Thursday, August 31, 2006


Another cat has appeared, less than two weeks since we had to put Gretel to sleep. Amanda and Kim found him chasing a butterfly in an alcove while they were on a smoke break. They captured him and put him in my office where he immediately went to sleep under my chair. I don't know what to think. He's very cute and he's affectionate and sweet, but Henri hasn't been a single cat for very long and I think he prefers not having to compete for my attention. Plus I don't know if the two cats would get along. Plus Gretel just died. Plus the extra litter and food. Plus who wants to become attached to another animal that's going to eventually make you sad again? He does look a little like Henri only he has much more white. I didn't name him (though I thought of some names. Does he look like a Linus?Flufferheadbudgetbuttonhooknose? Twinkletoes? Pinky Tuscadaro?).

Last night, Shawn and I were interrupted from contemplating the animal by the sound of sirens. Went outside to discover that this girl down the street was od-ing on smack or crack or something. The police were there along with an ambulance. All the neighbors and their dogs were standing around talking and watching without shame, including Shawn and I. The cops led her out of the house and we all craned our necks to see a real live heroin addict. I only caught a glimpse. The ambulance drove off and soon after, the ice cream truck tinkled down the street to offer everyone dilly bars.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My new piercing

I dreamt last night that I decided on a whim to have my nose pierced (I think because in the dream, I was having a slumber party at my parent's house in Florida and wanted to impress my guests). The piercing I choose was a gigantic barbell--like maybe a ten pound barbell. It didn't look too good and I could hardly hold my head up. Then George Michaels showed up, but it was GM in his Wham phase, before he came out of the closet, so he wasn't yet gay (dream logic). I finally had to take the piercing out and then my nose was disfigured. It wasn't the best slumber party ever.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Dude, if we rode our bikes like this all the time...We'd be like...Neil Armstrong!"

Best quote from our trip to the li'l town of Jim Thorpe this weekend.

For those of you sports illiterates out there, Jim Thorpe was a real live all-American, all-around wonderful athlete of some century or another. He never actually lived in the town named after him, but they have tons of photos of him everywhere so it's almost like he did. Look here at this photograph of Jim Thorpe. He played football, baseball, track, field, lacrosse, badminton, and Monopoly all with aplomb, good manners, and skill.

The town of Jim Thorpe also has a prison where some accused Irish slaves coal miner Molly MacGuire's were hung for fighting back against their enslavement. The tour guide, a cute sixteen year old blond girl who kept rocking back on her sneakered heels, explained in unwavering monotone how the prisoners were led into the dungeons for solitary confinement, left there for what was supposed to be thirty days but was often sixty, given nothing to sleep on, and having their waste buckets changed only when they overflowed onto the floor outside of the cell. "And three of the men are rumored to have killed themselves. Moving on, you'll see the interesting sight of the gallows where the men were covered in a white cloth and hung in front of a cheering crowd of spectators. For more information, please visit our gift shoppe where you can purchase miniature gallows and boxes of Lucky Charms cereal." An older man in the group before us claimed that he heard a voice say, Let me out of here! while he was standing in one of the dungeon caves. I want to believe him because I want to believe there is something more out there. But I also know that the power of suggestion is strong too. That does not, however, account for the ghostly handprint of one of the executed miners who claimed to be innocent. It keeps reappearing again and again, even after repeated attempts to wash it away, paint over it, and even replaster that section. Believe it or not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Paranoid Schizophrenic Refuses EEG

During the EEG on Wed., I wanted to ask the technicican how she dealt with paranoid schizophrenics who needed the test. I mean, one of the big qualities of that disorder is believing others can read your mind. I'm guessing that when you're hooked up to 26 electrodes in your head and they tell you they'll be reading your brain waves, you might flip out a little. I know I did and I barely have a disorder (as yet unclassified). I was thinking, Don't think about sex. Don't think about sex. It'll show up in your brain waves. The worst part of the test was when I had to purposefully hyperventilate for four minutes. You breathe in and out very rapidly--doesn't sound like it would be super strenuous, but your head fills up like a balloon and your lips and mouth go dry and it's unpleasant. The technician asked me a series of questions as though I were a concussion victim:

1. Do you know where you are?
2. Who is the president of the United States?
3. If I have a quarter, a nickel, a dime, and a penny, how much money do I have?
4. What's 93 minus 7?
5. What's that number minus another 7? (I got this question wrong because I wasn't able to use my fingers to count backwards).

I left the neurology department with my hair shellacked back from the goo they put in it--feeling like a girl in Robert Palmer video. Some random strange girl walked up to me as I was headed down Chestnut Street and said, Are you a lawyere? You look like a lawyer? I said, No. She said, Oh, you're so pretty! I said, Thanks. I get that all the time (I meant that I am mistaken for an attorney all the time, though it sounded like I meant that I'm constantly being told how gorgeous I am. I only said that to make her feel less stupid, but then we both felt dumb). She was obviously on her way to have her brain checked out too.

We have not given up on Henri yet. We were gone all weekend and he was very distraught and needy when we returned. He laid his entire self on top of me as if to say, You. Stay here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Henri is a Busted Up Snuffleupagus, Not in a Good Way

We keep trying to make Henri into Gretel, but it's not working. Every morning after the alarm clock goes off at 7:15, Henri comes in and does his own alarm noises--meowing and meowing and jumping on the bed. Shawn was meowing back at him to make him meow more and it sort of worked, but I knew what he was doing--he was trying to get Henri to act like Gretel who would go on answering endlessly. Seriously, I once tried to see how many times in a row I could make her meow and I gave up after about fifty. And as much as we try to make Henri be her, he is not. He is, in fact, antithetical to Gretel. He hides under the bed all day. He stays there even after I'm home. You'd think maybe he could come out and hang around, but he doesn't. He's most active after hours and in the morning. He still scurries away from Shawn. If we have guests, it's like he doesn't exist. We have to show them pictures of Henri and say, "This is our other (now only) cat. He is real. You will never meet him."

Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm so done with cat grief

Okay, I'm over Gretel now. Yes, we had seventeen years, eight months, and four days together, yes, I've known her since the day she was born in my closet in my first college apt. on Atherton Street, yes, she's met every single guy I ever seriously dated, yes, she was with me through each move I made as an adult--from Tallahassee back to Dunedin to three apartments in Chicago and two apartments in State College, and three places in Philadelphia, and yes, she slept next to me nearly every night for all of those years, and yes, she was very often the first living creature I saw when I woke up, and yes, she would amble into the room to greet me whenever I walked through the door, but come on. Enough is enough. Actually, being sad comes and goes. I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, and then I am absolutely, desolately not fine at all. But I can look at her picture without crying and I picked one of her claws off the sofa without losing it (though did not throw it away), and it helps so much that Shawn is here and feels sad too and he talks about her--I think it's better to keep talking about her than to say nothing. Henri, for all his inert meatloafness under the bed helps too. At bedtime, he drapes half his body across mine and purrs and purrs and the rest of the night is a series of me turning over, him thumping loudly off the bed, and then him jumping back up to lay his body across me again. This morning, he followed me around into the bathroom and the bedroom. He is keeping an eye on me. When I went to kiss Shawn good-bye, he said, for the first time, Where my Henri at? (Before this, it has always been Gretel). I petted this super ugly hairless cat in the Chic Boutique yesterday and his purr thrummed under my fingers. It reminded me that Gretel hadn't been purring, not for a long time. She must have just felt ill. And I wouldn't have wanted to bring her home with me and watch her get worse. So, as hard as it was, I feel like we made the right choice. It's comforting how almost everyone I talk to has a dead pet story--and how most of them tell it still with a catch in their voices.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Brown honest truck

Remember the three words above. You will be asked to repeat them at the end of this post. These are the words the doctor gave me at the beginning of the visit to check memory loss.

I went to seem him yesterday to figure out what we can do to improve my memory and all that epilespy stuff. The doctor reminded me very much of that strange lawyer guy on Ally McBeal--the curly haired, awkward one who always had a problem with his nose whistling? You know who I mean! Anyway, mild-mannered and nerdy, but very nice. He asked me about the seizures and a few other questions about my life and work and then told me that he thinks I was misdiagnosed. He said it in a kind of dramatic fashion with lots of pauses. "Well....from what I'm hearing...I think you may gotten the wrong diagnosis...I" pause pause pause "A brain tumor!" No, he didn't say that, but I was wondering, is this good or bad news? He might be...complex partial seizures instead of simple partial seizures. He quickly followed up by saying that one isn't worse than the other, just different. Then he back-tracked and gave me what he thought was a "pretty good analogy" for what a seizure is. I imagine he came up with this one day years ago and has refined it over the last decade:

"Picture this: You're at a football game. A Penn State game, if you will! And there's a microphone in the center of the field. Now, in each of the sections of the stadium, there are all these separate conversations going on, each meaningful in their own way. That's like your brain--your brain is doing all different things at once--allowing you to blink, to breath, to sit up-right--but each different thing the brain is doing doesn't necessarily get communicated to all of the other functions. When a seizure happens, it's like a couple of people in section E of the stadium starting the wave--it catches on, stops those other conversations, and makes the stadium/brain do only one thing."

I think that makes sense. The example he was giving was for a grand mal seizure. The type I have only effects part of my brain and the rest of my body is cognizant of what is happening at the moment, which is why I can talk during a seizure and say, I'm having the de ja vu.

This is a better article, because it makes what I may have sound almost intelligent.

Here is what I get to do on Monday afternoon:

He told me that if I'd like, we could have me wear the EEG garb home (under a hat) and we could monitor my brain activity for an entire weekend. I said, Hey! Thanks, but NO THANKS!

As part of the examination, I had to touch my nose and then his finger again and again and walk across the room heel,toe, heel toe. I had to walk on my tiptoes. You'd be surprised how hard it is to do some of these things when you know you're being evaluated.

At the end, he asked me the three words. I remembered them. Then he said how it's not really a very good indication of memory loss after all. I mean, I can remember words and ideas, but actual events are what I forget. Maybe I have to be better at keeping a daily journal of this stuff--not here, because it would be boring, but just some kind of record keeping. And then when I die, all of my friends will find notebooks and notebooks and notebooks of lists like: Lucky Charms for breakfast. Typed letters. Surfed the Web. Lunch: California wrap. Very tasty but not as good as crispy chicken. Cat is the same. Dinner: peanuts. Bedtime: 11:05 p.m.

This is what we did on Friday. Liz and Chris came over and painted our entire living room all red. I did nothing. Zena did nothing. Kali and Paul came over and cheered on our guests who were doing house labor. That's Liz to the left, Kali hiding in the back, and Mr. Chris sitting on our hot plastic thrift store granny couch. They must be thanked profusely. Liz does an excellent job and is for hire, if you're interested.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Goodbye, flattened pigeon on the road!

Pretty much every day in Fishtown, I come across another gray dead pigeon that has been smashed completely so s/he looks as though run over by a steam roller. They are everywhere. Sunday, we spotted one that wasn't dead, though it appeared a little suspect. It was sitting on its belly too far into the street. It may not have had legs. Shawn was very distressed. I suggested we rescue the pigeon and build it little fake legs out of matchsticks and then the pigeon could compete in the Aviary Special Olympics and win at the last second and then we would run over it with a Mac truck. Rode my bike to work and back yesterday and nearly hit a couple of them myself. They seem bent on destruction.

Speaking of which:
This is Gretel in her natural habitat, the shower. She has taken to licking the condensation off the curtain. She has a serious thing for H2O and will stick her head in a glass for a full ten minutes to get as much of it as she can. She will also harass you when you are washing your hands so that you'll pick her up and let her drink out of the sink. I draw the line at cupping the water in my hands and allowing her to drink, but I doubt Shawn has the same self-restraint. I am constantly almost tripping over half-filled glasses of water he has set on the floor for her to drink out of whenever she feels the urge.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Photo Ops

I must, must, must write about my weekend and Tara and Jimmy's wedding and Zena's visit and how the woman at Macy's measured Shawn's crotch, but no time now so instead, you get photos. To your left, you will find Luke and Liz. See how fast Liz knits? Her hands are literally unable to be captured without being blurry, much like a hummingbird in flight. She is knitting a row for a baby blanket I'm making for my friends Julie and Danny, who are soon to have a li'l baby boy named Bump (see next). That is Julie in the Hawaiian print, plus me, plus Danny. The way it's posed, it sort of looks like Danny is wearing red nail polish, but he really isn't.

The final photo is our wild animal, Gretel. Ever since we moved and she has been allowed back outside, she has been plotting her escape. She even went so far as to drop a few pounds in order to squeeze underneath the fence into the next yard. Here, you see how we naively thought that leaving a space that's 1 inch by 8 inches would keep her from getting away. Shortly after this picture was taken, Gretel wiggled under the fence, leaving behind tufts of white fur. I had to bust part of our own fence to get her back. She is very resourceful and very bad.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Much Too Much

What happens if you wait too long to post about your whole entire weekend is that you get suddenly very tired at the thought of trying to recall and describe everything and you may never ever get around to writing about it and your friends (who would appear in the stories b/c they were part of the weekend) become cranky and non communicative. So let's see if I can do highlights. First, you should be aware that Liz and Luke came to visit and that our other friend Padhraig was also in town. So it was State College people galore!


Arrival day! Liz and Luke arrive via Chinatown bus after dark. Shawn is at happy hour (in Shawn time happy hour on Friday lasts from 5 pm-midnight) and though we expect to possibly see him before we leave for dinner, he is MIA. We go to Johnny Brenda's and run into Padhraig and Carrie. It's loud and we're shouting at each other. Carrie's friend Mary sits at the other end of the table with her blond hair all over the place. I keep asking Padhraig if she's totally drunk. He is unsure. Shawn shows up. Carrie invites us to hang out at her house which has a great backyard with citronella candles that fight off the mosquitos. We drink all of her wine, eat all of her pretzels and chips, and talk about things.


Paint day! Our Liz and Chris arrive around 12--we have yet to get out of the house. They are ready to paint the walls of the "lounge" and have come prepared with their own paintbrushes. We put on one coat of primer (gray) and that takes three hours to do. Chris paints shelves in the bedroom and Shawn alternates between putting on fifteen coats of paint in the closet and scrapping off the old paint on the mantel we bought. In the evening, we go to Bar Ferdinand and drink sangria. Then we go to Crazy Fish and it's not crazy at all.


Pool day! We take our first trek to the free Fishtown pool (oh, but before that, we went to South Street and each bought something at Green Street. I got a cute dress for Tara's wedding, Luke got gray pants and possibly a tie, and Liz got something too but I don't remember what--a dress?) Okay, and then we go to the pool. You're not technically supposed to "lay out" there but we do anyway, interspersed with swimming in the pool and Shawn dunking me. Carrie and Padhraig arrive and Padhraig helps to convince Liz and Luke to stay one more night and go back on the bus with him on Monday morning (he's headed to Dublin via New York). Everyone yells, Yeah!!! when they agree to stay. We have dinner at a much more quiet Johnny Brenda's and I order the octopus which is delicious--I don't tell anyone how good it is until after I've gobble up the last rubbery, buttery bit because I don't want to share.

Among all of this, we managed to play 500 hours of Sims. Liz has resurrected Corey Crouton as though no time has passed. We modify him so that he wears cat make-up, purple lipstick, and a beret. He is still in love with this one simpering neighbor who wants family, family, family. They move in together and then we sort of lose interest in the game.

Here's Liz and I practicing our routine at the pool

I love my friends. They are like friends to me.

Friday, August 4, 2006

"The Psychological Implications of Sims II Gameplay and How it Reflects Your Individual Neurosis" by Mortimer Goth

I haven't played Sims II since I went to visit Liz in Park Slope, but she and Luke are coming to Philly this weekend so I played for a little while last night remembering again how enjoyable it's not. In the way I play the game, everything is about keeping them happy and fulfilling their goals. I have one family that's maxed out in life goals, but I can't just relax; I have to continue to pursue their dreams. This is because I am a control freak in many ways and don't ever like to see anyone be unhappy if I can do something about it (Florence Nightingale syndrome with a sarcastic side). Conversely, Luke creates pudgy characters with bad afros (Corey Crouton, for one) and let's his life unspool into chaos and flies. He will actually let a Sim pee himself. This suggests to me that he has a little less anxiety than I do and that he's not so worried about order in his life. Liz plays in similar way--she likes to watch them do their own thing (in my opinion, this means that she's too slow), but what it probably means is that she isn't as concerned about them getting everything done in the most efficient manner. She's much more laid back and easy going than I am. Julie likes the decorating and building part and so does Shawn. They are graphic designers in real life. I suppose I like the story end of it, but with Sims, unless you take chances, there isn't much of a story--nothing really dramatic happens. So, that is my conundrum in digital life--I want something interesting to occur but I don't want to take the risk that it might end catastrophically.

Here is a photo Shawn made of Gretel and Henri as they will appear in their upcoming wedding:

Thursday, August 3, 2006

A Kitty of a Certain Age

I'm worried about Gretel. She is a skelecat. I can feel her breastbone, her ribs, her bony, bumpy spine. I don't know if it's the heat or her age (17) or the anxiety of being this close to escape because she's now allowed outside or if she's not eating or what. I recently started feeding her wet food as her teeth might be hurting her with the dry crunchy dead horse cat food. I feel a little sick with anxiety at the thought of something happening to her, but I know she'll die. It's the not knowing when that's hard. Jess once said that she wished she could just put her dog Lucy to sleep right then, just so she'd know when she was going to die. It's the unknown quality of grief that scares me. Like, maybe I'll be fine or somewhat sad, but then recover in a week or so. Or maybe I'll be devastated since she was my first pet ever and since I got her in college and so when she goes, it's this metaphorical death of that college self too and a reminder that I'm getting older too. I've never lost a pet before (having never had one before her), except for our neighbor's golden retriever when I was growing up, Corey. I remember I almost fell off my bike when Mrs. Autterson told me they had to put Corey down. I ran home. My mom was putting clothes out on the line. She said later that she knew something devastating had happened because of the way I was wailing. I cried through dinner and through piano practice, until my stepdad snapped. He said, Quit it! It was just a dog! I also remember when Wallis Payne, my best friend in middle school, had to put her very talkative Siamese, Diabla, to sleep. Diabla was a total bitch to me sometimes, but she loved Wallis and slept with her under the covers every night. I remember the fear that she would die some day too and collecting a few of her whiskers to put in an envelope (she loved that). And I remember when Wallis called me to tell me and how she didn't have to say anything. She just said, Can you please meet me halfway? (Our houses were at the end of two cul-de-sacs and we always met at the cross street). I saw her coming to me and I knew, knew, knew. I said, What happened to Diabla? And she started crying. At least I know Shawn will feel part of what I feel since he worships her. I have to remind him to pet me even 1/100th as much as he does her.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006


That's the new Snickers campaign appearing on 75% of the billboards and 55% of the cab tops in Philadelphia. It's meant to cleverly place "Snickers" back in the minds of Americans by using the familiar brown and white packaging with word associations like "Peanutopolis" and "Snackadilicious." What it does for me is to make me "Carmelgolyhate" Snickers.

Everyone in my dept. is up in arms because it's so flipping hot on the third floor due to global warming and the record temperatures for today. We're all considering going home at noon because it's too unbearable to work (actually, it's not that bad, but who wouldn't want a half day)? I blame George Bush for the abundant crop of blood-thirsty mosquitos that feast on my arms at legs in my back yard, for the sweat tickling down my back, for the fact that my cat has lost 10 pounds in the heat and lays flat as a pancake to be as close to the floor as possible, for the uncomfortable sight of the black man passed out and wet with perspiration on the park bench this morning, for my inability to imagine going to the gym and sweating more, for my desire to drink cold beers to excess, for the general crankiness of people, for the fear, fear, fear that things will only get worse.