Sunday, October 31, 2010

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders. And welcome to another edition of Picture Sunday.

And although this edition of Picture Sunday only has one picture, that picture is winging its way to you from not only an end of weekender, but also an end of Oktoberfester.

Yes, last night was the end of Oktoberfest. And after a very long and hard season, we went out with a bang.

Here's the backstory.

For all of my years in the Sauerkraut Band, up there on the mountain at Oktoberfest, the rest of the band have suffered through "Trumpet Hell," or "The Night of the Seven Trumpets." There's always one night where everyone in the area with a trumpet comes up the mountain. Or old members from the past show up with their trumpets. There are so many trumpets, there's not enough room on the stage for everyone else.

It's most distressing, well, for everyone but trumpet players, but we get through the night.

Well, I had something of an idea this year.

See, I had invited my new-but-not-that-new clarinet friend Julia to come up the mountain this season, and she chose last night. So that made three clarinets for the last night. And....I started to think.

I asked Mr M if he would set aside his "I won't play up the mountain again under any circumstances" rule. He said he would. That made four clarinets!

Then we asked our clarinet friend Lisa if she was free to come up the mountain Saturday. She agreed. Five clarinets!

And in a turn of events that was not only bizarre, but made me laugh maniacally, our fearless leader Ed himself invited another sub player up the mountain the last night.

Six clarinets! To be unleashed on a totally unaware band (and leader)!

"Clarinet Hell," or "The Night of the Six Clarinets!"

For years, we few in the clarinet section had talked about how funny it would be if we could orchestrate our own night of hell. I mean, for seven or so years.

And we did it! And it was my idea!

At first it was a little distressing logistically, deciding where we'd be onstage, and who'd get a mic (there weren't enough), and all that. We moved this way and that, but once the music started, we didn't care, and everyone moved everywhere and played off both music books, and we all had a blast. The night went quickly, and in the end, having six clarinets up there really helped the sound of the band!

The trumpet section (who were a little short that night, oddly enough), the rest of the band, and Ed took it all in stride.

And so an epic legend was made. More clarinets than have ever been on the Oktoberfest stage.

Here we all are.

That's my moderately new clarinet friend Julia, Doc (Ed's invite), Mary, my longtime clarinet comrade, Lisa (there for the night), me (with boobs hanging out of my dirndl), and Mr M.

We did it! A legend is born!

Happy week.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Video Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders! And welcome to, well, not a Picture Sunday, but a Video Sunday.

See, friends, this would normally have gone into my Comfy Chair blog. However, as you may or may not know, we've been having a bit of a problem with the Comfy Chair blog. When YouTube videos are uploaded to it, mysteriously, about a quarter of the right side of the video is missing.

Now, I have two computer mavens in my life, and I guess it's about time I asked either or both of them if this is fixable. But I haven't, so my latest movie will appear here, and we'll worry about that later. (If said mavens are willing to talk.)

And the last thing I want is for a quarter of the right side of this video to be missing, so I'll just upload it here.

See, this past Thursday I took Milo to Granny and Paw's for a run. Milo loves Granny and Paw, and he loves to run in their back yard. And I decided to take the trusty Flip camera along this day to try and get a little footage.

The result is "Not Much of a Dog."

Now, I have to tell you. I discovered the song "Not Much of a Dog" some years ago. It made me get quite teary, and that was when I didn't have a dog. Now that I have a dog, and a dog as great and wonderful as Milo, it makes me weep with emotion.

So if you have a dog, or a pet, and a rescued dog, or rescued pet, hopefully you will understand my outpouring of emotion over this song. (I mean, you can substitute "cat," "parakeet," "ferret," or even "pot-bellied pig" for "dog" in the song and still get the weeping emotion from it.)

And so, without further ado, here is Video Sunday, "Not Much of a Dog," starring Milo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

There You Are!

My mom once uttered a line I swore I'd never myself say.

She'd had several bad happenings all in the span of a couple of weeks, culminating in her falling in the yard and breaking her leg. When she got home from the hospital she said, "I don't know else can happen to me."

That night, our house caught on fire.

It was a small electrical outlet fire, buzzed itself out before the 16 town fire trucks got there, and there was minimal damage, but, well, you know.

I've been having my share of bad luck lately. I sometimes feel like a black cloud is following me around. I'm getting through it, but it's not all roses and butterflies over here in Betland.

In fact, as mentioned in the blog below, my Nervous Breakdown hadn't even made his annual Oktoberfest appearance. I was managing on my two bad knees, trying not to think about the $600 difference in my bank-vs-check register (not in my favor), and I've been limping along, literally and figuratively, fairly well, thanks.

Until last night.

I'd made up my mind to do a little Milo Maintenance this week. The Dear Nephew, Señor Taylor, is happily ensconced at school, so groomings are few and far between. Milo's been getting a tad wooly, and smelling like a dog (gasp!), so I thought this week I'd bathe him, then try my hand at a mini-clipping to keep him tidy and also keep his next Señor Taylor grooming from lasting some two hours and wearing us all out. (Milo included.)

So last night was bath night. Now, here's how I bathe Milo, and if you don't like this, I'm sorry. I read where many people do this, and it sure works for us. I take Milo into the shower with me. Get him nice and wet, lather him up, let the spray rinse him off, throw him out the shower door, then clean my own dirty self up, and wash down the shower stall, all in one fell swoop. It beats doing the seven basic ballet positions over the tub trying to scrub him, then never feeling like he's got all the soap out while I rinse him over and over with water from a cup.

So last night I got the water running and grabbed Milo. By the way, Milo is not overly fond of this bathing method, but at least it's quick, and in short order he was wetted, lathered, and rinsed, and I threw him out the shower door where he could run like crazy and bark at me like, "What are you doing to me?!"

Job one done. Then I washed my own dirty self, job two done. I grabbed a few Clorox bleach wipes and cleaned up the shower, and it was all finished in record time.

"That went really well!" I said to myself as I was turning off the water and drying off in the shower. I then opened the shower door, stepped out...

...and promptly slipped on the bathroom floor.

It was something else, my fine feathereds. It happened very quickly, so much so that it was a shock to the system. Once I had landed in the floor, I realized just how I'd landed.

My bad knee, well, worse knee, hit the bathroom floor. Below the knee, my leg turned to the left and my ankle was against the outside of the tub. My bad-but-not-as-bad knee hit the tub floor, with the below-knee on that leg also twisted left, ankle against the far side of the tub. I was straddling the tub, or more to the point, I was impaled upon the shower door rudder on the tub. It looked a little bit like this.

And it hurt. It hurt, but I was silent. Until I realized I couldn't get up. But! Above me was the towel rack. I reached up for it to pull myself into a standing position - and it promptly dislodged itself from the wall and I fell back down into the same position.

And all of a sudden, there he was. My Nervous Breakdown. The little tornado with red puffed-up cheeks, in his diaper, and I began to scream.

It wasn't a shriek, like I was being stabbed. It was a throaty sort of scream. It went on for about nine minutes. And while it did, the Nervous Breakdown spun around the tiny bathroom, pointing at me as if to say, "Bazinga! I got her naked this time!"

I honestly have no idea how I got up. Something about pressing against the shower door rudder where I was impaled, and realizing that I was alone, so I had to get up somehow. I guess. The screaming went on even after I was up, and it turned into tears, mainly because I was now envisioning spending every trip hence to the grocery in one of those little motorized carts.

Soon enough I realized that I could in fact stand up, and the screaming died down, and my Nervous Breakdown whirled away, grinning. I walked out of the bathroom and looked into the living room, where I saw Milo lying, still wet, on the couch, looking at me like, "Having a little trouble there? Too bad, I had to go in the shower, my work is done for the night."

And so, Nervous Breakdown had, I got dressed and went on with my night. However, I will never again laugh at those "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials, and I refused to say, "I don't know what else can happen to me."

And I went out today and bought a bunch of non-stick crap to senior citizen-proof my bathroom.

Oh, and speaking of today, my knees are relatively OK, but every single fucking other part of my body hurts.

And my Nervous Breakdown has been here and gone. So now I can get on with the business of living.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* AND - tonight I still gave Milo his mini-clip. It's no Taylor job, that's for sure, but he looks passable and is minus enough hair to keep things easy when he gets his real grooming. It sure was a bitch to get up out of the floor, though.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

(Lack of) Fire on the Mountain

Hello, friends.

I posted a Facebook status the other day. It went along the lines of "It's nearing the halfway point of Oktoberfest, and no sign yet of my Nervous Breakdown. Hope he's not planning a sneak attack."

Remember my Nervous Breakdown? He makes an appearance once a year, sometime during Oktoberfest, while I'm working and traveling and playing and living a life and bankrupting myself buying gas and all that.

And he looks like this.

Maybe he's currently off on a birdwatching trip or something.

Anyway, I'm now in what I think is my seventh year with the Sauerkraut Band. For the past three years, I've had long conversations with myself about it. And usually those conversations begin the same. "Will this be my last year with the Sauerkraut Band?"

And I have several buddies who tell me it should be, told me all three years I've wondered. And yet, I can't come to any conclusion myself.

So far this year I've played six gigs up the mountain. One was great, that was the one the Dishy Michelle and the Dear Nephew and his buddies were at. There was one that only became good after I got nice and snockered (yes, I had a driver), and one this past weekend that was really good because there was a table of people who fancied themselves as clarinet groupies and loved everything we did.

The rest have ranged from tiring to annoying to the one this past Friday, which I can only classify as abysmal. Here's the story on that one. Someone anonymously left (and I guess, dealing with the product, it had to be anonymous) an "unattended package" outside the barn. A couple of band members opened it, and it contained three jars of moonshine. Apple pie, pineapple, and pomegranate. Before long the band got into it, the audience got into it, and I swear to God I think I was the only sober person up the mountain. (Not only was I driving myself that night, but I avoid moonshine like the plague. It's like drinking jet fuel.)

Well, for the first two hours of the show, people were over the moon. They were dancing and hooting and they just loved everybody, but by the time things were winding down, people got legless, sullen, loud, and argumentative. And I thank Himself for two things that night. One, I had to hotfoot it down the mountain to virtually meet Stennie for the podcast, and two, Mary was nice enough to take up my clearing up after the gig duties and let me hotfoot it. Thanks, Mary.

When I've had this conversation, this whole "last year" conversation with myself this year, two things keep weighing heavily upon my tired head. One is my age, and one is my knees.

My age is my age and I can't do a damn thing about that, sadly enough. Until last year, I was one of those people you hate to whom age is just a number - I never felt my age, I felt like some young thing with the whole world ahead of her. And though last year was a horrible year for my whole family, and this year isn't much better, I just realized I'm now an old maid who lives a bad lifestyle and though I should be doing something about that, I'm not.

And alas, there's not much I can do about my knees, either. And I guess now is the time to tell you all about that, but I'll keep it short and give you the Reader's Digest version.

I know you've all heard me blog about my thrown-out knee and the trouble it's caused me, and my biggest fear, the one where I favor the bad knee so much that my other knee starts to hurt, has now come to fruition. So I finally got in enough of a state about it to do something and saw an orthopedist, in hopes he'd give me a cortisone shot just to get me through Oktoberfest.

I did that the Monday that Dishy was visiting, and I found out something rather interesting. I was told I had "endstage arthritis" in both knees. I was gob-smacked. I mean, isn't the stage after "endstage" death? I have 50% deterioration in both knees, and knee replacement is a certainty for the future. We know not when, because we just have that one x-ray and don't know how long it's been advancing. So my knees are terminal, but I got my cortisone shot to get me through Oktoberfest.

The shot hurt like a mofo, but afterwards I was in knee heaven. For about 16 hours, after which I was sitting in a Subway with Dishy, shifted my leg while still in a chair, and all hell broke loose. Now it hurts again, bad but not quite as bad and not while I'm trying to sleep, but I sure do wonder how much I paid for that shot that didn't even last a whole day. I'll be finding out soon enough.

The upshot of all this is, well, imagine going up the mountain after driving over an hour with one's knee in the same position, then standing, schunkeling, bouncing, Chicken Dancing, making merry, and walking inclines and declines on gravel, for some four hours. In a completely embarrassing move, I have had to take to sitting during some songs (I like to choose the marches because they're quite long, and people are marching around, so hopefully they don't notice), but then the last 40 or so minutes of the show, I just can't take it and have to sit down whenever I've become too decrepit to stand anymore. And believe me, my blogees, I sit in shame.

And so I drive, drive, drive up the mountain and have this whole "should I stay or should I go" conversation with myself. And on one shoulder sits the old maid with the bad knees, and the fact that we have this huge catalog of music but play the same songs over and over, and the endless repeatings of the show's "schtick" narration, and the horrible food we're fed, and the pay that should probably be more, and not having a designated driver so I can't drink and not care about all of the above.


But on the other shoulder sits one big ol' entity.

I love the Sauerkraut Band.

I do. I love them, and I love the fact that I'm in the Sauerkraut Band. I went to a hundred Oktoberfests as an observer and watched them and thought how cool it must be to actually do that, and I then I amazingly got my chance to be a part of it. It's still quite mind-blowing. (Thanks, Mr M, for getting me in, even though you now think I should leave.)

I've often said the Sauerkraut Band changed my life, and I truly believe that. Before them, if someone would have said I'd be in a situation where I was drawing attention to myself and talking to strangers and interacting with all those people as such an extrovert - well, I'd have said they were batshit crazy.

Being in the Sauerkraut Band is like being in some secret society. Or a gang. We have all our own rituals and secrets, and there is nothing in this world like being with a group of people who have seen you at your best and your absolute worst, and they love you either way. I always feel like someone has my back with that bunch. It's warm and fuzzy. It's, well, gemutlichkeit.

And there's not a thing wrong with playing some music for people and having them leave us a little happier than when they walked in the door.

So that conversation is still going on, and it's still all up in the air. My Nervous Breakdown is still at large, and I hope he finds birdwatching interesting enough that he misses me this year. I guess maybe I'll know when I'm too old and crippled to be able to do it.

In the meantime I'll make merry, and sit in shame.

Betland's Olympic Udate:
* I wish I was still on vacation.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Highly Recommended (A Picture Sunday)

Hello, blogees. And end of weekenders, and again, if you're me, end of vacationers.

Tonight's Picture Sunday tells a story. Last Thursday, my guest arrived. Yes, Michelle the Dishy, longtime poundsqueeze friend and Hucklebug friend, came to visit the Poderosa.

Now, I've known, well, in the virtual world, known Dishy some 15 or so years, and though we'd never met face to face, I feel like she knows as much or more about me as any "real life" friend, but still I was a little nervous about her arrival. You know, would my corner of the world be good enough for her?

Turns out it took mere minutes, there walking out of the airport, to realize this was going to be a great visit. I think it happened when I realized we were both "cold house" people. Funny how you discuss the strangest things right off the bat.

And if I'm allowed to speak for Michelle, we had a blast. Well, I know I did. Michelle was the perfect houseguest, ready to go along with whatever the plans were for that day, we laughed, we talked, we met the family, we spent time at Mr M's, Poderosa East, and, well, of course, Dishy met Milo.

Milo totally loved Michelle. I became invisible while she was here. Well, except for her very last morning here, Tuesday, when she came to me complaining that Milo wasn't paying attention to her. My theory? I think he thought that Michelle had moved in, was the "new girl who lives in that back room," and now he was used to her. Until then, he'd never known a houseguest to stay more than one night. She was just another person here, like me.

And I'm thinking my theory was proved when we got back home after taking Dishy back to the airport to fly home, and he came in the house and immediately started tearing around looking for her. Nose to the ground through every room, then confusion. I'm scared to death he thinks I killed Michelle, or made her move out right after she moved in.

Anyway, we both have a hundred stories to tell that would probably only be interesting to the two of us. But it was the best vacation I've had in years. And in fact, Michelle came up with the greatest idea. A poundsqueeze/Hucklebug exchange program of sorts, where we all just go visit each other across the country. I think it could work!

But I know you're asking, "Where are the damn pictures?" Well, let's get to some!

Of course the timing for the visit here was because I've invited Dishy to Oktoberfest at Mountain Lake a hundred times, and she's always wanted to come up. So Friday and Saturday night were devoted to that. Friday was fantastic, because Taytie the Dear Nephew and two of his buddies came up (that was another requirement - she must meet Taytie, who she's been hearing about since was about 8), and all of us had a fine time. Saturday was a little dismal, the food was horrible, but - Mr M was in tow, and that meant a designated driver, so the alcohol flowed and that made things easier.

From the first night, Dishy meets Jude the Corruptor!

Did he corrupt her? I'm afraid only Michelle knows the answer to that!

And here's one of some of the SKB welcoming Dishy up the mountain on the second night. Dammit, smile just once, Mr M!

Of course, Michelle met Sherman and the gang. Boy, the fun we had. Tag, chinese checkers, she and Good Luck Baby Lily colored together, Bunsen did a few scientific experiments for her.

Here's Dishy and Shermie.

And then the whole gang piled in to get in the shot.

Oh, and way late into Tuesday morning, after we'd spent our Monday together lazing around watching bad TV, then indulged in some pizza, beer, and Eddie Izzard videos, well, a few dead soldiers.

The soldier on his side was my fault. I couldn't finish the last one, and had to pour half of him out. So he didn't get to stand upright.

OK, the last picture...

Not sure how to explain this, except to say that Dishy cracked me up by asking if I hold crucifixions in my back yard. I cracked up because I've been waiting for some observant soul to ask that. See, I used to have a clothesline in my back yard, one I never used, and Mowing Boy One asked if he could cut the wires on it because he kept getting tangled up in it. Of course I said "cut away," and so now I have two crosses in my back yard for no apparent reason.

Dishy really wanted to make this picture before she left.

It all worked out fine. We took her down before any harm came to her.

Anyway, it was a great visit, I had a blast, and now it's time to go back to the Real World.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I don't know what's going on, but Sherman and Mr M seem to have some secret code language going on that they love to flaunt in front of me. I'm tired of passing along messages to each of them I don't understand.