The Princess and the Pelican

In November, the Princess learned that unless she wanted to be losing them, she’d best use her “floating holidays” by the second week of December or she would be kissing those days “good-bye”.

So, like the respectful royalty that she is, she put in for the time off and we got our buddy, Jimmy John (alias JJ), involved with our plans for silliness and merrymaking, and decided that a trip down to Monterey to do some bike riding along the coast would be a nice way to spend her time off.

Being the pizza and pastry lover that I am, though, I can’t drive down to Monterey, without a stopover in Capitola for a thin-crusted slice of pizza from a joint named, “Pizza My Heart” or a pastry from “Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria”.

So, the three of us agreed, before hitting Monterey’s coastline for bike riding, that a detour to this quaint beach town – known more for its steep cliffs and colorful houses and hotels, than its pizza joints and bakeries – was definitely on the agenda for the day.

The Princess and I had never been down to Capitola during the Christmas season and were pleasantly surprised to find “free parking” and Christmas music being piped-in throughout the village’s popular downtown.

Unlike other times of the year, the streets were pretty empty of tourists, and with the fog and overcast sky, it seemed more like a scene straight out of the Dicken’s era, if it weren’t for Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” playing in the background.

With nearby parking to the pizza joint and no one in the usual cue in front of the place, we quickly placed our orders and got served lickety-split.

Because this restaurant has no seating for its customers, and also because we enjoy eating with “an ocean view”, we headed down to the nearby beach to sit on a bench and watch the local surfers ride the unusually large waves of the season and enjoy our prized slice of pizza.

The powerful waves and surf had created a lot of beach debris, so no one, besides the multitude of pelicans and other shorebirds, was on the beach.

We decided that sitting on the boardwalk’s benches and using the cement beach wall, that separated the walk from the beach, as our “outdoor table”, would be the best plan of action for enjoying our pizza; and started to do just that, when out of nowhere, in one fell swoop, a pelican snatched the Princess’s slice of pizza out of her hand and gulped it down without so much as a “How do you do?”

The Princess, caught off guard and in total shock, stared at me in child-like innocence and whined, “OMG! That pelican just ate my slice of pizza. Did you see him? I can’t believe it, but that flippin’ bird just grabbed my slice of pizza outta my hand and ate the whole damn slice!


(And she expected this bird to share her pizza with her and leave her a piece?)


In the meantime, she began to hungrily eye-ball my slice of pizza, looking for sympathy from me and JJ.

And, of course, being the sympathetic partner that I am, I let her know that she was shit outta luck when it came to sharing MY pizza and that if she wanted pizza for lunch, that she’d best head-on back to the pizza joint to buy another slice.

JJ just kept laughing, as he kicked back on the bench and savored his pizza, and told her that he saw the bird zero-in on her, but by the time he went to warn her, it nosedived directly at her and it was too late to say anything.


Photo credit: Pizza My Heart

Totally disgusted with all of us – Me, JJ and her new friend, Petey the Pelican – she traipsed back to “Pizza My Heart” for another piece of pizza, walked into the restaurant and announced to the clerk, “I just got mugged by one of your beach pelicans and I need another slice of pepperoni pizza.”

“Well,” the young man responded, “You’re in luck this afternoon, ‘cuz we have special insurance on pelican muggings and your pizza is on US today!”

Then he graciously proceeded to tell her how the shorebirds were unusually aggressive this time of year because there weren’t a lot of people feeding them and sent her on her merry way with another hot slice of peperoni pizza safely ensconced in a pelican proof pizza box.

Be careful out there, People.

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again, when predators, of all shapes and sizes, come out of nowhere and swoop-in and take our valuables.

Have a Merry Christmas and I’ll catch ya next adventure, looking at life from my shoes.



The Silent Rage of Elephants

With eyes misting and a heart totally overwhelmed with sadness and inefficacy, I watched Amy Schatz’s HBO documentary “An Apology to Elephants”, narrated by Lily Tomlin.

By the end of the film, the mist turned to full-blown tears, and I began to quietly sob, uncontrollably.

Years ago, I learned that these beautiful, intelligent pachyderms were highly social creatures, which valued community and experienced grief in profound ways; so the documentary’s portrayal of them as the largest mammals on land, with possibly the largest hearts on earth, really didn’t come as any surprise to me.

How I instinctively knew, as a child, that something wasn’t quite right when I saw circus elephants performing, I’ll never know; but I knew then what they’ve documented now – elephants don’t belong in captivity and shouldn’t be “paraded down main street” for all to observe; and then displayed as ballet-performing Dumbo’s, exhibiting “tricks” learned via negative (more often than not, abusive) reinforcement.

As I watched the documentary’s presentation of these mistreated, caged, chained creatures, rhythmically swaying back and forth; I couldn’t help but remember two scenes from my past – one involving an older, learning disabled cousin, who was institutionalized for her learning disabilities; and another scene involving an older friend of mine, who was placed in elder care when she broke her hip and could no longer tend to her basic needs.

Both incidences traumatized me.

Both scenes haunt me to this day.

And all three scenes – the elephant, my cousin and my older friend – permeate my very being to its core.

In the 50’s and 60’s, society didn’t really understand people and their learning differences. They just knew that if you couldn’t learn the way most kids learned, that you needed to be schlepped to some special institution with other kids that had similar problems.

God forbid, you mainstreamed these “special kids” with “normal kids” back then – wasn’t an acceptable form of treatment for retarded people in the 50’s and 60’s. It was better to place them in environmentally cold institutions – void of consistent human interaction and stimulation, and let them “rock themselves back and forth” for their enjoyment and education.

After all, as long as they were fed, clothed and showered on a semi-regular basis, and you kept them hid from society, the institution met their legal requirements; they (begrudgingly) satisfied most parents and guardians who placed them in their care, and society didn’t have to face the dilemma of what to do with such oddities.

As a child, I was treated to a rare outing to see my learning challenged cousin; and as the older cousins and adults were allowed visitation privileges with her; I, along with another younger cousin, was relegated to watching her rhythmically rock back and forth and wave to us from an upstairs front window; while we innocently waved back to her from the front lawn below.

The sadness and powerlessness that I felt then, I felt, once again; when discovering how my older friend was hosed down, in the shower stall, at the elder care facility years ago.

Only this time, I was an adult….a young adult, but an adult with a voice, so I was able to voice my concern and displeasure with my friend’s treatment to the appropriate authorities.

I was never able to intervene on my cousin’s behalf before she died, and for that I am so sorry – so very, very sorry.

But I never forgot her and never forgot the quiet rage that I felt as she was paraded in front of that spotted, dirty window and blankly stared at us; while she slowly and dutifully waved her hand back and forth.

I don’t know why I became a Special Ed. Teacher.

I haven’t a clue.

I would like to think that somehow my cousin influenced me from above and that my years advocating and fighting for learning challenged kids somehow had something to do with Karen.

But I honestly can’t say.

I truly don’t know.

Would be nice to think that I dedicated my teaching career to her memory.

Would certainly make for a heartfelt story.

But that’s not the truth.

The truth is – I don’t know.

What I do know, is that, like Lily Tomlin, Jane Alexander, Amy Schatz; and a host of other dedicated, caring individuals that love elephants; I can’t idly sit here and not speak out against something so wrong and vile, that it makes my stomach churn and heart weep.

As a society, we cannot continue to patronize businesses and shows that allow for the ongoing abuse and inappropriate exhibition of such unique, important creatures, before we hasten their extinction and do irreparable harm to a species that is so important to our global ecology and environment.

They don’t have a voice or a choice, when killed for their husks or captured for our entertainment pleasure, but you and I do. The least that we can do (the very least) is to not patronize businesses that continue to benefit from the exploitation of these beautiful, loving creatures.

Or live with the fact that we assisted in their early demise…

That’s just my opinion, looking at life from my shoes.


Lucie’s Day from Hell!

The Princess knew when she saw me crawl outta bed this morning, with bags under my eyes and hair looking like one of Methuselah’s daughters, that I needed to head straight back to bed, not pass go and definitely not collect my two hundred dollars.


Well, being the little over-achiever that I am and not wanting to waste the day lollygagging, I got my walking clothes on, took a hearty walk and came home to start my day.


Decided that my writing skills definitely needed some tweaking and that maybe a trip to the library to pick up a couple of books that author Dani Shapiro recommended would be the way to go.

Got my water bottle, checked my wallet for my library card, put my books to return in my book bag; and out the door I headed with the feeling that I was gonna do something good today.

I’m driving and singing Christmas songs with the radio and I arrive at the library, take a swig of my water (God forbid I get parched hunting for books at the library), grab my book bag and go to pick up my purse and lo and behold, there’s no purse.


Drove all the way to the library and don’t have a stitch of i.d. on me.


So back home I drive and the storm that was supposed to hit us at 1 p.m. has arrived 2 hours early and is now wind-whipping the hell outta my Petey the Penguin Christmas decoration and other ornaments that I just put up 2 days before.

No big deal. I have all kinds of time to put them up, again.

I’m retired, don’t cha know?

In the house I go and think, OK, let’s put up the Christmas crèche. The storm will pass and you can pick up the books later.

Good idea.


I’m carefully taking out my very old (very dear) crèche pieces and I noticed that one of my little donkey’s ears has broken off.

No big deal.

I found the piece. I can glue it. I just bought a brand new bottle of glue, so I’m good to go.


Can’t get the glue outta the nozzle.

No big deal.

I take the nozzle off and get a little glue with a tooth pick.


Little Eeyore’s surgery was a success and we’re good to go.


Well, have I mentioned how my cat, Boo, loves to jump up on our kitchen counters?


Nasty habit that we’ve been unsuccessful in breaking with her.

So, while I’m busily setting up the crèche, Boo is on the counter searching for food and unbeknownst to me, tips over the uncapped glue bottle that slowly empties into my kitchen drawer that I left opened when I got out the tooth picks.

Have I mentioned that I have a nasty habit of leaving drawers and kitchen cupboard doors opened?


The Princess has tried all kinds of reinforcement strategies to break me of this habit.

Doesn’t work.

She’s threatening to use Boo’s squirt gun on me  soon, if I don’t straighten up and fly right.


Little did I know today that I’d be using Elmer’s All Purpose Glue for everything from Eeyore’s ear to all the little odds and ends in our junk drawer.

No big deal.

As a retired person, I’ve got all kinds of “extra time” to clean up messes like this.


The mess gets cleaned-up, the storm dies down, my crèche is successfully laid out and I decide to tackle a trip to the library, again.

And this time, I remember everything – water bottle, book bag AND purse!

I’m nobody’s fool.

No siree, Bob!

So, I find the 3 books that I want on the library’s catalog system, but none of them are at my home library. One of the books has 76 copies of it in our library system, but not one of them is in my home library.

No big deal.

I’ll get an e-copy of it.


I’m a county library person, don’t ‘cha know, and the county hasn’t purchased the e-versions of these books.

No sweat.

I don’t wanna improve my writing skills anyways.

Maybe Donald Hall’s, “Christmas at Eagle Creek” will be a better read for me during this season.


The library has Hall’s, 76 page, “Christmas at Eagle Creek”.

I’m good to go, People.

Got my Christmas music softly playing, my hot cocoa next to me and I’m settling in for the evening to tackle my 76 pages of labored reading when the Princess walks in the door and says, “I hope to hell you’ve had a better day than me! I’ve been walking around all day at work with my fly unzipped!”

Is it a wonder why our friends call us “Lucie and Ethel”?

Have a good one, People, and I’ll catch ya next adventure, looking at life from my shoes.