Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding Beauty in Death

I know few of you northerners had sympathy for us southerners during the cold weather at the beginning of this month, but perhaps you could dig deep and feel sorry for our plants. Most of them really suffered from the freeze, although I can't tell yet if the damage is permanent. René says this isn't the time for pruning. We're to leave everything alone and see what develops in the spring, which should be in another week or two.

In the meantime, look at how gorgeous these palms are. True, those copper fronds are probably dead, but what colors! In the sun, they're golden. In the shade, bronze. And the plant itself is still alive. I have a cactus of some sort, thanks to Vicki, that's now reddish, too, thanks to the temperature. Based on what happened to a frozen aloe a couple years ago, I think the cactus will resume its green, given time.

Now here's a picture of Silver who, despite the title, is not dead. He's an outdoor cat from down the street who occasionally takes an afternoon nap on my bed and usually shows up once a day for fish. I woke up one recent morning and opened the door to the porch. There was Silver in a chair and there -- stepping backward then -- was something slightly spongy underfoot. It was a three-legged squirrel, an apparent thank-you gift from Silver, for those soft naps and the daily Meow Mix.

The stump seemed pretty well healed, and there wasn't any blood anywhere; nor was there life. For all I know, Silver just happened upon a fresh corpse and decided to cash in on it. Well, why not?

I figured I'd pick it up like I pick up after Benji. I'd put my hand into a plastic bag, snatch up the poor squirrel, and then push the bag down off my forearm for a tidy package. Alas. I turn out to be much too squeamish for that. I couldn't stand the idea of feeling the squirrel's not yet rigid body with just the thinnest of plastic between us. I had to put on a big yellow Playtex glove and, holding four folded-over paper towels (that's eight layers now), lift the squirrel by the merest last hair on its tail, and lower it nose-first into the bag, trying very hard not to watch, yet wanting, at all costs, to have perfect aim.

Interestingly, I also had to make noises. I suppose it was just my version of whistling in the dark, but I had to make eewing and gakking sounds, and I had to gibber out loud. "Oh man. Silver. Jeeze. Thanks but really. Yuck. Ouch. What was that? Aw man."

Whenever I watch suspense movies, I picture myself in her -- always her -- shoes, and I know I could never keep my mouth shut while the demented stalker searches for me, muttering and panting while he tosses his knife from one scarred, rough hand to the other. I could tolerate about four seconds of hiding behind a post in a midnight parking garage before I'd burst into the open, hands in the air, shrieking, "Here I am! Here I am!"

I was going to take a picture of the dead squirrel but decided against it, even though it wasn't especially disturbing. (You're welcome, flahoos.) Instead, I'll include a picture of its initial resting place, a sort of funeral parlor. Or maybe this is the critter version of the Catholic Purgatory (assuming they've still held onto that little bit of dogma). Here's where the squirrel waits until it ascends into that Great Landfill in the Sky.

Two friends later told me I should've put the body in a public waste basket, like at Walgreens or by the Beach Bazaar downtown. That way, it would be taken away the very same day, instead of having to wait the whole weekend for Pickup Monday. So that's the Body Disposal Tip for today. You're welcome.

Monday, January 18, 2010


This is America, after all, so we'll assume that Whitco Insurance doesn't actually sell people, even though that's what its sign says. I understand that the sign isn't big enough to hold the word "insurance," or that they may have run out of S's. I know Mister Whitco is trusting Gulfport's citizens to use that phenomenon of closure to add "insurance" in their minds as they drive by on the way to Walgreens to get some Moose Tracks.

I don't mind any of that, but I do mind it that Whitco also sells "car" insurance. I mind the inconsistency of language here. Why is one type of insurance for an inanimate object (a car) and the other for an animate object (a person who owns a home)? Why not "car insurance" and "house insurance"? Or "carowners insurance" and "homeowners [insurance]"?

Unbelievably, I'm not even complaining about "homeowners" being one word, or about the lack of a possessive apostrophe. No. I'm grousing about the disorderly usage.

I think it has to do with euphemisms. Really now, you don't buy a "home." You buy a "house." Only love and cinnamon -- not insurance -- make a house a home. But the whole real estate industry is about making the structures we live in sound better than they really are. Hence, "cozy" really means "cramped."

And speaking of synonyms, let raise our voices (in unison, of course) to wish Peter Mark Roget a happy birthday. Since he was born in 1779, he won't be smiling and blushing while we sing, but his famous Thesaurus, first published in 1852, has been in print ever since then, so perhaps his spirit is coloring with pride at such an accomplishment.

I think we should all celebrate this occasion -- observe, commemorate, keep, remember, solemnize, extol, honor, praise, eulogize, glorify, exalt, toast -- by using as many synonyms as possible, all day long, in everything we do. Repeat, reiterate, reassert. Another fun activity would be to ponder the fact that there's no synonym for synonym.