The Princess and The Crown

The rest of the house was quiet. There was no one with whom to talk, or cry, except her. I think it worked. There was something about that tiny little body, with its heat concentrated and radiating, that made me feel so much safer than if I had been alone in the dark with the television blaring.

It was Saturday, 30 Aug., 1997, shortly before 6:00 PM Central. Princess Diana was rushed to Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpétrière. The news reported that she had been in an accident due to her driver trying to elude the paparazzi (while drunk and speeding). At this point, she had not died. Early reports said that Diana was suffering from a concussion, a broken arm, and a cut thigh. From that moment forward, I was glued to the TV. The tears didn’t fall immediately, but when they did, our family cat, the aptly named “Princess,” wandered into my room. I was lying on my bed, propped up with three pillows, and as per her normal, laid on my chest so that she was in a perfect position to knead my shoulder and slobber. Turnabout is fair play. My tears began to land on the top of her head, and when she heard me, she didn’t move for almost eight hours. There was something about her tiny little body with its heat concentrated and radiating outward, that made me feel so much safer than if I had been completely alone. By 11:53 PM, Diana was dead.

Because of the images coming from Britain and France, and keeping my own lights off, I had to look up what time it was in Houston. In my memory, these events were also in the middle of the night, because the times reported were midnight to 6:00 AM.

In doing research for this entry, I learned something else heartbreaking:

In 2019, Dr. Richard Shepherd, Britain’s top forensic pathologist, concluded that Diana died of a tiny, badly placed tear in the vein of her lung. ‘Her specific injury is so rare that in my entire career I don’t believe I’ve seen another,’ Shepherd wrote in his book, Unnatural Causes. Shepherd believes Diana’s death could have been prevented by one small change- a seatbelt. ‘Had she been restrained, she would probably have appeared in public two days later with a black eye, perhaps a bit breathless from the fractured ribs and with a broken arm in a sling,’ Shepherd wrote.

I am certain that the public will never know why Diana got into a car with a drunk driver, or why she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The questions, especially so long after the fact, are irrelevant. It smacks of victim blaming, when Diana was hounded by paparazzi from the moment she started dating Prince Charles, even speculation before it was announced led people to camp outside her house.

Though The Crown on Netflix did not make me weepy (much), it is a very different experience watching a story when you already know how it ends. I imagine countries full of people in their collective mourning, watching Diana come into herself, starting to live the life she wanted, rather than caught in a mouse trap, and why her tragedy looms so large.

And in a small way, this entry memorializes my Princess as well. She is long, long dead, and that is the memory I most associate with her- the quiet determination she showed in trying to make me feel better as the people’s princess slipped away.

During the funeral, I was away on a choir retreat with about 50 other people. It was in Galveston, surrounded by the warm beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. When the march of the casket toward Westminster started, we were all gathered together, watching on the world’s smallest TV. You could have heard a pin drop for hours.

And yet, as much as I enjoyed having 49 other people with whom to grieve, I knew exactly where I wanted to be….. lying on my bed, propped up with three pillows.


I feel no inspiration at all, which is how I know that I need to just sit here and keep going. Writing is a muscle, and it will atrophy if you let it.

At first, I was all I can’t think of anything so here’s a picture of my cat (that I don’t even have anymore but still think is adorable).11080854_10153102162680272_481846125438751217_o He came from the Oregon Humane Society with the name “The Artful Dodger” (one of the characters in Oliver!), which worked great because I love musicals and Dana loves the Los Angeles Dodgers. I absolutely manhandled him as a kitten so that he is just the most chill non-human on the planet. Seriously, he could pull off jelly sandals and a bathrobe. Most of the time I actually called him “The Dude.” He also passed “the kitten test” at the shelter, which is that I made sure I got a cat that knew I was alive. I didn’t want a cat that wasn’t other aware. He was friendly from the moment I saw him, and it was my birthday. He was a present, and the conversation ran thusly:

My Mom: What do you want for your birthday?
Leslie: A cat.
My Mom (in a THICK Texas accent): How’my gunna GET YOU a cat?
Leslie: Mommmmmm….. I just want you to send me the money for the adoption fee.
My mom: Oh. I didn’t think of that.

He’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, a relative of the Maine Coon, so he is huge until you put him in the bathtub. Then it looks like you shrank him. I didn’t have to bathe him that often, but like all kittens, he had to be washed off every once in a while with Ivory dish soap to keep off fleas because he wasn’t old enough for repellents. It made him tolerant of baths as an adult, which was handy in case he threw up on himself. Getting vomit out of his fur would have been a ghastly adventure otherwise. OMG. So much hair. So much gathered in the drain that Dana and I could have made a facsimile.

With the hair exception, he was so incredibly low maintenance, I could use him as a pillow or an ottoman. You could hold him upside down and backwards and he’d still just be like, careful…. there’s a beverage here, man. He was the perfect cat for me, because I’m definitely into cats that don’t really give a shit about anything in a slacker-type way.

You wouldn’t say he was dumb, but you might want to stop by and water him three times a week, bless his heart.

-Molly Ivins

I am certain that one day, I will pick out an equal underachiever, but it is best I don’t have a pet right now. I get enough love from Lincoln and Daisy, Sam’s dogs. Lincoln is a pit bull and Dodger’s Jeff Lebowski equivalent (once he’s sniffed you out and made sure you’re cool). Daisy is your BBD (basic black dog), one of the most well-behaved and trustworthy dogs I’ve ever met.

In our house, there are also other dogs, I just see Lincoln and Daisy the most often. Hayat and Mike also have two dogs, Pixie and Sadie. We also have a rotating cast of relatives’ dogs. So I have no shortage of pet love in my life, and the best thing about it is having no responsibility. I need to be able to take care of myself before I add somepet else’s.

Although I will say that I would prefer having a cat to a dog, even though I am actually more of a dog person. It’s just that cats are so much less work. I’ve only had a puppy once in my life, and never again. I learned that I need to adopt dogs that already come fully housetrained. Besides, fewer people adopt older dogs, so I think they’re more grateful.

Additionally, not to condemn people who like purebreds, I would never buy one…….. even from a highly respected breeder. There are just too many homeless pets out there for me to consider it. Yes, they come with behavioral baggage. So does their owner. I’m in no place to judge. I pity the woman who eventually “adopts” me already. But at the very least, I will not micturate on the rug.

Feisty Cherry Diet Coke

Feisty Cherry Diet Coke is my least favorite so far. It’s really good because it tastes more like the cherry in Wild Diet Pepsi, but there’s a black pepper tasting note that makes me cough. It’s hideous, truly.

It’s kind of like falling in love and realizing too late that you’re dating a meth addict.

In other news, I now have a new roommate. I haven’t met her yet, but I have heard that she has a cat. I have also heard that she’s crazy in a good way. Sounds right up my alley. I might not love her- that remains to be seen- but I can love a cat…. especially one in which I don’t have to feed or change litter. That’s just God right there.

Dana did me a solid by keeping Dodger for two reasons. The first is that I didn’t want to wander around DC trying to find an apartment that took cats. The second is that he was already bonded to Dana’s cat, Minerva, and splitting them up didn’t seem right to me, either. The only thing I regret is that Dodger was a gift from my mother, and I’d do anything to have him back just based on that fact. However, I’m still not in a place to have a pet, and Dana’s is the best place for him in all the world. I am sure that he is spoiled beyond all measure, and in more ways than I would ever think to or care.

Dana is a cat mom. I’m all like, it’s a cat.

I have always joked that the reason our relationship didn’t work out is that there are only two types of people in the world… pet parents and pet owners, and they do not mix. I take laughs where I can get them, okkkkkkk……..

The funny story about myself that I have for today is that I applied for a job with the APA, the American Psychiatry Association. However, they did not explain the acronym on the job posting until the exit page for the application, so I told them that I was a good writer and thought it would come in handy for research and summarization. I can only hope that they don’t think that’s weird, because I thought I was applying to the style manual. #dumbassattack It brings tears of laughter to my eyes every time I think of it. I just have to remind myself that there are plenty of times I’ve felt dumber.

I’m also coming up with ideas for my novel, Fish Ralph, because an idea dawned on me last night that had me really excited. But, of course, I am not going to tell you what it is…. just that it is a truly unexpected turn of events. I’m probably not going to win a Newberry award, but I’m having fun with it.

For the writers in the crowd, I’ve switched over from Microsoft Word to Storybook, which has sections for character development and dividing chapters. It’s brilliant because of its organization, and I highly recommend it for novelists… not so much for non-fiction. It also has the ability to switch between different writing projects so that if I come up with an idea for -frog.- or have a wild hair for even newer works, I can jot it down quickly.

I am also a big fan of Google Keep for ideas on the go, and on my phone, I can dictate instead of type. My handwriting, as I’ve said before, is a carpal tunnel pile of garbage even I can’t read if I put it down and come back to it later… and it’s a bummer having to retype ideas if I hand write them, anyway. I’d rather have the text in a format I can use.

In trying to find the link to -frog.-, which I wrote long ago, my search results returned entries I hadn’t thought about in years. I read them all. Some of it was truly touching, because enough time has passed that I feel like I’m reading someone else’s work. It doesn’t feel like bragging when you don’t even recognize the work as your own. It’s more akin to thinking, “wow. I wish I could write like that….” and a true feeling of humility that I’m the one that has been given this gift. I’m also astounded at the measure of truth I’ve been willing to put to “paper.” It is only mine, not universal, but I know for sure that it does resonate with a few who’ve stood in my shoes. In other ways, I am dumbfounded that I was ever so stupid to publish how I felt about that. That is an x-factor.

I have learned that my love for Argo knows no bounds, but is no match for the hatred I have of myself (at times). I am proud to be who I am, but that has come along relatively recently in the ebb & flow. My self-esteem has been rebuilt after disaster, and for that, I am grateful. It is amazing what forgiveness and mercy can achieve, both internally and externally. The fire in my lantern has returned, hopefully strong enough to light the paths of others, because they gave me strength when I could not return it.

I edited that paragraph above, because it originally said Dana & Argo. Now, it doesn’t. That’s because I read about a phone call between Dana and her mother, and Dana and the younger brother of a friend. One was about “appeasing the crazy,” the other about “not taking on projects.” It brought everything back regarding how little she thought of me and what I would do with my life while not exactly being the model of achievement herself. She was in no place to judge, and she did, both harshly and without remorse.

I also saw Argo’s loving words…… I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in you.

I put both of those perspectives in my pipe and smoked them, and by the end of staring into space trying to decide what I thought, I decided that Argo’s words are and always would be worth more, because who doesn’t love someone who thinks that about you? Who, in this world, can’t? And, of course, by love I mean that I would run to Walgreen’s for her in the middle of the night without complaining once. I am sure that she already has people to do that for her, but it is my definition of friends who love you. I might even be willing to throw in some chocolate, depending on how generous I’m feeling that day. 😛

I know for sure I’d be willing to throw in some Diet Coke, just for the love of God, not Feisty Cherry.

On Pets

There are people working on the roof this morning. It’s excruciating, all the pounding, because it seems to pulse with my sinus headache. At least they are marching in step. I’ve already taken my Zyrtec and Sudafed PE this morning, and it’s still not helping, so now that I’m on my third cup of coffee in a mug that holds four cups, I might consider a Benadryl kicker. I find that treating the allergy is better for me than treating the congestion…. treating the root of the problem rather than the symptom. I also need to take a shower and clean my room…. the former because the water will wash away whatever’s making me bloom, and the latter being that I am most allergic to dust. I had one of those tests where they put 25 allergens on your skin to see how you react (smaller than most- I think some tests are up to 75 different ones). Dust overtook six other samples. The best thing was learning once and for all that I am not allergic to dogs or cats… I just thought I was…. probably because dog and cat hair on the floor attracts dust bunnies.

I do not have any pets, but the family I live with has a number of dogs. I think “we” have four of our own, and a rotating cast of visitors. In this house, we are not cat people, and I am somewhat grateful. Though I love cats, I do not love the smell or the mess of a litter box. When I lived alone and had Asher, I bought disposable litter pans by the dozen and just threw them out every other day or so, because scooping a permanent one made me so sick to my stomach. So far, the only pet I have had complete and total success with is fish. I can keep a goldfish alive for years, and it makes me happy to pay five cents for a goldfish and watch it grow to mini-koi. In order to do this, the setup is expensive, but once setup is done, you can make an environment that sustains itself.

Oh, now I am on my soapbox, because I’ve come across something about which I’m truly knowledgeable.

The biggest mistake that people make with goldfish is that they don’t change the water enough. Goldfish are nasty. Gorgeous, but nasty. Their ammonia levels get really high, really quick, which is why it is inadvisable to keep them in a bowl…. unless you want to change the water almost every day. If you are going to keep goldfish, splurge on the most expensive filter for your aquarium that you can afford. If you just buy a ten-gallon kit, the filter it comes with will not turn the water over fast enough if you have more than one goldfish in the tank…. and by “turn it over,” I mean the amount of time it takes for the entire ten gallons to be refreshed by activated charcoal. I generally buy a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank if there are goldfish involved. You still need to change about a third to a half of the water every four weeks, roughly, but you’ll thank yourself if you buy a Python. Before you buy one, though, make sure you know how far your aquarium is from a water source so you get the right length. There are adapters for every water source- kitchen sink, bathroom sink, outdoor hose, etc. I also take the fish out when I’m cleaning the aquarium so that the fish aren’t barraged by chlorinated water. Although, since the chemical that takes out the chlorine works instantly, it’s not that big a problem if you don’t. It’s just my preference.

The best part about buying “feeder fish” is that you can’t tell whether the goldfish is exotic when it’s that small. So, I’ve paid five cents for black moors, pearlscales, etc. You just have to keep them alive long enough to find out. 🙂

The only time I’ve ever encountered true problems is when a tank gets ich. I have not once had any luck with treating it. I just do everything I can to prevent it. The treatment is expensive and might as well say “does not work” right on the label. Believe me when I tell you this is true; I’ve kept goldfish most of my life and am not inexperienced in the slightest. It spreads so quickly that even isolating the one fish that has it doesn’t make any difference. By the time you see the white spots, it’s game over for the whole tank…. which is why I buy five cent fish. If your tank gets ich, and you’ve had the fish long enough that losing the tank will be emotionally damaging (and I do mean it…. so much work goes into keeping these fish alive that it’s hard to watch them die after two years), try the treatment and see if your fish respond to it… but I’m betting dollars to donuts that they won’t.

If your entire tank dies, the only solution is to go back to the beginning. Start with an empty tank, even taking out the gravel and running water through it (I use a colander). Make sure the plastic plants are clean as well. Scrub the hell out of the walls and bottom of the tank with one of those yellow sponges that has the green layer on top. Never, ever, ever use soap. Even if you think you’ve gotten it all out, the molecules you can’t see will still kill the fish. Once you’re sure the tank has gone back to zero, replace the gravel and plants and plug everything back in. Then, let the tank run for at least two weeks before you add more fish. Some experts say that you only need to wait 24 hours to let the temperature stabilize, but I think this is unwise for goldfish. It takes time for the healthy bacteria to grow. Once you’ve had six or seven weeks with fish in the tank, a bottom feeder is also helpful, like a cory catfish. You want to wait until there’s enough for them to eat.

Also, aquarium size is directly proportional to how long goldfish will live. The smallest rule is one inch of fish (excluding their tails) per gallon of water. Also, goldfish will grow to the size of the tank they’re in. My rule is generally three goldfish in a 20 gallon tank, because I want all of them to be yuuuuge. 🙂

Lastly, don’t put a goldfish in a desktop aquarium. Just don’t. If you only have a one or two gallon tank, one betta is more than sufficient. I named my betta “Tester.” It also helps if you play Aqua for them. Bad puns, I’ll see myself out……