Friday, August 28, 2015

I HAD VISIONS OF HIRING A PRIVATE JET


I was in the basement the other day and I couldn’t believe how much “stuff” was down there.

Without exaggeration, there are so many 20-gallon plastic storage tubs stacked on top of each other everywhere, the basement resembles a maze through the Himalayas. I honestly fear for my life when I go down there because I have visions of being crushed beneath a sudden avalanche of storage tubs (many of which contain Star Wars collectible toys) and my cause of death will be listed as, “accidentally impaled by Darth Vader’s lightsaber.”

The reason why I was in the basement was because I’d been inspired by a recent episode of the Antiques Roadshow.  That’s the TV show where people find what looks like junk they’ve fished out of a dumpster in a back alley somewhere and they bring it to the show to be appraised by experts. The amazing part is just about every item, no matter how cruddy or beaten up it looks, turns out to be worth a small fortune.

“Yes,” the expert will say, examining a bent, rusty old nail. “I can tell just by the shape of this nail and the rust patterns on it that it came from one of the horseshoes on Paul Revere’s horse during his famous midnight ride in 1775!”

“Really?” the person who brought it in to be appraised responds with about as much enthusiasm as someone who’s just awakened after major surgery. “So, what’s it worth?”

“Well,” the expert answers, “If this nail were to come up for auction, I expect it easily could go for as much as 2 million dollars.”

“That’s nice,” the nail’s owner says in a monotone. “But I think I’ll just hang on to it…for sentimental reasons.”

Let me tell you, if someone ever gave me news like that, I would pick up the appraiser and spin him around, and then do cartwheels across the appraisal room’s floor.  And to heck with sentimental value.  I would unload the item on the first person who showed interest in it…and looked rich.

Anyway, after watching the show, I was certain that somewhere hidden in the catacombs of my basement was an item that would make me instantly wealthy. All I had to do was find it.

I hate to say it, but my husband and I spent our entire married life collecting things. One year, we collected dollhouse furniture. The next, it was Star Wars and Star Trek toys. Another year, my husband bought thousands of trading cards while I became obsessed with Barbie dolls. And as our house began to resemble the main warehouse for Toys R Us, our friends and relatives, knowing how much we enjoyed collecting things, generously added to our collections every Christmas and birthday by buying us even more things.

So the other day, I spent hours in the basement, searching through containers of stuff I didn’t even know I had. It was like going on a treasure hunt because I never knew what I might find – living, dead or otherwise.

Two unusual items I discovered during my search included a David Hasselhoff  Baywatch doll and a talking Donald Trump doll that shouts, “You’re fired!”  I suspected, however, that neither one was going to make me independently wealthy.

Then I came across a heavy box, still sealed. I lugged it upstairs and opened it. Inside was a solid pewter sculpture from the movie, “The Lord of the Rings.” It depicted the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring – Hobbits, elves, a wizard, a dwarf and more, all meticulously sculpted.

I’d never seen it before and had no idea how it ended up in the basement. But to me, it looked like something that just might be worth big bucks.

So I listed it on an eBay auction with an opening bid of $100. Someone immediately bid on it.  I was excited, thinking I’d found an item worthy of the Antiques Roadshow – an item that was going to increase my financial status to the same level as the Rockefellers’.  I had visions of myself hiring a private jet for my next vacation.

The sculpture sold for $295.

The only plane I could hire for that amount would be the kind that comes in a box, has to be assembled and is operated by a remote control.

Still, I thought $295 wasn’t a bad amount for something I hadn’t even known was gathering dust down in the basement. I notified the high bidder and eagerly awaited her payment.

But instead of receiving my anticipated $295, I received an email from the woman. In it, she said, “I’m very sorry, but my young son bid on this without my knowledge. I hope you’ll understand, but I’m not going to pay for it.”

I wrote back and told her I understood, all the while secretly hoping her son would be grounded and not be allowed to touch a computer or any other electronic means of communication until his 21st birthday.

 Then eBay suggested I try what’s called a second-chance offer and offer the sculpture to the next highest bidder. I checked his bid and it was $290, which wasn’t too far off the high bid.  So I sent him a second-chance offer, which was good for only 24 hours.

“Wonderful!  I want it!” he responded…72 hours later.

To which eBay informed him, “Sorry, but the offer has expired.”

Desperate, I tried to arrange for the guy to privately buy the sculpture from me, but I soon discovered eBay doesn’t allow private transactions. For one thing, they won’t release any email addresses, so all correspondence has to go directly through them.  In other words, there is no way they’re going to allow someone to cheat them out of their commission.

It took a while, but I went through all of the proper channels at eBay and finally sold the sculpture to the second-highest bidder.

He turned out to be from Germany. I’d listed the shipping cost at $13.50.  When I brought the package to the post office, however, the shipping charges to Germany ended up being $82. I practically needed a defibrillator.

So I’m beginning to think it might be a good idea if I refrain from watching the Antiques Roadshow for a while.

In the meantime, if you know of anyone who’d like to buy a talking Donald Trump doll, I have one here…cheap.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

WHEN IT CAME TO FISHING, PRACTICE DIDN'T MAKE PERFECT


 

Every time I drive through Bear Brook State Park and see people fishing, I think of my dad, who practically was addicted to the sport.

I know my dad would have loved to have spawned (pun intended) a son who was as passionate about fishing as he was, but unfortunately, he got stuck with me.  I, however, was determined to prove to him that girls could catch fish just as well as boys could, so I often accompanied my father on his fishing trips.  But even though I spent countless hours giving fishing my best shot, I never really got the hang of it.  

Aside from all of the three-inch “kibbies” I, along with my trusty bamboo fishing pole, used to hook at Lake Massabesic every summer, my biggest catch usually was a tree branch...and that was on a good day.  On bad days, I hooked everything from the crotch of my father’s pants to my ponytail. 

Learning the art of fly-fishing was even worse.  I still believe I was the direct cause of the death of many of the trees surrounding New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds – trees that slowly and painfully strangled to death because they were so badly tangled in the thousands of feet of fishing line I wasted trying to learn how to cast a line.

My dad introduced me to all types of fishing.  When he first mentioned troll fishing, I was all excited to go – until I realized we weren’t actually going to be fishing for trolls.  Troll fishing involved slowly riding around in a boat while dragging my fishing line in the water behind me, hoping I’d accidentally snag some big fish that liked to chase boats. 

I think I enjoyed troll fishing the most because it didn’t involve any particular skill…or trees.  Most of the time I just sat in the boat and stuffed myself with food from the picnic basket until I felt like throwing up.  Then I’d whine that I had to go to the bathroom until Dad, muttering under his breath, finally surrendered and took me back to shore.

My mother also claimed to love fishing, although I still suspect she said it solely to make my father happy.  She was a pretty impressive fisherman, though, usually catching more and bigger fish than my dad did.  The only problem was Mom had a worm phobia.  Dangle a worm in front of her and she could outrun the Amtrak Express.

As a result of this phobia, Mom always made my dad bait her hook for her.  One day, however, he refused, telling her he wanted her to be brave and try to do it herself.

I have to give my mom credit.  She really made an effort to bait her own hook…and without actually laying a finger on an earthworm.  I’ll never forget how my father and I hid behind a tree and giggled as we watched her.  Mom found a flat rock, then jiggled the can of worms until one fell out.   As the worm wiggled across the rock, Mom chased after it with her fishing hook, trying to stab it.  She kept missing it and stabbing the rock, however, until the hook was completely bent out of shape and the worm vanished into the underbrush.  That was the day Mom decided to permanently switch to fly-fishing.

The two types of fishing I disliked the most were ice fishing and smelt fishing.  One of the stipulations of ice fishing was I had to wear a minimum of 40 layers of clothing so I wouldn’t risk getting frostbite. Then my dad and I would spend the next six hours sitting in sub-zero temperatures, staring at a hole in the ice and waiting for a red flag to pop up on the tackle...which would indicate we had some poor, half-frozen fish on the line.  The only part I enjoyed was the thermos of hot cocoa Dad always brought to help keep my blood from solidifying.

And smelt fishing was downright scary.  For some reason, it had to be done in the dead of night with the use of lanterns, nets and buckets.   Smelt(s) are teeny little fish that swim in schools – night school, I guess – and you eat them bones and all, because if you took the time to individually clean enough of them to make a meal, you would starve to death.

As if sitting on some rickety old dock in the middle of the night, surrounded by water as black as ink and mosquitoes the size of pigeons didn’t scare me enough, I also kept expecting the Creature from the Black Lagoon to pop out from under the dock and grab me.  I usually ended up clinging so tightly to my father, he barely was able to fish.

I’ll never forget when my husband and I were newlyweds and he asked me how he could make a good impression on my father.

“Go fishing with him,” I said.

“But I hate fishing!” he groaned. “It’s so boring, I’m afraid I might lapse into a coma!”

Nevertheless, one Sunday that summer, my husband, eager to earn a few brownie points, finally gave in and climbed into my dad’s new boat and ventured out with him onto one of the Connecticut Lakes in Pittsburg, NH.  My mom and I remained onshore in the cabin she and Dad had rented, and waited for our mighty fishermen to return. 

Three hours later, in walked Dad, carrying a string of plump trout.

“Where’s your fishing partner?” I asked him, craning my neck to look for my husband.

“He’s still sound asleep in the boat,” he said. “I decided I’d better head back when his snoring started scaring the fish away.”

Funny, but he never invited my husband to go fishing again.

Poor Dad. I’m sure he’d been hoping I’d marry a guy who would become his avid fishing buddy, but instead, I married one whose idea of fishing was opening a can that had a picture of Charlie the Tuna on the label.

But now that I think back to my days of fishing when I was a kid – the sun glistening on the calm waters of a beautiful New Hampshire lake, the ducks and loons swimming near the shoreline, the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches that always tasted so much better when eaten out in a rowboat, and most of all, the look of sheer joy on my father’s face when he reeled in a plump rainbow trout – I have to admit…they really were pretty special days after all.

 

ANNIVERSARY CONTEST

It’s that time of year again! Back in August of 1994, “My Life” was born. To celebrate the anniversary of this column, I’m holding a prize giveaway in honor of my readers. The top prize will be a $50 gift card good at any Applebee’s restaurant. There also will be several runner-up prizes. To enter, simply send your name, address and phone number to: Sally’s Anniversary Contest, PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585. You also can enter online (please use the subject heading, “Sally’s Anniversary Contest”) at sillysally@att.net. Enter as often as you’d like to increase your chances of winning. All entries must be received by September 15, 2015. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, August 14, 2015

"BUYER BEWARE" MADE ME A BUYER WHO CARED


Five years ago this month I adopted my rottweiler, Raven. Little did I know at the time what a “unique” and even scandalous background she had. 

I realized when it came to buying anything from Craig’s List online, that “buyer beware” should apply. But I tossed all common sense aside when I saw an ad listing rottweilers for adoption. I’d recently lost my 10-yr.-old rottweiler, Sabre, and the house was feeling empty without her. Also, my other rottweiler, Willow, who was only two at the time, had been moping around, mourning the loss of her good buddy.

The woman who placed the ad lived somewhere in the Hopkinton area, so I contacted her and she gave me directions to her house.

I’ll never forget my first impression when I saw her dogs. They were chained to metal stakes out in a very overgrown field – no shelter, no water, no food. There were about five dogs, only two of which were rottweilers, and I could tell they all were sick and malnourished. My first thought was to get out of there and report her to the authorities. But I immediately was drawn to Raven. For one thing, she looked the sickest. Her eyes and nose were running, she was covered with ticks, and she was skeletal, with her skin just hanging off her.  She also had scars, lots of scars, particularly a very noticeable deep one that went all the way across her breastbone.  I walked over to her and she looked up at me with huge, sad brown eyes and gave me her paw. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t going to leave without her.

RAVEN WHEN I FIRST GOT HER - 2010

I had to bite my tongue to keep from confronting the woman, because I knew if I showed her how upset I was, she might sense I was going to report her and she would end up doing something rash to hide the dogs…perhaps even permanently.

“I’ll take this one,” I said to her, indicating Raven.

“She’s a sweetheart,” the woman said. “She’s a stray my sister brought up here from down South. The adoption fee for her is $350. I’ve had her spayed and she’s had all of her shots. And I have a health certificate for her. Of course, all of that cost me money, you know.”

When she handed me the health certificate, I immediately could tell it was fake. For one thing, no veterinarian in his or her right mind ever would have declared Raven healthy.

The minute I got home, I reported the woman, and then I rushed Raven to the vet’s. She was diagnosed with an eye infection, upper respiratory infection, heartworm, malnutrition, anemia…and, contrary to what the woman had said, she’d never been spayed. The vet said Raven probably wouldn’t have survived the week.

It took time, patience and a small fortune, but Raven finally began to thrive. Unfortunately as she grew stronger, she also grew more vicious. I was the only person who could touch her. And every time I went to pat her, she cringed. Her actions told me she’d been abused – and that her scars hadn’t been acquired accidentally.

Soon, she became very protective of me. If my husband tried to hug me, she lunged at him. If company came to the house, she stood between them and me and growled. She wouldn’t even allow Willow to set foot (paw?) in the same room with me.

“I think she could be rabid,” Nancy, her vet at the time, said after Raven nearly had separated her fingertips from her hand.  “If she’s a stray from down South, as you say, then who knows if she ever had any of her shots? And who knows what animals she might have come in contact with while she was running free? Take her home and keep her isolated for the next 10 days. If she dies, then you and your husband will have to undergo a series of rabies shots.”

I thought it was strange the vet would send home a dog she suspected might be rabid. I mean, I’d assumed she would quarantine Raven, not just for my husband’s and my safety, but for my entire neighborhood’s.

So my husband and I lived in fear for the next 10 days, thinking Raven might attack us in our sleep and rip out our jugulars. And she growled so often during that period, my husband nicknamed her “The Kraken.”  But as it turned out, she didn’t have rabies, she had a hormonal imbalance – kind of like a really bad case of PMS.

As time passed, Raven became less aggressive and even learned how to play with Willow without trying to remove any of her body parts. Still, despite her improved disposition, whenever I took her to the vet’s, she rapidly transformed into a snarling beast that made even Cujo seem like Lassie in comparison. During one particular visit, Raven became so agitated, growling and lunging at everyone in the examining room, the doctor and her assistant went dashing out of the room.

As I sat there alone with Raven, the door suddenly creaked open and a hand holding a muzzle appeared. A voice then said, “Here, please put this on her.”

I took the muzzle and said, “I don’t dare!  Even I’m afraid to touch her right now!”

But Raven allowed me to muzzle her, and after that, the muzzle was securely in place whenever I took her for checkups.

Sue, the vet who was examining Raven one day, said to me, “Normally I’d also check her teeth, but I guess the only way I’m ever going to see hers is when I’m pulling them out of my arm!”

I had to laugh.

And I’ll never forget the time my aunt and uncle came for a visit. My uncle had gone out to the garage to fix something for me, and my aunt and I were having tea at the kitchen table. Suddenly my uncle called me out to the garage to help him find some tool he needed. I went out there and ended up staying longer than I’d intended.

When I returned to the kitchen, the first thing I noticed was how stiffly my aunt was sitting. And when she spoke to me she didn’t move at all, not even her lips, as if she were talking through her teeth.

“Thank goodness you’re back!” she whispered, still not moving. “I’ve never been so scared!”

That’s when I noticed Raven, circling the table like a shark stalking its prey, a low, guttural growl coming from somewhere deep in her throat.

“Raven!” I scolded. “Leave my poor aunt alone!”

RAVEN IN 2015
And off Raven trotted.

After I’d had Raven for about a year and had been posting tales of her antics online, I received an email from a worker at an out-of-state animal shelter. The letter said the shelter had been trying to track down several dogs that had been taken without authorization from there a year before…and they were certain my rottweiler was one of them.

The email explained that the dogs had been brought to the shelter after being confiscated from an illegal dog-fighting ring.  The animals had been deemed too vicious to be adopted, so they’d been scheduled to be euthanized. But, it later was discovered, a volunteer at the shelter had decided to save the dogs. She’d taken them away during the night and brought them up to her sister’s in New Hampshire. The email suggested that I euthanize Raven because she was considered to be a “loose cannon.”

Well, there was no way I was going to kill a perfectly healthy dog. Sure, she had issues, but at least I finally understood why she had them. The poor dog had been raised specifically to be a killing machine, nothing more.

Raven slowly learned to accept affection and not be afraid of the human hand. She switched from being a dog that was terrified of cars, to one that enjoyed going for rides. She learned how to play without trying to “kill” all of her toys. And she actually learned how to socialize with other dogs.  It took her nearly a year, but one day, she, the dog that never had shown any outward signs of affection whatsoever, finally licked me.

I was so excited, I rushed to tell my husband.

“She’s probably just tasting you,” he said flatly. “I’ve always had the feeling when she stares at us that she’s picturing us smothered in gravy.”

Shortly after my husband passed away, I was sitting on the sofa and crying one night. Raven came up to me and put her head in my lap, then looked up at me and whined. I knew right then I’d done the right thing by saving her. She hadn’t needed to be euthanized…she’d just needed to be loved.

Raven passed away last month, on July 28.

I feel as if a huge part of me has been torn away. But I also feel good inside, knowing I was able to make her last five years so much happier than her first.  I can only hope I was able to restore her faith in humankind.

Rest in peace, Raven.
 
 
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Friday, August 7, 2015

AN UNINVITED GUEST HAS BEEN ROBBING ME OF MY SLEEP


I woke up this morning, gazed into the bathroom mirror and scared myself.  While it’s not unusual for my reflection, especially before I put on makeup or comb my hair, to make me gasp in horror, it was even worse this morning, mainly because I’d had a grand total of only two hours of sleep.  The circles underneath my eyes were so dark, I looked as if I were about to go play a game of football.

My lack of sleep wasn’t due to the fact I hadn’t been tired when my head hit the pillow the night before. No, I’d actually dozed off within minutes. But after only a brief period of blissful slumber, I suddenly was awakened by the most annoying sound known to the human ear, especially in the dead of night…“Hmmmmm!”

It was a mosquito.

The high-pitched hum sounded as if it were coming from right inside my ear. I frantically swatted at the air around my head. When the humming continued, I whacked my ear so hard, I was afraid I’d have to go get fitted for a hearing aid.

After I’d smacked everything around me and no longer heard any humming, I debated whether or not to try to go back to sleep. I knew that if I hadn’t succeeded in killing the little bloodsucker, I’d be subjected to endless torturous humming for the rest of the night. So I got up and turned on the light. I was hoping to see the mosquito lying belly up on my pillowcase or bedsheet.

But I didn’t find any evidence of a corpse.

So I waited, hoping the winged vampire would make a return appearance while the lights were on so I actually could see what I was about to pulverize.  I continued to wait. I even struck what I hoped was an irresistible mosquito-attracting pose. But there was no sign whatsoever of my intruder.

I figured I must have killed it, even though I couldn’t find any concrete evidence to prove it.  So I crawled back into bed, shut off the light, and quickly fell back to sleep.

“Hmmmmmm!”

I reached for the lamp on my nightstand, switched it on and sat up. By then, I was so irritated, I was out for revenge, out for bug blood.  But there still was no sign of the little pest. So I went on a mosquito hunt. I fluffed the blankets. I got up and shook the curtains.  I did everything short of hanging a “Free! Vintage A-positive blood” sign around my neck. But alas, all of my efforts were in vain.

The rest of the night, the same scenario repeated itself over and over again. The mosquito would wake me up and then pull a disappearing act. It got to the point where I was tempted to spray an entire can of bug killer in my bedroom, just to be certain my sleep wouldn’t be disturbed again. But the thought of turning my room into a toxic-waste site made me reconsider.

So when I got up, bleary eyed and grouchy, this morning, the mosquito still remained at large. I had visions of it dressed in camouflage, poking its head out from behind one of the pictures on my bedroom wall, and laughing sinisterly at me.

Sure, I understand that all creatures were put on this earth for a reason, but I still haven't figured out any logical reason for the creation of mosquitoes...other than to make humans' lives miserable.  And I just happen to be one of the unfortunate people mosquitoes absolutely love.

I certainly didn’t take after my mother.  Mosquitoes weren’t attracted to her at all. She could have stood totally naked in the middle of a swarm of them and they’d have flown right past her. I, on the other hand, could hide in a locked bank vault and they’d still manage to find me and attack. I’m not sure why, however. According to Wikipedia, mosquitoes are most attracted to people who have type O blood, are heavy breathers, have hotter than normal body temperatures, have excessive skin bacteria or are pregnant. I’m pretty sure I don’t fit into any of those categories. And the last time I did any heavy breathing was when I tried to squeeze into one of those spandex body-shapers.

Over the years, I’ve futilely tried to make myself unappealing to mosquitoes. I bought insect repellents, but most of them had so many warning labels on them, they made me afraid to even touch the bottle, never mind slather the stuff all over my body. So I tried a couple all-natural methods, such as taking garlic tablets (I’d heard that mosquitoes hate the smell of it) but I still attracted a swarm of them that obviously thought they'd found a new Italian restaurant. Then I tried an oily citronella spray that even after several baths, still made me smell as if I should be standing in a candle bucket on somebody's patio.

My house has a big farmer’s porch out front. I’d planned to sit out there in a rocking chair on hot summer nights and enjoy the cooling breezes, but to date, I’ve sat out there only once. That’s because the moment I plunk down on one of the chairs, squadrons of mosquitoes start to organize in V-formations overhead, preparing for an attack.

So I don’t know what to expect when I go to bed tonight. I’m hoping the mosquito decided to leave the bedroom and move out to the kitchen, so at least my sleep won’t be disturbed again. But if it’s still lurking in the bedroom and is determined to continue to taunt and harass me, then at least I can take some comfort in knowing that many adult mosquitoes live for only a few days. There are, of course, exceptions.

And with my luck, this one’s probably named Methuselah the Mosquito.


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