Tuesday, November 27, 2007

21 really is a magic number in Vegas

Our younger son just turned 21.
And I lived to tell about it.
You see, the birthday party was in Las Vegas. He and his brother — my older son who lives in Denver — cooked it up over the summer. A bunch of their friends were going.
"It will be fun, Mom. You and Dad should come," they said.
"I don’t think so. We’re old. We can’t hang with you guys," I told them.
I’m not quite sure how the rest of the conversation went, but the next thing I knew I was looking at the Las Vegas strip out of the airplane window as we landed.
It was 10:45 p.m., a mere hour and 15 minutes until my baby was an adult.
Where was my baby?
He had taken an earlier flight.
I called his cell phone.
"We’re at the Mirage. Come on down," he said.
I wonder where the Mirage is, I thought, as I dragged my bulging suitcase through the airport. We were only going to be there three days but I had heard the horror stories about how far you had to walk to get anywhere so just to be safe, I had packed virtually every pair of shoes I own.
We checked into our room at the MGM, which, of course, was at the opposite end of the strip from the Mirage and set off to find the party.
The phone rang. This time it was my older son.
"Where are you guys?" he asked. "Get a cab. It’s pretty far away."
I hung up.
"Mike said we should get a cab …"
"We’re not getting a cab. We can walk," my husband said. "We’ve been sitting on that plane for hours."
A little while later, the phone rang again.
"Where are you guys? Did you get a cab? I told you to get a cab," my older son said.
"Mike said we should get a cab," I told my husband again.
"We don’t need a cab. It’s right there," he said, pointing at the Mirage sign.
Here’s a little tip if you’ve never been to Las Vegas: Nothing is "right there." It’s an optical illusion. It’s a two-dimensional place. There is no depth of field. Your perception is always off. Near-far, day-night, rich-broke … you can’t tell anything apart.
Except maybe sober and drunk for when we finally got to the party, it was clear which one of those everyone was — especially the birthday boy.
He disappeared for a while and I found him sitting on a railing outside the casino. He told me he was sick and wanted to go lie down, so I got him a cab and told the driver to take him back to his hotel.
The next morning, we met the gang for breakfast — burgers and beer (add breakfast and dinner to that list of things you can’t tell apart in Vegas).
This was The Day, The Birthday.
We rode the roller coaster that zips and zooms around the outside of New York, New York. We went from bar to bar and casino to casino and, in between, we drank fruity drinks out of yard-long cups.
Every once in a while, the birthday boy would say, "I can’t believe you just stuck me in a cab last night. I couldn’t even walk."
I wanted to hop in that cab with him, really I did.
But I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure who I was putting in that cab — my baby or my all-grown-up son.
What a relief it was to find out they are one and the same.

Monday, November 5, 2007

How much is that mousie in the window?

Published Nov. 5, 2007
There are dog people and there are cat people.
And there are people who want both but have husbands.
My husband didn’t always hate pets. In fact, at one point, we had two cats and two dogs all living in the house at the same time.
But, the cats peed in his shoes and one of the dogs (the bad one) ate doors and woodwork and took off like a shot whenever he spotted an open door.
It was around that time my husband decided an animal-less house is a happy house.
After those animals were gone, we compromised. A cat, OK, but no more dogs.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t look.
The classified ad said in bold type: Puppies for sale.
“Shih-Tzus, Yorkies, Dachshunds, Poms, Malti-Poos, Puggles, Yorkie Chons, Lhasa-Poos, Cavaliers, Yorkie mixes, Yorki-Chis, Chihuahua mixes and more.”
And then it said they would be for sale for two days at a nearby motel.
Little tiny designer dogs. I had to go check them out.
As I pulled into the motel parking lot, I was a little afraid I would run into a collection of puppy-mill dogs, raised by one mad breeder, mixing and matching with no regard for the animals.
But that wasn’t the case at all.
What I found were four breeders — representing scores of others who have banded together to form what amounts to a traveling pet store — and about two dozen cages of cute little puppies.
I walked around looking at the fuzzy little creatures.
There were Yorkie Poos (a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle) for $199, Malti Poos (Maltese and poodle) for $299, Pom Poos (Pomeranian and poodle) for $199, and Shih-Tzu Poos (shih-tzu and poodle) for $350.
There were Yorki-Chis (Yorkshire terrier and Chihuahua) for $325, toy fox terriers for $225 and a Peke-a-Pom (Pekinese and Pomeranian) for $275.
“The poodle mixes and the Bichon mixes are the most popular,” said Steve Litener, a breeder of Puggles (a cross between a pug and a beagle) from Vienna, Ohio.
“Poodles don’t shed, so when you mix a dog that sheds, like a Lhasa-Apso, with a poodle, you get a dog that doesn’t shed … most of the time,” Litener said.
He brought four of his puppies this weekend. By late Sunday, there was only one left. It was $275.
This traveling pet store was Litener’s brainchild. He said he got the idea three years ago after he rented a table at a craft fair and sold all the puppies he brought.
So, he and Marti Drozdek, a Yorkie breeder from Youngstown, hatched the idea of the traveling puppy store.
Every couple weeks, the breeders take turns setting up shop in motels near highways in Northeast Ohio. They take about 40 puppies from assorted breeders, splitting the cost of the motel and the classified ads.
“There are really only about 45 good breeders we deal with,” Drozdek said. “We check them all out.”
“We turn some of them down if we don’t like the way they raise their dogs or we already have too many of one particular breed,” Litener said.
They usually sell between eight and 15. This weekend in our area, they sold 30.
They check out prospective buyers, too.
“We ask how many kids they have at home and what other kinds of pets are in the house,” Mark Crane, a breeder of Australian shepherds from Mentor, said.
Hmm. I knew my 20-year-old son would be OK but I wasn’t sure about my spoiled 15-pound Siamese cat.
Especially since the dog I would have bought — the Yorkie-Chihuahua in the photo — looks exactly like an overgrown mouse.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Finding space for treasurers ... priceless

Published Oct. 29, 2007

"I really wish you'd get rid of that doll. It's creepy," my son said as he came in the house.
I didn't see him as he walked through the garage to get into the house but I had a pretty good mental picture.
He stepped between the tables laden with "getting ready for a garage sale" stuff.
As he turned to wedge himself around an old TV whose back end sticks a foot into the aisle, he saw it.
The doll.
The life-size doll that that my parents gave me for my fifth birthday. It had been in their attic until my mother came across it a few years ago.
She bought the doll a new outfit, including made-for-human-children shoes, fixed its hair and presented it (back) to me.
"Look what I found," she said proudly as she handed it to me.
I took the huge plastic little girl from her.
Now, the first time my mother gave me this heartfelt present, I’m sure I must have known what to do with her.
But now, I hadn’t a clue what to do with a doll the size of a small child.
So I thanked my mom and brought the doll home.
I walked in the door and set her in a corner.
“That thing looks like Chucky,” my husband said. “It’s going to come alive when we are all sleeping and kill us.”
I looked over at her. She was a little creepy. I took her out of the kitchen – and away from the knife drawer – and put her in the living room until I could figure out what I was going to do with her.
Nothing says "something you can't keep and something you can't get rid of" like a 3-foot doll you got on your fifth birthday from your parents.
My husband, the Chucky chicken, put her in the attic and we forgot about her.
Until we moved.
Now the doll is perched in a corner of our garage, standing guard over all the other stuff we pulled out of the attic in the old house and didn’t know what to do with when got here.
All the sentimental stuff we've been holding onto for decades.
The garage is full and winter is coming. We have to get it cleaned out so we can put the cars in there. Cars? In a garage? Imagine that.
We've separated the attic junk into “stuff for a garage sale” – things we don’t expect to get more than a $1 for -- and “stuff to be sold on eBay” – stuff we hope to get more than $1 for.
But then there are still a lot of things that don’t fit in either of those piles, things such as the big doll and the mobile that hung over my babies’ cribs.
And the revolving bookcase that used to belong to my mother-in-law, the epitome of stuff you have absolutely no use – or room -- for but can’t bring yourself to throw away.
And then it hit me. I had an idea.
We should borrow my dad’s pickup, pile all the stuff in there and take it to one of those U-store places – those rental units that serve as garage annexes – and unload it.
Then we lock it up and give the man our address so he can send us a monthly bill.
The key? Oh, we’ll give that to our sons.
In our will.