Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Bell

The actual bell I now own.
It looked simple enough in the video.

How hard could it be? Only a few items were involved and I already had the cat. 

There’s always a bag of treats in the cabinet and the bell would be here in a few days. I also was in possession of determination, time and just enough crazy so this all made sense. My plan, you see, was to train Buzzy to ring a bell (by himself, with his paw) before I dispensed a cat treat! Pavlov--make way! Here comes “Susan Says…!”

The result of watching way too many adorably hilarious cat videos on youtube, the idea was born. Upon checking Amazon to see if I could inexpensively purchase the most important component of the operation – a counter bell (the kind people impatiently ring in movies,often at the front desk of a hotel, but the clerk is in the back trying to train a cat), the answer was not only of course but which color would you like and, most important, Buzzy is brilliant. 

This was going to be fun.

I would then make my own video with Buzzy ringing away to earn treats and later receive a Pulitzer (or something) for my efforts as well as the adulation of viewers around the globe who would watch the video and say things like “How cute!” and “What a great cat” in the comments section. Glory awaited. I could smell it. Or, was that the litter box?

The bell arrived.

Somehow, I resisted ringing it until I was situated with my “subject” (Buzzy) stomping about in the “testing area” (the kitchen table), already a-twitter over that which he loves more than life itself: Friskies Party Mix, flavor of Wild West Crunch.

Buzzy lives for treats. He would sell me to a traveling circus for a mere handful. 

If I so much as think about opening the door to the cabinet in which they are kept, he will wake from deep slumber and  run --  not unlike a crazed zombie -- into the kitchen and shout until there is a handful before him. 

Forgetting his manners, he will inhale them at the speed of light and beg for more. It’s fascinating and awful and God only knows what’s in those things because they cause well-mannered gentleman like Buzzy to totally lose their dignity. Surely, he’ll understand about the bell and the video and my future fame as a cat trainer.

Hours later, Buzzy is full of treats and sprawled like the Emperor Nero after an orgy. The bell has been rung (by me) so many times that Seth has fled in tears and, oddly, I have developed a strong craving for Chex Mix. Buzzy, however, has yet to ring the bell.

Despite the cat crack that Friskies adds to their product and Buzzy’s ensuing addiction, my cat training prowess (uh, that would be none) and desire for notoriety in the increasingly competitive world of cat videography, he is not interested.This leads me to question the cat in the video.

Who is this shameless cat whore, anyway?

I am no longer "in training."

Maybe it wasn’t even a cat. Maybe it was a monkey .  Or one of those other, popular pets, er, what are they called again? Oh, yes---dogs! Maybe it was a dog wearing a cat suit and it wasn’t even party mix but some sort of dog thing like bacon nuggets….yeah, that’s it. If Buzzy could not be trained, then the whole thing was suspect….a fraud….a sham.

Before drifting off into a treat-induced coma, Buzzy looked at me, slumped in my chair, purple bell taunting me from the corner into which I’d thrown it, empty bags of treats strewn about and then, without so much as a flicked whisker, closed his eyes.  I reached to tickle his round little Wild West Crunch filled belly. 

After all, part of the allure of cats is their untrainability, is it not?

Getting in the car to go buy the biggest bag of Chex Mix they sold at Stop ‘n’ Shop, I heard it. The bell rang, just once. Chances are it was Seth who had emerged from his hiding place and not the bloated cat I had just tried to make act, well, not like a cat at all. I never asked. 
Train me? I don't think so.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Surprise Visit

Ricky, Charlie's coming home!
Recently, around 6:30 on a quiet Friday evening, the phone rang, startling Seth who -- after changing from his tee shirt and sweat pants into his tee shirt and pajama pants -- had already begun slipping into his pre-weekend coma.

I recognized the number on the caller ID and happily sat down before answering, looking forward to a chat with my son....how was your day, what did you eat for lunch, will you make sure that I'm in a good nursing home when I'm older...you know, the regular topics.

You could have knocked me over with Buzzy's tail when Charlie announced that – surprise! --  he was on his way home for a weekend visit. He'd be home in less than three hours. “See you soon, Ma!" and he hung up.

No kidding! Charlie?
After blacking out for an undetermined period, upon revival I hollered for Seth.

Splayed out in the recliner, a cold Budweiser warming in his hot little hands, although he had trouble initially comprehending what I was screaming, he snapped to in a moment or so and came running, clapping and jumping up and down with me in the kitchen.

Guess what, Andy! Charlie's
coming home!
Suddenly, we stopped and looked at each other.

Oh my God! Not expecting a visit from the young prince, the fridge was lacking food! Not to mention Charlie's room was a mess since we'd done some minor renovations in the house and had been using the boys rooms as a dumping ground. 

Anything that we didn't immediately need, want or were not prepared to throw out would make its way to either room and we'd close the door. Poof---out of sight! The house seemed neat and orderly until we'd open a door to toss another item inside. Our children's bedrooms now made us eligible for an episode of Hoarder's.

Charlie's coming home?
Seth and I made panicky eye contact but, in a few incoherent grunts, clearly communicated the next course of action.

After meaninglessly wiggling our eyebrows at one another for a full minute, we sprang into action: I grabbed my wallet and started off to the supermarket only having to return for my shoes and the car a few minutes later. I then drove off on only my back wheels and with my head sticking out of the sun roof while Seth threw on a haz-mat suit and ventured into Charlie's room with a dozen or so garbage bags and his jaw set to "action."

Who is Charlie?
Once in the supermarket I filled my cart with bagels, bialys, whole grain bread, peanut butter, ham, provolone, liverwurst, onion rolls, fresh tortellini, cereal, milk, rice pudding, halvah, light bulbs, mustard, toilet paper, Greek yogurt, apples, strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, bananas, unshelled peanuts, seltzer, Drumsticks (the ice cream kind), Dove Bars, grapefruit juice, orange juice and two dozen eggs. I am not kidding about a single item on this list and have the receipt to prove it.

It’s inevitable that, in our local market, you run into no fewer than 174 people you know and this evening was no different. 

If I saw anyone with whom I would normally exchange pleasantries or quite possibly stand in one place and talk to until blood pools in my ankles, I simply shouted the word “Charlie!” at them and kept moving. The women understood exactly what was happening while the men all thought I’d mistaken them for Charlie.
Quick, beam Charlie up!
Is he bringing Camilla?

Astonishingly, when I got home, Seth was done in Charlie's room.

It was perfect. The bed was clear of debris and made up nicely, you could actually see the floor, his desk was neat and the top of the dresser was empty but for his assortment of half-used bottles of Axe body spray.

 It was a miracle and I could not have cared less as to where all the stuff went. I still don't. All that mattered was that the prodigal had where to lay his head after a long drive. Well done, Seth!

Maybe I'll give him a new car!
I put away all the groceries, emptied the dishwasher, filled the dishwasher, re-neutered the cats, freshened my pedicure, swept the floor, turned on the outside lights and phoned all my neighbors and asked them to do the same and located Seth who had put out and illuminated our American flag---joining him at the top of the driveway where he was straightening the mailbox which had been nudged by a snow plow this winter. 

We wanted to spot the car as soon as possible so Seth stood on my shoulders, leaning slightly forward, for a better perspective.

Charlie arrived soon after and Seth and I, doing synchronized cartwheels around him, pretended the house always looked this tidy and that the fridge was always this well-stocked. 

Whether Charlie believed us, we have no idea but upon arrival he immediately noticed and acknowledged the Josh Groban CD I'd forgotten to hide as well as the fact that Seth and I are both shorter than when he saw us last.

It was a wonderful visit.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Mother the Super Hero

It may be the day after Mother's Day but "Susan Says..."  is declaring all of May to be Mother's Month (the stretch marks alone are worth more than one day), so I thought we might explore a facet of my mother's character I haven’t yet covered. 

Sure, I've talked about how funny she was, how talented and creative, how well she cooked and baked but have I discussed her tough side, her herculean strength, her ability to physically do battle with a New York City subway car? 

Not until today…

I was reminded of it recently when, on his morning show, Michael Strahan mentioned that a car had bumped him while crossing the street on the way to work. 

This kind of thing happens on the many cross roads of Manhattan, we’ve all seen it. As for Michael, he did what any 6 foot five, two hundred and fifty pound ex-foot ball player with giant hands might do---he punched the car. 

Who’s going to challenge him?  

But, what if something similar happened to Little Tiny Olga with her sensible shoes, cotton candy hair and armful of shopping bags from Gimbel’s….

Extra points if you remember Gimbels.
Allow me to paint a picture: A very busy pre-Christmas street near the shopping hub of the universe, 34th Street in New York City. Crazed people, honking cars, crosswalks blocked, street lights blinking but ignored. In the midst of this chaos, my law-abiding, cautious mama has places to go so, when a taxi turns and attempts to nudge its way through the crowd and happens to nudge her in the process, what’s a middle-aged woman in a conservative cloth coat to do? I’ll tell you what---she stops in her tracks, shifts her shopping bags, turns in slo- mo to glare at the hapless cabbie, makes a fist and punches the hood of the car. And, in a voice so loud that my hair blew back, bellows, “HEY!!!! I’M CROSSING THE STREET!!!!!!!!!!”

"Little Olga did what ?

Time stops. What has happened? 

To a young teenager who is embarrassed by every move her mother makes, the searing burn of pure humiliation is now rising from my collar to my cheeks until I notice that people are patting Tiny Olga on the back, saying things like “You tell him, lady! “ and “Yeah, you showed him!” Hmmmmm. The creeping blush recedes….maybe my mother is – could it be – cool???

Fast forward to a summer subway ride. We are heading to Grand Central to catch a train “to the country” and a visit with suburban relatives. Little Olga’s philosophy was to leave super early for everything because New York is known to throw surprises at anyone with time constraints. This day was no different. The delays came at us strong and we were sweaty, frustrated and late. 

Just as our train pulls into Times Square and Tiny Olga and I are poised to exit, the doors do not open. The train has stopped but nothing is happening. I could sense the outrage rising in my mother’s righteous busom. This was unacceptable! We had risen in darkness, departed at dawn, eaten raisin bread on the B train and yet, across the tracks, the shuttle to Grand Central is leaving without us?!?

Suddenly, my mother dropped her bag and, placing her teeny, weathered hands on either side of the subway doors attempted to, literally, pry them apart. 

Now this was too much. I had survived the taxi punching incident thanks to the approval of the mob but here, people waiting to exit the train stood behind us in stunned silence as this obviously deranged middle-aged woman did battle with a subway door. 

Please, my self-conscious adolescent self begged God, let the earth open and swallow us when, amazingly,the doors started to open--not because the conductor was making them but by the strength of Tiny Olga who now had people helping her….

The doors snapped open and again, my mother the folk hero, was receiving praise from the crowd---“Good job, lady…good job!” Despite the praise, I could not rise above this and really gave her hell once settled on Metro North. “What were you thinking, Mom????” Her simple answer, “I didn’t want to miss the train.”

Very soon after (that day), it made me laugh. And laugh. And, I am still laughing at the memory, at her heroic status among hardened New Yorkers, at my own embarrassment. Then I cry a little because I miss her. And then I laugh some more. 

My favorite super hero.