Tuesday, December 28, 2004


I'm in Ohio, having fought the aftermath of a major blizzard. It took us 25 hours to get here. Ugh!

Anyway, I'll be back in the New Year. Happy holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2004

A big functionless tub of clammy waterlogged jeans and t-shirts

The bad news is, our clothes washer has died just two and a half days before we are scheduled to take a major road trip.

The good news is twofold. First, the washer is under warranty. Second, Tuesday happens to be the one day of the week when Sears repairpeople visit our county.

Oh, wait. There's more bad news. I have to get up at a respectable hour and be dressed because we don't know exactly when the repairman will show up.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Thursday our entire little family will be piling into the car for a holiday trip. Taxi will be dropped off in Rome, Georgia, at the home of the s.o.'s father. The other two furry kids are riding all the way to northeastern Ohio.

This presents a challenge for Cairo the Carsick Dog. We've been trying to work him up to it. A week ago, we took him and his sister to a potluck dinner party about a half-hour away, and Cairo made it all the way to the driveway without throwing up. But unfortunately, the driveway was unpaved, long, and extremely bumpy, and the s.o. had to hold a bucket for Cairo to puke in.

On the bright side, Cairo did make it the whole way home with only a little uneasy drooling.

While we were at the party, a fellow dog lover (whose coyote mix, Scooby, was in attendance) recommended we buy a canine herbal supplement called Happy Traveler for our slightly nauseated passenger. She said Scooby had used it, that it would help calm Cairo down, and that it might even be beneficial for Silver (who tends to be a little excitable and nervous when she's around certain other dogs). The very next day I shelled out the eleven bucks and brought a bottle of it home. But then I started to look askance at it. What kind of mother gives her child an unknown substance?

The s.o., who is familiar with herbs from his hippie college days, was unfazed. "Valerian, chamomile, kava kava, St. John's wort," he read off the bottle. "Yep. That'll sit you down."

I wasn't comforted yet, so I did some internet research and found out that not only are the herbs in the mixture supposed to be fine for dogs, but they were actually tested on dogs for use in humans. I hadn't thought of that. There was no record of toxicity for amounts anywhere near what was in the capsules. I felt a little better.

But in the end, there was only one thing to do. I shook out two of the capsules* into my palm. And then I gulped them down with plenty of water.

In about half an hour to 40 minutes, the capsules began to take effect. I don't remember much after that. My mind stayed relatively clear, but a warm, tingly torpor overtook me. It was a challenge to find the ambition to brush my teeth, wash my face, and put on my pajamas. Once I was under the covers, I didn't fall asleep right away, but I didn't want to move, either. Nothing mattered. Everything was good. When I eventually fell asleep, I slept like a baby.

I vote Yes for Happy Traveler.


* Two capsules was the suggested dose for a dog Cairo's size, and also, coincidentally, the suggested dose for a person my size.** With all the medicines I've run across that can be used in both species, the dog dosages don't tend to be directly proportional according to weight, but are actually a little closer than you would expect to the recommended dosages for people. I don't know why this is, but it is.

** Not that Happy Traveler is packaged for use in humans.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Um...thank you

Cairo has just presented me with what I am pretty sure is a possum jawbone.


The grocery bagging girl seemed unusually intent upon helping me to my car with the groceries.

"It's okay, I'll..." I began.

"No, that's fine."

"It's all right, I'll just..."

"No, I'll take them for you."


"That's fine, I'll take them for you."

She had a death grip on the handle of the grocery cart.

I relented. "You must really want to go outside, huh?"

She pushed the cart through the automatic doors, and I directed her to the right.

"Hooooo-ee, I have had some kind of strange day today!" she exclaimed.

"How do you mean?"

"Are you sure you really want to know?"

Here is the point where I could have made my escape, I think. But I was polite as usual. "Yeah, what's been strange about it?" I asked.

"I'm not saying I have premonitions," she began. "Because I don't believe in premonitions. But a month ago, I had this dream." I opened my car trunk, and she helped me load the groceries in.

"I dreamed my brother's girlfriend was pregnant. And then today I find out she's two months pregnant and she didn't know it! They say, 'It's just a coincidence.' But I tell you what, in seven months they are going to know I'm right. Because in my dream it was a little baby girl, and she had a full head of hair, and she looked just like my brother except her skin was darker than his."

"Maybe you smelled the hormones on her," I offered weakly. We were standing at the back of my car. A cold wind blew.

"In this same dream, I dreamed my best friend's mama was very sick. And what scares me is, in my dream she died. And I couldn't think of anything to say to her except 'There is no way I can know how you feel right now.' So I hope I'm not having premonitions. I hope I'm not right. And then the other thing is, in my dream I was pregnant! And my boyfriend wasn't with me at the time, but then he came back and he helped me with the baby boy."

Silver's furry snout appeared in the back window of the car. She blinked at us quizzically. The girl spotted her and waved.

"So I don't know what to think, because I've been throwing up in the mornings, especially when I see my boyfriend. We broke up, but if my dream is right, he'll be back with me three months after the baby is born."

I tried to get into the spirit of the story. "Huh...I think you might be pregnant," I said with a mixture of joviality and warning. She continued as though she hadn't heard me.

"I almost hope I am pregnant, because you know that's the greatest gift God can ever give you. Everyone says this is all just a coincidence, but I know in seven months they are going to start seeing that I am right. She was already pregnant a month when I had that dream, and she didn't even know it. She didn't believe me when I told her. When that baby girl is born, they'll know..."

"I--" I wasn't sure what to say. What I was thinking was, I hope this psychokinetic pregnancy business isn't contagious. Silver looked out at me forlornly.

"But what I wonder is if I am right about me. It'll be a little boy. I've been throwing up a lot of mornings, especially when I see my boyfriend."

My car door seemed to be a thousand miles away.

"But next time you come, you talk to me, and you'll see."

And as suddenly as she had introduced herself into my afternoon, she excused herself from it.

Friday, December 17, 2004

How does it happen?

Every year around this time, I find that:

(1) I still need to buy Christmas presents for some of my closest and most beloved relatives.

(2) I am desperately trying to contact people I want to interview before the holidays, hoping against hope that they haven't already left on their vacations. (Will I ever learn? How have I managed to be a freelance writer for so long without learning?)

(3) My body still hasn't adjusted to the cold weather, and boy will I ever be in for it when we drive up to Ohio.

(4) I have no energy and I can't seem to wake up in the morning. Someone tell the sun that I NEED LIGHT! Arrrrgghhhh...

(5) I am preparing to cook some ridiculous complicated holiday foodstuff that I have never cooked before. (This year it's H.F.-W.'s "three-dishes-from-one-goose" extravaganza.)

(6) I have "Sleigh Ride" running through my head on infinite hellish repeat. We used to play it in high school band, so I know every single instrument's part down to the smallest detail.

Let's take the road before us and sing a chorus or two...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

By definition

Slug (n.)

1. Any of various small, snaillike, chiefly terrestrial gastropod mollusks of the genus Limax and related genera, having a slow-moving elongated body with no shell or only a flat rudimentary shell on or under the skin.

2. A small metal disk for use in a vending or gambling machine, especially one used illegally.

3. Physics. The unit of mass that is accelerated at the rate of one foot per second per second when acted on by a force of one pound weight.

4. A unit of mass that sits in front of the television and refuses to be acted on by any force whatsoever, or to act as a force in its own right.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What I'm up to tonight

This is one of the very few things in existence that could compel me to sit outside in a lawn chair, uncomplaining, on a cold winter night. The chills I'm getting aren't from the temperature!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

No more salsify?

Anyone who's into gardening has probably heard that we're losing heirloom plants at a rate of thousands per year. The genetic diversity of cultivated vegetables, fruits, and herbs is dropping at an alarming rate, which could have catastrophic effects on our ability to feed ourselves planetwide.

Of course, some of us are more selfish-minded than that. I personally get all hot under the collar upon learning that many of the plants Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello can't be found today. What if they tasted good? What if they might have been my favorite thing ever?

When I visited Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in 2000, I was served a dish of scalloped salsify. It was delicious. I had never eaten salsify before that, but immediately I knew I'd have to figure out a way to get my hands on more of it.

So when I moved here and suddenly had a bunch of arable land at my disposal, I bought a package of salsify seeds at Victory Seeds and planted them in my garden. They sprouted like gangbusters, and I looked forward to the full-grown roots with great anticipation. Unfortunately, by midsummer the burrowing animals discovered them and found them just as tasty as I did. One by one, the plants were pulled down to their subterranean rodential doom.

Anyhow, the other day I got a catalog from Pinetree Garden Seeds and noted with some alarm that their Mammoth Sandwich Island salsify (the only breed of the plant I'd ever seen advertised) was listed as a "Last Chance" purchase. They're dropping it from their catalog, probably due to low demand. I surfed around on the 'net and found the Sandwich Island seeds in all the usual places, including Victory, but I got to wondering: Isn't there any other breed? Are we down to one genetic population of salsify?

Then I found Harvest Moon Farms & Seed Company, and I was delighted to find that they still offer two varieties of salsify, plus two breeds of a similar European vegetable called scorzonera. That's still not nearly enough--how many do you suppose there were in the 19th century? the 18th?--but at least there's more than one.

Fortified with this information, I plan to grow salsify again after I move. Only this time, I'm going to grow the plants in deep containers with chicken wire cages over them! This cannot be left to chance, because I swear up and down that I'm going to make some scalloped salsify one of these days.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Thank goodness

I just got an e-mail from my brother who lives in Columbus, confirming that neither he, nor his wife, nor his wife's brother were at the Damageplan show where this happened. I am so relieved. All of them are hard rock/heavy metal fans, but they had other things to do that night. My brother said that our bro-in-law would almost certainly have attended if he hadn't been studying for finals.

That's a major weight off my mind. And on some level, so is the fact that the s.o. is no longer a touring rock musician! I'm not the sort of person who'd ever try to limit what I or my loved ones do because of fear, but yeesh. There are some bona fide crazy people out there.

Here's a follow-up report. Very unnerving.


Strange weather yesterday. My county was under a tornado watch from 6 pm until 3 am. Nothing happened that I know of, but it was eerie: periods of ghost-quiet calm alternating with little spatters of rain, flickering lightning, and hastening grey clouds. Oddly warm, too. Sometimes it's hard to remember it's December, because it feels more like early October.

Which reminds me, I planted a few salad greens last week, just to see if they'd take. The mache has sprouted (although the winter lettuce and the arugula haven't), and now there's a nice little fuzzy green row in the garden. It's in good company; there are still fennel and carrot plants there from earlier in the year.

The odometer on my car rolled over to 200,000 miles on my way into town last night.

I bartended at a party and served a bunch of drinks to this guy. He seemed like a nice person and bought round after round for his friends. But you'd think people in the public eye would realize that if they don't tip, it reflects badly on them. I'm just sayin'.

This afternoon, on my way back from the post office, I was temporarily stopped by a chaotic scene in the 25-mile-per-hour school zone just north of Union Point. Two pickup trucks were in the ditch, one on top of the other. The bottom one was upside-down. A crowd was gathering, and a woman ran into the road to pick up a baseball cap. How do you create a disaster like that at 25 miles per hour, I wonder?

Today I got a reminder of one of the best things about my job as a freelance writer. I called a guy on the west coast to make an appointment for an interview, and we got to talking. We chatted for 20 minutes about cities (he and his partner are contemplating a move to Portland), home renovation, traffic, ethnic food, and so on. He turned out to be quite an interesting person. This happens to me every once in a while, mostly on Fridays when people are looking for any excuse to avoid work!

As for me, I just blog when I'm trying to avoid work.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Productive, I suppose

Even though I don't think the people who visited our house will buy it, the exercise was not completely pointless. I gained focus: All the little things that mortified me will be the things I will strive to correct most quickly. I have planted a few winter annuals to spruce up the languishing flower beds, and I will mulch them starting tomorrow. I will paint the ugly green cabinet; I will bleach the tub again. I will finish the freaking drywall upstairs! I will put a second coat of paint on the foyer.

Although now that I think of it, it all sounds like a lot of work.

There is too much on my agenda. Freelance writing-wise, I am booked solid through mid-January. My grandfather is ill for the nth time this year, and that fact is tugging at a corner of my brain constantly. The spedometer is not working on the "new" car (it swings wildly between 0 and 70 mph) and all the tires have to be replaced. I have mysteriously gained 8 or 10 pounds and can't fit into several pairs of my jeans. Okay, it's not so mysterious if I think about all the crappy fattening food I keep eating. I have a wonderfully speedy metabolism that I have often managed to defeat by pure gluttony and mindlessness.

Still, there's nothing I can do but keep on swimming against the current, right?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Panic panic panic

My realtor called today and said there's a woman coming to look at the house tomorrow. Our very first interested person, after an entire month on the market, and we can't let her in the kitchen, not to mention the fact that all the kitchen stuff is crammed into the dining room and everything looks like ass. ARRRRGGHHH!


Tuesday update:
Hmm, I'm not sure if that went well. The people liked the house, I think, but they were quite elderly and the lady had dislocated her arm and was afraid to climb the stairs to the 2nd story. Also I'm not sure whether they'll want to deal with the renovation of the guest house. My gut feeling is that these people are not the "match" for our property. But c'mon, fate, prove me wrong!

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Today we pulled all the furniture out of the kitchen and I painted the parts of the floor that still needed to be painted.* This is creating a massive inconvenience for us. I'm a foodie, after all. Cooking is what I do! So we have stowed leftovers from tonight's dinner, plus a carton of milk and a 12-pack of beer, out on the screened porch where it's fridge-like in temperature. I have my organic Kashi red berry cereal and a loaf of wheat bread and some peanut butter. We are planning on eating out, mostly, for the next three days while the two coats of paint dry.

Anyhow, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few of the things I've learned about painting floors:

(1) If you can spare a room for an entire week and a half and have infinite ventilation and don't mind working with paint thinner, oil-based floor paint is the sturdiest stuff you can get.

(2) Otherwise (and this is my preference), buy a latex porch and floor paint. Don't even think about buying the Satin. Semigloss or Gloss is the way to go. The less porous the finish, the cleaner you'll be able to keep it.

3. Sand the entire floor before you paint. Yes, the entire miserable thing. If you happen to have one of those giant commercial sanders, more power to you, but the same result can be achieved with a hand-held orbital sander and a lot of time and effort. You may wish you were dead when you're slogging your way through it, but believe you me, you'll wish it even harder if you skip this step, paint the floor, and then find out that the paint hasn't adhered.

4. After you sand, vacuum the entire floor, using the brush attachment for the corners. Then use a Swiffer or something similar to go over it once more. Swiffers are godly at picking up tiny particulates.

5. When you paint, give it at least two coats two days apart.

6. An artist's flat brush is nice for doing edges when you don't want to mess with a paint shield. I'm not much into taping things off; my experiences with this house have taught me that there are easier and more effective ways to paint neat edges.

7. Have a plan in place for painting yourself out the door and turning the light off. A broomstick can come in handy for distant light switches. Don't leave paint can lids, brushes, etc. on countertops and then paint yourself away from them.

8. Don't rush to walk on the floor. The more drying and curing time you can allow, the better. Latex will need at least two days after the final coat. You'll know you've screwed up if your socks leave little cloudy heelprints.

9. Be even more generous in the time you allow before placing furniture and other heavy items on your new paint job.


* When I bought the house, half of the kitchen floor was new wood and the other half was old wood covered with incredibly nasty, tarry tile adhesive from the 1960s. I spent days and weeks of my life with a respirator on my face, belt-sanding that shit off. The end result was fairly convincingly uniform, but still not quite nice enough to stain. Thus, the paint. Initially I went for what I thought would be a nice blueish-gray, but it turned out to be the color of auto primer, which is why I'm repainting it in a lovely dark blueberry color at this extremely late date. There's a history to every damn thing in this house. *sigh*

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good things that happened today

1. Got a license plate for my second car. There's a long story to this car. It is a 1994 Geo Prizm, smurf blue, which was previously owned by my brother, then by my stepsister, and which went through a long period of limbo while all of us were trying to rustle up the proper documentation and government hoo-hah to get a valid Georgia title for a car with an Ohio salvage title. At one point I actually had to pay the state Department of Motor Vehicle Safety to send a real live person out to Woodville to inspect the car (this has something to do with the salvage title and proving that the vehicle in question still exists and is not dangerous). Anyway, aside from the fact that now I can't get the Ohio license plate off of it because the bolts are rusted shut, I have achieved victory! I have a title, insurance, and a tag for it. It is legit.

2. Got more George Dickel No. 12 for my Horizon Organic eggnog. Self-explanatory, I think.

3. Got two new writing assignments for the upcoming weeks, and in the course of researching my current one, found that it was actually not only interesting, but quite amusing as well.

4. Discovered that the new Chinese restaurant/Japanese sushi bar (!?) down by the lake is, against all odds, really good.

Lifestyles of the furry and differently abled

We've had Cairo the three-legged dog for slightly more than six months now. He has become an integral member of the family. I can't imagine being without him.

Aside from his sunny, loving, loyal disposition and his marvelously plushy orange fur, the best thing about him is his absolute non-acknowledgement of the fact that he's missing a hind leg. I think he dreams in "four legs"--I'm guessing that from the way his body moves when he's running in his sleep--but he has certainly learned how to live life to the fullest with three.

Cairo's number-one favorite game is fetch. He loves tennis balls especially because of their bounciness and mouthfeel. I throw one, and I hear a frantic one-two-three one-two-three one-two-three of toenailed feet across the hardwood as he runs to get it. He doesn't corner well, bless him, but he can really move on a straightaway.

In case you're wondering where Silver is in all this, she's lying in wait. Silver's favorite game is not fetch; it's tug-of-war. She ambushes Cairo on his way back to me and tries to pry the ball out of his mouth. She usually wins, but Cairo doesn't care. If Silver is the one who returns the ball to me, it's fine, as long as I throw the ball for him again.

Outside, Cairo is even more in his element. The grass and dirt give him excellent traction. No dog needs four legs on natural turf. Cairo frolics and dances around with every bit of joy in his doggy heart.

At the risk of offering too much information, I am awed by the way Cairo poops. Recall, if you will, that dogs adopt a hunched, seated-with-levitating-butt posture when they do a #2. To approximate this, Cairo has to use some serious Dog Yoga. He places his right front leg waaaaaay back alongside his left (and only) hind leg, and he balances in a perfect, tenuous tripod.

Cairo still can't jump onto the bed by himself, and he has a lot of trouble with the steep staircase to our upper story. But he gets stronger and braver every day. Recently, when the s.o. was holding a tennis ball aloft, just out of reach, I noticed him pogoing into the air on one hind leg.

People tell me they can't understand spending as much money as I did to bring a stray dog back to health. But I don't understand that point of view, and I guess I never will.

Somewhere in an upstairs wall, a secret lurks

I think remodeling this house has changed us on some fundamental level. We understand the world a little differently, find different things funny.

This evening we were watching In a Fix, and my boy Sparky discovered an unforeseen junction box when he broke open a wall. This is his pet peeve; he believes, reasonably enough, that electricians should have access to them and know where they are.

"People!" Sparky bellowed into the camera. "Don't bury your junction boxes!"

The s.o. and I suddenly shot a glance at each other. A guilty glance. A slight smirk.

"Heh," the s.o. giggled.

"Heh, heh," I giggled back.