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