Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dog Day Morning

For years my friend Dennis, entrusted me with the care of his animals when he would travel. First with his Dalmatian, Kiva, then again when he got Sophie, his adorable little Yorkie. Since Dennis moved away I haven't done much 'doggy sitting', until this past weekend when my newest tenants felt comfortable enough to ask me to take care of their cute little Pug, Otis.
Otis is a good dog, who sort of resembles a football with feet, and he seems to really like my dog Molly. After the first couple of times I went over to let Otis out to pee, I decided he needed to come over to my house and play with Molly for awhile. After a few minutes of play, Otis noticed Molly's bowl of food that I had just filled for her. What I didn't know is that Otis' last name is Hoover. I turned my back on him for thirty seconds and when I turned back the food bowl was empty, licked clean. How the hell could that little dog eat all that food, that fast? That was enough food for a seventy pound dog. After that, I had to diligently take Otis out every two hours or so, because all that food produced a lot of poop.

I wasn't always a trustworthy pet sitter. When I was younger I didn't always understand what dogs wanted or needed. In 1972 I lived with a friend in a small apartment on the northwest side of Chicago. It turned out that my friend Tom wasn't really named Tom, and that he was AWOL from the Marines. Tom decided to turn himself in and asked if I would take care of his German Sheppard, Caesar, while he served his time.
Caesar never did believe that I was the master of the house. He would chew my things up, and look at me like "So what are you gonna do about it?". When I would walk him, he took his time and made sure every inch of the neighborhood was christened with his scent. Late one night, I felt lazy, and I decided Caesar could hold it until morning, and I went to bed. Early the next morning I was having a strange dream, that somebody was holding me down. I awoke from that dream to find Caesar sort of sitting on my chest, ass towards my face. By the time I realized what was happening the poop was already on its way. Yes, the dog had got up on my chest, squatted, and crapped all over me.

The fact is that everybody whose dog I have ever watched while they were away, have Caesar to thank for teaching me a valuable lesson. Always take them for their walkies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Party, Party!

Back when my parents still lived in Chicago, they belonged to something called the "Tau Club", or as I called it the towel club. At the time I had no idea what it was all about, and to this day I still don't, but every summer after they moved to the suburbs my parents would have a giant lawn party for all the Tau Club members. This was the social event of the year in our neighborhood, and required weeks of planning. My dad would borrow every available picnic table from up and down the street, until our backyard was full with two long lines of tables like a German beer garden. In further preparation, the garage was cleaned out of all useless, un-needed things, swept clean and hosed out. The purpose of cleaning the garage was to create a bar and dance floor. I can still see my dad sprinkling salt on the floor for easier foot movement and trying it out with a little soft shoe. Finally on the evening of the event, the backyard aglow with Chinese lanterns, the guests would start arriving, and for hours I would lay in my bed listening to all the adults out in the yard having a good time, drinking, dancing, and laughing. Now that I'm an adult, I hate big parties like that, and I have never felt at ease at a large party, even if the party is at my house.

A couple of months ago Mark informed me that we would be having a party on Memorial Day. Just a small get together, with some burgers and beer. "Everyone can bring their swim suits and we'll make it a pool party.", Mark told me. "Honestly, it won't be a big crazy party."

Mark's problem is that he never knows how to moderate things. His little parties always go way over the top. One Fourth of July he had a buffet table set up that looked like something straight out of Las Vegas. This party would be no different. What started out as just burgers, almost immediately ballooned into an extravaganza of barbequed meats. Smoked pulled pork, slow smoked brisket, grilled chicken, hamburgers, and finally hotdogs, were all on the menu. Mark's famous macaroni and cheese, baked beans, watermelon salad, and about a dozen other dishes rounded it out. All of course were prepared to perfection and tasted great.

I do have to admit, for once I had a great time, as did most of the guests. The one strange thing is that this was a pool party, and even though I went to great lengths to make sure the pool was in perfect shape, nobody went swimming, at all! I take that back, some guests were swimming. From all the empty beer cans, vodka, and rum bottles, it is obvious that somebody was swimming. Just not in the pool.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inside The Lines

When I was in early grade school, one of my favorite subjects was 'Art', which I think was just a way for the nun to get some rest while we drew pictures. It always made me happy when the teacher would pass out the construction paper, and announce, "Everybody, get out your crayons.". I of course, would pull out my little box of eight crayons, that had been passed down through generations, and begin my masterpiece.

While I labored away, trying to express myself with little stubs of red, blue, green, and yellow, there would always be one girl in class who would pull out her giant box of 256 crayons. It looked like a tier of stadium seats, populated by people wearing various colored hats. While I struggled to get the color of the sky correct, she would be choosing from multiple hues of crayons marked 'cerulean', 'periwinkle', and 'blue bell'. I don't think she even had a crayon simply called 'blue'.

This past weekend, in preparation for our Memorial Day party, Mark and I, decided to repaint the coping around the swimming pool. I had wanted a muted, dusky, green color, but Mark picked a blue-gray color that looked nice. So with a can of blue-gray paint and a roller, I went to work on the pool. I have never been able to stay inside the lines going back to my childhood coloring books, so it was inevitable that I would slop paint on the tiles in the pool. This caused Mark to run around the pool waving his arms and screaming at me in his most high pitched, and irritating voice, "Why didn't you tape it! You always do things half-assed!". But Mark was wrong. I was definitely doing it 'whole-assed' and had thought it out before I started painting. With a little elbow grease and a Scotch-Brite pad from the kitchen the paint came right off the tiles, calming Mark.

I was wondering, if my dog Molly had hands, could she paint and not get one drop of paint where it doesn't belong? I base this on the way she eats leftovers I give her after dinner. I will put a plate covered with meat scraps, gravy, mashed potato bits, and assorted vegetables on the floor for her to lap up. Within thirty seconds every last bit of food on that plate will be gone and like magic the plate will licked clean all except for the vegetables. They will still be resting on the plate, licked clean of all evidence that there ever was anything else on that dish.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Photo Friday

Have a nice Memorial Day Weekend.

They Served...

My Dad, Big Al, World War II

Uncle Joe, Korean era (holding Viet Nam era draft dodger)

Dennis, Viet Nam

My Brother Paul, peacetime USCG

Nephew Nick, serving presently.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad Car Ma

I was thinking about the terror of riding in the car with Mark driving, and it dawned on me, maybe that television show 'My Name Is Earl' is right. Maybe there is something called 'Karma' and I am reaping my karma every time I sit in the suicide seat next to Mark.

It goes all the way back to when I was a teenager in my dads 1967 station wagon. I don't know why, but my dad after many years of buying bland, six cylinder station wagons, decided to buy one with a big, powerful V8 engine. I was seventeen, and I loved that car. I would find any excuse to take it out for a drive. I'm sure 'big Al' wondered why he had to replace the rear tires so often. He never saw me take off in a cloud of blue smoke, tires squealing, while my little friends looked on. Yes, I was sure everyone was impressed with the pimply faced little asshole in his dads station wagon. I took chances, and I thought nothing of speeding down the roads around our town, risking mine and others lives.

My bad driving habits, and risk taking continued into adulthood. When I was in my twenties, I used to drive a taxi in Chicago, scaring the hell out of the tourists. I'd speed down Michigan Avenue like a madman with ten conventioneers crammed into my cab, and try to make all the green lights from one end of the avenue to the other, in one try. Then there was the time I took an exciting trip down a snow filled alley in Chicago at sixty miles per hour with one of my brothers riding in the car next to me. As he clung to the dashboard with a death grip, his last brown hair turned gray. It really is amazing that I have had very few accidents, and that I am even still alive.

Now that I don't drive and depend on Mark to get me around, I think karma is getting back at me. It must be karma, when Mark pulls out of the Winn-Dixie parking lot without looking and the drivers in the oncoming cars are honking at us, and giving us the finger, while I scream in terror like a little girl. Yes it must be karma, when a SUV driven by a young woman on a cell phone, almost runs us over and Mark doesn't even notice.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I don't claim to be the 'cat whisperer', but after thirty three years of cat ownership I think I know a few things about them. Mark on the other hand seems to not understand them at all. He thinks they are supposed to be just like puppies. I've explained to him, that they are cute, cuddly, love machines, with very sharp edges, yet he still insists on man-handling Fat Kitty in ways she does not approve of.

Just like the tigers in the San Francisco Zoo, it's not a good idea to keep teasing a cat. Eventually the cat loses sight of what is the toy and what is you, and the results are as follows. Please watch the video, and enjoy Mark playing with Fat Kitty.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Hot Water

I am in my shower, the hot steamy water enveloping me. It is the most relaxing and self-indulgent time of my day. This is the place where I can think and let the water wash away my troubles. But wait, this is a false sense of serenity, because at this moment Mark is wandering around the house looking for things that use water to turn on. Anyone with an old house knows that only one person can use the water during a shower, and that is the person taking the shower.

Suddenly, as I rinse my face in the warm spray, I am hit with a cold icy slap. Mark has flushed the toilet in the other bathroom. That is the least discomfort I can experience in the shower. If Mark decides to start the laundry, I am hit with a sudden scalding spray, as if a steam pipe has burst. I scream out in pain and curse Mark, while simultaneously slapping madly at the shut off valve and trying to plaster my self against the far wall of the shower.

I don't know if Mark does it on purpose or not, but it seems that he has a Pavlovian response to me going into the shower. I always have to stop on the way in and tell him to not turn on any water for a few minutes. Yet, five minutes into the shower I'm doing the crazy dance again.

The only remedy to this situation is total re-piping of the house, and that isn't going to happen. So I just put up with it, and once in awhile, while Mark is in the shower, I go over to the kitchen sink and flip the water on. First the cold and then the hot, then I listen for the scream.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Don't Worry, I Don't Drive

Dennis' visit to Fort Lauderdale is over and he has returned to sunny California. Yes, we spent a good part of his visit in dimly lit taverns knocking back more than a few vodka drinks. It has been suggested by a few members of my family that maybe we have a gene that makes us want to hang out in such places. The answer is yes, or maybe, or possibly.

Years ago, in the city of Chicago, there were taverns on almost every street corner, in every neighborhood. When I was a little boy my mom and dad would bring us all into the city to visit grandma and grandpa, and one of my favorite things was to go bar hopping with grandpa. He would take my little hand in his gnarled old hand and lead me down the street, to the corner tavern. When we walked in the door, it seemed everyone knew 'Bill', and said hello to him in unison. He would then pop me up onto a bar stool and a cold 7up would appear in front of me, and a beer in front of grandpa. I would then be accosted by numerous drunken patrons, all needing to say something funny to the cute little kid. Is it any wonder where I got the idea that a bar was a cool place where you met people and they would talk to you?

After a beer, my grandpa would then take me down to Fifty First Street, to visit his next stop on the tour. This seemed to be a somewhat more sophisticated establishment, with a juke box, but with a slightly less family oriented clientele. Still, the routine was the same. Me up on the bar stool with my 7up, and grandpa with the beer. At this stop there were more ladies who just had to come over, squeeze my cheeks, and say hello to the cute little kid.

These days nobody comes over and squeezes my cheeks, and says I'm cute while I sit on a bar stool. In fact usually the only one who talks to me at all is the bartender, and that's just to find out if I need another drink.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Photo Friday

The Last Temptation of Alan. (Until the next one)

Mark baked two dozen chocolate cup cakes, with chocolate/Kahlua icing. He used real Kahlua and chocolate. Like I said, there were two dozen. At the time I posted this there were five left..

Clean Living

My bedroom, circa 1967
I love a clean house. A clean, uncluttered, nice smelling, house. When I was a kid, it was required that we clean our bedrooms every Saturday morning. I hated the actual cleaning part, but when it was all over, the results made me feel good. The problem has always been how to get to the feeling good part without the work part.

Over the years I have had a few housekeepers. Even though it is expensive, I loved coming home to a clean house after the housekeeper had been there. My first cleaning lady was in Chicago. She was my next door neighbor, and she may have had an ulterior motive. Not knowing I was gay, she seemed to be very friendly, but she only charged me fifteen dollars so I didn't care what she thought.

When I moved to Florida, I hired a cleaning 'man' named Paul to clean my house. He was very thorough, and also economical. His only drawback was that he was clumsy, and often when I would return home after he had cleaned, I'd find something broken. That didn't bother me at all, mostly because I didn't really own any thing that was worth much.

I eventually had to find another housekeeper. The one I hired after Paul seemed okay, he even cleaned the inside of my refrigerator. Then one day he just disappeared. My next housekeeper followed the same route. He worked a couple of weeks and ' Poof ' he was gone. My final try at finding someone to keep my house clean was an older man named 'Willamina'. Willamina's problem, besides his name, was that he was an alcoholic. No matter what he was doing, at twelve noon when his favorite tavern opened, he would stop working and run off. It was more than once that I came home and found the house half cleaned, and the mop and bucket in the middle of the living room. I eventually had to fire him.

So for years now I have been cleaning my own home. I am kind of like Paul, the first cleaning man I had here in Florida. I am clumsy, I break things, and I am very economical..

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


When I was a kid in Tinley Park, I loved those first spring days when you no longer could smell winter in the air. Instead, you would wake up in the morning to the lush smell of new growth and fresh earth filling your nostrils.

Yesterday morning I opened the back door to let Molly out and the smell of Florida's springtime smacked me in the face, smoke and humidity. Almost every spring in Florida we get 'wild fires'. The term 'wild fires' is a misnomer, because almost all of them are set by arsonists. Stupid people with no regard for the other people around them. Mark told me that he didn't think anyone would really set fires on purpose. I had to set him straight on that, because when I was a kid I loved fire.

One of my chores as a kid was to take the trash out to the back of our yard and burn it. It was a task that I truly enjoyed. I would spend quite a bit of time arranging all the trash into a little town, using milk cartons and boxes as buildings, and sometimes even including my brothers toy cars and my sisters dolls. When I got everything set just right, the fire storm started. I loved seeing the flames spread across the 'town', slowly heading for my sisters hapless dolls and engulfing the plastic cars on the way. Every once in a while I'd throw a single sheet of newspaper over the town, just to watch it burst into flames and add to the excitement.

I finally got over my fascination with fire as I grew older, but that knowledge did come in handy. It is notable that when I was in Boy Scouts, one thing I was better at than anyone else was starting campfires. Even now, when Mark wants to barbeque, he always asks me to start the fire. I am exceptionally good at it.