Friday, August 22, 2008

Bigfoot, my foot: I’m hunting Little People

Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.
I'd love to see proof that there really is a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Hairy Man, whatever you choose to call him. I'm intrigued at the idea of a 7-foot hominid living previously undetected in the woods north of here. Anything to bring tourists to the area now that the lake's turned into a muddy pond with nothing but an adolescent alligator to inspire stories around the campfire.
Imagine for a moment, if you will. You've just made one of the most significant anthropological discoveries of the century: an unknown species, the missing link, the evolutionary Rosetta Stone.
So what do you do? You call a press conference and charge a couple of bucks a pop for reporters to see what looks a lot like a picture of Willie B. in a Westinghouse. Has anyone checked on Willie B.? I think I remember reading that he was cremated but it couldn't hurt to be sure.
Then you set up a poorly spelled Web site peddling Bigfoot tracking tours and T-shirts promoting Bigfoot for president. President? I guess creativity isn't a prerequisite for a marketing job with this outfit. Just chutzpah, lots and lots of chutzpah.
The international Bigfoot tracking community was subsequently shocked (SHOCKED!) at the revelation that the Bigfoot remains were not the first cousin of the GEICO Caveman but, rather, a frozen rubber ape costume. What I don't understand is how they can act blindsided and astounded with a straight face. Stop the presses, everybody.
Now that Bigfoot's been taken out of the equation, I think I'll buy the domain name
Most folks around here have heard of the Cherokee Little People. Ancient legend holds that they're a race of tiny people, about the size of a Cabbage Patch Kid. They live in rocky caves in remote locales like Blood Mountain and Mount Yonah.
They love music, and sometimes the sounds of their flutes and drums can be heard late at night.They don't like to be disturbed, and if a hiker comes across them they will cast a spell on him, causing him to become confused and wander aimlessly throughout the woods. Even if he does eventually make his way home he will remain dazed forever. So that's what happened to my cousin, Elmer. And I always thought it was the Southern Comfort.
Within the Little People species, there are subspecies.
The Laurel People are merry tricksters. When a baby laughs in her sleep, it's because she has been tickled by a Laurel Person.
The Dogwood People are helpful, sometimes performing farm chores under cover of darkness and then slipping back into their rocky caves as the sun comes up.
The Rock People are evil, stealing children and confusing hikers so they become hopelessly lost in the forest.
And if all that weren't enough to get the cable news outfits interested, it's also been rumored that they guard a vast treasure.
So here's the plan. First I'll build my Web site peddling poorly illustrated Cherokee Little People for elective office T-shirts and baseball hats. I'll offer Little People tracking expeditions for four-figure fees and promote myself as the Greatest Little People Tracker on the planet. I figure the field is fairly limited so the claim is not hyperbole. I just won't mention that I'm also the only Little People Tracker on the planet
If interest starts to wane, I'll borrow my daughter's Cabbage Patch Kid, Ivy Elizabeth. She's the one I was forced to purchase for a tidy sum back in 1991 because I didn't realize if a 5-year old is allowed to name a newly delivered CPK at Babyland, no way is she going to go off and allow said baby to be adopted by just anybody.
I'll snap a picture of Miss Ivy in our Igloo Cooler and make a YouTube video swearing up and down that it's a gen-u-ine Cherokee Little Person. For the soundtrack, I'll use Pink Floyd's "Money."
Then I'll just sit back and wait for the calls from CNN and Fox News to start pouring in.
(Originally published August 22, 2008 in the Gainesville Times)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Remembering two souls who inspired life, laughs

The other morning I woke up early, splashed awake by a wave of sadness. At first I couldn't identify where the feeling originated.
I did a quick inventory. I was OK. My husband and kids were OK. None of my friends were experiencing any more crises than ordinary. Why the despair?
Then I remembered. Randy Pausch and Jose Simon were dead.
By now almost everyone knows who Randy Pausch was. A stellar college professor, he was a standout in his field of computer animation and virtual reality. He was largely unknown outside of his academic sphere until September 2007 when he gave his "last lecture."
He had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer but the speech was not about dying. It was a reminder of how life ought to be lived, about how to achieve one's childhood dreams. Someone had the foresight to film the talk and the video went viral. To date it's been downloaded more than 10 million times.
I evangelically forwarded the
video link to everyone in my address book. I wrote a column about it. When the book inspired by the lecture was released, I bought the CD version and eagerly played it in the truck as I went about my day.
For a while, Randy was a daily companion, a cheerleader encouraging me to "break down the brick walls. They're just there to stop people who don't want things as badly as you do."
If anyone was deserving of a miracle, this was the man. I halfway convinced myself that maybe he'd beat the odds or there'd be a medical breakthrough. Something.
But no, this was real life, and on July 25, Randy Pausch, age 47, father of three, lost his heroic struggle with cancer. A person I had never met had enhanced my life and the lives of so many others.
I never met Jose Simon, either. I only spoke to him once and that was about something mundane like selling Seabiscuit racehorse memorabilia on eBay. That doesn't mean I didn't know him, however.
Jose's wife, Gail, owns a wholesale clothing business in San Francisco. I started shopping with her more than 10 years ago, purchasing in bulk to sell in my shop and on eBay. She has one of those delightful phone voices, the kind where she doesn't have to identify herself. By the third syllable, you know it's Gail on the phone.
Over time, we became friends and I learned all about her family. Her husband, Jose, was a comedian.He had come to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and initially worked as a musician. He performed with Four of a Kind, which featured future Tower of Power vocalist Rick Stevens and a founding member of Santana, conga player Michael Carabello. Early on, he established a pattern for his life, unselfishly helping others achieve success.
Comedian Robin Williams was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Jose was a gift. He was the Chicano godfather of comedy. He will be missed."
A search of quotation
Web sites reveals that he's the originator of the line, "In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait."
Each year, Gail would invite us to San Francisco for Comedy Day, a daylong free festival of humor held in Golden Gate Park. It was founded by Jose in 1980 and now up to 50,000 people attend the annual event. What a wonderful legacy. At last year's celebration, Jose was presented with the Stand-up Comedy Legend Award.
There was always a reason why we couldn't make it. The airfare was too expensive. It takes place in September, making a cross-country trip difficult right after the beginning of the school term. Each year I said the same thing. Maybe next year.
I didn't talk to Gail for a few weeks and then one day in July she called with the news. Jose had died. Another remarkable life claimed by cancer.
So there I was, sitting in the predawn darkness, feeling bereft at the loss of two people I'd never met. They were gone but their message remained: Life's meant to be enjoyed. Laugh a lot and help others every chance you get.
As Randy Pausch said, "If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you."
(Originally published in the Gainesville Times August 8, 2008)

Being crafty just a work in progress

This morning I put a newspaper clipping about my daughter in the family scrapbook. Actually, scrapbook is a pretty glorified title for what we have. It’s really just a binder that contains any piece of newsprint with the name of one of the Glazers on it. It has always been my intention to someday organize it into volumes dedicated to each family member.
Our older daughter Molly’s book will be filled with programs from her high school plays bordered by red and white gingham ribbon and cutouts of trumpeting Red Elephants. Ensuing pages will feature the Gamma Phi Beta crescent moon and pictures of Uga VI, rest his soul.
Rachel’s volume will have green and white stripes and head shots of an intrepid Trojan warrior. Wait a minute. Didn’t the Trojans lose that war? Yeah that’s right. They chose not to listen to Laocoon when he said, "Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bringing gifts." But after all, who can turn down free presents? Oh, well, I guess it’s too late to change the team’s name to The Greeks.
I’ll make a scrapbook for myself, surrounding clippings of my eight years of community columns with appropriate images. I’ve come to realize all of my columns generally fall into one of four categories: First, there’s my long-suffering family. Bless their hearts, they never know when their latest adventure is going to turn up on the Times’ editorial page.
Next there are the animal columns. I write about our critters, mostly, but also possums and rent-a-dog programs, too.
Third is mankind’s vast capacity for stupidity. I almost wrote this week’s column about the guy who traded naming rights to his unborn child for a $100.00 gas card.
Last, there’s that ambiguous category known as "other." "Other" ranges from the Hurricane Katrina relief debacle to garage sale etiquette and Dr. Seuss. Everything’s fair game. What fun I could have choosing clip art for that scrapbook.
My husband’s book will feature all of his computer columns (published twice monthly here in The Times) with little pieces of old motherboards and other geeky flotsam and jetsam cleverly pasted around the edges.
Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
I wish I could be crafty like that. I aspire to it. I try, I really do. It just never turns out like I envision it. The garage holds box after box of half-finished projects. Recently I sifted through them with almost anthropological detachment.
Here were the supplies from my Crochet Period (circa 1984) when, pregnant with my first child, I decided to make a baby blanket. I bought enough yarn to create a boat cover and ended up with a piece the size of a tea towel ... if tea towels were shaped like trapezoids.
Next came the Quilt Age (1986-1988) when I created dozens of lopsided patchwork squares but lost interest before I actually sewed them together. I’m leaving that task for my heirs.
The Grouting Busted Pieces of China Dishes to Clay Pots to Make Really Ugly Mosaics Era was thankfully short-lived (1989).
Next came the Dark Ages dating from 1990 to, well, now. I tried my hand at hair bow making. Every picture of poor Molly in her elementary school days features a ghastly clump of ribbons clipped to her head. There was bread baking, cross stitch, bead work, calligraphy. Nothing clicked.
I’ve had to finally face the sad fact that no one’s ever going to accuse me of being right-brained.
It doesn’t help that I’m married to a man who can wander off into his workshop and emerge a few hours later with a stained and leaded glass sidelight for the front door or triple matted and framed photos of all of the major waterfalls in North Georgia.
So I’ve decided to let the scrapbooks become perpetual works in progress. I figure as long as I don’t actually complete them, I haven’t failed completely.

(Originally published in the Gainesville Times, July 25, 2008)