Sunday, December 19, 2010

haphazard mouseketeers

living on the edge

As I was eating breakfast today, I noticed that the cats were nowhere to be seen. Usually after her morning eat-a-thon, Fatty sprawls out on the carpet and stares at me while I try to read the newspaper (at least a week old because I'm perpetually bad at reading it the day we receive it). I asked Charrow if she had seen the cats and she said, "yeah, they're both laying in the bathroom."

You might think, "oh how cute. They're having a slumber party." Do you know what I think? VERMIN. As in, a 4 to possibly 8-legged intruder has crossed the threshold, and they are hunkered down in a stakeout with an intent to maim, kill, and eat whatever they find.

I went into the bathroom and found Fatty in a crouch, staring at the cabinet that houses the 19 tubes of toothpaste I bought on amazon subscribe & save. I aimed the flashlight at the baseboard behind the cabinet and sure enough, I saw the distinct curve of a mouse tail.

My bright idea was to catch him. Charrow thought it was futile. We armed ourselves with square tupperware, barricaded the crack under the door with a towel (how awful would it be if we tried to save the mouse from imminent slaughter and then accidentally shuttled him out of the bathroom and into the cats' death pen?), and blocked the closet door.

Charrow moved the cabinet and the mouse moved with it. I saw the flash of a tail, but the mouse remained hidden in Fort Toothpaste. There was just too much surface area for him to stay under while the cabinet moved, so we didn't have any hope of catching him that way. Charrow was ready to give up the hunt, but I refused to leave it up to the cats, so I suggested we squirt him with water to flush him out. She humored me and squirted in the mouse's direction a few times, but instead of seeing a flash of gray streak across the floor, all we heard was a disgruntled squeak.

The next strategy was to lift one end of the cabinet, but then charrow would be rendered useless, and I would be responsible for catching the mouse. Neither of us thought that was a good idea, so instead, she started dramatically shifting the cabinet around. The mouse ran past her feet, around the litter box blocking the closet door, and disappeared. We thought he had somehow managed to squeeze into the miniscule crack beneath the closet door, but that seemed impossible, so charrow poked at the towel covering the escape route under bathroom door. Sure enough, the mouse was tucked into a fold of the towel. Charrow tried to get her tupperware around him, but the wily little guy managed to zip right out from under her and back to Dry Goods Manor. In a moment of weakness, I said "what did you do?!" which could have turned the expedition into a sour finger-pointing game, but Charrow took it in stride, and I realized it was ridiculous to think that I could have done a better job.

At that point, we both surveyed the futility of the situation. Large bumbling humans. Tiny, lightning fast rodent. But I couldn't bring myself to let the animal kingdom decide the winner of the game, so we kept at it. A few more nudges of the cabinet, and the mouse was back out in the open. I screamed involuntarily because this time he ran towards my side of the bathroom in an attempt to get out the door, but he got caught between the towel barricade* and an industrial sized bag of baking soda (for the litter box).

I don't know HOW she did it, but when the mouse found a way out of his corner and was headed back to the safe house, Charrow threw her tupperware over him and viola! the hunt was over. The mouse ran in frantic squares under the plastic cage, and then just sat there while Charrow slid a magazine under the tupperware to seal him in for the release portion of the expedition. We took him up the street a couple of blocks to the wooded area that divides the neighborhood road from the main Grand Army Plaza thoroughfare. Thankfully, the city that never sleeps isn't early to rise on Sundays. We didn't pass a soul in the elevator or on the street. When we got back to the apartment, Fatty was basking in the glory of the living room rug like nothing had ever happened.

*This would have been a very different story without that towel. It's a small apartment, but can you imagine trying to find a mouse the size of a lemon before two bloodthirsty hunting machines?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

say cheese


I've been scanning photos from old family albums that my grandmother let me borrow. It's interesting to see relatives that I only knew in their winter years depicted as laughing teenagers or young mothers. What I find almost as intriguing as the images themselves is the matter of who took the photos. I don't profess to know much about the technicalities of photography, but from my perspective, some of these pictures are really compelling. Maybe I'm just blinded by the grainy film and the antiquated scenery.

At any rate, today's diptych consists of two pictures that I found hilarious. I don't know who the man is taking the portrait or who took the picture of him taking the portrait (things I will find out at Christmas), but I love the story that they tell.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

don't fret my pet

what's on your stand?

There's a lot of hoopla out there about staying present and experiencing the moment and blah blah blah, but sometimes it's essential to look ahead.

When you're riding a motorcycle (or a bicycle for that matter) and you need to make a tight turn, it helps to look at where you want to go and almost like magic, the bike will follow your gaze. There's this awful exercise that they make everyone do in the motorcycle safety course that consists of making a figure eight in a very small box outlined on the pavement. The only way to execute the move is to turn your head in the direction that you need to go. If you look directly at the course the bike is taking instead of where the bike needs to go, you'll never be able to make the tight turn required to stay in the box.

The same thing goes for reading music. To stay with the tempo, you have to be able to play one note while looking at the next set of notes to see where the melody is headed. If you look at each note as you play it, you will always be behind the beat, and if you're sight reading (i.e. playing a piece of music for the first time, possibly for an audition or for your monthly hootenanny), forget it. You'll stumble all over yourself and wish you had taken up latch hooking instead of music.

It also comes in handy for instruments that have a large geography to cover. If I'm playing the guitar, and I need to get from the 3rd fret to the 7th fret, the best way for me to hit the right position is to play the 3rd fret chord while looking at the 7th fret so my hand knows where it's going (assuming you have to look when you play, which I do because I'm just not there yet). If I wait until the last second to mentally and physically transition to the next chord, it's sloppy every time.

What's my point? Well I thought I was going to be able to wrap this up neatly into a lesson-shaped package, but I'm having trouble keeping it cohesive today. So, instead of hitting "save now" and attempting to perfect this message, which we all know I will avoid like the dentist, I'm going to publish as is because it's been far too long since I've contributed to the cloud. Sometimes you have to vomit before you can get to the good stuff.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

contingency plan

tasty eyeballs

When I was about 10 years old, I had a Bart Simpson* skateboard, care of the JCPenney wish book catalogue. It had gritty blacktop where your feet were supposed to go and a technicolor Bart head on both sides of the board. I used to lay on my stomach and ride down the hill that started at the sidewalk in front of our duplex (there's a scar on my left wrist from a botched attempt). I also spent hours in the driveway trying my best to perform the elusive ollie. My inability to perform this trick solidified my standing in the world of skateboarders: expert stomach rider/extreme novice on 2 feet.

This weekend I resurrected my Marty McFly costume for a Halloween party at my brother's house. Costumes are all about iconic props, so I borrowed a skateboard from one of charrow's co-workers. The day after the party, I noodled around on the skateboard on my mom's deserted suburban street. It started innocently enough. I rode down the sloped driveway and made wide, misshapen circles across the width of the street. But then, as I made a loop near the crest of a hill, I decided that it would be fun to coast down that hill. It didn't look that steep, and it ended at the grassy bank of an empty lot. About 15 seconds later, I seriously regretted my decision. The pavement got bumpier. The scattered gravel from the neighboring construction sites became thicker. And my speed suddenly surpassed my rudimentary stopping capabilities.

Faced with the prospect of hitting a chunk of gravel that would probably bring the board to a dead stop (and send me flying), I decided to take control of my battered fate and jump off the board. You know those moving walkways in airports? You know how even that moderate amount of extra speed makes it hard to transition onto stationary ground? Right. So I made it about 4 clamoring steps before my feet went out of from under me, and I did a belly flop/home run slide into the cul-de-sac.

End result: a torn running shirt, scuffed hands, a bloody patchwork on my left elbow, potentially bruised ribs, a bit of road rash on my left hip, and an anxious mother.

elbows do not make good brakes

Lessons learned: elbows and ribs should not be used as brakes, and more importantly, do not ride down a hill without first having a Contingency Plan.

I am officially retired from all non-stomach riding skateboard activities. Cowabunga dudes.

*the irony of owning a Bart Simpson skateboard: I never, ever get Simpson quotes when they come up in conversation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

immaculate intelligence

smart dog

Every now and then I take a trip into crazy land and read Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist blog. It's like a jar of pickled okra for your brain. Healthy, but soaked in brine. Her latest article on perfectionism contains the following statement: "The other huge problem with perfectionism is that people stop learning when they're constantly afraid of being wrong."


Oh wait. She may have a point.

But you see, I have this strategy for learning that involves checking out as many library books as I can cram onto the bookshelf (a hodgepodge of fiction, non-fiction and what can only be categorized as self-help), and then I renew them as many times as I can until another patron puts them on hold. But I don't usually read them. I like to call it immaculate intelligence.

Okay, I admit it. I've stopped learning because I'm constantly afraid of being wrong or of being held accountable for information (equally as scary). One of Penelope's strategies is to allow yourself to be wrong in front of others, but I'm so petrified of looking like an imbecile that I rarely even start to formulate an opinion or a stance to throw out into the ether because I'm so entrenched in survival mode. When people ask me what I think about something, I freeze. Must.not.stand.out. Must.sound.intelligent.'s.going.on. These are the things that go through my head on a regular basis.

The other problem with that stack of library books, or newspapers, or cursed New Yorker magazines is that I see them as a threat to the zero-sum game of maximizing time. If I sit down and read the newspaper, I am informing myself (with the exception of the highly political articles that I often skip or skim halfheartedly. sorry, friends). If I read a book about dogs, I'm giving myself a stronger knowledge base for my business. If I read a New Yorker, I'm giving myself an opportunity to actually join in on conversations that start with "hey did you read that article about X in last week's new yorker..." (this happens on a weekly basis, and I feel like a dunce every time because there are gobs of New Yorkers sitting around the apartment).

The point, in case I haven't beaten it to a pulp yet, is that these are all useful activities. Yet when I'm sitting at home deciding how to spend my time, I feel guilty about reading because it feels like a less than optimal pursuit. Do you know what I do instead? I dither around on the internet. And the whole time I think "I could be researching this book or writing that web content for my business site, but then I won't have any time to do those other 7 things I should be doing."

Oh the irony of maximizing. Because I'm so concerned about spending time on the best (i.e. most useful) activity, I avoid all activities and waste my life sitting on the couch covered in drooling cats and staring at this idiot box. Combine maximizing with a compulsive fear of failure and what do you get? A rambling blog post and a hefty late fee at the library.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

self-monitoring specialist


"Ordinarily I don't like to be around interesting people because it means I have to be interesting" -- from LA Story (great steve martin movie)

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would clock in somewhere around a 15 for self-monitoring (it is what it sounds like). Do you know how hard is it to be interesting when you're checking constantly to see if you're being interesting?

I would say more on the subject, but I'm too worried about boring you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

damn the twitter


Something terrible happened last night: I used twitter. There were extenuating circumstances, and I'm ashamed to say that I have formed a begrudging respect for the twits who tweet.

Around 3am, Charrow woke me up and said "it smells like burning. what is that smell?? is there a fire?" I have always harbored a secret fear of middle of the night fires (sometimes I lay in bed trying to go to sleep and imagine how I would react to said disaster so that I have a basic formula for how to get out of the house), so we got out of bed to investigate. We both poked our noses out the window to catalogue the smell. Not cigarette smoke. No visible flames or plumes. Excessive chemical/plastic tinge. Very mysterious and noxious.

Charrow was satisfied with closing the window and trying to call 911 (busy), but I stood at the window to see if I could witness anyone else reacting to the weird odor. Not long into my observation campaign, a man popped out of his front door wearing only sweatpants and looked up and down the street conducting his own surveillance. He looked perplexed, but satisfied that he had investigated the situation and went back inside. Having had confirmation from the outside world that strange things were afoot, we decided to go have a look for ourselves. This was mostly my fault, because all I could think of was that some old lady in our building had fallen asleep with a candle burning and maybe there was a polyester blend afghan ablaze 2 floors above us.

The smell outside was, according to charrow, akin to a mouse caught in a toaster. Smokey, but not altogether natural. As we stood on the street gawking at the lack of evidence, a couple walked toward their car with their noses buried in their coats. We asked them if there was a fire somewhere and they told us that it was supposedly a tire factory in New Jersey. We went back inside and turned on the tv to confirm the rumor, but there was no breaking news to be found. After a minute of listening to NY1's squawking correspondent, I realized that we needed the instant reaction of the masses on twitter. So we did a search for #smell (a coarse method that produced surprisingly accurate results) and saw the twitter feed of dozens of people horrified by the smell that had been confirmed by several police precincts: Tire fire. New Jersey. Smoke made its way to brooklyn. Of course it's New Jersey's fault. etc., etc.

Damn you twitter for actually serving a purpose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

butt juice

sleeping loaf

Warning: bodily fluid is involved in what I am about to tell you.

So I was sitting at the desk trying to catch up on the latest Dooce-capades and daydreaming about apple picking when the orange cat hops up and decides it is his life's dream to be petted while drooling all over my keyboard. After a few minutes of neck careening and placating pats, I finally gave him a friendly nudge on his back legs as a way of saying "dear god, please get out of the way you attention whore of a cat." He flinched, and I felt a spritz of liquid hit my forehead.

Anyone want to guess what that liquid was?

Yes, that's right, it was butt juice (technically referred to as "anal gland expression"). I have officially been butt-juiced in the face by my cat. How fitting that it happened while reading Dooce, the queen of bodily fluid stories.

Friday, August 27, 2010

the wrong button

mind the gap

An indication that you need more sleep and/or you are horribly distracted: you repeatedly get on an elevator and push the button of the floor you're standing on instead of the floor you need to get to.

I did that 4 times the other day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


official party mascot

I am 30 years old today. As of 10:03 am (or possibly 10:33am; my mom can't remember which time is mine and which time is my brother's, but she claims I'm the early one). I could regale you with the ways in which I feel less than prepared for this age, but instead, I'm going to provide you with a list. There is no point to this list except that it has 30 items and they are mostly about me. It is not random (oh how I hate the overuse of the word random), but it might be amusing.

1. I hate warm cookies.
2. I have tipped over while standing at a curb with my bicycle. There were children nearby, but they didn't laugh at me.
3. if you baked me an apple pie, I wouldn't eat it, but I would appreciate the gesture.
4. last night I had a bad dream about throwing up, and when I woke up I was afraid that I'd actually vomited.
5. I cry when I laugh really hard.
6. my brother, my dad, and I all have the birthdays that are different dates but end up being the same day of the week (i.e. all of our birthdays are on thursday this year)
7. I once made my brother wear a dress. there are pictures.
8. he once made me sit on a red ant hill. there are no pictures, but now I really hate ants.
9. I made a kite in summer school one year and now whenever I see wooden dowels at the hardware store all I can think about are kites.
10. when I was in 4th grade I used to stay after school and help out in the library because I thought it was fun.
11. I used to own a Bart Simpson skate board.
12. I'm beginning to get bored with my list. Are you?
13. My mom's favorite numbers are 7 and 13. When my brother and I were younger, she would ask us to pick a number between 1 & 20 when we wanted something. her number was always 7 or 13.
14. I could probably eat 14 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, but not if they're warm.
15. Maybe I shouldn't have picked 30 items. I'm only halfway there.
16. I used to eat butter. One time when I was around 4 years old my entire family was out washing the car, and I was in the kitchen stealing bites from a stick of butter.
17. I went to band camp.
18. And I played the flute.
19. But senior year of high school, I switched to a brass instrument.
20. Sometimes I like to play a game where you spell a word backwards and I tell you what word it is.
21. I'm terrible at crossword puzzles.
22. If I had to sound out the letters of my nickname in german it would be "yotta yotta"
23. I like to make to do lists with little checkboxes.
24. I drink out of the same coffee mug every day. I rinse it out when I'm done, but I only wash it about once a week. I just found out that my dad does the same thing.
25. I've thrown up on one of my friends before. Sorry about that.
26. I almost failed chemistry in college.
27. I used to request the following as my birthday dinner: barbecued chicken legs, mashed potatoes, and green peas. Then I would mix the peas and the mashed potatoes together. For dessert: yellow cake with chocolate frosting and ice cream on the side. always on the side. never ON the cake.
28. Have you ever tried to write a list of 30 things? I don't recommend it.
29. I hate the word "stinky"
30. The faint smell of dog treats is wafting up from my shorts pocket, and it's making me kind of nauseated.

Rest assured, I won't do that again. Nor will I turn 30 again. Ah, symmetry.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

tinkle tinkle little star

medusa fountain

Awkward food co-op moment of the week:

As I picked my way through the bananas in search of the right green to yellow ratio, I saw an older woman struggling with the bathroom door. She had two large shopping bags that were sitting in the doorway, and she was muttering to herself about the door not closing. I thought she was fussing with the bags in an attempt to drag them into the bathroom with her, and I was about to help her when I heard the distinct sound of water hitting water. That's when I realized the woman was bent over in a pee hunch with the door open.

I was so startled that I just stood there looking around to see if anyone else was aware of the public urination. A woman working her shift walked past me, glanced back at the bathroom and stopped dead in her tracks. She made eye contact with me, and all I could say was, "yeah, i don't know." Before either of us could figure out what to do, the woman finished her business, collected her things and ambled toward the exit.

Who does that?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ears of steel

cover your ears

New York is a loud place. Between the shouting people, the horn honking, the thundering trucks, and the construction work, there is virtually no peace unless you're out and about before 7:30am (and even then, there's no guarantee). The other day I walked past a jackhammer chipping away at a stretch of sidewalk on my way to the Q train. I plugged my ears as I approached the workers, but I watched other people pass by with their hands at their sides as if the clanging was as loud as a baby cooing.

Do these people have ears of steel? Is there some unwritten code that makes you more of a New Yorker if you can withstand ear shattering noises at close range? I find myself plugging my ears a lot (the union square 4/5/6 platform has especially horrendous brake squealing that feels like an irate crow squawking in your ear), and I am often the only person doing it. Am I announcing my status as a transplant? Probably, but I'm going to keep tucking a finger in my ear because I care more about my hearing than I do about looking like a hard-boiled native.

*today's picture is of a kid covering her ears during a very enthusiastic rendition of the star spangled banner at a cyclone's game.

Monday, August 16, 2010

frozen dagger


Do you know that scene from A Christmas Story where the kid gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole? (to my small Jewish readership that may not have seen the iconic goyish film: check out this clip) Well I just had one of those moments with a frozen spoon.

You see, the other day I made frozen yogurt, and it was a colossal fail. I added bourbon, vanilla, and honey to plain homemade yogurt. The end result according to charrow: that tastes just like medicine! Not exactly what you're looking for when you want a frozen treat. So today I bought a few ingredients to attempt a redesign of the frozen medicine. As I marveled at the consistency (bourbon really does make it freeze like commercial grade frozen yogurt), I absentmindedly took a bite. When I tried to pull the spoon away from my mouth there was a sharp ripping sensation. It wasn't as dramatic as making out with a subzero flagpole, but I still don't recommend it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

wisdom from the bleating bandits

just needs a newspaper or a good book

Okay, here's what the goats had to say:

1. they said Write. something. anything. it doesn't matter. they said you like to read pointless shit, so the chances are, someone else will want to read your pointless shit. they said if you keep waiting for a band of people to emerge from the internet clouds and say Please, write more pointless shit! before you put together 6 words and add a period, then you will never write. And forget about writing past the pointless shit into anything worthwhile because you'll never get there if you don't start stomping around in the muck of shitty first drafts. this blog isn't about precision; it's about habit. considering this space the home of a polished polemic is handicapping, and in practice has turned it into an abandoned playground. i don't have platforms. i have pictures and observations and bad metaphors and run on sentences and questionable tense continuity.

2. they said stop making excuses and start training dogs and for god's sake, earn some money. they said there will always be someone who knows more about dogs than you so there's no point in waiting until you feel like you know enough to play with the big boys. you will always feel like you need to know more, and there will always be more to know, so stop waiting for the bear hug of proficiency because you can't get there without screwing up first.

3. they also said clean your damn apartment. to put it bluntly, they said hey idiot, stop reading books about being productive and simplifying your life and think about maybe putting some of that jargon into action.

4. they said if you're going to write a list of goals to accomplish before your next birthday, maybe consider looking at that list every month and picking one thing to focus on. they said there's no way you can accomplish things like learning basic german if you buy a workbook and then let it collect cat hair on the bookshelf for 8 months before you pick it up and say "wow that book is dusty" and then reshelve it for another 8 months.

5. they also said not to share any of their wisdom with the outside world. excuse me while I run from the bleating bandits that are ramming into the front door. good thing I locked it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

i've taken a trip

hey. hey. hey. hey.

Fear not. I went into the woods and was taken in by a trip of goats. They are teaching me the ways of eating everything, fainting at will, and bleating to my hearts content. Soon, I will return to the interwebs and pass on my goatly knowledge.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

in the woods

long day of running in the woods

Today we're taking an Amtrak train up to Massachusetts to spend time with some close friends and a sturdy little cowdog named Earl. There will be woods; there will be books about being In the Woods (a different context, but it's still worth the pun); there will be dog slobber; there will be ticks; there will be laughing and leg slapping, and last, but not least, there will be coffee.

Hopefully our new cat sitter has a good weekend with the hairy tyrants. When I get back we'll talk about that whole 5 on 5 disappearance.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

5 on 5 saturday edition

How about 5 on 6 (pick up sticks) this week? I'm still doing a terrible job of keeping life from seeping into my commitments, but instead of waiting a week and getting it exactly right, I'm going to allow myself a little imperfection and do things* a day late.

#1 Farmers. I have a sensitive stomach. It actually seems to be getting worse, but one of the things I can do to combat the reign of pain that my intestines have undertaken is to eat fresh food. Without farmers (and a whole host of other people down the production line), I would have to suffer through the processed, pre-packaged misery that a lot of people in this country call dinner.

lettuce maximus

#2 Bees. This dovetails with number one because without bees around to pollinate what the farmers are growing, there would be far fewer options in my fruit and veggie arsenal. We went to the Bee-Day festival at the brooklyn botanic gardens last weekend, and it was both informative and depressing to learn about how insanely awesome bees are and how we're losing 30% of the bee population every year.

bee in a haystack

#3 Cows. Apparently it's mother nature week. I feel strange saying I'm grateful for cows because if I was truly grateful, wouldn't I stop eating them? I don't know. For what it's worth, I feel pretty indebted to these lumbering beasts for everything that they provide. I'm trying my best to only eat or drink products from happy cows, and when I do sit down to a dinner that involves beef, I take a moment to say thank you to the animal that lost it's life. Even writing that seems ridiculous (the cow doesn't want my thanks, it's want to stand in a field and eat grass), but that's where I'm at with my part-time vegetarianism.

hungry cow

#4 Detail oriented people. Last week I took several rolls of film to the developer. I set the rolls of film on the counter, and I said "these (clearly segregated rolls) need to be cross-processed and these (clearly segregated rolls) are regular/normal process." The woman working the desk picked up the film, set it on a different counter and said, "okay, I'll write this up and we'll have it by X day." In my haste to get back to Brooklyn and start painting, I didn't stick around while she wrote up the ticket. A few hours later, I got a phone call asking for verification on which rolls of film I wanted cross-processed. She had written up the order in the exact OPPOSITE way from what I requested. Thankfully someone in the darkroom noticed that the request to cross-process negative 35mm film seemed odd (you usually process slide film, not negative film). The mistake wasn't picked up soon enough to save one roll of film, but the rest of the order was salvaged. In an effort to sugar coat her mistake, the woman kept telling me that the cross-processed 35mm film would look "artsy and funky" when it was printed. Thanks but no thanks. If I wanted artsy and unpredictable, I would have asked for it. So to all the detail oriented people who are good at their jobs: thank you. (my apologies for basically double posting this story. clearly i'm still upset about it!)


#5 My mom's horse, Singer. My mom is a perfectionistic workaholic (sorry mom, it's true). Ever since she purchased Singer, she has been slowly but surely waking up to the fact there aren't an infinite number of tomorrows to save for when the work is done. In her line of business (as is true with just about anything), the work will never be done. There will always be one more graph line to plot, one more briefing to polish, and one more unbalanced supervisor expecting more, more, more. But Singer is forcing my mom to sever the corporate umbilical cord for at least a few hours every week. She goes to visit him after work; she volunteers with the therapy riding lessons that her horse participates in; she has her own lessons twice a week. It's pretty amazing how this animal is changing her routine, and I can't tell you how happy I am that my mom is finally doing something for herself.

hungry hippo

*in case you're new to these here awkward lands, every Friday I post a list of 5 things that I'm grateful for (hence the "5 on 5" series title)

Friday, June 11, 2010

5 on 5

Well, well, well, here we are again. Late. For a very important date. What excuse would you like this week? My cat ate the external hard drive? My girlfriend sat on my computer? My mom called and I had to clean my room? I decided to scrub the shower instead of look for inspiring pictures? Yeah, right. I hate cleaning the shower almost as much as I hate washing tupperware by hand. Here, by the power of invested in my ability to procrastinate, are this week's 5 things that I am grateful for:

#1 Old cars. I love taking pictures of them, and I love seeing them around town (as long as I ignore their most likely outdated exhaust systems). My stepfather let me drive his GTO several years ago, and it made me feel like a greaser. When I tried to round a corner without power steering it made me feel like I had muscles made of crisco. Let's just say I had a nice talk with the wrong side of the street until my stepfather grabbed the wheel. Anyway, if I had a dollar for every time I made someone wait while I stopped to ogle a vintage car, well, I'd have a lot more money to develop all the film I keep shooting. (so maybe I should say I'm grateful for the patience of others when I am in the presence of old cars)

toothless chrysler

#2 Film photography. While my budget is considerably worse for the wear, I'm getting really sucked into film photography. Plastic cameras are my current obsession because they're light and unpredictable, but I've got a hand-me-down Canon F-1 that's also stretching the limits of my ability to manually focus and adjust exposures fast enough to get a decent shot. There's something exciting about the delayed gratification of shooting with film and knowing that every shot counts makes me take stock of what I'm doing (most of the time).* Do I feel guilty about the chemicals used for processing? Yes. Are there piles of contact sheets littering the apartment? Yes. Am I going to stop carrying a camera everywhere I go? doubtful. Now all I need is enough space to set up a darkroom...

road trip?

#3 Cheese. I am not grateful for all cheese (stinky cheese, be gone!), but I have to say it does play a pretty major role in my food joy experience. Cream cheese. Goat cheese. Cheddar cheese. Fried Cheese. Cheese on a stick. You get the point. I actually hate swiss cheese, but it was the best cheese picture I could find, so I guess swiss should get its moment in the spotlight.

like a gross sieve

#4 Fresh Fruit. I've been house painting the last few weeks, and every day, I eat an apple on my way to the train station. I have to walk up a pretty significant hill for this fair flat city, and that apple (honey crisp) makes me forget about my aching back and the spot on my knee that I keep banging into the ladder. It almost makes me forget about people who stop in front of me on the sidewalk. Almost.

berry infusion

#5 Accidents. Specifically scooter accidents that make everyone in the building put on their nosy cap and stand outside to survey the damage. Just such an incident led to the awkward start of a friendship with Laura, our neighbor from Atlanta and the aforementioned best cat sitter ever. It wasn't a swift courtship (I think it was 2 weeks before I mustered the courage to leave a note on her door), but it was well worth the sweaty palms. Prior to our formal introduction, we called her The Gay because she drove a car with abortion stickers and an equality symbol. She called us The Rat Tail Gays because of our long flowing lock. It was a match made in introverted heaven. Please note: those are not her glasses and she doesn't usually make that face.

smells funny in here

*perhaps another example of my fetishizing of austerity. 12 shots on a roll = limitation on shooting willy-nilly the way you can with a digital camera.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

the precipice of poo


I'm having a crisis of pet ownership. If you're not in the mood for a long-winded story about cats and/or cat poo, this is not the post for you. But if you, too, have struggled to find a decent pet sitter or have worried about what to do with your furry friends when you leave for that vacation you've been aching to go on, stick around.

The woman who lives above us has two cats. When we first moved in we could hear the cats running from one end of the apartment to the other and occasionally sounding the war cry of feline engagement. At some point, I met the woman in the elevator and mentioned to her that we knew she had cats and would be happy to cat sit if she ever needed it. She told me thanks, but she already has a cat sitter. I considered my neighborly duty done and thanked her for reciprocating the gesture. I was hesitant to take her up on her offer to visit our cats, but I finally broke down and called her one weekend (that's right, I used the phone). As it happens, she wasn't available, but she recommended her own cat sitter, who for the purposes of this post we shall call Wanda.

I called Wanda, and immediately knew she was a little...different. She answered her phone while riding her bicycle and proceeded to have a conversation with me while talking to the cars driving around her. I used to talk (sometimes yell) to other cars while I was driving so I wrote it off as stream of consciousness. Wanda said she would be happy to come by and meet the kidz (as she later referred to them in our email exchanges). Great! A last minute arrangement that will keep Fatty from gorging herself in the first hour of our departure and thus starving the stressed out Petey while we go away for a weekend.

Wanda was opinionated, to say the least. She rides an aging bike that has a seat made of hot pink duct tape. She frowned upon our use of dry food. She was against calling our more rotund cat "Fatty." She had several welcome suggestions for vets. When she left I felt like I had been reprimanded by my mother, but I also felt relieved that someone who seemed knowledgeable and experienced was going to be visiting the hairballs in our absence.

Jump ahead 6 months. After several trial runs of different brands, we've switched the cats to wet food. Wanda now visits them twice a day instead of once a day while we're out of town - a concession that I made after a particularly heinous shit storm of a weekend where there were explosive butt problems and a snow storm that stranded us in MD, much to Wanda's amazement. Backstory: Wanda was convinced the cats were sick. I, after checking out the manufacturers website, was convinced that they (mostly Fatty) had eaten too much food at one time because they were only being fed once a day. Ironic that "organic" "healthy" food can make them crap all over the world if they eat too much of it. I appreciated Wanda's concern and explained the transportation situation (nope, our Amtrak train was cancelled. yes, there really aren't any flights. um, if Amtrak is cancelled, I'm not about to book a bus that's probably not running to drive up a snow blitzed I-95). She was appalled at my inability to return home and proceeded to make me feel terrible for not walking 300 miles to see about some explosive diarrhea.

We recovered from the shit storm and vowed to have Wanda come twice a day to space out the rich food. I asked her not to feed them treats. We came home to find a treat on the desk, evidence of either her spilling pockets or her completely ignoring my request (I'm going to vote for the latter given that her email response to my treat-free request was "HA!"). After our most recent trip of 4 days, there were shit smears on the carpet, litter blobs scattered across the apartment, a nice squishy surprise on the bathroom floor, and the rogue treat left on the desk. In an effort to find out just what happens when she's here -- so as to avoid accusing her of overfeeding the cats or not paying attention to whether fatty eats everything -- I sent Wanda an email asking her to describe how the visits play out. The response I got was less than informative. In fact, it was infuriatingly vague.

Is she overfeeding the cats? Hard to say. Does she give them treats? Probably. Would there be butt smears on the carpet anyway? Quite possible, considering there was one waiting for us when we got up this morning. Do I feel well informed and confident that Wanda will comply with my requests? Not in the slightest.

Needless to say, I would like to discontinue Wanda's services. I have snooped around the interweb looking for a replacement (currently waiting to hear back from ProspectBArk!), and just yesterday I asked another woman that lives in my building for recommendations. I ran into this woman picking out cat food at the local pet supply store, so I figured it was safe to ask for her advice. She rattled off Wanda's name and started fiddling with her fanny pack to see if she had Wanda's phone number with her.

I almost let the woman give me Wanda's info without telling her that I would prefer to never call Wanda again, but I decided to be honest. I told the woman that I actually use Wanda now, but I'm not very happy with her. The woman nodded in agreement and we proceeded to have a conversation about how she doesn't have very much confidence in Wanda either, but she's been using Wanda for so long that she couldn't think about finding someone else. The woman has an older cat that needs to be medicated and instead of asking Wanda to do it, the woman has arranged for her sister to come down from Massachusetts to take care of her cats.

Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Why in the world is this woman loyal to a service provider that is not providing good service?? She said outright that Wanda is not good with her female cat. She agreed that Wanda does not have good communication skills. But "she's reliable and I've used her for so long"...

If Wanda is reliably bad, who cares if she shows up when you need her? If your car mechanic continued to do a mediocre repair job, would you say "yeah, he doesn't really fix my car, but at least he works on it every time I bring it to him?"

Yes, it's uncomfortable to sever a long standing business relationship. I've only been using Wanda for about 10 months, and I feel weird about having to see her everywhere (she cat sits for like half of our building and walks/shuffles with 2 jack russell terriers that live on the corner of our street). But we're talking about the welfare of your pets here. I'm willing to put up with the awkwardness of seeing someone I've essentially broken up with in order to feel good about the kind of care my cats are receiving while I'm gone.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm on the precipice of dealing with an older cat that is just going to poo on things when I'm out of town (or when I'm in town and sitting on the couch). I can't say for sure until I try out another cat sitter and see what happens. What I can say for sure is that I don't have a good feeling about Wanda, and sometimes that's enough to say "No, thanks."

*Today's picture is of Fatty and Laura, the best neighbor/friend/cat sitter in the world. Sadly, she lives in Atlanta and we live in Brooklyn.

Friday, June 4, 2010

5 on 5 donut edition

the perfect donut

Did you know it's National Doughnut Day? I know, it's a little late to share the news, but now you know for next year. In honor of today's innertubular celebration, and in light of my zombie state, I am dedicating 4 of today's 5 on 5 items to doughnuts. Specifically, the 4 types of donuts that make up today's headline image: sunflower seed, carrot cake, blackout, and dulche de leche.

And #5 for this week: motorcycles with sidecars. Doesn't this motorcycle scream for goggles and a leather cap with ear flaps? Perhaps with a passenger wearing matching goggles and eating a donut?

side car envy

Friday, May 28, 2010

5 on 5 the late edition

Okay, so last week I failed. Instead of posting for the 5 on 5 series, I stood on a ladder for hours painting Sprig of Ivy in my mom's new master bedroom. I would have prepared the post ahead of time, but pre-execution* is not my strong suit, and I was up to my eyeballs in Paris Romance (powder pink, in case you're curious). The thing is, I could miss this post every week and have plenty of reasons for not getting the work done. Given the chance, I can make an excuse for just about anything and when I hear myself doing it, I think "wow, I wonder if this sounds as pathetic as it feels."

Example question: "Hey, have you finished your hours for dog school?"

Example response: "Oh no, I was sick this one week, then this other week they didn't go because there weren't enough dogs, and then I went away to help my mom paint, and then I couldn't go because they wanted to leave early, and then I fell into a black hole and my cat puked on my favorite shoes so I couldn't leave the house."

Okay, she didn't puke on my shoes, but she did leave huge butt streaks on the carpet. Anyway, I don't know what my point is, besides self-deprecation and the need for some accountability, so here are this week's 5 things that I'm grateful for:

#1 Horses. I'm not particularly fond of riding horses, but I like being around them, and I love taking pictures of them, especially when they do silly things with their mouth.

cheeky or sleepy?

#2 Getting enough sleep. Right now I make my own hours, so I have a decent amount of control over my sleep. When I don't get enough of it, I can tell immediately that the world is not my friend. Everything gets harder, including things like being human and avoiding donuts.

i've ALWAYS slept with socks on (damn it)

#3 Having access to clean water. This one almost deserves its own post, but for now, I'll just say that I realize how incredibly lucky I am to be able to walk 8 steps into my kitchen and fill up my nalgene bottle with drinkable water as many times as I want.

marsh grass

#4 Having an air conditioner that works. The only reason we would see a thermostat reading like this in our current apartment is if we chose to torture ourselves by not turning on the A/C unit.

just the beginning

#5 The patience of other people. Let's face it, I'm a perfectionist. Working with other people in a situation that I feel reflects my ability turns me into less than a joy to be around. This past weekend, I was a horrible backseat painter and no one got angry with me (outwardly anyway). If someone had said the same things to me, I can't say that I would have reacted as calmly and constructively as my family did.

oh how she smites

*I almost wrote forethought, but that's not right. I have great forethought, terrible fore-action.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

attack of the puddle

ugliest fountain in savannah

One major difference between stepping into a 4 ft wide*, ankle deep puddle on a 50 degree day in Brooklyn and willfully jumping into a fountain fully clothed on my college campus is that I expected to get soaking wet when I jumped into fountains. I was not, however, expecting to have sponges for shoes when I crossed a street this afternoon. Damn expectations. They get you every time.

Note to self: don't eat apples while walking in the rain. You will lose focus and forget about the dreaded curb sinkholes that develop when it rains.

*It's important to note how wide the puddle was because when I stepped into it with my right foot, there was no way for me to scamper out of it because it was too wide. In my effort to hop out of the ankle sucking puddle, I splashed myself even more! Too bad I didn't splash the teenagers behind me laughing at my mishap.

Monday, May 17, 2010

tap on the shoulder of somewhere else

living on the edge

Leaving NYC for a weekend makes me a realize a few things that I love and hate about this city.


1. The tap water. Dear god, the tap water in other cities is gross compared to NYC.

2. The diversity. The first several hours in Boston, all I could think was "this place is crawling with late 20's/30-something white men who all look like they fell out of a bank and are on the way to meet their aging greek brothers in a pub to watch the Sox game." I'm sure NYC is also teeming with sports teamsters, but the apparent population gets watered down by the sheer quantity of other types of people walking around.

3. The public transportation. We were in Boston for the weekend, and things went perfectly fine with their trains and buses, but the stations feel like they're few and far between compared to NYC's ''walk 4 blocks in any direction and get on the train" setup. (I know this isn't as true for the outskirts of the subway lines, but we're fortunate enough to live in the subway glut of brooklyn.)


1. Having to jockey for position almost every minute of your day, whether it's on the clogged sidewalks, in the train, on stairwells, in stores. There are people everywhere and it always seems like the world is so busy with their cellphone or their conversations to notice that someone else is trying to navigate this life. The sidewalks of Boston felt deserted compared to the whirlpool of NYC walkways.

2. Along the same vein, the intense feeling of over population that I get when we're on the highway heading back into the city. It feels like every square inch is spoken for, even the designated "wide open spaces" of parks.

3. The go-go-GO pace. This is a source of pride and angst because I feel like I've adapted quickly to the breakneck speed of walking, thinking, and navigating, but I also relish the slowing down that occurs in other places. Granted, the suburban pace is glacial and exasperating, but I could handle the pace of a city like Boston. Too bad it is an actual glacier about 4 months out of the year.

It's clear to me that I am not a New York City (or Brooklyn) lifer. The itch for space and solitude is just too strong. But the balance of my list (it's unintentionally 3 x 3) is a good indicator that we'll stick around for awhile longer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

5 on 5 the hungry edition

The only problem with having a Friday deadline is having a Friday deadline. We keep going away for all or parts of the weekend and there are always 27 things that need to be done before we leave. This weekend it's Boston to visit the droid (Charrow's sister). Now that the excuses are over, here are this week's 5 things:

#1 Cheeseburger & Fries from Shake Shack. One of my last holdovers from eating dead things is a good cheeseburger. The post consumption guilt never manages to trump the pre-consumption salivation. So when I eat a burger, it needs to be worth it and shake shack fits the bill. The fries are also some of the best I've ever had. If I could afford it (physically and fiscally) and it wasn't morally questionable, I would eat this for lunch every day for the rest of my life.

shake shack special

#2 Having an artistic girlfriend who does strange freelance work. Through a connection with her design school, Charrow scored a gig painting mannequins for the 2008 Atlanta Pride. The mannequins sat around the living room for a weekend and scared the crap out of us every time we walked in the room. It was creepy and pretty damn funny. Considering how much I need the laugh at the time, I'm happy she had such a strange assignment.


pride of the bosoms

#3 That we don't have bed bugs. Ah, the creepy crawlies. It's something we all fear isn't it? Being infested? I've lived with fleas before (thanks to a few infestations on our family dog) and I think the only thing that makes me more hostile than being bitten by fleas is being bitten by mosquitoes. I imagine bed bugs make fleas and mosquitoes seem like a summer treat. No popsicle for me, thanks, I'll just sit outside with the mosquitoes for awhile!

things you don't want to see on a billboard

#4 That this wasn't my ice cream cone. Yes, I'm losing steam and I'm hungry.

summer fail

#5 That Charrow is willing to put up with and assimilate to my incessant need to reorganize. When I was a kid I used to organize my baseball cards by putting them into teams and then putting the teams into alphabetical order in the binders. I don't think I went so far as to alphabetize the individual players, but I wouldn't put it past me. The tendency to organize has morphed into an obsession with purging objects. I'm only sort of successful with the process because I get really stuck on the best way to get rid of things. Will this flimaflang actually sell at the Salvation Army or should I throw it away? I don't want to think about it rotting (or not rotting) in a landfill so I'll just put it back in the drawer. And repeat. This picture was taken when Charrow reached a breaking point between our storage capabilities and her amazing ability to produce art. LOTS of art.

the byproduct of being prolific

Friday, May 7, 2010

5 on 5

Another week, another round of gratitude. I'm not going to get too serious with this little experiment because let's face it, I like to hide behind humor (it's like a warm bubble bath after shoveling snow). Without further ado, here are 5 things* I'm grateful for this week:

#1 No longer having a sausage arm. September 30th of 2009 I had my arm chopped in pieces and reattached with a metal plate. Radical surgery for a radically painful wrist. So far I'm pretty happy with the results, and I am extremely happy that I no longer have to get help from Charrow to put in my contacts or try to open a bottle of pain pills with my feet (it's pretty doable, by the way).

bionic arm

#2 Watermelon that's so juicy you have to hold it away from you when you take a bite. This one kind of speaks for itself.


#3 Good Coffee. I've been fortunate to have access to high quality coffee that comes from distributors and roasters who care about the process all the way down to the farmers growing the beans. I say this less as a scoff to the other guys and more as a thank you to the people who have taken it to another level.

cupping demo

the hopper

#4 People who are willing to make a funny face. One of my favorite things to do is ask people to make to a funny face so I can take their picture. I've had less receptive subjects and then I've had people like Peter (first pic). Guess which one is more fun to photograph. I have my dad to thank for this obsession (second pic; unprovoked).

the elzer family legacy revealed

see, i told you: genetic

#5 Friends who allow me to document the silly things they do (sometimes at my request). My philosophy is to stay on this side of the camera, which puts my friends in the sometimes awkward position of being documented, for better or for worse. I like to request silly things from them so they can at least have a good reason for looking like this:



geeked out

is there something up my nose?

*there will be 5 concepts/things, but there may be more than 5 pictures required to fully illustrate the point. this disclaimer is in response to a certain someone squawking "that's more than 5 things!" when previewing the post.