Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My family tree is full of NUTS

Saturday morning Frances and I will set off for Syracuse for the Barnes family's Fourth of July get-together. I am wary, because while both sides of my family are crazy and descended from Murphys (no relation that I know of), the Barnes side tends to have the less-fun kind of crazy and definitely a lot more Murphy's Law.
While my mom's family tends to be a sort of happy-go-lucky let's-build-a-25 foot-waterslide-in-the-backyard kind of crazy, the Barneses can go either way. It can be a really good time getting together with them, or it can end in fights, tears and recrimination. There's no way to predict it, either.
Shortly after I moved back to New York, we had a Fourth of July party in Syracuse to celebrate my cousin Mike returning home after serving in Afghanistan. I got there a day after everyone else. I met them at the docks as they were bringing the boat back in, everyone muttering and swearing. Turns out that my uncle had been "pulled over" on the lake and given a breathalyzer test. He passed; they were just ramping up patrols in prep for the holiday weekend, but they did get cited for having too many people on the boat and not enough lifejackets. But the best part was that the local news station was there filming the whole thing, and later that night on the news, there's Uncle Bob blowing into the testing-thingy and my ragtag relatives hanging all over the boat in the background. Good times!

Two years ago was the last 4th of July party I went to, and everything was lovely. We laughed our butts off, the doggies romped, we played Corn-Hole (a word of advice: never title a photograph or the subject line of the email containing the photograph as "Corn-holing with the Cousins." You'll get some concerned remarks.) Everyone enjoyed everyone else and got along and it creeped me the f*&% out! The universe was misaligned! Then I found out that my friends the Ks had gotten into a high-octane blow-out marital spat at the party they went to with my husband and carried that fight back to my house where they were staying. I thanked them later for using up all the crazy so my family could enjoy a nice weekend together. 

Frances adores my Aunt Marilyn. It's mutual, as you can see. Aunt Marilyn had a beagle just like Frances when she was a little girl.

Every family has their clowns, and ours are Cousin Kelly and my sister, Katie. (Yeah, we have a Kerry, Kevin, Katie and Kelly Barnes.)

People who know me are surprised to hear that I'm the NORMAL one in my family. Hey, someone's got to be sober enough to prevent arrests/ post bail/ administer first aid/ negotiate for hostages and most importantly, take the photographs for evidence.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drinkin' in the alley on a Tuesday

I had to go downtown and pick up a gift certificate that was being donated for work from a lovely bar called Felicia's Atomic Lounge. I figured while I was there, I would have myself a drink and see if the husband wanted to join me for one. The humidity here finally broke and there was a wonderful breeze, so I propped myself up in the alley with all its recycled art and had a Key Lime-tini while I waited for Brett to show.

And finally, color me nutty, but that don't look like a Chinstrap Penguin to me.

(I like how the real penguin and meerkats are staring at this yabbo like it's a circus freakshow.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mr. Minchy Spampobello

Yes, that's my dog's official name. No idea where any of it came from, but it seemed to fit him.  We learned a little later that Minchy (or some spelling of it) is Welsh for Monkey, which is fitting.

We adopted Minchy on September 1, 2003.  We'd moved to Ithaca in May 2003 and chose our apartment specifically so we could get a dog.  By the time September rolled around, we were settled enough to start looking.  We checked out the SPCA's website first (they were closed for Labor Day) and no one really appealed to us.  We figured we would stop by when they opened the next day, but in the meantime, we thought we might check the "free to a good home" listings in the paper.  There he was- beagle/ jack russell mix puppy.

We did not know what we were getting ourselves into.  Minchy (formerly named Rascals-- Rascals??) and his brother were born because a student in town thought it would be 'fun' to breed hunting dogs.  Once the boys were born, he realized what he had created and that he couldn't handle them.  A good friend of his took the brother but couldn't take on both.  So Minchy was passed around to about 3 or 4 different homes for the first 1 1/2 years of his life, never spending very long anywhere. So in addition to the extreme energy and intelligence (and deviousness) of the Jack Russell Terrorist in him and the beagle stubborness, he had also had no training, had never been to a vet (!) and had a severe case of separation anxiety that caused him to go crazy and destroy things in a bout of panic whenever we left without him.

But in spite of all that, we loved him completely and immediately, and we knew he had a good, smart boy inside him somewhere. He learned his name that first night we brought him home, as Brett ran into the store and frantically picked up the things we'd need for him (as we hadn't really planned on bringing a dog home that night) and I petted him in the car and repeated his name to him.  Neither one of us had ever had a dog with problems like this. But it never even occurred to us to give up on him. Fortunately, a few months after we brought Minchy home, I got a job as fundraising director at our local SPCA, and I shared an office with our dog trainer.  She helped us understand why he was doing the things he was doing and gave us great ideas for helping him getting over his fear that once we left, we would never come back.  Kongs were an absolute lifesaver.

He was still a troublemaker.  He was a terror when I took him to my grandmother's to visit. He did everything from shredding ornaments to pulling the branches off her artificial christmas tree, to jumping in bed with her.

I should mention that she had a soft spot for troublemakers and enjoyed the weekend immensely. I was a wreck by the time I corralled him in the car and drove us back home.

So now, seven years later, he has calmed tremendously. Obedience class helped, as well as getting him a sister, our beagle, Frances. He's still a maniac and can never ever be outside off-leash. He's a pretty good pest-remover, having killed five possums in our yard, as well as a giant garbage rat near a dumpster by our old apartment. He also vanished a snake from our yard earlier this summer.

He has very human emotions, and I honestly keep waiting to find out he's just a little man in a dog suit, or a real boy cursed kinda like Pinocchio. He gets depressed easily and feels slighted. He's also the sweetest, snuggliest, affectionate dog. He knows when you're upset and does his best to make you feel better. In his early years, he tested his killer instincts with toys.  He'd eviscerate them- very neatly, almost surgically- to get the squeaker out. Sometimes even when a toy didn't have a squeaker, like the cheetah. A friend of ours who was visiting brought him a very cute Santa dog toy. I remember his standing there in horror as Minchy slit the toy's throat, ripped the head almost off, pulled out the squeaker, then tossed the body aside in a pile.
The only toy he has NEVER done this to is Julius. I don't quite know what Julius is supposed to be, a bug, perhaps? Anyway, Julius is Minchy's pet. He takes care of him. He shows us that he takes care of him. He tucks him into his bed, or props him against his food bowl. Sometimes, when danger is nearby, Julius will get buried in the backyard for his own safety. We made the mistake once when Minchy brought us Julius of thinking he wanted to play fetch, so we threw him. Minchy gave us a look of such DISGUST and HORROR. Then he went to get Julius where he was thrown and neither of us saw Julius for days.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Definitely coming up on a full moon ...

Yesterday was an interesting day.
My little puppy friend, Eli, the sole survivor in a litter of 8, came by to visit and play in my office. Frances will not be happy when she returns to work with me Monday.

Here's Eli enjoying her bed, sort of like Goldilocks.

And this is Frances in her bed.

When I came home from work, I couldn't pull in my driveway, but had to park up the street and walk to my house because there had been a traffic accident right in front of my driveway!! This very young girl smashed her red SUV-thing right into the little white car in front of her. She crumpled his car all the way into his backseat! Her bumper was stuck crammed into the back of his car. I did not take pictures of the wreckage because I did not want to seem like the kind of person who takes pictures of accidents for fun. However, when I left my house a few hours later to join my husband & a friend downtown for dinner, I noticed they had left all the garbage from the wreck RIGHT SMACK IN MY DRIVEWAY!! I took a picture of that, along with the gas/oil leak in the road.

I swept it all up in a pile because I wanted Brett to see it when we got home and be as outraged as I was.  Those big black pieces of foam came out of a bumper. Nice to know that's all that's in there, huh?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Maybe I shoulda got da spinach

I am way too full and sleepy after going out for sushi with my pal, Hap, who is visiting from out of town.

A little background on Hap:

1. He's the spitting image of Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.

2. We have the same last name, but we don't think we're related, at least not closely.  Because he is huge and I am relatively little, we liked toying with people who knew us.  We'd tell people that Hap's dad was my mom's first husband.  People who knew my mom was even smaller than me would wince.  (We also have this overdeveloped taste for salt and a weird thing about pickle juice that we share with other Barneses we've met, but I won't go into that here.)

3. He is a MONSTROUS overeater.  It's fascinating to watch. He's not particularly messy or disgusting-- he can just put away an enormous quantity of food, and with a surprising amount of grace.  We went out for sushi tonight with my husband before he went to see a show at a local theatre with another friend.  Hap got TWO entrees. (He's known for this-- particulary for ordering two entire breakfasts. I'd never heard the word 'breakfast' used in the plural until I met Hap.) He put away more rice tonight than most Asian communities do in a week. He asked the waitress for more wasabi, and perhaps to make a point, she brought him a dish of wasabi the size of a golf ball. He was not fazed.  At one point, my husband and I both feared he was going to pick up and just eat the wad of wasabi on his chopstick.  Hap is not just a member of the Clean Plate Club, he should apply for ownership.

Despite all this, which I'm sure is rather unseemly and unappetizing, Hap is a lovely friend.  We liked him so much that when we got engaged, we asked him to get ordained over the interwebs so he could marry us.  He did a fine job, even if he did dress like Forrest Gump. (Those were some magic shewwwwws....)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Perils of Walter, PART TWO!

When we last left Walter, he was trapped on an ice floe, being drawn against his will into the angry base of Ithaca Falls.

As he drew closer to the pounding sheets of foamy water, Walter closed his eyes and began the bargaining that accompanies such situations:

 "I SWEAR, if I get out of this, I won't do any more stunts. EVER!"

Some benevolent being decided to take Walter at his word, because the current shifted and Walter was drawn away from the bottom of the falls.

Walter nearly collapsed in joy when the ice chunk he was riding reached shore and he jumped off to safety.

He went to the Commons to join his ice fishing pals at the Chili Festival where Clarence soon learned the dangers of addressing the wrong end of a horse ...

... and Felix met an untimely end in a trash explosion.

But Walter, he was a daredevil, just like his old man.

In his wilder days, Walter had a daredevil streak.  It got him into some tight situations, and thank goodness, he's (mostly) seen the error of his ways. One brisk winter's day, a simple ice fishing trip with some pals almost turned into tragedy.

Walter & Clarence got a few of the fellas together one weekend to do a little ice fishing.

Inevitably, there was some beer involved. Much beer.

Things were said, feelings hurt.

With a flourish of a rude finger, Walter stormed off.

Clarence tried to reason with him, get him to stay, but Walter would hear none of it.

Walter made his way from Stewart Park over to Ithaca Falls.

In his anger (and inebriation) Walter decided he'd show THOSE guys who was a real daredevil.

He crept down to the water's edge and hopped aboard an ice floe.  He knew immediately that he had made a grave, grave mistake.

The current caught him and began tugging the ice floe away from shore.

He was being pulled right into Ithaca Falls!!

Danger loomed ahead.

Walter saw his life pass before his eyes.  This couldn't be the end!!

The mist soaked his face and angry roar of the cascading water filled his ears.


They weren't that innocent

Clarence and Walter have not always been the upright citizens they are today. They used to hang with a pretty wild crowd.  I dug out some photos of some of their past exploits.

They used to throw some wild parties.

Their friend, Felix, was a bad influence.

Felix, ahem, REALLY loved his vodka.

Walter used to fly a lot in those days and amassed quite the collection of regulation airplane-sized drinks. Portability was important to him.

Playing cards always led to more trouble.

Things got out of hand quickly.

Walter would often hallucinate.  The Fez Twins haunted his nightmares.

When Walter started channeling Jim Morrison and shouting, "I am the Lizard King! I can do anything!" The Aztec God would appear to chastise him.

The night would inevitably end badly.

Mistakes were made.

Regrets were had.