Friday, April 20, 2012

A bit too much sprnging

Spring has sprung - certainly here in So. Cal., where there’s a heat wave this weekend. I’m sitting here typing this shirtless in my cut-off bib overalls.

Spring is known as a time of re-awakening, when all things living come back to life at full force. As wonderful and beautiful as it is, sometimes, as I point out in the following column published in the Claremont Courier this week, this abundance of life is a bit too much.

I will add or reiterate that the bee guy was super intense - scarily so. I thought he would go off on an anti-gay rant when he started off his spiel by saying, “All animals are meant to procreate. Those that don’t, die off.” Later, on his second visit, he told my attendant that a bee sting might do me good. A very intense, weird


Who knew that bees need more water, more hydration, than any other animal?

Wow! I didn’t.

I learned this fascinating factoid when the bee guy came to my house, and I asked why the bees were dying. He said that it was lack of hydration. That, and that they were smashing the windows, trying to get out.

Yes, the bees were trying to get out - of my kitchen. Or, as the bee guy said, they were heading towards the light. There had been dozens of bees coming into my kitchen over the previous two days. Most were quickly dying, which was enough of a nuisance, but there had still been plenty buzzing around, making life unpleasant and somewhat dangerous.

This is why the bee guy was at my house. I wanted to know why the bees were in my kitchen. After all, I never had had bees in my kitchen - or anywhere in my house. More to the point, though, I wanted the bees out of my kitchen, out of my house, and I wanted them to stay out. Like they always had.

It’s not that I have anything against bees. Sure, they are annoying and can be dangerous, even quite dangerous, but they play a crucial role in nature and make lovely honey, and I agree that the recent massive bee die-off is alarming. But, please, I don’t want them in my house.

But, as happens with disturbing frequency, when the bee guy came to my house, the bees weren’t coming in. Unlike the previous two warm afternoons, when the bees were coming in at a steady pace, it was a cool and cloudy morning, and there wasn’t much bee activity. After looking around a bit, the bee guy surmised that they were getting in through a couple air vents. He went on to explain, among many other things like the hydration, that, like humans, bees look at an average of twelve different places before choosing a place to live.

Again, who knew? “It’s really an amazing thing,” the bee guy said.

He guessed that the bees didn’t like my house and had decided to move on. It looked like he was right until two days later when it warmed up again, and the bees came buzzing, if not roaring, back into my kitchen.

I called the bee guy again, and he said he would come back the next afternoon - a good time, I thought, since it was more likely that the bees would be more active (even if dying once they were in my kitchen) at that time.

Sure enough and much to my relief, when the bee guy came for the second time, there were plenty of bees buzzing about, including in my kitchen. Better yet, he saw them going in and out of a small crack in the wall, a crack that he hadn’t seen before. He plugged the hole - no long lectures this time - and I haven’t had anymore bees in my kitchen.

This is good, because having two cats, along with two caged parakeets, in my house is enough. After having one cat in many periods of my life, having two for the last eight years or so has really shown me, as if I didn’t already see, that we’re owned by our cats (if not all our pets) rather than owning them.

These two cats that rule the house are brothers, both extremely affectionate and with a definite foot fetish, that I got as found kittens. (I still have the Courier classified ad stuck on my fridge.) At the time, I didn’t know their distinct personalities and how correctly I named them. Elijah, with light champagne stripes, is rotund and voracious, likes to bully but is really a huge baby, spending most of the time when he’s outside sticking close to the house and loudly crying. I think he is jealous of Irie who, with his darker orange stripes, really reflects the term from reggae music meaning “positive” and “happy,” being adventurous and sleek, if not sneaky, having the run of the neighborhood and maybe the town.

They do get into spats with each other, but it usually means they want food or out. Usually. At least they don’t bring live birds into the house, as one of my old cats, Sam, was wont to do, and at least they’re not fighting opossums under my bed.

This is what happened to an old friend of mine here in Claremont years ago. She had a cat door in her back door and was awakened one night by her cat and an opossum in a loud, vicious fight under her bed. My friend sat up on her bed and frantically called the police and was told, “Lady, we don’t come out for opossums.”

Years later, I found out that that was wrong. I was living in an apartment here in town and had a roommate from England. He had never seen an opossum and panicked when he saw one one night out on the patio and called the police. Before I knew it, I was lying in bed at 11:30 looking out the window at two officers rooting around the patio with flashlights.

At least the opossum was outside. One another occasion at the same apartment when I had a different roommate, I was having a birthday party. Some friends and I were playing Uno or something at the kitchen table, and the sliding glass door was open in the summer. My cat - another cat named Professor (he really was a genius and quite dapper in his black tux) - came in from the patio, loudly making an announcement. It turned out he had brought his own guest - a baby opossum. And it turned out that it wasn’t dead. It was, of course, playing opossum.

I probably don’t need to say that that was the end of that party.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Disabled by shame

This kid needs to be in school. Not only is there no reason for him not to be in school, it is all the more reason for him to be in school.

That was my immediate reaction when I read Steve Lopez’s column a few weeks ago in the Los Angeles Times. Steve Lopez is one of my heroes, an inspiration to me - a sharp, insightful columnist who writes with passion as well as compassion. With this column, however, he didn’t go quite far enough.

The column was about Jose Chojolan, a junior at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Although he is quiet and shy, Jose is likable and smart, determined to go to college - preferably U.C Irvine. As his marine biology teacher, Jennie Jackson, is quoted, “Jose is probably one of the most humble, hard-working, reliable students I have ever known.”

That is, when he’s in school.

Jose hasn’t been in school since January, and he doesn’t want to. “He can’t quite imagine returning to school,” according to Lopez.

That’s because he now uses a wheelchair, having been paralyzed from the neck down after suffering a blood clot in his neck. He did visit the school recently but didn’t stay long. As he told Lopez when Lopez visited him at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital, “I didn’t want them to see me,” referring to his fellow students.

The column is about the students at Fairfax raising thousands of dollars for Jose’s family, who had been living in an inaccessible second-floor apartment and has lost income from taking time off to care for Jose. This is truly awesome.

But I keep thinking about the guy I wrote about a couple years ago who was found by friends in a nursing home decades after thinking he had died. I wish Lopez not only had written about how sad and ridiculous that Jose and his family are left relying on the kindness of students and strangers rather than the state. I wish mostly that Lopez had written more about the shame that Jose feels about being disabled, the shame he has learned to feel, the shame that is now what’s really paralyzing him.

After all, there’s a big sign in the window of his hospital room saying “We Love Jose,” signed by his fellow students. Think about it. He needs to be in school.

Friday, April 6, 2012

They like it hard

“There are no adult children, only adults who act like children... Your son may be 24, but he is not a child, I hope.

“Obamacare and the nanny state treat people like children. They can drink, drive and vote, but they are not responsible enough to pay their way...”

So spouts off a letter-writer not too long ago in the Los Angeles Times, referring in the already enacted provision in the healthcare reform law that allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until 26, in yet another incredible example of a conservative shooting themselves in the foot - literally. Come Hell or high water - especially so, in fact - they are determined that people be responsible for themselves and not get any help.

Even though they may very well need the assistance, the Tea Party types are waiting with baited breath for the Supreme Court to strike down the healthcare reform law. In the name of liberty, they insist on self-reliance and taking care of one’s own business, even when there is clearly a way to make life easier and better for all. In the name of freedom, the demand that nobody gets it easy, much less a free ride - and all the more so if they have to pay for it.

As the letter writer concludes, “Covering adult children costs someone or something. Nothing is free. Even lunch from a Democrat.”

This might - might - be arguable, if not understandable, but it often seems that conservatives want things to be even harder than they already are. It is as if life isn’t worth anything unless it is a complete slog and a complete fight. And they’ll bend over backwards and twist the truth to see that this happens.

Consider what is now going on in Lancaster. I have written a few times about this town in the desert northeast of Los Angeles and its mayor, R. Rex Parrish, who favors praying to Jesus at City Council meetings. I have written about there being a federal investigation into surprise inspections of Section 8 housing, often accompanied by armed officers, in the city. These units are usually occupied by blacks and Latinos. Now, the city has sued Section 8, claiming it coerces minorities to move to Lancaster rather than, say, L.A. It posits that this is unfair to minorities, despite the fact that housing in Lancaster is more affordable and less dense.

Talk about twisting truth and logic! In the name of fairness, conservative Lancaster is out to make things harder, if not downright impossible, for people.