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Here in Dayton–or on the

Here in Dayton–or on the outskirts of Dayton, or somewhere in the vicinity of Dayton, or wherever the hell I am–there is an establishment called ThePhobia Clinic [sic]. The first time I saw the sign, I thought I was having a disagreeable hallucination based upon either my recent consumption of two margaritas or the unholy presence, directly across the street, of a store called Shoebilee. (Get it? Shoe plus jubilee? Ha ha.) Repeated sightings, however, have confirmed the grammatical and/or conceptual flaw in the design.

Either a sign painter made a mistake, or ThePhobia Clinic has brilliantly crafted its signage to lure in those of us with a phobia of typos.

Make it stop.

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I am not really in

I am not really in Ohio in service of Her Royal Highness, Goblin Foo Uvula, Empress of the Upper West Side and France. (HRH Goblin has noted that it was the habit of certain historical English and Scottish rulers to proclaim themselves simultaneously the monarch of France, and she wants to get in on the act.) I am actually here to visit Rob as he finishes writing and continues to rehearse his latest piece of musical theater, Wild Blue.

The other night, after rehearsal, we came home and watched a nature program on television and saw the cutest thing. A baby hippopotamus, swimming in a river with his mother, evoked very strongly the Empress of the Upper West Side and France. I call this web log “Upside-down Hippopotamus” because, when my little Boston terrier lies on her back, her lips vaguely resemble what my former roommate Tiffany envisioned hippopotamus lips might look like. The resemblance to the entire organism, as depicted by this program, is uncanny.

The newborn hippo swam happily to and fro. Awww, we said, imagining our little dog at play.

Then, unexpectedly, a fully grown hippo swam up and murdered it.

The baby screamed in agony as the ferocious adult ripped it to pieces. I began weeping hysterically, and Rob actually covered my eyes so I would not see one gruesome moment.

I am crying again now as I remember it.

You know, humans are not very difficult to figure out. I can usually size someone up instantly and accurately predict exactly which actions he or she will take in the future. (I try not to do this because it is unfair to interact with someone in the present based upon the idea of how they might behave in the future, but my ego prompts me to mention that I am almost never wrong.)

Hippopotami, on the other hand, are completely enigmatic.

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I am in Dayton, Ohio,

I am in Dayton, Ohio, arts capital of Montgomery County and land of peace accords. I represent President Goblin of West Eighty-third Street; Laverne and Squirrelly, ruthless squirrel dictators of Central and Riverside Parks, are also in attendance at this last-ditch effort at détente. Last night, as a gesture of reconciliation, we all went out to the barn and put on a musical. Laverne played Orville Wright, and Squirrelly was a guy who wanders the streets in his pajamas.

If you ask me, for this to work, they both need to practice their jazz hands.

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No one doubted that President

No one doubted that President Goblin would win the War Against Squirrels in Central Park. Boston terriers are bigger than squirrels, after all, and they had previously crippled their enemies with thirteen dog-years of acorn sanctions. Goblin’s approval ratings are through the roof. Seventy-three percent of the crazy homeless people within a three-block radius agree that Something Had to Be Done about the ruthless squirrel dictator, Laverne.

Riding on the coattails of her recent success, Goblin has recently been rattling her saber at the squirrels in Riverside Park. “We will topple your government!” she cries, cutting off ties and throwing the already tumultuous region of the Upper West Side into chaos. Riverside’s theocratic dictator, Squirrelly, has been uncharacteristically silent.

More news as it develops.

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Yesterday, I made the brilliant

Yesterday, I made the brilliant decision of taking Goblin with me to pick up my laundry. She needed to walk, I needed to walk . . . it was a match made in heaven. Or someplace that starts with an “h.” Cut to me attempting to walk down the street wrangling with a twenty-pound bag of clothes and an excitable Boston terrier.

As we waited to cross Columbus Avenue, an old man wandered over and began petting Goblin without my permission.

Rule number one is not to pet my dog without my permission. (Rule number two is not to ask my dog why she is not wearing a coat while giving me a significant look.) The old man encouraged Goblin to jump up and put his paws on his leg, further upsetting my precarious hold on the laundry bag. Luckily, she had earlier peed on her own feet; watching her smear it on his pants made me feel a little better.

“Do you know her breeding?” the man asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “She’s a Boston terrier.”

“Not her breed, her breeding! Do you know her pedigree?” He looked like an evil version of the grandfather from Jurassic Park. I hated him.

“She’s registered,” I replied. “It has been a few years since I looked at the papers, but I think I remember.”

He gave me an expectant look that went on for too long, and I realized that he was waiting for me to tell him who my dog’s ancestors were.

“We’re from Maryland. You wouldn’t know them.”

At this, he puffed himself up and said that he was a breeder of Boston terriers and knew of lines from all over the country. “I’m also a veterinarian,” he volunteered confidentially, as if someone were Out to Get Him.
I sighed and named Goblin’s parents: Smile-and-Be-Happy Annie and Krakmont’s Mighty Mischief. It was funny naming other people, since she calls me Daddy. Also, I have to mention that the light had changed two times during this exchange, and I was on the verge of spilling my clean clothes all over the filthy wet street. Goblin, traitorous creature, was licking the man’s pant cuffs.

He had not heard of Smile-and-Be-Happy Annie or Krakmont’s Mighty Mischief. That was made clear by the slight wrinkle in his nose. He then asked me for the name of Goblin’s breeder, which he also did not recognize. He did not recognize these names in a way that made it clear that they were not worth recognizing. I turned away and waited for a break in traffic so I could cross the street and be done with him.

“How old is she?” he persisted.

I sighed. “Almost three.” And because it is my habit whenever people (thinking she is a puppy) ask me Goblin’s age, I added, “I know she’s small for her breed.”

“My bitch is smaller than she is,” he said, phrasing that made me throw caution to the wind and dart across the street in advance of an approaching bus.

This is what I get for talking to strangers.

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A recent Google search that

A recent Google search that led visitors to this journal:

Nicole Kidman Ass Butt Uvula

In the case that this does not contain a typo, I am fascinated by the idea of a site that contains illicit photos of Nicole Kidman’s uvula, or even her tonsils.

(Those of you who were waiting for that Nikky-K tonsil reference, there it is. No need to keep emailing.)

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Matt Damon is at it

Matt Damon is at it again. Yesterday, he ogled me in the gym locker room and followed me halfway home. I attempted to give him the slip by ducking into a laundromat, but he found me anyway. “Laundromat is a proper noun! It must be capitalized!” shrieked Matt Damon. Or was that my word processor? In either case, I took advantage of the confusion to sneak out the back door, run home, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and spend the afternoon fixing my computer problems.

Once I was up and running again, the emails came pouring in. Well, I received only one, but you should have seen it pour in. It poured like the wind! It poured like a banshee! It . . . well, it sort of just showed up when I was not looking, actually. But it was a very important letter from my dear friend James, from whom I have not heard in two hundred years, but who comes crawling back when he needs advice.

Dear David,

An old friend of mine from college is getting married in June. She is getting married to a Hindu man, and being Jewish herself, she and her fiance have arranged two ceremonies to take place back to back. She’s a person who’s very particular with details, especially for her wedding day, and a very progressive minded person to boot, so she and her fiance edited the ceremonies of any misogynistic or materialistic traditions. This also included the tradition of guests bringing gifts for the happy couple.

She is a dear friend, I’ve known her for over ten years, and I’m very excited for her. I want to give her a gift very badly but I’m afraid I’ll offend her. A mutual friend of ours sent out an e-vite to a party for the couple this Memorial Day, and hinted that there would be gifts. So I began to think it would be OK, but my friend promptly replied to the invite list that she and her fiance really meant it — no gifts whatsoever.

Do I get a gift? I’m guessing I should respect her wishes and live with the guilt.

David responds:

Oh, good lord. I doubt there is anything that has caused as many social dilemmas as weddings. Give straight people this one little privilege and watch them screw it up for everyone.

First, James, I must ask if this is the same experimental friend who donned a Depends adult diaper, sat on the floor in middle of a party, and began peeing, just to see what would happen. Because if it is, she is the last person whose wishes should be followed (and I would be very afraid, if I were you, to discover what party games she feels are appropriate for the wedding reception).

Actually, like many people who write to advice columns, your dilemma is that you want to do something the “right way” and are confronted with someone who insists upon doing something the “wrong way.” She should be writing to me, and if she did, I would tell her that (as dear Miss Manners has pointed out many times) there is a modern tendency for the happy couple to treat weddings as entertainment events, with participants announced by microphone and gifts as the admission fee. An entire industry, the bridal registry, has arisen around this misconception. Whereas not very long ago, it was unthinkable to register anything but the china pattern the bride picked out (and even this was done discreetly), today, she publishes detailed catalogs of items she craves, from forks to wide-screen televisions. There is the distinct feeling that not showing up to the reception with one of these pre-selected goodies under his arm would spell the doom of any guest.

Your friend, admirably, has recognized the extortion in this modern tradition, but has not delved deep enough to uncover the true problem. Yes, asking for gifts is tacky, but forbidding them is also tacky. Gifts are, ostensibly, a spontaneous expression of joyful congratulations on the part of a delighted guest. Any move to direct that impulse (either toward an item of one’s own choosing or to squash it altogether) is tacky because it implies that gifts are expected. Gifts should never be expected.

So where does that leave you, a delighted guest who wishes to offer some tangible expression of joyful congratulations? You could ignore the bridal couple’s misguided edict and bring a gift, but they may embarrass you for doing so. Or you could not bring a gift and find out that everyone else has. Luckily, these are not your only options because, guess what: bringing a gift to the reception is also frowned upon by etiquette mavens, who prefer mailing it to the couple either before or after the wedding.

My advice? After the wedding, mail them a small token of some sort: a gift certificate to a restaurant or a nice picture frame. (A picture frame is my own traditional wedding gift. Damn the registry . . . you get married, you get a frame. I do not make the rules.) Actually, mailing a picture frame after the wedding would be perfect because you could include a photo you took of their non-materialistic, non-misogynistic ceremony. (I happen to know you have a great camera, James, because I have borrowed it before.)

Then, if they want to get mad at you for such a thoughtful gesture, they can do so in the privacy of their own home.

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I was all set to

I was all set to write about Nicole Kidman’s tonsils when some things happened. To be more specific, some good things happened, and some bad things happened. Well, one good thing happened and more than one bad thing happened. It hardly seems fair, but despite this imbalance, I remain your optimistic correspondent.

The good thing that happened was that my younger brother Mike came to have dinner with me the other night. This is the last time I will see him until December, as he embarks on a world tour in June. (This is unfortunate because he still looks older than I do, and more constant reinforcement of this knowledge would better suit my ego.) His girlfriend, Cate (who is lovely and delightful), and his ex-girlfriend Alison (who is also lovely and delightful) joined us at Hi-Life. In addition to refusing to eat any sort of vegetable, Cate refused to tell any of her infamous jokes–which made me sad until I realized that if I told them myself, badly, she would be forced to defend her own honor and tell them correctly. My tactic was successful. Alison saved the entire table from assassins using nothing but bread sticks and a discarded slice of lemon.

The primary bad thing that happened is that some directories on my computer elected to go haywire, forcing a twenty-hour data-recovery session, a complete reinitialization of my hard drive, and a day-long flurry of software installation. I actually did not lose as many crucial files as I thought I would, but it seems like one of the most corrupted applications was my email client. Unfortunately, I lost over one hundred saved messages, so if you are expecting me to reply to something you sent, and I have not yet done so, I have either lost your message or have decided to have nothing more to do with you. (You may determine which is true in your individual case by writing to me again and seeing what happens.)

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Since Rob is gone, I

Since Rob is gone, I am suddenly awash in free time. How will I fill all of those hours we normally spend together? One would not think it would be so difficult, but there is not much on television between the hours of midnight and two a.m., our customary rendezvous.

Yesterday, I went over to my friend Lauri’s house for a great conversation and some lovely corn chips. But as she might object to having a permanent guest (and only had one bag of corn chips), I have decided instead to dedicate myself to the charitable act of making the world a better place for me to live in. To that end, I shall answer a plea for help from this poor, confused soul.

Dear David:

I seem to have gotten myself in a pickle and I can think of no one better to help me out of it than you.

A couple of weeks ago, a man came into the restaurant that I manage and ate. During his meal, I noticed him looking at me rather . . . intently. As he paid his bill he said to me, “Hey. You’re cute.”

I was quite busy at the time and I really didn’t think about what he said that closely so I replied, “Uh . . . Thanks.”

I thought nothing of it and the guy didn’t come back for a couple of weeks.

Tonight, he came back.

I didn’t see him until he came up to pay his bill. He said, “Hey Michael. How you been?”

I was a little taken aback at the fact that he used my name, but I managed to reply, “Ok” in good time.

It was about this time that I realized that this was the person from before. I was more than a little shaken.

Then he said, [the most explicit and nauseating sexual proposition David has ever heard, which is why he edited it out . . . neither his mother nor his dog need to bethat informed about what is going on in the world].

My mind reeled at the thought of a man clad only in a leather thong and a “Honk if you’re Horny” hat lovingly [performing the proposed sexual act].

I could only manage a dry cough and something that must have sounded an awful lot like a chirp before he left.

I am not gay. However, men have hit on me before. I’ve always just explained that, although I am quite flattered, I am straight. I’ve never encountered something like this before.

Did I give this guy some signal? Did I miss out on some hidden innuendo? Is he just off his gourd?

David responds:
“Hidden innuendo?” You think dining in a restaurant while wearing only a leather thong and a “Honk if you’re horny” hat is a subtle hint? Or perhaps this gentleman was appropriately garbed, and it was your own imagination that supplied him with the more risqué attire? In which case, one is forced to wonder if you are quite as heterosexual as you imply.

Oh dear. Perhaps that was not the proper method of inquiry. How’s this? You were approached in your place of business with a shocking and completely inappropriate sexual proposition, and you feel as if you might have done something wrong? Women, who are more regularly propositioned by straight men in equally crude ways, are taught to stand up for themselves better. A cold “I beg your pardon!” or an even more frigid snub (called a cut direct) are your allies here.

I am not certain why you define your situation as “a pickle,” which implies an ongoing dilemma, when it is clearly over with. Unless you are afraid that your feeble response will be interpreted as an invitation to return and try his luck with you again next time. In that case, you would be justified in having him removed from the premises. After all, as a manager, you would certainly not stand for a customer who said such things to, say, a waitress. Why is it any different when the injured party is you? Or is it that, because the perpetrator is a gay man and not a straight man, you do not wish to be accused of being biased, or to become the focus of a Cracker Barrelesque boycott?

Whatever else that might be said for him (and it is clear that he gets at least as many jollies from shocking innocent people as he does from his particular sexual fetish), your admirer was at least direct in his approach to you. His initial greeting (“Hey, you’re cute!”), while slightly forward, is within the realm of acceptability. (Your response to that was appropriate, by the way.) I count among my friends several who feel as if indicating romantic interest to people in whom they are romantically interested is tantamount to suicide; thus they pine away in miserable solitude when all they risk is a “no, thanks.”

If only you had been as direct in your response to his sexual request, you would not be so concerned about his return.


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This morning, my boyfriend left

This morning, my boyfriend left New York to work on a production in swanky Dayton, Ohio, arts capitol of Montgomery County. He will be gone for a month.

Meanwhile, alerted to Rob’s extended absence by his vast network of spies, Matt Damon came a-calling. Matt Damon wishes he were my boyfriend and will stop at nothing to achieve this lofty goal. He calls three times a day, showers me with gifts, and offered me a mansion in Beverly Hills.

Cease and desist, Matt Damon! I would rather live in my squalid, minuscule apartment and eat peanut butter sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs three times a day because I have someone who pays all kinds of attention to me, would rather be nibbled to death by raccoons than spend one day apart, and would never dream of leaving enough cookie crumbs in my sheets to sustain a family of Keebler elves.

Stop laughing, Matt Damon! I do not care what your vast network of spies tells you. Ignore those meddling Keebler elves. I–

All right, all right, even I do not believe me for a moment.

Um . . . a mansion, you say?

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Rob and Goblin and I

Rob and Goblin and I were taking our usual late-night stroll through Central Park when we encountered a man with long hair and a full beard; he wore a long, white robe with a brown mantle, a bat-utility belt with various bulging pouches, and work gloves the size of oven mitts. “Was that Jesus?” I wondered aloud after he passed. What I wanted to say was, “Was that Jesus wearing oven mitts?” but I thought that would be too disrespectful. Jesus almost certainly does not do his own cooking; it is sacrilege to imply otherwise.

On our way home, the unearthly strains of a melody surrounded us. “Maybe Jesus is playing the trumpet,” Rob said. Indeed He was: under the bridge near Squirrel Holler, the lonely Christ played a mournful, echoing tune.

I still wonder how he managed to play the trumpet with those oven mitts on, although I suppose that is not in the same league as walking on water.

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A few weeks ago, as

A few weeks ago, as the weather warmed, I started seeing a number of malevolently huge roaches in my apartment, tracking mud across my clean floors and breaking the crockery. “Why can’t we have nice things?!?!” I would scream at them. I mean really . . . were they raised in a barn?

The exterminator came, and the past few roaches I have seen have been dead. I decided to leave the first corpse I encountered for Rob to pick up, but I quickly realized the error of my ways when it disappeared and Goblin turned up smacking her chops. “Mmmm, crunchy,” she said.

This morning, I found another one. I used approximately ten wadded-up paper towels to pick it up and throw it away, then I washed my hands for five minutes in case any little bit of horror was able to beat its way through ten wadded-up paper towels and infect me.

Beware the Ides of May.

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This morning, unable to settle

This morning, unable to settle on a location for our summer trip, Rob and I went to a travel agent to get ideas. I always go into a travel agencies with the expectation that all the great secrets of the world will be revealed, making me heady with freedom at the limitless possibilities open to me.

Nothing of the sort ever happens.

Instead, there are countless booklets filled with reassuring photographs, rigid itineraries, and deceptive pricing–topped off with a page of small-print restrictions. The world is not my oyster, but I might get twenty-four-hour room service and an afternoon at the Blenheim Cheese Hut. Have a nice day.

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I am stepping off my

I am stepping off my soapbox today to discuss pooping and peeing.

(Before anyone gets too excited, I am more specifically referring to my dog’s pooping and peeing, not my own. I wish those of you who are fascinated with the latter would stop writing me. You know who you are.)

I find it fascinating that Goblin, with her minuscule bowels and bladder, can go so long without going to the bathroom, even though she eats meals as large as her head and goes through two bowls of water a day. She easily survives twelve hours overnight, and there have been longer, even more heroic efforts on days I slept late. I suppose, really, it is her only task in life: holding it until it is time to go out. She does it well.

Recently, on our longer walks, she has taken to pooping twice. I think it confuses her that her first poop is so celebrated and her second poop is met with frustration, but she does sense the difference. After her first, she glows with pride, but after her second, she often seems embarrassed. It is not her fault, really, that I usually do not bring more than one poop bag, and already having discarded the first, I must then cast around for something to clean up with. If I step away from the scene of the crime, even if it is to pick up a distant piece of litter to scoop the poop, I am met with the angry stares of passers-by who think I mean to leave it in middle of the sidewalk.

Really, they should walk a mile in my shoes. Or Goblin’s booties.

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Speaking of “V” on DVD,

Speaking of “V” on DVD, I highly recommend a modern viewing of this ambitious miniseries that more than stands up to the test of time. In fact, two decades after its debut, parts of it might have been ripped from today’s headlines. (I am in a preachy mood, so bear with me.)

The premise of “V” is that seemingly benevolent, humanlike aliens come to Earth in giant spaceships that hover over the world’s largest cities. Ostensibly, they are here on a mission of galactic friendship and because they need our help to manufacture a chemical that is unavailable on their planet. In exchange, they offer to share medical and technological advances, and they quickly win the support of all planetary governments and corporate interests. It does not take an enterprising reporter much time to realize that everything is not copacetic with our Visitors. In a daring spy mission to one of the spaceships, he discovers that the aliens are actually reptilian monsters disguised as humans, and their secret mission is to steal the Earth’s water and abduct the world’s population for use as food.

The interesting part is how easily the Visitors are able to create a fascist state of America. Because they fear the world’s scientists and doctors will figure out their true intentions, the aliens invent evidence for a terrorist conspiracy against themselves, using this as a pretext to seize control of the government and impose martial law. The also seize control over all forms of media, and as their propaganda machine is unparalleled, they quickly persuade ordinary “patriots” to wage a campaign against the scientific community and their families, all of whom are publicly ridiculed and forced from their jobs and homes, their lives destroyed. All the while, the aliens smilingly hang posters with themes of their own benevolence and festoon every available surface with their swastika-like insignia.

Substitute the words unpatriotic, Arab, French, or Dixie Chicks for scientist in the mouths of the fictional American lynch mobs (and ignore their bad 1980s haircuts), and you might have a scene from our nightly news in 2003. Or you would if the media, with the FOX network leading the way, had not become propaganda machines for the selfish, war-mongering “aliens” that seized control of the government in 2000, consolidated their power in 2001, and continue to implement their hidden agenda today. As in the miniseries, Americans are giving up their freedom at an alarming rate and getting nothing in return. And instead of rising en masse against this tyranny, they overwhelmingly and enthusiastically support it, attempting to suppress and discredit the voices of reason that attempt to expose the hypocrisy and lies that surround the Bush Administration’s actions. We are not being converted into food but fodder for wars of conquest and mindless drones of the megacorporations that seek to all but enslave us.

“V” was created as an allegory for the fascism of Nazi Germany, with the implicit warning that “it can happen here.” Twenty year later, we are well on our way.

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On top of everything else

On top of everything else I have to do, I am writing a book of my own. The only problem is that all of my other responsibilities have concrete deadlines at which people expect me to deliver the goods; on the other hand, my book has no deadlines. Nobody really expects anything (my dear friend Elizabeth being the key exception). Few people even know about it, and fewer people care.

Noticing this dilemma, my other dear friend Faustus, recommended that I work with his friend Fiona, who lives someplace far away. Fiona is also a writer and, apparently, a rather no-nonsense individual. She agreed to help me set up and, most importantly, enforce deadlines. I was supposed to send her ten pages yesterday, but this is where things started to go horribly wrong. Aside from finishing up the last page for Fiona (I had already written nine), I was also to attend a “V” party that evening, for which I was told I needed to leave home at 4:30.

Allow me to explain that a “V” party is not anything so thrilling as some new kind of drug experience or sexual romp; it is where five gay men, who are essentially geeks at heart, get together and watch the 1980s-era television miniseries “V” on DVD. Few who know him will be surprised to learn that Faustus was also the mastermind behind this festivity.
At 4:00 yesterday, I was typing up a storm–hoping to get at least partway onto page ten before my departure time of 4:30–when Rob called saying we needed to leave right that minute if we were going to get down to the Battery (the location of the party) on time. I have a half hour, I protested. No, you don’t, he replied. So I dashed off the an email to Fiona, explaining that I needed to leave earlier than expected for an event involving Faustus, snacks, and reptilian aliens disguised as humans.

As nearly all events involving Faustus also feature the other two components, I found it a rather plausible excuse.

As did she. I was granted an extension.

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When I was a small

When I was a small child, I saw the Big, Bad Wolf in person. (Perhaps “in person” is not quite an accurate term, but I know of no lupine equivalent. “In wolf”?) I was playing alone in my friend’s front yard. He was on vacation, but his house featured the best wall for bouncing a tennis ball in the neighborhood, and I wickedly availed myself of it.
At one point, I turned around, looked down the street toward my own house, and saw them approaching. A large, anthropomorphic wolf was walking down the sidewalk on his hind legs. He was fully dressed in a suit of old-fashioned men’s clothing, including a top hat; an old woman (an old human woman), attired from the same era, was by his side. Terrified and fascinated, I watched them advance at a leisurely pace.

The Big, Bad Wolf was a grotesque being. He drooled and snarled, lolling his tongue around his fanged snout. He was entirely wolf-like, except for his natty clothes and companionable saunter–so obviously a wolf that I was shocked when he transformed into a man as they drew nearer. (His suit remained the same, except the top hat melted away, revealing a head of thinning, slicked-down hair.) The old woman appeared oblivious to this metamorphosis. They passed me without a word, both turning to stare as if I were a moderately interesting zoological specimen, and vanished around the corner.

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The good news is that

The good news is that while I do have what my doctor calls “entrenched bronchitis,” I do not have asthma. The attack a couple of nights ago was most likely an adverse reaction to the Flonase she prescribed for my allergies, which I had used immediately before bedtime.

The bad news is that, when I went to the grocery store the other day to buy the vanilla, non-fat, organic yogurt I usually get, I accidentally picked up a flavor called “banilla,” which, as one might assume, is a nauseating combination of banana and vanilla. Banilla and vanilla are produced by the same company and come in virtually identical containers. Thus, a large tub of banilla yogurt lurks in my refrigerator, rabblerousing and bringing down property values. Yesterday, it challenged the chocolate soy milk to a duel; fortunately, saner heads prevailed.

Ibo (my housecleaner, proprietor of a natural-cake-baking business, and general health-food nut) proselytizes against dairy products and, spurred into action by the container of whey protein on my counter, has already lectured several times on the topic. If he is powerful enough to exorcise the demonic banilla yogurt from my refrigerator, I might just comply.

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I had a terrifying experience

I had a terrifying experience last night. No, John Ashcroft did not emerge from the shadows and dance a jig; I did not see George Bush naked or attempt conversation with Rush Limbaugh.

Instead, I almost died.

Melodramatic, but possibly accurate. I was asleep, dreaming (about what I do not remember), when the next thing I knew, I was stumbling across my apartment, unable to breathe. I was having and asthma attack, only I do not have asthma. Unable to inhale, I could only engage in spasmodic wheezing broken by deep, horrible coughs. The reflexive gasp of the coughing was actually the only way I could get air into my lungs, and even then not much of it. My vision began to dim around the edges, and I was certain I was going to pass out, and that if I did pass out, unable to breathe, that that would be all she wrote.

Finally, after an eternity, I was able to breathe again. Only tiny inhalations at first, but eventually everything settled down. A new dilemma arose: what to do? Go to the hospital? Call Rob? Instead, I sat up the rest of the night and called my doctor in the morning. She was supposed to call me back but has yet to do so.

I have been sick for a month now, and nothing is helping. Last night was just icing on the cake. My doctor is mystified (I actually had a thorough examination yesterday afternoon), and I am frustrated and depressed.

You are cordially invited to my pity party.

BYOB.

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Yesterday, while I was walking

Yesterday, while I was walking down the street, a very tall, slightly bedraggled man stopped me, pointed at a building, and asked me, “What girl in the window you want?”

“I don’t understand.”

“What girl you want?”

Feeling rather as if I were on “Candid Camera,” I looked up at the building he indicated, but there were no girls in the windows. “I haven’t any idea what you’re talking about,” I said.

“No, not up there. Down there. In the big window.” He indicated not the apartment windows I was looking at but the storefront window of a nail salon, which indeed was full of women. “Which one of them you want?”

“For what?”

“Which one you want?” The husky emphasis on the last word left no doubt as to his offerings.

“I don’t want any of them,” I said, wondering if the nail technicians and their customers were aware that their intimate services were being brokered remotely.

“You sure, man?”

“Quite so, thank you.”

“You put this on and I guarantee they be all over you.” The man whipped out two bottles of cologne from somewhere.

“No,” I said.

Then I went home and ordered fried chicken.

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We have been watching “Manor

We have been watching “Manor House,” a PBS (originally BBC) television program in which typical, modern-day British people live for three months in a 1905-ish country mansion. One group, a family, becomes the wealthy landowners, and the other group has volunteered to become their domestic servants.

This is fascinating because, as one would suspect, the “wealthy” family is settling nicely into its role of being waited upon hand and foot, while chaos reigns below stairs, where the duties and rigid hierarchy are so grating that everyone is miserable and two scullery maids have quit (so far: we have only seen the first episode). The handsome first footman suspects that people in Edwardian times were somehow tougher–by which, one presumes, he means the servants, since the wealthy appear to have been so completely helpless that the could not even button their own shirts. I am not sure that people in service a hundred years ago were sturdier; perhaps they were simply not offered the choice of walking off a television program back into a comparatively cushy existence. They had to do their jobs or they starved.

In the twenty-first century, I am not comfortable with the idea of servants. When I lived in a Chicago high-rise a few years ago, I used to enter and exit the building through the back because having the doorman open the door for me was distressing. Even now, as much as I love having someone clean my apartment for me, it embarrasses me to give Ibo instructions. I suppose, like the wealthy family on “Manor House,” I could get used to it.

It would be better than having to empty the chamber pots myself.

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I have been taking Goblin

I have been taking Goblin for some long walks lately: from my street on the Upper West Side over to Cleopatra’s Needle on the Upper East. We come home by looping south through the Ramble. Goblin likes to walk on the path by the lake because she gets to watch the ducks and swans on one side and the squirrels on the other. I like to sit on the rocks across from Strawberry Fields and study the juxtaposition of buildings and trees and water and sky.

I have heard a great deal about people having public sex in the Ramble, but mostly I see class trips and old men walking with their wives. I did witness some very definite foreplay at Cleopatra’s Needle one day. Rob is convinced that Goblin will poop in the wrong place and somehow bring the entire obelisk crashing down.

I doubt the couple steaming up the adjacent park bench would have noticed if she did.

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Ibo came over again to

Ibo came over again to clean yesterday, which he did with German efficiency. (Goblin was apparently traumatized by the vacuum cleaner, a contraption she almost never encounters during my own housekeeping endeavors. She bit him on the hand–“a love bite,” he generously called it.)

Ibo now wants me to work with him on the logo and marketing materials for his natural cake-baking business. He offered to clean my house in exchange for my professional services, and in a phone discussion this morning, he also offered to help cure me of my allergies, an unappetizing process during which I would be forbidden to eat any foods containing dairy, meat, gluten, or processed sugar. I have been an advocate of such diets for years, which is very easy to do if one does not actually have to partake of one. In fact, since I met my ex-boyfriend Michael, and continuing through the Rob Administration, I eat almost nothing but dairy, meat, gluten, and processed sugar.

Now that I am faced with the very real prospects of a perpetually clean apartment and radiant good health, I want nothing so much as to buy a stack of McDonald’s hamburgers and eat them while rolling around on the floor.

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Here is a little something

Here is a little something about human nature I picked up while watching cable television.

Last week, on “Scare Tactics,” a male human was convinced that the SUV he occupied was about to be hit by a train, and he could not get his door open to escape. Although he faced what he thought was certain doom, he began laughing, apparently unable to stop.

Last week, on “Trading Spaces,” the a human male and female opened their eyes in their bedroom, hideously and nonsensically redecorated by Frank, and began laughing, apparently unable to stop. This often happens, as well, in rooms redecorated by Kia.

The lesson here is that humans will laugh when confronted with train wrecks of any sort.

(I knew I could justify spending sixty-four dollars a month on Time Warner cable for its educational value alone.)