BIRDS, HANDS, AND BUSHES

Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was  futile but I felt obliged to try.

Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches. Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds. He had gone to work on the sofa not long ago … not the upholstery. I think the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo the carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors.

The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.

There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds. They need to interact with the world, with us, to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what Cockatoos do for fun: tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.

I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. But he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.

Sulfur Crested Cockatoo playing

Cockatoo photo by Miguel

I shuddered at the thought of how much damage he could do given an entire day to wreak havoc. It was time to put him back into his house.

“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”

“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah those melodious tones.

He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out.  But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go there. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.

“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to get going and we don’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”

I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.

I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand and instead, had been left with two just like him safely hidden in a bush. It boggled my mind.

ALL OUR YESTERDAY’S

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Whether or not it’s a tale told by an idiot or a slightly less stupid narrator, I doubt there’s an action anyone takes in their life (assuming they’ve made it to adulthood) which is not in some way shaped by past experience. What other point is there is “learning the hard way?”

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the hard way seems pretty much the only way. That’s the way my life has gone. If someone has found an easier, less bumpy path to learning how to live, would they please be kind enough to tell me?

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Is your life in shreds? Out of work? Homeless? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Bank threatening foreclosure? Don’t take it personally. It’s a joke. Your debacle is life’s way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate.

No weeping. No one likes a cry-baby or wants to hear your sad story. Unless you turn it into a funny story. Then everyone will listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me because I promptly married a guy infinitely worse. After that fell apart, I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling like I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry, which I should done in the first place. Except he hadn’t asked.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and calamitous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery and disaster fuels humor.

Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is that tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just timing and style. Funny stories aren’t funny when they happen. Later they’re funny.

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Our personal traumas are collateral damage in the battle to survive. Mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your pals. Something to look forward to.

So no matter how bad things are, not to worry. Black depression will ebb. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic you will call “normal.”

Life trudges on. Everyone will point out: “Life doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” You have my permission to whack anyone who says it over the head with something hard and heavy.

STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL OR MERELY STRANGE?

CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE: 2015 WEEK #21

Odd Ball Photos are those great photos that you take which really don’t seem to fit into a common category. We’ve all taken them and like them, because we just can’t hit delete and get rid of them. From the piney woods to the rest room of a local bookstore … odd balls all.

As seen in the ladies room ...

As seen in the rest room of the bookstore …

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BARGAIN HUNTING – THE SPORT

I have acquired a lot of sweaters over the years. This is New England. Winters are long. Heat is expensive. Sweaters fill the gap.

This morning I noticed more than half my sweaters are purple. I’ve got a few in black, a couple in red, but purple dominates. The sweaters used to be all black. I’m from New York where women wear black. It’s a thing. A co-worker in Israel once told me I dressed like a nun. I could never wear the bright colors she wore. I’d feel like I was wearing a neon sign.

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If you surmise from this that I love purple, you’d be wrong. Purple sweaters scream “final mark-down.” As a habitue of end-of-the-season sales, I know what to expect. Lots of purple, white, orange and some nasty shades of green in which no one looks healthy.

Leftovers also include “specialty colors” designers were sure would be the next big thing. They are inevitably named after fruits or veggies. They never sell well, so there are plenty of whatever it was in the clearance aisle.

All the normal, neutral colors are gone, but you’ll find cantaloupe , mango, kiwi, aubergine, honeydew, sugarplum, pumpkin, mocha and vanilla bean. We all knew they were tan, orange, coral and lavender. New names did not make old colors the next big anything.

I’m a big fan of neutrals. In addition to being essentially conservative where color is concerned, I spent many decades working and commuting. If I wanted to have a life outside of work, dressing had to be fast, mindless.

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Neutral colors are the backbone of a working woman’s wardrobe. If almost all of your clothing is black, grey, off-white, taupe, brown, or khaki, putting together an outfit is a piece of cake. Grab a top, grab a bottom, attach earrings to lobes and voilà. It’s a go-anywhere wardrobe for the fashion-challenged. In other words, me.

After I stopped working, I didn’t have money to spend on clothing. The percentage of purple and orange in my wardrobe rose accordingly. Which explains the orange dress in my closet. I’ve had it for almost two years, but the tags are still attached. It was a 2012 leftover bought the spring of 2013. It’s still waiting to be worn as the spring of 2015 is well underway. It’s got short sleeves and is basically a long tee-shirt, so I’ll give it whirl as a nightie.

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Lack of money has honed my bargain hunting skills, but I have always been a bargain shopper.

I shop final sales and closeouts, even when I am not strapped for funds. It’s a family tradition. My mother raised me to hold fast to one unyielding principle: Never pay full price. 

I take pride in scoring a great buy. You aren’t supposed to brag about how much you pay. You’re supposed to brag about how much you didn’t pay. The less you pay, the greater your bragging rights. I was astonished to discover that some people are proud of paying a lot for something they could have gotten for half off if they’d waited a couple of days. They might have had to take it in purple or orange, but think of all the money they’d save!

Would I have different attitude towards shopping if I were rich?

To put it in perspective, back in the early 1990s, I got into a tug of war with Carly Simon for possession of a 70% off clearance sale silk blouse in a very chi-chi shop in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The blouse was orange.

I won. Fantastic blouse.

Bargain hunting is not just for people on a tight budget. For some of us, it’s a contact sport.

Somewhere, in Heaven, Mom is smiling proudly.

HANGING WITH OLD FRIENDS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Friendship is something you treasure more and more as the years go by and you realize the clock is ticking on your mortality. I used to have numerous friends during my working years. But when they finally turned the TV news camera off me, many of those friends disappeared.

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It goes with the territory. How many t’s in territory?

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In retirement, I have maybe a few real friends. I can count them on the fingers of one hand. That’s the way it was before I became a regional celebrity. I’ve never been a really sociable fella. People often confused my television persona with real “me.”

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I’m reserved in large gatherings. Always have been. Some of it is due to my hearing problems. Mostly, it’s because I’m shy. I hide behind what remains of my professional celebrity. I don’t laugh much except when I’m around our dogs. I’m always comfortable with our furry kids. I’ve found myself laughing a lot the past couple of days. Laughing with people. Very special people. Ron and Cherrie.

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Cherrie and Marilyn are best friends. They’ve known each other forever. They make each other laugh through the darkest of times.

Ron is a quiet guy, much like me. We don’t talk a lot, but we share a lot when we are alone. About a variety of things. It’s comfortable being around Ron and Cherrie. Easy. We talk about the problems of the world, our crisis-filled lives, and movie trivia. We finish off each other’s sentences as our overloaded brains smoke like old wiring.

More than anything else, we bring out the best in each other. We remember the joy of laughter, of enjoying the moment. Silly stuff reigns.

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Our visit with Ron and Cherrie will end in a few hours and then it’s back to reality. If only we could bottle the fun we’ve had, we could throw away most of our prescription meds.

Friendship. What a concept!

SOME OF THE GOOD STUFF

Worldly Encounters

What would I share with a casually met alien? The same stuff I’d share with anyone. Stuff that makes me smile, tap my toes, sing along.

Life is complex and uncertain. Eat dessert first.

These are favorites. Take them seriously at your own risk!

Life is messy and we are messy creatures. No easy explanations, so let’s just try to make the best of it.

Have a little taste on me.