Friday, September 28, 2007

Los Angeles Consider Yourself Warned

Things have been excessively crazy in my life since my trip to Lake Tahoe. I normally don't write about my everyday life because it's so boring and repetitive that you would all fall asleep and bang your heads on you keyboards from the sheer and shocking dullness of my existence. Seriously, you may not believe me, but you have to. Certainly I do lead an extraordinary life. I freely admit that. Extraordinary things don't happen every single day though. They happen periodically. In between all those events there are long days which involve me doing nothing more than sitting in traffic, eating salads with chicken in them, worrying if my cat is constipated (I think she is), reading literary theory (not willingly), and doing all those boring things that we all have to do like grocery shopping, cleaning the toilet, procrastinating the laundry and wanting cheeseburgers. It makes for terrible writing. Lately though, I've been upended.

As soon as I got back from my trip my parents informed me that they were going to Los Angeles. This is pretty unusual because my mom isn't much of a traveler. She loves her RV, but part of the reason she got that thing in the first place is because she has a crippling phobia of flying on airplanes. It is her worst fear and she will do just about anything to avoid it, but here she was all of a sudden, without much warning, telling me that she was flying across the damn country. Highly out of character. She did fly a few months ago, but it was a quick flight to see my Uncle, the Grass Roots Political Activist, and then shave his head. She considered the incentive of shaving her older brother's head enough to get on a plane, but again it was a short trip and involved Xanax.

When my parents leave, Husband and I house sit and we love this because our apartment is small and my parents' house has unimaginable luxuries like a gas stove and a BBQ grill. There is even a bathtub that I can actually fit in. My bathtub at home isn't really a bathtub. It's more so the floor to the shower. It provides a place to stand, not a place to bathe. Here I can get into the bathtub and cover my entire body with water. This is more wonderful than I have words to describe. If next week I have a post detailing a painful bladder infection, you will know exactly why. So far so good though. I'll take preemptive cranberry.

We love housesitting. Our cat even likes to come over here because there is some hole where lizards can get into the house and she can then stalk and kill them. There is no such hole in our apartment, although there IS a hole that seems to be the exact size of a millipede. I have a gazillion millipedes trucking across my floors at any given moment and my cat has no interest in them. Its all about the lizards for her. I hate millipedes. I want millipedes eradicated from the face of the earth; I really do.

My parents ,who had no apparent reason to go to Los Angeles, were supposed to be there for 11 days. My mother was quite nervous on her birthday and declined celebration that night because she was so scared of her flight the next morning.

I called to make sure she got there ok and she said she was very scared and sounded strange. She did not like LA.

Three hours later my mother called to tell me that Los Angeles was the best city in the entire world. No city could ever compare. It was the best place she had ever visited. She became the official LA cheerleader. You have never heard a person more in love with Los Angeles in your life. Well good, I thought, they'll have a nice trip. I decided to take my third bath that day.

The next day my parents called again to inform me that they were moving to Los Angeles. MOVING. To Los Angeles. They were looking for apartments.

I decided to wait it out. Maybe they were just having fun. They'd probably change their minds.

They called again to tell me that they had signed a lease. My parents have moved to LA. They even went and bought furniture for their new apartment. I strongly suspect that this furniture is going to have ornately carved bunches of grapes and Medusa heads. There will be gilding and inlay of something.

Who on earth goes on vacation and decides to not only get an apartment, but to immediately furnish it?? My parents.

Honestly, I don't know what to think. It was all very sudden. They haven't done something like this in almost 15 years, but there was a time when it was common for them to up and move, which is how I got to live in so many places and go to so many schools. So now, my parents are in LA and I am here.

I'd like to introduce the newest resident of Basura del Este, dear readers. It's me. I now have a house to live in (at least most of the time). For the next few weeks until the novelty wears off I'll be really clean and I will grill everything. I was thinking about having an apple in a little while. I think I'll put it on the BBQ grill. Grilled apples. Yum. I wonder if you can grill chips. I wish you could grill while taking a bath. I'd be in heaven if I could grill while in the bathtub.

The catch is this. There is a wacko magnet installed in the foyer of this house. Just because my parents aren't here doesn't mean that the freaks aren't still drawn to it. So yes, I do get to live here and swim in the pool and pull lizards out of my cat's mouth, but I also have to deal with all the lunatics who show up at all hours. I can't turn them away because they are kind of like family too, and admittedly they all make for a colorful existence. We'll just have to see what happens I suppose. I'm rather looking forward to it.

In the meantime, my parents are out on the West Coast wreaking all sorts unimaginable havoc. I feel it is my duty to warn you, Los Angeles, because you will never be the same.

I predict that in one month everyone in LA will know my parents. My father will get discovered and will not only have an entourage, but he will be the newest cast member of Entourage. Remember when he was an extra and we had to keep rewinding the TiVo and trying to pause it so we could see him like 45 feet in the distance?

My mother will, in weeks, be babysitting for Shiloh, Zahara, Maddox and Pax, as well as Coco, Moxie Crimefighter and Pilot Inspektor. Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee's kid) will be her favorite because My Name is Earl is her favorite show ever. She will guest star and win an Emmy. Then she will probably get her own show. My mother will be the one to finally straighten out Britney Spears and get her back on track. I can actually really see that happening.

Los Angelenos, this is how to recognize my mother. She has blonde hair and will be wearing an outfit from Chicos. She will be talking to total strangers and inviting them places. This is good news if you didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays. Now you do. My mother will be the woman who walks into five star restaurants and orders a Large Diet Pepsi before asking the employees if she can bum cigarettes from them. They will ask if she wants regular or menthol and she will say she wants two of each. Then she'll order a split of champagne and end up telling the waitress how she needs to dump her boyfriend. The waitress will listen to her. By the end of the night the entire staff of the restaurant will come to give her a hug. All the women and gay men will be in love with my father. He will type everyone's numbers into his blackberry and he will run out of room and have to get three blackberries.

I guess now that my parents are in Los Angeles, that means I'll be spending a lot more time out there too. Hey TV and movie people, give me a job!!! I need a break. You need me to write for you.

This is good though. I like LA a lot. I can go to Trader Joes even more now!! Sees Candy butterscotches!! I'm excited. I can listen to KCRW and eat decent Asian and Mexican food.

So it occurred to me...You think maybe the reason my mom decided to move out there was because she was too scared to fly back to Florida so she figured she'd just stay there?
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Diner

Today I had a few hours to kill so I decided to go sit in the diner, which turned out to be a very good decision, because while I was at the diner I realized that I am a diner kind of person. Since I was a teenager, possibly before that even, I have always loved to sit in diners. I am far more a diner girl than a coffee shop girl. I think I like coffee rings and thick mugs and sugar that pours from a big glass container. I like old waitresses who've worked there for the past 27 years and how all the people who go there know each other and have nicknames. I watched them all come in and greet each other and they all surveyed me with suspicion because I haven't been there in a few years so they didn't recognize me. I could see all the old people there for the early bird special whispering and wondering who the girl with the red lipstick was. I wanted a nickname too. Will someone who knows me give me one? Can it not be Hackie?

I won't just go to any diner. I'm very particular, so I just go to this one diner because it is the best diner in the entire world. Seriously, if you are local, email me and I will tell you exactly where it is so you can partake in its wonderfulness.

Some diners are disgusting. I can't even set foot in a Waffle House without wanting to immediately throw up. I'll digress a little bit to tell you that one time I was at the Awful House in Atlanta and my waitress decided that it was completely appropriate to tell me that she had a wicked stomach virus and had been crapping and puking all morning but she had to come to work anyway because she had to feed her kids and she was living in a hotel, so she needed the cash.

"I might be in the bathroom gettin' sick so if you need me you'll know that's where I am and one of the other girls can help you out," she said.

Because that's what every customer wants to hear. But that's not all. When my pecan waffle arrived a big old slice of half melted, processed, orange American cheese was hanging off the bottom of my plate. You have never seen anything more gross in your life. I got up and left and went home and took a shower and spent the next week wondering if I had contracted the virus. I have never been to another Awful House again.

A lot of diners I've been to are just as bad. They're oily and sticky, have big rips in the booths and stink so bad like fried flounder that you come out of them smelling like you yourself have been sizzled in hot lard. Back when I first moved to Atlanta in 1992 everyone thought it was cool and retro to hang out at the Majestic Diner, but it wasn't even good and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned since its inception, which I think was in 1929. Hipsters thought it was ironic and kitschy to go there, and they probably still do, but I wouldn't set foot in the place. It may be cool looking in pictures but the reality has dried grits and decades of toast crumbs in its cracks.

My diner isn't like that. It also, as you can see, has a stainless steel counter, which I like sitting at. My diner also has really good homemade soups. It's owned by Greek people and apparently Greek people can make some fine ass chicken soup.

I sat at the counter with about six 70 year old men from New York and one really young Greek guy, and we all watched Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations, and you know what - I'm sure I didn't spell that asshole's name correctly and I give so little of a shit about him that I'm not even going to bother looking it up. Because Ahmadinejad's speech was so moronic and said so very little, my mind began to wander and I started thinking about all of my exciting diner experiences.

There's a diner in Millpond that's in an old train car and they serve scrapple sandwiches with strong coffee, and my grandparents all go there to have pancakes with their friends. It used to be on the outskirts of town, but now the town's grown and the diner overlooks the Super-Walmart. That gives my grandparents and their friends something to complain about though.

I spent many of my teen years moping around in diners in the various cities where we lived. I liked the New York diners off of highways exits. They were always very red and gold, gaudy and overdone with a rotating glass display case filled with seven layer cakes which were described as "mile high." I always wondered who ordered slices of those cakes. They were the kinds of desserts that turned me off. They looked good but tasted like cardboard. There was nothing homemade about them. I mostly just got grilled cheese sandwiches. I think if it were possible to count, that I have eaten literally thousands of grilled cheese sandwiches in my life. I think I've eaten more grilled cheeses than anything else, come to think of it.

I once had a date in a diner, and as I sat alone in my favorite diner this evening, I recalled that very date, which I had forgotten (or perhaps repressed due to the trauma) until today.

Back when I was on Jdate I took the mindset that I was online dating to practice my social skills. I didn't take it all that seriously. I didn't exactly expect to meet anyone, but I wanted to give it a fair try and I wanted to get used to going out on dates. I had been with Evil-Ex from the time was 19, so I missed out on all that dating experience that most people get in their early 20s. Unless someone sounded like they were an escaped mental patient, I'd pretty much be willing to go out with them at least once. This is how I ended up going out with so many freaks. I probably should have come up with a better screening process, but then I wouldn't have all these strange stories.

This guy named Mayer emailed me and he had a fairly innocuous sounding profile. I talked to him on the phone and he told me he was a Rabbi. I figured, ok. I could handle that. He looked normal in his picture. I figured he was a Reformed Rabbi. They're very liberal and progressive. They don't have the beards and all that. I agreed to a date. In some twisted vision I came up with this bizarre idea that I would actually make a fantastic Rabbi's wife. I have no idea what I was thinking, because I would be a terrible Rabbi's wife. I hate Yom Kippur, despise gefilte fish and have a very gentile, WASPy even, pointy nose. Jews are always accusing me of having had a nose job, but this is my real nose. I'm only Jewish by guilt. My biology is pure bred white trash.

Mayer called me on Friday afternoon and said he'd like to meet me after services. Jews go to Temple Friday night and Saturday morning. He said there was just one catch. He couldn't drive a car, so we would have to walk. Since his Temple was far from his house he got a room at the Holiday Inn which he told me was near his Temple. I would have to meet him at the Holiday Inn and then we would have to walk wherever we were going to go. Then he said his services would run late, so the only place open and in walking distance would be the diner by the train tracks that was open 24 hours. This was not my favorite diner. Perhaps if it had been the diner I visited today, things would have gone a little more smoothly. Actually, no they wouldn't have, but at least I would have had a better grilled cheese.

Mayer was good looking. He fell into this category I've devised of people who should just have their pictures taken. Some people are really at their best in a still photograph where they can be frozen into a smile or a pose. This is because you don't have to listen to a snapshot. In real life people often ruin their good looks by talking. Often, the more people talk the less attractive they become. By the end of the evening Mayer was hideous. He looked great on his Jdate profile though.

I arrived at the Holiday Inn parking lot where Mayer waited for me. He still looked pretty good at this point. I didn't see any temples around, although we were right next door to the Bubblegum Kittikat and since I no longer worked there I pretended like I had no clue what on earth that place was with all the spotlights and mirrored walls. I was with a Rabbi afterall.

We walked to the diner by the train station and this fell into the oily, sticky, crummy category. This diner had wood paneling and an 11 page menu of things like Lobster Thermidor and Coquilles St. Jacques that I hope no one has ordered since 1965, because who in their right mind would go into a 24 hour diner by the train tracks and order Lobster Thermidor? The fact that it comes with an iceberg salad and your choice of french or thousand island dressing, and a free side of apple sauce, should not be extra incentive either. And while I'm on the topic, what exactly IS Lobster Thermidor anyway?

"So where is your Temple?" I asked, because I didn't know of one in the area and I didn't see one.

"Oh," said the Rabbi, "We're a newer, more experimental kind of congregation."

He seemed to be avoiding the question.

"What does that mean?"

"We're a combination of Orthodox Judaism and Scientology, although neither religion recognizes us."

"I see, and who came up with this hybrid?"


"And who is your congregation?"

"Me and some of my mom's friends. My mom is a rabbi too."

"Orthodox women can't be rabbis," I argued.

"I decided she could. She's very spiritual."

Mayer went on to explain that the miracles described in the Book of Exodus (burning bush, Red Sea, etc.) were all the acts of space aliens who were now living inside of our bodies causing all sorts of havoc. Apparently we can blame these aliens for anything we want. For instance, it was not me who ate the last of the Mayan Chocolate Haagen Dazs. It was Xenu. Xenu also took my check card and went shopping for new clothes for me when he was supposed to put the money in the savings account. Space Aliens do not like savings accounts. They like ice cream and new clothes.

Luckily Mayer knew how to get the aliens out. It was a combination of davening and e-meter auditing. Mayer didn't have an actual e-meter, which I think is nothing more than some old vacuum cleaner parts and one of those circuits that kids make for their 7th grade science projects, anyway. Mayer had an "internal e-meter." Of course there was a charge which one could pay directly to Mayer. He was an expert at Thetan-cleansing, but sadly the mainstream Scientologists were a little disturbed and he mentioned something about copyright infringement. He was confident that Hashem would guide him through all of this, which was why he kept the sabbath by not driving or using electricity.

"Where is your Temple exactly?" I asked.

"In my room in the Holiday Inn," Mayer explained, "But since we can't use the electricity on Shabat when the sun sets we have to sit in the dark."

He stayed in his dark hotel room from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, stepping out to visit the Kittikat, because apparently God frowns upon driving and turning on lights on the sabbath, but He is totally OK with lap dances. Mayer asked me if I would like to go with him once we finished our grilled cheeses. Maybe it wasn't Mayer who asked. It could have been Xenu. I'm not sure.

"What I'm looking for," Mayer said, "isn't a girlfriend. Because of the intensity of my spiritual calling, I must devote myself to God and don't have time for a relationship. But a man has needs. You know what I mean. I'm looking for the right woman to fulfill these needs."

"I can assure you that I am not that woman. The space aliens inside of me are advising me against this, and well, my space aliens are actually Jews for Jesus, so I just don't think we're going to be compatible. Sorry."

So that was the last time I went to THAT diner. I kind of wonder whatever happened to the pervy, flaky weirdo. I wonder how people like that manage to function.
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Did I Not Tell You All I Was Gonna See a Bear?

I told you I was going to see a bear and sure enough I did exactly that. I always see bears when I say I'm going to because I am a person of my word. Here's what happened...

On Saturday I had to go to a wedding in the place where I was, which I'll just go on ahead and tell you was on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, and the lake you see in the picture is indeed Lake Tahoe. It was the best place in the world that I can think of to go after Rosh Hashanah. It was quiet and chilly and there were beautiful big trees and squirrels the size of a loaf of Wonder Bread. Apparenly Florida squirrels are scrawny and raggedy because the Lake Tahoe squirrels were these large, fuzzy looking things with magnificently poofed tails.

Saturday morning, long before I needed to get ready for the wedding (story on that forthcoming as well) I decided to do a little relaxing and meditating on this here very lovely beach. I planned to sit in the warm sun, perhaps read, perhaps grade a few papers, or perhaps do nothing at all. When I got to the beach however, I found a young couple who were also wedding guests. The boy half of this couple really, really wanted a granola bar. The girl half of the couple wanted to make small talk with me. They were from LA and both wore gigantic sunglasses. They were lovely people in every way. Really, they were. I am just not good at making small talk in the slightest. I am, I confess, a horrible maker of small talk. I am an excellent maker of big talk.

I will do just about anything to avoid a dumb ass, bullshit conversation about nothing. My time and my talk are precious to me and I don't like to waste either of them going on about nonsense that neither party is going to care about or remember just because it's a social convention. Fuck social conventions, because seriously, does anyone really care where my husband went to college or what my dad does for a living or how many siblings I have?

Small talk is torture. I never know what questions to ask because I really don't care about the answers. I'd rather talk about something more interesting and just jump right in. I would even rather engage in a spirited debate with someone. At least there's some passion involved and people who challenge and question are usually people who are smart and exciting. They are who I want to befriend - not someone whose aunt went to USC or some such. I guess I just need more from people. Later that evening I went on to have a fascinating discussion about the spirituality of the Lakota people and how they viewed children as sacred and would not hit them. That was a good conversation!

I'll admit that the other reason why small talk makes me uncomfortable is because I think when I answer the questions honestly people are horrified and I come off as being one of those Too Much Information nutcases. In order to avoid this, because some of the answers to those conventional questions are just not appropriate in my case, I have to make shit up that sounds better and more respectable than my life actually has been. I don't enjoy doing that either. So please, if you ever meet me, please don't start asking me about colleges and jobs and family. You'll be sorry you did.

Saturday morning, while sitting on the beach, I was forced to make small talk and be on my best behavior. Acting like an asshole in this situation would have caused major problems and really there was no reason to be mean to these very nice and well mannered people just because I am not always a nice and well mannered person. I had to suck it up. I had to behave and I did, but it caused me significant amounts of discomfort. A little discomfort can be healthy though.

The girl making small talk somehow got on the subject of the Los Angeles housing market, subprime something or other and something about Brentwood and Craftsman cottages. I am stupid so I had no clue what she was talking about. Then she started asking me about the Miami housing market and all I could say was that houses here are too expensive and there are lots of vacant condos and unfinished highrises. She began to ask even more scary questions because she apparently assumed I was more intelligent than I am. This is where I started to drift off and nod enthusiastically while she talked without actually saying anything myself.

Inside my head looked something like this:

This place is really pretty. Wow I'm cold. I can't believe I'm cold. I'm wearing a sweater in September, how cool is that? Oh look some kind of bird I've never seen before. I like her shoes. What the hell is she talking about? Oh my God I have no clue how much the average condo in Miami costs. Let me make something up.

"They're around $500,000. Of course they're small and everything on the beach is vastly over-valued. Most of them are owned by foreign investors."

Phew. I hope that sounded smart. Now she's talking about LA. She's asking me where I like to eat when I go to LA. I can't remember.

"My dad took me to a Korean BBQ in City of Industry and it was one of the best meals of my life."

Oh she's back talking about the housing market again. Oh look, another bird. A blue jay with a black head. Our blue jays have light colored heads. Hmm. Oh crap is that a yellow-jacket? What if it bit me? Do they have a hospital around here? I hope I don't have to go to the bathroom at the wedding. Look at that clear water. I thought lakes were just brown. I've never seen a clear lake before. Jacques Cousteau went under it in a submarine and when he came up he said the world wasn't read for what he found. Well what does that mean?? How could he be so cryptic. Why hasn't anyone else gone down there to see what he was talking about. Someone told me there were dead people that the mafia killed and it's so cold that they're perfectly preserved and the minerals in the water keep them suspended a couple hundred feet down. Maybe that's what he meant. Maybe there's a Lake Monster. How cool would that be? I want there to be a Lake Monster. Oh good lord, this girl is still talking about real estate. I better nod and smile some more. Maybe I should say "Exactly" a few times. I have to find a polite way to extract myself from this conversation. Dear God, would you please let a Lake Monster or something come up out of the lake to distract us from this conversation so I can make my getaway? Please?


Indeed there was a bear running down the beach. Fast. We all flew up from where we were and the bear continued hauling some serious ass. It looked like it was late for something or was being chased. We looked to see if the bear was being chased. It was not. Perhaps it was exercising. Luckily I had my camera on hand so I was able to get it out and snap a picture of a small, brown blob in the sand. I assure you, it really was a bear, but not a really big bear. I think it may have been a teenager. In any case it was bigger and faster than me, so I didn't want to mess with it too much. Bears can run extremely fast. I don't want to ever be in a situation where a bear is running towards me. This bear running parallel to me was quite enough.

So there you go, a confirmed and documented bear sighting.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Luuuuvvvv Bacon

So one day some friends of one of my friends were sitting around doing nothing and suddenly God spoke unto them, placing a brilliant and original idea into their heads. Thus was born Bacon Salt. My friend showed me the Bacon Salt, which looked to me like they ground some bacon into a fine powder and stuck it in one of those shaker type of spice containers like cinnamon comes in. I tasted it. It tasted like bacon. And also like salt. It tasted like Bacon Salt and I immediately began to curse my own lame inability to come up with brilliant ideas like this too. It's so simple really.

Bacon is good. Salt is good. Together they are really good. The salt acts as a vehicle to spread the joy that is bacon, to places where, in its long, greasy, gristly strip form, bacon could never travel. Now you can sprinkle bacon taste on everything without splattering the inside of your microwave with pig fat or smoking up your kitchen. I said, I have got to get me some of this bacon salt, but I was at my friend's house and all he had was one container of it that he wan't about to give up.

Not surprisingly, Bacon Salt has a website and it even has a blog with recipes and ideas about all sorts of interesting things you could do with it. If you are interested, you can buy it from the website. Personally, for all this free advertising, I think the great minds behind this product ought to send me a shaker. Ahem. I mean, I'm not asking for a case here, just a tiny little sample. Of course I'm just kidding. I'm going to order some this afternoon.

So the whole bacon salt thing reminded me of a very funny story that happened a couple years ago, which involves a different friend of mine and a total whack job that he was dating, who ended up being one of the strangest (though not quite THE strangest) women that one of my friends has ever gone out with. We now call her That Crazy Bacon Girl. Can you imagine a bunch of strangers calling you that? I'd be crushed if people called me a Crazy Bacon Girl.

We, meaning Husband and I, were at a get together with my friend Angelina and her husband the Hot Fireman. The get together was at a home on the water and we were there to sit on a dock at night and watch a boat parade going on out in the Intracoastal. This is the sort of thing we Floridians find highly entertaining and it gives us a good excuse to sit for several hours in someone's waterfront backyard to drink excessively and eat chips.

Soon after we arrived our friend Tanner shows up. Tanner is single and he probably always will be because he only dates women who are certifiable lunatics. He particularly enjoys women wh are in the last stages of anorexia. I like to say that Tanner has Anorexia-By-Proxy. He seems to have a lanugo fetish and we have often questioned his sexuality because he will only go out with women who have the bodies of nine year old boys. He may have some latent homosexual, pedophiliac tendencies going on. The man can't stand breasts. What man can't stand breasts? If he so much as sees the slightest curve of cleavage he starts gagging. Clearly this is a sign of some major issues, because who doesn't love boobs?

Tanner brought a date to the boat parade who looked like he had picked her up at a fourth grade kickball tournament. She was about five feet tall and maybe 75 pounds. Maybe. She also had this head of wildly curly, sticking up all over the place, black hair. Had the girl remained quiet and refrained from ever opening her mouth, we would have all thought she was actually kind of cute, but as soon as she began to speak we knew there would be problems.

CBG could speak of nothing but food. She was totally preoccupied with food. She talked about it so much that we offered her some, but she refused.

"I'm freaking out you guys,"said CBG, "I just went from a child's size twelve to a child's fourteen and I don't want to get all the way up to a size zero. I would kill myself if I were a size zero. I'd be a like a blimp."

See, she was nuts.

Someone brought sushi to the party so we told her she should have some salmon sashimi.

"Oh my God no, do you know how much fat is in salmon??" she replied, but then she went on and on about how good all the food looked and how great she thought it was and how she loved to cook.

We tried to ignore her.

Tanner and some other guys went on a beer run, so Angelina, Hot Fireman, Husband and I sat down on the dock to watch the boats go by. CBG sat down beside us.

A little while later Hot Fireman, who had eaten a BLT for lunch, politely stifled a belch. Seconds later, Crazy Bacon Girl became very animated.

"I smell BACON!!!!" she announced. "WOW!!! It smells amazing!! I LUUUUUUUUUVVVV BACON!!!"

We all turned around and stared at her.

"What? I said, "I don't smell anything."

Husband was trying very hard not to laugh because he knew she was smelling nothing more than a gross bacon burp and apparently getting rather aroused over it.

"BACON!! OHHHHH. I LUUUUVVVV BACON!!!" she went on, "Bacon is the best thing in the whole world. I love bacon more than anything else. MMMMMM. Smell that yummy bacon!! Ahhhhh."

She took a long, deep sniff of the lingering bacon burp aroma.

Hot Fireman had to get up.

"Do you want us to go to the store and get you a pack of bacon?" Angelina asked.

"Oh no, I don't eat bacon. I wish I could eat bacon. I luuuuuuuvvvvvv bacon so much. Wow. Mmmmm. Bacon." she continued.

At that point we all just got up and left her there. That night Crazy Bacon Girl ended up getting wasted on half a vodka tonic (when you're that small it doesn't take much) so Tanner had to take her home. They didn't last long, which wasn't exactly a surpise, so we never got to see Crazy Bacon Girl again.

Now everytime I see Angelina's husband I make sure I always tell him: "I luuuuuuvvv bacon!!!!"

I hadn't thought of CBG in a long time, but as soon as I saw the Bacon Salt I thought, this would be perfect!!! It's bacon with no calories. If she were concerned about the high sodium content (which might bloat her up to a whopping 76 pounds) she could sniff it like pot pourri.

Hey Bacon Salt people - I think I've got a new marketing angle for you down here...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I Have Returned

I have returned from my trip and now I have ten thousand billion hundred and seven things to do to get my home and life back in order before I am allowed to write for you all again. Also, tomorrow is my mother's birthday and I have school for the next two days, so I am a bit short on time.

The good news is that I had a happy New Year and a wonderful trip. I had one confirmed bear sighting and I am over my cold now and do not have bronchitis. I do however have a mouthful of canker sores. I feel like I ate poison ivy.

And now I must unpack.

I assure you, Dear Readers, that I will be back very soon.

Oh, any ideas on what to get my mom? She doesn't read this so she won't see. I need ideas. The woman has everything and what she doesn't have she doesn't like. Personally I'd like to hire a company to take crap out of her house rather than get her one more thing to put in it, but that doesn't make for a meaningful birthday gift now does it?
Friday, September 14, 2007

I Am Where I Am Now

I am here in bear country, but I haven't seen one yet, although at dinner last night there was much bear talk going on. I plan to see one today, but from the safety of the car hopefully. I don't really want an encounter with one face to face. This morning the headline on the local paper is "County Grapples With Bear Issues!!"

This morning I woke up and saw quails eating blueberries from a bush, and there are lots of real trees here - ones that have leaves and branches and not weird sausages or man eating flowers hanging from them. And it's cold!! I had to bust out the pea coat last night. It was in the 30s!!! It must be the altitude because it wasn't cold yesterday in the city we flew into or on the 4 hour drive up here.

On the way in I saw a coyote going across the road and I about lost my mind of course, because I have never seen a coyote and there one was, just going across the road. It had a black tip on the end of its tail.

Since the Internet here is as slow as 1994 and I'm using an air card, I'm going to go celebrate the New Year now. I had lots of apples and honey yesterday, so this year should be sweet. I wish the same for you all too.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our Author Is Missing

Dear Readers, I just wanted to let you know that for the next few days the author of Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds will be celebrating her Jewish half as well as her Evil Half (though not simultaneously we hope) at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone.

Yes, it's true. I am going to someplace else. It will take me forever to get there. Once I get where I am going I will sit down at the laptop and write you all a story, as long as I am not eaten by bears in the undisclosed location. There are bears where I'm going and you may recall that I love bears and go completely out of my mind if I see them because I am so excited.

Until I have Internet access again...
Sunday, September 09, 2007

Now You Too Can Have Money Nails

Oh my Gawd peoples. Look what I found, yo! Now you bitches can make yo own money nails too!! You can get you a DVD, yo!!!

Here it is. Fo realz.

Jacinta gonna be really upset. Somebody stolded her idea and shit.

The Sacred African Sausage Tree's Vines

Here is another view inside the Sacred African Sausage Tree where you can see its tangles of flowering vines. The tree wasn't in bloom when I took the picture, but when it is, the vines are covered with deep red flowers that look like some kind of carnivorous, blood-thirsty orchid.

If you would like to know more about the best tree in the whole world you should go HERE.

The Sacred African Sausage Tree

The first time I encountered a Sacred African Sausage Tree I felt I was in the presence of greatness. I pulled into a parking lot and parked under it, thinking it was just like any other tree. When I saw the sign tacked onto its trunk proclaiming this "The Sacred African Sausage Tree" I thought some lunatic had decided to go around naming trees and tacking signs onto them. With a name like that I had to investigate, because I just love unusual, out of the ordinary sorts of things and how could I possible resist a tree with a name like that, made up or not?

I looked up into the Sacred African Sausage tree and confirmed that this was truly no tree I had ever before encountered. This was something special. It was enormous, which to me meant it was old. Long, sweeping vines stretched down from its highest branches and on the end of each one swung a thing that to me looked like a big, long baked potato of the sort that they sell for $15 at the fancy steakhouse place. To someone else this thing resembled a sausage. I can see that, but to me they look like baked potatoes. I guess Sacred African Baked Potato Tree doesn't have the same ring and plus there's something mildly phallic about a sausage, which lends a little added enticement to the whole thing. I mean, who doesn't love a good phallus right?

Calling anything Sacred and African makes it extremely exotic, which I just love. I am a huge fan of extremely exotic (real or imagined) things. As I stood looking at the tree I half expected the cast from the Broadway version of The Lion King to come flying out of its trunk mid-Elton-John song. It also seemed as if the tree might be able to talk. I listened for the voice of James Earl Jones doing a pseudo-African accent. I imagined the tree, speaking with James Earl Jones' voice, gifting me with some ancient African wisdom that could alter my destiny. I heard some green parrots squawking as they flew by. The tree remained silent.

I didn't see another Sacred African Sausage tree for a long time, but then I discovered one in my very own neighborhood!!!!! The only other Sacred African Sausage Tree I had ever seen in my entire life was miles away, and I didn't think I would ever see one again, but lo and behold there was one walking distance (if you aren't lazy like me) from my house. I drive by it nearly every day and wave to it.

A while ago I said, I must get a picture of the Sacred African Sausage Tree because it's so strange and unusual. I felt I needed to share this funky tree with the world. At first I feared that due to its Sacred African-ness that I might be committing some taboo like stealing the tree's soul, but then I decided that tree has a marvelous sense of humor about its vines and phallic, sausagey, baked potato-ish fruits as well as its silly and wonderful name, so I know its fine. I know that the tree, as well as the entire cast of The Lion King contained within its trunk, approve completely.

So there you go: a picture of my very favorite tree.
Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Favorite Cliche

OK, as promised I'd like to complain about my favorite cliche. When I say favorite I am clearly not meaning favorite in a good way. I mean my favorite cliche to hate and make fun of.

"If I could just help one person..."

You hear it on talk shows ALL THE TIME. The scenario is usually like this: some dumb ass did something stupid that caused some horrible freak accident to happen that likely wouldn't have happened if the person had a lick of sense and now they are on TV talking about their traumatic experience. They will always, every single time, end the story with "I'm just coming on this show in hopes that I can help someone in the same situation. If I can save just ONE person, just ONE person, from going through what went through it would have all been worthwhile." My response is "Oh, really?"

Now in these people's defense, sometimes they come on these shows because things happened that were truly no fault of their own, and they sincerely want to help others. I particularly recall one girl who got thrown in the trunk of a car by an attacker and popped out the tail lights and got saved. I also remember another girl who was assaulted and went to the bathroom all over her assailant, which made him run away. I remembered both girls, but both of them went on Oprah and said they just wanted to help one person. But just one person? Come on. You're going on TV. TV generally reaches thousands and thousands of people, not just one person. Especially Oprah. Millions of people all over the world watch Oprah. Surely you could save at least 1500 people. If you want to help just one person then go outside and walk down the street. Fine ONE person and tell them "Never give chocolate to your dogs!!" or "Do not leave your 2 week old infant locked in a car in the middle of August while you run into the grocery store to get a ham steak for your abusive baby daddy and take a half hour to do it."

My personal favorite users of the cliche are movie stars, beauty pageant winners and other low-grade celebrities who just got out of rehab. They'll always, without fail, whip out the "If I could just help ONE PERSON with what I've gone through..." line as they get interviewed on Extra or Barbara Walters trying to make a comeback. They do it every time. Because of course all of us are celebrities who have taken our fame and good fortune completely for granted and spent all our money on drugs and Cristal and lawyers to fight our DUI charges, so of course we can totally relate. Right? I mean, I can.

What I want to know is this. If you set out to help people then why on earth would you set your sights so low? Is something wrong with wanting to help, perhaps, a thousand people? Would it be so wrong to go on Oprah and say "I would like the thousands of iguana owners out there to know that iguanas carry salmonella bacteria on their skin and that it can kill a small child?" I don't think it would. How about helping ten thousand people, or a million? Why is that so wrong? Are people afraid they'll sound arrogant? Personally I think those fresh outta rehab celebrities spouting off these lines are as arrogant as it gets. Come to think of it, I'll bet that a lot of the greatest people on earth who have enacted the most change were called arrogant at some point. I hate this cliche because it's so unambitious. If you genuinely intend to help people then ambition is a good thing. The more people you can help the better and there's nothing wrong with saying so.

Another thing I can't stand about this cliche is its obvious phoniness. It's fake humility, but to me it comes off as sounding silly at best and laughably scripted at its worst. If you truly want to serve others meek, pitiful statements that have been said a thousand times aren't going to be effective. Real service can entail brash, bold, ass-kickery and it's something to own and be proud of. So dammit, if you find yourself on some talk show sit up straight, talk without your voice cracking and state it clearly and confidently "I want to help as many people as possible! I wouldn't be satisfied with saving just one person. I want to save a thousand or a million people."

Until I Get Back...

I've been meaning to do this forever. I have to go to school now. I'll be back later tonight and in between tea and snot rags I will write you all another story. Be forewarned, it may be more of my bitching and complaining because my bad mood persists. I'm just not in my self-helpy frame of mine right now. Remember I told you I have Good Me and Bad Me. Bad Me has taken over for the week.

So while I'm at school I want you to read Whiskey Marie. She is very funny and loves monkeys. I have a girl crush on her. I want to eat individually wrapped prunes with her.

Then go read First Nations because she too is funny and has recipes. Scroll down until you get to the post where she talks about men wearing shorts, complete with illustrations. She also wants someone to make a hate site about her so if anyone out there is willing, she'd greatly appreciate it.

I will be back later to complain about pretty much everything, but mostly I think I'll discuss my favorite cliche.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I Hab A Bad Code

I have the most horrific head cold that has put me in a vile mood and prevented me from writing for the past three days. This is a shame because I had such an exciting and unusual Labor Day Weekend and I really wanted to tell you about it. Then I got this awful, awful head cold and all I want to do is toss around in bed complaining violently about everything and anything because I can't breathe and my nose is all red and I talk funny.

Since I've had the cold, everyone who knows me has offered all sorts of ridiculous remedies. You ever notice how that happens? My mother thinks I should pour peroxide into my ear canal because, according to something she read on the Internet, cold germs actually live inside your ears and the peroxide will kill them. I said, yeah and it will kill your hearing too. No thanks. My Eastern Medicine father has this little device I call the nose teapot. You stick the spout of the nose teapot into your nostrils, tilt your head and proceed to drown yourself. He believes this washes all the snot away and makes you instantly better. Other people recommend echinacea. I've read several studies that say it does nothing and I have taken it in the past and it has indeed, done nothing, but right now I'm drinking the echinacea tea just in case the studies were wrong, because at this point I'd drink gasoline if it would clear my sinuses. I'm not kidding you. I'm that desperate.

By tomorrow I'll start coughing. My mother likes to tell people I have chronic bronchitis. The doctor told me it was actually bronchial asthma that has periodic flare ups caused by irritants. I think this came from growing up without a single non-smoking family member. The reason I never touched a cigarette was because I spent my childhood trapped in the backseat of an olive green Chevrolet with parents and grandparents in the front seat who refused to put down the windows. I guess they didn't want to waste all that good smoke. If they could just sit and stew in it, recycle it, breathe it all in, then they could wait ten minutes before lighting up again instead of five. It was more economical that way.

Now my family calls me Hackie. That's my actual, real nickname, but please don't call me that. Horrible isn't it? It's because I've spent long portions of my life hacking and coughing. My mother says it's hereditary, except that the people she thinks I got this from were all smokers. She also blames it on the cold. She swears that if I ever move I'll have to live in an iron lung. I think she's trying to keep me around, but God knows why because all I do is ride her ass about smoking. If I could change one thing about my mother it would be that. I wish she didn't smoke.

My dad stopped smoking when he was 40. He quit cold turkey - no patch, no pills, no gum. He just quit. Then for about six months he got really mean and we all wished he'd go get an apartment somewhere. He developed an obsession with his tweezers, and kept accusing everyone in the house of taking his damned tweezers. I never did find out what he was so intent on plucking hairs out of. I don't want to know. After about two months of his tweezer tantrums and generally terrible mood we were just ready for him to start smoking again already. We begged him "PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! PLEASE HAVE A CIGARETTE AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT PLUCKING HAIRS!!" But he held out and a couple months later he calmed back down again and no longer obsesses over where the tweezers are and what parts of his body are sprouting errant hairs. He hasn't smoked in 15 years.

I'm still coughing though. I'm like some Consumptive Victorian. I'm flippin' Keats over here. If I lived a hundred years ago I totally would have been dead of tuberculosis by now. I know that's a morbid thought but I told you I AM IN A BAD MOOD.

My nose looks like a baboon's ass. My lips are so chapped I feel like Napoleon Dynamite. Today I really understand why Napolean wanted to get picked up from school because his lips hurt real bad. My lips hurt real bad too. I did not want to be at school today and it is honestly a miracle that I did not stick a pen in somebody's eyeball because there wasn't a soul on planet earth that did not get on my last nerve.

I'll tell you who gets on my nerves the most though...

In every single solitary college class I have taken in the past five years there is always without fail the Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up. I hate this woman. I can not escape her in her seemingly infinite incarnations. She always shows up to every class. She never, ever fucking stops talking.

At one point I thought it was just me. Then I asked some other students and they too confirmed that in their classes, in all departments, there is the requisite Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up. I began to think it was a conspiracy. Perhaps the school hires these women as sorts of narcs to make sure that teachers are never able to let their classes out early.

It's good that older people, women especially, want to go back to school. It's fine that they want to audit classes and even get real degrees. I applaud this. I really do, but please, all I'm asking is for these women to be quiet. For fifteen minutes even. Just a little while. Just please don't force me to listen to any more incessant, usually off topic rambling yacking.

The Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up monopolizes every class, every lecture and every group project. She acts as if the rest of the class does not exist. The spotlight shines on her alone and there she is - just her and the teacher. Those other 30 people in the room? They're no one. They have nothing interesting to say. They haven't lived as long as the Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up, so they obviously know nothing about the topics covered. TMAWWNSU loves to talk about her own personal experiences. If the professor brings up some period in history - she was there or knew someone who was or knew someone who knew someone who was. Then she'll go on and on about her own education way back when and then talk about her kids oblivious to the 60 or so rolling eyes around her.

She's also a notorious ass kissing grade grubber. I despise grade grubbers. They won't hesitate to derail a good discussion to ask if something's going to be on a test. Now in grad school we don't have tests, but there are other more subtle forms of grade grubbing and the Woman Who Will Not Shut Up is an expert at all of them.

The Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up is essentially an attention whore. She's a narcissist who likely has no voice or means of expression in her everyday life. With the captive audience of a class who can not leave until dismissed by the teacher, this woman seizes on the chance to force people to listen to her against their wills. It's like being intellectually ass raped. I say intellectual because this woman has read and heard of every obscure, french, feminist, post-structuralist, blind, poet, theorist, lesbian, transgendered activist that ever lived. The professor can say a name and this woman will inevitably pipe up with fifteen names of theorists and books that no one in the Harvard English department has even heard of. She will then prattle on about all of them until the entire class is slipping in puddles of its own drool.

The worst thing of all about the Middle Aged Woman Who Will Not Shut Up is her total lack of compassion for people who just want to go home. Personally, I don't enjoy three hour classes. I want to go home after about 45 minutes. I'm into effective and efficient use of time. When the teacher asks if anyone has any questions he or she usually means "if y'all would shut up we could go home early." This is lost on the MAWWWNSU. She ALWAYS has twenty more questions, concerns and solliloquies which have nothing to do with the topic. She causes the class to get out late. I often have terrifying visions of picking up my three ring binder and beating her over the head with it repeatedly

One of my biggest motivators in seeking a PhD is because I want to be a professor. I want to teach this woman in one of my classes and I want to call her out. I want to get revenge on Middle Aged Women Who Won't Shut Up everywhere by not putting up with their crap. I am dying to just stand up at my podium with the ability to say "If you utter one more senseless word I am failing you. Have consideration for your fellow classmates woman and realize that we don't care about your boring life or your kids or your difficult pregnancies! We want to get our work done and go home!!"

Usually these women are pathetic. I imagine them all having health problems, being divorced or never married, caring for ailing, elderly and cruel mothers, in homes with lots of cats and piles and stacks of paper everywhere which have cat pee and hairballs on them. I understand that school is probably their only social interaction. I understand that they want their money's worth out of a class. I don't lack compassion. I lack patience. Especially when I have a head cold.
Monday, September 03, 2007

From Charlie, With Love

Growing up we had a lot of pets. Recently I read a very disturbing story by the author of Violent Acres, where she described how her own mother abused animals. She told this story in relation to the Michael Vick scandal and it ended with her mother viciously kicking a sick kitten. It made me very sad. Let me tell you V, my mom would have knocked your mom out for that shit. There are sadly, a lot of animal abusers in the world, but for every V’s mom there’s a My Mom, who understands that as the most dominant species on the planet, we need to take care of all the lesser species.

So in addition to taking in a bunch of lost, sick people, we also took in a bunch of lost sick animals. That’s how at one point we ended up with three monkeys, four cats, three dogs and two human boarders. Over time we’ve had owls, rabbits, squirrels and heroin addicted schizophrenics. At least I can say it doesn’t get boring.

You can imagine some of the characters we’ve had, both animal and human. One of the most interesting pets we ever had was a cat named Charlie that my lunatic friend Amalia found in a dumpster and insisted we take because her own mother wouldn’t allow her to bring another cat home. I remember the phone call going something like this:

“I just found a cat in a dumpster and he’s really hurt and you need to come get it because your mom will take care of it!” Amalia said.

“Ok, let me ask.”

“Why do you have to fucking ask?? You’re an idiot you know that? You’re an idiot and I know you want to fuck my boyfriend so stop thinking about my boyfriend and come get this fucking cat!!!!! I know you don’t like me! You better not hang up on me. Do you know how much I love you? You’re like the best friend I ever had. Now come pick up this fucking cat!!!!! No, don’t hang up on me!!”

I told you Amalia was a lunatic. One day I’ll tell you how I had to get a restraining order against her and then I’ll explain about the time I picked up a stick and knocked her in the head with it because she wouldn’t shut the fuck up, but not right now.

When we got Charlie I was barely sixteen and in the eleventh grade. It was the first year we lived in Florida and things weren’t going well for our family. My dad was trying to work a deal in Eastern Europe and ended up getting stuck in a Romanian hotel room with a mattress over his head while bullets flew outside, ringing in the fall of Communism. He couldn’t get a flight out for a while and we didn’t have enough money to pay the electric bill or water, so my mom borrowed money, bought a close-out load of Chinese flower pots and tried selling them at an auction on the weekends. Her crippling depression and panic attacks made this pretty difficult because she could barely get out of bed, but we managed because the neighbors were starting to suspect that we were borrowing water from their spigots at night so we could wash up and boil Minute Rice. Shit sucked all around.

But like I said before, there’s always someone whose shit sucks worse than yours, so Aunt Kiki ended up in the spare room and got a job as a cocktail waitress on a riverboat karaoke cruise. Shortly thereafter Motorcycle Boy ended up homeless when his parents kicked him out. Most nights Aunt Kiki didn’t come home so Motorcycle Boy slept in her room and on the off chance that she did come home Motorcycle Boy slept on the couch and it all worked out because everyone slept somewhere.

Now Motorcycle Boy was a year older than me and just wanted to graduate high school. He worked in a record shop and had a crazy mother and an alcoholic step-dad who beat him up, but he was a good kid. I didn’t even know him. He was a friend of a friend and when I heard he had a black eye and no place to go I volunteered my house because that’s just what we did. We named him Motorcycle Boy because, well, he had a motorcycle.

Motorcycle and I weren’t even friends, but every night, under cover of darkness I slipped into his bed and made out with him, although he definitely wasn’t my boyfriend. I had a boyfriend whom I had left behind in New York. I’m all free love like that. I always have been because I figure everyone needs to have at least one vice and that’s mine. I didn’t drink or smoke, but I really liked to kiss and Motorcycle definitely benefited from that. I think that when people’s lives are awful that they seek out affection or sex because it’s free, instant feeling good and it temporarily makes you feel special. I guess this is why poor people are always getting pregnant. Their lives are so bad that they just want one easy thing that feels good and since everyone can fuck, the solution to feeling bad is easy – get laid. Then because they’re ignorant they get knocked up, make themselves more miserable and create another big vicious cycle of people whose lives are hell and who want to fuck just because it’s the only pleasure they can attain. Thank the Lord above none of this happened to me, because although I was poor I was not ignorant and plus I didn’t fuck Motorcycle anyway. We just kissed for hours on end. Once he held my hair while I threw up, but of course, he was not my boyfriend.

The day Amalia called about the white cat in the dumpster Motorcycle was at the record store, my father was by then at the Berlin Wall, my mother was in bed and Aunt Kiki was singing Purple Rain on a river cruise with Japanese tourists.

“Amalia found a cat.” I told my mother.

“Alright. Tell her to bring it over.” My mother groaned from under the covers.

Amalia begrudgingly brought the cat. It was barely alive, its back leg almost completely severed and very infected. It smelled like a dirty dish rag, which is not a good sign. When things smell like dirty dish rags that means they are infected.

“Oh my God. This cat is going to die if we don’t do something.” My mother said.

Remember, we had no money. By then the utilities had been turned back on because of the money we made selling Chinese flower pots at the auction. The remaining money we had was for groceries, the back rent we owed and the payback on the original loan used to get the pots in the first place. Vet bills would be hundreds of dollars.

My mother, having suddenly found a purpose outside of her own depression, got up, took a shower and for the first time in a week, got dressed. I too had been in a debilitating depression, hating Florida, missing my boyfriend in New York and dropping out of school. I didn’t even have the energy to start taking GED classes with the people from jail. Mostly I stayed in bed all day too. At night I made out with Motorcycle.

“We’re taking the cat to the vet.” said my mother.

Neither of us questioned how we were going to do this. She counted out her cash. We had $1,100. 600 of it end up going towards vet bills for this cat. The vet was convinced the cat wouldn’t make it through the night.

“Let me take it home.” my mother demanded.

The vet said we should just put it to sleep. My mother said we were not spending $600.00 to have the cat end up exactly as it would have ended up had it just stayed in the dumpster. The vet said the $600 would go toward the cat having a more humane end to its life. My mother said he obviously had plenty of money and didn’t understand the sacrifice that we were making so the cat could live, not die. The vet said my mother was nuts. She said “Give me that god damned cat. I’m going home with it and if it lives you’re treating it for free from now ‘til it gets better.” The vet agreed because he knew the cat was going to die and knew he wasn’t going to lose any money off that bet. Stupid white trash people thinking they can keep some mangy stray alive. Please. The vet, feeling great pity for the cat, gave it a shot of painkiller that caused its tongue to hang from its mouth.

“Good luck.” He said as we left.

I held the white cat while my mother drove. She was livid.

“Who does that bastard think he is? You watch. Doctors don’t know nothin’. I grew up takin’ care of animals and I know cat ain’t dyin’ on my watch. Motherfucker.”

We made the cat a bed in a cardboard box and set it on the floor of her closet. All night long we sat up with the cat. When the painkiller wore off the cat began to moan and if you’ve never heard a cat moan, I hope you never have to. My mother cleaned the wound on the cat’s leg and we both stroked its head. Our dog, who had been crippled a few years before came to lie down beside the cat and licked the cat for hours until he was clean. Then the dog licked the cat’s wounds.

“You remember when they wanted me to put him to sleep too?” my mother asked.

I remembered. The dog had been hit by a car. We rescued him and ignored the vet’s pleas to put him down. Now the dog was fine with nothing more than a limp and a bad case of hot spots. He was the best dog we ever had.

“You are not going to die!” my mother told the cat.

We began to tell the cat all the things it had to live for. Think of stretching in the sun that comes through the windows, of lizards with red fans flashing beneath their chins. Think of the water rats you will catch and napping beneath the pink hibiscus. We will let you sleep on our beds. You will have friends and a family and we will never drop you in a dumpster. We will feed you salmon and cheese. Cheese kitty!! Think of all the good things you will eat! This part was a lie because we barely had enough money to feed ourselves that well, but we really wanted to paint a promising future for the cat so that he would live. And he believed us.

The cat lived. The vet kept his promise and treated him for free from then on. Within a month the cat was healed. His thick white coat grew in and covered his scars. He began to eat and would spend long hours curled up on our laps purring his thanks. We decided to name him Charlie because that was the name of my grandmother, Memere Marie’s big white cat.

Charlie had a blue eye and a yellow eye. The yellow eye represented his normal, regular old cat side. This was the side of him that laid around all day, coughed up hairballs and begged for food. The blue eye was magical. When Charlie showed up all sorts of mysterious things began to happen.

My mother was no longer depressed. She got up every morning and cleaned the house. She sold more Chinese flower pots than ever before and paid back the loan. She started buying up more and more junk - mostly old furniture, and fixing it up herself. Then on the weekends she’d haul it all to the auction and make a killing off it. She would even drive through fancy neighborhoods late at night and pull stuff out of rich peoples’ trash, bring it home, clean it, paint it and patch it and then sell it. Whenever she came home Charlie met her at the door, meowing his approval.

“He makes me get up in the mornings.” She told us one day. “If it weren’t for that cat I’d stay in bed all day but he gets up in my face and hollers and bites me until I get my ass up.”

Soon after that Aunt Kiki said she had to stop drinking. Several nights in a row she had stumbled in drunk off her ass and Charlie had attacked her, tail all fuzzed up, hissing and spitting. On the nights that she wasn’t drunk he laced himself through her legs, chirping and rubbing against her affectionately.

Aunt Kiki had not given my mother any money for rent, food, bills or anything in a few months. She claimed she had no money.

“Kiki, you gotta help me out.” My mother asked.

“Sissy, I can’t. I’m hard up. I’m not makin’ any tips on the riverboat. Shit sucks this time of year. You know it ain’t Season yet. I’ll give you money when Season gets here.”

Before she could finish, Charlie, demon possessed, flew down out of nowhere onto Aunt Kiki’s purse. He kicked it with his back feet, bit and scratched the pleather and didn’t stop until he had the whole thing open wide with a big wad of cash, all wrapped up in a rubber band, hanging out. Aunt Kiki gave my mother the entire thing.

“You better not lie to me again Kiki or Charlie’ll rat you out!”

Shortly thereafter someone started pooping in the toilet and not flushing it. We blamed it on Motorcycle because this seemed like something a man would do. Motorcycle was mortified and swore he was not behind this heinous act.

“It’s fucking Kiki!” my mother said. “She’s drinkin’ again and forgettin’ to flush. God dammit!!”

Aunt Kiki hadn’t had a drink in months. Charlie sat on her lap and blinked his one blue eye and one yellow eye contentedly.

Of course then the blame fell on me. I was pooping in the toilet and not flushing it. It had to be me. Everyone else swore on their grandma’s lives that when they took a crap they flushed the toilet.

“Why is it me?” I asked, outraged. “You think after 16 years all of a sudden I’d just up and decide not to flush the toilet?? Of course I flush the toilet!! What the hell is the matter with you people??”

No one believed me. I was an easy scapegoat I guess. The poop was small. I was the smallest person in the house. It had to be me, because of course I had no shame at all and wanted everyone to see my poop.

“If you shit in this god damned toilet and don’t flush it one more time that is it!!” my mother yelled. “I did not raise you that way! You are going to be grounded for six months if I find one more turd in this toilet!!”

She found more turds in the toilet and I decided to solve this mystery once and for all. One morning before the sun rose I heard a minor ruckus going on in the bathroom. Aunt Kiki hadn’t come home, my mother was in bed and Motorcycle snored next to me. I got up and crept into the bathroom to find our big white cat, perched up on the toilet seat, tail in the air, taking a dump. In the toilet. A cat was taking a crap in the toilet. I thought I had lost my ever loving mind. A cat was pooping in the toilet?? Really?

“Charlie is pooping in the toilet and not flushing.” I announced.

“I should smack you.” My mother said. “You must think I’m a damn fool. You expect me to believe a cat is taking a shit in a toilet?”

Two days later she saw it with her own eyes. The cat was taking a dump in the toilet. She called us all in to see. No one could believe it. Charlie was very offended. He wanted his privacy back.

My mother called my father in Berlin.

“You have to come home. We found this cat and he has two different colored eyes and takes shits in the toilet!!!” she told him.

Three days later my dad was home. In his words he came home because A. my mother had once and for all gone insane and he had to get her help immediately, or B. she was telling the God’s honest truth and in that case he had to see this miraculous potty trained cat.

I began to think – if a cat can learn to use a toilet then surely I, a human girl, can get up off her ass and get a GED. Motorcycle considered this too and said to himself, if a cat can defy death and crap in a toilet, then most certainly I can stop smoking weed, sell my motorcycle, graduate high school and do something with my life. Motorcycle envisioned a new life for himself wherein he stopped blaming everything on his mother and stepfather. He realized that if a cat, who had an almond sized brain, could survive being abandoned in a dumpster with a nearly severed leg, that he, almost a grown man, could survive a fucked up family and do something wonderful with his life. The first thing he did was tell me off for being such a tease. Then he went and got a girlfriend. After that he decided to get into computers. He now has a very successful and respectable career.

Aunt Kiki did not fare quite as well as Motorcycle, but she did stop drinking for a while and she realized that she had to be responsible and get her own place.

“If I don’t, that cat will tear me to shreds.” She said.

She moved in with her eighteen year old boyfriend (she was 29) and went on to rescue several stray animals herself. A year later she was back living with us again, in our new pink house on the beach which my mother got because she did so well and made so many business contacts selling junk at the auction. None of that would ever have happened if she stayed in bed wallowing in misery. By then Aunt Kiki said she thought she might like to sell cars. If a cat could use a toilet she could sell a car. She became one of the top sales people and ended up doing commercials for the dealership because she was very pretty. The commercials were local legends. In them Aunt Kiki, probably half-lit, invited customers to drop in and “have a cuppa coffay wit meh!!” People all over quoted that commercial because of her funny accent and I was like “yeah, that’s my aunt.” I bet some of my local readers still remember these commercials. At that same dealership Aunt Kiki met her current husband.

One night, the summer after Charlie came to us, I went to the auction with my mother. By then I started my GED classes with the people from jail and I planned to go to Community College in the Fall, because although I thought I was stupid and could never get through college, I knew that my brain was bigger than an almond, and if a cat could learn to use a toilet then I could learn the quadratic formula. The night I went to the auction to help my mom, she gave me $20.00 because by then we had a little extra cash. Shit didn’t suck nearly so badly as it had. I liked making beaded jewelry back then and I loved old costume jewelry, so I placed a bid on a big box of junk jewelry that had been removed from a very old woman’s house when she died. I won the box. It was like Christmas.

At home I sorted through the box, untangling chains and pulling out unique pieces. The man who ran the auction told me there was nothing worth a damn inside that box, but it was worth something to me. I found the heart shaped charm to a very old locket. It was tarnished, dirty and looked well worn. On top of the heart was a rose made from gold. In the centerof the golden rose was at least a two carat diamond. I figured it was a fake. I flipped the charm over and engraved on the back, in faint script read the words “From Charlie, With Love, 1932.”

I showed my mother.

“It’s fake right?” I asked.

“I think it’s real.”

We confirmed with my Uncle Mendel the jeweler. The diamond was real and it was worth a lot. I told my mother she could have it and sell it if she wanted.

“I would never sell it. It’s from Charlie.” She said.

She still has it.

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