My Dear Friend, the Dirty

The bliss in that first taste soothes my soul.

It’s six ounces of Ketel One vodka with a dribble of brine. Not the nasty liquid that comes out of an olive jar, but twice filtered brine from premium olives. This subtle saltiness takes the bite of the vodka down a notch to pleasurable, an inviting clean crispness that sterilizes my insides and satisfies the palette.

This drink and the art in making it is what symbolize the end of an arduous day, or not so arduous, a ritual nonetheless.

It’s a beautiful thing, the vodka martini. Even the word vodka sounds terribly exotic, so undeniably Russian. I’m wearing a sable hat, standing amid the tundra, my breath streaming before me in smoky condensation as I set my implements about—the cocktail shaker, ice, olives, pick, the 1.75-liter bottle that takes the support of my two hands to pour it.

I was introduced to the dirty when a high school girlfriend mixed one up for me during a girls’ weekend. The memory of its taste and influence to seduce my mind into peaceful waters remained dormant, however, until I hit a stretch of unbearable time, some four years later, when I had been writing long and hard without any validation or ounce of fruition.

I’d bleed all day long over the page, feel isolated having abandoned my corporate career, determined to make something of myself writing. What I found in my dear friend, the dirty, was a form of self-medication—a crutch, a reward—the delightful anesthesia that numbed the anxiety of feeling like a failure, the taking of a wrong turn.

Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life. ~ George Bernard Shaw

The thing, too, that’s commendable about drinking the dirty is it gets you to where you’re going, fast. And instead of looking like a thirsty drunk, you can do the deed looking poised like Holly Golightly, long stem glass high in hand, three beautiful olives appearing larger than life through the condensation between the rim and where you’ve already sipped away.

The art, the sophistication, the ritual—its downright writerness.

I am a seasoned, one per night, quite functional vodka martini drinker. To some that may not sound bad, but I know what my physician would say and I’m staying clear of her exam room.

The margin, however, between quite functional and fully functional is a subject to be questioned. Especially since I’ve transitioned to drinking the dirty straight, aka “sans the dirt.”

Certainly, the “advantage” here is to be numbed from pain, some sort of intolerance for various fragments of life, the daily grind. The detriment, in the slightest incremental stages that’s widening the margin, is found in a loose tongue and the voracious appetite that follows in the martini’s wake; the inability to read before bed, remember little things in the morning.

The detriment, the slippery slope, is outweighing the advantage.

The latter is evidenced in my ever-expanding girth and my two arms, which now resemble loaves of bread. For the martini, the escape it brings, frees me to consume a serving fit for Pat’s defensive tackle Alan Branch. Sugar and salt begets more sugar and salt.

And chicken parm tastes best when complemented by what?

A robust red wine—two glasses worth.

But it’s stops there, right?

Nope.

With an overstuffed belly, a shot of Remy Martin in a handsome snifter comes afterward. I’ve had a love affair with food all my life, well-managed through biking my butt off, but throw in this consumption at my age, it’s gonna lead to the end of me.

Obese essayist dies of ever-consuming consumption: she drank and ate herself to death, despite what she’s thinks, not so artfully.

Shakti Gawain, a new age author, whose methods of creative visualization I practiced like a junky when I first began writing, says of validation, “When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.”

Sorry Shakti, I just can’t buy that.

I’m wired differently, tethered to the physical. I do not trust my intuition; I don’t even think I have any. I need validation to keep on.

When validation continued not to surface, I began taking in cute and furry animals until a person of well-intention adopted them. The vodka soothed my nerves, caring for the animals gave meaning to my life. I’d be hard-pressed to count the number of lagomorphs and tiny whiskered fur balls that have moved through our home.

Validation, alas, is crucial to my existence.

But, wait!

There’s a change blowing in the proverbial wind. Yes, siree! I no longer a need to anesthetize myself to endure the operation of life. I’m quitting the vodka—although I’m on the third bottle beyond the one that was to be my last.

I’m gearing up, you see.

Why, might you ask, am I “suddenly” willing to give up my dearest friend, the martini? The beautiful thing that took me away from reality; facing the endless number of untethered days ahead of me?

Because my essays are starting to get picked up. There’s the validation, the essence of what I’ve been striving for. No more crutch needed.

And you know what?

Getting published, I find, tastes as clean and pleasing to the palette as the vodka.

And, by God, it’s healthier!

It is the dawning of my intended existence.

Right now in fact I’m crafting a new essay on the writing life with Suzanne, my coach, an accomplished individual with street cred who validated my existence long before I was born and frightfully knows me better than myself.

We have a lot of things in common she and I. Except outside of writing, she’s not obsessed with the martini—she’s obsessed with yoga.

Yoga sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Elephant Journal published My Dear Friend, the Dirty in December 2014.

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.

 

Advertisements

Even Rabbits Have a Christmas Wish List

Image

Even Rabbits Have a Christmas Wish List

A great holiday story! Rudy here, posing with Santa, is a former foster bun of mine that was rescued from a horrible situation by Sue W., a great lover of all animals. Sue surrendered him to House Rabbit Network thinking she could live without him. End of the story? She couldn’t live without him and adopted him today!

Hopscotch: Small Bun, Big Personality

Our newest foster, Hopscotch insists on speaking for herself and I wouldn’t dream of preventing her from doing so. Here’s her pitch…

“I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment.”

I’m an adorable lion head house rabbit, a very special breed that came into being in Belgium. This means I speak English with a Dutch accent.

Far from Belgium and anything Dutch, I ended up for sale as an 8-week old baby and was bought by a young boy who feared for my life at a New England fair. He could not keep me.

Since then, more than a year later, I have been moved around a lot and grown wary about being picked up and even touched, so I would do best in an experienced home. Experienced means you are seasoned in caring for a rabbit like me, have patience, and don’t expect me jump on your lap and shower you with kisses. At least not right away. Don’t get me wrong I want to trust you–I just need time. I’ve been with my new foster mom and dad for nearly three weeks now and already taking treats from their fingers—bits of banana and their slow movements have enticed me to do so. Banana also happens to be my  favorite thing next to Stella Artois, Guylian’s Chocolate Seashells, and Ridley’s “The Liz,” a road bike. (My foster mom is budding in here saying never give any type of beer or chocolate to a ‘bunny.’ She also says she’s never seen a ‘bunny’ ride a bike no matter how fantastically engineered it is).

Most rabbits, even Belgian ones like me use a litter box and I’m quite tidy—I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment. I am “a petite” at just 3½ pounds, but I’m a spry girl and prefer being kept in a pen so I can run its perimeter as fast as my little feet will carry me and do binkies. What’s a binky, you ask? In the language of a lagomorph, it’s when rabbits become so overwhelmed in glee, we jump into the air and twist our head and body in opposing directions—to a first time observer, it looks like we’re having some kind of convulsion. In reality, it’s actually a conniption, a form of hysterical frenzy.

Talking about binkies, do you know that cats can bink too? My foster mom sometimes straightens out my pen so I have access to most of the first floor. The only bit of mischief I get into is sneaking up on and startling the cat that often shares my pen—she binks straight up into the air!

After a great while of exploring the place, I begin to feel tired and climb up on my cardboard box tunnel. Like the bun diva that I am, I survey the room feeling secure and confident until I grow so sleepy that my eyes close and I fall asleep sitting up. How I love to have room to exercise, feel safe and be cared for. And, I find, I have developed a certain affinity for cats.

Won’t you consider adopting me as one of your companions—developing a bond with me, have me trust you? I’m so much fun to have around, I just need a permanent loving home in which to blossom. 

Please contact House Rabbit Network to inquire about adopting me, the little caramel-colored rabbit with a Dutch accent and a lion’s mane.

Consider fostering too!

Hopscotch brings out the highlights in my hair nicely.

Lisa Mae DeMasi lives in Natick, Massachusetts with her boyfriend Dennis and a fluctuating number of animal companions–some live with them full time, some are fostered, some board. This animal husbandry is a compulsion, saving just one more neglected cute and furry creature warms her heart. Dennis loves them too; the landlord is exceedingly tolerant. Her mother thinks she’s nuts. Lisa is also a blogger and avid writer, her work has been published in Shark Reef Literary Magazine, HuffPost and Elephant Journal. She considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and possesses over 25 years working in administrative support roles in small Boston consultancies. She also holds a Master certificate in Reiki and practice this form of holistic healing on the animals in which she cares for.

 

Snoopy Come Home

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The floodwaters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.” −Charlie Brown to Snoopy

He’d been dumped at a dentist’s office sometime during the night. It’s hard to believe, he’s terribly irresistible this darling little bunny, a Holland Lop-Eared. He’s mostly white, has dark brown ears and spots running down his back. He came to me as Mickey but my brother soon renamed him to Snoopy. Very fitting for the “bun,” he even presents me with his food bowl between his teeth, a paw-printed metallic dog dish.

Snoopy. The sweet little guy that greets me in his cage every morning for days now seeking a handful of pellets and hay; set him free from confinement to the expanse of the non-rabbit-proof living room and random passing cat. How adventurous he is.

Snoopy. The bun who in the evening jumps into our laps, displaces a cat or two or three, nuzzles our faces with his whiskers, unearths a kernel of popcorn from in between the cushions. How playful he is.

Snoopy. I am his “foster mom”—I foster buns until they’re adopted, a rewarding task when it comes to a happy newfound bond involving children or adults like me who haven’t outgrown caring for small and furry creatures. I am not paid to foster; the sweetness of caring for them pays me in bushels. How sweet he is.

Snoopy. I grow to loathe the day he’ll leave me, get adopted into a forever loving home. It’s okay, I tell myself, this is what it’s all about. This is the process, it makes room for one more to come into my life, be cared for. How tender he makes my heart.

Snoopy, the puppy dog rabbit. Precious thing. Until my work schedule changes and his late afternoon salad of organic kale, dandelion greens, Swiss chard and romaine is delayed two hours and he begins body slamming me out of his pen. At first I think, okay, he’s upset, his routine has changed. I send him Reiki energy, surround his body in light, think he’ll adapt, it is but a mere adjustment. How quirky he is.

Snoopy, you’re a sweet thing, I think as I reach into his pen the following afternoon to give him a scratch on the ear and set his bowl of salad down. Never bite the hand that feeds you. This is my next thought because Snoop-Dog is upset, taken a chunk out of my knuckle, his salad is late again—it’s got my blood in it. How surprising his behavior is.

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I think a day later as I shield myself from his snapping incisors with the gate of his pen. I’d rather drown in the saliva from your kisses than be bit and bruised and have to give you back to the rabbit-whisperer for aggressive buns in which you came to me post rescuing from the dental office. How it breaks my heart.

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, back to rabbit rehab for you. I always wanted to be here to care for you, recede the floodwaters, end your famine, shine the sun on you but I am petrified. Petrified of you, an adorable Holland Lop that bites into my flesh as if I’ve wronged you. Really wronged you. Oh, my dear lagomorph, what’s got into you? 

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I hope Terry the rabbit-whisperer can bring you around. She tells me she is going to change your routine every day, not one hour will mimic the one before. Topsy-turvy, Snoops, your whole world is going to be turned upside-down. This is intended to tame you into adapting to change so someday you can be adopted and not bite the hand that feeds you. How saddened am I to let you go this way. 

Snoop-Dog, oh, Snoop-Dog, I bet in Northern Central Mass. you are not getting organic greens, so many pats on the head, the freedom to wedge yourself behind the dryer for hours on end. I kinda enjoyed the bun body slamming but given the chance, would you have not bitten me, particularly the last bout when you lunged through the air like an acrobat to plant your teeth into my shin?

How I miss ya, Snoops. Wish you could come back to me. You have been cheated by love and trust, but too quick to form misunderstanding of all I am capable of giving.

 

The Warm Body I Put into the Ground

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. —Emily Dickinson

I am looking at Sabrina. Her head is hanging out the window and the air is moving beneath her floppy ears, giving rise to them in a way that suggests her body is capable of flight. She makes my heart feel lighter, her being so free, finding joy in simple things.

The fruity fragrance from the pine trees that pass in my periphery along the road departing from the Weston Reservoir penetrates the air. A grand estate appears. David Gilmore’s voice fills the car; he’s singing “Poles Apart,” accompanied by his faithful guitar. His words are deeply personal and introspective and each line advances me to the next moment. I can see his fingers strumming each chord.

I had left the house an hour and change before, worrying about the chilly temperature, the state of the ground. If I’d be able to dig into the soil. “The Rez,” one of our favorite haunts, is where I intended to bury one of our beloved companions after visiting the vet.

The last three weeks had been difficult, watching her struggle, losing the ability to groom herself and topple over; her body emaciated. I knew the day was coming—when it was up to me to play God and snuff out her remaining life. It had eaten away at me, causing me to dream images of her body’s decay from the inside out. She, “Bobbin,” is a favorite among our rescued menagerie; rides atop my shoulder as I do chores around the house, a pet rat that shows me affection like any dog or cat might.

Let me interject a matter of opinion here: I am not some weird lab geek or a questionable hermit with a strange fetish. I hold an advanced degree and am attractive athlete, “very girlie,” hail from an affluent area, and here to tell you, rats make great pets.

I had arrived at the vet around 9:00, having made a shaky-voiced call indicating my decision to put her down imminently only twenty-five minutes before, checked in and sat down on the bench in the reception area. The clinic was busy, chaotic. Sabrina put her head on my knee, a gesture that indicated, I’m here for you, Mama. Cradling Bobbin in my hands I envisioned golden light surrounding her and tried to help myself feel better by taking deep belly breathes and blinking away my tears.

Bobbin

Little compares to the emotionally-charged vibe when sharing a vet’s reception area with someone who is sitting there, tears streaming down his or her face, holding their beloved pet, waiting to be called into a room where it will be euthanized.

The cat and dog people around me didn’t understand that I happen to be that person during this particular visit. “What’ve you got there?” An elderly man asked, a Yorkshire Terrier at his feet, yapping. Four other people, wanting to satisfy their own curiosity, looked my way. “A rat,” I whispered, “she’s dying.” There came the wriggle of noses, grimaces and sounds of disgust. Not one clutched their heart in empathy.

These were so-called “animal lovers.”

A vet tech approached me, hadn’t known what I was there for, she had been on the phone when I arrived and was busy chatting with a friend on the line about shoes. Couldn’t she take mind to see my tears? I wanted to punch her chubby cheeks, pound my fist and flatten the half dozen munchkins on the napkin beside her. Tell her how damned insensitive she was being. But another client had stepped beside me to check in, interrupting my getting even.

The tech led me down the hall, Sabrina at my side. Bobbin lay still in my hands. I still could feel the intake and outtake of oxygen making her belly rise and fall, and I set her down on a towel on the metallic table of Exam Room 1. Bobbin rolled onto her side. “What’s wrong?” the tech said, “It’s just a routine exam?”

I looked at her long and hard. Really? Then it dawned her, the demise, and her expression went blank. I affirmed, “Dr. Tuttenbaum is going to put her to sleep.” Bobbin flinched. “I’d like to take her body with me.”

Pickle and Marshmallow, Bobbin’s companions.

Saying “I’d like to take her body with me” brought my euthanasia experience to a very down-to-earth experience. I usually don’t have to articulate the words, just check off my preference on some consent form. Which was not present.

I’d like to take with her body with me.

Dr. Tuttenbaum entered the room—a man so incredibly kind and empathetic and all-around good human that I’d later send him a thank you card profusely thanking him and reiterating the sentiment “you’re a good human in a world where there aren’t very many.” He and I engaged in a conference about Bobbin’s prognosis, told me I was doing the right thing putting her to sleep, she was old and feeble. Then he told me I was a good rat mom.

Babson MBA, Regis B.A., Master Certificate in Reiki, good rat mom.

As I waited in the reception area for Bobbin’s remains (Dr. Tuttembaum advised I not standby), a voice in my head echoed, Dear Bobbin, do you think I’m a good rat mom? 

Chubby-cheeks cupped the receiver with her hand as I was leaving some half hour later when Dr. Tuttenbaum surfaced, said she was sorry for my loss. I looked at her long and hard and in another very un-Reiki moment considered telling her to take her remaining stale three munchkins and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine. Dr. Tuttenbaum handed me Bobbin wrapped in a light blue towel with care, as if she was his own departed beloved. I held her in the crook of my right arm and Sabrina’s leash in my left hand.

The door closed behind me.

We negotiated the steps to the car; I was encumbered and feared in being distraught would drop one of my charges—the leash leading to Sabrina’s collar or Bobbin—fumbling to get in the car. I dropped the leash for the key in my pocket; Sabrina didn’t need a leash, it was more an act out of etiquette. Sabrina bound into the car and into the backseat and I slipped into the driver’s seat and laid Bobbin next to me thinking, She had life moving through her just twenty minutes ago and now she lays wrapped in this towel, lifeless, her little spirit gone someplace else.

The soil that I had worried about was soft beneath the snow. Sabrina sniffed about off the path of our favorite walk in the woods until I located a remote spot with a tree upended. I sunk to my knees, placed Bobbin beside me and dug a hole with a small garden shovel. A couple of women approached, crunching on the crisp fallen leaves, their voices chatty—gala, tailored dress, Dr. So-and-So’s—and before they walked by—without dogs—strange for The Rez, I ducked down behind the fallen limbs, my heart a-fright of getting busted and fined for burying a beloved pet near the Town’s vast location of drinking water. Sabrina was close and to my rear, munching on deer poop.

When the coast was clear, I knelt before the hole and gently unwrapped the towel. Bobbin lay in the center of it, the blue cheery color of the towel an ill-fitting background for her horribly still body. Her pink legs were bent and rigid; her toes splayed slightly. Poor baby. I stroked her back with my forefinger. Sabrina’s cold nose brushed my cheek. I reached for a paper towel in my back pocket and picked up Bobbin. Her body still held warmth, leaving me feeling strange, wrong even, as I wrapped her in the paper towel and lay her down in the earth.

I finished my business, dragging heavy limbs over the grave, and as Sabrina followed me back out to the path I wondered, Had I been brave being “a renegade” burying Bobbin here, or strictly after mercy and doing what she deserved—to be returned to the earth, part of the circle of life?

As I questioned myself and Bobbin grew cold in the ground, I looked to Sabrina. She seemed to understand about death, the soil, the final resting place. Animals do.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.