Maybelle's All Business, #1

Maybelle bein' cute.


power, rules, other people, and events and people living rent-free in my brain

Recently i went to the Charleston County courthouse to hopefully have a couple of moving violations dismissed.  One was, one wasn't.  The one that was dropped was a huge fine for having a "mutilated license"....  

i lost my billfold.  It blew off the top of my car while on a major boulevard up in Columbia, SC.  I had stopped to fill up with gas and left my billfold (containing my license, of course) on top of the car.  I knew as i laid it up there it was stupid move, but i did it anyway. Two hours later, in Rutherfordton, NC, at one in the morning, i was pulled over for speeding.  50 in a 30.  Pretty fast. When i reached for my billfold and it wasn't there i experienced an almost hollywood-like, hazy, slow-motion vignette of me putting it on top of the car two hours and a hundred miles before.  The cop took my name and went back to his car.  He came up a few minutes later and asked if i'd come back and sit with him in police car--"the front seat," he made a point of saying.  There he pointed to a computer screen in his car and, covering a few digits, asked "is that the end of  your social security #?  I answered yes, and then he showed me where i had a suspended driver's license.  Early in the morning, another state, speeding, with no license, and and a suspension.  Lord a mercy.  For some reason, he let me go with just tickets, telling me to drive slowly and not get stopped again 'cause somebody else would surely put me in jail.  

It turned out i had an old speeding ticket in Tennessee that i paid a few weeks late.  South Carolina had suspended my driver's license, and although both Cookeville, TN and me had sent them a notice that the ticket was paid, they hadn't noticed or something and revoked my privileges.  Big fine to get that done, believe me.  And a drive back up to North Carolina the day after Maybelle was born to pay for their error.  What are you gonna do, though?  

The license i had was mutilated, by the way, because after my weekend in North Carolina, i went back to that road in Columbia and actually found my very flat billfold lying in the middle of the street.   Can you believe that?  

Now, back at the Charleston courthouse, the ticket not dropped was the one for a faulty headlight.  I showed them my new license and that charge went away, but the faulty headlight...

Did you fix your headlight?

     Well, yes, in a manner of speaking.

What does that mean?

     Well,  someone came along and totaled the truck for me before i actually got a chance to fix it.   


    But, your honor, someone crashed into my truck.  I couldn't fix it.  


Now, i understand what the judge was doing here.  It makes sense.  I had plenty of time to fix the headlight before the crash, but i drove the truck so rarely at nighttime it was just low on my list of priorities.  No, the problem with this judgement was that it added insult to injury...

I went to the courthouse at 11 am to see about these charges.  I stood in a line and when i got to the front i was told i couldn't bring my bag into the courthouse.  I'd have to take it to the car.  I told them i wasn't in a car, but on a bicycle.  There were a bunch of school-looking backpacks lined up against a nearby wall--probably dropped off by students going to the same courtroom, and i offered to put my bag over with them.  They agreed, but first they had to search my bag.  They were at least checking women's purses, too, so i didn't feel singled out.  In my bag they found a two inch long, two bladed knife i use for whatever knifely duties i may have.  They said "you'll have to take that to your car, sir."  I again told them i wasn't in a car, but on a bicycle.  They explained that they would then have to take the knife away from me forever. That I couldn't have a knife in the building.  I offered to take it out and put with my bicycle.  No, that wouldn't work.  Suddenly some unrelated mayhem ensued and one helpful officer quietly suggested to "just take it outside and tell them you put it in a friend's car."  So i ran out the doors and put the knife in some bushes.  When i came back in i stood in the long security line again. I got to the front and the lady said "where's the knife?"  and i said it's in my car.  she said you don't have a car and i said it's with my bicycle which is very much like a car except that it doesn't have a motor.  She said you can't come in unless you go and get the knife and give it to me.  So i ran outside, got the knife, came back in, stood in the long line, gave her the knife and proceeded to go where she told me to go:  the wrong courtroom.  Since 9/11 i have had to give up maybe a half dozen knives to crap like this and it irks me every time.    What's gonna happen when somebody needs to clean their nails in a courtroom or open a christmas present on a plane flight?  Who's gonna be there for them?    

And this was not my only visit to the courthouse this month.  I'd gone just the week before and had to straighten out the fact that our insurance company had canceled Alison's insurance because of non-payment.  As a result the state had canceled Alison's driving privileges, too.  I went to the insurance company and asked if there was anything they could do about this.  They explained they'd be glad to re-instate the insurance if we paid the overdue bill.  I asked if they didn't find it weird that after almost 20 years of paying on time to the same company they didn't find it a little odd for Alison to just not make a payment?  That perhaps this didn't warrant a letter?  They said they'd tried to call and promptly read off a number that sounded more like a serial number than a phone number:  003-644-00913?  No.  that's not even close to any number i've ever heard before, i told them.  Didn't matter.  They were sorry.  I gave them the overdue payment and handed the state of South Carolina $400 to re-instate Alison's driving privileges.  $400!  


Finally, the other day at Staples i was standing in line to buy some printer paper.  The store was almost empty of shoppers and there was two cashiers occupied with customers.  I stood a few feet back and waited for the next available person.  A guy walked up behind me and said, "which line are you in?"  I said "both."  He said, "No you're not.  Cain't have it both ways motherfucker" and walked around me to get in one of the lines.  

While i've had my fair share of decent good breaks here lately  (like finding my battered, but still intact billfold in a distant street in a distant city)  i'm kind of inclined to err on the side of redneck boy at Staples.  



Well, i woke up in fear at 3 this morning for no reason.  Inky, it appears, has merely been making the rounds of the neighborhood.  

After hanging up numerous signs around the block and checking at the dry cleaners two doors down where The Pie has some fans that feed him a can of food everyday, standing guard at their door both greeting customers and viciously attacking passing dogs, Alison finally spotted him at a neighbor's house several doors around the corner where Inky has developed a loving relationship with someone's new puppy and is evidently a female impersonator with the name "Mama Kitty."

It's funny.  I've been eulogizing Inky since the day that he showed up at our house, lo those many years ago, and Alison and i gave him some food and water there on the back porch of Lischey entirely expecting to have to haul his dead carcass away the next day.  His eyes were glued shut with scabs and snot, his tattered ears filled with dirt and mites.  His little nose holes were plugged.  His fur was missing in a lot of locations.  He had open wounds and couldn't have weighed more than a couple of pounds as a full grown cat.  Miraculously, he didn't die that night, nor over the course of the next day when we decided to scrub off some of the dried fluids that were blocking his hearing and his sense of smell and sight.  We shot iodine from an industrial sized bottle we've always kept around onto his sores and put more food and water there for him.  Months later, with the name N.K., meaning 'Nother Kitty, The Ink had made a full recovery and moved into the house.  

A few years later i guess it was, we took N.K.--with his name at this point shortened to the more precise Inky--into the vet where they pronounced him Feline Leukemia positive.  I remember the assistant asking if we wanted to put him down right then and there.  We asked lots of questions, found that 10% of cats live full and happy lives  with F.L. and decided that, if anyone could do it, Inky could beat the odds.  I remembered our hardened vet actually tearing up a little bit and saying she was glad we'd made that decision:  Inky was the coolest cat she'd ever met.  

Inky of course also has another feature that only 10% of cats achieve:  although he's a neutered male he can still spray.  He has hosed down our entire house, believe me.  I eulogized him a couple times back then, too, but he just stuck that tongue out all cute and everything and his life, yet again, was spared.  It has helped that we give him kitty prozac and he isn't riddled with the paranoid fear that other cats are trying to bust into the house. 

Inky is well-traveled.  He has flown to Massachusetts and back and driven up there in a car with me on four different occasions.  He loved it there.  I was not so fond of my life up there with him, however:  his response to the cold was to spend as much time as possible sleeping on my head.  If i was in my chair watching television, The Pie was on my head.  Typing on the computer?  Head.  Asleep in bed?  Head.  It got to be a bit much, especially since Inky's breathing sounds like someone in an iron lung.   I found myself almost wishing back then that that Osprey really had flown away with him like it tried to do.  

One time his leg swelled up to about the size of my forearm.  His Leukemia has compromised his immune system and a small infection can turn ugly at the drop of a hat.  Sadly, he considers himself quite the fisted gloves expert, and has developed many a good infection.  This one time i waited too long to take him to the vet and his front leg was showing signs of necrosis.  He had to wear a full bandage and funnel for about two weeks. (Alison has posted a picture of this in the entry below.)  We had to change the bandage constantly and feed him loads of antibiotics and take him to the vet every other day or so so they could watch his progress.  He had so charmed them by the end of the process they barely charged us any money at all.  

Currently Inky has, as mentioned above, been spending much of his days in front of Arrow Cleaners here on Rutledge.  When he's not sleeping or napping with me, and he's not following us around the block when we go for walks or riding under Maybelle's stroller, he's eating at the cleaners.  In exchange for the daily can of Nine Lives (irony noted) the Inkstroms keeps them safe from marauding dogs.  I've seen owners with full grown large breeds make a right angle as they approach the cleaners so as to cross through busy traffic and escape Ink's wrath.  Passing school kids have magically learned his name.   He is indeed the ambassador of the sidewalk here on the westside.  And now, we find that he's living a double life!  

I sure wouldn't know what to do if he were gone.  


Blinky Pie

I know that many of this blog's readers aren't in Charleston, but for those of you who are, please keep your eyes open for Inky. Biffle and I realized tonight that we haven't seen him since Sunday.

While I was pregnant, all three cats undertook a successful lobbying campaign to be indoor-outdoor cats, and in the time since then, Inky has taken up a position as the official Rutledge Avenue Sidewalk Ambassador. Every day he patrols our block, lounging in the middle of the sidewalk to be petted by pedestrians, attacking dogs as they walk by with their owners, and occasionally going on walks with Biffle, Maybelle, the dogs, and me. The other morning I was on the porch picking up the paper, and two kids I didn't know who were walking to elementary school said, "Where's Inky?" He's better known in this neighborhood than we are.

We think somebody has mistaken him for a pregnant homeless cat and has taken him home. We can't really let ourselves think about him actually being gone. He's about the weirdest cat we've ever met--relentlessly sprays the inside of the house, has a chronic respiratory condition that makes him sound like Darth Vader, compulsively licks people, and snuggles up with Biffle in bed, under the covers, all night long.

If you see Inky, please send him back home!


More on Alison and Biffle and reproduction

Recently Biffle and I were interviewed by the Post and Courier about our views on and experiences with abortion. The interviewer edits the Faith and Values section of the paper and wanted to present two different complex case studies, one of a pro-choice family and one of a pro-life family. The interviews appeared in the paper this morning.

Our interview
The pro-life couple's interview


Birth control

I may be the only woman in the city of Charleston using a diaphragm for contraception. My nurse practitioner has only had one other woman express an interest in one. I have a colleague who got fitted for one, but she couldn't figure out how to get her prescription filled, so she's using another means of birth control.

I decided to try a diaphragm due to a lack of other, better options. I was on the pill for a decade back years ago, and I just decided I'd had enough of being pumped full of hormones. Then Biffle and I did the fertility awareness method for a number of years, a method that works really well if you aren't as fertile or as risky as Biffle and I are (Maybelle was conceived on the fertility awareness method--we had decided we wanted a baby but hadn't actually started trying yet). Now that I'm lactating, I have nothing like a regular cycle, so FAM would be pretty tricky anyway. We wanted something different, something that wasn't hormonal and that was pretty reliable. That left us with:

  1. Condoms
  2. Diaphragm
  3. Sterilization
Yup, three options. #3 is no good since we might want Maybelle to have a sibling one day, and #1 sucks when you're in a long-term monogamous partnership.

This is the moment in the post when I have to point out how pitiful it is that we have 50 different kinds of toothpaste on the market but fewer than five good non-hormonal kinds of contraception. And how many kinds of contraception that work on the man's body? Two: condoms and vasectomy. That is pathetic. We have got to be able to do better than this, people! I know that I am not the only reproductive-aged woman in a heterosexual relationship who is sick of hormones. So why is the capitalist marketplace letting us down?

Speaking of the capitalist marketplace, I had a challenging time trying to procure my diaphragm. Rite Aid doesn't carry them, so they recommended Herbert's Mobility. They don't carry them, and recommended a little family-owned pharmacy that actually mixes all their own drugs. They don't carry them either and pointed me to Drugstore.com which, thank goodness, does carry them and sent me one after my nurse practitioner faxed in my prescription.

So now we're using a diaphragm. It has all the drawbacks that you might have read about in Our Bodies, Ourselves, but it seems alright. And I hope that my purchase will help assure Ortho that there are people who are interested in non-hormonal contraceptives so that they don't just take the diaphragm off the market.


Some quick thoughts on Krauthammer's "sclerotic'

In an op-ed i've just read this morning, Charles Krauthammer described a conservative's view of Obama's vision for America as a "regulation-bound, economically sclerotic, socially stagnant, nanny state [like] the European Union.  

I 1) love that description, 2) see it as an accurate take on one of America's possible futures, and, 3) realize this "sclerotic" state is exactly what I want to happen. Allow me a couple of seconds to explain why I think this is a good thing:   

During the "Clintonian" period, Americans of both liberal and conservative stripes had to come to grips with our new relativistic culture.   The only people that truly benefited from this, it seems, were the scriptwriters of The Simpsons and Beck ("Black Culture," on the other hand, carried on with business-as-usual, but that's another blog post).   Everyone else was left awash in a society of no rules.  Reductively stated, the left responded by creating a new, almost religious dogma around a trinity of environmentalism, political correctness, and victimless society.  The right responded by loudly calling for the return of a make-believe golden era found on Leave it to Beaver.   

The result was a huge social vacuum in which nothingness existed.  Society seemed headed for collapse for the dualists, and moderate relativists like me had a hard time coming to grips with the disorder.  Well, the cure for everyone seems to be this regulation-bound, economically sclerotic, socially stagnant, nanny state.  

Now, having lived and worked in Massachusetts for three years, I could do without the "regulation-bound" part, but as far as the "economically sclerotic" part goes, America couldn't help but be a better place.  No, no one gets to be a trillionaire under this system, but on the other hand, people i know and like aren't dying of, say, untreated diabetes.  We also all of us wouldn't have to tighten our belts quite so much because a few thousand people couldn't seem to live without seven homes and a different pair of shoes for each day.  

As far as the "socially stagnant" part goes, everyone from the writers of The Simpsons to Fred Phelps greatly benefit.  Hey, nature abhors a vacuum, and no one but the most brilliant of artists thrive in those conditions.  No, we--I--need those boundaries.  Artists get to be truly rebellious and understood again and not just random or market-driven art stars. Conservatives get to have a foothold for both themselves and their ideas.   Culture loves a big wall.  It may be a moral convenience to some and a horrible impediment to others, but when there is no resistance, no ohms,  the power source burns itself out.  Just look at what happened to de-regulated markets. 

No, if a conservative's worst fear and liberal's fondest dream comes true, then America might get it's culture back, people actually might not go to bed hungry or sick at night, and our ecosystem and economy might just hold hands and chant Baraka.