This video of dancing albatrosses is all you need today:

Courtesy of the live Kauai Laysan Albatross Cam and the Cornell Ornithology Lab, which has a variety of live bird cams guaranteed to destroy your productivity for hours on end.

Also: Here’s the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s YouTube Channel.

I was only joking last week that JunglePete was going to highjack my page and replace it with ornithology memes, but apparently I’ve had birds on the brain ever since.

If I don’t start updating my blog regularly soon, I’m afraid JunglePete is going to hack into it and start posting ornithology memes.

Grappling with a rheumatological flare this week, I haven’t exactly been a high-functioning machine lately.

Today I took a shower, put an oil-based leave-in conditioner in my hair, and went back to bed for a few hours. I used half the suggested amount, yet I woke up looking like a penguin in an oil slick. I was afraid to send anyone a selfie, I was afraid someone from Greenpeace would be deployed to scrub me with Dawn.

Fortunately, the conditioner washed right out; but shampooing your hair twice in one day rather defeats the purpose of deep-conditioning, doesn’t it?

That was a boring story, wasn’t it?

Maybe letting JunglePete post bird memes isn’t such a bad idea. I liked this one a lot:

10254038_10153304754216402_6205741885278402543_n

Yikes, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve neglected you all for months and I should probably be writing something profound about the new year (or something snarky about resolutions). Instead, I’m posting a draft that’s been hanging around since last New Year’s Eve.

I’ve been a little disorganized this year.

Last year, we drove to Florida and spent a few weeks with my mom for the holidays. The night before we set out on our journey, I had a nightmare.

A terrible, crazy nightmare.

A wake-up-drenched-in-sweat nightmare.

Here’s what I remember: Husband and I were driving on I-4 in Orlando, near Gatorland. There was a huge traffic jam and we weren’t going anywhere.

Suddenly, Harrison Ford sprinted by the car. We leaped out of the car and ran after him to help. It was the (dream) logical thing to do.

Ford was being pursued by Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was in the process of shedding his human skin and turning into a giant Chupacabra-like monster.

Now, in real life, I’d recently presented a conference paper on archaeology in feature films. Gatorland was on my mind because it was used as a location for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Also, because it’s awesome.

Clarification: Gatorland is awesome. Temple of Doom was kind of a stupid yet lovable mess of a movie. The racism, however, not lovable.

I went back to sleep after my heart-rate returned to normal and didn’t give the dream a second thought in the morning.

Until I got a text from JunglePete.

JunglePete was a bit disturbed about the dream he had that he was stuck in traffic on I4 and Rick Scott turned into a Chupacabra.

I have no explanation for this shared brainwave. We’ll be visiting him again in a few days so I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

One year later….

We never did figure this out. The only logical explanation is that the Governor is a Chupacabra.

image: meanlouise


image: meanlouise

I know, I know – my photoshop skills leave much to be desired.

{update January 30, 2015} This post apparently went into the draft file even though I really meant to publish it. Then my blog had some sort of wordpress meltdown. I guess I’m just going to have to get my act back together and quite neglecting you all!


image: meanlouise

A visit to Fort Myers beach (that included dinner with the JunglePete Family) before heading back up to Sarasota for some wandering around Lido Key was an excellent way for Husband and I to conclude a year that swooshed by incredibly fast.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go create a “true life 2014” category. Crazy.

dinocrocvssupergatorDinocroc vs. Supergator is predicated on the idea that “alligators and crocodiles are mortal enemies.”

I called bullshit since the 2 species co-exist in South Florida, but Husband reminded me we aren’t dealing with a regular gator and croc, we’re talking about Supergator and Dinocroc.

Sure. Whatever.

The movie opens with a scene wherein David Carradine‘s character shouts, “What the hell is going on?”

This is a question we will ask our television for the next 90 minutes.

I’m having trouble keeping track of the characters who are neither Dinocroc nor Supergator because these people are boring and unidimensional. Plus, they keep getting eaten before I can even try to feign interest in them. Plus, I’m texting with JunglePete, who is attending our 25th high school reunion on Siesta Key on behalf of Heather and myself.

JunglePete and I were on the reunion planning committee. I thought we came up with some excellent themes, including Family Everglades Camping Weekend Of Terror, in addition to the multi-page list of alternate themes we proposed which our committee chair confiscated and burned in front of us.

The final decision was to not have a theme.

If I was at the reunion, they probably wouldn’t let me watch Dinocroc vs Supergator. Silly geese.

I’m starting to doubt that Supergator is actually the friend of all children.

Dinocroc isn’t very bright, even for “A Primeval” with enhanced intelligence.

Frankly, I’m not sure which monster we’re supposed to root for.

Husband thinks we’re supposed to be rooting for the humans.

That’s unfortunate.

I actually didn’t go for complicated health reasons, but you’re welcome to believe I stayed home to watch Dinocroc vs Supergator.

Or that one member of our class always has to sit out the reunion in an undisclosed location. Just in case.

(The confiscating and burning of our list didn’t actually happen, but it probably would have if we’d all met in person).

On the flight home from a recent Florida excursion, I was storyboarding the post that became Dad and I Found a Monkey in a Wendys.

Topazstoryboard

I use an extra-large moleskine notebook for this kind of note-taking so it’s not exactly discrete. This, plus some unrelated notes on the facing page, were providing our flight attendant with a great deal of entertainment. So much so that while everyone else was eating tiny bags of biscotti, I got this:

cookies & coffee

The perks of finding a lesser ape in a Wendys last a lifetime.

Earlier today, curator of cool Todd Mason sent a link to the horror list for Richard Littler’s Scarfolk Council, a brilliant, disturbing, hysterically funny blog concerning a fictional town in the UK.

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. “Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.” For more information please reread.

It’s apparently quite the cultural phenom but I’ve been living under a rock lately and was unaware of it.

I don’t know if it would have more or less resonance for me if I’d seen it prior to becoming lodged in JunglePete’s childhood memories circa the late 1970s. (I didn’t actually meet JunglePete until we started going to school together in 1982). The last few weeks have started to feel like an elaborate prank. Or an episode of Fringe.

There was that incident with the Siamong in the Wendy’s restaurant I told you about earlier in the week. Then, yesterday, I had a random conversation with a visitor while at my volunteer gig. Although it’s a public place, I don’t feel comfortable repeating conversations I have with visitors so I’m omitting most of the details, but you’ll get the gist from the post I’m lazily copying from my facebook update:

I don’t share much personal info w the public when volunteering in the forensic anthropology lab. Yesterday a retiree from Venice, FL visited & I said I was also from Sarasota. Then I took out an osteomyelitic tibia, like one does. The rest of our lengthy conversation can be summarized as (osteology)(bio archaeology)(osteology)(osteology)(my daughter dated a fellow who lived on a monkey preserve)(osteology)(bio archaeology)(osteology). I said nothing at the time, but when I got home I verified that I am, in fact, trapped in Jungle Pete Corradino’s childhood memories. Please send help. And bananas.

I didn’t offer up that I knew someone who lived in a monkey sanctuary. I don’t know if the story is true or not, although when I asked JunglePete about it he told me some vague story about knowing the family in question that took place in the late 1970s, which is good enough for me.

If you don’t have much patience or don’t understand why poking around the Scarfolk site is so entertaining, I just found a post by David Barnett, who wrote a rather lengthy summary review for Tor.com with some great examples of the images on the site. Barnett concludes:

Scarfolk is a triumph of psychogeography and pretty much what the internet was invented for, as far as I’m concerned. Go visit, by all means, but don’t say you haven’t been warned. And when—if—you leave Scarfolk, I guarantee that there are certain things you won’t look at in the same way ever again. For example… are those children looking at you in a bit of a weird way right now..?

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to go finish a conference paper abstract so I can delve back into the Scarfolk archives.

When I was a kid, I found a monkey.

Siamang at the Naples Zoo, photo courtesy of Pete Corradino.


A Siamang, photo courtesy of JunglePete Corradino.

Technically, it wasn’t a monkey, it was an ape called a Siamang, but I wouldn’t learn that detail for many years. 30 years, to be precise(ish).

Back on that day in the late 1970s, dad and I stopped at Wendy’s.

I guess we were there for lunch. We definitely weren’t there for primates.

We chose a table and I sat down. Dad was about to go to the counter to order when I noticed there was a bag behind my chair, presumably left by the recently departed occupants of the next table.

(This isn’t the weird part of the story).

In my memory it was one of those canvas totes like they sell at LL Bean, but I honestly can’t recall much about the bag.

Other than the fact that the bag was moving.

The bag was moving because there was a monkey inside.

Long hairy arms reached up out of the bag and grabbed the back of my chair. A small furry head followed and the two of us had what seemed to me to be pretty meaningful moment.

The events that followed probably unfolded quickly, but in my memory they happened in slow-mo:

My dad matter-of-factly instructed me not to talk to strangers or feed the monkey, since it might have a special diet.

My dad was very practical.

My dad went to call a deputy to come and pick up the monkey, since dad figured mom would kill us both if we took it home. Plus, it’d be wrong to take a lost-and-found monkey home.

While dad was at the counter asking for the manager and I was chatting with my new simian friend, a Wendy’s employee began to wipe down the table, saw the monkey, and freaked the fuck out.

The memory may be slightly murky, but I’m pretty confident in the sequence of events because I thought the employee was screaming because she saw me.

Which was more than a little upsetting. I was wearing my favorite dress! I loved that dress! Why was the woman screaming at me? Didn’t I look adorable in my favorite dress?

A girl came running in from the parking lot, panicked because she’d left her sister in a bag.

I swear that’s what she said.

“I forgot my sister. She was in the bag.”

She grabbed the diaper-clad creature and the bag, and then she ran back out.

I immediately stopped caring about the Wendy’s employee who was still staring in my direction and screaming, for I had just had an epiphany.

Wow! My parents can trade my baby brother in for a monkey! I knew this had to be possible!

My parents didn’t trade in my brother, but I guess in the long run that worked out okay.

(Still not the weird part).

Now that I think about it, this incident probably precipitated both my lifelong love of primates and my lifelong wariness around fast food.

Fast-forward a few years.

I was at a new school and one of my classmates lived on a monkey sanctuary. I was at his birthday party or something. We’ll call him JunglePete, because that’s his name.

(Calling a kid JunglePete would be weird, but at the time he was still just plain “Pete,” so in the final analysis this isn’t the weird part, either).

I was talking to one of his sisters. This, I shit you not, is a pretty accurate approximation of the conversation she and I had:

Her: “My sister left a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Me: “We found a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Her: “No way!”
Me: “For real. A monkey!”
Her: “That’s crazy! I wonder if it happens a lot?”

For smart kids, we weren’t always very smart.

Fast-forward a whole lot more years, to last Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Husband and I were at the Central Florida Zoo with JunglePete, his wife and son, and his father and his father’s wife.

jpsiamang

Our first stop was the Siamangs.

When we made plans to meet at the zoo, I didn’t understand there was a personal nature to our mission. I thought we were just too cheap to go to Sea World during the peak season and had chosen a more off-the-beaten track Father’s Day outing destination.

It turns out that in the 70s, the sanctuary had a rescued Siamang named Bridget. Eventually, Bridget went to live at the Central Florida Zoo, which had better facilities for apes and a mate for Bridget. Bridget had some babies over the years, but she rejected one of them. JunglePete’s parents took in the baby, who they named Topaz.

We were at the Central Park Zoo to visit with relatives of their old friends, Bridget and Topaz.

(We haven’t gotten to the moment of weirdness in the story yet, but we’re getting closer).

After we visited with the Siamangs, we wandered around the zoo for a few more hours.


JunglePete & I at the Central Florida Zoo, photo courtesy of Eric “Husband” Gordon.

(Whatever is happening in this photo may or may not be a little weird, but is otherwise unrelated to this post).

At some point, JunglePete and I ended up back at the Siamangs and I casually mentioned to Pete that my dad and I found a monkey one time in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida.

JunglePete replied that his family once almost left someone behind in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida. But they didn’t leave a monkey – they left Topaz! Fortunately, they remembered as soon as they got back to their van and JunglePete’s older sister dashed back into the restaurant to reclaim her.

Being older and a little bit wiser, we understood that we were remembering the same event.

Okay, to be honest, we didn’t realize it immediately.

We didn’t realize it until Husband started laughing at us for being idiots.

Then we realized it was the same incident. What. Ever.

The fact that our childhoods had intersected years before we met was, even to us, pretty weird.

Then I made JunglePete talk to the Siamang. (While I made a video so he couldn’t deny it later).


[embedded video: me forcing JunglePete to speak Siamang]

Then 6 full-grown adults crammed themselves into a 1951 1/5 size replica train operated by a dude in a conductor’s hat who probably didn’t even think it was weird to be wedging himself into a tiny car and driving grownass people around all day in a miniature steam train.

I bet you think I’m making that part up.

IMG_2269

I’m not.

This post is full of hazy memories from the late 1970s and early 80s. JunglePete’s mom and my dad are both deceased, so you’re at the mercy of mine and JunglePete’s memories on some of the details (and may god have mercy on your souls) but we do have witnesses who can corroborate the important points.

While writing this post I realized that I still have a habit of automatically checking behind my chair whenever I sit down in a restaurant, hoping to find another monkey.

I haven’t ever found another one. It’s probably a rare occurrence, but if you ever find one, please let me know!

On Saturday, standing there watching the relatives of the gibbon I met at Wendy’s several decades ago (and a hundred miles away), with the people who left the ape – that was weird. I think the word surreal is overused and often abused, but I’d go so far as to label the moment surreal.

Back in the 70s none of this was newsworthy. Or if it was, it didn’t occur to anyone involved to contact the press. Very few things in Florida are particularly odd to native floridians (except the weird & crazy crap that snowbirds and transplants do, but that’s a subject for another day). While writing this post I did, however, do a bit of googling and turned up a picture of Pete’s mom and Topaz from an unrelated news article about the sanctuary:

janietopaz
JunglePete’s mom, Janie Corradino, with Topaz, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 15, 1978.

As for that day way back when? After lunch, dad and I went about our usual errands. We probably went to Lido Beach so I could play on the swings or up to Jungle Gardens to visit with dad’s friends. They’d shoot the breeze while I watched them milk the cobras to make anti-venom.

You know, the usual father-daughter stuff.

—–

editor’s note: I just changed some of the dates because JunglePete informed me I was off by a year or two here and there.

Also:

Full disclosure: obviously, it wasn’t a monkey. It was a lesser ape, but monkeys make better headlines. Plus, from 1978 to 2013 I thought it was a monkey so I use the word monkey a lot in this post even though I am well aware of the difference. Get over it.

Are you here looking for information about DC’s Demon Cat, who was alleged to prowl around the grounds of the White House and U.S. Capitol? You’re in the wrong place, but you might as well stick around because every day is Halloween around here and I have a ghost story for you all the same!

One day, while I was making some afternoon coffee, I looked out our kitchen window and saw the neighbor’s kids giggling and intently watching one of our upstairs windows. One of them waved up at the window. My office window. Since it wasn’t the window I was looking out, and I’m the only one home, I went outside to see what was up.

I looked up at the window and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
That’s when the little girl told me they’d been watching our kitty sun itself in the window.

We don’t have a cat.

GhostCat Reenactment

I asked her if she could still see the kitty. Nope. I asked her where the kitty went. She said the big orange cat got up, stretched, and left the window sill and now she couldn’t see it.

Creepy? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

GhostCat apparently took up residence here in our house last year around Halloween. As one of the few houses in Alexandria, Virginia not claiming a ghost, I guess we were due.

I haven’t seen GhostCat myself and we’ve never owned an orange cat. Husband’s grandmother had a big orange cat, maybe it just took a while for him to find us? If cats can have ghosts and ghosts can sneak in to your house, we figure that’s how GhostCat got here.

You can’t prove it didn’t happen that way!

Our Official Ghost Cat Sightings began when JunglePete visited last Halloween. On the first morning, he mentioned that our cat walked over him a lot before finally settling in to sleep by his pillow.

We laughed at him, chalking it up to lack of sleep.

Since then, 3 little girls and one allegedly sober adult claim to have seen the big orange cat sitting in the window.

There are few things as creepy as watching someone wave and greet someone only they see in a window, especially when you know there’s no one there. And it’s always the same window – the window I have my back to when I work at my desk.

The window I have my back to right now.

Hang on a second, I need to nervously glance over my shoulder a few times.

Okay. I’m back.

I’ve spent a lot of time standing in my yard at all times of the day trying to figure out what they could be seeing but there’s nothing there and nothing reflecting that looks either orange or feline. We just tell little kids our kitty is very shy. My neighbors would kill me if I filled their kids heads with ideas about ghostly pet hauntings.

In light of the fact that one family turned their house into a haunted sanitarium for halloween and another had a guy in a clown costume chasing people with a chainsaw, I don’t know why I’m concerned about inflicting psychological damage on the little ones.

Maybe I should tell them we have a Cheshire Cat.

Recently, a friend and her adorable hound were visiting for the afternoon. Carolyn and I were knitting and watching a movie when the dog hopped up, ran across the room wagging her tail, and started behaving like she was trying to befriend a smaller creature. She then trotted around the house with her new friend for about an hour. We both found the dog’s behavior terribly peculiar. The hound now runs around our house looking for her friend whenever she comes over.

I don’t know why it only just occurred to me that we should make a video of this behavior. I’ll keep you posted on that. I think we should also bring in another dog, one that hasn’t “met” GhostCat.

I’ll work on that.

Now that I think about it, ghostly pet eminences aren’t completely unknown in my family.

My uncle is apparently being haunted by my grandmother’s dog, a mastiff/great dane cross who, I suspect, could do some serious spectral damage. Do you think it’s possible to drown in ectoplasmic drool?