Monday, February 26, 2007

I went and I brought.

I can handle my life just fine, so long as nothing changes. Everything will get done with a smile on my face, as long as there are no new variables. I would walk around with a darling wee animated bird on my shoulder, singing at daffodils, if only each day would look approximately like the one before.

But, no.

My Saturdays are supposed to look like this: Consort goes to a business breakfast thingy, and we see him mid-afternoon. He is pleased because he has discussed the future of Internet technology, and I am pleased because I didn’t have to discuss the future of Internet technology. During the morning, I take Daughter to dance classes, during which time I stare off into space or flip through a battered copy of American Ballet I keep finding under the bench. Then, Daughter and I go home. It’s not a big day, it’s not an interesting day, but it is a predictable day.

Last Saturday was a great, whacking irregular verb of a day. After dance, we were to head to the beach to see friends and meet up with Consort. After the beach, Daughter was to be shuttled to my mother’s house for a half-sleepover (you fall asleep at your Grandmother’s house, you magically wake up at home), and then we had been invited to a dinner party. A dinner party, I might add, which was ten minutes from the beach where we had been all afternoon, but forty-five minutes from my mother’s house. Sadly, the state frowns upon keeping the kid in the car with the window cracked while we enjoy a civilized dinner, so across town we were to go.

Saturday morning, Daughter ate cereal and watched Fantasia and I contemplated packing. On a regular day, I needed clothing for Class #1 and Class #2 (each class has its own specific wardrobe requirements), along with something to wear to arrive. I threw all those clothes on the couch and dumped them into her exercise bag.

Now, she’d also need something to wear for the beach; dump t-shirt, sweatshirt and jeans into bag.

We might possibly go onto the sand; water shoes into bag.

Might it warm up, or might Daughter ignore the cold and insist on swimming?

Swim suit slipped into the bag, along with towel and three kinds of sunblock, because each bottle has about a thumbnails’ worth left.

I then pondered. There was something I meant to give the people we were going to see, but what was it?

Oh, right. Tea set Daughter has outgrown was found in the bottom of the closet and slipped into the exercise bag. While in her bedroom, I grabbed another sweatshirt, in case the t-shirt got wet at the beach. It got wrapped around the beach toys, which were then all stuffed into the exercise bag, being held down by the bag of magazines I had meant to bring to my mother’s house for weeks. Luckily, her exercise bag is one of those LL Bean canvas hold-alls, but I seemed to be testing the limits of the phrase “Hold-ALL”.

I was dragging the bag towards to front door when the phone rang. It was Consort, sounding stressed.

“Did I leave my black work bag there?”

I looked around the house.

“I see at least three.”

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect black work bags.

“Find the one with the computer in it.”

“Got it.”

“Good,” he said, sounding relieved, “I thought I left it at work. Can you bring it with you?”

I thought, “…are you, perhaps, planning on giving a PowerPoint presentation to the seagulls?” but I did not say it, because who am I to deny someone their security blanket?

“Also,” he continued, “are you getting some flowers for the hostess tonight?”

I wrinkled my nose. I know the rules of social interaction, even if I rarely appear to indulge in them.

“It’s actually not quite done to bring flowers to a dinner party,” I explained, “because then you make the hostess stop preparing the dinner, find a vase, cut the flowers and then find a place for your flowers.”

“Do you have another idea?” Consort said cheerily, clearly soothed enough his precious computer was on its way to him that he was willing to play my etiquette reindeer games.

“Scented candle; if she doesn’t want it, it re-gifts beautifully. Matter of fact, I picked one up for her yesterday. Shoot, where did I put it? I gotta go, I’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Bye. Oh, could you bring my brown shoes?”

Ten minutes were spent looking for the scented candle, only to finally find out I had already put it in the exercise bag. I have no recollection of doing this.

I scanned the pile of objects waiting to be shuttled to the car. Dance clothes, beach clothes, tea set for beach people, magazines for mother…

[Quick trip to Daughter’s room to get pajamas.]

pajamas for half-sleepover…

[Quick trip to bathroom for toothbrush and shampoo. Quick return trip to bathroom to leave shampoo, as mother was highly likely to have shampoo, and I was getting obsessive.]

toothbrush, scented candle, computer bag…

AUGH! My dinner-party clothing!

[Quick trip to bedroom for pants, shirt, shoes.]

Dinner-party clothing…


[Quick trip to bedroom to get Consort’s brown shoes]

During all this, Daughter had been blissfully watching dancing hippos and ignoring her mother. Finally, the sound of me gargling in stress drew her attention. I threw her Class #1 outfit and said “Get. Dressed. Now. Please.”

I then darted to the car with the first pile of goods. I came back in the house to find Daughter peering into the exercise bag in giddy pleasure. She pointed.


I looked in the bag. The cat had inserted herself between the tea set and my pants.

“She wants to come with us!”

I can certainly understand why. The only other things left in the house were a pair of scissors and some decorative icing. I’m sure she thought we were moving without her.


I don't write three different blogs about which I am currently procrastinating. I am procrastinating on three separate blog entries for this here blog.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It takes two.

(For those people who come here looking for a little happy, and found themselves weeping at their desks earlier this week, I am truly sorry. While I procrastinate about the THREE different blogs I am writing concurrently, I am putting up a re-run.)

Consort and I had settled in to watch “Rescue Me”, a new favorite show in our house and one of the few times both of us end up staring at the TV at the same time. As the teaser ended, and the theme song blasted off, Consort observed “This sounds like Duran Duran”.

I stared at him in disbelief.

“It does not,” I said, jumping knee-deep into moral certainty.

“Yes, it does,” he insisted, “if Duran Duran was making music now.”

“They are. I mean, I haven’t heard it, and clearly neither have you. But they are.”

“All right,” he allowed. “It sounds like what Duran Duran was doing in the eighties, only with new equipment.”

“But the singer sounds totally different.”

“I don’t think so.”

“He sounds nothing like Simon LeBon.”

Please note that by this time, the theme song was over and we were into commercials, and yet we continued. Consort held his ground.

“Okay, the lead singer sounds a little different. But only a little, like his voice aged. But they still sound like Duran Duran.”

“So you’re saying that if Duran Duran had a different singer and different instruments, they would sound like this.”



Mercifully, the show started, and we were captivated by Vicodin-addicted firefighters making extremely poor dating choices, but in that three-minute commercial break, we had participated in what I can only imagine is the second-oldest cohabitation ritual: the Pointless Spousal Discussion.

I imagine our ancestors, plodding across endless sheets of ice, the male saying to the female “I have asked you a thousand times to tan the hides I wear just a little longer. You have no idea how many places I’m chafing.” And she answering, “And as I keep telling you, if you bring home more yak urine, I’ll tan the hides until the wooly mammoths come home”.

The requirements of a Pointless Spousal Discussion are simple:

1) It cannot be anything of consequence, nor can it be completely without weight. No one should ever contemplate divorce over a PSD, but each participant must have enough invested in order to keep it lively. This also means that there cannot be a happy medium where you can both be right. It either sounds like Duran Duran, or it does not.

2) Topics must be, ultimately, unanswerable. If you each are sure you know the capital of Lichtenstein, you are one quick trip to Google away from solving it, and where’s the fun in that? Good PSD topics are things like

a) Your nephew did get drunk at our wedding, that wasn’t food poisoning making him puke in the hedge;

b) I was wearing my blue sweater when we met. Yes, I was. Yes, I was. I have never owned a purple camisole, I have no idea who you might be thinking of;

c) That guy at the coffee house always wears the same shirt. Note: Words like “Always” and “Never” make for frisky conversations.

3) It’s nice if the conversation is hinged on some outer event (“Rescue Me”, getting on a particular freeway entrance, 8:35 on a Friday night), so that you can leap in without having to do any dreary ramp-up. Part of the fun comes from just seeing a jar of Gulden’s mustard, looking at your spouse and having them say “Oh, don’t start”.

The PSD can, sadly, lead to bickering. How bickering is different from the Pointless Spousal Discussion is range and rage. If the sight of iceberg lettuce being put onto a sandwich results in a four-minute conversation between spouses (one likes it and swears it has a flavor and is healthy, the other thinks it tastes like wet packing material and is utterly useless) which then leads painlessly into a conversation about picking up eyeglasses from the optometrist, that’s a PSD. The same head of lettuce in the hands of a bickering couple can devolve into an three-hour conversation about how one person perversely insists upon eating the inedible and this has something to do with buying a Home Depot gift certificate as an anniversary present.

A single person might ask, why do this at all? What’s the Darwinian imperative?

(Single people say things like that all the time)

The answer is, I really have no idea. A psychiatrist might say it’s about keeping a healthy sense of individuality: you don’t become the person who has to quiz your partner in order to remember basic facts about yourself (“Do I like salmon?”). Maybe the mental-health professional would tell me it’s a normal way of working off aggression without letting it fester into something truly life-threatening (“No, I don’t know where your car keys are, but I certainly know where the carving knife is!”).

Or maybe it’s some weird way of establishing yet another tie to one another; I promise to love your forever, but I don’t want you to ever forget that I know you abuse paper shredders.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two walks.

Consort came to bed, waking me up. A bleary glance at the alarm clock told me it was 4:50. I was about to launch into my patented “…why do you even go to the ‘Law and Order’ channel…” when he cut me off.

“I was dozing on the couch,” he whispered. “She kept getting up and I wanted you to get some sleep.”

Even though Consort is the only male in the house, I knew exactly which “she” he meant. For the past year, the dog had been getting up every night to either pee or vomit, sometimes both. A year ago, she would get up once a night. Now, she might need to go out three or four times between midnight and six.

“How many times?”

“Five? Maybe six. I stopped counting,” he said with a sigh and fell into bed.

I lay on my back and stared into the darkness. After a minute, I heard the sound of the dog’s paws scrabbling on the wooden floor in the living room. She was trying to stand up. She needed to go out again. I raced to the foyer, deactivated the alarm, and raced to the back door to let her out. I looked at the dark grey sky and heard the sound of our dog retching in the back yard. A minute later, she stumbled in and went back to her bed. I sat at the kitchen table.

A year ago, when this had become an issue, I had gotten her checked for stomach and intestinal blockage and for diabetes. Many expensive tests later, we determined there was nothing causing the multiple trips outdoors at night. I tried only feeding her in the morning, which made her miserable and panicky, not to mention even more prone to eating trash. I tried cutting off her water after four PM, but she still needed her trips outside every night. Her back legs would randomly give out, which a vet informed me was due to a degenerative disc near her pelvis. What no one could tell me was if this was causing her pain.

She didn’t act as if it caused her pain, but how could a degenerating disc not cause pain? I could run her through another full battery of tests, with the accompanying dazzling bills, but she is terrified of the vet and would probably need to be sedated for anything diagnostic, which they might not want to do for an elderly dog. And at the end of the testing, history had shown we could come back with nothing more illuminating than “…she’s old, here are some pills to try. If these don’t work, we can try another group of pills. But first, let’s bring her back in for some blood-work…”

I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than three hours at a stretch. Consort has a lovely job which he enjoys tremendously, but the commute is brutal – several hours a day if the freeway Gods are angry -- and he needs his rest. I couldn’t ask him to do the night-shift with the dog more than once a week so it was going to be my job for as long as I could stand it.

I sat in the kitchen, watched the sun rise, and thought. Every once in a while, I would gaze over at the dog on her bed. She didn’t get back up. At seven, before I went in to wake up Daughter, I went into our bedroom and shook Consort awake.

“I think I’m putting her down.”

Instantly awake, Consort just took my hand and rubbed it. I could hear Daughter starting to wake up. I could also hear the dog starting to try to stand, and slipping as her back legs failed.

It was now Thursday morning. I set the appointment for Friday morning. After making the call, I looked over at the dog asleep on her nest and made a decision. I got her well-worn leash, jangling its hardware in a familiar summons.

“Walkies?” I said loudly.

It took a couple of calls, but my voice cut through her sleep and her hearing loss and she looked up, pleased. It took a while, but we got out to my car. We had stopped trying to put her in the SUV months ago when she misjudged the door height, fell out and cut her head. Now she was having a hard time simply climbing into my sedan.

Consort worked from home that morning, so he joined us on our favorite hike. Years ago, when we first got her, the dog would bolt up the hill, one of us holding on to her leash and water-skiing behind her. Now, we moved at a pace best described as “Stately”. Her legs weren’t consistent, but she seemed content.

Consort and I talked. Was it honorable to wait to euthanize her until nothing gave her pleasure and we were absolutely certain she was in constant pain? Did the fact that she could enjoy the sun on her face mean her life still had meaning? Could I hold out sleeping in patches for what might be weeks, or months? It probably wasn’t years, because she was somewhere near the end of the natural life for her breed. Then again, I knew one of her ilk who lived to fifteen; was I prepared to spend years looking for cures, trying new treatments or being her nightly chambermaid?

While we talked, the dog had slowed down considerably. Frequently during the walk, she sat down. She would try to lie down but without her padded bed to soften the fall she would get stuck. We’d haul her up again, and she’d go a few more feet. The silence grew between our rhetorical questions.

I have had pets euthanized, and it’s dreadful, but it becomes infinitely worse when the decision isn’t clear-cut. We could continue what we were doing, and it’s pretty likely the dog would suffer before she died, if she wasn’t suffering already. But if we continued what we did, Consort would suffer, as would I. I’ve read enough about sleep deprivation to know that I was not working at my best; was keeping the dog alive putting Daughter in jeopardy every time I got behind the wheel? Was keeping the dog alive putting other people on the road in jeopardy? Even if I never hurt anyone physically, how many times had I snapped at Consort or Daughter out of nothing more than sheer grinding fatigue?

Was I keeping her alive so I didn’t feel like a bad person?

Was I euthanizing her for my own convenience?

She was a member of our family. I treated her as kindly and lovingly as I could and kept her needs in mind at every turn. But she was also a member of a family where the other living things had needs as well. Had I been a single woman, with few obligations, I might have made another choice.

We helped her back into the car. Exhausted, she leaned against the door and fell asleep.


Monday, I got the call from the vet; her ashes had come back from the crematorium. Since the cat needed her vaccinations anyway, it made for a strange two-fer; yowling cat carrier in one hand, cardboard cube in the other. I noted the Cal-Pet crematorium had misspelled the dog’s name. I brought both of them home and tucked the box someplace discreet, away from Daughter’s relentless purview. Monday night, I told Consort of my plans. He asked if I wanted to wait for the weekend, so he could be with me.

I thought a moment before I replied. “If it’s all the same with you, I’d rather do it myself.”

Consort said, “Then, let me give you something.” He went to the top drawer of his bureau and brought out a fragment of green paper. He held it in the palm of his hand, and we both stared at it. It was about a quarter of a twenty dollar bill, ragged and torn.

“She ate the rest of this twenty the first year we had her. This is what I grabbed from between her teeth. I always swore I’d bury it with her. Maybe she can use it to pay the ferryman across the river Styx.”


It was perfect hiking weather, the sun peeking flirtatiously through the leaves and trees. This time, I walked the hike quickly. Around my wrist, I had the cord from the purple velvet bag which held the can of ashes. From a distance, I’m guessing people were talking about the woman hiking up the trail with the bottle of Crown Royal. I saw a few hikers on the way with dogs; I stopped and petted as many as I could.

We made it to the promontory which had always been our turnaround spot. I pried open the lid with my car keys and let her go. I put the strip of masticated money in the palm of my hand and blew hard. It floated off a few feet, got caught in some plants, and then tumbled down the hill.

I stood for a minute or so and then said, “Goodbye, Polly.”

I turned around and went home.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Roman far and wide.

I could tell you about the longest Saturday in recorded maternal history.

I could tell you about my increasingly vexing inability to plan a balanced meal.

But I choose, in a Sherman and Peabody way, to hurtle us backwards in time about two thousand years to…


This is to say, I am back to studying Latin, and you are going to be dragged along because I can study a dead language, write a blog, or find some cunning way to do both at the same time.

[Respectful silence for Quinn’s cleverness]

When last we left the Cranky Roman Family, the boys, Marcus and Quintus, had mocked their sister Julia’s nose. Julia flew to her small-but-well-frescoed bedroom and the boys were sent outside to contemplate their own generally horrible natures. I’d say “Barbaric natures” but, at the time, the Barbarians were living in what would later be called Germany and were more of a “Pillaging” people than a “Mocking” people.

Anyway, here is the Cranky Roman Family and here are the rules: 1) I have to translate to the best of my ability and 2) I have to translate exactly, because I’m not clever enough for idiom yet.


Behold Marcus and Quintus before the door of the house. Julius’ boys are waiting. Mother not near boys is, but in peristylum is.

[I looked up the word “Peristylum”. It means “Peristylum”].

Aemilia happy not is, because Julius is away. Certainly she loves him.

[The writer of this primer is a obviously ‘Bridges of Madison County’-reading drip who chooses to believe this arranged marriage led to love. I put forward Amelia is unhappy because her sons always attack their sister’s appearance when their father goes on grape- and slave-buying trips; and would it kill him once to take Marcus and Quintus along on a business trip to Brundisium as their therapist suggested?]

Where Julia is? In cubicle she is.

[Even though the word looks like “cubicle”, I’m guessing she’s in her bedroom. Unless, of course, she worked in Customer Support but how could that be? She’s in Italy, not India.]

Julia, rose before her nose is. Girl cries: in eyes are tears there .

[Wow, those olden-times people really were different. Modern people keep our tears in a Mason jar under the sink.]

Julia mirror has and before her eyes holds. Girl looks in mirror and asks: “Is not this ugly nose mine?” Nose hers but finely-formed not is. Again cries Julia .

[Hans Ørberg -- with the suspicious and barbaric line through the O -- is the author of this book. There is no photograph of Mr. Ørberg on the book jacket. Coincidence? I think not. Listen, Hans, Julia is just going through an awkward age in a time with very few hairstyle options. You could easily mention Marcus and his abnormally small feet or what appears to be the beginnings of a goiter on Quintus’ neck but no, you seem to be fixated on young Julia's age- and culture-appropriate flaws. I'm keeping my eye on you, Ørberg.]

Syra bedroom door knocks.

Julia: Enter!

Syra enters through bedroom door. Julia sees Syra in the mirror; Syra doesn’t see Julia’s tears, for the girl moving isn't.

[Ørberg here restrains himself from pointing out how Julia's appallingly big nose might be keeping her from moving.]

Syra: Oh, here is my girl. Come into the garden, Julia!

Julia demands: Halt the door!

[I looked that one up. Twice. The verb is to halt or make lame. Apparently, doors in Roman houses would sometimes lift themselves from their hinges and make a break for the Mediterranean Sea to float toward the New World. If someone reading this is currently working on a paper for Western Civilization, make sure to include that fact. You will impress your professor.]

The maid obeys.

Julia: My nose is ugly, isn’t it Syra?

Syra: Ugly? On the contrary, well-shaped your nose is.

Julia revolves around. Then Syra tears sees.

Syra: What is it, my Julia? Wipe your eyes! Is tears! Your nose is as well-formed as mine.

[Oh, dear. I have had the benefit of seeing pictures of both Julia and Syra. If Syra were to inhale hard enough, she’d suck up her own chin.]

Julia: Your nose not well-formed is!

[So young. So Roman. So bitchy. Has there ever been a single unexpressed thought in this family?]

Syra: What? Not well-formed my nose is?

Julia: On the contrary, ugly is! Behold the mirror, Syra.

[Julia, you’re angry at your brothers and filled with pre-adolescent self-loathing. You’re worried your fiancé, the sixty year-old Roman senator, will trade you in for a girl with a better-formed nose, so you lashed out. We accept, and we understand. But you do realize that Syra has access to everything you eat, poison is easy to get in Rome and a good pathology lab is about two millennia away. Just saying.]

Julia mirror put before Syra, whom sees nose in mirror. The maid’s eyes grow limp and silent.

[Sometimes, I just translate.]

Meanwhile, outside…

Behold Julius [Italy’s favorite wacky but brutal Roman father] outside the villa arriving. Servants stop the litter before the door. Father greets sons: “Greetings, sons!” and the sons greet the father: “Greetings, father!”

[Years now, around a fire in some God-awful garrison town near Londinium, Quintus will shed a silent tear and think “…could he never say ‘Greetings Quintus, your nose is looking especially well-formed? Why always the distance?…”]

Julius walks through the door.

[There are two sentences after that, of which I can make neither hide nor hair. Variations of the word ‘door’ seem to reappear, so let’s assume he walked through several doors].

After him walks Syrus and Leander. Two sacs carry.

[Let’s also assume the servants carry the sacs, and not the other way around, shall we?]

Servants after them halt the doors.

[Again, students of ancient history, note the doors attempting to get away. Doors being halted. Doors having free will. I cannot imagine why this is the first I am hearing of this.]

Ursus and Davus break up the empty litter.

Boys sacs full which are carried by servants see and ask: What is in sacs?

[Quinn asks readers to note the joke she isn’t making.]

Julius responds: In sac Leander carries apples are. Give the sac, Leander!

[Still not making the joke. I am, however, noting that when I had several housemates, all of them male and gay, there was small library of videotapes in the TV cabinet that featured Ancient Rome as a motif. I always assumed this had something to do with the ease of removing togas. Or strappy sandals. Silly me.]

Leander sac puts before Julius, who opens it.

Julius: Look, sons: this sac full apples is.

And even though you know there is another servant, another sac, an ugly servant having her dreams of personal appeal dashed by a tearful child with a mirror, and perhaps another digression into guy-on-guy action or Roman doors with dreams of freedom, I must bid you good night.

Or rather, vale.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Technical Difficulties.

thYou might have noticed I’ve been silent this week. I didn’t even put up a rerun, which is my usual last resort when I can’t think of a thing to say and the idea of blogging about my hit counter and which search-phrases have driven people here starts to sound like a good idea.

[This was a good idea about three years ago. Now that every single blog writer has covered it, and every entertaining thing has been said about it, the “Hit counter/Search engine” topic needs to be erased from this earth. Now.]

My recent silence was due to a situation beyond my control: we upgraded the computer, ergo the computer rarely works.

I’m no babe in the woods when it comes to these Pentium-infused devils. I knew any attempts to improve its temper would cause the computer to grow sullen and refuse to communicate with us. This is why every time, upon starting the computer and the little window would pop up, offering me upgrades, I would smartly smack it down. No sense borrowing trouble. This Popping-up/Smacking-down dance went on for a while, during which time the computer ran slower. Then slower. Then slower still. By last week it was moving at the same speed as a Rambler station wagon pulling a trailer of cinderblocks up Lombard Street in San Francisco.

We had long before stopped trying to run more than two big programs at once. Now I would unconsciously cross my fingers whenever I opened Quicken. If you rolled your chair the wrong way, the screen would freeze, at which point whoever was working would start swearing and stabbing at keys. The other member of the house would drift in and say unhelpful things like, “…I told you, it doesn’t like it when you open Outlook after it’s been on for over an hour…” Or “…You should have known better than to open a Word file when you were already printing something...”

We had gone beyond identifying with the oppressor. We were building it a church.

Luckily, Consort had another computer coming home for work purposes and with this computer came some tech support in the form of a tall, quiet and competent young woman. It was decided she would take a look at the invalid. Perhaps, I thought, she’d fix it so the computer could get through printing five pages in less than an hour. She sat down, started it up, and up popped my old friend, Mr. Do you want me to install upgrades?. I waited for her to smack it down but instead, she clicked it. A full screen of text came up. She turned in the chair and faced me.

“Have you been installing the upgrades?”

Something in her tone told me she wasn’t about to commend me on my restraint.

“Um,” I gulped. “No. Because, um, I thought they’d cause problems and I couldn’t figure out which upgrades we needed…”

“You need all of them,” she answered shortly, turning back to the screen and tapping a few more keys. She turned back, barely concealing her amazement.

“Is it possible you haven’t upgraded in two years?”

“I’ll be waiting in the kitchen,” I whispered.

When it comes to appliances, electronics and cars, I believe firmly in the theory of benign neglect. I hope someday to find a single instance where it works out.

Eight hours later, our computer was shiny and upgraded to the cyber-teeth. There were fancy new buttons on the screen when I went online which apparently did the same things as my old buttons only…better. Or faster. Or in a more aesthetically soothing way.

I was a little vague on what this humungous upgrade had gotten us besides a computer which could run programs and print things, sometimes even at the same time! I was part of the modern age! Someone get my jet pack!

The first crash came within an hour. I was writing an email when the entire screen went blank. If the earlier incarnation of the computer was gradually sinking into physical decay while keeping its wits about it, this was sudden senescence in a body trained for the Olympics. When things fell apart now, they fell apart at this new marvelous speed. Why, who could have imagined living in such a time where your entire database of email addresses could disappear within three seconds? This was indeed progress.

Tall computer woman was brought back. With only a few voodoo chants and a sacrificed goat she was able to revive our email. I made the mistake of asking her what had happened. Confusing me for someone who understands such things, she gave me a detailed account of her labors until she noticed I had become transfixed by a spider-web in the corner.

“Long story short: your computer stopped recognizing you had an email account.”

It stopped recognizing it? Had the email account suddenly put on a hat? No, it had not, but my upgraded computer is now an Intel-powered Baby Huey, all strength and very little sense. It’s constantly forgetting programs mid-usage, closing them and stomping off to kick Outlook in the drivers.

At least twice a day, it up and forgets what its Internet connection looks like and decides we’re offline. Through trial and error, we’ve determined the only way to get it to recognize how it is online is to unplug the wireless router, wait three minutes, and then plug it back in. If that doesn’t work, we do it again and again until it does or until we give up and actually call the person we’re trying to reach on the phone.

And what did the computer tech suggest? That was her suggestion.

As my friends who have worked the 12 steps tell me: we cannot take care of tomorrow; we can only work on right now. Of course, they’re trying not to drink Johnny Black or snort rails off the belly of a stripper. Me? I’m just trying to put up a blog. But I do take some comfort in staying in the present. Right now I am online. Right now the computer isn’t rejecting something as foreign and eating it.

Right now I am finishing a blog entry.

Wish me luck.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Feel the burn.

When last we saw Lulabelle the cat, she was eating wet food and bringing sexy back with the external hard drive. I think even the most churlish among us would consider this a December well-spent, for a cat.

But, as many of us find out every year, winter calories don’t just go out with the molting brown Christmas tree sometime in January, to be picked up by the Fat Sanitation department, to be shredded into cellulite mulch which can be packed around Nicole Ritchie in order to keep her warm. No, winter fat is more like a gopher, wrecking the stability of your lawn of self-esteem, eating the tubers of your hope for wearing shorts this spring.

[Note to self: Read Sunset magazine only after writing blog.]

I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Lulabelle noticed she was grooming a few more inches of stomach than she had been last summer. Maybe she saw a candid snapshot from Christmas and mistook herself for an ottoman. Possibly some kind neighborhood cat clued her in to how our new nickname for her, “La gata gorda grande” did not, in fact, translate as “Walks the runway for Oscar de la Renta”. Whatever did it, by the first week of January, Lulabelle was clearly on an exercise regimen. I respected her discipline and maturity. She didn’t strap on a pair of running shoes and try for five miles the first morning, only to turn her delicate ankle and head back to the loving embrace of the hard drive. No, Lulabelle works out in a smart and measured way for forty-five minutes to an hour every day.

Oh, did I say day? I meant night.

It goes like this. Night falls, the humans read and watch a little television. Eventually, we turn out the lights and, inexplicably, attempt to sleep. The cat, on the other hand, fresh as a cat food-scented daisy from an entire day of sleeping, views the bedroom light going as the cue to start stretching out her hamstrings. Within minutes, she’s doing time-trials through the house in pursuit of her prey. And what is her prey, you might ask? Is it one of the literally dozens of toys which have been bought for no other purpose than to cause her feline delight?

Have you ever met a cat?

Her great pleasure is throwing, stalking, pouncing on and then killing Daughter’s fuzzy ponytail holders. Having had a few weeks of late nights to contemplate this new avocation, I think I’ve discovered their appeal. They are little enough to be thrown and then carried around after you kill them. The fuzziness means they hang on to your claws, seemingly mocking you by refusing to die. Best of all, their very smallness means no matter how hard Quinn looks, no matter how certain she might be that she’s found every rogue ponytail holder in the house, Lulabelle can always find one more for the 3:45 am “Stretch and Tone” class she has devised for herself.

What I don’t understand is how a cat who, even Super-sized, still weighs less than twelve pounds, can make so much noise. Wouldn’t you think an animal genetically wired to be a killing machine would skulk? Every night is the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona here, only with trash-talking. Because when one catches her intended prey of North American Pink-Breasted Ponytail Holder, one wishes to let everyone know. Since I speak basic Cat, not idiomatic Cat, I can only guess, but the yowls and yodels could probably be safely translated as “…who’s your kitty-daddy, chump?”. This leads effortlessly into an aria I like to call “All hair-holders bow down before me”. This is usually around the time I come staggering into the living room. Lulabelle, understandably frightened by the homunculus with closed eyes lurching towards her, grabs her kill and takes off, leaping over the couch, sliding under the dining-room table, streaking through the bedrooms across people's heads. This is the circuit-training portion of her workout.

God help me if I try to lock the Workout Queen out of the bedrooms. Unbeknownst to me, I am her exercise buddy, and Lulabelle will be damned if she’s going through all this by herself. She stands by the outside of the bedroom door.


QUINN: Hush, Lu.

A second of silence, where we all contemplate what an incredibly stupid thing I said.



A paw slides under the door, trying to wiggle the door open. Sensing this won’t work, the paw slides back. A moment later, there is the sound of a cat’s body throwing itself against the door.


Over the sound of her hurling herself against the door, I can hear Daughter sleepily saying “…Mommy?” and feel Consort thrashing into wakefulness. I give up, leap from the bed, and open the door. The cat, mid door-hurl, skids into the room. We stare at each other in the half-light until the cat sees something under the bed. With a crow of triumph, she darts under the bed. The amount of noise she generates would indicate she has either trapped a wolverine under there, or she found a ponytail holder. I slide under the bed and, in the dark, differentiate the precious toy from a rubber band and a dust bunny. I wriggle back out from under the bed, walk to the door, and throw it into the living room. The cat races after it, screaming in joy and blood-lust. I get back into bed and am just drifting off to sleep, so I don’t hear the sound of tiny well-exercised feet walking up to my side of the bed.


On the plus side, I think the shadows under my eyes make me look mysterious, and the cat’s wearing jeans she hasn’t worn in years.