Monday, January 30, 2012

Boo Radley's gonna get ya (to fetch some blueberries)!

Yesterday turned out to be an amazing day. Plenty of fun was had paddling on the Tred Avon and catching up with family but then, out of the blue, an old friend flew in for a visit after being MIA for quite a long period of time.

Last winter my mom had to move to my Grandmother's condo while work was being done on her house.  During the cold months Oxford can be quiet place to reside. Along the time the doldrums were really starting to take hold a mockingbird began to show up regularly on her balcony railing. Mom started putting out half an apple and some blueberries for this brave bird. Fruit turned out to be the way to this mockingbird's heart. Within the first week of setting out fruit the bird quickly began trusting my mom and would fly to the railing as soon as she stepped out on the balcony.  

I came to visit from Chicago shortly after the close interaction between mockingbird and old woman became routine. On the first morning, after setting out a whole plate of blueberries, the bird took to me rather quickly as well. By day two the bird was snatching berries out of my hand. With such a close and rather unusual relationship developing Mom suggested that we come up with a name. Calling the mockingbird 'Bird' at this point seemed too impersonal. Unanimously, meaning Mom, myself, and Gracie back in Chicago, we settled on the cliche Boo. 'Boo' has a nice ring to it whether Boo is a male or female.

Early on Mom thought Boo was a female and I thought he was a male. To settle the matter I called on my friend Jim Brighton who is an avid bird watcher. He told me there was no way to distinguish between the male and female of the species. Google searches offered no help either. I continued talking to and feeding Boo as if he was the man of the Holly tree while Mom maintained her soothing tones and bountiful feasts to prepare Boo for a spring of bringing up babies. Either way Boo was in a win-win situation.

The relationship with Boo kept developing throughout the end of winter and into spring. As the world around us began to fill with color and the chill went out of the air we started leaving the balcony door open. This way Boo could come tell us when it was time to eat. If he didn't see anyone in the kitchen he would fly all the way down the hall to the bedrooms to see if anyone was home and would come fill the plate with blueberries. Boo did not like to be kept waiting.

Another Boo highlight was the time he/she went after a hawk that had landed nearby to take a look and what was hanging around the feeder. Mom said she was very scared that Boo had bitten off more than she could chew but with a relentless series of dive-bombs the hawk flew back to where it came from. This happened deeper into spring. Not only was Boo becoming more aggressive about territory defense, Boo was also gathering berries in his/her bill and taking them back to the nest.

In early summer Boo was seen showing baby Boos how to navigate around the yard. This happened throughout the summer months. Boo seemed to be quite busy in summer 2011 making sure the mockingbird population was well maintained on the northwestern edge of Oxford. Such activity showed up on Boo as well. By August Boo looked worn out and haggard. Visits for blueberries ceased in their regularity compared to what had gone on most of the past several months. Mom had also moved back into her house so my grandmother's place was often vacant. Whenever I was home I would go down and put out some blueberries and a half apple but I didn't spend too much time indoors waiting to see if a mockingbird showed up or not. Dreading the worst we were about to pronounce Boo as deceased. Then came yesterday...

While I cannot confirm if it was good ol' Boo or not this mockingbird had the size and tenacity for blueberries that Boo displayed. The tail of this bird was very long and wide, which was the dead give away for Boo compared to other mockingbirds we saw in the area. Within a minute of putting out a plate of blueberries and an apple this bird was on the balcony eating. I was very excited to just sit back and watch until he/she flew off to let the first course digest. Mom was excited as well to hear that Boo was back. She already thinks it is definitely 'her.'

No matter whether if it is Boo or one of Boo's offspring it is good to have a mockingbird nearby to watch and listen to. I am glad to be back home for a little bit to start another routine. Mom isn't too excited about buying blueberries and apples every other day but experiences like this are just too special to ignore. Boo or Boo Jr. can have my share of blueberries as long as I don't have to share my ice cream.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scratch Scratch Shake Shake Heavy Sigh

Economics has never been my strength.

Listening to or being involved in political discussions has always made me wish I was somewhere else.

Now that I am of a more mature age and in the tax bracket categorized as 'desperate' avoiding the responsibility of casting a well-researched vote seems irresponsible. Unfortunately, the information available to the public always contains a bias based upon whichever side the source from whence it came leans.

My 2012 vote will be based solely on my own take on economics, which may not be the wisest course to take. I should have listened to my father and taken a business class in college...

I need a jobs plan that will provide career options and a fair income tax rate that will enable me to live a modest lifestyle. Paycheck to paycheck is how it has always been and I do not see that changing in any foreseeable economy. Something has to give to help my own situation and this country improve. Nothing of note will change until these political parties learn how to meet in the middle. The chance of this happening seems about as remote as an upswing in the GDP.

All this talk about money and taxation has been overwhelming as of late. The press seems to be misleading the country when talking about Mitt Romney's taxable income. Capital gains tax is the tax you want to affect your income. It is the most advantageous tax available to anyone in America. Romney's earnings come from investments and business deals he made when he was an employee for a company. He is no longer an employee of said company but he stills makes money. Whether his income derives from crooked business practices, well-thought-out investments, or a combination of the two his earning are capital gains. This is a separate tax from income tax and it should be. He is not earning a paycheck like most of America and only getting taxed 15% of his salary. He is profiting from his past dealings. I don't see what the uproar is about. The government should not base capital gains tax rates on income earned from investments. There has to be a way for people, no matter what their earning are, to be able to keep their money.

Any hike in capital gains tax would affect the small-business person who also invested wisely and earned enough to make a living in the golden years. While this person's income might not be as large as Mitt Romney's this person deserves to keep as much of his or her portfolio as possible. Should wise investing be regulated and constantly nipped at by the government? Restructure income tax rates but leave capital gains alone. Let one straight capital gains tax rate affect everyone. This makes government seem so less meddlesome. This should also apply to the estate tax rate.

The government needs to stay out of earnings that were already taxed then set aside for the future of a deceased person's family. This is meddling and reaching the hand too far into the till. People get heavily penalized for providing for loved ones after they have died. I cannot stand the idea of government profiting from what is in essence a double tax. The government did not aid in the investment process, in fact it more than likely hurt the investment process, so why should it gain any income from someone's estate that was accumulated after years of hard work? Again, restructure the the income tax rate so those that do well pay up and those that get by can still feed their families and pay their bills.

Please forgive me for the layman's view of our current economic status. I look at money like a tithe. believers are supposed to donate 10% of their earnings back to the church. When you make 1,000 bucks a week that is a $100.00 tithe to the church. One hundred dollars seems easy enough, eh? What happens when the rich need to tithe? That check gets a little bit harder to write does it not?

I once saw the pay stub for someone whose paycheck for two weeks of work was $75,000 dollars. That tithe would be $7,500 dollars. The more you earn the harder it gets to part with your money...

The amount of tax people have to pay is crazy and whose fault is that? Yesterday in the Chicago Tribune I read an article about a man being rewarded with 25 million dollars after being wrongfully accused and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. No wonder taxes have to be raised and people have to be nit-picked for money because the city keeps having to recover from terrible mistakes. Mismanagement on all government levels is destroying the economy. Hard-working citizens and citizens looking to become hard-working citizens are the ones that have to make up for the mistakes made by those whose salary is paid for by taxation. How can the economy improve when things like this occur?

Of course their are plenty of loopholes for the wealthy that I know nothing about. Wendell Pierce, a fine actor from "Treme" and "The Wire," once tweeted that he made over 200,000 dollars a year and wasn't taxed nearly enough. He made his tax rate seem like a joke and I appreciate that kind of honesty. That tax rate is something I know nothing about. I should probably just say that government should leave capital gains tax and estate tax alone, end of story. Don't penalize someone for managing their money well. Why not try my method and see what it does for the economy? Nothing else the government, meaning both Democrats and Republicans, attempts seems to work.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I would never vote for someone who puts their dog in a crate on top of their car. AND...I know officially declare myself and Independent.

This heady stuff that, unfortunately, makes the world go round exhausts me. I think I need to go back to listening to the scanner and write about crime and coyotes. Politics and economics is for people who don't like daydreaming.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Traveler's Advisory: Joe Pa died so all of Pennsylvania has shut down

Should you ever have the misfortune of being stuck in an airport I hope you do not suffer the same fate as I am presently experiencing. Apparently Sunday isn't a work day for the janitors who clean the men's rooms at the Philadelphia International Airport. Apparently those people working at the airport today really don't give a hoot about serving you even if you over-tip them. Apparently US Air does not have any back up plans in place and ready to go should your flight from Philadelphia to Baltimore get cancelled.

The flight was supposed to leave at 9:50am. US Air was going to provide a bus to transport all those needing to get to Baltimore at, hopefully, 11:40. I called the airline and asked them for a rent-a-car but they said they do not have a way to provide this service to their customers. It seems odd to me that an airline would not have a relationship with a car-rental service in order to have options available to customers who have travel issues arise due to the fault of the airlines. How easy would it have been to trade the unused portion of my ticket in for a rental car then drive myself home rather than remain at the mercy of an airline that is overwhelmed with customer service demands? Having such a plan in place would have saved all involved a lot of time and aggravation.

I can see why airlines are going broke. Customer service seems to have become a lost art.

If I remember correctly, back in the day airlines would do whatever it took to get you to your destination in as any efficient manner as possible, even if it meant booking you on another airline. There was nothing efficient at all about the way US Air handled today's canceled flight. Who is running this airline? Don't the powers that be know there are sure-fire ways to lose business, number one being poor customer service?

And why aren't there any toilet-seat covers in any of the men's rooms? If I get a disease I'm looking into a lawsuit.

None of the floors have been mopped as well and travelers are bringing in wet shoes from the snow. One cannot set one's bag down anywhere that is free and clear of dirt. Where is the cleaning staff? Where is all that Philly pride? The Eagles aren't in the playoffs so airport employees certainly didn't need to take off work to watch the games today.

I will say this: the hand soap in the men's room smells really good.

When I woke up at 4 am this morning I was looking forward to spending the afternoon paddling on the Tred Avon River then watching the Ravens game at my mother's house. Most of the time when obstacles appear I can pretty much roll with whatever comes my way and chill out. I would rather be stuck on Route 29 in Nowhereville, VA than in the Philadelphia International Airport. As someone who really needs to find a job it sends me into conniption fits to see people with steady jobs address their tasks in a lackadaisical and poor manner.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For most of my life I carried the view that pets were just that - pets. These days my view has changed. My mother has charged me with a small degree of anthropomorphism when it comes to Eli Mongrel. She might be right. I feel as if we share a kinship that surpasses any other relationship I have had with an animal. He is first and foremost his momma's boy but there is definitely something special between us. Or, so I think. Eli might just be playing me like the fool I have become treating a pet more like and offspring than what he truly is...a pet.

Some amazing animals have been in my life. My first pet was a crotchety old tabby cat I called Joey after the children's book that I think was called 'Hop Along Joey.' Joey was the baddest cat on the block to come out of the Baltimore suburbs. When my family moved to the Eastern Shore Joey stood her ground against any and every dog that wandered into our yard. They only nosed in close once then they skittered off with their tail between their legs. That cat was amazingly tough but amazingly sweet as well. I was the only one that could picker her up.

My favorite Joey memory was when she had a liter of kittens under the blanket we shared one summer evening. I woke up hearing a bunch of mewing then realized there was a lot of stuff going on down by my feet. I called out for mom who came in and found Joey cleaning the eight kittens she has just birthed. Mom told me she went to the place that she trusted was the safest. I thought that was pretty cool after I got over being grossed out.

Throughout my teenage years there was always a lab or two in the house. Then an old girlfriend told me that labs were boring so I bought a Husky from some farm in Warrenton, Virginia to impress her. I was not mature enough to handle the full responsibility of solo pet ownership. Poor Janie ran off and was run over on Route 3 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I learned a hard lesson about responsibility.

As it turns out my interaction with Huskies was not over. Another friend found a Husky on her family's horse farm and had to get rid of it. This dog was beautiful and they wanted to keep her but she always escaped and ended up chasing the horses trying to grab one for supper. This is how Sophie came to be part of my family.

My parents had no desire to be co-owners of Sophie. She had been a stray for some time and it took forever to get acclimated to life inside of a house. She was incredibly beautiful. I have yet to see another Husky that is her equal. She was the Helen of Troy of the dog world and she knew it. Whether she would stand on the glass-top table and preen on the porch in Oxford or come home in the back of Maxwell's police car, Sophie knew she could get away with murder. That Husky was something else. She came very close to transitioning from pet to kin. Mom still misses her and so do I.

I also miss Crazy Puss. CP was the cat I took over when my grandmother went into an assisted-living facility. I have known some wild cats that could fight but I have never seen one burst through a screened-in porch to go after another cat. CP's other great feat was surviving an attack from a Great Horned Owl. That poor cat had a divot taken out of the top of his head that looked like somebody and drilled straight down with a 1/4 inch bit. He never complained once. I finally took him to the vet when an abscess started growing out form under his left eyelid. That was a tough cat. He finally fell ill to cancer and had to be put down while I was working on a movie in South Carolina. Mom said he went down like a true original gangsta.

Then comes Eli...I have to give it to Gracie for researching through all the dog breeds and picking out a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Eli is officially her dog but I have sort of snaked him away. At first I couldn't stand this whiny wuss who would pee if you looked at him wrong. Getting him to pee outside instead of the living room or the bedroom or the kitchen proved to be a very long process. I swore he had Down's Syndrome. He just might.

Eli and I first bonded when Gracie took Arthur to Westminster. I had to watch him for 4 days while she was in New York. I was worried that he would just whine and cry the whole time because that is what he had been doing even when she was around. He cried a few moments right when she closed the door but then I made him bacon and eggs. The smell of bacon fat took his mind off the fact that his momma was on her way to the airport. After he ate we went on a long walk all around the Gold Coast of Chicago. We had a blast. The bond began and has grown stronger every day. Eli and I are cemented together for life.

Diaz a day and one half later. Under Dr. Diaz's care Eli has slowly become much of his old self. The steroids have fattened him up and he lets Gracie put medicine in his ears without incident or whining. I missed my baby boy; it's good to see him back.

Caring for Eli felt like parenting and that is why I am feeling so odd. Life was put on hold as we cared for the Mongrel to help him through his struggle. He had to go out every two to three hours because of what all the medicine was doing to his system. After watching his episodes we didn't want to leave him alone. If he had been in a crate when one of the episodes hit he would have come out of it a bloody mess due to how violent his reactions were trying to fight the pain he suffered.

After going through all this it is hard to think of Eli as just a pet. We are just at the point of trying to bring back the discipline of walking properly on the leash, not eating a treat every five seconds, and going back to regular dog food. I don't know how he is going to handle eating kibble when he has been getting chicken breast, rice, and sweet potatoes for the last week. He looks great with all the new weight. I juts hope I can get him back to the life...a dog's life that is.