Dear Columbia, SC Frat Party Attendee:

In regards to the turmoil you have created for Michael Phelps, I would like to state for the record that I find you to be a complete and total dick. No matter what anyone thinks about Phelps’ actions, they have to scrutinize yours. Not exactly the choices I would want my son to make should he find himself in that situation. Boneheads don’t make good role models.

If the illegalities of the situation gravely concerned you, you would have immediately sent that photo to the police from your cell with a text reading, “420 in progress” and directions to the party. If you were offended for religious, moral, or health reasons, you probably would have left the room and included him in your prayers. Not wreak total havoc on his life. Nor were you the dashing photojournalist secretly filming on drug use among Olympic athletes. Or working on that High Times piece dispeling the myth that all weed smokers are confused and unproductive people.  

No, you were the douchebag who came to the decision that instead of being the cool, laid-back frat guy who got to chill out with his new buddy Phelps, you were gonna opt for The Total Asshole Move.  

WHY? Were you just struck with the desire to inflict a large amount of damage in several key areas of another young man’s life? Do you secretly hate Michael Phelps? Just HAD to bring him down? Do you think swimming is an absolute outrage? Was he hogging all the chicks? Or were you in awe and needed proof for your friends, but a mischievious paparazzi elf stole the photo?

Didn’t anyone at ANY point tell you, “Aw, come on man, don’t be lame.”?

Now it seems obvious to me that we should respect your family and not dissect YOUR life. It appears that did not cross your mind when you marched your little treasure to the press.

Think now. Are there any pictures of you NEXT to the bong? Or vomiting during Rush Week? Or in some vulnerable position where you thought you could let your guard down? Let’s publish THOSE in the local newspaper, the sorority newsletter, plaster posters on kiosks all over town and drop fliers off at all the business specializing in YOUR field where you intend to search for jobs after graduation. Send it to your parents. Your grandma. Your coach.

Didn’t you, at any point, play that little game we call Put Yourself In Their Shoes? I play that game with my 5 yr. old. It helps him learn a little thing we call empathy.

I can only rest assured knowing you will now live with the title of The Guy-Who-Took-The-Phelps-Bong-Picture for the rest of your life. Good luck with that. And I would hope that anyone who criticizes Phelps would also recognize the detriment your kind has on our society. 

Because whether we are pro-this or anti-that, most of us don’t take too kindly to opportunistic jerkoffs who profit from exposing others.

Bad Time for Cleaning Closets

Poor Clay. He sure picked a bad week to finally come out of his closet. (And thank god he cleared that up, because I had been wearing my sheets thin with all my tossing and turning at night wondering why Clay Aiken hadn’t snatched himself up a pretty lady yet).

Seriously though, for him this was probably a gut-wrenching decision. Not only to announce it publicly, but to do it from the cover of People magazine. I fully acknowledge that coming out is a huge deal. It may provide relief to some, but will ostracize many (or most) from the social and support network they once knew and thought they could rely on. So poor Clay probably braced himself for the fallout that he imagined would happen. How will this impact my career, my relationships with others?

He braced himself for awhile when People hit the stands until he heard about a little scuffle going down on Wall Street. He may have peeked out the door wondering where his media frenzy was around the time The Maverick swore off debates and rode off to Washington. By the time House Republicans were storming out the negotiating door, I envision poor Clay was probably standing on his curb, hands on hips, looking up and down the abandoned street and listening to the chirping of crickets.

No, Clay probably wasn’t counting on other mind-boggling, nerve-wracking, fear & loathing events to happen during his week to shine.

But now that the first debate is under our belts, I’d like to take a break from the battleground to give Clay a little shout out. Way to go, man! It’s a hard road but you came through (and out). And congrats on being a new parent (and you thought coming out was tough)  

But the critical question here Clay, is do you have stock with WaMu? 

September 11th, 2008

On September 11, 2008, I was working on my glib response to a new ad campaign promoting high fructose corn syrup, when I heard two pretty loud bangs out on my usually snoozy street. I hesitated, and then decided it was loud enough to warrant a peek outside. As I parted the curtains, I heard a woman yelling so I booked outside. “Call 911!” a woman in a minivan yelled to me, “That house is on fire!” I whipped my head around and saw a roar of flames shooting out of the house two doors down. I grabbed my phone, dialed 911, breathlessly babbled my address and repeated “It’s bad, it’s bad…”

Fortunately the owner made it out and was being vigorously coaxed by my next-door neighbor to get up off his lawn and away from some fallen wires. He finally did after both tires on his van parked by the house exploded. Whoever was home at 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon on our block was now outside gaping slack-jawed at the smoke finding its way out of every window. The fire department was probably there in less than five minutes, (which is pretty good for a volunteer crew who has to make a stop at the station before getting to the scene), but those minutes counted. By the time they arrived, I knew it would be a complete loss. All I could do was stand there with my hands on my head muttering, “Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod…”

In ten minutes, our block was crowded with three fire trucks, an ambulance, police cars, and several other random emergency vehicles. Within 15 minutes, people had parked their cars on our lawns and joined the spectacle. Call it morbid curiosity. I don’t doubt some of it was. But this is a small town. When people hear about a fire on a certain street, they KNOW that street. Their cousin, their co-worker’s cousin, their best friend lives on that street. People need to know who might need their help.

I know very little about this neighbor. He is an older man who keeps to himself. He has lived in town all his life. He recently separated from a woman who seems a little unstable. She now lives in an apartment across town and makes frequent treks past his house, occasionally yelling profanities at it from across the street. 

At that moment, I wished I knew him. I wanted him to know that I would do anything to help him. I wanted to comfort him. I offered him a drink of water, but he looked right through me. I so desperately wanted to do something for someone. What about the firemen? As I rapidly racked my brain for the hydrating options in my house, the EMS team came in with cases of water bottles and 20 lb. bags of ice. That policeman, he’s been here awhile…maybe he needs water. Who needs to use my bathroom? But I stayed put. No one needed a busybody neighbor getting in anyone’s face trying to satisfy a personal need to feel useful. The emergency crew needed to do their job, and my neighbor needed familiar faces. His estranged wife finally made it across town, dazed and confused, his bar buddy joined him, a niece came. My next-door neighbor, the one who pulled him off his lawn, never left his side. She used my cell phone to call work, so that calmed my failing sense of purpose.      

It took almost an hour to extinguish the fire. Apparently our water tower was being painted, thus empty, so they had to bring water in from other sources. By 3:30, the smoke had cleared. Half the block was covered in foam, Alliant Energy was fixing wires, the crowd dissipated. And a shell of a house remained.

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic. It is not the worst disaster anyone has ever witnessed. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Considering the anniversary of this date, this is a drop in the bucket. But it is a dramatic event. My nerves were frazzled. I have never been so close to a fire. I had no idea how fast your entire castle could go. I have never seen firemen drenched from head to toe in foam and soot and sweat. I have never before watched a fireman sit on the curb, propped up against a bag of ice, red-faced and hyperventilating but getting enough air to tell the EMS “You better check on Tom, he went in right after I did”. It hurts your insides to watch.

But nothing gnaws at my gut more than the lingering image of my neighbor sitting on my front lawn with his head in his hands. I have never before seen the face of someone watching their house burn, and I hope I never do again. 

On a very small scale, this was my 9/11. Although horrified by the attack seven years ago, I was so far removed from it. The images were on TV. But this is my block. That is my neighbor. I was here for the whole thing. I can only now grasp, again to a small degree, that gut-wrenching feeling watching a disaster happen to your folk. What I’ll never fully comprehend is how painful those images must have been for anyone who witnessed the big 9/11 and lived to tell about it. My neighbor started his fire working on an old motorcycle. It might have been prevented. No one in the World Trade Center was recklessly playing with airplanes that day. What did those witnesses do with their level of gut-wrench? Their feelings of helplessness?   

Today, we have plenty of traffic on our block. It is the number one news item in town. The neighbors are chattering like squirrels about where they were when they heard the big bangs. But people need to air it out, get it out of their heads. Talking loosens the tightly wound bundle of nerves. And I know its not supposed to be about The Stuff. Obviously, you get an immediate dose of what is truly a priority, and that is no harm or loss of life. But that Stuff represents your hobbies, your money and hard work, your collections, your memories. It represents you. That Stuff is important. And almost everything that man has worked for and earned and treated himself to is gone.   

My life has not changed. This was not my tragedy and it would be foolish of me to claim it as such. Last night, I did not curl into a ball, I made cookies and attended an Open House at the school. I will not march over to enthusiastically introduce myself to all the neighbors I haven’t met yet because we should rally around this house fire as a reason to unify. On this block, that would just be weird. I will get back to picking apart the nutritional content of processed foods and lipstick on pigs and who will get eliminated on Project Runway next week.

But today, the burnt smell in the air haunts me. I can still see the look on my neighbor’s face. The shell of the house two doors down disturbs me. I can’t deny that I have been given a moment of crystal clear perspective. So today, I will do some praying for my neighbor, count some blessings and watch when my son says, “Watch this, Mom!” for the 25th time. 

Because today it is fresh on my brain that your life can change in seconds.

Culinary Feminism (or) Brown Baggin’ It

A couple of my friends raised a collective eyebrow when they learned that I packed my husband’s lunch. To their credit, they were also old college friends who had seen me through women’s studies classes and unshaved armpits. They seemed surprised I had caved to The Man. If their husbands wanted a lunch, they would have to pack it themselves. One of their men ate out for lunch. Every day. No, my friends did not eagerly jump onto my lunchbox wagon.

My husband could make his own lunch. But in my house, it’s not a matter of caving in to the “white male patriarchal society” and becoming a slave to traditional gender roles. In my house, the kitchen is my domain. Not because that is expected of me, but because I have wholeheartedly claimed it as mine. I am this family’s Iron Chef. I am faster. Stronger. The food quality is (significantly) better. I know exactly what’s in the fridge and where. I do not suffer from the refrigerator blindness that claims thousands of male victims each day. Cooking is my passion, my therapy, and a great source of pride.

And let’s face it, if I watched my husband pack his own lunch, the control freak within would pummel on my insides with a potato masher until I let it out to finish the job. Ask anyone who’s tried to cook in my kitchen.

In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver discusses her coming from an era of feminists who “recoiled from the proposition that keeping a husband presentable and fed should be our highest intellectual aspiration” We fought so very hard to get into a work force that would prevent us from slaving in the kitchen. But in doing so, we fell into the hands of a toxic convenience food industry that promised to take care of our meals for us. As she puts it, “We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising,…the creative task of molding our families tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange…the Lunchable.”

If selecting and cooking food is an area where I have decided to take charge, I am responsible for doing quality work. I trust my husband to do the same at his job. I’m not going to cheat him out of some decent nutrition in the middle of the day while he works hard for us. I pick fresh fruit, a homemade sandwich, and to his dismay, the dreaded carrot sticks. If he wants to go out or get a li’l sumthin’ at the vending machine, that’s his deal. I do what I can to ensure he eats well. It’s my job. And he deserves it.

And yes, it’s about love. He is not The Establishment, he is my family. And nothing says “I love you” like a warm buttered bagel sitting in the passenger seat next to you on your way to work because you didn’t have time to eat at home. My grateful man has called me from the road to tell me just that.

Financially speaking, it’s the smarter choice. Based on receipts collected when I didn’t pack a lunch, I see that he spends about $5 on breakfast (of the gas station variety) and $8-12 on lunch. That’s $13-17 a day. If he does that, say, three days a week, it would cost us almost $40- 50/week, or $160-200/month. And that’s a conservative estimate. What if I never packed his lunch, ever? It could add up to $240-250/month. Just for lunch. If I cook at home, I can make him a breakfast for about $2.00 or less. For lunch, I’d spend maybe $2 (or less) to $5, tops. That $5 lunch includes a pretty extravagant treat. You do the rest of the math. And I’m sure, you get the picture.

Admittedly, it CAN be a pain. Rapidly foraging in the fridge as he’s running out the door really sucks. You have to plan for lunches. They require some time. There are crabby, rushed mornings when I send him out to face the grind empty-handed. There are moments when I remove my territorial flag from the kitchen just praying for a mutiny. But realistically, making a lunch takes minutes, not hours. So I march forth. He maintains a consistent work ethic at his job, I try to do the same at mine. No matter how busy we are, as Kingsolver suggests, we can make that mental shift, “Approaching mealtimes as a creative opportunity, rather than a chore, is an option”

This fall, I will begin to pack lunches for my new kindergartener. I am not sure what the food quality is at our public school, but I am suspicious. School lunches have a very bad reputation, but that is another essay for another day. I’m darn glad I have the option to decide (for the most part) what goes into his body when he’s away from home, banking on those creative opportunities to keep him nutritionally sound.

Yes, I am a culinary feminist. I exercise my right to provide an alternative to fast food conglomerates. I am not losing my identity in homemaking, I am reclaiming it with every carrot stick, with every passionate pinch of spices. I bring meaning and value and love into my families’ bellies. With a few minutes to a half an hour of preparation, I make sure our food dollar goes into wholesome nutrition and doesn’t sink into a toxic wasteland of crap and empty calories. And making my personal brown bag theories part of a larger social awareness is an intellectual aspiration of mine. It is my right, and in my best interest, to do so.

And that, my friends, is how I stick it to The Man. Join me now in my brown bag crusade.

I’m Sorry, We Don’t Do High-Fives

Due to a series of twists and turns in my early twenties, I found myself residing in sunny San Diego. For five years, I regularly watched the sunset over the Pacific, kept the windows of my pumpin’ ’85 Nissan Sentra rolled down in the middle of winter, and fell deeply, wholeheartedly in love with sushi. But living in paradise comes with a cost. And my trade-off was enduring the annoying, steady stream of high-fives.

The high-five has a brief, understudied, but witty history. I won’t go into details here, but if you’ve got too much time on your hands, as I apparently do, check out this or this for your high-five education.

I’m not an athlete, and I was never in a club with a secret handshake. I never grew up in a family that said “Dude, that was totally AWEsome!” after a proud moment. We simply weren’t the high-fivin’ kind. But certainly even I could understand a victory high-five after a half-court shot that wins the game. Or a good-natured high-five when a friend shares some great news. 

Yet I had embedded myself into the land where a hand is lifted no matter what the celebration. People raised their hands up like a free-for-all. For good, not great, news. For the decision to purchase another beer. “Dude…!” Anytime I said something funny. “Dude….!” And I stood out as a fairly funny person in those parts. So I don’t think I got through an entire conversation in that town without having to slap a hand, if not several times. Some of my acquaintances should have just propped up their hand in an automatic high-five position, because it was as constant as a laugh track in a bad sitcom.

Yes, I grew weary of the high-five. I am guilty of leaving people hanging. My friends who knew me well, knew not to high-five me and enjoyed watching my looks of discomfort if cornered by a particularly eager high-fiver. I even reached a point where I risked being a flat-out bitch by either ignoring the palm that faced me, waiting for my smack, or by waving it away and muttering, “Ugh…no high fives”.  

Alas, parenthood finds me revisiting my old ghosts and I must comply with the social pressure to high-five again. Through other adult and peer influences, my son is receiving and expecting props after sports-related and other victories. I know the high-five, or derivative thereof, is the cultural norm, particularly for the male species. (Unless you live in San Diego, where it’s frequency is shared lovingly between the genders). Learning to high-five is a rite of passage for little dudes everywhere. What kind of mother would I be sending him off to school without any practice? Or to teach him and his little friends that in this family, we don’t do high-fives, because his mother had some bad experiences in the San Diego bar scene.

It seems there is no escape. So my plan is to bring back the low-five. Whatever happened to the low-five? Its much more subtle, can be done quietly and gracefully, keeping the hands at waist level or even lower, rather than the fanfare of flashing your hand close to or above your head, calling attention to your eager face. Flapping in a breeze of painful embarrassment if left hanging. Don’t leave me hanging….

Yes, if all goes according to my plan, a new generation of fresh victories will be celebrated with the much cooler, calmer low-five. It’s like a whisper….Dude.

The Strength to Learn

I don’t engage in deep political discussions too often because, basically, I don’t want to look stupid. I’m not a buffoon; I can generally speak to the current state of affairs and have a good idea where I stand on most issues and why. But when trying to follow conversations with political analysis prodigies who can drop names, dates, cite statistics and have an esoteric but completely poignant quote from a 19th century philosopher on the ready, I come off looking like Barney Fife.

But I recently had a debate with a close friend that had me clearing my throat and shuffling my debate papers. In a tiny nutshell, we disagreed on a chain email she had sent me. And because I initially had the privilege of arguing in my preferred form of a written response, (you get a moment to clear your head and do some research) I dove in.  

For the record, my friend and I bat for different political teams. We have some messy boundaries, but it’s pretty clear we’re voting quite differently behind the little curtain. And for two people who don’t often engage in conversations that reveal that blatant and potentially conflicting difference between us, I would say that we handled our debate with grace. Ok, so we’ve been friends for 27+ years and our sons and husbands play well together. But to our credit, I think it has more to do with our ability, and flexibility, to keep it smart and respectful. Of course, this speaks to how incredibly wise and cool we are.

The art of debating, at every level, seems endangered. I realize now that the debate class required for my major taught me some of the best lessons in life. If you’re going to run off your mouth, you better have something legitimate to stand on, even if it’s wobbly. Consider your sources and pick good ones. Don’t go off on vaguely related tangents or you will lose your audience. Speak only to the degree that you know your shit, or it will quickly become apparent that you are lost. And if you want to maintain some integrity, no personal attacks.

But as I have noticed on message boards and in comments to other bloggers (as well as from my own Feral Cat Controversy) no one follows those rules. We would rather remain inflexible. Stick to your agenda regardless of any new information to the contrary. Continue to swamp message boards with the same point repeated eight different ways. (yes, we heard you…stop typing) Attack the character of the person who god forbid, disagrees with you. Say things you’re too chicken to say out from under the safe guise of your username.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the most well-mannered arguer. I’ve stooped, oh yes. But it WAS nice to disagree with a friend because neither one of us spit out extremist dialogue. We were willing to listen. We may not have convinced each other but I did learn a few things. I did critically rethink how and why I stand where I do. It’s always nice to exercise the old rationale.

Ultimately, It’s hard for me to listen to anyone who is extremely anything…right, left, religious, angry, happy, hippy, or horny, because they allow the extreme to define who they are as a person and what comes out of their mouth. I like continuum scales. I like blends and shades and complicated layers. I respect people who are strong enough to change their minds.

So I may risk revealing my political weaknesses and start to engage in more debates. Because the flexible and willing to learn are sorely misrepresented out there.  

In Defense of the Popcorn Clutching Sisterhood

A few days ago, Judith Warner wrote a post called Women in Charge/Women Who Charge in her Domestic Disturbance blog for the NY Times. She examines the current environment in which the downfall of Hillary Clinton’s campaign can occur simultaneously with the popularity of the Sex and the City movie. And in referring to the movie as “bubbling idiocy”, this is a co-existance that apparently displeases her.

She first recommends a video that compiles much of the sexist media circus surrounding Clinton’s campaign. I loved/hated the video and recommend it as well. I was well aware of the anti-Hillary attacks throughout her campaign, but this is a sickening and powerful anti-tribute to the reality of how far we haven’t come as women.

BUT, I do take issue with coupling a discussion of the climate of Hillary’s candidacy with the fame of Sex and the City. If the movie were a particularly fluffy and unrealistic storyline about a female politician, I could understand the critique. But to question the attractiveness of this movie with the insinuation that it is the downfall of intelligent female culture (“when ‘angry’ is out and Restalyne is in”) is, in my opinion, as direct of an attack against women as calling Mrs. Clinton a bitch.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did watch several episodes of the series. Despite the obvious lack of representation of women of color and the lower/middle class, they were spot on about relationships or lack there of, about emotions, and spoke frankly about a women’s role in sex. I liked the show. I wasn’t alone.   

Why? Although it does not meet all the requirements of a soap opera, Sex and the City may be loosely classified as such. There is a narrative link between episodes, and viewers understand and enjoy each episode based on their knowledge of the characters from previous episodes. Each episode leaves some loose ends. We come back for more.

A “woman’s” genre, the soap opera originated with the radio dramas of the 1930s. Soap operas are the most popular genre of television in the world, and probably in the history of world broadcasting. And like most soap operas, stories like Sex and the City come with a bad rep. They carry a “cultural and aesthetic label of being inconsequential and unworthy”. It is assumed, (usually by those who don’t watch the shows), that the audience has superficial tastes and limited capacities. It appears Judith Warner assumes this about the “popcorn clutching sisterhood” who flocked to see Sex this summer.

What she may not know is that soap operas are defined as one of the most “narratively complex genres” of drama, have consistently appealed to their audiences for over 70 years, cut across social and demographic lines, have demonstrated they are the “most effective and enduring broadcast advertising vehicle ever devised” and are proven to be the “extraordinarily malleable and responsive to a wide variety of local institutional and social requirements”. Perhaps Clinton should have taken a few lessons from As the World Turns.

What Warner is denying is that women don’t always want to fight the power. We are well aware that sexism runs rampant in our world, that we still make 70% of what men do in parallel careers, and that we are one of the few developed nations left to elect a female leader. We COULD be angry all the time, if focusing on the ever-dismal political and social climate of our time. But we are so very busy working, studying, running households, raising children, dealing with faulty toilets, educating ourselves, getting our families, our businesses, and our lives organized, walking the dog, staying healthy, running errands, and maintaining relationships. Most of us ARE working hard to positively impact our lives, even if it’s only within our own realm. And we will stop, thank god, for a minute to breathe and see how Carrie Bradshaw is faring.

Because Sex and the City is a guilty pleasure. For hundreds of thousands of women. Highly intelligent, liberal Hillary-voting women. Well-spoken Republican women. Single mothers. Cosmo sipping AND beer guzzling women. Women working on their GEDs. Wal-Mart employees. Strippers. We come in all shapes and sizes and political commentary is not always our forte. Most of us can’t even afford Blahniks and Botox. We go to the movie in wrinkles, Target and New Balance.

And what we do for pleasure should not be a commentary on our intelligence.

We are drawn to the characters that have been so entertainingly developed. They are over-the-top, fictional characters, not us. But we like watching them. It is a show that speaks to us about struggling with companionship. Aging. Being single. Being married. Being sexy. Or being scared. Because yes, those are important topics in our lives too. It does not mean we are “dumbing down”. It means we are taking a break.  

And that, Ms. Warner, is exactly why Sex and the City  NEEDS to exist in the same environment as the misogynist climate of Clinton’s campaign. And why stories like it have endured the test of our rocky times.

Women discovered an effective escape into stories in the 1930s. And for over 70+ years, we have relied on them to take us away, if only for an hour or so, from the insanity that is our lives. 

Podunk Wisconsinites and the Feral Cat

In April 2005, my fine state supported a proposal to make feral cats an unprotected species, a classification that would allow them to be hunted and killed. Despite the fact that 51 of 72 counties in the state voted in favor of the proposal, Gov. Jim Doyle dampened our kitty killing spirits by claiming it was making Wisconsin a “laughingstock”.

A feral cat is a free-roaming, unowned and untamed domestic cat. These are not to be confused with stray cats, previously owned and lost, or the 80’s rockabilly band with pompadors. Raised without human contact, feral cats (not Brian Setzer) revert to a wild state and form colonies wherever food and shelter are available. One source cites that nearly 2 million free-range cats call Wisconsin home.

I would say approximately 10% of the WI feral cat population has established a thriving colony in my backyard and intend to become a fully independent state.

We enjoyed their presence for a brief moment in history. We spotted one fluffy guy venture into our backyard and named him Sergeant Tibbs. We mused how he and our tortoise shell cat shared a forbidden loved despite the confines of her impenetrable window. The skittish black one with glowing eyes became Sneaky Pete. But wait, is that another Sneaky Pete? That’s Sneaky Pete’s son, my child explained. Are there two or three orange cats? Five? We would crouch behind the lilacs like Dian Fossey in the bush, noting the habits and behaviors of about thirteen primitive cats.

But my husband lovingly built me two raised beds one Mother’s Day so that I could support my family’s diet with chemical-free vegetables. Upon digging, I soon came up with a handful of cat crap. My beds had become giant litter boxes. The amount of cat shit found would trigger any normal gag reflex. Those with tender tummies would be vomiting by now.

I love cats. I normally don’t seethe with rage at Little Whiskers. But after flinging one last pile of poop into my neighbor’s yard, (my only logical military strike against the woman who’s been feeding them all winter) I was ready to start picking those critters off one by one with a shotgun I don’t even own. But I don’t live in South Dakota or Minnesota, where they are allowed to shoot feral cats. I had to resort to chicken wire to exclude the colony from full citizenship rights to my beds. My lovely little seedlings are now incarcerated.

Which led me to rethink this kitty huntin’ proposal. The Humane Society’s answer of Trap-Neuter-Release returns the feral cat back to its colony under the watch of a designated “caretaker”. I support this, as it works to some degree, but it doesn’t cut down on the number of birds killed in my backyard (in WI, 39 million per year perish in the jaws of the street-wise tabby) nor does it eliminate the dumping of toxic waste on my vegetables.

The Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies argue that the logic behind “if you don’t feed them, they’ll go away” is faulty. Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food (!?!?) They tend to encroach closer into human habitations as they grow more desperate. Their malnourished condition makes them more susceptible to parasites, which they will spread. The cats will continue to reproduce despite the effort to “starve them out,” resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. (Aaggh! Kitty deaths!) Keep feeding them, they say.

On the other hand, others say feeding strays maintains high densities of cats that kill and compete with native wildlife populations. Cat colonies will form around sources of food and grow to the limits of the food supply. You can’t realistically trap and neuter all wild cats to the point where you control the population. Colonies can grow to include dozens of animals, who will then eat smaller native species and dump on my vegetables. Ever hear of toxoplasmosis?

In reflecting on my feral cat situation, I am riled by the thought that Doyle was worried about being a “laughingstock”, insinuating the proposal was created by backcountry simpletons. So what else is new? As a Wisconsin native who lived outside of the motherland for eleven years, I experienced a widespread, ignorant opinion that most Wisconsinites were less civilized and unintelligent, usually based solely on our accent. The movie Fargo, although not even filmed in Wisconsin, did nothing to help my cause. Even my closest, most liberal friends think its hilarious to point out how “incorrectly” we speak, but wouldn’t dream of doing so to any other ethnic group. 

Are there ignorant rednecks in Wisconsin? Absolutely. But believe me, yahoos are alive and well EVERYWHERE. I recall finding it annoyingly humorous that my Californian hippy dippy friends would cut me down for the way I said “bagel” (and try to correct me as though I were a child learning to speak) in the same breath that they’d tell me they don’t listen to or read the news because its just The Man talkin’. But you didn’t find me driving all the way from Santa Cruz to the Grand Canyon only to find the park closed during the federal government shutdown of 1995. Hey, I warned them. I read it in the newspaper. Now hand me my baaagel.

But I digress. Back to feral cats. When taking this proposal out of context, you may find the Conservation Congress, the independent group that advises the state Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources, seem a bit like podunk fools. But some quick research on feral cats, (what fun!) and any educated reader would see the proposal was an attempt to educate and alert cat owners. Congress Chairman Steve Oestreicher, clearly stated that people are overreacting (surprise, surprise) if they imagine hunters are going to grab their guns and go hunting cats willy nilly. “We are not advocating a hunting season or the shooting of cats,…this is really to get the attention of the pet owner that when you get tired of your cat, don’t take it out into the woods and dump it.”  Makes sense to me. Eight of my childhood cats were acquired through neighborly cat dumping, not to mention the four or five we took to the Humane Society because we were at our household feline limit. Never have to pay money for a good cat in these parts.

And the U.S. spends over $50 million a year to shelter wild cats. Hmmm…and that ’05 education-oriented  proposal was idiotic?   

If this proposal would have passed, I doubt I would be the person sitting on my back porch with a rifle across my lap waiting for the little buggers to get into close range. But these days, I ain’t going to blame the person who would like to exercise their right to grow shit-free lettuce. Family health trumps wild kitty.  

So time will tell if feral cats will rule the world. If you are a feral cat lover, I suggest on October 16th, National Feral Cat Day (yes, there is one) you take a trip to Rome, (its population has been estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000, organized in about 2,000 colonies), or a Greek holiday, where the affection for the stray feline remains strong. I’ve been there. Its not cute. Its gross. And watch out, if the origins of our modern civilizations started there, why can’t theirs?

Terrorists be damned, it’s the dawn of the feral cat. They are organizing, I tell you, revolution is near.