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Dog Days

Goblin is recovering from her latest and hopefully last surgery on her leg. The other times, her convalescence was weak and accusatory but now she has done it all before and just seems bored by the inactivity. Otherwise, her spirits are fine but it will be months before she is allowed back to her normal routines. That’s like years to a dog. This has already been going on since Christmas and by the time its over will have affected almost one-eighth of her life, which is sad to contemplate but all we can do is keep her as happy as possible at any given time.

Something else that is sad to contemplate at this late date is a prayer I just remembered I used to say as a child. Yes, I was not always the raging atheist you see before you. The mythology of Catholicism was shoveled into my head early and often. Not that I carried this to any extreme; I was not an altar boy or a sacred mime. Indeed, the reason why this prayer comes to mind now is that is not an appeal to god but an affirmation of dogs.

This is the prayer I made up and said every night, probably until I was about six or seven if I’ve got the dog chronology right:

Smokey, Sammy, Puddles, and Tippy
You will always be my favorite dogs
I will love no dogs more than you
Amen

This is extraordinary for a number of reasons that are less obvious than the obvious. Smokey was the first dog I remember having. He got run over by a car when I was about six, at which time we got Tippy, a rambunctious German Shepherd mix we named after a taco restaurant in Laurel, Maryland. Sammy was a dog my parents had in some vague unspecified time before I was born; likewise, I never met Puddles, who belonged to my father when he was a child. How did these strangers get to be my favorite dogs? How could I pledge eternal love and allegiance to them and only them when the beautiful likes of Toby, Zoe, and Goblin Foo Uvula were waiting in the wings?

This probably bears more analysis, along with the idea that somehow in my young catechism I got the idea that instead of god, it is dogs that make everything all right in the world. If it was my dyslexia acting up, it is to date the most accurate mistake I have ever made.

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I’m Brian and So’s My Wife

Today is the second day in a row I’ve seen the sun come up. That is actually the best part of insomnia. I love the quality of light and how the birds start chirping right about the same time as the sky changes color. If I could get to sleep early enough, I’d like to get up that early every day, but of course, not being able to sleep is the issue. Note that I didn’t say “problem.” I’m tired of problems. This is just another funny thing.

Here is another funny thing: thinking the word “insomnia” always reminds me of that scene in The Life of Brian when Pilate was mentioning Roman names and comes up with “Incontinentia” and the soldier’s face almost explodes from trying to muffle his laughter.

Here is another funny thing: although I don’t have an amusing movie scene to reference, I was diagnosed with my old friend bronchitis at the urgent care room last night. This doesn’t even faze me anymore.

Here is another funny thing.

Not funny ha ha.

A woman’s beloved dog died, and it somehow occurred to her to do the following:

The image I’m submitting is of my dearly departed Sasha, a golden retriever I lost in July of 2006. Filled with grief, I decided to start researching ways to contact her in spirit and what I achieved was beyond my imagination. The image was captured doing an experiment where I took 30 second video clips while stirring a pot of water on the stove. The hood light was on and I used a stainless steel pot. I then took the video to work where I could go through it frame by frame. Sasha came in at an angle, so I turned the picture and put pictures of her in life on either side to compare. The image was so clear that AAEVP featured it in their newsletter! This was the greatest gift I ever could have received. I hope it can bring peace to others as well to know that even our pets live on…

Although she gets an A for Effort, I don’t believe that’s really her dog. There is a school of thought that spirits try to contact the living through things we would normally consider background static, like odd reflections; it’s more likely that the human mind has an enormous capacity for trying to make sense out of the senseless. In this case, it’s visual but also mental: “Where did my poor dog go? How can I go on without her?”

Of course, I say this now, but if anything happens to Goblin I will have every burner in the house going, put cauldrons in the fireplaces, and line the walls with camp stoves.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful Memorial Day. The sun is bright and the birds are still chirping, a remnant of its rising. If Rob is lucky, one of those birds will be a teratorn. Thanks to a couple of those funny things above, I probably won’t go to work today, but my parents are having a cookout later and I might drag myself to that. Or Rob might drag me. Or the teratorn. I mean, the teratorn might drag me, but it would on many levels be more serendipitous if Rob dragged the teratorn.

Update: Speaking of senseless, isn’t it as likely that, in the unrotated photo, the reflection above the dog looks like a human skull with handlebar mustaches? Or is that just the Indiana Jones talking?

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This Too Shall Pass

Every couple of years, I read a particular kind of book and start to Get Ideas. This year’s book is by the same author as the one last time, which triggered a miniature nervous breakdown by the time I got three quarters of the way through. Not because of the Ideas but because of my personal inability to implement them “properly.” All of this is a fancy-fancy way of saying that I freaked out because I could recognize perfection but not approach it myself.
I don’t know if the current book is more basic, if my level of medication is higher, or if I have grown slightly wiser despite myself in the intervening years, but this time I am able to face the Ideas with more equanimity, which is fitting because the big Idea this time is nonattachment. “This too shall pass” is the motto of that state of mind. There are other mottos but I am so not-attached to them that I have forgotten what they are. The whole point is to make the current moment your friend instead of into an obstacle or a means to an end, which is nice because I could use more friends.

Last night–I think it was last night–Rob and I went to visit with Indiana Jones. It was a fun movie despite my bizarre experience of being able to actually feel the low-grade cold I’ve had since New York suddenly worsen exponentially and sink down into my oft-battered lungs. Just when I was starting to think that every sniffle did not mean automatic pneumonia, I believe I’m well ensconced in that particular handbasket. Despite the fact that this is a particularly busy week, I am actually not that distressed about it, which means that either the mottos or the SSRIs are working. I would like to give the mottos the benefit of the doubt here because the Idea gives me some hope for myself and the human race and the drugs give me sexual side-effects.

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It’s Ink, Mum

We live in weird, insane times. I just thought I’d say that in case you didn’t notice. Right now, I’m looking at a disposable ball-point pen I’ve had for years and years, as long as I can remember. I probably stole it from somewhere as it doesn’t look like a ball-point pen that I’d actually buy. For one thing, it has black ink and I like blue ink. But the pen itself is blue plastic, thick and comfortable to write with. I never use it, which is probably why it still works. This is not the proper philosophy to apply to a pancreas or something, but in a world where ink is life’s blood, spilling as little of it as possible would seem logical. But let be be the finale of seem: What mighty power of this pen has gone untapped? What amazing dimensions have been created by its disuse?

I can’t believe I still have this flimsy thing when so many more solid things have disappeared, slipped through my fingers. I could have stolen this pen in two thousand when I worked in Bethesda, making it older than Goblin, my relationship with Rob, living in New York, and everything else I currently take for granted. This pen could have been in my hands before the ascension of The Chimp, before the towers fell and the world’s descent into madness (and the ocean) accelerated a thousandfold.

In the intervening time, I’ve had four computers, three cell phones, two relationships, five homes, three cars, nine nieces and nephews . . . and one plastic ballpoint pen.

Today’s musings brought to you by Writer’s Block.

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Friday Chupacabra Blogging

Hey kids, guess what day it is! Could it be . . .

. . . Friday?

Wait, is it Friday? Well who cares. Any excuse for a chupacabra, that’s my motto.

Today I had to work and the former mayoral candidate of my fair city dropped in to sell me a bank account. I did not remind him that I’ve seen him naked at the gym in case that had the effect of throwing off his pitch, but if it had been the governor I so totally would have went there. The current governor, that is; if I had ever seen William Donald Schaefer naked I doubt I would have enough sanity left today to bring you the chupacabras you deserve. He’s like that creature on the old “Star Trek” who lived in a box and when you looked directly at it you would go mad or blind or something, and then Mr. Spock accidentally looked at it and we found out that he had nictitating alien eyelids to go along with his pointy ears.

Last night, Rob and I saw a play at Center Stage that had a lot of heart. It was about four women who worked in a radium factory and started to glow and then got cancer and died. I got the impression that the audience was supposed to care about this but no one did. As we escaped into the night, someone came out on stage and invited us to stay for a Meaningful Discussion with the cast. “Oh god, now they want to talk about it!” one old woman moaned. Maybe some people stayed, I don’t know. We stopped for four-dollar cocktails on the way home and discussed why Hillary Clinton just needs to Go Away, but today she started comparing herself to RFK so I don’t quite know where she is going or when or how. The video above may give us some clues. She’s the one with the fingernails.

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But What if Life Doesn’t Want to Be One with Me?

Now that the serotonin is flowing again, I can tell you about my most-of-a-week in glamorous New York City. Four sevenths is most of a week. I didn’t realize until Monday that I had stupidly forgotten my medication in Maryland and was going through SSRI withdrawal. The symptoms for this are mild to extreme dizziness, a bizarre series of headaches that feel like rubber bands snapping repeatedly around my hairline, a numbness around the face, and a sudden increase in panic attacks and other delightful swings of mood I actually managed to largely stave off this time. I talked myself out of returning home early so I could go with Rob to see a series of short one-woman musicals, one of which was breathtaking, one of which would have been much better if it had contained different music, and one of which had a lot of heart. “Had a lot of heart” is what I learned you’re supposed to say about musicals that suck. But then afterward, walking up Ninth Avenue, we kept running into people who claimed that they had just come from the worst musical reading ever, and no hearts were mentioned at all.

One of my friends just wrote a tirade against theater people being too obnoxious to hang around with, and I can see his point. There are few other professions that attract so many people who require so much external validation. Rob isn’t like that, but some of our friends are, and it’s something you just sort of get past. What irritates me instead are the lies. Like, “You were so good!” comes out of one side of the face and “He was so terrible!” comes out the other. I suppose it’s to satisfy that whole validation thing, but it bothers me. I never tell someone that they were good if they weren’t, but I have devised a series of hearty damnations by faint praise that seem to get the job done. I usually can’t tell if people are good or not anyway. I can tell if WRITING is good, but nobody pays any attention to me because I have no credentials other than being the theater wife who gets largely ignored at any gathering. But I think there are very few people who can judge writing—in itself, not how it is performed—as well as I can. When Rob says a good performance can save an awkwardly written scene, I want to do something rash. He’s usually correct, but why not have a well-written scene AND a good performance? (By the way, I can’t tell if my own writing is good, so there is some irony for you. I am like the prominent local theater critic who wrote one of the most heart-filled musicals ever, A Baltimore Christmas Carol.)

It was a strange four sevenths of a week for me. Insomnia return? Check. Serotonin evaporation? Check. OCD working overtime? Check. I didn’t touch anything with my hands, went through a bottle of hand sanitizer anyway, held my breath and squeezed my eyes shut whenever someone so much as looked at me, and STILL got sick. Also, I had to be careful to keep all of my bags’ zippers closed at all times in case a roach or bedbug wanted to climb in, I could not get out of bed unless my iPhone said the time ended in a five, and I got so wrapped up in whether I was One With Life a la Eckhart Tolle that I could barely function. A couple of times I managed to be One With Life and it was pretty nice. I floated through an afternoon with Ann’s mother with nary a care in the world, but that involved two carafes of hot sake and a klonopin so I’m not sure if that counts—but I totally managed to be One With Life in Carl Schurz while walking Goblin, and I came close enough after Rob and I ran into the Squirrel Lady and she told us about a territorial red squirrel that got its comeuppance in the end, and we got caught up on four years of rodent, raccoon, and hawk gossip. She also mentioned that her cat has developed an aversion to the Fresh Direct delivery people, to which the only safe reply was “Oh, my goodness.”

It was also an uncharacteristic most-of-a-week because I had a number of unexpected revelations about my life, some good ideas for the book I’m working on, and was so massively proud of someone else’s achievement that it literally did not once occur to me to feel bad about my own lack of achievement. It is claimed that this is a sign of being One With Life because you’re supposed to celebrate all success as if it’s your own. There’s enough success to go around, and if you begrudge someone theirs, you are closing the door to yours. But then I couldn’t figure out if my lack of success to date meant that I had been insufficiently One With Life in the past. Oh man, I need to move on to a new chapter in that book so I can find another reason to curse my poor brain.

Here is one revelation that I had: Ann and I were walking down the street and we encountered hundred-foot-tall banners of Indiana Jones fluttering against the sides of Madison Square Garden. “Are you excited for that?” she asked. “Do you like Indiana Jones?”

“Well,” I answered, “Rob is sort of obsessed with Indiana Jones, so I’m sure we’ll see it soon.” And then I realized that most of my responses to questions and pronouncements from out of the blue are either about Rob’s obsessions or my compulsions. Between the two of us, we’ve got a fairly complete disorder going, don’t you think?

On the train, on the way home, despite the increasing serotonin headaches, I read Joel’s book and cried most of the way through. I realize that much of it is supposed to be funny, and it is, but it’s also so moving, and it made me upset to learn the amount of trauma he has gone through since being my friend that he didn’t share. He is always there to listen to my nonsense. After the train hit Wilmington and we shot into the Maryland countryside, I put the book away and stared out the window. It was drizzling and everything was grey and greenish-grey. The crackling of the rain against the windows sounded like someone right behind me opening a never-ending candy wrapper and I tried to fight down my irritation. Be One With Life, I reminded myself. This is not supposed to be something you can force but rather just allow to happen. The train passed trailer homes with the most appalling things in the yards and I tried not to judge them. We are all the same, I thought . . . not just comparatively but literally. We are One. On top of the headaches, my TMJ was acting up something fierce as I clenched my jaw, squeezing out these positive thoughts as if through a tiny opening drilled in my skull, like the one they just used to diagnose Ted Kennedy’s almost certainly terminal brain cancer.

There’s a lot I need to explore, but I think I’m on the right track.

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Every Day Has Its Own Surprises

Late last night I was working on my website when I got a call out of the blue from my sister-in-law. She and my brother were in the area, and did I want to go out for a drink? I was fairly ensconced in what I was doing and had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. for work, but some wacky part of me has been forcing myself to say “yes” to things I would normally refuse, so I agreed to meet them at a nearby pretentious lounge, Red Maple.

Red Maple has never been mentioned in these electronic pages because I have only been there once or twice. In my opinion, it is the Lounge that Tries Too Hard. Their architecture is, on the surface, stunning, but a closer look at the chintzy construction reveals why they keep the lights down so low, and the music was so hideously loud that conversation is impossible. I have been to Manhattan lounges, Red Maple, and you are no Manhattan lounge.

After one drink, Tim asked if there were any nearby places that would be more enjoyable. Not being a habitué of Baltimore’s nightlife, I could only think of Hippo and Grand Central Station, two gay bars few doors down. Hippo, I explained, is sort of divey and GCS is a step up but with less intrinsic character. With all of the giddy excitement of bwanas on their first safari, my brother and his wife followed me into Hippo where we discovered . . . it was Bingo night and the dance floor was closed. Not the sort of entrée into “my world” (as they appear to have envisioned it) they had in mind. So we went across the street to Grand Central Station, where we had intended to have one more drink before calling it a night but instead followed a drag queen into the back bar to observe a phenomenon called lube wrestling.

There are no illusions to shatter here: lube wrestling is exactly what it sounds like. “You know,” my brother said as the contestants came out in their underpants. “I love the fact that when I wake up in the morning I truly have no idea of how the day is going to end.”

This day ended with his wife spreading lube on one of the contestants. Or, as the drag queen put it, “Get down here, straight girl! Man, you are stacked. Isn’t she stacked, everyone? Here, pour this pitcher of lube all over that guy over there. Don’t forget his ass. Really rub it in there.”

As the wrestling match heated up, my sister-in-law cheered on her champion. “I didn’t rub lube all over you for nothing!” she shrieked. My brother’s proudest moment!

Meanwhile, not content to watch two slick, gorgeous, and nearly naked men writhe all over each other, I became concerned with something else entirely: it was my first time in a gay bar in years and no one was hitting on me! Quite accustomed to strangers buying me drinks, passing me phone numbers, and declaring my stoic demeanor an Alp to be scaled, I simply did not know how to function in the midst of the silent treatment. My wrathful glare toward all of the potential suitors went sadly misinterpreted, so I had no choice but to drink my wine, take in the proceedings, and regret in advance another night of inadequate sleep.

Oh, and I took this photo.

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Swoosh

Hey, did you miss me? I was serving time in prison because I was caught wearing white before Memorial Day. I originally thought I was too pretty to go to prison, but then I realized that without access to my moisturizer things would go a different direction. Of course I am totally lying. Moisturizer cannot touch my inner beauty and also I wasn’t in jail anyway, except maybe the jail of my own making, which I have since busted out of after receiving enlightenment and a file baked into a cupcake.

I should not jest: ending up in prison for a crime I didn’t commit is chief among my legion of phobias, probably because, under Bush and living in the brutal land of Baltimore, it is the one with the highest risk of coming true. But every day lately as I drive by the prison (it’s in the middle of the city so it’s unavoidable), I have been struck with the idea of contributing in some way to help those poor souls locked away inside. No, I don’t have enough files or cupcakes; I am thinking of teaching a writing workshop for prisoners.

Speaking of which, the book of one my dearest friends was released today. It is called Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, by Joel Derfner, and you can and should buy it at this link because he will get a larger cut of the sales. My copies just came today, and while I haven’t read the whole thing yet, based upon the peeks I got at the first draft, it is definitely going to be a mega number-one hit bestseller, so get it while it’s hot.

Just don’t steal a copy and wind up in jail unless you relish the thought of having one of my writing workshops inflicted upon you.

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Friday Chupacabra Blogging

Um, I mean, whatever.

Via passiveaggressivenotes.com

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Quo

Well, my neighborhood beautification project was a bust. I distributed a survey that only two people responded to, and now the deadline for the grant I was writing has passed. That is fine because some of these people do not deserve a beautiful neighborhood. But I deserve a beautiful neighborhood and now I am feeling inadequate. Will no one cheer me up?

Luckily, I have my exciting life to fall back on. Example: Insomnia + Vivid Dreams = An Extravaganza of Conversation Starters. While I may not have fallen asleep until dawn this morning, I did squeeze out a dream featuring someone who belonged to the “K.K.Klutter Grandmothers,” a swap meet for women of a certain age who hold certain cultural beliefs. One would think that you can’t make stuff like that up, except a certain part of me seems to have without my permission.