Monday, May 28, 2012

Confessions of a Weather Wimp






I had plans this holiday weekend, big plans. Outdoor plans that included gardening, perusing Pleasanton's annual Antiques & Collectables Faire on Main Street, hiking around Lake Chabot, and, of course, long, leisurely walks with my greyhound, Olivia.

Oh y
eah baby, plans, big plans. None of which happened.

Because when I awoke early Saturday morning and looked out my bedroom window, I saw gray, overcast skies and treetops swaying in the wind and had but one thought: Hell no, I won't go.

Because I am a Weather Wimp.

My friends know this all too well. I accept invitations for outdoor activities, but always with the caveat that I will cancel if it ____(fill in the blank): rains,threatens to rain, looks like rain, has rained, will rain, might rain, appears to rain, shows evidence of rain, drizzles, is windy, breezy, foggy, cloudy, damp or chilly.

Give me the heat any day. During hot summer days, my neighbors marvel that they rarely hear the drone of my air conditioner even during triple-digit temperatures. It's gotta be pretty darn toasty for me to break into a sweat. And thank goodness, California usually enjoys a dry heat. I love opening my windows and sitting in-between a nice cross-breeze, relishing the gentle warmth on my bare skin like a comforting hug.

Not so, the cold. It hurts.

The cold makes my eyes sting, my ears throb, my skin ache, and renders immobile my frost-bitten limbs. I can't move, can't think, can't function when a bitter glacial wind is cloaking my body like a blanket of needles. Only one thought is able to penetrate my ice-laden mind when I'm engaged in an outdoor activity and engulfed in arctic elements: when, oh when will the inhumanity end?

And when it drops below 60 degrees, then I really suffer.

So mostly, I stayed indoors this holiday weekend, braving the piercing winds only to take Olivia on her walks. Paying no heed to the crazy fools who were leisurely lounging by the community pool, cracking through the ice to splash about and pretend the weather wasn't really a Siberian 64 degrees.

Or so thinks the Weather Wimp.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kindle Can't Hold a Candle




Over the weekend, I found myself, by chance, in an independent bookstore. I was walking Olivia, strolling through downtown Danville, when I noticed the inviting window display of Rakestraw Books, featuring hometown hero, Captain Sully Sullenberger and his new book, "Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America's Leaders." He was scheduled to do a reading the next Friday, so I went in to sign up. Why not? I figured. Turn off "Jeopardy" and go out once in awhile. Live a little.

Yeah, I'm a wild and crazy kind of gal.

After registering, I perused the small, quaint store, fingering the latest best sellers and flipping through quiet but intriguing unknowns. Admiring the creative, colorful book jackets, inhaling the scent of fresh ink and woodsy paper. And I was reminded of the inviting and intimate atmosphere of independent bookstores, something I've missed since getting a Kindle for my birthday. Sure, downloading books is convenient, but that's it. Convenient.

Since the store is dog-friendly, I had Olivia with me--just try bringing a 70-pound animal into a big box book store--and several customers approached me, asking if they could pet her. Of course, I said, glowing with pride as my little tiger, so nicknamed for her striking brindle coat, put forth her best behavior.

One customer shared a story about his childhood dog, a beloved Border Collie. Another mentioned a book she'd recently read, "A Dog's Purpose," that I told her is sitting on my nightstand, and we conversed a bit about that. When I overheard a customer ask about the bestseller, "The Art of Fielding," I was reminded that, oops! that's the book I was supposed to be reading for my next book club meeting, so I grabbed a copy. And when I asked for a bag since I had a few miles to walk back home and didn't want to get the cover dirty with sweaty fingerprints, another customer went behind the counter and got one for me .

"I don't work here," he said with a grin, "but I'm here all the time." While he was there, Olivia got to enjoy a couple dog biscuits kept stashed behind the counter.
When I left 40 minutes later, I felt a warm sense of connection with my community. A connectivity that didn't include routers or cables or modems.

As I walked back home, clutching the first honest-to-goodness, tangible book I've held in months, I pondered e-readers. Convenient, sure, and great for downloading sample chapters to determine if the book is something I'll like. But, at least for me, e-readers are to reading what Facebook is to friendship.

Nice, but just not the same.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Runaway Husband



Oh, the things that happen on our daily walks. Last week the bird, and now this.

There we were, me and Olivia, cutting across the asphalt parking lot of an empty office building when I noticed an older woman in a bit of a predicament. Huffing and puffing, she was trying, unsuccessfully, to prop open an exit door with her back while struggling to lift a man in a wheelchair over the bottom lip of a non-wheelchair accessible door frame.

And so I offered to help and she was most grateful. "At 78 I'm not as strong as I used to be," she sighed, "and we're still trying to figure things out since his stroke." The elderly man, whom I guessed to be her husband, sat with his head down, face expressionless, and arms hanging at his sides. He looked like a limp rag doll. I couldn't tell how much function he had, but it didn't appear to be much. Still, who knew?

"Here," I said, handing Olivia's leash to her. "You hold the dog and I'll take care of this." The chair was heavy, but I was able to lift both wheels over the lip. "There you go," I said, taking back the leash. "Problem solved!"

Gushing her gratitude, she turned her attention to Olivia as her husband waited behind her. "Is she an ex-racer?" she asked. "How fast is she? Where did she race? I had a rescue dog once...." and so forth. She was a nice woman and I didn't mind answering her questions except....

Her husband was starting to roll down the parking lot.

Since I wasn't sure how much control he had, I didn't know if he was moving under his own power. I didn't want to insult him, but he was headed right toward a parked car. I was getting nervous, my eyes flitting back and forth between the oblivious woman and, behind her, the dearly departing husband. Finally, I couldn't stand it.

"Um, uh...is he supposed to be doing that?" I stammered and nodded in his direction.

The woman turned around, threw both hands in the air and screamed "HARRY!!! She bolted after him as quickly as an overweight 78-year old can bolt, but thankfully, her intervention wasn't needed; his wheelchair came to a creeping stop just inches shy of the car. Crisis averted. Whew.

As I said so long to the couple, I wagged my finger toward her husband, who had sat through the entire escapade flaccid and unfazed. "You better watch out for this one," I teased his wife. "I have a feeling this guy's a troublemaker."

And off I walked with Olivia, but not before glimpsing the grin that slowly stretched across her husband's face.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Animal Planet 101

There we were, me and my greyhound Olivia, enjoying a brisk early morning walk today when I heard it:

"Tweeeet, tweeeet, tweeeet."

Then I saw it: a little bird hopping across a street that usually has a fair amount of neighborhood traffic, but was still quiet at 9am on a Sunday morning. Birds are plentiful on this particular trail, which parallels a park, but something about this little bird caught my attention.

I stopped. Watched. Listened.

And soon realized that the little bird was injured. He had to be. Because no normal bird would hop across a wide street and not fly away when the occasional car whizzed by.

With each approaching vehicle, I closed my eyes and plugged my ears, not wanting to hear the sudden silence that would signal the little bird's demise. But by sheer luck, he dodged all traffic and continued with that sad, despairing call: "Tweeeet, tweeet, tweeeeeeeeet." I wanted to help him, but with a 70-pound greyhound on a leash and nothing in which to contain the little bird, there wasn't much I could do.

And so we continued walking, but our pleasant morning walk was now tainted. I couldn't get that little bird's sad call out of my head. That's why, two miles later, when we returned to the parking lot, I made a U-turn and drove back to the street where I'd seen the little bird. Parking my Honda CRV, I opened the windows for Olivia since it was shaping up to be a warm day, emptied a shoe box I keep in the trunk, and went on a search. If I could find the little bird, I'd take him to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in nearby Walnut Creek. There, he'd be in good hands.

I could hear the little bird. I recognized his distinct surround-sound of despair: "Tweeeet, tweeeeet, tweeeeeet." I stood in the middle of the street, holding a shoebox and looking left, right and all around as the town awakened and cars, bicyclists and joggers whizzed by. From my nearby car, Olivia poked her cocked head out the window and watched, obviously wondering what the heck was her human up to? The tweets were everywhere, but nowhere. I searched through ivy and poked through bushes, but couldn't find the little bird.

Sigh. Declaring defeat, I returned to my car. I know it's the nature of the beast and sometimes the beast is nature.

But I had to try.
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