Friday, April 6, 2012

The Greatest Love Of All

I was as shocked as anyone when I read of Whitney Houston's passing. It always breaks my heart to see a someone who has changed a major aspect of the world we live in-in this case the music industry- fizzle out in such a tragic, wasteful manner. When the news spread of her demise, I was contacted by several people, all of them checking to see how I took the news. I haven't heard anything from Whitney for several years, not since she did that diva-cut-throat duet with Mariah Carey for the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Why should she mean so much to me? Let me tell you the story of how this soulful chartreuse taught me an important life lesson:

Whitney brought me out of my shell. Well, actually, I never had one. But she was a great facilitator for my spotlight-ophile tendencies. When I was in the fifth grade, my older sisters decided I was going to run for student body Vice President. I don't know why. I don't know whether they wanted to watch me make a fool of myself, or if they were truly interested in my political success, but whatever their motivation was, I did not disappointment them. My campaign was run with the usual shmoozing and propaganda- I passed out buttons with pictures of the muppets, all them endorsing me as a upstanding, powerful leader. One who would be a force for change, and liberate the oppressed on the playground. Down with cafeteria food! More Recess!

When it came down to the wire, and I had to make a case for my election, my sisters thought it would be a brilliant idea to stuff me in a fluffy eyesore of a ball gown, belt out a tune, and promise that upon election, I would never again sing to my voters. The line from from Whitney's song "The Greatest Love of All" where she defiantly announces that "no matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity" seemed most appropriate for my exhibition.You better believe I took the stage in that multi layered pepto-bismal monstrousity and belted out that song with everything I had in me. It was filmed and projected on every T.V screen in the school. The canidacy was mine.
The rest of the election is irrelevant to this post; instead of giving a speech, I performed a rap rewritten from Will's Smith' famous Fresh Prince of Bel Aire with all my thug friends me behind as background dancers. I went on win the election and ruled with justice and mercy, making such impactful decisions such as redesigning the school logo and awarding to spirit stick to the best behaved class after assemblies.

No, for this post, the importance of this song is the case in point. This song continued to fill me with warm and fuzzy memories. When I sang it for the school, I did it as a joke; it was many years before I actually listened to the words and understood the message Whitney so expressively shared. Beyond the extreme drama of Whitney's vocal pyrotechnics is a plea for us all to build up the future generation and teach them that they are capable of any and everything. No one has the right to dictate our futures, or has the ability to squelch our full potential.Whitney's untimely death has come at a time of great reflection for me. I have now finished my program at the Vet Tech Institute of Houston. It has been the hardest thing I've ever done. This past year and half has been the loneliest, darkest, most frightening time in my life. But it has also been a time when as I have been stretched to my absolute limit, I came to learn that the cheese-ball mormon anecdote posted in Relief Society rooms across the world applied to me too: I can do hard things.

There is a problem, though. In this song, Whitney sings " I never found anyone who could fill my needs. A lonely place to be, and so I learned to depend on me." This cynical declaration is just dripping with disappointment. Somebody needs to tell good 'ol Whitney that she's got it wrong. Self reliance is a wonderful value, and is necessary for fulfillment, but perhaps the most major life lesson I've learned in my time in Houston is that no man (or woman) is an island. I came out here to prove to myself that I could be an independent adult. Instead, I was socked with a series of events that brought me to my knees and I found myself in a position where I never needed people more. Through others I found the manifestation of the love of Jesus Christ. That is the greatest love of all. I am sorry that Whitney never felt that she had people in her life who cherished her and would do anything for her well-being, because I have. My time in Houston has introduced me to some of the most noble souls I've ever known. Because they loved me, I can love me. I have done what I set out to do, and now I'm looking my future in the face, knowing that I can succeed, simply because the Lord has told me so.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

There's a thousand things I could say about my Dad. But in true Danielle-ian fashion, I've decided to honor my dear patriarch, I've decided to write it out in poetic form:

An Ode to My Father

My dad is a peach,

my dad is a king,

We talk about any and ev'rything!

He checks on me at night

even though I'm far away

and sends me stuff

though it isn't my birthday

He knows quite a lot,
and he never forgets;

He's up to date on

Lawrence Welk's greatest hits!

Bus drivers love him;

he knows them all by name.

He's a very proud father of

Five tiny dames.

He loves little Earnie,

my Mom's tiny pup.

and when Morning Moo is gone,

He mixes more up!

When his son left for a mission

he couldn't help but smile;

he pounced on unsuspecting missionaries

in the produce aisle.

He speaks with great flair,

has a stentorian voice.

He loves jazzy show tunes

and really hates noise.

Ebenezer is his hero,

of Oscar he's a fan

but we all know he's a softie;

He's a very gentle sort of man.

He's a friendly neighbor,

takes a strong political stance.

He makes himself memorable

by wearing highwater pants.

He knows Church History

from beginning to end,

but most importantly,

My Dad is my friend.

Happy Birthday, DAID!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

San Antonio

Today, I'm going to borrow a sugary, overly-used, marketed-into-a-bloody-pulp Disneyfied phrase: Dreams do come true.

A few weeks ago, I had to the opportunity to do something I've dreamed about since I was a little girl. I went to Sea World. I'll let that sink in for a moment.

In order to understand why this was so important, let's turn back the clock of time, back to when I was in elementary school. I cannot remember a time when animals were not a passion with me, but once upon a time, my heart wasn't completely focused on sleds and goofy canine heroes. Before there were huskies, before there were flamingoes, my first conscious love was dolphins. When other little girls were showing off their most recently acquired Lisa Frank school gear, I had cheeseball dolphin folders. I drew them on any piece of scratch paper I could get a hold of. In my fourth grade yearbook under the penetrating question of "What do you want to be when you grow up" I said I wanted to be a sexy marine biologist and work at Sea World. I was the only eight-year old in the neighborhood who spent time campaigning for Green Peace and sporting the Save the Whales slogan.

So when I joined the Vet Tech Student Organization (VTSO) during my freshmen year at Vet Tech school, my hopes were high that one of our field trips would be at this wonderland from my girlhood. My wish came true and I found myself headed toward the charming city of San Antonio.

There are many charming treasures to be found in San Antonio. Not the least of which is the original Buck-ees, the largest gas station in the state in of Texas. Now, you may wonder at my delight over such a common place as a gas station, but let me tell you, this place is a palace among rest stops, a holy grail to the weary traveler! Once you enter into this marvelous Cave of Wonders, you are not confronted with the mundane cuisine of cheap gas station food, oh no, instead you are placed with the overwhelming options of a delicatessen, bakery and coffee shop, not to mention the racks of clothing, books, cooking supplies and useless knick-knacks. But the most wondrous part of this excellent pit stop are the BATHROOMS! Someone out there must've recognized the demand for the needs of unheeded bladders along this nation's highway, because it houses not 10, not 15, not even 20 separate stalls; folks, this place boasts no less then 50 toilets! I had a picture taken of myself in the fork of the hallway, just before the labyrinth of potties. God Bless Texas!

After relieving ourselves and gorging on the goodness of Taco Bueno, my room mate Jen, her boyfriend Bear, and I finally arrived at Seaworld. We rode the rides and I found myself at the beginning of a ruthless cycle in which I was doused with profuse amounts of water everytime I believed myself to mostly dry.

No matter, though. Once we were through with the roller coasters, it was time for our first show. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect such a performance. It began with a clown in the audience, entertaining children with a cheesy water fountain routine, but it wasn't long before the dramatic music filled the area and fog shot up around the tank. Two spandex-clad trainers came sailing in on the noses of streamline baluga whales and the water ballerinas formed their patterns. Then some more spandex-clad performers apparated in the rafters and executed acrobatic dives off a high dive. An acrobat dressed as a tropical bird dropped down from the ceiling in hoop and twirled around on nothing but a swatch of material. To add to the pizzaz of this marine spectacle, a flock of macaws would soar across the area at random intervals. The entire time I found my self saying " Where's the dolphins? Where's the dophins?" but when they glided in and started flipping up in the air, I was completely unprepared for the feeling that overwhelmed me. I started to tear up.

The rest of the day was a haze. We ohhed and ahhed over the Shamu show and took one final photograph of this magical place before starting the three hour trip back. On the way home, Bear decided I needed to see the city. We drove past the Alamo and walked along the Riverwalk, which in of itself was worth coming to San Antonio. I am the ultimate tourist and I love perusing street booths with homemade wares, especially jewelry.The treasures of the riverside booths abounded with many delights. I found myself eyeballing vast amounts of pro-Texan paraphenalia, more torquoise jewelry then you could shake a stick at, and most importantly, copies of John Wayne's birth certificate!

These booths were situated next to the picturesque canal and with the sun setting, we found ourselves in the perfect story book landscape. As I sipped my Shirley Temple underneath the twinkling lights of the patio of a mom-and-pop pub, I found myself to be completely at peace with the world. My time in Texas has been filled with many hair-raising experiences, but being in San Antonio helped me to understand why there is so much pride in this state and why so many of the olden day country singers lost their hearts there. It was a beautiful day and I had the chance to realize a dream. Looks like being a Texan has it's benefits after all.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Wo)Man in the Mirror

This is the story of two men. One is a villain and one is a hero. Both have been hugely instrumental in helping me understand some aspects of myself that I really need to change. It is time that I learned to accept myself for who I am and expect others to do the same.

I came out to Houston to get an education, but I never counted on the lessons I've learned. I knew I was going to be drawing blood, and setting bones and giving shots, but those came easily. I came out here on a whim, hoping that I could make up for the massive mistakes I made in the past; but I don't know if I ever truly believed in myself or my ability to perform how I needed to. I guess I hoped that if I worked really hard, that God would take care of the rest.

As a teenager, I had the usual bouts of angst and inferiority; it didn't help that I was awkward looking, with a fang and stringy blonde hair. It also didn't help that I had a pack of sisters who were frustratingly beautiful, and still continue to be. Friends of my parents would meet my family and would exclaim what a lovely group we were, but I knew I couldn't possibly be included in that compliment; not with my squewompus eyeliner and odds were pretty good that there was some kind of dribble on my boob from a previous meal.

Through the years, I've tried to cultivate the fine art of being a desirable lady. I went on dates and even had a boyfriend or two. Once it even got serious. One night in August I found myself in the arms of a man who told me he wanted to marry me, and despite his family's objections, he was going to do it. Only, when it came to actually saying "I love you", he couldn't bring himself to do it. All he could say was " you know I do, right?" When our relationship crumbled a week later, I knew the reason why. I wasn't worth it.

I've moved on and had several life changing experiences: I've discovered the beautiful deserts of Southern Utah and found fulfilment in rescuing and training huskies to race. I've come to a realization of the life I want for myself and the drive to accept nothing less. At school, I do well. I'm getting good grades and my teachers all know who I am and like me. But I recently had an experience which tested my vision of my self worth.

Part of my program at school includes husbandry, which is the basic care and maintenance of all the animals in our facility. Everyone takes their turn feeding, exercising, and medicating the animals before and after school for a week. It's really stressful, due to the harsh penalties involved if something gets missed or looked over and because it's so time consuming and involves extremely early mornings and entire weekends, tempers tend to fly. My first session was last February, and I made up my mind that I was going to have a good attitude and give it my best effort no matter how challenging it was. Things were okay until the weekend, when I showed up for an early morning Sunday shift to be met by a wrathful team leader who felt that I had not cleaned out under a sink to his satisfaction. Despite the fact that I had swept under it three times and another student vouched for me, he accused me of lying to him and sent me home-for good.

I panicked all day long and when I went over to work on a group project with my friends and they heard the story, they were outraged. They pumped me up with so much indignant anger that I was ready to bypass my kennel manager and go straight to the principal. As it turns out the kennel manger was there when I walked in that morning and I told her my tale. She told me he wasn't allowed to send me home without telling her and that we would need to hold a meeting about it. Later on I found myself in the same room with my team leader, the kennel manager, and the program director. When asked why he took the harsh actions he did, he told the program director-who was also a favorite instructor of mine- that he couldn't find a place for me. I was incapable of the simplest task and was upsetting everyone around me. It was appalling to be cut down like that in front of the program director, and I was afraid she'd believe it was true. I don't know that either she or the kennel manager did, because the program director told him he couldn't send me home because he was frustrated with me, and after he left, my kennel manager told me that she wasn't going to penalize me because he hadn't been fair. She did ask that I make up the Sunday shift that I missed, however, and I was mortified to learn that I would be working once again with the clean sink Nazi. I spent an apprehensive week praying and reflecting on why his remarks should matter to me at all. I came to the conclusion that it wasn't my issue, it was his. I was giving it my best, and my teachers must know it, otherwise I would've done more hard time. My self worth should not be so easily compromised. I have a entire network of people who know that I am where I belong, and one ignorant opinion shouldn't cause me to balk at my dreams. That Sunday I worked my hardest and we completely ignored each other. I was gratified to hear my new team leader say "Thanks for working so hard. You were a big help." HAH!

So school has become something I've become confident about. I can handle it. However, I'm still working on something that will take much longer then a week to work through. Somehow, from the time I was thirteen, I found myself spending time with boys who could only think of me as' just the buddy', or their 'little sister'. I'm good at listening and I've discovered that no matter how they try to hide it, men have feelings just like us and they need someone to vent to as much as we do. I'd become so entrenched in the 'Just Buddy Zone' that I stopped seeing myself as anything else. I no longer believed I was like other girls, worthy of crushing on and hurting over. I began to believe that it was my job to listen and say soothing, comforting things, that dates with me were only only meant to be free therapy.

I have recently met someone who has had an enormous impact on me -for the better. Through our time spent together, I have come to see that my insecurities and shields are irrational and unnecessary. He has helped me to understand that despite the fact that I am domestically challenged and burned his pot stickers when I tried to make dinner for him, I am still worth loving. Our relationship is purely platonic, but I won't pretend he hasn't set a standard by the way he makes me feel. I'm quirky, proud, stubborn and spacey at times, but I have a lot to give and I am capable of making someone happy.

Yesterday I got a badly needed haircut. Guys don't understand this much, but the affect a new look can have on a woman can change her whole psyche. For the first time in months, I feel beautiful.

A wise Michael Jackson once sang:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking if he'll change his ways

and no message could've been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

take a look at yourself and then make the change

Right now, I need to focus on my career. I don't want to stay in Houston; it's an extremely pet friendly city, but I feel that I could do a lot good in Utah if I returned home and brought some of the advances in pet welfare that seem so prevalent out here along with me. No, I do not intend to open a doggie bakery, or pursue a career in doggie orthodontics, (braces for your pooch... because getting them for your children isn't expensive enough) But Utah dogs are worth every bit as much as these Texan hounds, and they deserve the same chance to heal. I have a lot of work ahead of me and I need someone who is going to stand beside me. and guess what? I'm worth it.


I think this picture says
it all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

He's My Dear, My Darling One...

...His eyes are shpaklin' full of fun. No other, no other can match the likes of him!

It finally happened. I have a dog! But I'm a little surprised at myself; it didn't go the way I planned it at all. Of course I intend to tell the story, but first, introductions. May I present to you all the newest and first member of my pack:


I wish I could say it was love at first sight. It should've been. I shouldn't have been so narrow minded and set in my ways. But that is one reason why I came to Houston and Arthur is one of the few reasons that make it worthwhile.

I came down here with Huskies on my brain. Evo had just been adopted and my heart was still a little sore from losing him, especially with the knowledge that for the next year and a half, I wouldn't see any thing that even resembled a sled dog. After orientation at my school, I was told that I was welcome to come to the dog kennels where we keep all our subjects and play with them during off periods. There were about 40 dogs and 20 cats when I first arrived here, and my heart just about exploded when I saw them all in cages, fearful and anxious to get a breath of fresh air and a kind word. Naturally, I wanted to bring them all home, but my apartment has a two pet limit and my room mate had already brought a sickly cat with her.

At first I was drawn to a blonde Shepherd mix, but she seemed to be receiving a lot attention from other students, and I felt that there too many animals down there for one to hog all the limelight. I started going to the other aisle, to see if any of the smaller dogs were being neglected.

At the end of a row in the furthest corner, was a timid little terrier. He looked scruffy and unkempt, but his face had a certain sweetness about it. I pitied him. When I tried to get him out of his cage, he froze in terror. He dodged the leash I tried to put on him, but my volunteer experiences haven't been for nothing, and eventually I managed to rastle him into submission. Until we got out into the hallway. He spent the entire time hunched and cowering near the walls; I had to stop every few feet and coax him toward me. It infuriated me. A dog is never born afraid of people. It's something they have to be taught. This dog must've had a horrific life for him to be experiencing the terror he was. I knew this little guy was never going to be adopted if he didn't learn how to endear himself to people. He needed confidence. I made up my mind that he was going to get walked everyday, along the same route, same time, so that he could learn to depend on me and feel safe. He was one of many that I worked with.

One day, one of my classes cut into my usual schedule and I wasn't able to give him the time he needed. I was passing one of my teachers in the halls, when she called out to me and told me I should bring him to class. At first, I just held him on my lap, hoping he'd put up with it for the next 70 minutes. My teacher told me I could let him down to play. He cautiously started exploring the classroom, flinching each time someone would reach down to pet him. In the middle of class, he found a red rubber ball tucked away in a corner. He carried it around proudly, showing everyone his prize. It made my heart break to realize that he didn't even know what to do with the ball; he knew he was supposed to like it, but he had spent so much of his life trying to survive that he had never learnt to play. A couple of girls in my class noticed that I had been the one to bring him in and started trying to convince me to adopt him. I didn't want to. He was definitely special needs and that was very intimidating.

I could make the commitment to walk a Husky and play with it every day. I could brag to my sisters that someday I was going to find the ugliest, mangiest cur at the pound and bring it home, but when there was a little creature right in front of me who needed my help, I found myself making excuses, like that lame minister who passed up the beaten Israelite in the Good Samaritan parable. (as you can see, I feel pretty guilty about all this... I'm supposed to be champion for the oppressed of the animal kingdom!) I told the girls that I couldn't foster him, I didn't even have a bed to sleep on. On of the girls piped up and told me that she had a barely used full size mattress box set that she was trying to get rid of. The next week , I had a wonderful bed to sleep on, and a group of girls to eat lunch with during breaks. They've been my good friends and sometimes vicious body guards ever since. It would never have happened if it weren't for Arthur.

I began to have a great time at school, but my home situation was horrible. I came home to a room mate who had very little social skills. Out of respect for others involved, I will not include the details of my horrific ordeal with her, but it suffices to say that I needed a friend. Badly. As Thanksgiving rolled around, I found myself not liking the idea of him staying there in the kennels the entire holiday weekend, alone and locked up. I figured it couldn't hurt to foster him over the break. Maybe he'd loosen up and he'd be able to find a family.

Arthur did very well. I had him in belly roll to keep from marking all over my apartment, but other then that he had no destructive tendencies. He was still a little shy, but I was unaware of how much he was warming up to me. Concerning himself, he was always very submissive. He'd never fight back or growl or snap, no matter what procedure someone was trying to perform on him. But one night, when my mentally ill room mate crept into my room at 3:00 in the morning, he let out a resounding snarl that made my hair stand on end! He wouldn't defend himself, but when it came to me, he had a heart of a lion. After a huge feast at my old room mate Alena's home, I invited him on to my bed and got ready to go to sleep. When he snuggled up in between my arms, I realized I had been fighting a losing battle; there were no mountains around to tear up, no snow to plough through. I didn't even own a sled. I didn't need a tough, rugged, spirited dog to go exploring with. Not yet. At this time, with my schedule, I needed the little animal that lived to curl up on my lap and follow at my heels every where I went. I needed Arthur.

I turned in the adoption papers last December, and while I knew he was mine, I haven't been allowed to bring him home permanently until now, the end my first semester. In the mean time I was fostering him, and despite the fact that he had to learn that he would have to share me with John Wayne and David Duchovany, he has become such a fixture in my home that I hate to go to sleep without him.

Just a few reasons why I love him so:

He has the spirit of adventure.

He's very hygienic.

He knows when to relax.

He loves to snuggle with me.

All I know is that when I learned that I couldn't bring Evo with me, I said a prayer every night to Heavenly Father that when the time was right, He would send me the right dog for me. One that needed me as badly as I needed him. He sent me a sweet puppy and a screaming deal: I got Arthur vaccinated, microchipped, neutered, bathed, clipped, cared for and adopted at the low price of FREE. Take that, previous owner.

* * *

For those of you who think I'm off my rocker, understand that it could be worse. I could be dealing with a true Diva!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lil' Miss Honky-Tonk

I am a woman of few hobbies. It used to be that when people would ask me what mine were, I'd have to wrack my brain and go through my day, wondering what the devil I did do with my down time. However, I have noticed that there are some things that are universally McKinlay and there has been one past time that has been a part of our lives since the beginning: We gotta dance.

Technically, only one of us is a dancer. My youngest sister was recently accepted at the Columbia School of Arts in Chicago due to her dancing skills. She chose to withdraw and pursue loftier heights, but we are all very aware of her talent. I am no where near her ability, but I think I fall second in line when it comes to loving it. Growing up in Utah, it was almost impossible to avoid learning the basics. As a child, I tried everything under the sun-including belly dancing. I was a klutzy child, and had little to no coordination. However, there was no stopping it when someone would throw on a beloved tape -ABBA, Michael Jackson, The Beach Boys, etc. - the six of us kids would erupt in a crazed dance party, not one of us caring if we looked stupid, but earning extra points if we made each other laugh. Some of my warmest childhood memories took place in the living room of our home.

It began in the home, but it continued on in school. When I was in Junior High, I enrolled in ballroom classes and found that I loved Swing best. When I started college, I met guys who loved dating girls who could dance. I didn't realize how much I'd missed dancing until I went out with a delightful young man who decided on a whim that we needed to perform a West Coast number on a ice skating rink. Later a good friend introduced me to Country Swing, and to my great surprise, I was pretty decent at it. I had had enough training with social dancing that I didn't need to learn the steps; it was a simply a matter of following the physical cues of my partner.

Before I left Utah, country dancing was something I was doing on a regular basis. I became good enough at it that I was asked to come in to the dance center and help teach lessons. I was in the process of learning the lifts and stunts when the time finally came to leave.
I have to admit, one of the things I miss the most about home is going dancing every weekend. That's why this weekend was such a delight for me. I took the Country scene by storm, and judging by the ache in my back, it was a weekend well danced.

Wild West:
On Friday I went with a group of girls from my ward to a popular country dance club just down the street from me. I was a little apprehensivethe first time I went to Wild West; I thought my bumpkin Utah skills would pale in comparison to the rootin' and tootin' I expected from a Texan dance club. I forgot I was in Houston. At first glance, it looks just as you'd expect a country dance club to look, from the huge neon Texas-Budweiser sign gleaming on the wall to the disco mirrored saddles hanging from the ceiling. It feels like you've walked into a saloon with flashing lights. Now imagine my surprise when I looked out on the dance floor only to see a bunch of old people shuffling a two-step in a circle. I was astonished to learn that this was how it was done in Texas. No death-defying flips, no break-neck swinging, just the very simple stepping in time. That does not mean it did not have its' dangers! At one point I found myself being dragged along the floor with a foreign gentleman who was operating my arm like a piece of heavy machinery while taking such long strides that I had to stick my fanny out so far that my bootie-pop was quite unnecessary.
This place is a good club for beginners. It plays more then one genre of music and serves ample amounts of alcohol to get the crowd relaxed. Having to jump over the inenbreated as they tumble to the ground in a drunken stupor without missing a beat is a exciting challenge, and who can help but get the warm fuzzies when swaying to such classy lyrics as " My Baby Likes Me When I'm Stoned" and "The air was so sweet, it made me belch as I walked down the street". That, truly, is music to scratch your back by.

Line dances are not one of my strong points, but I did manage to learn a few of them before I left my home. I imagine in the more Texan areas of Texas, the line dancing is more involved and complex, but here in Houston, they are ultra easy, and don't even require breaking a sweat.

I tried in vain to get a picture of myself on the dance floor, but it was too crowded and other people kept getting in front of the shot. I had to settle for some photos of a line dance:

All in all, I've decided that this place is the kind of place you go if you just want a nibble of the country flavor. It's like an eclair, full of the goodness of a rich pastry, but not overwhelming.


...So when I got a text inviting me to travel up to Austin to a mid-YSA activity at a dance hall out there, you'd better believe I jumped on it. We traveled two and a half ours in the torrential rain, appeasing ourselves with the maddengly dulcet tones of Josh Turner until we finally arrived at this great States' capitol.

The Broken Spoke:
It was everything I dreamed of and more. We stepped into the club and heard the quaint plink-plinking of an old fashioned piano, and knew we were in the right place. We had a little trouble finding our fellow Texan saints, but our search gave us the chance to appreciate the rickety floor boards and the low particle-board ceiling. I felt like I was in a John Wayne Western. Once again, our peers were on the ancient side, but I'll tell you what, I have never seen so many spry old men in my life! The greatest thrill of all came when the manager of the establishment payed me the compliment of pulling me aside and telling me that I was a great swing dancer. We left that night satisfied with our experience and our cups filled. I'd gladly do it again, next time with a bigger group.

I get so few opportunities to glam myself up, that when I go out and do something social, I play it up. That night in Austin I dressed to kill. Although, with my past history, the odds were on myself.

Four dedicated Honky-Tonkers. I asked someone once what exactly Honky-Tonk was, and they said if it had to be explained to me, I'd never understand. That's true. Honky Tonk is like a testimony: you feel it inside, warm and gritty. Like Momma's home made co'mbread.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And now, to add to our theme of South Western flavor, I give you...
Esperanza, the passionate flamenco- dancing llama. Not only is she equipped with the brightest, glitziest of costumes, but it seems as though her owner has applied liberal amounts of mascara, to bring out her luscious brown eyes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Birthday Party of the King"

Christmas is one of the few times of the year that my family has any real traditions. Even as we have grown and separated, there are some things that will always be an integral part of the holidays. In the forefront of these are our Christmas cartoons. When my siblings and I were all younger, my Dad recorded various Christmas specials on VHS tapes so that we could enjoy them every year. Some of them have lost their place in the pantheon of Christmas necessity, but many of them remain strong in the line up. For instance, just as Christmas could not ever come to a dirty house (my mother's way of motivating us to do our chores), it could also never arrive without the patronage of the fantastic Donald Duck. His Christmas shorts have been a part of our festivities all our lives and we cannot imagine the Holiday season without him. However, I must not get started on Donald, for if I do, I shall be here all night. Perhaps another time. Others with high ranking are Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, Mr. MaGoo's Christmas Carol, and the focus of my blog today, The Stingiest Man in Town. This last cartoon had to have been done decades ago. It was made by a company called Rankin/Bass, and it is quite obviously old, (my guess would be late fifties, early sixties) due to the fact that the animation is raw, shaky, inconsistent and highly stylized. But, even as my knowledge of animation has grown and I have come to be quite an animation snob, I have always made allowances for this particular piece. Not only for the years of memories associated with it, not to mention the memorable soundtrack, but the message inside as well. The Stingiest Man in Town, is of course, a retelling of that classic Christmas story A Christmas Carol. We all now that there is glut of versions of this piece at this time of the year. What makes this version special is that this one is the only one I've found, so far, that bothers to talk about the real reason for the season. We all know that Ebenezer Scrooge learns about true love and joy from being in Bob Cratchit's home, but this version actually takes a moment to educate Scrooge about Jesus Christ.

Not only do I feel that Tom Bosley does a wonderful job performing this song, but I love the way it is portrayed; it is illustrated in narrative stained glass window fashion, reminiscent of the spectacular windows in a cathedral or church. It's a beautiful technique and it gets the point across. So yes, it may be a silly cartoon, but it fills my heart with warmth due to the nostalgia and peace of the season. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

And now, because I promised that I would continue on with with my photogenic fauna findings, I present a bird that is very much up with the latest styles of the season. This lovely Adele Penguin is proudly sporting the craze of Antarctica, the glamourous Christmas bathrobe. I'll have to see about getting my sister to make one in human size.