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Kidneys of Steel

I keep putting off writing this post. It's a beautiful day, where I am, in a bright room with a breeze, and yet here I sit, sad for no reason. My normal coping method is to lean into it, to hunker down and find a way to enjoy the bluer moods. Don't feel like smiling? Then don't. The only problem is that I work in a public place and it's 50% of my job to be welcoming and helpful. If I were the boss of me, today I'd have sent me home.

Peewee died ten days ago, and I have to figure that's at least part of the sadness. I keep thinking I've cried all my tears when, whoops, here come some more. 

He almost made it to nine years old, which is a good, long life for an English bulldog. I read an interesting article a few years ago that talked about how bad the breeding has gotten for many English bulldogs, and as an example they used Uga, the mascot for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. There have been a string of white, male bulldogs named Uga who trot out onto the field while people cheer, and then hop back into their crates and die. At young ages, like two and three. Yay for over-bred dogs. Peewee had congestive heart failure for the last two years of his life -- not a disease bulldogs are known for, surprisingly -- and I threw thousands of pills down his throat to keep him alive and snoring in Jackson's bed at night. (If you live north of L.A. and need a good veterinary cardiologist -- and I sincerely hope you never do -- I recommend Dr. Nick Russell without reservation). With Dr. Russell's guidance, my willingness to max out a credit card, and Peewee's kidneys of steel, we gave him two extra years of life. Our regular vet said she was amazed at how well we took care of him, when most other dogs would have been long dead by that point. Most people have a $500 limit for what they'll spend to save a pet's life, I'm told. I respect your $500 limit, but we exceeded that to a laughable degree. Did we love our dog more than you loved yours? I don't know. Ours was a pain in the ass. He barked at strangers, and at people he'd known for years. He produced impenetrable walls of gas from his butt. He also had the softest ears, and the biggest, brownest eyes, and when he liked you he'd sit on your feet. And he had just as much of a spark as you or me.

Suspicious pecker.

Suspicious pecker.

Remember Cookie? She's dead, too. I stopped writing about her a long time ago, though occasionally people would e-mail and ask what had happened to her. 

Sick for eight days straight.

Sick for eight days straight.

They say there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, but you don't have to be abusive to be a bad owner, all you have to be is dumb. Cesar Milan would have wept to see how lost I was with Cookie. Me trying to tell her what to do was a joke. She'd listen to Jack all day long, but I was mildew to her; I was a mushroom.

Cookie and Alice.

And yet Cookie was a cuddler. She was the neediest, lap-sitting-est bulldog on earth, and everyone loved her. I took her to three different trainers, and they all said, What a wonderful dog! She's so sweet! She sits, she's gentle with children. Enjoy her! But she had no respect for me whatsoever. I did not deserve to control her leash, and she made sure I knew it. She was constantly nipping at my hands -- "correcting" me, I'm told -- leaving bruises but never drawing blood. I had no idea why until I read that you're never supposed to hold a puppy over your head, because they'll take that to mean they're superior to you. I don't know if it's true, but I know that I hoisted Cookie up into Jackson's bunk bed every night so she could sleep with him, and I can imagine, every night, Cookie looking down on me and thinking, Yup, I'm the Alpha Bitch. Sleep tight, Beta.

The struggle I continually lost.

The struggle I continually lost.

In the morning I'd take her down and then put on her leash so she could go out to pee and she'd nip and yank and drag me up the stairs and then I'd cry because I didn't know how to grow a spine and dominate her -- be the pack leader! -- like I guess I was supposed to. I called Marcel, the breeder we'd gotten her from, and asked him what he thought I should do. Like any good breeder, Marcel is involved in rescue work and he said he knew the perfect home for her, if I wanted to let her go. There was no judgment on his end, so I let her go. The people in her new home named her Roxy, and they had a little girl who loved her until Cookie/Roxy died of bone cancer two years later. So thanks, Universe, for sparing us that, at least. We'd already done the cancer thing with Katie anyway. Katie Potatie. I think I have a few tears left for her, too.

Tortoises smell delicious.

Tortoises smell delicious.

I might as well come clean about Peanut, while we're at it! Remember our tortoise? We had some good times.

I wish I had video of this.

I wish I had video of this.

Peanut was entertaining as hell but she must have hated us because as soon as we moved to a new house in March of 2012, she R-U-N-N O-F-T. It was, again, my fault. I took her outside to our new brick patio and said, Look at all this space you have now, Peanut! Thinking our fence was tight and secure; thinking, She can't move that fast and I'll only be gone a minute. I went inside to get her some lettuce, and when I came back she had vanished. I was frantic. I hoped she might be hiding under a hedge or something -- I thought she'd be back when she got hungry enough, but now it's been four years so maybe she's not hungry anymore.

BEFORE YOU WRITE THAT ANGRY E-MAIL: about a year after she'd disappeared I saw a post on a neighborhood message board asking if anyone had lost a tortoise. I immediately e-mailed and said, Yes! I have lost a tortoise! and asked them to send me a photo of the tortoise they'd found, and I will bet you my last bottle of Wolfgang Puck Caesar Dressing that it was Peanut. Her shell looked a little dry, but she had all the same markings, I couldn't believe it. Somehow she'd made it out of our neighborhood and ACROSS A BUSY STREET and into a new yard. But someone else had already claimed her! The lady who posted the "lost tortoise" announcement apologized to me, but I guess the other people said Peanut was theirs so she let them have her. I forget what they called her, something fancy. Maybe she has a little velvet bed now, and her own princess phone. I almost mounted a protest to get her back, but I let Peanut go, not wanting to break someone else's heart.

IMG_2825.jpg

So now we have this little bit.

Jackson named her Cassidy, but we call her Cassie. She's teeny and she sleeps with him every night.

She's indoor-only -- I will not have her carried off by coyotes, thank you very much -- and she likes everybody.

I think we really lucked out this time. I mean, she's going to live forever, right? 

Forkhead

I just discovered that I have no healthcare coverage, and that I have been completely vulnerable re: healthcare coverage since May 1 thanks to Covered California. They're a badly programmed automated nightmare, if you haven't heard, which may be worse than a bureaucratic wasp's nest of red tape because a badly programmed automated nightmare is just a runaway train of indifference, whereas a bureaucratic wasp's nest of red tape can at least be argued with. But you can't even get an automated nightmare on the phone. Covered California makes me grateful for the wonderful people of the Internal Revenue Service. Think about that for a minute

My husband is covered, thank God, and I think my son is, too, I won't know until I make some phone calls in the morning, fully expecting never to get a human being on the other end of the line. I am honestly too upset to write right now, but I've promised myself I'd do this no matter how I felt, so here we are. Not very satisfying for you to read, I know. If I were to draw a cartoon of myself right at this moment it would be of a woman jabbing herself in the forehead with a fork.

Here's a photo I took on a walk through Ellwood a few weeks back. That bird doesn't have any health insurance, either. Take your vitamins, bird! Stay hydrated! 

Wet Cement

Well, guess what? After five months of office cake, sitting in a comfy desk chair, and not being on my feet and hefting large bags of books up and down the library stairs all day, by January I was up about fifteen/twenty pounds. Which, frankly, wasn't a big deal, body-image wise, which surprised me. I was totally fine with the chub. What I wasn't totally fine with was that my clothes didn't fit anymore. I liked my clothes, and I wanted to avoid the ferocious waste of time and money it would take to replace my entire wardrobe. Also, my blood pressure had ticked up so much I could hear my own pulse.

Then I squeezed a sensible thought out of my frosting-filled brain: maybe I should stop eating the free cake. I thought walking to work might help, too. My friend Pam chipped in and helped me buy a Fitbit for my birthday. Then I put on my hikey shoes, strapped on a backpack that carried a healthy lunch, and off I went.

Would you like to see what I found as I traveled the sidewalks of my town?

There are decades of important sentiments like this preserved in the cement of Santa Barbara, California. 

Huh. Okay.

We've got all summer, right?

Uniformity

After seeing the Bill Cunningham documentary and being sort of jealous that he wore the same blue jacket every day, and then reading that article by the fashion editor who bought five of the same blouse and slacks for work, I've been wondering if somewhere in the world there waited for me an outfit I could commit to five-to-seven days a week. AND THEN IT HAPPENED. Last month I was cruising the J. Jill sale rack and out leapt at me a dress that, in person and on my person, is the perfect, roomy, pocketed dress equivalent of the Cunningham blue jacket. I seriously considered going to the website and buying four more of them but in the end settled on just buying one more because the fabric is too heavy for summer in an office in an old building without air conditioning. And because I am not Chairman "Let's All Wear The Same Jacket Forever" Mao, there will no doubt come a day when I am so sick of those dresses that I will want to douse them all in gasoline and burn them on the barbecue.

So then I continued on to eBay and bought all the black cotton dresses.

I have zero problem wearing used clothing.

Technically, the one on the far right is wool, and I'm here to tell you that the best time to be the only person to put a lowball bid on a wool dress is in the middle of summer. They are, from left to right, Eileen Fisher, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Hanna Andersson, and another J. Crew and three of them have pockets and they all fit because the sellers posted the measurements, thank you, sellers. I have been curious about Hanna Andersson forever because the catalogs are like a children's fantasy of adorable clothes that you'd wear to a gingerbread party in the parlor of the nicest grandma who loves you more than anyone who ever wore sparkly clogs, and she gave you those clogs even though your mom said they were too expensive. So it was nice to find a H. Andersson dress at cut-rate eBay prices and discover that the quality's really good and who gives a shit if you're wearing a cosy, shapeless black sack? It's a shapeless black sack with pockets.

So that's what I've been up to, gearing up to do a full Georgia O'Keeffe (she's another one, everything in black or white, lots of shapeless smocks, oh my god, SMOCKS) while the ghost of my mother looks back at me from the mirror and says, "But don't you want to wear a little color with that?" 

NEW NICKNAME FOR PEEWEE, SUMMER 2015 EDITION

Mr. Wazz-ma-tazz (after he peed on the rug) (he was ashamed, but I blame the increased dosage of diuretics)

I AM CONVERSANT IN WEE

I, as a completely sane pet owner, both sing and talk to my dog pretty much constantly, because obviously he understands me in ways other cannot. I often find myself standing in the kitchen rinsing the dishes before they go into the dishwasher with Peewee sitting nearby, gazing at my ankles while wondering why I throw out so much food that could be going quite comfortably into his mouth.

"You're allergic to chicken, Peewee, so stop sending me your mind thoughts!" I'll say.

Peewee will perk up his ears. He heard his name.

"I know you love chicken, Peewee, but it gives you itchy scabs," I'll say. "Itchy scabs are the worst. Right, Peewee?"

And then from the living room Jack will say, "Right, mom, you're the best."

I'm starting to think that someday Jack will understand me as well as Peewee does.

Garden party Wee


Free Fruit

Somebody gave us a box of oranges -- that's what people do in California! Give each other free fruit and wait for tourists to ask us for directions to the beach. So someone gave Jack this box of oranges and said, "They're juicing oranges." I looked at them very carefully but the only clue that they weren't fit for straight eating was that they weren't all-the-way-around orange. In fact I'd go so far as to say they were partially green, which seemed kind of a racist way to divide oranges into "eating" and "juicing." But when I finally peeled one to eat I discovered that it also had seeds, so I guess America wants its eating oranges to be sexless and monochromatic and then we feed our despicable seeded multicolor breeding oranges into industrial juicers and to hell with them. 

(As an aside, I prefer my orange juice to be pulp-free in my little evening cocktails* but there's an old market by the beach that is my number one destination for fresh-squeezed daytime orange juice because I'd swear they just throw the oranges in whole, peel and seeds and all, there's no other way to account for how three-dimensional it tastes.)

* Half orange juice, half fizzy water of choice (Pellegrino for those who like a less-aggressive bubble), and one shot of Hornitos tequila, served over ice in a clean glass and stirred with a room-temperature spoon

So Peewee's had a rough ride this month. He's turning eight in September, which for bulldogs is like, "Welp, I guess he'll be dead soon." He's been slowing down some, and we thought he was gaining weight due to his longstanding refusal to walk more than half a block in any direction, but when I took him in for a check-up the doctor ended up taking 3.2 liters of fluid out of his abdomen. So my dog wasn't fat, he was just turning into a stoic, furry water balloon.

Black is so slimming.

The doctor wanted to see him for a follow-up a week later, where he pulled out another 1.5 liters of fluid. Peewee is now so fluid-free I can feel his spine. I'm taking him back next week just to make sure we've got his meds sorted out (we've upped his diuretics and his kidneys seem to be able to take it), and when I do I'm imagining driving home with a sentient bag of organs that growls when you play tug with it.

Wrapped up like a birthday present.

Honestly, we all expect to wake up one morning and find him dead. We will then go through an appropriate period of mourning and then the plan is to get a dog AND a cat so they can be friends, but it's hard to think about that when the Wee is begging for half of my ham sandwich or snoring softly on the floor with his paws tucked under his chest. 

Oh, Peewee.

Perhaps because of all this I have become unaccountably attached to an Instagram account for a rescue in L.A. called Road Dogs, and when the woman who runs it asked for help running her Twitter and Pinterest accounts, I waved my hand in the air and said ME ME ME, PICK ME. So I'm here to ask you to follow Road Dogs on Twitter and Pinterest for lots of heartwarming rescue success stories (and the occasional, "Wow, people suck."). 

With Jackson going into high school (I KNOW, IT'S CRAZY, HE'S A FRESHMAN) and my novel finally being sent off to be read by The People Who Could Change My Life, it felt like high time for me to work full-time once again, thank you, Craigslist. So I put on my cherry-red Fluevogs and went interviewing. The first job I interviewed for was to be my own boss, i.e., supervisor of the branch I've been working at for five years already. I will frankly tell you that not getting chosen for that hurt, but it would have hurt a lot more if the woman they chose instead of me was doing a terrible job, which she isn't, she turned out to be the better choice, I am sort of weirdly pleased to say. So that sucked for a week or so and then I got over it, but then I still needed to find another job. I applied for some part-time jobs in the hopes that I could stay at the library and work two jobs, but nobody called me back so I went and found one, single full-time job that I will tell you more about once I start. I am very sad to leave the library (very!) but I'm looking forward to being able to walk to work, unless we up and float away when El Niño hits this year (which is predicted to be like "a river falling from the sky"), in which case I might spring for a bus pass so Jackson and I can slosh to the bus stop together in the morning and then take off in opposite directions toward our new adventures.

My favorite moments from Jackson's middle school graduation yesterday

1. Blowing up balloons the night before graduation in a last-ditch effort to make up for all the years I did zero volunteering at school. I got assigned to balloon detail with two sixth-grade girls and their grandmothers, one of whom was a salty old sailor who maybe would have preferred a nice cocktail somewhere to blowing up balloons with me. At one point she chided the girls for not blowing up their balloons to the full extent of their potential. One of them had a small, squishy balloon that she was batting around in lieu of developing a work ethic and Salty Gran looked at it and said, "You need to blow harder, that ballon's retarded." I was in some sort of ballsy mood and said to her, "We don't say retarded any more, we say developmentally challenged," and Salty Gran raised her eyebrow at me and said, "Oh, really?" I doubt I opened her eyes to the linguistic nuances of our time, but it did give me some insight into the woman I'm going to be in a couple of decades when some smart-ass tells me, "Oh, we don't call them robots anymore, we call them extra-humanoid-Americans," and I'll be like, "Okay, well, your extra-humanoid-American needs to pump my hydro-gas a little faster, I am on my way to get my head frozen and the cryolab does not reschedule missed appointments."

2. The fifth grader who was standing at the door to the gym handing out travel packs of tissues, and who looked at my all-set-to-start-sniveling face and said, "Do you maybe want two?"

3. Unsuccessfully repressing my sobs while Mr. Reed told everyone how loyal my son was, and how he told the truth instead of just saying nice things to make people like him, and how much he loved his family, and how his teachers had to peel him off my leg every morning in pre-kindergarten.

4. Delicious cake at ten in the morning.

5. Having one of Jackson's classmates, a really wonderful girl who got up at 5:45 to get her makeup on (her makeup was perfect), come up to me as I was leaving and say, "I like your tights!" It was chilly and I was wearing mustard-colored tights with red shoes and other clothes, and I said, "Thanks! I got them at Macy's, they're HUE." She smiled politely, so I continued, "H-U-E is the brand," as she continued to give me a polite, fixed smile, so I went on, "They're great, they have a lot of colors, although these are like five years old," and then I realized that despite her ongoing smile, the light behind her eyes had gone out so I said, "Okay, then! Congratulations!" Apparently she didn't expect me to start telling her every single thing I could think of about my tights? I don't know how girls talk to each other, it's an ongoing problem for me and I imagine things are just going to get weirder as we move on into high school and Jackson starts warning people before they meet me: "Just so you know, my mom is going to take everything you say as an opportunity to treat you like a library patron who doesn't understand Google."

Some of these kids will never see each other again.

6. The school secretary reminding me of when Jackson, at age five, asked if she could come over to our house for a playdate.

World champion school secretary and black-belt shoe collector, Mrs. Loster.

Lotusland

There's this place in Santa Barbara called Lotusland. It was the brainchild of a somewhat eccentric former opera singer named Ganna Walska who went through six husbands and had very little self-control when it came to plants.  She was born poor and at the age of nineteen she eloped with a Russian count. Here is a picture of her I found on the internet.

Ganna Walska

Ganna Walska

 Apparently Ganna Walska was a terrible singer, but her fourth husband, who was chairman of International Harvester, and who once had an animal-gland transplant in the belief that it would fortify his masculinity (and whose first wife, Edith Rockefeller, believed she had been married to King Tutankhamen in a previous life), threw a ton of money into voice lessons and bankrolled lavish opera productions for her to star in. Orson Welles said he used Ganna Walska as the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane.  I mean, just look at her. 

"Water stairs"

Ganna Walska bought the Lotusland property in 1941. The guide who led the tour I went on described Walska as somewhat of a hoarder, but her hoarding tendencies veered away from stacks of newspapers and used sponges in rinsed-out Ziploc bags and more in the direction of roughly 3,000 kinds of crazy, crazy plants. She knew what it was like to be poor and she knew what it was like to be rich and she sold her jewelry and her clothes and her Faberge egg so she could buy more plants for Lotusland.

Cactuseses

Cactuses for example. Good lord, she had a lot of cactuses. That's not even the half of it. I didn't notice it until now but those yellowish guys in front look like they have faces on their tops, like happy cartoon penises. Well, now I can't unsee that. Enjoy.

Cactoose

This one lacks the infrastructure to stand on its own, but as with many things that become the object of someone's unbridled affection, it will be propped up until it begs for death.

Cracktus -- because she was addicted to them, like crack. Hilarious!

I once knew a professional feng shui practitioner who told me never to put poky, spiky plants around my front door unless I wanted to uninvite people inside. Ganna Walska's entire driveway is bordered with cactuses, so from that we might conclude that you didn't want to roll up to Ganna's house when you were drunk. 

Spooky

Gah, more cactuses. These are weeping Euphorbia ingens, an African plant with poisonous sap. If you're going to cut these down you need to build a wall of fire around them to "set" the sap so it doesn't eat you alive if you touch it. Fun!

Delft

Here's some Dutch tile for you to look at while you frantically scrape all that caustic African sap off your hands.

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco, or the Dragon tree, another African import. It's sap is red and is known as "dragon's blood" and it's very thick and useful if you want to mummify someone.  The fruit of the Dragon tree was the favorite food of the dodo bird, but once dodos went extinct there were no other birds to poop out Dragon tree seeds, and so now Dragon trees are endangered, because that's how nature works.

Slag

These chunks of green glass were everywhere. They are actually slag left over from glass manufacturing. Ganna Walska used to get truckloads of them from the factory where they made the bottles for Arrowhead water. Now Arrowhead comes in plastic bottles, and also California is in a drought and I am going to write a letter to our dear governor Jerry Brown so he will tell Arrowhead to quit pumping water out of our aquifers and selling it to the rest of the country. Tap water, people! Get one of those Britta jugs and quit dehydrating us. Also, I have magenta shoes.

Topiary is the tops

I will never not love looking at topiary. It makes so little sense.

Grrr

Somebody gave this one a laser eyeball! Run!

This topiary is extinct

Dinosaur topiary is among the best topiary, even if it lacks eyes that shoot lasers.

Astrology

Astrology.

Julia Child is not buried here

This is a terrible picture but those are Julia Child roses. She let them name this rose after her because its yellow was the same color as a perfect egg yolk. And also butter. Julia Child lived out the end of her life in a nursing home just down the street from Lotusland. Butter, eggs, caustic sap: the circle of life.

Mesmerizing

Another thing Ganna Walska collected? Rocks, of course. "I want to make a display for all my rocks," I imagine her telling the gardeners one morning as she stood on the patio outside her bedroom wearing a sheer white negligee and an ostrich-feather hat. And then some devoted employee of hers tumbled all her rocks so they'd be the same size and she could fiddle with them until they turned out like this.

I once went to a bullfight, did I ever tell you that story? It was pretty awful.

"I need some of your divine hand-painted tiles!" she said over the telephone to a man in Spain. She had to shout because long-distance connections were terrible back then. "There's a little skirmish near here," he replied, holding a phone to his ear with one hand and beating back fascists with the other, "but I'll get them to you as soon as I can."

Phyllis Diller's husband's name was Fang

"We have some Dracula-themed tiles," he went on. "I can't seem to give them away. Do you want those, too?"

"They're horrible," she said. "Send me everything you have."

That is one sexy Poseidon

Mer-men! Put your tridents in the air like you just don't care.

Friend!

This guy. Look at that face. He was standing in a little outdoor amphitheater area getting worn away by time and the elements and I couldn't get enough of those eyes. All the little statues in this area were so-called "grotesques." But this one I wanted to take home and prop up his little feet and make him a hearty stew and let Peewee snore in his lap. I think he deserves it, he's done enough.

You can't see me!

Then the one in the bonnet was all, "Wait, why can't we come, too?" But the little egg-headed guy was like, "You can't take me, I have a clever little stone wig!" I don't know what happened to his arm but at least it was a clean break.

The birds

Part of the property has a "blue" garden where all the plants have a blue tinge to them, which is really just a coating you can scrape off with your thumbnail that protects the plant from the sun. Someone put some giant cut-out crows in the area. There was a bird-art exhibit back in the main house. It was actually quite good but I don't want to talk about it, this post is too long and I need a snack.

You eat the clam before the clam eats you

We will remember Ganna Walska as she was, busy pillaging the South Seas for its giant clam shells and making hideous yet somehow elegant fountains out of them while her last and much-younger-than-her husband, an early American proponent of yoga and Tibetan Buddhism, lay dead somewhere in Pakistan, his body never to be recovered. Here's a picture of him that I found on the internet.

Theos Barnard

Lotusland.org if you want more information. This post was not sponsored, I just felt like writing it.

In Clover

February whooshed by, as it always does, but this year found me burrowing with increasing satisfaction into the unending loop-de-loop of my daily routines. Peewee often wakes me up with his grimbling and herffing some time between 6:00 and 7:30 with the hope that Jack or I or someone tall enough to turn a doorknob will free him from the cozy prison of Jackson's room so he can go take a pee, for god's sake. On the mornings he sleeps in past 8:00 I think he must have tried to make one of us feel sorry for him a lot earlier but we all just slept through it. 

This is a photo I took of Peewee on our front "lawn," which you can see puts him chin-deep in clover, despite the drought. Jack uses this photo as the wallpaper on his phone, and I realized that every one of us has a different photo of Peewee as both wallpaper and lock screen on five or six different devices.

If I wake up before Peewee has started grinding his engine, I lie in bed and do a kundalini meditation. This is something I started doing last year when I was researching enlightenment for my book. I've boiled it down to a short routine where I concentrate my mind/energy/feelings on the base of my spine until the whole sitting area of my body feels kind of tingly and warm. Then I move up and forward to chakra #2, the sex-parts region, until it feels the same way. Then #3, just below the navel, where I'll usually start to feel my digestion rumble a little. Then #4 heart, #5 throat, where I'll occasionally feel my pulse tapping in my neck, or sometimes just a weird sensation in my chin. After that I go to #6 between the eyes, and #7 the top of the head. Six and seven are the hardest, a lot of days I feel nothing at all when I get up into my head, though one day last summer I felt quite literally like I had a third eye that was trying to blink open, and that was enough to make me take the exercise a lot more seriously from then on. Then, lastly, I start at the bottom and inhale my way up from one to seven, then exhale down my body from seven back to one. I do that three times and then I get up in case Peewee is ready to lose his bladder all over the floor. 

While Peewee has his pee (oui), I start the coffee machine and start rolling up his many doggy heart pills in little balls of whatever meat we have on hand. Cold cuts, raw hamburger, leftover fish -- you know, the sorts of things you really want to stick your hand into first thing in the morning. I leave the back door propped open while I make a double cappuccino so Peewee can come in when he's done investigating the yard. Then he'll walk into the kitchen and sit in the doorway to show me he's ready for his pill-breakfast.

Who's a good boy? Peewee is.

After that I have about twenty minutes to sit and drink my coffee alone before I have to get Jackson up, make lunches, etc., and these are the twenty minutes where I open up my novel doc and tweak a scene or two because I'm draft number four now and, barring the need for a giant rewrite based on some devastating feedback from the friends I am lucky to have reading it right now, I'm pretty close to done. Good ideas seem to come to me in bed about once a week. At 7:15 this morning, for example, I remembered that one character had just disappeared about three-quarters of the way through my story, but I suddenly knew the perfect way to wind up his storyline in a sentence or two near the end. These solutions don't always come when I want them, but they seem to show up when they're ready. I know that probably sounds annoyingly mystical, and it's probably just a cheap way of saying that I wrote a really, really shitty first draft and it took me two years to figure out how to resolve the story arc of the main character's pug. Take it however you want it.

So, happy March! My wish for you this month is less snow and more sun, or less sun and more rain, or for whatever seasonal norms your area depends on to prevail despite what we've done to the planet's atmosphere. And maybe loosen up your chakras a little -- it's good for your skin, and it's not bad for your orgasms, either.

 

Happy Birthday!

On January 9, the day before my birthday, which is January 10, I started gearing up for the thing that happens on Facebook when the site notifies your friends it's your birthday and maybe a third of them come out to say hello. January 9 was my friend Toni's birthday, my high school tennis team doubles partner who I hadn't seen since 1982, and whose Facebook page I hadn't visited for like a year. But I knew she'd been in treatment for cancer, so if it's possible to visit someone's Facebook page gingerly, that's what I did. I tiptoed over having no idea what I was about to see.

The top posts on her wall were all, "Happy birthday! Hope it's a great day!" but that wasn't reassuring at all so I scrolled down a little farther and the posts said, "We miss you so much," and you can see where this is going. I scrolled back to September and saw a post from her daughter that said, "School started. Yay." In July there were posts by people obviously dealing with fresh grief, in June I saw announcements for a memorial service, and then in May there was Toni sitting in a chair with an oxygen tube in her nostrils and a dog on her lap.

Those "Have a great day!" posts on the top of her page made me feel kind of stupid on behalf of the people who left them, because I do that all the time, say happy birthday to someone on Facebook without knowing whether they're alive or dead. I had another friend die last year and I watched his Facebook page turn into kind of a nice place where people unloaded funny photos and told him how they felt about him, even though he'd never write back. The other friend of mine who died wasn't on Facebook, so he's having a sort of old-fashioned death with just a tombstone and me bothering his sister to find out what happened.

Anyway, the next day, when I started getting a few Happy Birthdays on my own Facebook page, I started responding to each and every one of them, and do you know why? To prove I wasn't dead. It was my conscious and maybe somewhat urgent intention to show everyone on Facebook that I was still alive. I kept my responses short, just little things like, "Hi!" and "Thanks!" though if someone wrote something a little longer or more personal I'd respond in a longer and more personal fashion. Unsurprisingly, I ended up having a really nice time on Facebook chatting with people I hadn't spoken to in years, and I plan to continue doing it every year because I want you to know that the year I don't respond to your happy birthday greetings, that's how you'll know I'm dead. (Or that my account was hacked.) I know there are online death services that will -- I'm not sure what they do, actually, e-mail everyone in your contacts list when you die? But I'm too cheap and too busy at the moment, so Facebook will have to do.

Not dead.

Not dead.

Recommencement

Jack had four gigs this week, which meant four dinners were on me. Meaning, it was my responsibility to provide a savory yet nourishing meal for myself and my son on four different nights. Please, I know. I'm aware of my culinary reputation. Why not just give Jackson ten dollars and send him to forage at the drug store? He'd probably do better. Beef jerky would put on some muscle on him; Red Bull might clear up his skin.

On the first night Jack was away I rose to the occasion by thawing out leftover bolognese that he'd cooked in October. It counts as me cooking, though, because I oversaw its transition from frozen to hot and I boiled not quite enough penne to go with it.

The second night I was ready to serve twice-leftover bolognese and not-enough penne again, but Jackson put his foot down, and his foot is the same size as mine (though he's four inches shorter than me so it's kind of a draw). So I took him to Taco Bell. Nothing happened, but for some reason the staff giggled when they saw us. We might be part of some larger story for them but I may never know what it is. "Oh, there's that woman again, the one who keeps poking that boy and then they have a fake slap fight while they wait for their tacos."

I imagine that Jack has overcome his disappointment that after nineteen years I still haven't taken up an interest in cooking at the level he's brought us to. Every meal is an event with Jack. There is linen and silverware and bread in a basket and condiments and salad and anticipation. With me, there are straws and paper cartons of french fries, or those doll-sized plastic tables they use to keep the pizza box from collapsing. After Jackson has vanished into his room you'll find little bits of foil everywhere from the chocolate bar that stood in for our salad, and an empty wine bottle next to the speaker I plugged my phone into when I gave in to a sudden urge to make Christmas cookies and had an impromptu record party for one. (Smitten Kitchen oatmeal raisins and 1970s Tom Waits pair perfectly well with a ten dollar Côtes du Rhone, if you're curious).

I owe the three of you who keep track of this blog an apology: I skipped two months of monthly posts in 2014 so I'm recommitting to monthly posts for 2015. The novel is almost done, the drawings I owe to thirty-five people are recommencing, I'm practicing yoga every day, my head is clear and my heart is full. LET'S DO THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

(And happy holidays to you!)

Every post needs a picture so here's one from 2003 of me and Jackson picking flowers after a rainstorm over at the Ellwood preserve, half of which is covered in condos now, but you can still walk through to see the monarch butterflies mating every January. The monarchs don't care if you watch. Who knows, maybe they're into it.

Every post needs a picture so here's one from 2003 of me and Jackson picking flowers after a rainstorm over at the Ellwood preserve, half of which is covered in condos now, but you can still walk through to see the monarch butterflies mating every January. The monarchs don't care if you watch. Who knows, maybe they're into it.