Gatekeeper of the Photos

15 May

Americans are being held hostage in their own homes! It’s rampant. It’s insidious. The very foundation of life as we know it today

 — the ability to share and be shared is threatened!

And how, you ask? He (occasionally a “she”) who controls photos controls the depth of your friendships, your job security (what profession doesn’t need photos anymore — if only to prove that your arch rival leaves the building at 4:45 PM every day?) — the needs today for all the things a camera can do are unprecedented. Why, with Photoshop you never even have to update your business picture!

No one uses film anymore. Film — If you’re over 40 you know the stuff; you take it out of the camera (or have someone at the shop do it), he “processes” it and presto! You have pictures! Well, forget that ever happened because the Martians have landed!

If you can’t figure that little electronic gizmo out, if you can’t follow the path from the camera to the computer and back out again, you are a Luddite. Google it — you’re an anachronism and, depending on the circles in which you travel, a social pariah! But those of us who fall into that category avoid public humiliation by never admitting that we are digitally impaired.

“Oh, I got the cutest picture of Dog. I’ll send it to you in a few hours.” (After five, when George gets home.)

“Uh, right — I meant to send you the vacation pics.” (But Jennifer has been away on a business trip.)

We suffer in silence … and cling to “The Gatekeeper.”

Every family today must have one. That supreme (in his/her mind) being in whom has been vested the preternatural gift for making pictures. At my house it’s MyHusbandTheEngineer.

For my birthday, MHTE got me a camera. I needed this camera like I needed the fourth TV set he got me for Christmas (in response to my constant complaint that I wish I had a TV I could operate).

“Oh, thank you, sweetheart. Now how is this an improvement on the one I already have?” (Which is pink, which this one is not, which is the first rule for buying me any piece of technology – it must be pink because that makes it less intimidating.)

“You need this for real estate.” His rationalization for spending hours at his favorite hobby — research.

He did get me “the best.” But his definition of “the best” and mine are about 200 apps apart.

First I tackle taking the photo.

“I can’t get the whole dog in the picture,” which is my motivation to learn this camera. “Now, why did you get me this particular camera?” I ask.

“It was the best one for houses.”

“Houses don’t move – I need one as fast as the dog.”

 “Well, you’ll have to read the manual,” he says, evaporating into thin air. That’s my last resort. I hate logical. I consider sneakily buying a pink camera and having them show me how to work it at the store where, I was told, Circuit City once sent someone to buy digital camera film. But then I remember, I don’t need another camera. I just need to make the one I already have work.

Every night at dinner I comb the business section of the newspaper, scanning for articles on photography — with a glass of wine in my hand. I diligently read every story, hoping they’ll open the gate — give me the key to pictures. But all they talk about is how cool the camera is, and for sure they don’t divulge the secret of how to get my pictures from point A to point C.

It shouldn’t be this hard. But then I remember — technology and software are designed by geeks for geeks. Fortunately, I have one of those … who would never withhold his love, but loading my photos is a whole other thing.



So Pleased to Announce

2 May

That my two blogs (click on “March Archives” and scroll down), “An ‘i’ for an ‘i'” and “Revenge of the Blackberry” won a finalist and a semi-finalist award in the “America’s Funniest Humor Showcase” writing contest!

My First Biker Event

2 May

A sea of black (and orange). A pastel Easter egg bobs toward the shore, its arrival predestined, as inevitable as Sunday follows Saturday — which I wish it were because then this would be all over with.

“Did you check on the dress code?” MyHusbandTheEngineer asks.

“For a midafternoon birthday party? It’s Hang Loose Harry and Mellow Martha.”

“It’s his 50th, and he registered at the Harley Davidson store. Connect the dots.”

“I did — I went to the Harley store and bought him a shirt. A black shirt … oh.”

Then it hits me. I don’t mind looking different, but now I feel silly. So I should have changed my color coordinated pink raincoat and Coach handbag. And dressed my husband, too.

“Here – you hold my purse and coat while I write our name tags,” I say to John, who is already on his way to the bar. I’m not deluding myself that everyone’s staring at me because they admire my springy lavendar sweater and mauve Swarovski crystal earrings, but I can only shed so much clothing.

Why didn’t that lady at the Harley store clue me in?! I told her I was going to a birthday party. I mean, we even discussed women’s sizes vs. men’s: “Honey, you get a woman a small when she’s really a plus so as not to offend her, but 4XXXXX would only flatter a Harley guy.” Coincidentally, that was the only size they had. So I go to the bar where I order beer instead of my usual champagne cocktail.

“I remember you!” the bartender (who is also clad in black, but I think that was just a lucky coincidence) hollers out. “You did that poodle rescue event here!” I’m in trouble now.

“No, no — you’re confusing me with someone else. It was pit bull rescue.” I take him aside. “Can this just be our little secret for today? And can I borrow your black vest with the chain?”

John has staked our claim at an empty table where he set my raincoat – might as well warn them ahead. But he knows he’d better hang on to my purse … or chase me down and hang it on me.

I don’t want anything to do with that purse right now; I’m fighting for my social life here. I’m pretty good at idle chatter and feigning interest in guy things, but holding that purse would stack the odds against me.

Those beefy guys do come in handy – they block John’s passage as I dart to the rest room to spike my hair and remove most of my makeup.

“Hey! There’s a guy with a purse looking for you,” a deep voice of indeterminate gender calls into my sanctuary.

My husband greets me with, “Missing something?”

“Now listen, darling,” I say. “A man confident in his masculinity can afford to be seen holding his wife’s handbag; and besides, you’re wearing a blue shirt, which is the next best thing to black. Why, you’re the most virile male here. How many of these guys (or gals, for that matter) would be caught dead carrying a pink Coach purse? That separates the men from the … forget I said that.”

But then I have a talk with myself: “Self, into every life comes midlife. Some act out by getting Harleys. Imagine them wearing pink underwear and get over it.”



The Season of Giving

4 Apr

Over the holidays, my technophobia relented enough that I actually embraced Facebook! One of Facebook’s pluses is that all you share is your soul — not your communicable diseases. You also narrow your options for future employment, make “friends” who are too far away to bring you chicken soup when you’re sick and who don’t want to listen to you nasal whine into cyberspace, but let’s focus on the good part. There was a whole lotta sharin’ goin’ on this holiday season — of the other kind.

I awoke on January 2 to a bleary eyed husband with a bright red nose. I caught sight of it as I grabbed for the Kleenex. I could tell his was not post celebratory, joyfully earned bleariness or a champagne induced red nose, but the kind that Mother Nature, with hurricane force, throws in your face and down your throat.

“How are you?” I asked, getting every other syllable out.


“No you’re not, I’m calling Dr. Wonderful.” I’m not yet the lady in The Three Swans who walked across China with pneumonia, but I can see it coming. And last year, Dr. W. said if we’d come in when we had the first round of this, we wouldn’t be there begging for pills then. I love my doctor. He’s been in the same tiny office for decades, doesn’t need upscale trappings to prove he’s the best doctor insurance can’t buy and brings his black Lab to work every day. I call his office.

“Hi, we’re seniors,” (I feel like I’m 100 today so that qualifies me, and by the time she pulls the file I’ll have scored the appointment and hung up), “and we’ve had this for four days,” (which it will become if I don’t call now) “and we need antibiotics.”

“Well it’s the first day after New Year’s and Doc’s double booked. He can see you in a week,” the receptionist sweetly replies.

“We’ll be dead by then.”

“He’s triple booked.”

“Dear, all he needs to do is look at us and he’ll hurl the prescription through the door. How about if we come in and wait until somebody doesn’t show up for his appointment?”

“It could be hours.”

“That’s OK — we’ll bring the iPad and teach your other patients how to practice ‘safe sharing.’” If everyone had confined himself to Facebook, none of us would be in this pickle.

John caught part of the interchange through his plugged ears, and asked, “What did you do?”

“Come on — we’re going to occupy the waiting room.”

Lucy, Dr. W’s black Lab, has a little lady in a madras headscarf pinned in a corner of the lobby. She’s resisting Lucy’s effort to impart her curative powers to her, which must be why Dr. W. brings her to work every day. Lucy hears the door open, turns to us, tail wagging, the lady slumps to the floor … Lucy has her next patient.

“We’re heeeeere,” I announce to the 20-something who knows she’s no match for me with a bad cold and directs us to take a seat. I chat up the gal next to me.

“Hi, I’m contagious but I’ll breathe away from you,” knowing that the germ count in the lobby is already ten times EPA standards, but let’s use mind over particulate matter. She recoils and explains to me that she had had “it” already and toughed it out without the benefit of drugs for three weeks. I explain to her that I’m a sissy and don’t believe in suffering needlessly.

In pops the good patient, a young fellow who had scheduled his appointment days in advance.

“It’s next Tuesday,” the receptionist tells him with her practiced cheeriness.

“I could swear it was today,” he whimpers. He leaves peaceably — he needed my course in guerilla appointment making.

Dr. W. comes in, trailing an intern, and sees John sitting on the table where I strategically placed him so he could give all our symptoms and I could save my energy. Sure enough, John needs drugs! They begin their retreat and John tells him that I am the real patient (because John is just there to humor me). I breathe for Doc, who calls the intern over; “Feel this! She vibrates!” Which assuages my guilt over having beaten out the good patient for this audience with the miracle worker.

We check out and the tattooed and pierced receptionist (who is hidden in the inner sanctum) “processes” us.

“How do you stay well, working here?” I inquire. (Other than good healthy living.)

“Cod liver oil!” she enthusiastically responds. “I used to look at a patient and get sick, but that hasn’t happened in three years since cod liver oil!” John knows what’s next. And he thought water boarding (my saline solution inhalation technique) was bad.

I’m willing to try anything (on John) and go buy some cod liver oil capsules. He won’t take them, so I do. Two days later I’m better but his left brain is still arguing with my right brain that cod liver oil is just the same as Omega 3 fatty acids, which he already takes. I say the proof is in the pudding — or the jar of little cod liver oil pills — not the generic ones John is clinging to!

Photo credits:


Part III – A Man and His Poodle

29 Mar

Louie Shows His Appreciation

During the drive to Half Moon Bay, I entertained John with stories about other really intelligent men who were confident enough in their masculinity to have a standard poodle (all, coincidentally, black.) There was Steinbeck – although his “Travels with Charlie” has recently come under scrutiny because a researcher determined that there was no way he could have stuck to the itinerary he laid out in that timeframe. Plus, lots of high class hotels remember he stayed there rather than in an RV.

I always wondered about that – the minimal coverage on Charlie. If, as the researcher seems to have established, Steinbeck had indeed stayed in 4-star hotels for most of the trip, where did Charlie stay? I mean, we can hardly get Louie and Bubb into state parks! It bothered me so much that I didn’t even finish the book. But I’m sure Steinbeck did, at least, own a black standard poodle.

And then there was James Thurber. He had twenty-five poodles over his lifetime, many of which were black standards. Thurber didn’t teach his poodles the computer, but they were smart enough to keep up with him, and he was manly enough to be seen in public with them.

Besides the computer, another area of compatibility I discovered between John and Louie is RVing. We arrived at our site, John got busy checking the dials, switches, electrodes, monitors – all the stuff an engineer must have in an RV. He says I need them to support my reading lights, electric blanket and to heat the poodles’ food. But I know he would be bored silly if he weren’t tinkering with something. Oh no! A problem! It seemed that one of the super overkill batteries that he had to install when a golf ball smashed our solar panel, is not putting out its necessary voltage.

John unscrewed part of the steps into the cabin, lifted the flooring up and peered down into the little itty-bitty teensy tiny hole that houses those four bricks of gold. I looked over; Louie was transfixed; John’s derriere was in the air, his head in the floor. “What is this human doing in the poodle play position? And what are all those little squiggly things he’s waving under my nose?”

Then I hear it: “This, Louie, is the positive wire, and that one is the negative wire. When we connect the two batteries in parallel, the acid battery energy capacity is significantly increased. And you know what that means, Louie? That means mommy can fix your dinner.” I must have found a poodle smart enough for my husband.

Part II – Louie Learns the Computer

29 Mar


Louie Gets It!

We left off in the last issue with poor, homeless Louie, the standard poodle, arriving at “Chez Poodle”, our house where anything goes if you’re four-legged. Bubbles was not happy to see him, and John . . well, my husband asked me, “What are you going to do with him?” So much for waltzing in the door to open arms.

I decided on a diversionary tactic. To distract John from coming up with a solution of his own, we would move on to another (ongoing) challenge – teaching me computer skills. After all these years in real estate you’d think I’d have great computer skills, but technology fries my brain. When you have an engineer husband it’s just duplication of efforts to learn where to put files and how to find them again. Lately, though, I’ve felt the need to put dog photos on the Web – not as big a priority to John as my real estate photos. This challenge would definitely take his mind off Louie.

I gave Louie some food, got him settled, and John and I trudged off to the home office. Someone told me once that you don’t have to understand how a computer works to use it. That was a breakthrough for me; I could then sit before the screen without getting hives. As I adjusted my seat, perfected the lighting, checked the room temperature, dialed in soothing music on the XM, Louie came in. He eased his fanny down next to my chair with a synchronous “burrrrrrrrrp” and stared at the computer screen. John began the tutorial.

Louie had a look of concentration, focused on the screen, and was showing no sign of anxiety. His posture reflected curiosity . . . vs. mine, slumped at the desk with my head in my hands. I guess I should look at least as interested as the dog. I have to say, Louie’s fascination with the computer was not lost on John. Well, I still have an edge over the fur ball with my manual dexterity at the keyboard. After about 15 minutes of this Louie left, probably having assimilated everything John had been trying to teach me, and I, having had enough, decided to prepare for our RV trip the next day.

Next installment: A Man and His Poodle – Louie and John Communicate!

Part I – Free Louie!

29 Mar


Orphan Louie












You know how it is when people know you rescue poodles. Dogs just kind of happen to you. Got a call – “I need you to find a home for my poodle, and he’s waiting for you at the Humane Society.”

I had never actually gone to pick up a dog in jail before. I know my limits (and John’s). I knew I would come home with every furry face I established eye contact with. Fortunately for me, “Louie” was in a separate area. 58 lbs. of black fuzz, bouncing off the walls.

A review of Louie’s paperwork indicated that the onset of his “unacceptable behavior” coincided with the total remodel of his owner’s home on the golf course and her husband’s obliviousness to the fact that dogs need to go outside more than once every twelve hours. It’s amazing how animals are held to a higher standard than humans are.

So I sprang him, released on his own recognizance because I represented Poodle Rescue. P.R. asked me to pick him up; they didn’t say what I should do with him. I’d have to figure that out on the ride back.

First glance at Louie in the rear view mirror: I’m sure there’s a foster home somewhere.

Second glance: Could I subject him to more rejection? I mean, from the pound, to my house where he would hear me dialing numerous “volunteers” (AKA conscripted dog sitters) who didn’t have room for him?

Third glance: Louie is cowering in the back, his sweet little beady eyes buried in his paws.

“Louie!” “Louie,” I called. He slowly raised his head, we gazed into each other’s eyes in the rear view mirror, and Louie was home.

Next Installment: Convincing John and Bubbles that Louie (and I) was staying.