Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tell

On Friday, Leslie and I picked Elizabeth from school at the usual 3pm.  She had a great day, and we were all on our way to the dog park with the long weekend ahead of us.  She’s graduating from 8th grade next Thursday, and we’ve got to shop for shoes and a few other necessities.  The first thing Elizabeth told us is that one of her girlfriends made a frightening confession to a group of them over recess.   She said she’d been sexually molested by an 18 year old high school boy that she knew.  It happened the night before. He made her do things, and he wouldn’t let her out of the car.  More, the girl seemed terrified of telling her mother.

Thirty seconds went by, long enough to let this sink in.  And immediately I started to feel sick … and worried.  The knowledge of this child’s danger mixed with my own memories, feelings and impressions, created a nauseating stew. If you or anyone you know was predated in childhood like I was, if the veil of ignorance has been somehow lifted from you, you know this isn’t something to take lightly.  Elizabeth was intensely concerned and expected me to deal with it. In the background, her girlfriends did, as well.  But it was 3:30 p.m., I didn’t know this girl’s mother or how to reach her, and all the students left campus a half hour ago.  I called the school’s counselor and had to leave a voicemail. Then, I called the Vice-Principal a number of times until I finally reached her.

To her credit, the Vice-Principal was very concerned. I think her biggest worry was that the troubled girl, having left campus, was out of her reach.  And indeed from her perspective this was third hand information.  She said she had to discuss this with the guidance counselor and think on it.  That was good enough.

For maybe ten minutes.

The child’s safety began gnawing at me. I needed to know if she was alright. I needed to know. We all needed to know.

I couldn’t find her mother’s phone number. Information didn’t have it, and there was nothing on the internet. Elizabeth texted the girl, and she didn’t answer, so I called her phone myself, and kept trying every 30 minutes  or so. At first there was nothing.

At about 7:30 p.m., she returned my call.  She was crying hysterically and made little sense.  I couldn’t understand most of what she said, but I heard loud and clear that she thought her mother was going to beat her up.  Then, abruptly she hung up.  Moments later she was texting Elizabeth.  She berated her for telling, and said repeatedly she didn’t expect to live through the night.  Her anger and confusion was intense, but Elizabeth remained steadfast through the exchange. She knew her friend was in crisis and took none of her insults personally.  Then, the child began texting about suicide.

Elizabeth looked at me seriously and said, “Nana, she’s told me she knows how to kill herself if she has to. She knows where there are pills she would take.”

I called the police department, and they took my complaint very seriously. They knew where she lived, and I gave them all the details I knew of.  From what we could tell, and it was all gleaned from the text messages she never stopped sending, the police took her to the station and spoke with her about what happened.  On the phone with Elizabeth and in a holding room alone, she expressed continued anger and blame.  She was still afraid of her mother and kept declaring her life was over.  I felt relief knowing she was in a safe place, and even though her mother wasn’t in the picture yet, she wasn’t alone.

At 11:00 a.m., Elizabeth and I were watching a movie and the girl called one last time. She’d been admitted to spend the night in the hospital and was much calmer. Her mother was with her, and they both spoke with Elizabeth expressing their gratitude.   

I doubt the turmoil in that family is over.  Elizabeth still receives messages ranging from “you are my best friend” to “it’s all your fault”.  She understands it’s appropriate to take a step back.  I plan to take her into school first thing Tuesday, touch base with the Vice-Principal, and make sure there is no concern about retaliation of any kind.

While I’m rarely at a loss for words, I have trouble expressing how impressed I am with the strength, patience and perseverance our daughter demonstrated through this whole mess.  She never lost her perspective.   I know she’ll never forget this, and her friends, although one step away from what happened, will remember, as well. The girls will remember that no means no, and the boys will remember that the 18 year old high school kid is being held accountable for his actions.   

I am also extremely grateful that as I was struggling with my feelings, each time I thought I'd reached a dead end trying to contact someone, Leslie pushed me to take it one step further.

We hope it turns out alright for everyone involved, but we’ll never forget what we learned from this.

What do you do if your under age schoolmate tells you she’s been molested? 

Tell an adult.  Someone you can rely on.

Definitely.

Tell.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Say Hello to Teddy

Leslie and I went to the SPCA on a whim, feeling Jack's loss more than ever today and knowing that Daizy was missing him, too after having slept alone last night for the first time (she snores so LOUDLY). We found this little fellow. He's part beagle, part terrier, comes when you call him, knows how to sit, does his business outside already, is very vocal and loving, gets along with Daizy (who has already established she's the boss) ... and is only 8 months old!  


I'd like to introduce you to Theodore Jackson Moxie Faber.  Jackson is in honor of our Jack. Moxie is for Ray Caspio's grandmother who just passed away (attn Kevenn T Smith, too). 


The name he answers to is Teddy.  

In Memory of Jack



Our Golden Retriever, Jack (also known as Jack Boy, Jackson or most affectionately by Leslie as simply J.A.) came to us in December of 2005. He was a roly-poly Christmas puppy at only 8 weeks old.  His father was a raucous, leggy Golden, who banged and scrabbled at the back door when we saw him in Modesto. His mother was an elegant, almost regal canine, who watched us with accusatory eyes.  He was the last of the litter, and cried the first night we had him until Elizabeth climbed into the laundry basket with him. Jack was indescribably cute and perfectly puppy-like in all the right ways.  We adored him immediately.

Jack grew into a goat-sized adolescent quickly, as large breed puppies will do, and began to lose his downy coat.  As he changed, he gained in mischief what he lost in cuteness.  He got into absolutely everything, and trounced all over our 12 year old Golden, Casey, which caused her physical pain, so he spent much of his time in the kitchen behind a gate.  There he chewed up every cord he could find, destroyed numerous kitchen appliances before we could puppy proof the room, and shredded puppy pads thoroughly all over the floor. Jack was an escape artist, as well, and in our absence, once left the kitchen to torment our macaw, General.  General never recovered from that nerve wracking experience and had to move on to another home.  Constantly jumping, scratching and nipping, he was thoroughly exasperating and impossible. More than once, his ride in the car, however precarious for the driver, could have been his last. He almost made the trip straight to the SPCA.

In June of 2006 we moved to Connecticut, and Jack took his first ride in the belly of the beast, a giant 747 that was loud, cold, and terribly frightening.  We watched his crate move up the conveyor belt into the cargo bay through the window of the plane and could see he was trembling.  We worried about him through the flight, and when we picked him up at JFK’s cargo warehouse, he was brought out in his crate on a forklift.  Jiggling back and forth, he was clearly terrified.  However, we were certain he would bolt, so we didn’t let him out of his crate until we made it to the hotel in Connecticut. 

When we opened the crate, what emerged was a completely different dog.  In the hotel room, we kept his dog crate visible and it served as a behavioral reminder.  Jack watched it with one eye as though he expected it to wake up and swallow him again.  Large movements like opening the sofa bed for Elizabeth made him flinch.  But shortly he became focused, happy, extremely eager to please and prone to only the tiniest moments of fancy. He managed an impulsive escape once to run blissfully and happily through the halls of the Marriot Courtyard with Elizabeth running behind him.  Who could blame him?  What a glorious fiasco!  He co-existed peacefully with us in a hotel suite for three weeks before we were able to move.  It was an amazing transformation.

From that point forward, Jack grew into a prince. It was as if he emulated his rowdy father as a pup, and in his adulthood became more like his mother.

We were there living in Connecticut in 2006 when we got Daizy, and she was just a tiny loaf of bread. We introduced her to Jack carefully and he greeted her with gentle love.  Our home became their playground. When they played together, Jack tossed her about by the collar, and took her tiny head in his jaws without ever hurting her.  He would lay prone in order to level the playing field as she danced and yipped around him.  That was something he continued to do right until the end. Jack leveraged his size only when something tasty was at stake, and he’d simply put himself in the forefront and ensure Daizy didn’t have access until he was finished. They became a unit although they had vastly different personalities.  Jack was all heart, gentle and compliant, and Daizy is cerebral, willful and diligent.  Right up until the end, he tolerated her pushing him around incessantly, licking his ears obsessively, and getting into his bits and pieces whenever she felt like it.  Most recently, they wouldn’t be separated at the dog park, so Daizy navigated the big dog side with ease and confidence to be near him.  Jack wasn’t as social with other dogs as Daizy was and spent most of his dog park time exercising superior olfactory senses around the perimeter where other dogs wouldn’t bother him.  This was due to an encounter with an aggressive dalmation that bit his flank. He enjoyed his dog park time, and greeted all the humans enthusiastically, but he was cautious with other dogs. His memory was long.  He and Daizy would return to one another every so often muzzle to muzzle with deliberateness, and then go about their separate business again I image to relish the bountiful banquet of olfactory delights the dog park was.

Over the next three years, and thoroughly enjoying Daizy’s presence, Jack grew into an exemplary dog.  We left Connecticut, returned to California, and the mature Golden Retriever that returned with us wasn’t terrified to go back on the airplane, rather he was accepting of it.  He was a prince in the hotel, too.  Our family, humans and dogs alike, seemed to be truly in synch here in Pacifica, where he and Daizy had an almost 360 degree view of the outside, where together they went in the car almost every day, and where neighborhood dogs provided an even more delightful bouquet of smells and experiences. 

Leslie was acknowledged as the pack leader in our home.  The dogs both loved her dearly and wanted to be near her constantly.  They knew instinctively when it was time to get Elizabeth at school.  Jack demonstrated natural compassion by helping Leslie at the stairs.  She’s always had bad knees, and at times when climbing the stairs were difficult, Jack would ascend first, wait at the top, and extend his neck so she could hold his collar to step up.  He braced himself for her.  When she went to bed, they went to bed.   In fact, I was out of town once on business, and Jack slept on my side with his head on the pillow all night.  Next to being in the car, being on the big bed was his greatest joy.

Jack’s relationship with Elizabeth was particularly special; after all they’d grown up together. He treated her like a sister, although she had no fur and had two legs instead of four.  Daizy considers Elizabeth a bit of a nuisance, but Jack only wanted to make her happy.  He got better walking on the leash, learned tricks, and bestowed smooches simply to please her. He even posed deliberately for photo sessions with her iPhone (yes, he was a poser!).  Once at the dog park we saw a completely different side of Jack.  A big black dog approached Elizabeth who was standing next to me, and for some reason Jack considered it a threat.  He came between the two of us with tremendous intent, rushed at the dog growling, and then acted proud of what he’d done.  They say dogs can read energy, so only he would know what the danger might have been.  But we didn't get angry with him. He was expressing his love.

Seating was of particular concern to Jack, and I wonder if it wasn’t some sort of pecking order he observed.  If he couldn’t have his place on the couch each evening, he’d sulk deliberately, or stare wide eyed at Leslie until she couldn’t’ stand it any longer and made seating adjustments to accommodate him. He always had to have the second passenger seat in the car, as well.  Once we drove to Los Angeles and made him a big space in the back of the van so he could stretch out.  He chose instead to remain curled up like a croissant on the second passenger seat next to Elizabeth for the entire 7 hour trip, moving only when we walked him, which was frequently.

Jack would spend his mornings and evenings lounging on his couch, with his head resting on the arm so he could stare at Leslie sitting in her lounge chair.  He demanded his toast every morning, as well, so we gave it to him.  Although Elizabeth was the exception, he wasn’t much of a kisser, and rather gave full body hugs using the length of his torso.  Jack wasn’t crazy about dog cookies, most times couldn’t care less, but he ate them so not to be outdone by Daizy.  He wasn’t much of a barker either, but turned into one at Daizy’s insistence.  Jack hated to be left home during the day, and if he didn’t get his daily time in the car, he would brood and sulk again.  But car time was his favorite thing, just like being on the big bed, and he would sit in the passenger seat with his nose at the open window, smelling the world, and closing his eyes in canine bliss. His intense happiness was completely sincere and a sight to behold. 

We considered Jack a prince, and he was in every way, fully matured and having left his troubled youth behind him.  He had one weakness. He ate toys. Not all the time, but in less than a four year period, he needed two major abdominal surgeries to clear blockage.  The first was just as we were leaving Connecticut, and the second was here in California less than two years ago.
Last Friday, Jack began vomiting. It wasn’t alarming initially, but within a day it was symptomatic of GI blockage, so off to the vet we went. He took a turn for the worse a day later after receiving his true diagnosis.  A sizable portion of Jack’s large intestine had telescoped or turned in on itself, shutting down his GI system, and accumulating toxins quickly.  The doctor said he had an infection, as well, but the root of the problem was scarring from previous surgeries. 

As a family, we made a hard decision to spare Jack the numerous painful surgeries that would be a gateway to a severely decreased quality of life. We cried a lot, but came together at the vet’s office to say our final good-byes.  It was obvious Jack was in pain.  His flame seemed to be barely flickering and even his coat, usually shiny and luxuriant, seemed muted.  He took his special time with Elizabeth, resting his head in her lap as she said her farewells.  When the doctor arrived with the syringes, he was compliant.  Jack actually liked the doctor, gave him hugs despite being sick, and knew he was being helped.  He laid down on his side willingly, his head still up, and we all thanked him for being good to us.  When he fell asleep, his head gently held by the nurse went limp, and Elizabeth began sobbing.  Soon we were all sobbing and reluctant to leave him even though the deed had been done.  He looked like he was only sleeping.

In the car, Leslie extended Jack’s collar to Daizy. Obviously, she knew something was going on.  She sniffed it up and down with focus and determination and must have learned everything she needed to know because she wastes no time looking for him.  She hasn’t shirked her protective duties, and she checks in with each of us from time to time.  We’ve noticed she misses the affection he gave her, and the physical contact. So, she’s taken to falling asleep on my chest in the mornings.  Daizy and Jack are two completely different dogs, one made of the heart, the other of brains, and I wonder how she will evolve in his absence. She’s a big dog in a small package, but she’s always had his companionship.  I think another dog in the house would make her happy.

The space Jack left behind in our family and our home is huge.  We all miss him terribly.  I’ve never been a dog person, but I got to know Jack.  I feel his absence poignantly appreciating that he didn’t’ start out the Prince he was went he left us.  It took patience, process and the passage of time to turn him into the wonderful dog he was. Jack made quite an impression on me, and I can’t escape the feeling of loss he left behind.  I wish I could because I hate it.  Elizabeth wears his tags around her neck on a chain, and the rest of his jewelry is hanging on the rear view window of the van. He’ll be given a private cremation, and we’ll receive his remains in a sweet little urn that will have his photo on it.

We’re not sure how we’re supposed to get used to being without him yet.  But time is relentless. When you lose someone you love, it feels like time should stop. But it doesn’t.  Instead, time marches on, and ironically heals with an unending measure of days, weeks and months.

Jack, we’ll miss you terribly.  

Good voyage, dear one, and thank you for loving us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rest in Peace, dear Jack Boy

Elizabeth wrote this piece for Jack when she was 11 years old. I'm working on a memorium blogpost, but this is so sweet and entirely appropriate.  We miss you, Jack.



Desert Dog
by Liz Faber

In his eyes
a desert
at night
a ring of ebony
another
of shining gold
none of them perfect
all jagged
never perfect
but always.

When you look at him
you see an old mutt
his face white
the rest a worn out rust
but when you feel him
you feel a puppy
his smile so pure
drool dripping off
his rough tongue

His life
a journey
a maze
started out
in a desert
but somehow
got to me
I don't know how
only he
my puppy
my old dog
knows the secret

His mother
the sun
his father
the moon
his brothers
the sand.

But there's one thing
that I know
he's my puppy
my old man
my dog
and I love him.

Monday, May 16, 2011

COMIC BOOKS ❤ ACTION FIGURES ❤ TOYS

When we were at Half Moon Bay’s Pacific Coast Dream Machines event on May 1, some lady, a kid really, dropped a post card into my hand advertising a car show event at an elementary school in Daly City. They were looking for participating vendors.  Given the state of panic the California school system is in, I wasn’t entirely surprised that an elementary school PTA was willing and capable enough to throw such an elaborate event.  Leslie and I thought it was a great idea, too.  Our booth is like George Jetson’s briefcase. We can haul it anywhere, press a button, and it pops up.  Does it matter what we fill it with?

This time we filled it with my private collection of action figures, comic books and toys.  I’ve been ready to part with these treasures for some time, but after being nickeled and dimed to death at a few tag sales, I was at a loss for the right venue. What happened was kind of amazing and more fun than I’ve had in a long time.

The middle aged men came out first.  These guys were more interested than anyone; and they were discerning collectors looking for something very specific: a scary clown, KISS figures (had ‘em) or Star Trek (left ‘em home because I didn’t think there would be interest … FAIL!). 

After that, there were four kinds of booth visitors, as follows:
  1. The obsessed collector, drawn like a moth to the flame, was shiny eyed and acted kind of stupefied. These folks wanted everything, and probably spent more money than they should have.  I was cool with it.
  2. The “I have it” guy already has everything, and it's either in storage, in his garage, or at his mother-in-law’s house. Classic X-Men? He’s got it. Spawn? He has that, too. And each is certain his collection is worth at least a hundred grand.  I met one fellow who lost a collection when his house burned down.  These guys had so much to talk about and with them I indulged an apparently endless mental supply of super hero trivia.  I had no idea so much useless information was in my brain. Then, they’d leave, only to return shortly to stare at the shiny treasures again. 
  3. The third person was your average walk-in who wasn’t into action figures or comic books as much as they were attracted to one specific thing.  Do you have Green Lantern?  Do you have Godzilla?  Chucky & Tiffany was a big hit, and I sold one set of “Rocky Horror” figures.  I lost my Wonder Woman Barbie to this kind of collector (at a good price, though), and my Lady Death figures, too (sigh).  One man who collected Wolverine returned four times to gaze longingly at my Secret Wars Wolverine (didn’t buy it though).  Oddly, my Bewitched Barbie remains unclaimed.
  4. Then, there were the kids; loads and loads of mostly little boys who were absolutely and unequivocally awesome beyond words through the whole thing. They eyeballed  what they wanted, disappeared, and reappeared dragging their parents (and their parents’ cash) behind them. After that, they hung around talking animatedly about this and that or looking at the backs of hanging figures, even the smexy ones, memorizing every detail.  They were incredibly cute and a running undercurrent of excitement and possibility.


I can’t tell you how much fun I had personally at this event talking about action figures, super heroes, the goings on a Marvel and DC, and the numerous movies coming out.   People LOVED hiking that trip down memory lane with me, and I certainly didn’t mind carrying the backpack.  The day went by so quickly, too.  One minute I was setting up, and the next minute I was unloading the car into our garage.   It made me long for the days when a comic book store was a prosperous business venture. When was that, the mid-eighties? 

The good news is that there are still boxes of comic books and yet more action figures in untapped corners of the garage, and we’ve got another, bigger school carnival coming up in mid-June. 


I admit it. 

I’m 47 years old this August, and I’m a complete geek. 

Or it is nerd.

I’m not sure what it is, but I’m definitely one.


Definitely.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PACIFIC COAST DREAM MACHINES: Our First Art Event!

What a week it’s been. It started with a series of horrible tornados and mass destruction, then the common girl married her prince, and the #1 bad guy was caught and killed. Is this real life or a Disney movie? While all this was going on, preparation for our far less dramatic art event at Pacific Coast Dream Machines was in full swing as last minute details piled up like rubber neckers on the freeway.

Saturday, Leslie and I went to check out the venue at Half Moon Bay airport which is right next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Classic cars, antique airplanes, monster trucks, motor cycles, all sorts of toys, and many vendors like us would require lots and lots of space! It was an ideal location. The event itself was free of intense rules and regulations, providing us a unique opportunity to get an understanding of how these events flow. The downside is that it gets windy out there. Saturday there were 30 mile an hour ocean winds tearing a path across the tarmac which made us both nervous. I’d spent the last two weeks namby pambying every piece of art, each matte board, every frame, handling all with kid gloves and stressing over any even potential scratch, and I was going to hang it all in the middle of a tornado? I also had plans to bring some gift baskets, one of my custom scrapbooks, and framed sticker art. I scratched the idea because I was afraid they would be ruined.

As luck would have it, the event coordinator was there. He checked us in and showed us where we’d set up. He also strongly suggested we put something in place to reserve our space just in case. Leslie and I raced back over Devil’s Slide to do our final errand at Lowe’s and then over the hill to our house to pick up our stuff, so we could erect our canopy in Half Moon Bay before sundown. So there we were, just us and a bunch of antique airplanes, lugging cinder blocks, hammering steel rods into the hard ground with a cobalt mallet to tie it down, and we did it all in gale force winds. When the tent was fully expanded, we held our breath, but it proved all sorts of rules about aerodynamics, as the wind simply blew through it, as opposed to tearing it to shreds, which is what I was afraid of. Relieved, we went home to keep an eye on the weather.

On Sunday, the three of us were out of bed early, at the airport, and set up well before the 10:00 a.m. start time. The weather was flawless, sunny and breezy, without a gale wind to be felt. There was almost immediate interest in my work, which was a combination of older black and white abstracts, new full color renderings, and one or two odd pieces to spice things up. They were all framed and matted to perfection. One fellow named Robert purchased a framed print of my dragon spirit guide, Gregor, for his girlfriend. That was encouraging. All day long, there was interest in my dragon, along with considerable interest in the piece entitled “Oh Lydia!” for obvious reasons given the audience (if you’re familiar with the piece and understand there were bikers around). I was asked about commissions, gave out many cards, and answered questions about my style and approach. Kirk Prentiss, an old friend from a previous job, turned out in his own toy, a snazzy motorcycle, to lend his support.

We worked our booth as a family but still found time to check out our surroundings. Elizabeth rode an electronic bull and got flung outside the padded ring. Leslie scoped out our neighbors and was happy no other artists were around. Together, they played with remote control race cars on a groovy little speedway one vendor down. We worked our booth like a family and had some fun, as well. When we got home Sunday night, we were all too tired to unload the van, ate something nice and hot for dinner, and crashed!

This experience allowed me to indulge a long desire to beautifully frame as much of my original art as I could and get it out into creation. Symbolically, it was an affirmation of my creativity, my confidence, and my self-esteem. It also took my work to the next logical place after having launched a website devoted exclusively to my creative endeavors one year ago. More than that, however, Leslie supported this effort emotionally, encouraging me when it would be so easy to succumb to pragmatism. I find it difficult to put into words how much her support through this has meant to me.

Now, we have everything we need to enter other events in the Bay Area. There are too many art and wine festivals to count, and all sorts of other interesting events and venues. We will explore all of them. In the meantime, rest is the order of the day.

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