Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You're Gonna Hear From Me

New video blog is up. Shortly, there will be written words. After that, I'll come to your house and straighten up.

No, probably not. Mostly because you'd respect me less if you discovered what my definition of "Clean enough" is.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go West, Life is Peaceful There

A few weeks ago, I found a dead crow in my front yard, the obvious victim of a shoving match with a mini-van. I did what any modern, right-thinking woman would do; I begged Consort to make it go away and then I Tweeted about what a hypocritical feminist I am, letting the man I love deal with dead things in the yard. A few hours later, a friend wrote me a quick email. I was an amateur, she said, because she had two dead crows in her yard. No, she wasn’t touching them either, because even though there wasn’t a mark on either one, they were icky. She had already alerted her husband at work to try to remember where his “Touching dead things” gloves were hiding.

My interest flared. I wrote back to confirm that there wasn’t a single mark on them, they just appeared to be some new variety of crow which sleeps on the lawn in the middle of the day? Yes, she wrote back, like that. I typed back so quickly I almost sprained a finger. Her husband couldn’t just throw them away, they might have West Nile virus. She had to contact the city to pick them up. I sent her links to phone numbers. I sent her links to pages on West Nile. I sent her links to the historical patterns of virus transmission. I offered to visit her when the city bird-person arrived with his or her city-approved Glad bags. I noted her luck in having potentially virus-laden birds in her yard. She wrote back thanking me for all of my information and support and noting she hadn’t seen me this excited since the first reports of the H1N1 virus in humans had surfaced. She also suggested it might be weird if I were there when the city bird-person arrived, what with me giggling and asking for his autograph. I extracted a promise from her that she call me just as soon as he left.

She called the next day. I believe I said something like, “Tell me everything and don’t leave anything out.” Maybe I asked what the bird-taker was wearing. I had dimly hoped for a Hazmat suit and a rolling lab. He was in civilian clothes and he drove a hatchback. He bagged the birds and told her they’d contact her within two weeks.

“That was it?”

“Well, I offered him a Diet Coke.”

“Did he take it?”



“Wait, there was one more thing. He said because there were two of them, my house was automatically considered a cluster spot.”

Some people have all the luck.

Two weeks later, I was waiting for the kid to finish a class when my phone rang; it was my friend. I answered “West Nile?”

“Hi to you, too.”

“Sorry, hi. West Nile?”

“Yes. But only in one of them.”

“Wait, what? But both were unmarked, five feet from each other and both were dead. They both were dead, right?”

“They didn’t seem to object to be crammed into plastic bags so I’m thinking that yes, they were dead.”

I stared off into the distance at the park, thinking.

“Maybe,” I mused aloud, “the bird that was negative for West Nile had it, but didn’t have enough of a viral load to measure and died of it because of an underlying condition.”

There was a silence.

“Sure, okay. You want to call the bird-person and tell her your theory? Maybe they can do a full autopsy.”

I thought about it and then decided it was possible she was mocking me.

“It’s not an autopsy,” I said briskly, “it’s a necropsy. Anyway, so what happens now?”

“Well, we’re supposed to empty any standing water. Since no one in the house is old or sick from something else, we probably won’t get it.”

I nodded vigorously; so far, nothing a disease-geek like me didn’t know.

“Did she tell you that dogs either don’t get it or get a very mild case?”

“Something like that. Honestly, I had kind of tuned out.”

Youth is wasted on the young. Disease clusters are wasted on civilians. And, it turned out, the city of Los Angeles. The city wouldn’t be sending out a letter in her neighborhood, nor would they be checking the area for any other dead birds.

“She said something about the city sending out a press release, because it’s the first positive test results of the season.”

I brightened up.

“But only if nothing more interesting happens in the city.”


I thanked her for letting me play along at home, but my mournful tone gave me away. She said, “If it helps, I had the woman mail me a brochure about the signs of rabies in squirrels. I thought you’d like it.”

It’s no squadron of men in Hazmat suits sealing off a city block, but it would have to do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When You Walk Through the Garden

(Running in circles, flapping arms)



I have to breathe into a paper bag now.


I've Got to be Me

How to be Quinn:

Go to the laundry room. Choose whether to do darks or lights, start machine. Add soap. Then decide you hear the phone ringing in the front of the house. Hurdle pets and various shoes to get to phone, only to remember the washing-machine in the first ninety seconds of its cycle makes a noise which sounds exactly like the distant bleating of your cell-phone.

Now, forget this until your next load of laundry.

Friday, March 12, 2010

May Your Slumber Be Blessed

Consort notes that I write about cats a lot. I think he worries I’m becoming a Cat Blogger, which in his mind is one step away from Holiday-Themed Sweater Wearer. So please note this is a very special episode about how my family is trying to kill me through sleep deprivation, with a choice role being played by a family member who happens to be a cat. So there.

For the last week, Consort has been especially night-owlish and I can’t complain because a) A big part of it leads to income and b) The other part is where he edits my Q-teas. He’s writing all sorts of businessy, MBA-ish things, adult things, which he does best in quiet (as opposed to the other kind of adult writing which requires loneliness), and quiet doesn’t really happen around here until eleven at night. Between three and four in the morning, he comes to bed. As lightly as he tiptoes, I still wake up and try to engage in the sort of conversation partners have when one has just come home from work. This, of course, would go better if I weren’t in the middle of a REM cycle:

QUINN: Did you put the penguins away?

CONSORT: Shhhh, go back to sleep.

QUINN: Sorry, I meant did you finish the spreadsheet?

CONSORT: Just about.

[Author’s note: No spreadsheet has ever been fully finished. Ever.]

QUINN: Thank you for putting up the spoons. I really appreciate it.

(Consort, having spent many nights parsing what the hell I’m saying at dark-thirty, knows I mean the videos.)

CONSORT: You’re welcome. Go back to sleep.

(Consort lies down in the dark for eight minutes, and then stands up and starts tiptoeing back out of the room. Quinn rouses from her dream, sort of.)

QUINN: Why are you going back into Lake Ponchartrain with Michael Douglas?

CONSORT: I just remembered something I need to add to the spreadsheet. Go back to sleep.

And so I do, sort of, rousing only slightly when he comes back. Consort, of course, sleeps in to the morning and works another night shift. I wake up with the pets at 7:30. Then there’s trying to educate the child and taking her places to make her socialized and tired and then it’s night and then it’s late night and I’m asking Consort something random again.

And then there was last night. More accurately, there was this morning. First, the Ghost of Excels Past, Present and Future slunk into bed and I had to wake up and toss him random nouns. Then, at some point later, I awoke to feel the child sliding into bed next to me; she had a nightmare. I edged over and fell back asleep. I hadn’t realized she hadn’t shut our bedroom door behind her until I felt the percussive thump of six pounds of feline hitting the bed. I opened one eye to see Diana, the obsessively affectionate cat. We stared at each other in the dim light from the hallway. I had, at most, thirty seconds to remove her before she did exactly what she did every time Daughter was under the covers, but if I squiggled out, my partner might wake up and remember an email he’d been meaning to write. I gave in and lifted the covers between Daughter and me. As gracefully as a high-diver, Diana plunged under the covers, stopped at my thigh and commenced to nurse on my pajamas. I can’t say as I was happy about this, but I could sleep around it. Whenever Consort finally woke up the next day I’d strip the bed and try to disinfect the room.

Minutes passed. I fell back asleep but woke again to the sensation of furry undulation. Diana, for reasons which I’m sure were obvious to a cat, had decided to head down my leg. She had a quick nurse when she reached my ankle but over the next fifteen minutes continued around my feet, up the other leg, around my arm and finally out from under the quilt. She then walked around my head and started to go under the covers for another go-around. I felt an overwhelming need to spoil her plans. I grabbed her, slowly hip-walked my way out of the covers, took her to the bedroom door and sent her on her way. Until now Anne, the other cat, had been off sleeping or grooming or reading back issues of The New Yorker but upon hearing her sister’s feet hit the ground, dashed into the bedroom just as I was shutting the door and in one leap was in the middle of the bed, darting towards Consort’s head. I went to grab her, and she leapt onto the headboard, caromed off the side table and dashed into the closet. I knew that if I left her in there and got back into bed she’d come cakewalking out just as soon as I fell asleep and start doing our hair. She had to be removed.

In case you’ve never tried it, it’s awfully fun to try to catch a half-grown cat in a closet at five in the morning. Why, between doing unsuccessful flying tackles into dress shoes and inching behind winter clothes boxes, the time just zips by. Twenty minutes later, I was sweaty and smelled slightly of mothballs, but I was holding a cat, which then licked my nose and purred at all the attention. I tiptoed through the bedroom and shooed her outside while sweeping her sister out at the same time. The dog was standing by the door, looking hopeful in the breakfast way. I sneered at him and whisper-barked, “NO!”

I slid back into bed between my loved ones, a process only slightly less taxing than putting toothpaste back into the tube. Only now as I’m writing this does it occur to me that I could have more easily pushed the kid to the middle and slept on the outside. Forgive me; I was a little tired. I lay there and watched the light of the new day form patterns on the ceiling and noticed that I was completely awake. It was a little after six, might as well start the day. Consort, feeling me extricating myself from the bed, said drowsily, “Honey, go back to sleep.”

Readers, I let him live.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

School's Out Forever

There was a class which bothered you, I mean really bothered you, in high-school. The subject managed to be both narcotically boring and fiendishly incoherent and after day three you were pretty certain the teacher was speaking one of those African languages which utilize tongue-clicking. I'm not saying what yours was, but it's whatever final you periodically take in a nightmare while wearing only tighty-whities. No matter how bad your adult life is going, you can always soothe yourself by saying inwardly, "Hey, could be worse. I could be back in (Dreaded subject)."

But if you ever choose to home-school, know there will be a moment where, just as in the horror movies of your adolescence, the thing which you thought was dead, knew was dead, couldn't ever bother you again, rises to do battle once more. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my week: