It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Bird!

Because it wasn’t raining Sunday morning, as it had been for 40 days and 40 nights in the Chicago-area, I sat outside by the pool with my dogs, a cup of coffee, and my laptop. I consider that to be a perfect way to start my day.

As I read e mails and blogs I heard a flapping noise right over my head and then a flopping noise coming from the pool. A bird had crash-landed in our pool and had obviously not been given swimming lessons as a gelding, or whatever you call a baby bird.

I grabbed the first thing I could find, which was a very small skimming net with a short handle, and ran over to try to coax the bird out of the water. I knelt down and sort of offered the net to the bird, which seemed like a stupid and hopeless thing to do. I knew I could never get close enough to save this bird, but it had other plans. It flopped on over to me and hopped right onto the little net.

It stayed on the net as I brought it over to the garden to dry out. It didn’t fly away and seemed perfectly happy and untraumatized. I can’t say the same for me.

Protecting his identity

Protecting his identity

It finally dawned on me that this was not your garden variety wild bird. Slowly I realized that what I was looking at was a pet-store-type bird; it even had a little band around its leg.

It was happy just hanging out in the garden, and then suddenly took off and flew right into one of our sliding glass doors. Fearing the worst, I went to assess the damage. The bird was totally fine and unfazed. I extended my finger and it climbed onto it. It was beautiful. I began to lactate.

It flew into a nearby bush at which time I realized:

1. I was home alone with no one to help me.

2. I have two dogs.

3. They slept outside through the entire search and rescue.

4.  I should take the dogs inside just in case they noticed the bird and wondered if it tasted like chicken.

5. I was still in my jammies.

6. I could feel the presence of our resident Cooper’s Hawk and, because I am a bird whisperer, knew I had better get the bird to a secure, undisclosed location before it became an amuse-bouche.

7. I don’t know nothin bout raisin no birds.

It turned its little head onto its little back and went to sleep on one of the little branches of the little bush. I took that opportunity to calmly lead the dogs inside, find a basket, get the mesh dome we usually use to keep flies out of the humus when we’re outside snacking, and a plastic cup of water.

Making sure the dogs didn’t follow me outside I walked over to check the bush, praying the bird was still there. It was still snoozing away. When it awoke I offered it a stick — hoping it would hop aboard, which it did — and placed it into the basket. I gently tossed in a few handfuls of grass and sticks and then poured water from the cup into the basket. The bird came up to the cup and drank the water as I was pouring it.

After it finished drinking, I placed the cup of water into the basket and then topped it off with the mesh dome. Knowing the bird was safe, I stayed with it while calling neighbors to see if anyone was minus a bird.

No one was. I called one of the local pet stores to see if they would take it in, but they wouldn’t. My friend Roberta told me to “tweet” on Twitter and post on Facebook about it to see if I’d get any nibbles. Not even a peep.

My friend, and bird enthusiast, Art came over to help. He immediately identified the bird as a male parakeet. I asked him to walk over to our neighbor’s house where an estate sale was in progress. Perhaps the bird had escaped in the midst of all the commotion taking place at their house.

But it wasn’t their bird or anyone else’s.

I called my mother who said, “Have you considered just asking the bird what its name is”? She is so smart, but the bird was not. It didn’t appear to know its name.

Finally Joanne, one of my neighbors, called to tell me she would take the bird for her 15-year-old daughter if no one claimed it, but she couldn’t get it until the next day. She said she had a cage but needed to find it in her attic, and wanted to get the appropriate parakeet accoutrements so it would be happy in its new home. I breathed a sigh of relief; the bird relieved itself in the cup of water.

As soon as Richard came home I asked him to watch the bird, even though it was safe in the MacGyver-style cage I had fashioned. I went to the pet store to buy parakeet food and, of course, a parakeet toy.

That bird ate like a …much bigger bird. It stuck its head into the bowl of food and didn’t come up for air for ten minutes.

I had plans with Rosa, who happens to be Art’s wife, that afternoon. She and Art offered me one of their bird cages to use until Joanne could locate her cage. The bird loved the cage because he had the freedom to fly around, eat, drink, and crap. Isn’t that what we all want?

The bird rested comfortably in the cage in my office that night. Meanwhile, the dogs still had no idea there was a bird living in the house.

Joanne, her husband, and their daughter came over last night to pick up the bird. I have never seen anyone as happy as their daughter was. As soon as she walked into the house, before she even saw the bird, her smile was so big I could see each and every one of her teeth. I should probably tell Joanne that from what I saw she should have her daughter’s wisdom teeth looked at.

Later that night Joanne called to tell me they had named the bird “Zed” and that everyone was doing well. I was exhausted. I had spent most of the day sitting in a pile of dirt babysitting a parakeet while in my jammies. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

The Ritz of Schvitz: Part II

Let me begin by saying that, through unconfirmed but pretty reliable sources,  I’ve heard  The Concierge has been fired. No word on Shamu.

Now, back to the story….

For the past two weeks Richard has arrived at The Ritz every other day at 6:00 AM. He said the best part of working out there is that when he’s finished his trainer stretches him out on a massage table and then places a cool eucalyptus-scented cloth on his head. This was not helping me fall in love with The Club. I’m used to smelly gyms, rosin-scented backstage wings, and the smell of greasepaint and anxiety. Having a cool eucalyptus-scented cloth placed on my head was not part of  any repertoire I’d ever experienced in a gym or as a -very- reluctant- to- perform-on-stage dancer.

I still hadn’t been to The Club because I wasn’t supposed to do exercises other than those assigned to me. I wanted to follow the recommendations of the physical therapists I was seeing because I’d rather nip this thing in the butt, I mean bud, so it actually healed and got stronger. I am seeing several physical therapists since the first one I met missed the avocado pit with a Ginsu knife and sliced through the tendon in her hand, instead, and is currently receiving physical therapy.

But, then the flood arrived. We couldn’t use our plumbing for a few days because the sewer line in front of our house was clogged.* Richard instructed us to only flush on an as-needed basis. His rule was, “If it’s clear, leave it there”.The lake in our backyard after the Flood.

The lake in our backyard after The Flood.

I wasn’t leaving anything anywhere; and I really wanted to take a shower. I could have gone to my mother’s house, or to one of my friends who kindly offered me their showers. But then it dawned on me: I am a member of  The Club. I decided that if I couldn’t use the gym facilities I would use the amenities. Besides, it would be a good way for me to test the waters.

Can we talk about the water for a moment? I had decided to venture into the steam room but a shower was required before entering. The shower sprinkled down on me gently, yet firmly, and was heated to perfection. After the first shower, I was actually looking forward to the one I would take after I took a steam.

I entered the empty steam room and was greeted by wisps of eucalyptus-scented moisture. I sat down, still wrapped in a towel, because I have yet to feel comfortable naked just about anywhere, and inhaled through my stuffed nose. My sinuses immediately opened up and let the steam flow into my body. I sat there contemplating the meaning of life until I was beginning to feel like over-microwaved broccoli. I stepped out of the steam room and tip-toed to one of the showers. I could have just walked there, but something about this place invited tip-toeing.

Since I had recently had my hair Keratined, I brought my own shampoo and conditioner because it’s the law after having a Keratin relaxing treatment that you may only use special shampoo and conditioner. But I had neglected to bring shower gel. There was no way I was going to use the Kiehl’s shower gel that was provided.

I reluctantly pumped a small amount of the Kiehl’s grapefruit-scented shower gel into my hands and rubbed it into a lovely, frothy lather. I pumped a little more, only because I wanted to make sure I was squeaky clean; I mean who knew when we’d be able to use our showers at home again, if ever?

By the time I had pumped and lathered, I looked like a rabid dog. I couldn’t get enough of that stuff. It smelled like someone was peeling freshly picked grapefruit just outside the shower door and I felt exhilarated and alive.

I still wanted to hate The Club, but was having trouble finding anything to hate, or even dislike, for that matter, because I had finally let go of “the incident” with Shamu, that sweat-drenched neanderthal-woman.

After I used as many full-sized warm towels as I pleased, I realized I hadn’t brought body lotion. There were bottles of Kiehl’s body lotion-potion visible out of every corner of my eye for members to use. I thought I wouldn’t like using it because I normally just pour Avon Skin-so-Soft bath oil down my back and hope it lands where my body needs it  after a shower. But the Kiehl’s lotion-potion was light, and refreshingly not gooey. I even used it on my face because I had neglected to pack face cream. It absorbed into my skin without leaving a trace of stickiness, leaving my face ready for make-up. I liked the Kiehl’s stuff, but I rationalized to myself that it was okay to like it because it was available at fine stores everywhere. It didn’t mean I liked the club.

I got dressed and then sat down at one of the many vanities, each equipped with salon-quality blow dryers with assorted nozzles, Q-tips, cotton balls, and an adjustable make-up mirror with lighting available for “day”, “office”, and “evening” settings.

I applied my make-up using the “day” setting, and then dried my hair. I didn’t want to admit it, but this place was beginning to grow on me.

A few days later I received permission from my physical therapist du jour to walk in a pool. Oh, happy day! I packed up my bag with one of my new, super-cute bathing suits, and headed to The Ritz. I had been instructed not to break out into an actual swim, but was told to walk in a manner that can only be described as something out of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, taking giant overly animated backward steps like a drunken stork.

As I was gliding through the water backwards I couldn’t help but notice that the water in the pool was different than any water in any other pool I’d ever been in before. It rippled. It didn’t splash. It seemed heavier, and smoother, and easier to frolic in without pesky droplets hitting my eyeballs. What was with the water in this place? Had it been anointed in some way by Poseidon?

After exiting the pool I took a quick, perfectly heated shower that cascaded gently, yet firmly upon my shoulders and then headed into the luciously-scented steam room. After I had been broccolied until I was al dente, I took another shower, looking forward to the smell of an orchard of freshly sprouted grapefruit trees wafting all around.

As I moisturized, dried my hair, and put on my make-up, I noticed in my reflection from the mirror that I was actually smiling. Was I happy to be there? Was I succumbing? Was I becoming one of “them”? Hell, yeah.

I know deep down inside that Richard is usually right about things. He does his homework; he gets the research done. He knew this would be the place for us and he was right, damn it.

I went back to my locker to get my purse and workout bag, but when I tried to take my sweater out I realized it was caught on the hinge on the bottom of the locker door. I dug my reading glasses out from the bottom of my purse, got down on the floor and tried to figure out how to release one of my favorite Eileen Fisher sweaters without ripping it.

I felt the presence of  a woman watching me from across the locker room, but stayed focused on the task at hand. After a few minutes of wrestling with my delicate sweater, I sensed that the very toned woman with six-pack abs who had stripped down to her bra and panties was still watching me, so I looked up at her.

She asked, “Do you work here?”


“No,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”

“I thought you were repairing the locker.”

“No,” I said, “I’m just trying to get my Eileen Fisher sweater unhooked without tearing it.”

“Oh. Ok,” she said, as she headed toward the grapefruit-scented showers.

I managed to get my sweater out with only a minor tear that even I will be able to sew. I picked up the rest of my things and left. As I walked out to my car I wondered why “old six-pack” thought I worked there, not that there’s anything wrong with it. I was wearing a beautiful camisole and jeans, and had full make-up and hair going on as I crouched on the ground, being careful to not anger my hammy, while trying to gently extricate my sweater.

It was a strange question. If I saw someone in that position I wouldn’t assume anything, nor would I care, unless that person needed help. “Maybe she thought I needed help,” I told myself. But I knew the truth. She thought I was the help. I hate that club. But I can’t wait to take another swim, steam and shower, and get on the Pilates Reformer with a trainer watching my every move and then draping a cool eucalyptus-scented towel across my forehead.

And now for something completely different…

* Coincidentally, that happened again the other day. Please see