Thursday, July 19, 2007

Experienced Only Need Apply

My first published short story is up at The Rose & Thorn e-zine. Check it out here: Experienced Only Need Apply and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Five Days in Orlando

There’s heat and then there’s Florida heat. Hailing from the West Coast, where I’ve sweated out triple digits at Anaheim’s Disneyland, I thought I could handle Orlando’s theme parks in the summer. After all, I’d lived in Japan and toured Tokyo’s Magic Kingdom in horribly humid July. Boy was I wrong. California’s heat is like a dry rock sauna, but Florida’s heat is like a steam sauna.

We arrived at the Doubletree Castle in Orlando, where we enjoyed a roomy junior suite. The hotel’s location on International Drive made it easy for BassMan to hop on the shuttle to the Convention Center where he was attending the Airborne Law Enforcement Association Conference and Expo. That location also allowed easy transport via the hotel shuttle to the Disney parks and Universal.

Before I yak about our theme park adventures, I have to shout out congratulations to my son, Jonathan. The ALEA gives out a handful of scholarships annually and Jonathan won a $1500 award sponsored by MD Helicopters. ALEA presented Jonathan the scholarship at the organization’s annual membership meeting. Pictured here is Dale Christman, Law Enforcement Sales Manager at MD Helicopters, presenting the scholarship to Jonathan. Special thanks for the photo to Jack Sykes, Art Director/Chief Photographer for Professional Pilot Magazine.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom was our first stop. This is where I learned how much I’d forgotten about heated humidity. Halfway through the day I was ready to score some magic to disappear from the Magic Kingdom. Highlight of our visit was the spectacular thunder and lightning storm that passed directly overhead while we were about to ride Splash Mountain. Thunder exploded overhead, echoing through the labyrinthine ride queues and shaking the fiberglass mountain like an earthquake. The light and sound show was more exciting than the ride. Can you tell it’s been way too long since we Californians had seen a storm like this?

Epcot was interesting, but now that I’ve been there, I can’t say it was worth the exhorbitant entry fees. One thing Disney got right at Epcot was putting the attraction lines inside huge biospheric buildings with air conditioning.

Jonathan was sick the day Elisabeth and I went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This meant I had to go the next day with him. The last time I’d ridden a roller coaster with Jonathan was when he was eight, barely tall enough to have snuck past the height line at the Desperado coaster at Buffalo Bill’s Casino near the stateline at Primm, Nevada. BassMan held on so tightly to Jonathan on Desperado, we had to pry his fingers off Jonathan’s arm when the ride was done.

Eighteen-year-old Jonathan is old enough to have gone to Universal and conquered any ride by himself, but how fun is that? When you’re a tourist in a town 3,000 miles from home, trekking around a theme park with your mom is better than going by yourself. I guess. I rode all the big coasters and other amusements all over again with Jonathan. Surprisingly, this Mama’s still got the curve when it comes to coasters.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Our Pet Cemetery Grows By One

In the wayback of our half-acre yard we have a substantial pet cemetery. The ground was consecrated only a few weeks after we moved in when our fluffy white rabbit, Snowball, didn’t make the transition from his comfy cage inside the air conditioned house to his custom-built hutch on the side of our yard. In the years since, we’ve buried Lady, a four-month-old German shepherd mix who drowned in a freak accident in our spa (and I mean freak accident); an amazing alligator lizard with a tail 12-inches long who couldn’t adapt to life in a reptile habitat inside the house (the only thing my kids learned from this was that outside critters live best outside); my gorgeous rooster who strutted and crowed like a prizefighter; two sister cats we’d had since they were kittens (Funny Face and Mariah); and my beloved Bichon Frise, Handsome, a rescue dog who became my shadow and dearest companion.

Yesterday we had to put down our beloved, 18-year-old cat, Neesa, mother of Funny Face and Mariah. Anyone who has loved a pet can understand the waves of grief and sadness we felt yesterday and will continue to feel in the days ahead.

Neesa has been a part of our family since we lived in Orange County immediately after returning from our years in Japan. Like the best cats, Neesa, adopted us. She came to us in a family way and gave birth to six kittens in the attic of our house. Only days after her litter was born, good mother Neesa, found an opportunity to move her litter to upscale digs inside the house. Here’s what happened.

My daughter, Elisabeth, only three years old at the time, had a cradle full of stuffed animals on the floor of her room. The two kids and I had just returned from a large grocery shopping trip and I’d parked my van inside the garage and left the door into the kitchen wide open while I shuffled bags of groceries from the van inside the house. The phone rang, so I paused my unloading, leaving the door open. A moment later I saw Neesa run through the kitchen and disappear into the back of the house. Back in 1991 I didn’t have a cordless phone, so I stayed yakking into my wired handset in the kitchen. A moment later Neesa ran back into the garage and I didn’t give it another thought until I saw her run back in. This time I noticed a tiny black kitten hanging by the nape of the neck from Neesa’s mouth. I put the phone down and followed her.

Neesa, in her motherly way, had taken the open door opportunity to move her kittens, one at a time, from the attic space to a comfy spot inside the house. She dropped the little black darling right into Elisabeth’s stuffed animal sanctuary where the little mewers blended right in.

Smitten with this little example of animal instinct, the kids and I watched as Neesa moved all of her kittens into Elisabeth’s room and nestled in among the stuffed animals to nurse. I moved some of Elisabeth’s special stuffies from the new kitty nursery and we let Neesa and her litter stay there until it was time to find homes for the kitties.

Elisabeth gave Funny Face her name because she had a black dot next to her nose that made her look, well, funny. The three all-black male kittens we gave away to friends. My sister, Robin, took Mariah for her daughter Darah. After Robin found she was deathly allergic to cats, we took Mariah back and kept her until her death about a year ago at age 16. Funny Face preceded Mariah, passing peacefully at the age of 13.

We weren’t exactly sure how old Neesa was, as she was fully grown when she adopted us. When we had her spayed right after she weaned her litter, the vet said she was young, probably about a year old. This makes her about the same age as my son, Jonathan.

Neesa has been a part of our family for so long that Elisabeth and Jonathan don’t remember life without her. She’s buried now in the pet cemetery where her two daughters lay.

The photo above shows (l-r) Neesa and Mariah posing on their thones in front of our house in early 2005. RIP: Neesa, Funny Face, and Mariah.
If you've ever lost a beloved pet, feel free to share a memory here. Simply click the blue COMMENTS link below.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrate Freedom

The USA is mired in some sticky gunk right now, but it's my home. What a better way to say Happy Birthday America than with fireworks over Disneyland. Disneyland fireworks shoot in the distance in my novel, THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER, also.

I took this shot at Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Happiest Homecoming on Earth celebration on May 5, 2005. If you're a Disney fan, you can read my post about the occasion in the May 2005 Archives.