Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Prize

The Prize
Sometimes you have to work hard, and do unpleasant things to get a reward. You have to plow up the garden, plant seedlings, and weed it, but in the end you get some nice flowers and vegetables. Even though I hate it, pulling up old tiles, ripping off wallpaper, and painting walls, will reward me with a fresh look in the house.

living with Mark gets me rewards, except I have to deal with him in reverse. I get the reward before the work. Tonight it was mashed potatoes, biscuits, and meat loaf. Mark makes the best meat loaf I have ever tasted in my whole life. It is moist, but not greasy. The texture and flavor is perfect, and it's all that I can do to resist eating the whole thing in one sitting. Of course if I did that, there would be none left for delicious meat loaf sandwiches the next day. That is what I have to keep telling myself every night, that dinner was great, while I clean up the disaster that Mark has left in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Sunday we had a nice little birthday dinner for a friend. Mark made some barbeque ribs, macaroni and cheese, and fried green tomatoes. It was delicious. While Mark was in the kitchen I noticed a jar of Pilon coffee. 
"What's this for?", I said knowing that Pilon was the main ingredient for Cuban Coffee.
 "The birthday cake. I'm making coffee flavored frosting."
Now I can take caffeine. I can drink a Diet Coke, take a couple of caffeine loaded Excedrin's, or sip some tea just before bedtime, and sleep like a baby. For some reason the caffeine in coffee is different. It keeps me awake. And if that coffee is Cuban Coffee, I can stay awake for up to two days straight.
"Don't worry, I'm only using a couple of teaspoons in it.", Mark assured me.

I don't know why people even bother with meth. It is two o'clock in the morning, and I am wired. Not only am I wired, but Mark is laying on the other side of the bed vibrating. Mark has a peculiar thing that happens to him when he can't sleep. He jiggles. His legs bounce around, his arms flip, and the whole bed simply quivers.
"I thought you only put two spoonfuls of coffee in that cake."
"More or less."
"I think more is the answer."

So there we were, the two of us wide awake, with a gigantic dog stretched out, and sound asleep between us. Laying across the top of my head, on my pillow was Sasha, also sound asleep. Yet the bed kept shaking.
"Just stop that wiggling around over there and maybe we can fall asleep.", I begged Mark. The bed kept shaking.
like I said, I don't understand why meth heads don't just do Cuban Coffee.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New York State of Mind

I have a rule about hurricane coverage. I never, ever, watch the local television channels when a hurricane is imminent. I've found that they are full of hyperbole, and love to scare the crap out of us. I have made it a policy to only get my hurricane information from the Weather Channel, the internet, and the national news media because they would never lie to me just to sell bottled water, and plywood.

The problem with hurricane Irene is that it was heading straight for New York City. NYC is the home of ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS, and although the Weather Channel, and CNN are headquartered in Georgia, much of their programming also come from the New York City area. Apparently all these news organizations lost their minds anticipating Irene. They behaved like a bunch of local yahoos, trying to out hype each other. Breathlessly they told us that lower Manhattan would be under twenty feet of water, the entire upper east coast was to be ripped to shreds, and millions of people would drown in the subways.

It was a category one hurricane. I don't even put up all my shutters for a category one. By the time it got to New York it was a tropical storm. In other words, a rain storm with a brisk breeze. I was totally shocked that national news organizations would lie to me, would blow a news story out of proportion, would try to make something more out of it than it was. Up until late Saturday I actually believed them. By Sunday it was apparent that it wasn't the storm they anticipated. Now I have to ask myself, could they be telling me lies about other things? Could the Tea Party really not be the big deal they say it is? Is John Boehner really not orange? Could the president really be a Muslim, illegal immigrant, socialist? Is Glenn Beck actually the messiah? Now I have so many questions. From now on I think I'll just get my news from the internet. At least I know that shit is all true.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photo Friday

I lost another one this week.

Fat Kitty was just fine when we got home from Chicago, but two days later she suddenly got sick. We only had her for four years, neighbors across the street moved out and left her behind so I took her in. She was such a good cat even Mark liked her.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane Shopping

I told Mark on Sunday, "If you wait until Monday to buy batteries, and water, they'll be all gone." I was of course correct. On Sunday everyone was preoccupied with back to school supplies. They hadn't been paying attention to the Weather Channel, and the ominous tropical storm out in the Atlantic. We walked into Target, and grabbed all the batteries, and water we needed, while harried moms wandered up and down the aisles with their screaming kids begging for this and that.

On Monday morning it started. Channel ten broke into The View.
The sky is falling, lock the doors, and tie down the children. Run out to Publix for water, and Home Depot for plywood and batteries! Oh, and don't forget to form long lines at gas stations to top off that tank!
I think the news people get some kind of perverted feeling of power every time they send the populace off in a hurricane panic. With the first news flash that breaks into daytime programming, they are off and running. Like lemmings they run to the store and strip the shelves of water, canned tuna, and toilet paper. Wouldn't want to be stranded on the roof of your house without something to wipe yourself with.

I had sent Mark off to the store Monday morning for just a few items, none of them hurricane related. He called me from the supermarket, and told me that the store was in chaos, "They're buying everything. Stupid things, like meat, and beer." Well yes, meat is a stupid hurricane supply, it'll rot without refrigeration. As for the beer, I think that could be helpful.

Now it's Wednesday, and it is apparent the storm is not hitting Florida. No matter, all the stores have already made their money off it, and they are stocking up for the next one. Which makes me wonder, what do those people do with the stuff they just bought, and why do they run out every time for more?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

With or Without Spit?

On our way home from Chicago we decided to get lunch, and get gassed up. Luckily we could do both at the Fort Pierce, Florida, McDonalds.

For three weeks we had been spoiled. Waiters and waitresses treated us like customers, store clerks were attentive, and when we went to fast food establishments the help not only seemed happy we were there, but got our orders correct. Now things were different. We had crossed the border from the Southern United States, and entered the third world country known as South Florida.

My order was fairly simple, "Two number ones, and a plain burger." The plain burger being for the dogs. After quite a wait the young Hispanic man finally handed me a heavy bag of food, then turned and continued to jabber away in Spanish to his fellow workers.

"What the fuck is this?", Mark screamed at me. In his hand he held a Big Mac carton with a label on it that read 'Plain'. This is why I should have really tried harder to learn Spanish. The girl who took my order misunderstood, and gave us two plain Big Macs, and no plain burger for the dogs. Naturally Mark stormed back into the place and raised a stink, and after another long wait was handed another heavy bag of food. This time two regular Big Macs, but still no plain burger.
"Sir, I will have to charge you for an additional burger if I give you another one."

This happens every time we go to a fast food joint here in South Florida. Not sometimes, but every single time. The burger flippers, and cashiers are always either Haitian, or Hispanic. English is always their second language, and they speak it about as good as I speak Spanish. I have tried to order in Spanish, but it always turns out wrong.
"Uno hamburgesa, y uno bebida grande."
"Hamburgesa, carne. Bebida, Coke. Comprende?"
"Donde es su el bosso?"
"Usted el estupido puta."

The service you get in stores, and restaurants here is one of the reasons I hate Florida so much. They are rude, stupid, and seem to hate the very fact that you have interrupted their day, yet every counter seems to have that little tip jar sitting there. And then there is the other reason I hate Florida. Hurricanes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Damn This Was Fun Forty Years Ago

Well the great road trip of 2011 is finally over. Almost three thousand miles of driving, heart stopping costs for fuel, occasional spats with Mark, and piles of dog hair in the car later, we are home. Of course I had a good time. All the fears and apprehension I had about what I'd find when we got home are gone. All the nerves I had during the long tedious drive, that the swimming pool would be a green swamp filled with critters, that the house would be a burned out shell, and all the cats would be dead or lost were for naught. My tenants did a fine job taking care of things.

I have to say that the dogs were angels. They behaved both at my friend Dennis' house, and at the various motels we stayed in. Chandler slept most of the way in the back seat, and Sasha curled up on my lap in the front. The only time they popped their heads up was when Mark freaked out, and slowed down for those 'curvy' spots in the road. I also would like to give Mark credit for driving a lot more this year. He is slowly getting better at chauffeuring me around.

There was one small incident at the La Quinta Motel in Valdosta, Georgia. We chose to stop at that motel because they have a free, three hour long cocktail hour in the evening. After checking in, Mark went down to the lobby and procured two vodka drinks for us, which I have to say were quite generous. As we sat on our little patio which was right next to the swimming pool, miss Sasha barked, and strained against her leash. While Chandler behaved like a good boy, I had to stick Sasha back inside the sliding patio door. Unfortunately I didn't close it completely, and within minutes Sasha came trotting out, and scooted right under our chairs. She was naked. She had shed her harness, and leash, and was heading right for the swimming pool. My god that girl likes to go swimming.

One last problem before we got home. When we left Valdosta in the ninety degree heat for the trip home through Florida, the air-conditioner stopped working. I don't know how, but after an hour of driving in a car reeking of moist dogs, the air kicked on, and stayed on all the way to Fort Lauderdale. Maybe it was a miracle, maybe it was that gigantic crucifix we passed in downstate Illinois. Or, maybe our car is just an old, fickle piece of shit.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Help

For our trip to Chicago I bought the book The Help on cd. It was fifteen cd’s, and made our drive much easier. It was a very entertaining book, even if the author got a few historical facts wrong.

This past week the movie came out, and Mark and I thought we’d like to go see it. So I looked up the theaters here in Chicago, and found one called the Davis, very close to the house. It sits in a nice little neighborhood that is almost like an old suburban town, with cute shops, and restaurants, and families strolling along Lincoln Avenue. So I thought the quaint little movie theater would be a fun place to see a film about the early sixties.

When you walk into the lobby it is as if you stepped back in time. It is old, very old and very decrepit. I figured it just added to the ambience, that is if you like the ambience of a porno theater. Actually, I take that back. Porno theaters aren’t as bad. This was an old place that had been clumsily chopped up into four small theaters. The old slope of the floor towards the single screen theater was still there, but the seats were turned to face the new movie screen tacked up twenty feet above the floor. I sat down in a seat, and was immediately greeted with a spring poking me in the ass. I moved around to try a few more, but they were all broken in one way or another, so I gave up and sat in the least broken seat I could find. Sitting there in my seat that still leaned towards the original movie screen, I became aware of the odor. Damp, dank, and with the slight hint of body odor. Once again I was reminded of being in a porno theater...    not that I’ve ever been in one.

So, after two and a half hours of getting my butt poked by broken springs, while craning my neck to see the tiny screen halfway up the wall, I have to say that The Help is an okay movie. Not great, just okay. If you didn’t read the book you might be stumped about what was going on, and even if you did read the book some of the scenes were confusing. So my advice is, read the book, wait and see the movie when it is released on video, and if you do go to a theater, don’t go to the Davis. Unless you like that sort of dirty old man in a trench coat feel.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

City Life

I’m staying at a friend's apartment here in Chicago, which is great because the building has an in-house pay laundry. Friday I got up at six thirty in the morning, walked the dogs, and then took a bunch of dirty clothes down to the laundry room. To get there you have to go outside and walk around to the side of the building. As I rounded the corner I almost tripped over a man sleeping on the sidewalk. Now this isn’t a bad neighborhood, nor is it the best. The mayor of Chicago lives just four blocks away, so I was a bit surprised at a homeless guy snoozing out there on the concrete. He wasn’t drunk, just sleeping. On my way back up to the apartment, I stopped and asked him why he chose the hard sidewalk over the grass. He opened his mouth to talk, and with a toothless grin told me, “The grass is too wet. I know it’s softer, but it’s just too wet.”

I went back upstairs, but I couldn’t help thinking about that guy. I know it looks awful to have bums sleeping next to your building, but for some reason I felt bad for him. So after fifteen minutes I decided I’d bring him breakfast. I cooked up a hotdog, put it on a bun with some mustard, and took it on down. When I got out there the building janitor was in front puttering around, and other neighbors were walking by. My bum was still sleeping on the sidewalk, but I realized I couldn’t feed him. Not one of those folks out there would have been happy with my feeding homeless people. After all, it’s just like the cats I have in my back yard. Feed them once and they never leave. I totally chickened out, so I went into the laundry room and ate the hotdog myself. I’m surprised I didn’t choke on it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Inside Voice Please

You have to admit, sometimes it’s quite entertaining when very young children blurt out embarrassing things in public. You know how it goes.
“Why do you have all those red lines on your nose mister?”
“Lady, why do you have a bald spot?”
“Hey, you’re fat.”, and other things like that. But it’s not so funny when adults do it.

I have a friend, a very close friend who I love dearly, who has no filter on his mouth. I’ve known him for thirty years, and you would think I’d have got used to his ramblings, but no. He still surprises me. This past week, we all went out to dinner, Mark, me and the friend. As we sat in the restaurant, the friend carried on a conversation with us, about sexual matters using very graphic language, and in a very loud voice. My take on it was that there was only one other person close to our table, and I knew I’d never see that man again, so carry on. It was when he turned to another topic that he caught me off guard. This is how I remember it, by which I mean, I don’t really remember what he was talking about, just the two words he threw in there.
“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, niggers and spics, blah, blah.”
I audibly gasped and shrunk down in my seat. Oh, my god. Who’s sitting near us? Is there anybody black nearby? Did they hear that?

Well yes, a black man did hear it. After a couple of seconds I looked over at Mark to see what he thought of the nigger and spic shout out, and realized, He’s black! I then looked over to the bar, about five feet away, and the Mexican busboy was standing there staring at us. Mark, knowing my friend very well, let it roll off his back. As for the Mexican busboy, I’m not sure. Maybe the thirty dollar tip assuaged him, or maybe he didn’t even hear the spic comment. It just makes you wonder, how much spit has my friend eaten in his day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photo Friday

Thirty minutes before the show.
 Photo taken by me, with Mark's telephone

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On The Bus

Other than the fact my mom had eleven children, I don’t remember her taking up an inordinate amount of space with her kids when she took us places. I mean when she was out with us, we were required to stay close, and not wander or get in adults way.

Mark and I have been taking a lot of city buses here in Chicago.  Sunday we took the number twenty two, Clark Street bus, down to the Chicago History Museum. At around Irving Park the bus stopped, and the doors opened. A few people got on, but the doors didn‘t close, and the bus didn‘t resume it‘s route. Instead there was a commotion, and after a few moments a gigantic baby stroller was thrust onto the bus. Behind the stroller was a young woman, pushing and shoving the thing with all it’s cargo, and a child in it. After she finally got onboard, and turned towards the seats, another stroller gets pushed up onto the bus, again laden with all sorts of paraphernalia, and a child. These strollers were massive, and filled the entire aisle, blocking all access to the other riders. Even with the cripple seats folded up they barely fit.

Okay, I get it. You have achieved the pinnacle of human existence. You’ve reproduced. You’ve made a baby, and you feel it is your right to impose that child and all it’s needs upon society in general. You take the kid on airplanes, out for dinner at nice restaurants, and anywhere else you liked to go before the kid was born. As a courtesy to others could you please get yourself a smaller stroller? Could you please get one that isn’t the same width as a Ford pickup truck?

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. I was one once, but my mom and dad never dragged us onto an airplane, or into restaurants. If my dad couldn’t drive right up to the place and order food from the car, or watch a movie from the car, we didn’t go out. If you must take the kids out, here is a little tip. Fold up strollers. They still make them, and they fold up just like an umbrella. When the bus comes you just pull the kid out, fold it up, and climb on board.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Dog Beach

As soon as we took the leashes off them, Sasha and Chandler sprinted out onto the beach like school children released for the summer. Sasha, barking madly and running towards the surf, while Chandler meandered back and forth, his tail wagging, aiming for the gigantic hole in the fence. Sasha loves to swim, and she hit the water like a practiced surfer while Mark struggled to get his shoes off. As I slowly tried to chase down Chandler, I could hear Mark’s panicked voice, “Oh my god, Sasha is going to drown.” 

Sasha was not going to drown. She swims better than Mark, and when I looked back she was about fifteen feet out into the water, still barking, and riding a little wave back towards shore. Meanwhile Chandler had breached the fence, and was sauntering down the non-dog beach headed south. I called out for him to come, but to no avail. It was as if he had gone deaf. Apparently the twelve weeks of training classes were for naught. All the sit, stay, and come commands might just as well been spoken in Russian. Luckily he found a life guard, and excitedly ran up to her like a long lost friend.

I thanked the life guard for holding Chandler, and dragged him back to the dog beach where Mark was still in a panic, and Sasha was still having a great time romping in the water.
“I can’t get her out.”, he squeaked.
“Sasha!”, I called, and the little dog we’ve had for less than a year came bounding out towards me, soaking wet and looking like a fat football on sticks.
“Well at least one of them listens to you.”, Mark sneered.

We gathered our dogs up, and started back towards the car. Chandler, all happy and stupid, totally at peace with his disobedience, and Sasha, covered in sand like a sugar coated donut.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Runs

Mark says that Chicago men are shaped differently than Florida men, and in a way that is true. For one thing, instead of a steroid pumped, tanned body, Chicagoans are more of a pasty white, barrel shape. More often than not, they will also have copious amounts of hair sprouting from all areas. Down in Florida men have taken to ‘Manscaping’, and look more like muscular plucked chickens.

I know that not all Chicagoans are hot dog eating, beer swilling, cows, who sit in front of the television all day watching sports. Early in the morning, when I walk Chandler, there are scads of them running around in little jogging shorts. These people were obviously not born in Chicago, they‘re too healthy. My only problem with these joggers, is that they sneak up on Chandler and me. Yesterday morning I was slowly walking Chandler while he was sniffing, and peeing his way along Ashland Avenue, when a young female runner tried to slip past us. Chandler startles easily, and his reaction to this athletic young woman running up on him, was to lunge at her while barking in his deepest, loudest voice. I had him on a short leash, but he did come close enough to her for his hot breath to be felt. The poor girl screamed in terror, and ran off the sidewalk.

I have just one little suggestion for those of you who run on city sidewalks. When you are coming upon somebody from behind, especially if they are walking a dog, shout out a warning. “On the left” or “On the right”, and do it soon enough for me to get control of my dog. Otherwise, you might just go home with a little brown spot in those cute jogging shorts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Video Thursday

 Not my best, but it's the most I could do with limited tools.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spice Boys

You can smell it for half a block before you get there. The Spice House store, on Wells Street in Chicago. Once a year Mark makes his visit to this aromatic palace of flavor. This is where he buys those hard to find spices he uses in his many recipes. It is also where he buys the spices that he could get off the grocer’s shelf. The difference being that these are fresh, they haven’t been sitting in a plastic bottle for a year. Of all the shopping trips Mark drags me along on, this is the one I don’t object to. This shopping safari represents future dinners of unbelievable quality.

We step into the store, and the full bouquet of spices slams into my nostrils. Almost immediately an employee comes to Mark’s aide,
“May I help you?”  
“Yes you can.”, replies Mark, and he is off and running.
Curry powder, Mexican oregano, Turkish bay leaves, Mediterranean thyme, peppercorns, and on, and on, until Mark has stacks of little bags in his basket. I make the joke that I used to come down to Wells Street forty years ago for such little baggies, but they didn’t have spices in them. My drug joke falls on deaf ears. For about forty five minutes I wander around the store while the helpful employee continues to fill Mark’s order. I spy the dorky kid who helped Mark last year, and I wonder how could anyone work in that place for that long. Does he not have a sense of smell? When we get home the odor of spices permeates my clothes. I imagine when that guy gets home, even after a week of vacation, the smell of spices is still in his skin.

“I’m done.”, announces Mark, and I am pulled out of my thoughts. I know that Mark isn’t done, that this is only the beginning. The beginning of another year of his fantastic meals, and maybe a few more pounds packed on my ample gut.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


‘Missed call, from Lila.’ ‘Voice mail received.’ These two notices are on my phone when I finally decide to pick it up. I check the voice mail first, and it’s my mom. A very terse voice, one that I have heard many times in my life, comes on, “Where are you? Why haven’t you called? It’s Friday.”
I am immediately taken back in time. I am twelve years old again, and I’ve done something wrong, again. Apparently I promised to call mom the minute Mark and I got to Chicago. I don’t remember that, but if she says it’s so, it’s so. She has called my brother, and one of my sisters, and the all points is out for me because I also have calls from them. ‘Ma called, where are you?’, my brother has emailed me.

It’s amazing how we are trained like dogs from birth to fear mom. I love my mom, but as soon as I hear her ‘angry’ voice, my blood runs cold. So it was that I went to the wedding we were both to attend on Saturday, with a bit of trepidation. Sure enough, when I came up to her, she gave me her patented icy stare. “Did my voice mail sound angry?”, she asked. Yes, yes it did, and when I told her this, her face lit up with joy. Apparently nothing satisfies a mother more, than knowing that even at the age of eighty nine, she can still rattle her sixty one year old son.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

There, I told myself, the car is all packed and tied up neatly as a Christmas present. I had dragged all the bags out front, and carefully loaded them into the PT Cruiser for our trip to Chicago. Three bags for Mark, one for the laptop computer, another bag with all the dog paraphernalia, various other shopping bags filled with stuff Mark had deemed necessary, and my single bag. Every possible nook and cranny was used. The back seat floor, all the door pockets, and the cargo area couldn’t hold another piece. The front seat was all clean and neat, and the back seat was all set up for Chandler and Sasha. Mark had bought a special sling contraption for the dogs that tied to the front seats, and around the head rests of the back seat. The purpose was to keep the dogs off the floor, and out of the front seats.

One minute into the trip and Sasha has figured out how to unzip the dog barrier that was to keep her in the back. She has flopped herself across the armrests, and is worming her way forward. I take my left arm, and move her back. “Stay!” I yell. She doesn’t. This goes on for at least twenty more occurrences. Fifteen minutes into the trip, Sasha is curled up on my lap sleeping soundly where she will stay for hours. Thankfully, Chandler is stretched out in the back seat also sound asleep. Not even Mark’s screams of terror as huge trucks pass him, can awake the dogs.

I can’t imagine what it was like for my mom and dad on those summer trips. Five, six, seven kids, and a baby in the car, screaming, and fighting, begging for dad to stop at Stuckey’s for a free pecan log. All the luggage stacked on top of the car, and inside, sticky, whiny, smelly kids. It’s a miracle dad didn’t drive off the road and kill us all. All I have is Mark, and two dogs. I’ve already blown up twice, cursing my decision to do this again. Within two hours the car is strewn with sticky snack bags, and candy wrappers. The back seat is covered in dog hair. The dog sling is bunched up in a ball on the seat, and dog treat crumbs have migrated up to the front seat. All my careful packing, and cleaning is for naught. I now have a new found respect for my dad as my legs go numb while Sasha snores quietly on my lap.