Thursday, February 28, 2008

Useless Pets

My lovely daughter brought home a turtle found wandering in six inches of snow. Turns out it's a Russian Tortoise, or Agrionemys horsfieldii ( Testudo horsfieldii), and there are web sites dedicated to these silly things.

Eventually I figured out why it was wandering in the snow...this is the most useless pet ever.

First we had to bring it to a veterinarian. Naturally you can't bring a Russian Tortoise to just any vet, it has to go to a specialist in exotic creatures a couple towns away from us. In the waiting room I enjoyed a caged pigeon and a ferret eyeing each other.

We'd named the tortoise Phoebe, but the vet happily showed us Phoebe was really a Phil, an experience I don't ever want to repeat. The rest of the session was kind of a blur, and my wife made sure I didn't see the amount of the check she wrote out.

My daughter spent a fortune buying Phil a cage and heat lamps, and we sat back to watch him. And you know what, Agrionemys horsfieldii didn't do a thing.

You can't teach it tricks. It can't catch a Frisbee. It doesn't roll over. It doesn't fetch. It doesn't chase mice. It doesn't bark and warn you if the house is on fire or a bad guy snuck in. It's not very bright, and spends useless hours banging it's head on the glass cage trying to get out. If you let it out of the cage, it tries to hide under something. If you so much as twitch a muscle it freezes and pulls it's head under it's shell. Best of all, these little horrors are loaded with salmonella, so every time you touch it, you have to scrub your hands.

To top it off, they're picky. The temperature and humidity in their cage has to be just right. They require a certain kind of sand and hay, can only eat certain kinds of plants, have to soaked occasionally in an inch or two of water (my daughter explained why and I immediately forgot). They have to go to the vet for regular checkups and their feces examined for parasites. Yuck!

I'm sure someone got tired of fecal parasites and scrubbing their hands for salmonella. Snow? Ahh, the damn thing will hibernate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

After 28 years on the trading floor of the NYSE, I jumped at the offer of early retirement, especially before my blood pressure cratered my brain like an old pinata.

Early retirement, the American Dream! Golf, fishing, leisure!

Except I hadn't really thought it through. I can't stand golf. Nothing happens. You have to wait your turn. When it is your turn, the ball goes into the woods. What kind of stupid sport is this? When fishing I have to wait for the damn fish to grab my hook, then it's a bloody, sticky mess yanking it off the hook. And don't believe you can revive a fish pulling it backwards in the water, the fish doesn't care when it's insides are stuck on your hook.

Leisure, humbug! I needed something to do.

Bill's Breakfast & Bait sounded idyllic, a little shack in an estuary along the North Carolina coast, cooking up breakfast and selling bait to the fishermen. Open at 4 AM, closed by 12 PM, home by early afternoon. My wife loved the idea. In fact, it was her idea.

I like to cook, but I'm not all cheerful in the morning, one complaint about my coffee would lead to a fistfight. And the first person to send his eggs back because they weren't runny enough would have the plate tossed at him. And the smell of bait mixed with pancakes leaves something to be desired. So Bill's B&B will stay firmly in cyberspace, where I don't have to smell anything, and if someone gives me a hard time, I just delete them. Oh yeah!

I'm going to ramble, some incidentals, some music, a lot about us baby boomers as we migrate off this mortal coil like a vast herd of lemmings. I just read about Frank Buckles, America's last living WW I veteran. What a strange feeling, to be the last. Someday my grandchildren are going to read about the last Baby Boomer alive. Articles will be written by journalists for a week or two, then we'll slide into oblivion, our legacy batted around by historians.