living avocado plant that I started growing in second grade alive, one of my longest living relationships has come to pass. It’s sad, bittersweet really, to know that after all of this time, that little fighter finally met its match in Salt Lake. I tried pruning the die back, under-watering, over-watering. Cutting off the sucker growth. Fertilizer. Chanting. To no avail. And now, as the last few leaves dangle and wilt off of its skinny trunk, I have to figure out what I am going to do with its remains. To throw it away seems callous, but it’s not like I whittle. So after a weekend of mourning, I’ll drag what is left of that relic of the past out to pasture.

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There will be some sort of memorial, above and beyond the BLERG.

So goodbye old friend. It’s been a great ride. I hope that wherever you find your green-brown, admittedly sickly-looking self in the afterlife that you’ve got enough space, sun and water to finally sprout. And I’ll bet that you produce some great guacamole. Until next time, stay classy (and don’t forget the Miracle-Gro) Salt Lake.

The Ice Bucket Conundrum

As the Ferguson debate rages on and on, and ISIS becomes the Islamic State becomes ISIL (why do they keep changing their name, do they know nothing about branding?) I am going to wade into something that will most likely piss off a number of people. But that’s sort of how I roll. Working at a small non-profit for genetically rare diseases (just like ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and having socially minded friends and family, there has been a lot of buzz in my life about the now infamous Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ll spare you the details about it because if you haven’t heard of it, you don’t have internet and this will fall on deaf ears anyway.

1D274906604596-today-bush-ice-bucket-140820-01.blocks_desktop_mediumNot going to lie, though, Laura get’s two points for this. Maybe three.

To be clear. I am not slamming a small non-profit making a mint on the kindness of others willing to douse themselves with freezing water. Hell, most of my family and friends have, and donated to boot. What I wanted to say is that the true benefit to ALS from this challenge isn’t the money. I mean, the money’s nice. F’reals. The publicity of the illness is (hopefully) their true bread and butter if they’re going to really make a difference in fighting the disease. But that’s where I start to become a negative Nancy. People aren’t talking a lot about what it is they are actually allegedly posting about: the disease. In point of fact, I had to look up Lou Gehrig’s name just to be sure I typed it in right in the first place.

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He was, admittedly, a handsome man.

The point I am trying to make is that while everyone is donating to an incredible cause and raising awareness, most people (in my opinion, and my opinion only) don’t know what it is they’re raising money for in the first place. Having asked a couple of people who did the challenge and donated money, I was met with dead air over the phone and blank stares in person. Very few knew what ALS was, or how it’s treated, or what the money they’ve raised will be used to actually do. I knew the name of the disease (I know about a lot of diseases as a certifiable hypochondriac), but I didn’t know s$%^ about the illness or what people live through with it. Do you? Cheat here on Wiki. I did.

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It’s amotrophic lateral sclerosis. There’s one treatment, and it’s not great.

The thing that I really, really hope comes from all of this hype is not that my friends will goose themselves with ice water and post their experience to Facebook. That’s a bonus, and that’s already happening. But it’s not the point. The point is that what I really hope is that people don’t see this as a one-off to donate, leaving ALS with a funding vacuum the size of most third world countries’ GNP this time next year. Which could totally happen. Remember, I live in non-profits. I want to see people commit to donating more than once. And after $8M raised, I worry that come this time next year, ALS is going to find itself dangling in the wind, as other viral social media campaigns crowd them out and leave them back at square one.

img66564523dc4a7c25bThink of it as going past Go without collecting $200.

To those of you who have succeeded in the challenge, bravo. Stay the course. Donate next year to prove that you’re committed. To those of you who haven’t, donate anyway. I think that this viral social media kerfuffle is fabulous, but if it’s just a drop in the bucket in our digital (and mostly disposable) lives, then it’s a wasted opportunity. And until next time, stay classy (and charitable) Salt Lake.