TYSON

I was six years old when I experienced my fist lock-down. Every morning, we would walk a short distance to the street where our school bus would pick us up for the half hour ride to school. We had made our own short cut (or panya route in common parlance), through the grass as we didn’t want to follow the slightly longer paved path. For the uninitiated, a panya route is a foot-trodden path similar to a narrow hiking trail. Our panya route was partially obscured by overgrown grass, but the dewy grass wasn’t enough of a deterrent to motivate us to use the proper path. Taking the panya route had consequences. The most obvious being that our shiny polished brown leather school shoes would acquire debris from the unpaved path, leading to a panicked emergency shoe-shining session when we finally got to school. The shoe shining was facilitated by using the sock-clad opposite foot to quickly shine each shoe, restoring it to its former glory. The second consequence, as you can guess, was that the bottom of our socks now carried the panya route debris and pocked the soles of our feet all day, but hey, our shoes shone and met the school’s rigorous shoe cleanliness standards set by a long departed colonialist. Had I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body, I would have come up with a shoe-shining business. I would have trademarked “Panya Route’s Shoe Shining”. Business would’ve been booming, I would have been a tycoon at the tender age of 6, retired at thirteen, but alas, my entrepreneurial bones were yet to be formed.

It is common for some Kenyan families to keep guard dogs, usually German Shepherd Dogs. I love GSDs. They are highly intelligent, beautiful and loyal. They are very gentle with babies, but extremely fierce against adversaries. They are your ride or die canine.

One of our neighbors had a GSD named Tyson. Now, Tyson was no ordinary dog. He was a dog among dogs. He was a huge dog whose reputation preceded him. He was the kind of dog all female dogs wanted to mate with, because that superior gene pool had to be passed onto little Tysons. He was extremely ferocious and because of that, he was kept under lock and key during the day and left to roam at night. But since we were always indoors at night, we never encountered Tyson.

In Kenya, if one was found wandering outside late at night, the Kenyan police would typically ask one to confirm if they were:

  1. A dog
  2. A prostitute
  3. A thief
  4. A policeman

The unseen option above, written in invisible ink, was an offer you could not refuse, to spend the night in a jail cell, offering you a space to cool your heels until dawn. This courtesy was funded by the very generous Kenyan taxpayer and supplemented by you because you had to bribe your way out of the jail cell. You would be motivated to do so because of the company in the cell, which comprised of actual prostitutes, thieves, and a very odorous bucket that served the purpose of a toilet.

Anyway, all was well in my little academia suburb until one day, Tyson went missing. To say that we were gripped with fear is an understatement. The thought of running into Tyson’s gigantic teeth kept us inside. Even indoors, any sudden noises caused immense anxiety. I have always had a vivid imagination, and in my mind, Tyson may have snuck into our house when we opened one of the doors. I was a dyed in the wool mischievous tomboy, but the specter of Tyson’s bark and bite kept me indoors. My partners in crime and I were under no illusion about what would happen to us if we ran into him.

The fear of Tyson transformed us into the most paved-route-abiding children known to man and woman. Call us Dini ya Pavement (Religion of the Pavement). Like new converts to Christianity, we left our heathen panya route ways behind us, walking in groups, eyes peeled for any tell-tale signs of the missing canine terror. Conversation was kept to a minimum, lest Tyson hear us badmouthing him and pounce upon us, and in my overactive imagination, tearing our limbs apart, leaving our parents bereft. I am not sure if there is an afterlife for newly reformed Panya route users, but I imagine we would gain entry due to the Damascene conversion we had just experienced.

The Panya route was completely abandoned, seeing as the sand colored grass may have been harboring a sand colored Tyson. I imagine that the grasshoppers and ants who had to run (and hop) for their lives upon our arrival on the panya route each morning must have had a block party, dancing the night away into the morning with no fear of being trodden upon by scofflaw school children. They must have remarked upon the beauty of the dewed grass and gotten to know each other better, perhaps even planned for the permanent liberation of the panya route from marauding feet. I should say that I also recognize that Tyson’s disappearance would have marked the demise of my imaginary yet flourishing Panya Route’s Shoe Shining enterprise.

After school, we again coalesced into the newly formed Dini Ya Pavement. We went straight home from school, meaning, my mischievous tom-boy self could not play in the mud and climb trees freely, lest I meet Tyson on a tree branch. Yes, we believed that Tyson could climb trees, swim, fly, squeeze under doors and materialize out of thin air.

Two long days later, to the jubilation of all, a nonchalant Tyson wandered back to his home, unaware of the terror his disappearance had caused. Where had Tyson been? What had he seen? Had he eloped with a lush GSD female only to realize that life on the run was not for him? We will never know. But since Tyson did not speak human and we didn’t speak bark, he took that secret to his grave. Also, we valued our lives so we were not going to approach him.

In case you are wondering, we quickly backslid to our panya route ways, Dini Ya Panya route abandoned.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to the phenomenal women who birthed us, and whose love for us is unconditional.

Happy Mother’s Day to the phenomenal people who did not birth children, but loved and raised those around them as their own.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the phenomenal men, who have, for various reasons, filled a mother’s role in their children lives.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the hard-working mothers and mother-figures who toil all day and sacrifice time with their families so they can provide for their children.

Happy Mother’s Day to the brave women who serve in the Armed Forces, often in countries far away from home, for months at a time. Thank you for your service, we salute you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who are ill and fighting for their lives, may they recover and be reunited with their families soon.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who have survived Cancer, we celebrate you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who are expecting their first children, welcome to the club. Motherhood is to know what it feels like to have your heart live outside your body.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who suit up every day to work in medical facilities and risk their lives to treat Coronavirus patients, you are superheroes.

Gathoni

10 years. That was how long Gathoni gave herself to work as a respiratory care nurse in New York before returning home to Nairobi. She lived with two roommates to save as much money as she could. She lived with them even though one of them ate Gathoni’s cereal straight out of the box and left the sticky spoon she had licked in the cereal box. She persevered the long, grueling hours at work, squirreling away her earnings, saving to buy land back home and set herself up for an early retirement.

Five years into her stay in New York, she had saved enough money to buy land and build a mansion in Athi River, where the newly affluent were buying homes. Athi’s river’s proximity to the City Center made it a more attractive option than farther flung areas with cheaper land. Her parents had found a trustworthy land seller, which was no mean feat in a city crawling with con men and women who would separate you from your hard-earned money in a New York minute.

In a world where new careers are formed daily, conmanship has established itself as one of the few professions uninhibited by common barriers to entry, other than the little matter of the law. The only prerequisite being a loose grasp of one’s morals and a tongue that, as my lakeside brethren would say, “anaweza toa nyako pangoni” (an Oswahili bastardization of the Kiswahili reference to a snake charmer)

When Gathoni flew to Nairobi to view the land, her father introduced her to a dashing gentleman named Getau, the real estate lawyer who had brokered the purchase. A friendship blossomed and they sporadically kept in touch when Gathoni flew back to New York.

Four years later, her mansion was complete and Gathoni had accumulated enough money to purchase additional pieces of land and was a budding mushroom farmer. She reconnected with Getau, and seeing as they were both in their thirties and too old to play games, they started to plan their future together.

When, at last, her 10th year work anniversary arrived, Gathoni walked out of the hospital for the last time, free as a bird, her waist length dreadlocks swaying in the wind. She sold most of her belongings, excited to be moving in with Getau, who had proposed to her a few months before when he had visited her in New York.

She flew from New York to Beijing, her destination being Huairou District, to see the Great Wall of China, a bucket list item she had been itching to check off. She spent the next four days touring the Great Wall among other attractions, and then boarded a flight to Nairobi.

She arrived in Nairobi to a rousing welcome from her family and Getau. She was finally home. Two days after her return, she developed a dry cough and thought nothing of it. Getau got her some cough medicine and a humidifier, which relieved her symptoms. Two days later, Getau awoke to find a lifeless Gathoni next to him. His attempts at CPR failed, and in a panic, he called for an ambulance, informing her family that they were headed to the nearest hospital. The emergency room doctor grimly confirmed what they all knew. Gathoni was dead.

In that moment, the world lost all color and went silent. Out of the corner of his eye, as if in slow motion, Getau and Gathoni’s family watched in disbelief as a security team whispered something to the doctor who quickly distanced himself from the family. They were unceremoniously bundled into a waiting car and taken to a government medical training center, where they were brusquely informed that Gathoni’s symptoms were consistent with those of the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, therefore, they would be quarantined.  They were interrogated about their movements and known associations since Gathoni had arrived in the country. They provided a list of all individuals they had interacted with and were informed that those individuals would be quarantined as well.

They were then abandoned, and the only outside contact they had was that of faceless gloved hands leaving food outside their rooms followed by the sound of feet quickly padding away for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Where there is mystery, the mind goes to the darkest place. They wondered if they would ever see the light of day again. No one would tell them when they would be released.

Despair clung to them like a second skin. They had no information on where the hospital had taken Gathoni’s remains. Getau, beside himself with grief, withdrew into silence, barely eating or sleeping. Attempts to reach the hospital for information were thwarted by the overzealous security guards who had neither the empathy nor the expertise needed to comfort the shell-shocked, grieving family.

After their release, Getau and Gathoni’s family were given 24 hours to bury her. As they threw the dirt on her coffin, Gathoni’s parents and Getau still could not believe the cruel hand that fate had dealt them. Her mother collapsed, the reality of burying her child too much to bear.

Gathoni was buried on what would have been her 35th birthday.

“Straight A” students

“Mom, didn’t you tell us that you were always number 1 in your class and that you always got straight As in all subjects?” Nekesa’s son asked her, a very puzzled expression on his face.

“This coronavirus!” Nekesa muttered, her palms starting to sweat. You see, in this time of Coronavirus, parents have become teachers. Until now, some parents were safe in the knowledge that their alleged straight A, top of the class, walked 13 miles to school, uphill both ways and all done barefoot stories would never be tested. Once, Nekesa’s son had questioned the veracity of the uphill both ways story, seeing as unless Nekesa’s childhood home moved farther uphill each morning, then that story was a physical improbability. Nekesa had pulled the ukali card and that had shut him up.

The truth of the matter was that Nekesa and numbers were like oil and water. She had never liked or trusted math. Something about math did not make sense to her, and the minute she completed her math paper in her secondary school finals, she had walked away from math and never looked back. It was a toxic relationship and she was done. When her father had seen her dismal F in math, he had remarked that she must have earned that grade by correctly spelling her name and nothing else.

Thirty odd years after the nightmare of her final math exam, she thought of ways to save face in front of her child. Silence stretched between them, her son looking at her expectantly, mistaking the frown on her face for deep concentration. Little did he know that the specter of calculus had resurrected long buried nightmares she wished to keep that way. In that moment, she wished that her husband, a doctor at Nairobi hospital, who was fighting to keep patients alive, was home. He and his son were numbers people. When they saw numbers, they did not run for the nearest exit. They gravitated towards them, probed them, re-arranged them, tried to make sense of them. Nekesa did not possess any of these inclinations. And so she stood there, staring at the book, when a miracle happened.

Nimepata toilet paper** na mkate!” Her housekeeper, a stocky lady who had worked for Nekesa’s family since her son was a baby, announced triumphantly, holding the toilet paper and bread up high, like a prize she had won in a bitterly fought contest. And knowing her, one or two people may have been elbowed out of the way in the process, in direct contravention of social distancing rules extolled by Dr Fauci and his well-informed brethren in all countries. Nekesa suddenly became engrossed in the storage of the toilet paper and upcoming dinner plans. Coronavirus had robbed her of her right to congregate, move freely and sing in her church choir, but she would be damned if she would also let it rob her of her dignity.

Her son decided to wait for his father to get home, after all, numbers zina wenyewe.

**You see, in the days of Coronavirus, when we hang on to every word Dr Fauci and his brethren spoke, and like the good students we were, sheltered in place, toilet paper was a prized possession. It was almost a status symbol to say, “I have 20 rolls”, to which I imagine those not so lucky would cluck their tongues in envy, amazed at the big roller’s planning skills.

Majini

Legio Maria is a religion in my neck of the woods, the shores of Lake Victoria. The adherents of this religion are some of the most devout and close-knit group of believers I have ever seen. When entering the home of a brother or sister of the Legio Maria, you will be sprinkled with Holy Water, and a crucifix will be in full display, usually alongside a photo of their founder and Pope, also known as the Black Son of God, Simeo Ondeto.

Susanna had lived in the village of Mabungo her entire life. Therefore, she was no stranger to tales of the majini, alleged spirits who chose not to rest in peace and instead roamed the hills of Mabungo, scaring the living daylights out of locals, delivering hot slaps to those who would not move out of their way, and causing general mayhem. Susanna had never personally encountered the majini, but she was not one to deny their existence and dare them to pay her a visit.

Decades later, when Susanna was a married woman with children, she found that her husband’s income was not sufficient to pay for their children’s tuition, and being a resourceful woman, she found work as a maid, or Domestic Manager, in a nearby town. Since her youngest daughter Nyangweso was 19, Susanna didn’t need to be home tending to children anymore. Susanna’s employer, a retired university professor, was kind enough to give Susanna plenty of flexibility so Susanna could visit her family quite often.

Last December, Susanna went back to Mabungo to spend Christmas holidays with her family. While there, Nyangweso developed what the village medicine man immediately diagnosed as a case of majini. In other words, Nyangweso had been possessed by the infamous majini of Mabungo hills. She was manic, frantically running from one part of the village to the next at speeds Usain Bolt would envy. When possessed, Nyangweso became so strong that not even the village strongman could restrain her.

A desperate Susanna asked her local pastor to pray over Nyangweso as she slept. But after much praying in various tongues and screaming at the majini until he was hoarse, the pastor declared Nyangweso healed, collected payment and went on his merry way.

The next morning, Nyangweso woke up and took off again, but this time, she was speaking in tongues. All who saw her decided that even though she exhibited the same symptoms as she had before, she must be healed because she was speaking in tongues. When Susanna called her employer with the update, her employer advised her to have Nyangweso examined by a medical doctor to determine if what she had was a case of cerebral Malaria. Susanna declined, stating that her pastor was the eminent authority in spiritual matters and since he had not diagnosed Nyangweso with Malaria, then it was definitely a case of the majini.

A day later, Nyangweso had stopped speaking in tongues and was back to wreaking havoc in the village, overturning furniture, slapping strangers and causing general mayhem, before taking off at lighting speed. When Susanna called the pastor for a secondary consultation, he conceded that these majini were above his pay grade, and advised Susanna that a problem of that magnitude required a week of prayer and fasting. And so it was that Susanna called her employer to inform her that she would not be returning to work in January as planned because she would be incommunicado for a week while she fasted and prayed at a nearby cave commonly used by pilgrims for exactly that purpose.

A week later, a filthy, famished but hopeful Susanna emerged from the cave, eager to see the fruit of her prayer. To her dismay, there had been no improvement, in fact, Nyangweso had taken to throwing stones at strangers, which was a new and disheartening development.

It was time to call in the big guns. And when one needs to banish majini, who does one call? The Legio Maria, that’s who. Susanna restrained Nyangweso while she was asleep and awaited the arrival of the Legio Maria. They arrived in a row of flowing white and blue gowns, Holy Water and crucifixes in hand, solemn expressions on their faces, Rosary beads hanging loosely from their necks.  They were not there to make friends or small talk. They came for one thing and one thing only. The removal and banishment of the majini.

A small crowd gathered as Susanna led them to Nyangweso, who was struggling to break free from her restrains. They set up a makeshift altar next to Nyangweso’s bed and formed a circle around her, chanting and singing. Suddenly, Nyangweso went limp, as if the rage had been sucked out of her. The Legio Maria advised Susanna to let her sleep, as she had not rested in a very long time. They packed up their makeshift altar and left in the same manner in which they had arrived.

Later that evening, a renewed and calmer Nyangweso awoke, the majini nowhere in sight.

CoronaVirus

Mungu shuka na usitumane is a KiSwahili plea, used in very desperate times. The direct translation is “God come down and don’t send a messenger”.

My thoughts and prayers go to the deceased, the bereaved and the infected.

Rainy Chronicles

Last night, my husband and I went to see the South African comedian Trevor Noah in San Francisco. We had looked forward to the show since tickets went on sale a few months ago, and bought our tickets and parking pass beforehand.

Since it was raining, we checked Waze beforehand to see how long it would take us to get to San Francisco. For the uninitiated, California has lovely weather almost year-round, which means that rain is A BIG DEAL. Although we get quite a bit of rainfall each year, people forget how to drive at the first sign of rain. Cars that can go upwards of 140 mph suddenly develop an inability to go past 25mph.

Certain bats from hell, who, I assume, are brain surgeons racing to perform life-saving procedures, fly past everyone, darting in and out of lanes, cutting in front of cars and braking suddenly when confronted with the reality of the rain-paralyzed drivers. This, of course, results in enraged drivers lowering their windows, angrily flipping out the offending bat from hell. Because, make no mistake, the rain may have paralyzed their driving skills, but their fine motor skills are weather-proof. Whenever incidents of road rage appear to start around me, I usually slow down and move away from that hot mess because this girl did not fly all the way from Kenya to become embroiled in road rage incidents that have nothing to do with her.

After a very long drive, we finally arrived at the swanky Chase center (new home of the Golden State Warriors), which was bedazzled in Christmas decorations. A ginormous Christmas tree greeted us at the entrance, with hundreds of selfie-taking couples crowding the area around it. Instagram will be lit- literally.

It was while we were standing in line ready to get into the arena that the comedy began. The security guard checked the ticket app on my phone and asked me, “Who are you here to see?” I responded, “Trevor Noah.”

“Oh, he’s in Oakland today.” the guard deadpanned.

I wanted to scream. We had looked forward to this day, hired a babysitter, driven in the rain for hours, had our car sniffed by a dog at the security check, finally found parking, only to find out that we were in the wrong city? Naturally, this alarmist train of thought was not a soliloquy. Outwardly, I froze and stared at my phone to make sure we had the right tickets. They were the right tickets, I looked up to find my husband and the guard laughing. They got me good.

Next, we went through airport type security and stood in a line where there were two very interesting characters. One was what we would call “mtu wa vitabu” back home. Meaning, a bookworm. Because who shows up to a comedy show bearing multiple tomes, requiring multiple passes on the scanner before they were cleared. I wondered if at some point during the show, while the rest of us were laughing so hard our faces hurt, this scholarly gentleman would open up one of his books and start to read, or if he would wait until the we, the general public, left, to lose himself in the latest volume of “The mind of the gentrified modernite” (he looked like the kind of person to read such esoteric literature).

I have encountered cheap people in my life. But the gentleman who was screened after the scholarly one takes the cake. If the cake is free of course. This guy had a water bottle, and as we all know, water bottles are not allowed past modern security screening stations. At first, I thought that maybe he hadn’t traveled anywhere before, and was unaware of this very basic rule. But I would very quickly be disabused of that notion.

He spent the next few minutes arguing with the security guard, asking why he couldn’t bring his water. She patiently answered his questions before giving up and rolling her eyes. She told him that he was holding up the security line ,and delaying others from entering the arena (I will take this moment to applaud Trevor Noah fans. Despite this inconvenience, no curse words were uttered, no middle fingers were flipped, and no fists were shaken in anyone’s direction.)

The guard told  the thirsty man that there was water for sale inside the arena, which finally revealed his real pain point. You see, the water inside the arena is very expensive (true, also San Francisco is a very expensive city to live in), and he wasn’t willing to pay for it (also true), and so he had brought his own water (not vitamin, ionized, sparkling) to drink. I should also add that the contentious water bottle was a plain plastic bottle- not the fancy UV light self-cleaning and self- sanitizing variety. The combination of the non-special water and the standard-issue plastic bottle added to the confoundment of all who witnessed the drama unfold. He was strongly encouraged to dispose of his water- and by strongly encouraged I mean two burly security guards showed up and assisted him in the task. He sullenly walked away from his beloved water bottle, ambling towards the arena, where, I hope, Trevor Noah was able to cheer him up.

Have a happy Holiday season, see you in 2020!

Sneaky Paws

My friend Gigi has never been a fan of camping. She is firmly in the “camping ran in my family until houses were invented” camp (pun intended). But, Gigi has children, and children like camping. So, like the good parents they are, Gigi and her husband went to a sporting goods store, encountered a very enthusiastic salesman, fell for his sales pitch hook, line and sinker, and ended up purchasing expensive fishing rods and other paraphernalia (including organic bait- nothing but the best for the campsite fish’s last meal). When Gigi’s brother heard about the camping trip, he convinced his wife that it was time for a family reunion under the stars.

The highly anticipated day arrived, and the convoy arrived at the camp site, with Gigi’s brother and his wife bringing up the rear. Once the ice filled food cooler was set up, smores and other camping artifacts unpacked, children settled and organic fish bait properly stored, it was time to chop some wood for the camp fire. Before the arduous task of wood-chopping began, Gigi’s husband (hereafter known as Husband) and Gigi’s brother (hereafter known as Brother) decided that it would be a great idea to fortify themselves with a few ice-cold bottles of beer. After all, liquid courage makes any chore fun, right?

A few bottles later, vision possibly blurry, Brother picked up an axe and started chopping wood. He was nothing if not determined. From Gigi’s perspective, Brother swung the axe really high, and it landed with a “thunk”. Gigi thought nothing of it, until Brother started to sway slightly, looking faint. Gigi dropped her own beer and ran over to where Brother was, and that was when she saw a pool of blood collecting at his feet. Now, Gigi is no shrinking violet. She jumped into action and, with the help of Husband, helped a limping Brother into Brother’s car.

They rushed Brother to the Emergency Room, where they found people with ailments ranging from broken toe nails to life threatening injuries. When the nurse asked what had happened, Brother suddenly looked at his hand as if he was just then becoming aware of his bleeding hand. The nurse shook her head, bandaged Brother’s arm and sent them on their way.

At this point, it was quite late at night, and as they approached the campsite, they noticed a locked gate. Bad things happen in threes. The butchered arm was strike one, the locked gate was strike two. At this point, Gigi was tired, cranky and wondering why she left her perfectly comfortable house to go and live in the wilderness like a bear. They finally managed to get Brother’s wife to wake up and drive all the way to the gate and let them into the campsite. Gigi was smart enough to use the bathrooms at the hospital, as she was not willing to walk outside at night to use the campsite bathroom, where she might meet a mountain lion who would thank his lucky stars that his snack walked right into his jaws. Gigi was smarter than that, thank you very much!

Early the next morning, a starving Gigi woke up to get her children some breakfast. Strike three became immediately apparent. At some point in the night, while Gigi’s Brother was fighting for his life (okay, maybe not, but still, bleeding profusely) they’d had some guests. Gigi noticed muddy paws on the white cover of the cooler, and a sense of foreboding descended over her. She opened the cooler to find that all the organic, free range chicken, organic gluten free bread, organic low-fat milk and artisanal cheese had been mauled by the sneaky pawed raccoons who lived in the campsite. The raccoons were kind enough to leave some organic crumbs behind, but not before they took the organic fish bait with them, perhaps to go fishing?

Tired, hangry and dirty, Gigi took a deep breath and calmly informed her family that the trip was over and it was time to head back home and live in a house like the civilized human beings they were. The Sneaky pawed residents of the campsite were sad to see them go, and wondered if they would visit again. It wasn’t every day that they got to eat hand crafted, ethically sourced organic food.

 

Yoga with Goats

A few weeks ago I was on a flight, casually browsing through the in-flight magazine when I happened upon a page advertising Yoga with Goats. You read that right. That ancient ascetic discipline, touted for its amazing health benefits- only with a caprine flavor. So, there you are, completely relaxed in the downward dog position, when suddenly, little round balls of goat poop roll down your back into your freshly washed hair, goat stench firmly entrenched in your clothing and skin. Maybe the yoga goats go to a goat spa and get soaked in pot pourri. Maybe they smell like baby powder. Maybe they poop little balls of ice-cream. Maybe this will be renamed the dog and goat pose. So many unknowns.

A few years ago, my mother had some goats on her property. Now, in Kenya, goats are to Christmas what turkey is to Thanksgiving in the United States. A. Big. Deal.

My mother took great pride in her goats, ensuring they had plenty to eat and room to roam. One side of my mother’s property is bordered by a river, and she hired a local goat herder, who touted himself as a goat whisperer of sorts, to watch her prized goats. Having found this man who would keep her goats happy and fed, my mother was sure that they were in good hands. So you can imagine her shock when a few weeks later, the goat whisperer called her to inform her that some of the goats had committed suicide. Eh? Committed suicide? Correct, he confirmed. No note either. How had they chosen to do it? They had thrown themselves into the river. These goats, who had the best grass and trees a goat could ever hope for, fresh water to drink and clean air to breathe, decided to just end it? Were they too happy? Should my mother not have been as generous as she had been and let them hustle like all the other goats from the school of hard knocks? Something did not add up. That is, until my mother remembered that these suicidal goats all disappeared around holiday season, when goat meat is sold at a premium. Then it all made sense. And so went the goat whisperer’s job.

When I read the article about the Yoga goats, I thought about my mother’s goats, and what a missed opportunity that was. Assuming the goat whisperer was telling the truth, what if we had let those goats walk on our backs? Would they have been happier? Would we be more relaxed today? Smelling like goats, but not caring? Walking in public, goat stench wafting around us, but happy as clams because our little goats were wrapped around our necks like our emotional support animals? We will never know. Because Christmas came, and with it, Nyama Choma, barbecue meat was eaten by all. Joy to the World!

Speaking of emotional support animals, airlines recently banned those. Why? A woman showed up to the airport, pig in hand and not far behind her another woman with a peacock wrapped around her neck. The peacock was such a frequent flyer that it even knew to hang onto the luggage cart handle while its parent navigated the airport terminal. Google it. It’s true. What was the women’s excuse? They could not handle the emotional landmine that is flying without their emotional support animals. The pig companion literally gave credence to the phrase “when pigs fly”.

TSA, the agency charged with the task of screening passengers before they board their flights, has had the difficult task of turning away pigs, peacocks, pythons, mice and other “emotional support” animals. The TSA agents have also confiscated an astounding number of face tenderizers. Yep. An implement made with the sole purpose of pummeling your facial muscles into submission. Why, you might ask, would anyone’s face need tenderizing? Do they smile too much? Frown too much? What could possibly cause a person to have such tense facial muscles that they need to purchase and travel with a face tenderizer? If you find out, please let me know. Maybe I will check if one is available for sale on NextDoor, a place where neighbors are supposed to share information, sell items and become more aware of neighborhood goings on. What it mostly is, is a place for wannabe Sherlock Holmes’ to report their suspicions and dubious findings, both real and imagined ( I see you reporter of all new cars driving by your home)

When I last logged into my NextDoor account, I came across an animated discussion. A woman in my neighborhood had come across a field mouse, and wanted to adopt it. A hundred plus comments later, she finally decided to return the mouse to the field. Responses ranged from ‘aw how sweet’, to ‘are you insane- they carry the plague. THE plague’. The most memorable one was that of a man informing the kind-hearted mouse mother that his cat would find a permanent home for her field mouse. Mouse mother did not take kindly to that particular suggestion and decided to return the mouse from whence it came because her vetinary doctor told her-wait for it- that a field mouse belonged in a field!

Have a tender-faced day, won’t you!

According to Your Wisdom

A few months ago, my family and I took a weekend trip to Bodega bay, California. While there, we encountered a restaurant name Russia House #1. I imagined a group of Russians sitting at a table, sampling foods from different parts of their vast homeland, vodka glasses in hand, saying nyet to many of the samples presented before them. Towards the end of this exhausting exercise, their flavor-weary tongues perked up at the delicious flavors of a particular sample, and a chorus of Da was heard all around the table, vodka glasses raised in the air as they universally announced the winner as Russia House #1. No telling how Russia House #2 and #3 took the news.  I don’t know what the real story behind the restaurant’s name is, but I like my version better. Za Zdarovje!

Upon entering Russia House #1, I immediately noticed the very new-agey signage posted on the walls. A ‘help wanted’ sign was phrased as ‘looking for students’- who would be offered work, and a loving community. I wondered what the pay structure was, but upon reading the fine print, that really was it. Fulfillment through the work of your hands in a close-knit community. So, if you or someone you know is willing to work for a sense of community and has a hankering for the simple life, drive on up to Russia House #1. If the work does not fulfill you, the stunning view of the Russian river surely will. Tucked in one corner of the restaurant are a grand piano and a harp. A gentleman played the piano beautifully, but left soon after because he lived in the mountains and as we all know, mountain roads are treacherous in the dark.

Food is served buffet style, no menu is available. The food was amazing. As a neophyte to Slavic cuisine, I liberally sampled the Shchi, a delicious soup, and kasha, a millet cardamom-flavored meal. Now, I believe that beets are an abomination. A blight upon this earth. But the borscht, a.k.a beet soup, was divine. So, the only good beet is in borscht. Even the dishes with raisins in them were delicious. This, in my book, makes this place #1. You see, I abhor raisins. Raisins are failed grapes. In the grape world, the elite grapes are used to make the best wines, and the semi-pro grapes are served at meals. But what happens to the grapes that could never bring themselves to rise to the level of their wine and table grape caliber peers? They become raisins. The insidious fruit then sneaks into cookies, fooling innocent pastry lovers into thinking they are chocolate chips, and the cookie craving clients don’t realize their mistake until it is too late and they already purchased what appeared to be a delicious chocolate chip  cookie. (I see you oatmeal raisin cookies).

What stood out the most was that there was no bill at this restaurant. A sign by the door read “Pay according to your wisdom”. Huh? Now that’s just brilliant. You see, if a customer pays a small amount of money, does it mean that they are unwise? Am I wise? How wise am I? How is said wisdom measured?  Will the restaurateur look at my payment and agree that I am wise? So many questions!

Having thoroughly examined ourselves and unanimously agreed that we are indeed wise, we left some money on the table and departed. I have often thought of that phrase “according to your wisdom”, it applies to every aspect of our lives.

Here’s to a great life, lived according to your wisdom!