Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mandatory Sterilization


The Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, signed a law yesterday requiring most dogs and cats to be sterilized by the time they are 4 months old. I have no idea if this guy is one of Dougie's chums, but even so, I'm impressed: he signed one of the nation's toughest laws on pet sterilization, and that takes courage.

You can read the article here.

I'm sure LA, like Trenton, is filled with dirtbags who fight dogs, or dirtbags who just think it's "nasty" to alter their animals, who then go on to reproduce, which results in far too many euthanized animals. I know there are a lot of big mouths out there who think because I care about animals, I must not care about humans, but that's just flawed logic: companion animals are part of our society; humans bred them into what they are now, and it is our responsibility to care for them. To not care for what we created diminishes our own existence. Plus, I'm generally not a terribly combative person, but here are some questions for you aforementioned animal-hating big mouths (know who you are): why don't you explain how breeding with abandon, fighting, killing, and/or torturing animals is our right as humans? And failing that, maybe you can illustrate how it improves our society? I'd be satisfied if you could even show how it's socially acceptable. IT'S NOT.

The article referenced above mentions that LA animal shelters took in 50,000 dogs and cats last year, and approximately 15,000 animals were euthanized. Sure, LA should get credit for saving 35,000 animals — that is a huge accomplishment; but 15,000 is such a large number that we can't even properly fathom it. Back at home, Trenton's shelter had fewer kills in the last year, than in previous years, which is also an accomplishment. But the thing of it is, euthanization is a horribly icky moral conundrum because it is nearly entirely avoidable. The cost to destroy 15,000 animals in LA was approximately $2 million. I'm bad at math, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but that works out to $133+ per animal, and I'm guessing that's just the cost to kill and dispose of it, and doesn't include the cost to feed and water it while alive in the shelter.

We're in a fiscal mess here in Trenton, and passing an ordinance requiring the sterilization of dogs and cats will save us a lot of money, and, I believe, bring back more than a shred of dignity to our community. I am not uptight, but dog testicles dangling proudly in the general vicinity of some empty-headed knucklehead full-up of machismo are simply unacceptable. I'm not singling out the knuckleheads with pit bulls either. Also unacceptable are the wacky, stringy-haired freaks in the neighborhood who are breeding toy dogs without a kennel license, in their houses, and selling the puppies to coworkers and random people on the street for some quick cash.* When and how did these activities become okay? They need to stop.

I hope the City of Trenton will consider passing a similar ordinance to the one in LA, and I hope we enforce it. I hope LA enforces their ordinance too.**


____________
* I promise, I don't have a very good imagination; I observe well, is all. I'm not making this stuff up.

** LA plans to fine its offenders $100, and will tack on community service. Repeat offenders can pay up to $500 in fines and should expect more community service. Not that I hope people will fail to comply, but at least if they do, it means more money for the city, and more helping hands to clean it up. Great ideas for our own city as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Orienteering

Glen and I were watching a "tru" life show last weekend, and the setting was in a state forest in Australia. On the show, several of the characters were engaged in a very British activity called orienteering. Glen asked me if we orienteered in the US, and while I vaguely recall the term from my very limited and traumatic time as a brownie scout, I had no recollection of what the activity was. Glen was able to explain, since, go figure, Canadians, orienteer, as well. It's basically a fancy name for a timed scavenger hunt, but it's a scavenger hunt, usually with high ideals: participants are given a compass and a topographical map, and learn about nature and terrain in the process, and engage in physically-challenging activities which builds character. The orienteering adventure must be completed in a certain time period, as well.

The timing aspect of the activity, of course, is the part that is so British, and yet, Americans are probably far more concerned about time, overall. I just don't quite get why anyone would want to put themselves in an unfamiliar setting and not be allowed the space and time to take it all in? And the name itself, to my American ears, seems to be a grammatical error, although the automatic spellcheck that comes along with the application I'm using to type this diatribe only protested the word "orienteered," in the third sentence in the previous paragraph, which I now realize is my own fault: I turned the noun, "orienteering," into a verb. I'm not going to change it, though, because many nouns that represent activities can be turned into verbs (e.g., I entered a race [noun]; I raced [verb] through the course [neither of which would ever happen, by the way]), and perhaps orienteering should be that flexible as well.

Anyway, grammar aside, we fought for independence against the British, and the traitorous Canadians helped our oppressors, and some days — as irrational as it is — I still hold a grudge, especially against the Canadians*, because look at them now: they cannot be happy with the Queen all over their money and her mural all over the sides of buildings in Canada — it stinks of dictatorship, and I have no idea why the Canadians don't get it. But still, a secret: I love so much about the British and their United Kingdom. I love their humor (but will not add the extraneous U to that word), and their dry wit, and their ability to converse on so many topics; I love they are far more concerned about quality and narrative rather than sound bytes and special effects; I love the regional dialects and the profoundly colorful way the British use their language. And for the life of me, I cannot shake this orienteering thing.

I've thought about orienteering a lot in the last week, wondering why it's done in rural areas, and figuring out ways to adapt it to an urban setting, because we all know there are just as many discoveries in the city as there are out in the wilderness. I like the wilderness a lot, but I live in the city, and after a lot of thought, I'm convinced a First Annual Trenton Orienteering Event is in order, and I hope you will consider participating, because not only will it be educational and full of character-building opportunities, but it will also be a whole lot of fun.

The details

1) I'm not one for strict time limits, but respect the need for framework. You don't need to register with me to participate, but if you participate, please submit your entries/evidence to me by next Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

2) Items you should use while orienteering in Trenton (items in red are required):
a) a buddy
b) a mode of transportation (feet are okay, and so is documentation from your own windows)
c) a digital camera
d) a compass
e) a map
f) a cell phone
g) a note pad

3) Scoring: each item found in the activities (below) are worth 5 points each, for a total of 65 base points. Bonus points are available for certain activities; and there are two big bonus activities worth 10 points each, also outlined below. People/team with the most points win. I am the judge.

4) Document your findings by taking (discreet, if necessary) digital pictures. Be sure to note the location of the finding. ALL FINDINGS MUST BE WITHIN THE CITY OF TRENTON. At the end of the contest, email your pictures, along with the pertinent geographic information, to me (my email address is to the right on this page).


The activities

A note about the activities: I have seen most of these things from my own porch/windows, and we're in a decent neighborhood, so you don't need to venture into the tough Trenton neighborhoods. Please do not assign an emotional value to any item on this list or think I'm mean and rotten; these are things we see commonly in Trenton, including what's in Activity #5. Sure, we shouldn't see these things so regularly, and maybe a raised awareness about frequency and location will help clean this place up.

Please find the following within the city:

1) One crazy guy in slippers, singing, either in the street or on his bike. FIVE POINTS. Two bonus points will be awarded if he smiles at you and then turns to hurl some verbal abuse at a neighbor.


2) Three "weed" trees, examples of which include the prolific mulberry, mimosa, or sumac. Note, this may be the toughest item on the list, since the trees don't have leaves this time of year, but learning a tree by its bark is good knowledge to have. Total of FIFTEEN POINTS. Two bonus points will be awarded if you can find a yard with all three. Two more bonus points will be awarded if any of the above-mentioned trees are growing into and have become one with a fence or piece of neglected furniture.

3) 4 clear pen hulls (ink removed, of course) turned into crack pipes. You must find one in each ward. No extra points available for finding more than four. Total of TWENTY POINTS.

4) 4 unneutered, unleashed male pit bulls. Must be male, intact, and without restraint. One per ward. No extra points awarded for finding more than four. Total of TWENTY POINTS.

5) One staggering drunk in North Trenton. Must be holding a bottle; brown bagging is okay. FIVE POINTS. Two bonus points awarded if he/she has clearly urinated on him/herself; two more bonus points awarded if he/she falls down.


BIG BONUS ACTIVITIES
6) Turn up a Microsoft Excel version of Trenton FY2008-2009 budget. Must provide electronic file to prove document is, indeed, an xls file. TEN POINTS.

7) Find Police Director Joseph Santiago in the city after 5 p.m. on a weeknight, or any time on the weekend. He must not be participating in a press conference in the city. TEN POINTS.

Please document your findings with your digital camera, making sure to record time and place of each finding. Email your findings to me no later than Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Be careful and have fun!


_________________

* Canadians often show up at my house with chocolates from a Canadian company called Laura Secord. Laura Secord was a Canadian "heroine," and her name is now synonymous with high-end, indulgent chocolate, even though I don't think she personally had anything to do with the chocolate business. She lived in the Niagara region during the War of 1812, and while her husband was recuperating from injuries sustained in the fighting, apparently some American soldiers forced their way into Laura's home and demanded dinner. She served them, and listened to their plans to attack the British by surprise, in the upcoming days. The Secords were fiercely loyal to the British Crown, and so Laura set out the next day to warn the British military. It was a hazardous journey, but she was successful: the British and the Native people who sided with the British, were able to intercept the Americans a few days later. Phooey.

I just received some large Laura Secord chocolate eggs for Easter, and they do look delicious. In January, we received a box of small, individually-wrapped chocolate Santas. I ate a few, biting the heads off first, in symbolic, but lame and misguided retaliation for Laura Secord picking the wrong side. Back in January, I brought a few of those foil Santas with me for my nieces and nephews, because I didn't want to eat them all. Anyway, little Emma, of her own volition, also bit the Laura Secord Santa head off first, chewed it ineffectively for a moment (she doesn't have all her teeth yet), and then with a twinkle in her eye, spit out Santa's head on to the floor. Her speaking skills are still developing, but she seems to have a firm understanding of what everyone else says. So, I asked her, "Do you like chocolate Santa?" And she gestured enthusiastically that she did indeed like the chocolate, and that she wanted to eat the rest of his little chocolate body, and she did so without spitting it out. I'm convinced that the kid is just kind of demented, and wanted to bite off Santa's head and spit it out. Witnessing young Emma violate Santa made me think about the nature versus nurture argument: my family is not "chew 'em up and spit 'em out" sorts, and I would have thought, until today, that that particular quality must be learned. Apparently not: Emma was born with the "chew 'em up and spit 'em out" tendency. And after eating the chocolate, Emma proceeded to do 50 military-style one handed push-ups, cackling like an insane marine sergeant the whole time; we are not a family of exercisers, and we don't have a history, that I know of, with the Marine Corps. My sister is in for a world of pain with that kid.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oh dear

First off, I want to apologize to Miss Karen for using her idea of blogging about search terms that lead people to my blog, especially so soon after she blogged about it. I am always fascinated to see what search words come up in my sitemeter*, and have toyed with posting about some of the ways people find this little blog, but I didn't feel the time was right. Now, I just feel badly to do it only 11 days after Miss Karen, because it just seems so unoriginal, but originality be damned: tonight, the timing is right.


That's right. Someone googled the phrase:

picture of animal peeing

...and it brought them to my post below, which was, in a round about way, about pee's effects on your lawn and other plantings. There were no pictures of pee, or even the damage caused by pee, and certainly, there were no pictures of anyone (animal or otherwise) in the act of peeing, which must have been a bummer to that particular visitor.

I tend to be an optimist, and for every person who complains about how society is going to hell, and how we're not safe from this or that, I try to remind myself that the world, as a whole, IS in a better place now than ever before. Crime may not be down in Trenton, but it is, worldwide. We're living longer. Drug use and teen pregnancy (again, worldwide, not necessarily here in Trenton) are down. The USSR no longer exists, and our country actually has a working relationship with Russia (no, it's not perfect, but how many of you felt for sure we were headed for war with them, 20 years ago?). We're treating the environment better, and we humans just know so much more than we did even just a generation ago.

But then, there's some lunatic out there who is trying to find pictures of animals peeing. This, on top of the person who found Miss Karen's blog because he (possibly she) was looking for camera phone pics of big asses in Trenton, NJ. Maybe it's not safe to leave the house, after all. And it's certainly not safe for our pets out there, either.

_____________________
* Not all bloggers use Sitemeter, but many of us do. We can either pay for a subscription, or we can get a freebie version, and I'm guessing several of the other bloggers are like me, and opted for the freebie version, which leaves our site statistics open for public viewing, if you click our Sitemeter area. Sitemeter allows the blogger to customize the icon on the blog, so you might see a little green bar graph, or a Sitemeter logo, or an announcement of how many visitors have visited the site. If you click on that, you'll get to see all the fun stuff we see. And if you're a weirdo who used a weird search phrase to find us, we know you're out there, freak.

I want to add, since this post already lacks originality, another, far less disturbing search term that brings people to my site: a few months ago, I talked about the Canadian HGTV guy, Mike Holmes, host of Holmes on Homes, who renovates homes for families who got screwed over by their original contractor/builder. He's gotten a little full of himself in recent seasons, but he's still a great guy, trying to right the wrongs in the world, in the ways that he can. And the guy often walks around in a pair of overalls with no shirt underneath (or just a wife-beater t-shirt underneath), and well, he looks very okay doing it. I STILL get at least one hit a week from someone who has googled the term mike + holmes + shirtless. I've never even posted a picture of the guy, and so, I feel like I've let down a lot of people (at least one a week for the past 20+ weeks or so). Since the Mike Holmes traffic keeps coming, here's a little something for your effort. This picture might not make you swoon, but it's better than finding a whole lot of nothing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pee

It was 65 degrees today here in Trenton, and also, a holiday, so I figured it would be a good time to tidy up the garden beds. Also, we bought a bunch of daffodils bulbs this past fall, but it was so warm for so long, and a warm fall can trigger newly planted bulbs to emerge too soon. But then it got too cold, and we got too busy, but today was just right, temperature- and busy-wise, other than that the bulbs won't have a lot of time outside in the soil before they're due to bloom, but as I've mentioned here before, we've got some great soil here in the hood (some of the best in the county), so my hopes are up.

While I was digging around, I couldn't help but notice the strong smell of cat piss. My neighborhood has a stray cat problem as I've mentioned; we do our best to get the kitties rounded up and sterilized, but it is, in many ways, a losing battle: there are just too many cats, and too many irresponsible people who don't want to alter their pets' "junk," so I try to think about each individual animal we get fixed up, and how this helps to improve his/her life, and that makes it all worthwhile. What we, as a species, have allowed to happen to cats (and dogs) which we domesticated, far outweighs the annoyance of smelling cat pee while working in the yard, though I do want to state, for the record, there is nothing good about the smell of cat pee.

I don't want to sound all self-righteous or pompous, so I apologize if I came off that way in the above paragraph. After all, I started this post with pee in mind, and pee is, if nothing else, not so pompous.

You may not have a stray cat problem where you are, but certainly, you may encounter an outdoor cat who likes to use your yard as a toilet. Or maybe you have a dog who is peeing all over the place; or worse, you have a neighbor with a dog who likes to use your yard, or worse yet, maybe you live on a busy street near a bar, with patrons who pee on your lawn as they pass by...we have all of the above here in my neighborhood, and my bet is you do too. If you think I'm joking about the pissing passers-by, I'm not: denizens of our fine city urinate all over the place — you and I may not do it, but it's happening, even against our public buildings in broad daylight.

I'm not sure what to do about the people who pee outside, except it is fun to scare them, if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. I know I'll probably get a lecture about the safety and sanity in this, but hear me out: when you catch someone with his pants down (and it is nearly almost always a "he," no?) he is often not thinking about killing you. He is thinking about one thing: getting his penis put away without pissing all over himself. I don't have a ton of experience in scaring off the pissers, because of the whole wrong place/wrong time business. If I could change that about my life, I would. I'd scare the bejesus out of every guy pissing against every fence, public building and/or garage in this city, if I could. But that one time I was in the right place at the right time, it was great! There was the guy pissing against my fence, and there was my dog Lacey, safely on the other side of the fence. She charged him. He screamed (oh, it was beautiful!), even though dog and man were on opposite sides of the fence. His piss stream left a squiggly trail all over the fence — and his leg — as he ran for his car. He actually pulled over to use my fence, and for that, I hope he was still peeing when he got inside of his car, too. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction for weeks afterward. Humans who pee against your garage, or on your lawn, or on city hall are a real concern because civilized people have shame; civilized people relieve themselves in private. There are just too many quality of life issues in Trenton that seem to be no longer important, but maybe that will improve. Someday. While I never mind straying from my topic du jour, I wanted to discuss, specifically, whether or not urine — human, canine, feline — can damage your plants/lawn, because there are misconceptions about this topic.

When I first got Lacey, my female dog, my Nana told me that a male dog's or cat's urine will not damage vegetation, but a female's will, "so, good luck with that girl puppy," Nana chuckled. Maybe you heard something similar from your own grandmother? I found this odd, since pee is waste, and the composition of which shouldn't be that different between the male and the female, as long as the kidneys are working well, and the diets are similar. And in our 15 years of walking and/or going out back to pee (Lacey, not me), my dog's urine has never ruined any plants. And now, with all of these ragged cats running around my block, I can sure as hell smell their piss, but I'm not seeing THAT much plant damage, though I do try to discourage the cats from using my gardens as a litter box by mulching (which doesn't always work so well), and embedding plastic forks, tine-side up, in the garden, and occasionally turning the hose on them (weather permitting) if they look at my garden with that "I gotta piss" look.

Today, I overheard one of my neighbors talking about someone else's female dog ruining her lawn, and so I wondered why it didn't happen to me, with Lacey. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I've never taken scientific notes on this topic, and I've never been much of a lawn person; less so in my neighborhood, with all of the "entrepreneurs" offering to mow my lawn every 15 minutes; we worked diligently in the last few years to remove the lawn, and replace it with ground covering plants and flowers and moss and rocks...I hope this year, our fourth summer here, things will — finally — start to fill in and look the way we hoped they'd look. We'll see. Anyway, other than the rock, all of the plants we put in are just as wreckable by pet pee, and, ultimately, 15 years' worth of pee is a lot of pee. A LOT of pee. I can say, Lacey, in her many years, never killed a plant with pee; though she did, on occasion dig at them, or roll on them, if there was a dead rodent in or near the plant; never underestimate how enchanting a dead rodent is to a dog. So I dug around some of my books, and even lucked into a 10-minute gardening podcast today on the topic of pet pee, and learned a lot, which I want to share, because I think it can help clarify some things about male versus female urine, and urine in general.

First off, most commercial fertilizer we put on our plants contains a lot of nitrogen; a lot of that nitrogen comes from urea, which is the chief end-product of mammalian (male or female) protein metabolism; in other words, urea is the stuff in urine, and urea is the stuff in plant fertilizer. Ah, the circle of life. Interesting, huh? So, if we spread our fertilizer nicely around our vegetation, it helps our plants to grow. If we dump it on, it burns the plants.

So, back to the male/female companion animal urine issue: pee is fertilizer, and it's not bad for your plants. The problem arises because of its method of distribution. In general, male dogs and cats have a better ability to evenly spread their pee/fertilizer because of their anatomy. Female dogs and cats generally squat in one spot — an uneven distribution of their pee/fertilizer — because of their anatomy, and can result in a burned up lawn. I want to note here that Lacey, may she rest in peace, the sweet girl, had some interesting dominance issues, and always walked while she peed, thus spreading things out nicely for me. She was such a good dog!

But what do you do if you have a male dog who never learns to lift his leg? Or a female dog who just squats in one spot and lets 'er rip? Or a cat of either gender who feels entitled to whiz against the same shrub, all the damn time? The best bet is to try to encourage the animal to go in a different spot of the yard all together, maybe off the main area of the lawn. In the case of cats, a sandy corner of the property (preferably far away from your doors and windows) may be more enticing than your garden and shrubs. The guy in the podcast said you can try to add more water to your pet's diet to help keep the urine from burning your plants, but I think that's a bunch of malarky for a couple of reasons: you can lead an animal to water, but you can't make 'em drink. Plus, I'd wager that canned-fed (more moisture in canned food) animals are burning up lawns at the same rate as the dry-food eaters, though I could be wrong; either way, I'd love to hear about a study on that topic. A more reliable bet would be to provide some extra water to the area of lawn where the animal peed. Flush it, so to speak.

About those humans who prefer to relieve themselves in the out-of-doors, I don't mean to be sexist, but you will almost never see a woman peeing on your lawn, or against your fence, though I imagine it does happen here in Trenton. In that case, her pee may burn your vegetation. In the case of a man who does the same thing, his pee may not burn your plants, unless he keeps coming back to the same exact spot. Either way, these people, just like the dogs and cats in our lives, need to be retrained. Take pictures. Report them at your CPAC meetings. Or turn the hose on 'em.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Unlock the dream


Glen was surfin' the web today, as we haters tend to do, and happened to stumble across a brochure for a Gang Summit, scheduled for February 25-27, in Arlington, Virginia. Guess who is scheduled to speak? Brielle's own Barry Colicelli!!! Looks like he's running a seminar on the first day entitled "Developing Community-Based Partnerships to Reduce Gang Violence," and another one on the second day called "Devising Community-Wide Anti-Gang Initiatives."

Under each of his seminars, this is what is written about him:
Barry Colicelli, Captain (Retired), Special Assistant to Mayor Douglas Palmer, Mayor's Office of Anti-Gang Initiatives, City of Trenton.
I wonder:
  • of course, if Barry's still planning to attend?
  • and if so, who is paying for his travel to and from Arlington?
  • if the program coordinators and attendees know that Mr. Colicelli is retired from Newark?
  • if the program coordinators and attendees know that Mr. Colicelli's contract was terminated in Trenton?
  • if the speakers receive honoraria?
  • if Mr. Colicelli will be drawing on his experience as a Zombie Killing Cop in the movie Zombie Honeymoon (2004)?*
  • if Mr. Colicelli will be showcasing his comprehensive community anti-gang initiatives from his efforts in Trenton, or Newark, or Brielle, or all of the above?
According to the brochure, you should attend if you are a law enforcement officer; school resource officer; court, probation or corrections professional; school administrator or counselor; community-based organization; legislator; youth development professional; government agent and/or elected official.

You should know there are some fees involved; it's roughly $800 to attend (though there are some different options depending on what you participate in), and accommodations (as of 1/24/08) are roughly $200 at the nearby Arlington Rosslyn Courtyard. Check out the Gang Summit's website for more information.

Chief of Staff for the city of Trenton, Renee Haynes, told City Council last night that if Mr. Colicelli is forced out (and wasn't he?), all of the information and work and grant money he's acquired for the city will go with him. Of course, we all know that no professional who cares about his future would ever do that to a client, but remember, this is Trenton, Land of Shit-Like-This-Doesn't-Happen-Anywhere-Else. But all is not lost. What has cost the city a quarter of a million bucks (and then some) in the way of payment to Mr. Colicelli over the last three years, you can have in an afternoon in Arlington, for a mere $800. Unlock the dream from Barry's head. That's a bargain!!


______________________
* We think this is him. What do you think?
For more information, check out the YouTube link for the movie. Also, check The Internet Movie Database's cast list for Zombie Honeymoon. And please, stay tuned for a movie review by Mr. Clean, over at Bald Fat and Angry (hint, hint!)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A vote against the children

Mayor Palmer lashed out angrily yesterday, after city council voted Thursday night not to renew the contract of gang consultant, Barry Colicelli. He said, "It was a vote against the children in the city who want to make sure that they stay out of gangs."

So, Doug, if Barry worked so hard to make the streets of Trenton safer for children, why did you move your child to Hunterdon County? And why did you move her there long before Barry's contract expired?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Odd

I was critical of Trenton's (former) gang expert, Barry Colicelli; skeptical of his accomplishments; and convinced the great people in our police department, with their intuition, common sense, years of experience on the streets, and relationships with the citizens, will help us work this gang problem far more effectively than a Santiago-crony, Palmer-puppet consultant who may or may not have any real gang-fighting experience, and who lives so far away from the reality of Trenton. I resent that our tax money is getting dumped into Newark's rejects and retirees, and so, therefore, I was thrilled to see a majority on Council show Barry the door. Part of me feels badly, too. I mean, after all, he is human, and it has to be embarrassing for him to have felt so comfortable in his job for so long, and then, basically have the rug pulled out from under him. But business is business and what's right is right. So, I feel good, too. Proud of Trenton. I am hoping our representatives will act on our behalf, in our best interest, more regularly.

There are a few things that baffle me, though. First was Annette Lartigue's behavior during the meeting last night (thanks to Trentonian's Joe D'Aquila for filling his story with good, juicy details). Why the display in the middle of the vote? Really, what was the big deal? Didn't they discuss this at length in private session prior to the vote? So, vote yes or no, and take a stand. Abstentions, unless there is a direct conflict of interest, are LAME. And it's mindboggling that at-large council reps, Paul Pintella and Cordelia Staton, who live in the ward with some of the worst violent crime, would want to keep Mr. Colicelli around. There is an area, in between Cadwalader Park and the hospital — a few blocks from where Mr. Pintella and Ms. Staton live — that has been ravaged by crime in the last year, most of it, probably, gang-related. On the other hand, there is that part of me that appreciates their sympathy and desire (maybe?) to try a different approach before termination, but the bigger part of me is just floored that they thought more about this guy — who we all know has had little, if any, positive effect on the gang problems — than their own constituents, their own neighbors.

What also strikes me as odd, is that Barry Colicelli was at the November city council meeting in which Police Director Joseph Santiago bored the crap out of Council and tortured the public with his insufferable PowerPoint presentation. And it was insufferable. I was there, and I'm a fairly tolerant person. I know we all have different philosophies and goals and so forth, but I thought we were all reasonably intelligent people, right? That Colicelli was stupid enough to whip out the projector is just too painful to contemplate. I urge Council to consider banning PowerPoint presentations in Council chambers, because they take too much time to make — time better spent fighting crime — and for the rest of us, sitting through PowerPoint presentations represents a significant chunk of our lives we will never get back. Enough is enough.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cheese Curls

The new artwork on the upper right of the Bald, Fat and Angry blog has inspired a little round-about trip down memory lane, which I'd like to share with you. Of course.

When Glen and I first looked at our snugalow in East Trenton, there was a black cat who sat on our laps and walked all over the papers, as we sat on the side steps and signed our lives away that fateful day in July 2004. Every time we came back to look at the house, or to work on it, that cat was there. He did not belong to the former owner, or, according to the neighbors, anyone else. The cat was making it clear that he was adopting us. We came to Trenton with two cats, Monkey (female calico) and Simon (black male), and a dog, Lacey, in tow.

We didn't know what to do about this friendly black cat, who was gargantuan, compared to our two existing cats, and even though he was extremely affectionate with us, we weren't convinced that he'd treat the other animals the same way. So, for awhile, he stayed outside. We had enough animals, anyway, or so we thought.

He was our near constant companion, though. He'd follow me when I'd walk Lacey. He'd sit with us on the porch. And he spent a decent amount of time figuring how to get in the house.

The former owner had left behind a whole mess of shit in the house, including a king-sized mattress and two smaller box springs, and while the former owner seemed a fastidious sort of guy, we weren't interested (at all) in keeping his bed. It went out back, and we called the city for a special pick-up.

I wrote about this particular creature in one of my very first posts, so there is a tiny bit of duplication, and I apologize for that, but figured for the sake of the story, I'll just include it all here (details are included in the post called Fur Fest from August 2007, if you want to cross-reference) That black cat eventually became known as Angus, because of -- pardon the crudeness -- the size of his testicles, as a nod to the lead singer of AC/DC, Angus Young, who sang about Big Balls some years ago, in a less-than-clever play on words. It was juvenile to name the cat for his testicles, but it what is done, is done. Cat testicles were new to us, as most people where we came from sterilize their animals. Here, we've found, a lot of our neighbors are proud of their animals' "junk." To each his own, I guess. Anyway, Angus took to that damn mattress, which was propped up against the fence in the backyard, and he had an awesome view of our neighborhood, and a comfy spot from which to observe his world.

In the short time the mattress was propped against the fence, with Angus perched atop it, Glen's car was creamed on our side street by one of our neighbors who possibly fell asleep at the wheel and/or just went temporarily insane on a beautiful Sunday morning. And a short time later, our garage was tagged with gang graffiti. Trenton sure knows how to roll out the welcome wagon, and we appreciated it!! So we quickly became acquainted with the police department. The day we reported the gang graffiti, a couple of rank-and-file officers came by, along with an officer from the gang unit (note: it was not Barry Colicelli, but rather, a Herculean, silent type with a camera). I was chatting with the regular patrol officers, when one of them noticed Angus on the mattress behind/above the fence. The officer was tall, and of course, absolutely unsurprised by anything in Trenton, and raised his arm and rubbed Angus under the chin, which the cat just loved. Most folks who passed Angus on his perch either taunted him (there's a special place in hell for those people, and I hope it's filled with giant, hungry, playful, demented cats), or crossed to the other side of the street, out of superstition, as they usually mentioned, as a way to let us know they weren't avoiding us...just the black cat.

"Nice cat," the officer said, as Angus relished the affection.

"Yeah," I said, "He came with the house."

"Go figure," the officer said.

"We're thinking about cleaning him up and bringing him inside." I said. We were; the nights it rained and/or was chilly made us sick with worry.

"Do you have other animals inside?" he asked.

"Yeah, a dog and two cats."

"You do not want to bring this cat inside. He's a Trenton stray, and will attack your pets and rip your house apart," he said, his voice full of wisdom and experience.

"Huh," I said, conflicted, because I loved Angus, but didn't need chaos inside.

Over the next few weeks of warm weather, we did a lot of work around the house and yard, and we had taken to putting food out for Angus. One day, I was trying to convince him to sit in the backyard with us, but a punk had just tossed a pizza crust on our lawn, and Angus made a bee-line for it, and took off to eat it in the privacy of our yew. We're right in between two schools, and get LOADS of litter, mostly half-eaten bags of chips and other similar snacks, plus chicken bones, remnants of cheesesteaks, take-out boxes of Chinese food, usually filled significantly with food, pizza crusts, and the oh-so-thoughtful bottles of piss.

Angus loved all of it, except (as far as we knew) the bottles of urine.

Another time, I tried to lure him back into the yard with some canned food, but our neighbor across the street had fired up his barrel BBQ thing, and tossed in some pork ribs. Angus sat on their porch, staring at the BBQ thing. We were dead to him.

A short time later, we were working in the yard, and Glen ran out to get cheesesteaks for lunch. Angus came right over for that, and begged like a dog. He even ate the bread. Freak.

The weeks wore on, and it got colder. I called my vet, and made plans to have Angus neutered, if nothing else. And when the big day came, he enjoyed the car ride, much like a dog would. He handled the surgery well, and we decided to put him in the spare room overnight to recover. He felt better the next day, but of course, we couldn't stand to let him go -- he was so comfy in a pile of blankets, looking out the window. Instant house cat. However, my vet warned me that cat diseases were nasty (I had NO idea until the next autumn, but that's a story for another time), and urged me to keep him in isolation for at least one month -- she had tested him for deadly, contagious cat diseases, and he was negative, but he would need to be retested in a month, because of the incubation period of some of the deadlies. Plus, he it was obvious he had been attacked by another animal recently -- he had large scabs on his neck. So as a precaution, Angus got the luxury suite.

Angus was a very good boy, with a few weird habits. We had no problem with the litter box, but he spent a lot of time looking at the dentil moldings above our doors and windows, and periodically would launch himself up to the molding above the closet door, and then he'd jump to the even higher molding above the windows. And he would sit there, like a damn fool.

The vet makes house calls and so a month after his neutering, she came by to retest him for the nasties, and he came up clean. She said, ever-so-chipperly, "Why don't we open the door and see how things go?"

I was skeptical, and had been planning to bring the other animals in to see Angus, but hey, she's the one with the advanced degrees, so I blindly followed her orders. And within a split second, Angus was on Lacey's back, which enraged the dog, so she attacked Angus, removing a good-sized clump of his hair, but somehow not breaking his skin (her bark was always worse than her bite — she was a wonderful dog, bless her). This whipped Angus into a frenzy, and he climbed the curtains in the living room, which I had ambitiously made for our new house; he ripped them down, and came out of the large puddle of fabric, claws extended, and headed right for Monkey, who is — I hate to say it, because it will just make Glen gloat — a total idiot, even for a cat. Monkey peed on Angus during the assault. Undaunted, Angus hurled himself at Simon, my sweet little pal, who, it seemed, was about half Angus's size. Little Simo-Man did a VERY good job defending himself against the partially bald, pee-covered Angus, and really made me proud, but it still scared the bejesus out of me, so I caught Angus, threw him in the bathtub, hosed him down, and left him there to stew for awhile. The vet sat ashen-faced, silently, on a chair next to the pile of curtains on the floor.

She examined Lacey, Simon, and Monkey, as a courtesy, and went back up to check on Angus, who had a scratch across this eye. She had some eye ointment in her van, which she gave me, gratis; she apologized profusely, and scurried away.

It took nearly 8 more months, and a couple of kittens to act as liaison between Angus and the rest of the animals, but it eventually, kinda-sorta worked out. Except now Monkey's in solitary confinement, since she is, well, the idiot of the bunch, and just refuses to deal with the changes in the house. Plus, she bites, even when you pet her, and while this takes most people off-guard, it doesn't really confront me, since Monkey is missing one of her eye teeth, making her bite pretty ineffective. And good ol' Angus has calmed WAY down, and unlike the other cats, has zero interest in sneaking outside. He knows what's out there. His mattress is gone, and nothing else is worth it.

He still has a thing for junk food though. I know it's wrong to feed your animals human food, but don't label me, okay? They get great pet chow and lots of love, and just a few nibbles of our food here and there. Angus sits on the stool in the kitchen through every meal, no matter what we're eating, and while his manners are very good, he is always very interested — it would seem — in what we eat. Every now and then, I'll slip him a little bit of cheese, but the higher the quality, the less interested he is in it. He loves plain ole American processed cheese food, which we do eat on occasion. Angus will also eat bits of pizza (though not like he used to), but he's not interested in the more formal Italian entrees. Meatballs are uninteresting to him, and the cheese in lasagna might as well not even exist. But the steak in a cheesesteak is heaven to Mr. Angus. The same is true with chicken: if it's deep-fried, he's on it. Other than that, it might as well be broccoli.

There's been a new development, too. Or maybe it's old news to Angus, but new to me. Dan Tawnie's December post about the kid who left cheese curl residue on his favorite jeans in the QuickChek, after the kid clutched onto his leg, has been on my mind lately. I think this is because we've been finding a large number of partially eaten bags of cheese curls all over our property — more than usual — which is along the main route to and from the Hedgepeth-Williams/Robeson school over here on the east side. And I know it's wrong, but all these bags of cheese curls, which piss me off, also make me very hungry for cheese curls. There's something wrong with me.

So Glen and I were down at Trader Joe's recently, and they had organic, low fat CRUNCHY (my favorite) cheese curls on sale. It sounded wholly unappetizing -- organic junk food? COME ON! And the low fat thing when it comes to junk food is just stupid...eat it or don't, for crying out loud! I refused to put any in the cart; not so much because the whole organic, low fat junk food thing was an affront to my sensibilities, but because know I am completely out of control when it comes to certain foods, like crunchy cheese curls, even when they offend my sensibilities. I can't have that stuff in the house, because I am missing that part of my brain that says "Enough is enough, Jabba!" But Glen put two bags in the cart while I wasn't looking. I immediately took one to my sister's house, where my nephew, Michael, asked, "Mom, can I have this whole bag?" To which she replied, understandably, "No." But it's good to know I'm not alone in my gluttony.

Glen went out to play hockey earlier this week, and the bag was just too tempting. I made a grilled cheese sandwich (with processed cheese food slices...awful, I know, and yet, so damn good) and had a nice hearty garlic pickle on the side, and a handful (or so) of the Trader Joe's low fat organic crunchy cheese curls. Angus sat with me, as he always does, but that evening, he entered an altered state. Eyes huge, pupils dialated, despite the very bright overhead lights. Very alert, very aware of everything. I gave him a tiny taste of cheese, which he devoured. But he practically quivered each time he heard the crunch of a cheese curl. I broke off the tiniest piece and he gobbled it up. I broke off another. Same thing: gone. And another. I wouldn't give him any more, but I catch him eyeing up the bag, on the shelf, wondering if he'd dare rip into it. That wise cop was sort of right about Angus, at least at first, but now, with cheese curls in the house, he might revert to his old ways.

To Gino

Hi Mr. Melone,

I read that Gang Consultant Barry Colicelli's contract is up for renewal tonight, and I can't help but wonder if the money could be better spent elsewhere.

My first concern, of course, is public safety, and his track record, plain and simple. I do not believe he has demonstrated any positive change on Trenton's violent crime rate in the last several years; the perception among the citizens in Trenton is that we are not safer for Mr. Colicelli's business arrangement with the city; we feel that way, as I'm sure you do too, because we are not safer at this particular time in Trenton's history. Overall crime is down, but violent crime is up, and that may not be Mr. Colicelli's fault, but he certainly isn't helping, despite his supposed expertise with the criminal element.

Another, disturbing concern is from a professional point of view. Mr. Colicelli's invoices over the last several years are all nearly identical, with almost the same details on each one, as if it's automated, with the same dollar amount plugged in at the bottom. I am an independent consultant for a large medical publisher and I must provide an extremely detailed invoice each time I submit, or else my check is held up. I must itemize everything: what projects I work on, the dates I worked on those projects, the number of hours spent on each project, the number of revisions, the amount of communication needed to get the project complete. Like Mr. Colicelli, I wind up billing my client roughly the same each month, as well, but the details of each invoice are considerably different from month to month, because the circumstances and scope of the projects change all the time. I work with paper, in the private sector, in uptight corporate America, where everything is quite predictable. Mr. Colicelli works with the public (I think?), and in an area that focuses on a very specific, unpredictable criminal element. It is unfathomable to me that the details of his invoices should be the same each month.

It is frustrating, of course, to spend so much time on each invoice, but it's part of the territory, and I see the good business sense in it as well: my client can look to improve efficiency, and offer personalized services where appropriate based on the minutiae in my invoices. It seems that a municipal government should demand, on behalf of its taxpayers and citizenry, the same kind of accountability from its consultants as well, especially from someone in Mr. Colicelli's position, a man whose contract demands a hefty rate, but also one who has been entrusted with public safety and well-being, and gets several costly perks (car, phone, office), also on the taxpayers' dime, in these financially difficult times.

Mr. Colicelli was brought in as a specialist to combat our gang problem, and from where I sit, I'm certainly not sold on his track record; as a taxpayer, I resent all he gets for what little he gives us; as a professional consultant, I am appalled at his invoicing techniques; and as a proud resident of Trenton, I am so very weary of taking in Newark's detritus, while they drive off each evening in our cars, with our gas, using our cell phones. They mock us all the way home. I ask you, as my representative, to put an end to it.

Regards,
Christine Ott

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thanks

Just a quick note of thanks for the outpouring of support we received after my post about the one-year anniversary of the birth and death of our daughter, Katie. It was difficult to expose my deepest feelings, but she has become a catalyst in my life, and was the motivation for my blog; and it means so much to me that other people were affected by our story, as well. I am lifted and strengthened by your kind words. Thank you so much.