Thursday, May 27, 2010


'Twas graduation day at the large 'n fancy university, and Christiane Amanpour, Meryl Streep and David Souter were around. As I work on the backside of campus I didn't really see too much, though there was a steady parade of grads and their families on their way from lunch to the afternoon ceremony.

To be perfectly honest, I sat for a couple of minutes watching the students and felt sad, deeply sad. For myself. For a lot of reasons. I try not to wallow in dour stew but it does a girl no better to ignore when there's a pot of it on the stove.

College graduation is a time of such promise and hope for people, but time hurries on.

Immediately after leaving the scene of all that power and wealth being unleashed on the world, I headed to Market Basket, which is less than two miles away geographically but light years away in many other aspects.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well then

I was going through some old catalogs at the large-'n-fancy university today when I came across a place that sells dissection materials. You can buy trays, and bugs in plastic, and sad-looking dead birds.

You can also buy kitties. :(. I flipped through the catalog without really looking at the pictures because I suspected they sold dead kitties. In fact they sell peeled dead kitties. I read the description, which actually made me feel a little better about the whole operation. They buy them pre-euthanized from the Humane Society. I did not find out how they skinned them (although as we all know there is more than one way, wocka wocka wocka) because that would have required opening the catalog up enough to see dead skinned kitties. And that's something you can't un-see.

Anyhoo, it seemed like, while not the greatest of fates in the world for cats, better than some. They have a gentler death than many kitties, and their bodies are used for science. And at least some of that science benefits us all.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BABOOM!, or As a matter of fact that IS a gun my pocket. Part I I

So on Saturday the Wilfred Brimley of weaponry handed me a .22 and a pair of headphones and told me to start shootin'. Which I did. Poorly. "Lean into it!" Wilfred shouted. "No, not like that!" Wilfred hollered. "Remember to take your insulin!" Wilfred grumbled.

OK he didn't say that last bit. I did manage to hit the target once out of a total of 25 shots, after which Wilfred told me to wait a minute, and then pulled this out of his pants. As I fired Wilfred barked. "Steady your hand!" "Straight out!" "No, not like that!" "Quit shooting into the ground!"

I protested, because I honestly thought I was firing straight on. Apparently, though, I am a p*&^y, because I, in unconscious anticipation of the kick, dropped the gun low as soon as I squeezed the trigger.

No matter. Wilfred had faith in me. Or something. He took that gun away, reached under his shirt, and pulled a Glock out of his trousers. I had the same problem with the Glock, and when I was finished shooting a bunch of rounds, Wilfred pointed out the big holes I'd blown in the ground (Sorry about the flesh wounds, Mother Earth.) and guffawed. Then he left, reappearing a short while later with the type of assault rifle the US military uses in Iraq.

This, apparently, is my kind of weapon. It's light, and there's no kick to speak of. It's semi-automatic, so you can fire one bullet after another after another yet it doesn't feel like you're doing anything at all. You could shoot with one hand. Naturally it turned out to be the most powerful weapon any of us fired that day. It's more than a little terrifying how (physically) easy it would be to blow great big holes in people. This is one scary gun:

After the rifle action, Wilfred had one more trick down his pants. I was half-expecting a grenade launcher, but he instead pulled out a snub-nosed pistol, made in Utah, with a 7lb trigger pull. You need to be a champion nose picker (read: fingers of steel) to operate it. I am not quite that, but I did manage to discharge the weapon three times. (I had to use both hands.) The third time the I-don't-know-what-it's-called thingy that kicks back when you fire smacked into my thumb-ouch.

Before we left for dinner, Wilfred brought out what it takes to convince the most stubborn diabeetus patients to check their blood sugar: a .50-caliber muzzle loader. Can you say BOOM!? It can. Wilfred asked me if I wanted to try it and I, imagining discharging the weapon and then being blown backwards into a pine tree, declined.

Later, at dinner, Wilfred said he was proud of me. He was sure I'd freak out. Well score one for the hippie. And props to Wilfred, for making my day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

BABOOM!, or As a matter of fact that IS a gun my pocket. Part I

So I visited Cooperstown this weekend. It's the hometown of several friends I met at a book club and one friend wanted me to meet her family. We share tales of our wackadoo dads and she thought her wackadoo dad and I would get a kick out of one another.

Well, we certainly did. Her Dad is a kitty-loving, armed-to-the-teeth Wilfred Brimley. He's got a little bit of the grandpa from 16 Candles in him, too. He is very, very conservative. But also lovely, and funny, and kind. He kisses the hand of every woman he meets, which my friend H and her brother keep telling him is creepy, although I found it sweet. When he sits on the sofa watching Fox News his 13-year-old kitty-cat jumps up and sits on his chest and nuzzles his face. When we came home from dinner he stepped out on the patio and shot five rounds from .41 Magnum.

Afterwards he asked if I wanted to try. I declined, based on my earlier experience. (More on that tomorrow.) Also based on the fact that the energy released from the gun shook the entire house and my entire body. And there was something like a miniaturized Hollywood blockbuster movie explosion that came out of the barrel with each bullet.

When we went back inside my friend's mom asked if he'd fired the .50-caliber muzzle loader (which he had fired earlier, and can I get a G-d-DAMN) because it apparently shoots flames in the dark.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Look what I can do!

I managed to bend myself into this mofo in yoga today. Walnut stopped by for a visit and I showed off. She said she thought I was going to start breakdancing but really I almost fell over.

Yoga-breakdance fusion--the crumping of 2010?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mouse droppings

Yesterday I learned that the trees outside the building I work at in the large-n-fancy university are small not because the building I'm in is new but because something else is. A few years back they constructed a multistory building under the quad to house mice.

Had I not been told of its existence, I would never have known the building was there. Sometimes, apparently, it smells like mice aboveground, but I've never caught a whiff.

They offered tours of the facility when it was first built but now there's no way in unless you're authorized. Or a rodent.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Mountain Critters

Along with the adorable but dumb house pets and cows, I encountered a few wild beasties during my stay in Vermont. I saw two kinds of squirrels, was observed for a good 10 minutes by a woodchuck who makes his home in the drainpipe across the street, and heard an owl calling at night. I can't figure out if it was a great grey owl or a great horned owl. I love owls, partly because their big eyes and tufted ears remind me of my kitty and partly because they are super neat.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dirt road racin'

This is Jimberley James the Horrible Hound. I hung out with him and his kitty siblings Chloe Claws and Buddy at the Dr. and Mr. Moo estate in Addison County. Jim is not the brightest of bulbs. Case in point: When I gave him an entire Milk-Bone out of the treat jar instead of one of the Milk-Bone pieces in that same jar, he dropped it on the floor and looked at me. So I gave him a Milk-Bone piece, which he ate. The most telling part of this tale is that he did not, upon finishing the Milk-Bone piece, go on to eat the whole Milk-Bone that lay on the floor beside him. I don't think he understood what it was because he normally only gets Milk-Bone pieces.

These are the cows who live across the street from Jimberley. They like him. A lot.

But what they really like is racing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Great Google-y Moogly

I was trying to find a valid email address for Little Brother as he recently left his job to, in the grand McPolack tradition, work for himself. One of the hits looked particularly curious, so I clicked on it, and found PolackPappy. He made the light on the rock chunk all by himself.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

US versus Europe

Living in a city with several major universities has meant I've hung out with more foreigners in the last five years of my life than in the previous 31. Of course considering those 31 years were spent in two of the whitest states in the country that's not saying much. But I digress. I've chatted a couple of times with a European fellow who works at the large-n-fancy university and he's told me that in Europe they say Americans are mean and dumb (I'm overgeneralizing a bit because I'm tired) but his experience has been the opposite.

He also talks a lot about how much he loves the woods here, partly because there's different plants and critters to see, but also partly because there are woods here. His country of origin, the Netherlands, has mostly farmland, and not a lot of it. He said much of Europe is no longer forest and hasn't been for many years. And by many years he means Roman-era.

(I remember Dr. Moo getting irritated by this dairy royalty guy who'd flown in to try and woo her. She took him hiking in the White Mountains and he didn't say boo. She felt like she'd been personally insulted, because, hey, have you ever hiked in the White Mountains?)

Anyhoo. Team woods!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Sunday afternoon I stopped by a Trader Joes near my house, which is conveniently located across the street from a Whole Paycheck. I was low on raw almonds and out of almond butter, and I'm always up for trolling for cheese samples. While heading from the nuts to the cheese I noticed a group of people looking into telescopes. Big telescopes.

I looked up. And realized people were looking into spotting scopes, watching a family of hawks like hawks.


Monday, May 10, 2010


When I was in high school one of the boys I knew liked to tease that he had a thing for me. He signed my yearbook "My love for you is a vast field of flowers. You'd look great riding behind me on a motorcycle." He was really into plants and said he dreamed of creating a beautiful rose garden for his future wife.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years later and he's a career military man, off to a new deployment. We're FB friends and I just looked through an album of aerial shots of the Iraq countryside, which is actually quite lovely, despite the helicopter-mounted machine gun in the foreground.


Thursday, May 06, 2010


I've written before about how Dr. Moo and I inherited beefy Polish man-legs and now Dr. Moo's beefy PM-Ls have shown up in the newspaper. There's an annual spring road race in her neck of the woods; last year she and Jimberley James the Horrible Hound ran it together. Or should I say she tried to run it, but JJ the HH kept having to take dump breaks and water breaks. He also galumphs instead of runs. And his ears go all flippy-flappy. He looks really cute and doofy.

Recently Dr. Moo was asked by race officials if she and JJ the HH would be running and when she intimated that perhaps they'd sit it out this year, the officials wouldn't take no for an answer. They had already planned out multiple doggie water stops.

Then she got a copy of the local paper and there was Jimberley James, running free as the breeze in last year's race, trailed by my sister and her ginormous legs. Her husband made the mistake of saying "Well I'm bald in every picture." No, no, Mr. Moo. Bad. You tell the lady with the beefy legs that her legs are not that beefy. Which is very true! Dr. Moo is tiny. And my legs are beefier. Although, as Dr. Moo kindly pointed out, mine have a bit of an indentation at points, a shape, if you will, whereas hers are straight-up-and-down beef.

I however got the fat ass when God was handing out body parts so it all evens out in the end.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Disco Inferno

I stayed late at the large 'n fancy university last night so as to finish up some editorial work on a separate project because I find it hard to go to one job, work, go to another job, work, then go home...where I work more. Better just to fold the third bit into the second.

Anyhoo I started to smell a lovely wafting incense aroma. It got stronger. There was no one else around so where could it be coming from? Then I looked out the window and saw one of the large 'n fancy mulch piles a-smokin'. One lady was watching it and talking on her cell phone. Other people looked at it and kept walking. Soon a security guard showed up to help the cell phone lady with the watchin'.

Security guard must have cleared everyone away because the next time I looked it was just him...just him and some FLAMES! OK, not very big ones. But still. The mulch, the mulch, the mulch was on fire.

Security guard started trying to stamp the flames out with his feet, while a maintenance guy had a hose at the ready. It was then that Cambridge's finest showed up and got to work...

...watching the mulch.

Or so it seemed at first. Upon further observation it looked to me like one of them had some sort of backpack water-spraying thing. Another had a big metal pokey thing. Sort of like a hoe but with a handle twice as long and only two tines. He poked around with the pokey thing. Several other guys just stood there watching. There was also some chatting.

When I looked again, everyone had left. And save for the wet patch of mulch it was as if it had never happened.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


My back hurts. Which can only be due to the many hours I spent hiking so fast up a mountain I had heart palpitations (but just for a minute or so) and carrying small children around in a non-OSHA approved manner.

Weirdly, the two Advil I took didn't even touch the pain. I haven't run in two week or done yoga either and that may be why.

It also may be because I am old. Not old-old but not young either. People older than you talk about aches and pains and you think "I will do x, y and z and therefore I will not have these aches and pains."

I am here to tell you this does not work. You will have them anyway.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Aquapocalypse Now

I made the ill-fated decision to not wash my dishes on Thursday night or Friday morning because I was exhausted on Thursday and needed to do many, many things before 1 PM Friday, including be in line for the Dub-Dub rummage sale.

I will provide a full account of my Dub-Dub finds at a later date, though I must mention a sweet eggbeater patented in the U.S. on my birthday but in 1922. It is spectacular. When you see it you will think "America, fuck yeah!" Just like the good old days.

But I digress. Friday after rummaging I spent five hours with two rambunctious children, one of whom required perhaps five minutes of break time before getting up and running around and screaming some more; during that break time she sat in my lap and smooshed my cheeks in her hands while I made fish noises and tried to lick her. She is still at the age where this makes her giggle uncontrollably. When PolackPappy offers me his hand and says "kiss the ring" and I lick it instead he does not giggle.

Saturday I awoke to spend two more hours with the holy terrors of cuteness before cousin B showed up for our second hike. He and I and OSB climbed Monadnock. It was in the 90's. I sweated a lot.

When I arrived home at 7 PM there was an apartment full of hot and a sink full of dishes and a message on my answering machine informing me I needed to boil any and all drinking/cooking water. Grrrreeeaat. Then I found out online I needed to rinse my dishes in a bleach solution.

Long story longer, I had to boil water, clean and disinfect my mop bucket, then wash my dishes in batches because my mop bucket's not that big.

Anyhoo, Walnut was kind enough to buy me dinner tonight so I didn't have to wash any dishes, and there's iced coffee the next town over, and then next town over is a five-minute walk away. In other McPolack news, I am at the start of another incredibly busy week.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand that is all for now.