Monday, May 31, 2004

Useful words

How did I ever survive without southern dialect? There are some ideas my native Ohioan was simply not meant to express. For example:

Y'all and All y'all
There is no second-person plural in formal modern English. In Ohio it would informally be expressed as "you guys," which sounds horrible when you say it to a group of women. In Pittsburgh it would be "yinz" (a contraction of "you 'uns"), which is nice meaning-wise but sounds horrible and nasal-y. Southerners had the sense to say "y'all." And when people started saying "y'all" to just one person (perhaps to address someone more formally, like using vous instead of tu?), they added "all y'all" to the lexicon for good measure, to make sure they'd have a plural when they needed it. I love that.

Might could
"Might be able to" is correct, of course, but it's a lot more work. "Might could" is elegant and there's no doubt about what it means.

Going around your ass to get to your elbow
There is no better or funnier expression in the entire world for "doing something in the most backward and inconvenient manner possible." It brings a smile to my face every time.

Adam's house cat
When northerners want to say they can't vouch for someone or they have never seen a person before, they'll say "I wouldn't know him from Adam." (Amusing thought: Is this some kind of linguistic counterpoint to "I wouldn't go out with that guy if he were the last man on earth"?) Southerners are more emphatic: "I wouldn't know him from Adam's house cat."

And my personal favorite, Fixin' to
As in, "I'm fixin' to go to the store. Do you need anything?" It means "about to," more or less, but it also has a connotation of "I'm getting ready to." As in, I'm looking for my keys, I'm grabbing the grocery list off the fridge, I'm picking up my purse...

Sunday, May 30, 2004


Saturday night, and there's a misty orange three-quarter moon. People seem oddly aggressive downtown. I'm stepping away from the ATM when a duo of teens mock-lunges at me, and one says "Boo." Too annoyed to be unnerved, I snarl, "What's THAT shit about?"

Bicycle cops are out in force. One nearly runs down the owner of our bar, who has an eye disease that has robbed him of his peripheral vision.

At the bar, they're holding a hip-hop benefit for the local skate park. The organizers have set up plywood quarter-pipes up front by the stage, one against the wall and the opposite one against the bar. This means that while we're serving drinks, a BMX wheel will occasionally materialize in the air right in front of our faces, hang there for a second, then disappear back down the pipe. Occasionally a skateboard will fly loose and carom dangerously close to the glass cooler door.

I'm working with my best buddy J. and another friend who's a Tae Kwon Do teacher. The TKDT is watching the skateboarders and BMXers with a hint of disdain. "I'm going to start flicking all my bottlecaps in their direction," he announces.

J. smiles. "Instant face-plant," she observes.

TKDT chills some orange vodka shots. "When I was a kid, we used to go to the roller rink and throw ball bearings out onto the floor," he reminisces.

J. rolls her eyes and grins at me. "He hasn't always been a Buddhist," she cracks.

My mood is buoyant, and everyone can tell. "I want some of what she's on," says a sound guy. But that's just the way I am tonight.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Can't get there from here

There's a program on the Turner South network called The Natural South. They just showed two episodes in a row. The first was about fossil-hunting in Alabama. I looked up the chalky Cretaceous rock types they were working in, and I think it was the Eutaw Formation and Selma Group of western and central Alabama--really neat stuff that I need to take a road trip to investigate. Mosasaurs and such.

The second was on frogs and snakes. The naturalists were tromping around in the Savannah River basin, which isn't really our ecosystem, but it was still cool. A naturalist on the second program said, "If you have snakes on your land, generally you have a pretty healthy piece of land." I liked that.

Thanks to Ray, who posted this link on Witho's BF's nascent blog, I've been thinking about why I write what I write here. I think the natural world is at the core of it--not all of it, but definitely at the core.

Remember when R.E.M.'s Murmur came out? The album (and those that followed it) made an indelible impression on me. But the cover art lingered, too. That kudzu-covered train trestle in Athens, Ga. symbolized something that was foreign to me. Something gothic and haunting that a lot of writers from Oxford, Mississippi and thereabouts have maybe captured for their own times, but which evolves every moment into a new entity. And when I came to this part of the world, I started discovering what it was like living in the middle of it.

It's real. It's as tangible as the ground under your feet. It's a humid, heavy spirit made of history and mildew and fuzzy pink mimosa blossoms. I think people get it wrong most of the time, because it contradicts itself constantly.

I'm trying to get it right, at least from my own outsider point of view. And I think day-to-day life here is as close as I am going to come.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Low pressure system

I love the feel of a sultry summer night that gives way to spatters of rain.

The heavy ionic rain smell hangs in the atmosphere, magnifying all the other smells:

Pine needles.
Car exhaust.
Fried chicken.
Cow manure.

The stars vanish.

Heat lightning crackles on the horizon...

Croak croak

Just in case anyone thinks this is turning into a reptile-sighting blog, I'd like to point out that the following are amphibians. ;-)

I saw a three-inch one of these in the garden this morning. I also saw a really teeny toad that I can tell you was brown, but otherwise I didn't get a good look at it.

We also have one of these living near the jasmine plant on the front porch.

Another reason to love Big Lots

I just found two 12-bottle cases of Topo Chico mineral water for $4.99 a case. I love this stuff, and it's usually really hard to find around here.

I know that, on the face of it, importing water from Mexico sounds like the world's worst idea--visions of Montezuma's Revenge and all. But it's actually a very nice mineral-y tasting carbonated water, and it feels so wonderful to drink out of a glass bottle just like in the olden days! Ah, life's little pleasures.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Friends in high places

The prime-time TV programming on my birthday: the American Idol finale and the Crufts dog show. My perfect evening of light, entertaining television.

Coincidence? I think not.

The s.o. and I had a lot of fun imagining what it would be like to dub the commentary from one contest onto the other. "What an elegant bitch!"

A little song

Happy birthday to me
We turned on the A/C
It may cost some money
But it prevents misery


Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world

Saw one of these this morning while walking the dogs. Nearly tripped over it, in fact. It was laid out straight, about three and a half feet long, with its tail in the asparagus bed. It looked a little odd or lumpy and it wasn't moving, so I wondered if there was something wrong with it. But its head looked as though it was paying attention, so I didn't want to mess with it.

I took the dogs in and then came back out to investigate. It still hadn't moved, so I tossed a couple small pebbles near it. I had just decided it was dead when I saw its tongue flicker. I guess it was just doing the morning-torpor thing, or it had just eaten. I think this is the same kind of snake I saw "running" in front of the mower last year.

Also, while I was looking up the snake I discovered what species our lizards are. Aren't they cute?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

You just have to be smarter than the gopher

We gritted our teeth and pulled up the remaining potato plants. Most of the potatoes are tiny; three are decent-sized. They have gorgeous dark-pink skins. But the most important thing is that we will be eating them, and the rodent won't be.


So sad...they were the best-looking plants in the whole garden!

Tears of laughter

Ever watch a dog chase a grape?

What's up?

Our network is up. Last night the s.o. installed a router so that both of our computers can use the cable modem at the same time. We can surf different sites at the same time, and it doesn't slow either of us down! Spiffy!

Several new garden plants are also up. The sweet corn is just peeking up through the soil. The okra is up and is growing at a furious pace. We also have neat little rows of Florence fennel, leeks, and globe basil.

Summer lettuce is up, but only a couple of tiny sprouts. I Miracle-Gro'd the bed last night to see if that'll give it the boost it needs.

We're down to three potato plants. The slaughter continues. I'm thinking potatoes are just not in the stars for us. However, some of the bush beans I planted in the empty spots are up.

I "cheated" and put in four storebought eggplant plants last night because my seeds couldn't seem to get a foothold. I wonder if they're tricky somehow? I also bought two artichoke plants but haven't put them in yet.

And finally, this morning I planted four big hills of cucumbers. There's one hill of slicing cukes and three hills of pickling cukes. I'm excited about them and looking forward to a busy pickling season.

My birthday is imminent. I have a lot of things I want to cook/bake for the occasion. It has been a time of slackdom in the kitchen, but that's about to change.

Monday, May 24, 2004

A beautiful movie

Just watched A Beautiful Mind on the TV. I had no idea Russell Crowe could actually act! I was very impressed. His accent was godawful, but even that didn't take away from the believability of his character.

Imagine discovering, years later, that your roommate from graduate school was a hallucination. Jesus.

I realized at the end of the movie that I actually knew of John Nash's work from evolutionary biology. It is far-reaching stuff. I just didn't realize the Nash Equilibrium was the same Nash. Wasn't paying enough attention in class, I guess!

Sunday, May 23, 2004


My food blog has got me thinking on the subject of southern foodways.

This is all new to me, you understand. I moved to Tennessee in 2000, and then to Georgia in 2001. The only experience I'd ever had with southern food was an Arkansan stepmother who planted okra in the garden and ate her hamburgers with mayonnaise.

But anyone who knows me will tell you I love food. I love to eat it, I love to prepare it, and I love to learn about it. There's hardly a cuisine I haven't tried to replicate in my kitchen. The s.o. is from Alabama and is an excellent cook himself, so I have let him guide me as I've learned to cook, buy, and eat some things I'd never dreamed of until I moved here.

I'm sure I'm leaving some things out, but here's what springs to mind:

Blackeyed peas
They're weird. They have quite a strong flavor for a bean, and they're definitely an acquired taste. Two or three years ago I tolerated them at best. Now I sometimes crave them. The s.o. orders them practically every time he eats at a meat & three, and he'll often crack open a can of them when we need a quick side dish.

Collard greens
Actually, greens in general. I always thought my family ate a lot of vegetables, but southerners will sometimes have several vegetable side dishes per meal. One of these side dishes is usually collards or turnip greens. They soak up the "pot likker" with cornbread so as not to miss out on any vitamins. Wow.

Golden Flake potato chips
Made in Birmingham, Alabama. The "Sweet Heat" flavor is the best one.

Boiled peanuts
They require a little bit of getting used to, but they're really good. They resemble chickpeas, which makes sense because peanuts are legumes, after all.

Pickled okra
The hot and spicy variety. We are hoping to pickle some of our own later this year...

Fried catfish
Catfish is a strong-flavored white fish with oddly meaty-textured flesh. I gather that today's farmed catfish has nowhere near the heavy, dirty flavor of wild catfish in times past. That's a good thing, I think. Catfish is fried in a spiced cornmeal and flour mixture and served with hot sauce. Mmm!

Bama jelly
Especially the grape flavor. Bama is now a subsidiary of Welch's, but southerners are brand-loyal anyway. I can't really tell the difference, but I buy it to make the s.o. happy.

Sweet tea
Southerners all have stories about going up north and trying to order sweet tea. The waiter brings them a glass of unsweetened iced tea and some sugar packets, as if somehow, magically, the sugar will dissolve in the cold liquid and not just lie in a sandy little pile at the bottom of the glass. Sweet tea is made by dumping about a cup of sugar in the bottom of a quart jug, pouring boiling water on top of it, stirring, and plunking in a family-size Luzianne bag until the tea is quite dark. Then you pour the concentrated tea syrup over a big glassful of ice cubes.

Fried corn
Fresh corn, cut off the cob and pan-fried in a little butter or bacon grease with diced onion. This is really good.

Field peas with snaps
This means field peas, which look like small reddish-brown blackeyed peas, cooked with green beans. You can buy this combination in cans at the supermarket here.

Pulled pork
Pork shoulder, smoked in big barrel-shaped outdoor smokers, shredded and tossed in a vinegar-y, peppery, slightly ketchup-y sauce, and served with Sunbeam bread.

Pimiento cheese sandwiches
A heart attack waiting to happen. Ground cheddar cheese, diced canned sweet pimientos, mayonnaise, and seasonings, spread thickly between two slices of bread. The homemade version is addictive, probably one of my great downfalls. Good thing I haven't learned to make it myself yet.

There's a lot more soul food and southern quirkiness out there, but that's all I can think of for now...

Armadillo crossing

I've seen a live armadillo exactly once: in Kerrville, Texas, in 1989.

I've never seen one alive in Georgia or Alabama. But I've sure seen them dead along the road. Yesterday alone I counted six or seven roadkill armadilloes. One of them I had to straddle with the wheels of my car.

Early summer must be armadillo mating season--I'm assuming that since I never see dead armadilloes at other times of year. Mating seems to deprive most species of their sense of direction and propriety. But I see all the other animals alive, and I often have to brake hard to avoid hitting them as they walk across. We're talking everything from deer to opossums to box turtles here. Why not armadilloes?

And why are they not in the back yard? Everything else is! They must be very wily.

Friday, May 21, 2004


We just thrifted a set of four white Herman Miller/Eames fiberglass shell armchairs for $2 apiece! Each of them has a drainage hole drilled in the seat, which pretty much obliterates their serious antique value, and they are a little scuffed. But they're the real Eames design! So cool.

There are also two gorgeous modern-style steel-tubing chairs with black leather sling seats and backs in the store. They're $20 apiece and I suspect they might be something special, too. The s.o. says we don't have anywhere to put them, but by God I will find a place, if only I can convince him...

Thursday, May 20, 2004


I am exhausted because I finally finished planting two rows of sweet corn.

Silver won't stop barking, but I can't blame her because there are deer prancing all over the back yard. They were actually out there while I was gardening.

Cairo is lying on the living room rug, panting in the heat. We haven't turned on the air conditioning yet this year, but the time is drawing near.

I am drinking a Captain & Diet Coke and idly wishing there wasn't a Braves game on, because then I could watch something more interesting on the TV. But that's really selfish of me, because the s.o. and I made a deal this summer that as long as he was allowed to watch all the baseball he wanted, I could pick everything else. So the Braves it is.

I have airline and car-rental reservations on my desk. It's on!

Looking forward

Cairo and I visited the veterinary surgeon again this morning to have his stitches removed. The surgeon said the incision has healed up even better than she expected, and she expressed pleasant surprise at Cairo's weight gain (to give you an idea, I had managed to beef him up from an initial emaciated 26 lbs. up to 29.5 lbs. before the surgery; now, one week after losing an entire leg, he is up to 30 lbs.!).

He is allowed to go on short walks now, and his head cone is off (although it will be put back on during times we can't directly supervise him, since it's not a good idea for him to lick the amputation area excessively). We're also letting him have more free time outside the crate now. The doc says within another week or two he should be able to do pretty much anything he wants.

We have another appointment on June 15 for a final x-ray on the left hind leg, to make sure it has healed all the way.

In the meantime comes my birthday (May 26). As a present, the s.o. is giving me a trip home to Ohio, probably June 7-11 or so. He's buying the airplane tickets later today. Normally we would drive up together, but with the pet issues and astronomical cost of gasoline right now, it's much smarter for me to fly up alone and rent a car at the Akron/Canton airport.

My half-sister K. will be in Ohio at the same time I will be. This is a big deal because she lives in Victoria, B.C. She has been studying Chinese medicine and will be stopping by at home on her way to Greece, where she'll be working on a cruise ship for 2 1/2 months as a way to gain experience for her certification.

I'm also going to see my mom and stepdad, my ex-stepdad and his wife, my paternal grandparents, my brother and his lovely fiancee', and probably some others. I never end up having enough time to spend with each person, but that's the way it's always been for me my whole life. I've had a complex family since my parents divorced when I was 2 1/2 years old, and it's just gotten zanier since then.

As overbooked as the trip may be, though, I'm really looking forward to it. I miss my family and don't get to see them enough, since it's an 11-hour drive up there. It is really, really nice of the s.o. to do this for me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Two accomplishments

1. The cat is wearing a full set of Soft Paws.

2. I finally planted the okra.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Rock on, boys

Currently on C-SPAN:

Ohio Democratic House members Brown, Strickland, and Ryan speaking at great length about how Bush is screwing veterans out of their benefits and how he is simultaneously enacting tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. It may be a filibuster of some kind--they're basically passing the floor back and forth among themselves, and there aren't very many people in the room--but they're making really good points and saying things that need to be said.

Much needed

I was just outside, shoveling heaps of compost and discovering some of the largest earthworms I have ever seen, when I noticed that the sun wasn't beating down on me the way it usually does. Then, as I began turning over the row where I'm planning to plant the okra, little drops of water began to spatter on my arms. I could hear the droplets hitting the leaves in the woods.

I ran to the radish bed to pull the radishes I absolutely needed to pull today. As I scampered inside with them, the rain began to fall in earnest.

Now we just need it to rain harder, and for longer.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The cat is avoiding me

Last week I was woken up for the nth time by the cat scratching on the bedroom furniture. It was the last straw. My fantasy of training her to stop had come to an abrupt end. I crawled out of bed, marched directly to the computer and ordered a packet of Soft Paws. I was grumpy, so the cat is extremely lucky I ordered them in clear rather than in hot pink.

They arrived today in the mail.

A number of my animal-loving friends have recommended Soft Paws to me over the years. They're basically soft plastic nail sheaths that fit over the cat's claws so they can scratch to their heart's content without causing any harm whatsoever. The little sheaths drop off naturally after 4 to 6 weeks and you replace them as needed.

Here's the catch: First you have to clip all the cat's nails. Then you have to stick the nail covers on with superglue. Legomen, I think you know where this is going.

An hour or two after the beginning of the process, the cat is wandering around dunking her paws in water bowls and licking them obsessively. She's knocked off three Soft Paws, but the rest appear to be sticking (this is considered normal; the success rate improves over time, apparently). Meanwhile, I'm nursing a few nasty welts and I have cat hair stuck all over me with superglue.

Pics of Cairo

Crap. I tried posting the photos the "correct" way, but the links keep breaking on me. I think it has something to do with my online storage. So for now, if you want to see our little guy, you'll have to go here.

Gnomes, gophers, whatever

Something is tunnelling underneath our garden and stealing potatoes. Entire potato-plant root systems, to be more exact. I keep going outside and seeing that one of the large, glossy-green plants has suddenly withered. A quick tug reveals there's nothing left to hold it in the ground. We've lost four out of ten, just as we have already lost most of the salsify.

Overall, I can't complain about garden pests. A lot of the plants are practically perfect, and to be honest we have just about as much food as we can eat (and it's only May!). Slugs eat holes in the collards, but they leave plenty for us. We lose an occasional few leaves of chard to rabbits or deer, but the leaves grow back.

Last year was my first year growing tomatilloes. We had a small garden that we neglected horribly because we were so caught up in remodeling the house. Tomatilloes (which figure into my favorite homemade salsa recipe) were the "experimental crop." They survived despite drought and malnutrition. Some kind of evil squash beetle launched an offensive against them, but the tomatilloes proved too wary. The beetles ate holes in the husks but couldn't seem to figure out that the good part was inside, untouched.

That's the kind of crop I like--one that can stand up for itself. You can bet I planted tomatilloes this year! I'm not so much concerned with competing against all the creatures in our back yard. I'm more interested in figuring out what we can accomplish without resorting to traps and chemicals. And if, next year, I have the energy to build a bed with a chicken-wire basket embedded underneath it, then that's where I'll put the potatoes and salsify. Just because some root crops are extra-delicious to animals doesn't mean I don't want my cut!

In the meantime, since I'm running behind on planting green beans anyway, I've replaced the munched-on potato plants with bush-bean seeds. The plants are sort of the same size and shape. I'm not one to waste space.

And now, once I wake my ass up a little bit, I should go out there and dig some more rows!

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Parallel lives

We go to a lot of yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and the like. A very large percentage of the things we own were previously owned by someone else. I like to think of it as bottom-feeding on the economy. We don't believe in constantly buying new things and throwing them away.

You can tell a lot about people from their yard sales. Most of the sales aren't interesting; they're filled up with undistinguished crap and/or baby clothes (not that there's anything wrong with the latter, but I'm never going to have any use for it, so for me it's a waste of time and space).

But every once in a while we'll arrive at a yard sale that fits us like a glove. I'll walk up to the clothing rack and start grabbing item after item. We'll find housewares that suit our tastes. The s.o. will buy an entire box of soul LPs at a bargain price. There might even be art or furniture we like. That's what it was like today. There was a nice young Hispanic couple whose personal aesthetic (and clothing sizes) matched ours beautifully. I expanded my wardrobe vastly at prices ranging from 10 cents to a dollar per piece. I adopted a $1 black Kate Spade mini-backpack. We picked up a chain collar for Cairo, as well as a southwestern cookbook. And we found the perfect big rattan Venetian blind for our screen porch, so that we can sit out there in the afternoons and not be bothered by the sun. It was exactly what we'd envisioned, and it was $6.

This has happened to me a couple times before. Once at a charity sale in town, I happened upon a table belonging to a girl whose personal style was a dead ringer for mine. I bought half the items on the table--CDs, clothes, kitsch, etc. Another time I went to a garage sale in St. Paul and walked away with two lamps, a stack of dishes, two pairs of shoes, and several pieces from the lady's vintage clothing collection.

I always feel a tiny twinge of sadness when I find these perfect sales. They usually mean the person is moving away, which is sad because if they're that much like me, why haven't I been friends with them all these years? But even if the people aren't moving, it's not as though I'm going to walk up to them and say, "Hey, want to come over for dinner?" That's creepy somehow. It's strange how people so alike can live parallel lives whose paths never cross, even if they're in the same town.

Friday, May 14, 2004


I was just standing on our screen porch, talking on the phone, when I looked out the window and saw one of these slithering under our air-conditioning unit. It was at least four feet long. Maybe five.

I guess that explains the absence of varmints underneath the house!

Thursday, May 13, 2004


Apologies to anyone who's been waiting for news, but our cable internet connection picked today of all days to be down! To the cable company's credit, they sent two guys out to our house, then dragged the guys all the way back across two counties to the local office, since it appeared to be a server problem of some kind. Now they have managed to get things running again.

Cable internet service is very new here, and I think we are approximately the third or fourth user in our immediate area. Since the other three people were apparently at work when the problem occurred, I was the canary in the coal mine, the very first and only person to notice a problem. I thought that was kind of amusing.


Around 10 AM I got a call from the veterinary surgeon telling me Cairo was ready to come home. I hopped in the car and sped into town.

Simply put, Cairo is healthy and hilarious. He had been awake all morning, had eaten voraciously, and was passing the time barking at the dogs in neighboring cages. He emerged into the waiting room half-shaved, bandaged, and wearing one of those Elizabethan-looking head cones that's meant to keep a dog from chewing or licking at its stitches. He was already walking better than he had before, because he wasn't dragging a useless leg.

The first thing he did outside the vet's office was squat and pee. I emphasize the "squat" part because previously he was only able to sort of stack himself the way dogs do in the show ring. Now he can bend his hind leg and aim a little!

I pulled up outside our screen porch and the s.o. came running out. He caught sight of the Elizabethan version of Cairo and yelled, "Wait! I have to go get the camera!" He snapped photos as Cairo nosed around, banging the head cone on everything in his path. We laughed ourselves silly. I almost feel guilty about laughing so hard. He'll fur out again soon, though, and the cone will come off. Then people will have to count his feet to notice there's anything different about him!

Cairo does not seem to be in any pain, and he's sleeping peacefully when he's crated. He's happy and playful when he's out. He has two medications--an antibiotic to keep infections at bay, and an antacid that the doc prescribed because he had vomited during his surgery. Amazingly (and happily), the antacid kept Cairo from puking in my car on the way home! He alternated between sleeping and trying to crawl into my lap while I drove.

Silver is ecstatic to have her little brother home again. On the other hand, the cat is hiding. I suppose I would too, if I were her.

I'm so relieved and happy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

They call it the Discovery Channel

There are a bunch of sexy Greek guys on the TV erecting a Trojan Horse.

Oh, my. Now they're doing calisthenics.

More, parakalo.

Dept. of lost lunches

The s.o. is a notorious puker. He has what polite folks call a "delicate stomach." Absolutely anything, from chili dogs to sleep deprivation, can make him heave.

Our new dog Cairo gets carsick. Very reliably carsick. We've been joking that he takes after his daddy.

So it's no surprise that when the surgeon called me just now, she said that Cairo had thrown up some liquid while under sedation. Because of that, they want to keep him under observation overnight to make sure he's not getting a fever. BUT...the important thing is, the surgery went absolutely fine. He is now down to three legs and zero balls (imagine waking up to that!).

I am massively relieved but still wary. I won't feel right until he is home again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A feat of self-defeating

Doctor, at my gyno appointment:
"Let's have a blood pressure of 88 over 40, and your weight is excellent."

Me, at lunch fifteen minutes later:
"I'll have the eight-inch sub sandwich with cheese steak and pepperoni. Can I get that with provolone?"

"The only thing I would suggest--and this is just a suggestion--is that you try to get less caffeine in your diet."

"Oh! And a large Diet Coke."

GAH! What the hell do I think I'm doing?!


I got the dog leg amputation blues

I'm really dreading tomorrow. And that's saying a lot, considering I have a gynecologist's appointment today.

Monday, May 10, 2004


I have a lot of work to do in my office today, but it all had to wait while I did some errands.

First came a stop at the post office. There's none in our town--we lost our ZIP code, and the post office along with it, some years back. So it's a five-mile drive southward to a town I'll call Halfway.

Next was a trip to the mower dealership (about eight miles further down the road to the county seat), to purchase a service kit for our riding lawnmower. Ever since the s.o. stopped traveling for his job, he has taken on more and more responsibilities at home. As a money-saving measure, he now changes the oil and does all the other servicing on our vehicles...including the mower, which (objectively speaking) is nicer than my car.

Next in line, on the way home again, was a stop at Ingles for groceries. The most important item on the list was puppy food, which comes in small bags that look kind of silly when you consider Cairo's gigantic appetite. I wonder what owners of Great Dane puppies do?

Back in Halfway, I had to stop at the gas station to fill up the 5-gallon can for the aforementioned mower. I wanted to save this task for the ride home, since carrying gas cans in the trunk of my car on hot days makes me nervous.

And finally, back in our little town again, I pulled off along the side of the road in front of our local meat-and-three*. Since our town has a population of only 415, and since Johnnie Mae (the proprietor of the restaurant) happens to be on the city council, this is where we pay the water bill. I handed Johnnie Mae a check and wished her a nice afternoon.

Home again, and I'd better get to work.

*In the southern U.S., country-style restaurants are called meat-and-threes, because you get a meat and three sides (e.g., fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, green beans, and cornbread; or perhaps a smothered pork chop with blackeyed peas, collards, and a biscuit) for a fixed price.


Yesterday, after an incredibly busy week, I finally found a little time to spend in the hammock. I hiked out into the woods with a drink and a copy of Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, which J. had lent me at work Saturday night.

I read for a while and really began to enjoy the book. But the sun found its way through the boughs, and the heat made me drowsy...

Suddenly I was startled awake by a loud buzzing around my head. It was a wasp, or maybe a yellowjacket. I tried to duck it, but it circled my head, trying to land. I threw the book down and attempted to make a quick, decisive leap from the hammock. That was when the button on the left back pocket of my shorts caught in the hammock's weave.

I almost did one of those cartoon "flapjack" maneuvers, where the hammock spins you around and spits you out in a bellyflop on the ground. But at the last minute, as my legs flew out from under me, there was a loud POP sound and I was launched outward into a pile of pine needles.

I still can't find that button.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Images of college graduation night 2004

• An orange three-quarter moon and a sultry breeze.

• Hundreds of girls dressed in the height of Paris-Hilton-and-Nicole-Richie fashion. (Paris and Nicole deserve our sincere thanks, I think, for bringing out the exuberant side of usually fashion-underachieving Americans. Nevertheless, a lot of the clothes--on them and on their imitators--are startlingly ugly.)

• Cosmopolitans and Miller Lites. Jager Bombs.

• Jeeps with college mascot stickers and personalized license plates, screeching down the hill on their way out of town.

I like the way you move
I like the way you move
I love the way you move
I love the way, I love the way...

• One melancholy girl in a halter-neck dress who spends most of the night in the stairwell with her ear pressed to her cell phone. Is this her one last chance to meet a friend before everyone disperses forever in whatever directions their lives will take? Will they find each other?

Friday, May 07, 2004

"Could you use the microphone, sir? We're missing some of what you're saying."

One of the merits of having cable TV is getting to witness moments such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Myers testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Rumsfeld is scootching his chair around as if he has fleas.

You've got to figure that if Fox News is showing it, public opinion is a bit rough right now.

I'm not surprised we allowed this to happen. I am appalled, though. The thing that bothers me most is that Rumsfeld seems to think the problem is strategic, not humanitarian.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The doc says...

We had an appointment with the veterinary orthopedic surgeon today. She looked at the x-rays and examined Cairo. It turns out the muscles in his dislocated leg--over the month or so that it's been that way--have irreversibly shrunken up and tightened, so that even if she could fix all the bone damage, he would never have full extension of the leg. Also, the breakage in the hip and femur has shortened the leg so it doesn't quite touch the ground.

The other leg is great and seems to have almost finished healing, she says.

So really, amputating the dislocated leg is the only correct and reasonable thing to do. She scheduled the operation for next Wednesday (giving us a little more time to fatten him up and get him acclimated). If everything goes well, she'll neuter him at the same time. Then two more weeks of crate rest, and he should be good to go!

The orthopedic surgeon is a really cool and smart lady, with a great staff and a wonderful bedside manner. She is throwing in the neutering for free, and she's giving us a Good Samaritan discount to help defray all the costs we're incurring. We're very grateful for that!

This is a major surgery, and I'm going to be one hell of a nervous mom while it's happening, but it seems as though Cairo is well on his way to being an active dog. Thank goodness for that.

By the way, this post comes to you via high-speed internet!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

So much for ever getting anything done, ever again

The cable guy has come. Due to an administrative error, he didn't know he was supposed to give us high-speed internet as well. So that comes tomorrow.



Silver has tons of stuffed toys. Until recently, one was a big stuffed monkey that she won as her prize for being valedictorian of her Advanced Obedience class. She played with it for months--lots of tug-of-war, fetching, and the occasional gnawing session. Bit by bit, parts of the monkey disappeared. Now, all that's left is the stuffed banana that used to be attached to the monkey's hand.

The other night, Silver brought me the banana and "asked" me to throw it for her a few times. It happened that her brand-new younger brother Cairo was sitting in the s.o.'s lap, taking it all in. He studied her carefully, as if to say to himself, " this is what one does around here."

So now Cairo is fascinated with the banana. Every time he gets out of his kennel, even if he heads straight to the back door to go out, he makes sure to grab the banana along the way. He looks so proud of himself for fitting in! I can't wait for the day when I'll be able to throw it for him.

Other news items:

• A gopher is making giant tunnels in the mache bed. I'm pretty sure this is the same gopher who ate my potato plant. I didn't ask to re-enact Caddyshack here! Anyone know how to get ride of a gopher? Poisoning it is not an option, nor is shooting it.

• The giant rosebush behind the bedroom window is in full bloom. It's not my doing; it came with the house. I'm sure it's decades old. I keep it pruned, and it rewards us with literally hundreds of hot-pink blooms at a time. Stunning.

• I am addicted to Quaker Cinnamon Squares cereal. I especially like the way it makes all the milk in the bowl into cinnamon milk. It stays crunchy, too. Could this challenge my lifelong passion for Life cereal? (Ironically, I don't like Cinnamon Life--just the plain kind.)

• I am snowed under with writing jobs right now. It's not to the point where it's unrealistic to make my deadlines. It's just at the level where I am going to have to work like a demon for the next, say, two weeks. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

News from Lake Wobegon

There's a distinct chill in the air, and the heater is running. It was like that yesterday, too. It's as though we went back in time two months, except that the flowers are blooming and the garden is full of gigantic collards and turnips.

Some wily animal ate one of my potato plants, from the roots upward. I'm on the warpath.

The bastards at the cable company still haven't installed our service. Another warpath.

Last night Cairo had his first bath, which was a huge improvement! Silver (who hates baths) sat nearby and watched the whole process, probably taunting him in some canine way we humans can't perceive. I got soaked pretty thoroughly in the process, and now I smell faintly like coal tar shampoo.

We are in the process of making an appointment with a veterinary orthopedic surgeon. Our regular vet referred us because she figured there might be options we don't yet know about. At any rate, Cairo has been vaccinated, dewormed, and bug-bombed. He sleeps through the night without crying, and it's everything we can do to keep him from playing keep-away with Silver's toys and chasing the cat around the house. Underneath it all, he is still a puppy and wants very much to act like one. But he is on crate rest, as recommended...

Monday, May 03, 2004

Status report

This little guy is unbeatable. I took him out first thing this morning and he ran until he found a spot to pee. Then he walked back over to me and lay down on my foot. I brought him back inside thinking he'd lie down and relax, but eventually I had to put him back in the crate because he was so full of energy and wouldn't stay off his leg.

He is eating and drinking heartily. He always wants to be touching us. I'll be taking him to the regular vet later today to get the routine things, such as immunizations and bug-bombing, done.

We've named him Cairo (after Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon). It's because he has very exotic, mascara'd-looking eyes. He's part golden retriever and part chow (we think).

And since referring to "the dog" won't do around here anymore, here's an FYI: Our other dog is named Silver. She's a border collie mix. I think she is a little jealous of her new brother, but we're trying our best to let her know that she's still the top dog and that we love her just as much as we always have.

Meanwhile, the cat has taken one good swipe at Cairo so far, and he's still curious about her. He'll learn!

A long journey home

I was going to write about how beautiful our back yard smells because the honeysuckle is in bloom. But then today turned into one of those days when everything changes.

Around 3 pm, I opened the back door to take our dog out. I spied a reddish, furry form poking around in the herb garden and immediately put the dog back in so I could investigate. A few seconds later, I was hollering for the s.o. to come out.

It was a puppy, about five or six months old. He was horribly emaciated, was covered in ticks and fleas, and he couldn't put any weight on one of his back legs. He quietly came to us and leaned his head on our legs. We gave him some food and water and called the emergency veterinary clinic to let them know I was coming in.

The puppy was so mellow and sweet. I carried him to the car and drove through the rain to the clinic. He threw up all over the back seat of my car, partly because the car made him nervous and partly (I'm sure) because his first real meal in weeks wasn't sitting well with his starved system.

The vet took some x-rays, updated me, did some work, took another x-ray, and then (at 10 pm) came to me with some revised news.

Here's the deal: This puppy was hit by a car, probably close to a month ago. At that time, both of his back legs were broken, and one of them was ripped from the hip socket. Additionally, the x-rays revealed a bunch of birdshot in him, from people who apparently thought it was funny to use him for target practice.

The left leg was broken in the tibia and fibula, but looks to be healing up fairly well--especially considering the dog has had to walk on it for a month. The right leg is another matter. At first the vet thought the femoral head could be popped back into the hip socket, but it didn't work because the socket has healed up some without the leg in it. In addition, the break in the femur turned out to be way worse than she originally thought--it's basically partly healed at a right angle to itself.

So the puppy is supposed to be on "crate rest" for a month, with brief walks for exercise. After a month, once the left leg has finished healing and he has full use of it, we're supposed to take him in and have the right leg amputated. (At that time, we can also have him neutered.)

Obviously we have adopted this dog. We weren't really looking for a second dog, but sometimes the world deals you something and you know it's right to take it on. On the bright side, all his bloodwork was good and he is negative for heartworm, so other than all the physical trauma, he is a wonderfully healthy little guy.

But I'm left with a lot of anger at the people who have made this puppy's life hell. Imagine all the pain and fear he has been through. Here he is, the sweetest, friendliest, most guileless creature, and he has been crippled and shot at. When I cleaned up the dog barf from my back seat, it was (besides the kibble) mostly garbage and sticks.

Anyway, he's home now, and we're going to make sure these horrible things don't happen to him anymore.

We're thinking of names...

Saturday, May 01, 2004

What girls really do when there are no boys around

So far, the s.o. and I have spent practically the whole weekend in the city. In fact, the s.o. is there as I type this, and I'm about to go back and spend some MORE time downtown in a few minutes. It's a busy time at the bar. I'm doing a lot of bartending, and the s.o. has been drafted to work the sound booth.

We've grabbed most of our meals at drive-thrus en route. My food blog is really suffering because of this! Oh well. Back on track soon.

Anyhow, last night I got done working several hours before the s.o., but we only had one car. So my friend J. and I adjourned to her house to hang out and wait for his shift to be over.

On the way, we stopped and rented some DVDs, plus a cucumber and a lemon so we could make Pimm's Cups (our favorite). This was a recipe for comedy, because J. likes to make light of the fact that some folks find her dykey-looking. We were choking back howls of laughter while she rummaged through the cucumbers at the market, loudly asking, "How's this one, honey?"

We watched The Good Girl first (cue lots of talk about what we'd like to do with delicious Jake Gyllenhaal). Then we traded some clothes we'd been thinking of giving each other (we know each other's tastes pretty well). We were on our second Pimm's Cups, respectively, when our friend S. called. We invited her over.

S. loves to do makeovers. (She even does them on her co-workers while they work in the emergency room at the hospital. Apparently the petroleum-jelly bandages the hospital keeps on hand for burn victims are great for softening calloused hands.) Her greatest struggle in life is avoiding spending all her money at Sephora. Last night she was in her element--she brought a bag of makeup and skin care products with her, as well as a bottle of Absolut Kurant. We did face scrubs and charcoal masks, then we gave ourselves pedicures. We ate some really good chocolate while we were at it.

Then we watched Outside Providence, which was really funny and very worthwhile. J. and S. had both seen it before, but they liked it so well that they were happy to watch it again for my benefit. I suspect I will Netflix it so I can see it again, too.

When the s.o. arrived, we still hadn't dug into S.'s bottle of Absolut. We're really very good girls.