Me or Lena Dunham: A Quiz

Okay. Unless you don’t clicky-click on current culture at all, you know that Lena Dunham is (once again) in the (self-imposed) penalty box for saying/doing/showing things in a politically/culturally/sexually incorrect manner.

image from the guardian.com)

image from the guardian.com)

 

Just last week I was mildly wishing for Lena’s creative demise. There is just too much of her. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. She has a way of aggressively absorbing all the energy from the Zeitgeist. She can be rude, for one thing, and too-frequently naked for my taste, and she has done some really not-well-thought-out things like making in print what could possibly have been construed as a false accusation of rape. That’s not cool.

But with this new wave of hysterically cacophonic hate coming from a tongue-in-cheek piece in The New Yorker, I find myself (sadly, reluctantly) defending her. Come on, guys, it was kind of funny! If we want to have a hissy fit about Anti-Semitism (and we absolutely should!), let’s maybe focus our white-heat anger where it belongs. (hint: a little closer to the Oval Office, maybe?) If Lena (who, as I’m sure you know, is half-Jewish) hadn’t used the word “Jewish” in the header, she might be trending toward a life of well-deserved obscurity instead of trending on Twitter.

If you haven’t read it, turn to page 31 in March 30 issue of The New Yorker magazine. It’s the one with the cover peppered with emojis of Hillary Clinton. Along with nineteen versions of Hillary facial expressions, there is a globe, a flag and a gavel, but there is apparently no way to draw an emoji of a wiped computer hard drive, so that one is missing.

But back to Lena. Has anyone considered that it may just be that she has a dog of a boyfriend? If more restaurants allowed us to bring our pets, maybe we wouldn’t have to dine with (quiz question #13) people who don’t tip. And as for the zinger (quiz question #9) that raised much of the current uproar, I defy you to prove that the Jews have any kind of sole claim on “a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring/don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as woman/are sucked dry by their children…who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates.” Move over, Jewish mothers, because you have plenty of company here.

Anyway, my quiz. Without further ado, me or Lena?

1. Might love her dog more than she loves most people.

2. Has a penchant for confessional prose.

3. Bad hair? Just keep it short.

4. Went to college in Ohio.

5. Secretly wishes the word zaftig would come back into fashion.

6. Has been published in The New Yorker (yes, this one is easy…)

7. May have some teeny, tiny issues with propriety.

8. Hangs out with Terry Richardson.

9. Not a lot of space between those thighs…

10. Needs, but apparently is not willing, to pay for a stylist.

Yes,  I made this a no-brainer because it’s Saturday and it’s not fair to make anyone (especially me) think too hard. But let me just say that I DO know someone who knows someone who knows Terry Richardson.

And you’ll see that, amazingly, the famous, talented Lena Dunham and I actually have a few things in common. (dear God, these thighs…) I would not for a moment trade my WASP-y, generous-tipping husband for her Jewish boyfriend, but I might put up with a dog prone to urine crystals and a beef allergy (assuming I have made the correct choice on quiz answer #24) just to have a smidgin of her (sometimes misguided) talent and honesty.

I’m rooting for you, Lena. I don’t exactly wish you more success, because then I will be forced to think of you more frequently and remember, with horror, that you once equated voting for Obama to losing your virginity. But Lena, I admire your bravery and your vulnerability. And I look forward to reading many more of your essays in The New Yorker because your first one, A Box of Puppies was awesome and made me cry.

But just one piece of advice from someone older and, actually, amazingly, given what I see as some colossal mis-steps on your part, wiser: keep the dog; lose the boyfriend.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Absurdity, Music/Art/Literature/Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More Chicken Love, With a Little Help from My Friends.

I  read an article last December that admonished us all to “rebrand” ourselves for 2015. And, for one fleeting nanosecond, I envisioned myself embarking upon some new, lofty passion and ordering a snappy new wardrobe from Net-a-Porter with which to accessorize myself while I changed the world.

But yeah, no. Here it is, March, and I am still wearing yoga pants and t-shirts and still puttering around the chicken yard talking to my hens.

I've had some good conversations with Lola lately.

I’ve had some good conversations with Lola lately.

It’s not just inertia or laziness that keeps me from doing (and wearing) something important. It’s a reported 10,000 years of history that keeps me, like humans through the millenniums, coming back to that chicken yard for a tete-a-tete with Pippa, Luna, Lola and Ginger. Like sitting before a fire and sleeping with dogs, communing with chickens is a primal experience that is practically hard-wired into our psyches. (What? You don’t sleep with dogs? Doesn’t everybody sleep with dogs?)

It all started here: Gallus gallus, the Red Junglefowl considered to be the progenitor of the modern chicken. (image from gallusgames.org)

It all started here: Gallus gallus, the Red Junglefowl considered to be the progenitor of the modern chicken. (image from gallusgames.org)

Gallus gallus, the Red Junglefowl that is thought to be the grandaddy of the modern chicken, probably originated in Southeast Asia and, as the first animal domesticated by humans, soon found its way to Africa and beyond. There is some sort of atavistic pleasure for me in the thought that as I call my hens and scatter a handful of grain for them, I am repeating a quotidian gesture that reaches far, far back in human history. You won’t find any ancient depictions of people texting on their iPhones, but, as I have mentioned before, museums are full of representations of the interdependence between humans and their hens. There is something comforting to me about this, so you can only imagine how thrilled I was to receive a recent gift from a friend.

Anne was my college roommate. She was the pretty one. And the practical one. And the organized one. We met freshman year, pledged the same sorority and shared living quarters through the rest of our college years. And, amazingly, after all that, she still speaks to me! Mostly, these days, through Christmas cards, but as she was packing up recently for her family’s upcoming move from Ohio to North Carolina, she was struck by a moment of organizational brilliance.

From Africa to Ohio to California, this fellow chicken lover is now part of my collection.

From Africa to Ohio to California, this fellow chicken lover is now part of my collection.

Anne has a collection of African artifacts bestowed upon her by an aunt who lived for many years in Angola, and in the spirit of one woman’s deacquisitions being another woman’s treasure, Anne decided to pass along to me a carved wooden figuring of an African woman holding a hen that looks precisely like our dearly departed girls, Summer and Hope. The hen is perched perkily on the woman’s hand, gazing longingly toward a bucket presumably filled with grain. The carving reminds me and delights me in the awareness that other peoples, continents and cultures away, have gathered eggs and listened to the clucking of their hens through the ages, just as I do today.

A few days after I received my new treasure from Anne, I also heard from my childhood friend, Nancy. (She was also the pretty one. There’s a pattern here…) She was checking in to see whether I’d read a book by Andrew Lawler with the intriguing (and all-encompassing title) Why Did the Chicken Cross the World: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization.

Nope. Haven’t read it. Good, she said. Something about an upcoming birthday…

Can't wait to read this one! (image from andrewlawler.com)

Can’t wait to read this one! (image from andrewlawler.com)

I am so touched by these expressions of friendship. These dear women who have known me for so many decades, continue to remember me, to indulge my whims,  and, above all, to reinforce my love for chickens. Thanks to you both, and much love from me and the flock. xoxo

As a bonus, Anne sent me this card. Yay for chickens!

As a bonus, Anne sent me this card. Yay for chickens!

Posted in All Things Poultry, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Chicken Facts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chickens to the Left of Me, Bobcat on the Right…

…And we’re stuck in the middle again.

I love my semi-rural neighborhood. It’s mid-March, and the wisteria and nasturtiums are beginning to show off. The mockingbirds are back in business, singing from pre-dawn until well after twilight, when they finally give way to the chorus of frogs that have miraculously surfaced despite our lack of rain.

Nasturtiums by the roadside are a sure sign of spring.

Nasturtiums by the roadside are a sure sign of spring.

But like anyplace since Adam and Eve got us kicked out of Eden, we have our problems. And right now, we have an intractable problem of about 30 lbs. of obligate carnivorism: a bobcat has moved into the neighborhood.

I’ve been relentlessly vigilant since Summer was taken from the flock back in January. The stealth with which her demise was carried out suggested a bobcat, but we had never actually seen one on our property, so we couldn’t be sure.

That all changed this week.

So beautiful. So deadly. (image from The Santa Barbara Independent)

So beautiful. So deadly. (image from The Santa Barbara Independent)

I had just put the hens away on the east side of our property and happened to walk through the house to look out our living room door that faces west. There, basking regally in a patch of sun just a few yards away, lay a large, healthy-looking bobcat. I was too gobsmacked by the sight to get a photo. What registered was how powerful and truly beautiful an animal he was. That and a chilling sense of dread. Our small dog, Soho, was outside. Cody the cat was outside. And just a few moments previously, our little flock of hens had been outside, as well.

Our little Luna: so pretty and so defenseless.

Our little Luna: so pretty and so defenseless.

News travels fast on our neighborhood loop. By yesterday evening, I had run into three other neighbors who had confirmed sightings of Mr. Cat (I am assuming it is a male because he looked well over the average 20 lb size of a female bobcat). One neighbor shared that after he had taken her last hen, he continues to return to her property to relax by her pond. I guess he likes the view. He is almost certainly the same villain who took Summer from our flock back in January.

Now we have to keep a very close watch on the hens.

Now we have to keep a very close watch on the hens.

So what to do? With hawks, we usually at least get a warning sound. But a bobcat is a silent and stealthy hunter. With a typical one to four mile daily hunting radius, he could be anywhere at any time.

Our pets are no match for this guy (image from wildspiritguides.com)

Our pets are no match for this guy (image from wildspiritguides.com)

According to online sources, the bobcat’s favorite prey are rodents and cottontail bunnies, but this one has developed a particular taste for chicken. They are said to be crepuscular rather than nocturnal – hunting twilight of dawn or dusk, but clearly there is no safe time of day.

We saw the bobcat laying just a few feet from where Soho is in this photo.

We saw the bobcat laying just a few feet from where Soho is in this photo.

The rather anemic suggestions I found for discouraging a bobcat included the construction of a fence that exceeds six feet in height. I’m sure our homeowner’s association will look favorably on my imminent application to build a fortress and a moat.

Oh, and it is suggested that pets be kept inside at all times. There’s a concept. Should we give each of the hens their own bedroom?

"I guess I'll bunk here", says Pippa.

“I guess I’ll bunk here”, says Pippa.

So, for the moment, no good solution. The bobcat wins. Anyone want to volunteer for chicken shepherd duty?

"He'll never find me here", says Cody.

“He’ll never find me here”, says Cody.

Posted in All Things Poultry, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Annoyances of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cold Comfort: The Cure for Chapped Lips

Two and a half weeks in the frozen tundra of  New York City in February will give you a new perspective on the meaning of cold. It will also give you what my stepdaughter, Tina, use to call “owie yips”. As in shredded shards of skin peeling off your lips. Lip divots deep enough to look like suture tracks. Lips so chapped they could probably be hired out to sand down drywall. Really seriously chapped lips.

"Owie Yips" (image from nhs.uk)

“Owie Yips” (image from nhs.uk)

True to form, I’ve been following Einstein’s definition for insanity: you know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I long ago left behind Chapstick and Carmex, thinking I had evolved by using L’Occitane’s little tin of shea butter on my lips. For the past year. With painfully (and I mean that literally) meager results.

My former lip balm. Done and gone. (image from beautybar.com)

My former lip balm. Done and gone. (image from beautybar.com)

It really wasn’t working. I occasionally supplemented with Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour cream, which I have long sworn by for bringing in the big guns. But its heavy-duty camphor smell and the vague suspicion that you could also use it to lubricate a jet engine can be off-putting.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant is one way to go (image from beautycuisine.blogspot.com)

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant is one way to go (image from beautycuisine.blogspot.com)

Last weekend my owie yips had had enough. I trudged through the NYC snow (uphill both ways, mind you) to a nearby drug store to check out the options. I bypassed everything on display at the counter and headed to the old-timey products way in the back of the store. I had consulted the Internet and come up with what appeared to be a winner in the high stakes game of chapped lip relief. You can thank me later but go get this stuff now: Smith’s Rosebud Salve

This is the winner! Smith's Rosebud Salve (image from themakeupblogger.com)

This is the winner! Smith’s Rosebud Salve (image from themakeupblogger.com)

It does come at the princely sum of $8 a tin so maybe it contains actual fairy dust along with the listed ingredients of “aromol and cottonseed oil in a special petrolatum base”. I hesitated momentarily at “petrolatum” as there are wildly differing opinions on its use. Some say it is toxic; others that it is “as universally safe as any substance can be”. I suppose it depends to some degree on what you are selling. What I do know is that within just a few days, my lip divots disappeared completely. I can now apply lipstick without having to fill in craters and my days as a qualified drywall sander are happily behind me. You can order a 4-pack at a slight savings for $20.42 which I plan to do: one for the makeup kit, one for the nightstand, one for the purse and one left over to bestow on a friend, since this time of year,  pretty much everyone has chapped lips. If you are not a fan of the tinned configuration, you can also purchase it in a tube:

Same stuff, different delivery system (amazon.com image)

Same stuff, different delivery system (amazon.com image)

And if you are absolutely opposed to a petrolatum-based product, I have a runner-up option for you: Laura Mercier Lip Balm SPF 15.0. At $22, it is much more expensive than the Rosebud Salve and its lipstick case configuration may not appeal to macho males. It contains paraffin which I don’t happen to prefer, and I find the slightly honeyed fragrance to be less refreshing than the faint rose scent of the salve. But it does have the SPF benefit, and in the two days I have experimented with it, I think it is a worthy alternative to the Rosebud Salve.

Another option: Laura Mercier Lip Balm SPF 15.0 (amazon.com image)

Another option: Laura Mercier Lip Balm SPF 15.0 (amazon.com image)

The real cure for chapped lips, of course, is for winter to end.  That wasn’t looking like a good bet as we left the city on Monday but hopefully there are some daffodils to look forward to soon!

This was the view out of our apartment as we left. Good luck, New Yorkers!

This was the view out of our apartment as we left. Good luck, New Yorkers!

Posted in Annoyances of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chillin': NYC in February

Have you heard? It is COLD in NYC!

Sheep Meadow in Central Park under a winter blanket of snow.

Sheep Meadow in Central Park under a winter blanket of snow.

 

When I’m in California, immersed in drought tactics, sunscreen and poultry antics, I engage in wishful thinking, imagining that when I get to NYC I will be transformed into a sophisticated urban creature who does not have pine shavings hanging from her sleeves. I will blend right in with the other New Yorkers, chatting about the latest theatre reviews over a glass of say, white burgundy, or, perhaps, a simple Cote du Rhone,  in a cozy booth at Balthazar.

Well, scratch that.

For one thing, the sky is falling at Balthazar, or at least a ten foot mirror. Last week, as I was feeling ever so slightly sorry for my uptown self that we were headed to Cafe Luxembourg for dinner instead, I clicked my news app to discover it was the best possible day not to be dining at my favorite downtown NYC bistro. One of the restaurant’s giant mirrors toppled on patrons there, resulting in no serious injuries but possibly making it temporarily ever-so-slightly easier to get a hard-won reservation there.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall: one of these toppled onto diners at Balthazar last week. (image from cuturedivine.com)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall: one of these toppled onto diners at Balthazar last week. (image from cuturedivine.com)

For another thing, no one I have encountered here in the past two weeks is discussing anything but THE WEATHER. I’m sure people have many witty and wise observations on other topics, but their jaws are too clenched and their teeth too chattery to chat about anything but the unyielding cold. This month will go down as the coldest February in New York City since 1934.

This was the cheery temp reading one day last week.

This was the cheery temp reading one day last week.

Instead of reading up on theatre reviews, I have recently been researching frostbite and cruising sale racks on a mission to find warmer scarves and gloves.  The good news: depending on temperature and wind chill, you have a good 30 minutes of exposure before you have to worry about frostbite. The bad news: forget about texting in sub-zero wind chill conditions.

On the positive side, I am actually blending in well with the other New Yorkers. We are all of us in our puffer coats, faces covered like bank robbers in scarves and hoods, bracing against the wind with a steely resolve. And talking, all of us, incessantly, relentlessly about the weather. On past visits, including last year’s Polar Vortex, I eyed a thermometer reading of anything below 25 degrees as a reason to stay inside. This trip, we have celebrated any day that registers above 4 degrees as a big win and an excuse to head outside.

The day we left California, it was 80 degrees. When we awoke here the next morning, it was 8 degrees. It took me a few days to develop perspective and a sense of humor, but by this week I saw nothing daunting about walking across the Park in 12-degree weather.

This little guy in Central Park almost jumped the fence in search of a handout.

This little guy in Central Park almost jumped the fence in search of a handout.

There are moments of frustration: trying to navigate the moats that appeared at every Upper West Side crosswalk last weekend was a challenge. But there is a peculiar, frozen magic about the city this month. A pair of ducks gliding comfortably in the heated Milstein Pool at Lincoln Center. A soft, flaky snowfall in Soho. Some of my favorite city memories will have been spun from this trip. But for the sake of the ducks and the squirrels and all those beleaguered New Yorkers, I’m hoping for an early spring!

Why migrate when the pool is heated: ducks at Lincoln Center in February.

Why migrate when the pool is heated: ducks at Lincoln Center in February.

Someone in Soho had a very cool ride home last weekend.

Someone in Soho had a very cool ride home last weekend.

Snowfall in Soho: you can't get this in California.

Snowfall in Soho: you can’t get this in California.

Posted in Annoyances of Life, New York city, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Doggone It.

I have three words for you if you can’t think of a good reason to visit NYC in February:  Westminster Dog Show.

Yes, you can see it well, and certainly closer up, on TV, but there is just something about being at Madison Square Garden, gazing down upon that sea of green, yellow and purple.

The 2015 Westminster Dog Show

Judging at the 2015 Westminster Dog Show

And can you think of a better crowd? 20,000 dog-lovers and icy cold draft beer – pretty much a perfect evening.

Proof we were there: ticket to the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Proof we were there: ticket to the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

We attended this year because 2015 was the Westminster debut for a breed that’s near and dear to our hearts: the Coton de Tulear. We think Soho would have taken top dog if she had been there, but Ch Moi-Toi’s Burberry Justincredible was an acceptable proxy.

Soho is a winner every day at our house.

Soho is a winner every day at our house.

But Westminster thought this Coton was "Justincredible"

But Westminster thought this Coton was “Justincredible”

We passed on the daytime judging at The Piers, but attended both evening events and we were there to see “Miss P” the 15″ beagle in all her glory. Yes, she definitely had that ineffable dash of moxie that it takes to be Westminster royalty. When it came to the final moment, all of Madison Square Garden crackled with excitement as the judge drolly played up the suspense. Would it be the Standard Poodle? The Portugese Water Dog? The crowd roared with approval as Miss P took the honors.

Miss P basks in the glory of her triumph at Westminster (npr photo)

Miss P basks in the glory of her triumph at Westminster (npr photo)

But did you hear what happened next? A group of the canine competitors traveling home from Westminster temporarily vanished! Was it a doggie Rapture? A canine kidnapping caper? No – just a Delta Airlines snafu. Several owners aboard a Delta flight from New York’s JFK airport bound for Seattle realized just prior to take-off that their darling dogs had not been loaded into the cargo hold. (I would have thought Westminster dogs travel first class, but apparently not so.) Several hours later, the pups turned up, but as yet Delta has no explanation for their un-whereabouts other than that the dog-goned dogs “remained in Delta’s constant care” for the duration.

Lost and Found: Paris the Poodle is re-united with its owner (Reuters image)

Lost and Found: Paris the Poodle is re-united with its owner (Reuters image)

All’s well that ends well, I suppose. We know all dogs go to heaven, but I’m just glad this group made it to Seattle.

In closing, I have just one teeny tiny bone to pick with Westminster: in 139 years, a Golden Retriever has never been named Best in Show. Seriously? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 2016…

Always a winner in our book, but let's have a Golden win at Westminster!

Always a winner in our book, but could we please  have a Golden win the gold at Westminster?

Posted in Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, New York city, Spoiled Pets | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Smacked a Chicken.

I really, really do not like mean girls. Oh, I know, they are legion and that in real life they will continue to maraud with impunity, but I will not tolerate them in the coop. I guess our sweet Summer must have been the linchpin in flock harmony, because everyone got along so well until she was plucked by a predator.

Summer was the rug that pulled the room together.

Summer was the rug that pulled the room together.

Since then, it hasn’t been pretty. Miss Ginger, our EE (Easter Egger or mutt Ameraucana for the uninitiated) has gone rogue and has started picking on Pippa. Yes, Pippa, who gave several long weeks of her life to raising Ginger and her sisters. I just won’t have it. No, no, no, you may NOT pick on Pippa.

Leave Pippa alone!

Leave Pippa alone!

I was there, and I can tell you that Ginger had an idyllic childhood. Pippa was a magnificent mama to her adopted chicks so this is not a Mommie Dearest situation. Like Tulip in the former flock iteration, Ginger was the most skittish of the chicks, and in both cases the least confident bird  turned into the most aggressive one. (Any behaviorists who can attest to this in human populations?)

The mean girl: Ginger

The mean girl: Ginger

Tulip was also fearful and skittish and she, too, grew up to be aggressive.

Tulip was also fearful and skittish and she, too, grew up to be aggressive.

Pecking order is a fact of barnyard (and real) life, so I generally don’t involve myself in hen squabbles, but when I came out to the pen last week and saw Ginger peck Pippa so viciously on a foot that Pippa was limping, I instantly went from laissez-faire to wrath-of-God. I believe I may have thrown something at Ginger, whose vulture-like appearance, by the way, does absolutely nothing to promote her cause.

She even looks kind of vulture-ish mean, doesn't she?

She even looks kind of vulture-ish mean, doesn’t she?

Breed does not necessarily dictate aggressive tendencies. Our other two EE’s, Coco and our beloved Autumn, were both gentle souls. Most likely, Ginger is simply taking advantage of the destabilization of the flock and is making a run at being a dictator.

Yeah, well, she’ll have to get through me first if she wants to be Mussolini.

If you have hens, you know that sundown is a key moment in their social behavior. There is a reason for that phrase about “who rules the roost”. On high alert after the foot-pecking episode, I stepped into the coop as the girls settled in for the evening and, sure enough, Ginger went after Pippa. Worse – and sadly, another corollary to human behavior – the other hens followed suit, even Luna who has long been Pippa’s soulmate.

What to do?

Conventional wisdom directs that the caretaker resist intervention except in a “potentially lethal situation”, but some of us cannot resist a penchant for social engineering. The most effective technique is probably to put the head hoodlum into time out, separating her from the rest of the flock for a week or so until the dynamic has shifted and she has to re-enter the group on a lower rung of the social ladder. But I was in no mood that day for long-term solutions. When Ginger pushed her way past Lola on the roost to get at Pippa and peck her so hard that Pippa yelped, I chose the more immediate shock and awe approach: I smacked Ginger hard enough to knock her off the roost.

I guess there was evidence early on that Ginger was going to walk all over Pippa.

I guess there was evidence early on that Ginger was going to walk all over Pippa.

Unperturbed, she jumped back up and did it again. Okay, now it was personal. Again, I thwacked her off the roost. Same result. She’s apparently working from Vladimir Putin’s playbook. It took two more thwacks before she got the message and retreated to one end of the roost and the four hens settled peaceably for the night.

Poor little Pippa keeping her distance from the flock.

Poor little Pippa keeping her distance from the flock.

I would like to say that a few thwacks did the trick, but while I am determined to win the war, there are still some ongoing skirmishes. We have temporarily decamped to the frigid East Coast, so Ginger may get to be a mean girl for another fortnight. But I’m putting her on notice with this quote from Dwight Eisenhower: “We will accept nothing less than total victory!”

Oh, and this one from The Terminator: “I”ll be back.”

Can't we just all get along?

Can’t we just all get along?

 

Posted in All Things Poultry, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Annoyances of Life, Chicken Facts | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments