Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stress and the Modern Housecat

I just got in from Florida, and, to be honest, I wasn't keen on writing a blog post. It's late here, and even later on the East Coast, and, at the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, I'd rather be in bed.

However, it's Day Six of the 30 Day Blog-a-Thon going on NOW-now-now at your local Internet dealers! I'm pretty sure nobody would notice if I skipped a day, butper the endless "animals making surly comments" memesI feel like this frog (toad??) would be very unhappy if I did.

"I  managed to knit this cast cozy, even though I have a broken arm. And you can't even write
a stupid blog post? Or tell the difference between a frog and a toad? Are you one of those
"all amphibians look alike" people? Seriously, what is wrong with you?"

--This Frog (or possibly Toad, I'm not really sure)

Fortunately, I won't have to suffer the judgmental stares of any amphibians, thanks to my vet (okay, the cats' vet, although I kind of wish I could have a vet as Primary Care Physician, since they usually seem WAY more concerned about their patients than most human doctors...). In the mail pile, I noticed a card from the veterinary clinic saying that one of our cats, Francis, is "due for treatment" for some vague reason, possibly/probably involving the vet's desire to renovate her vacation home in St. Bart.
All this talk of midlife feline stress is causing Francis a lot of stress.
So much so that he''s considering buying a red convertible.

The best thing about the card was the following Petcare Tip: "As cats begin to age, they may start having trouble handling stress." 

Come to think of it, Francis has seemed a bit stressed lately with good reason.For one thing. the boss was breathing down his neck about the Dobson report. First quarter sales figures weren't up to projections, and then he lost the Johnson account. On top of it all, he's concerned that he's not getting enough niacin in his diet.
Francis is concerned about the growing volatility in the European Markets.
That, and having plenty of clean litter to poop in.
Then, the Petcare Tip section goes on to say, "If you're thinking about getting a new kitten, now is a good time."  WTF?! This reminded me of those endless software update messages you get from Microsoft and others. Basically, the vet is telling us to upgrade to Francis 2.0 already, even though Beta Version Francis is only seven which, in cat years, is barely even middle aged.

No wonder Francis is under so much stress...

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Giant Orb in the Sky: Not Just Decorative!

Okay, turn your head to the side as if looking at an emoticon. (I'll fix this later)
Having lived in Seattle for a while, I’d totally forgotten that the word “sun” is sometimes followed by the word “burn.” Today, in Gainesville, I sat out in my friend April’s yard for about an hour, followed by a nice bike ride. It had been ages since I'd just sat in the sunshine, and I was excited—thrilled, even—to soak up some natural Vitamin D. But alas, I accidentally overdosed.

Sunburn is nature’s equivalent to a hangover—while at the bar, you always think you won’t regret it later. Like the drunk person who insists that their drink “doshen’t have ‘ny al’chol innit,” the sunbather thinks the sun’s not affecting her. Until later that night, when she's dancing naked on a table with the Eurotrash a bright scarlet freckle bomb waiting to explode with a vengance.
A picture of me earlier this evening.

At this moment, my nose is so red that I look like I should be flying through the air with a sleigh behind me. The funny thing is, the last time I was this sunburned was ages ago—but also with April. We were about 16, and had spent the day at a water park in Ocala (we were young; it was the 90s…). On the way home, on an interminably long stretch of I-75, we ran out of gas. Somehow, we got the bright idea to take the gas can and just hike on up the freeway in search of a gas station. Two 16-year-old girls wearing bathing suits and shorts, walking down the Interstate at dusk—what could possibly go wrong? After all, it’s not like we lived in a state famous for its many dedicated and accomplished serial killers! Oh, wait... Florida is the #1 "Number of Serial Killers Per Capita State" (too long to go on license plates, so we shorted it to The Sunshine State).

Looking back on it, the scene was like an outtake from the first act of a slasher film and/or a Lifetime Movie and/or a Sweeps Week episode of The Dukes of Hazard. Several tractor trailers whooshed by. One or two of them honked, so we fled to the grassy area on the side of the road. It was only in retrospect that I realized that the trucker dudes probably weren’t honking because they wanted the scantily clad teenage girls to move out of the way. 

We walked for what seemed like miles. Honestly, it probably wasn't that far, but time slows down and distance expands when you're walking along a desolate stretch of Interstate in the middle of nowhere. It was like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, if the unspecified civilization-destroying events in that story had involved a water park in Central Florida (and, really, doesn't that sound about right??).

Finally, an ancient Buick the size of a mastodon pulled up in front of us. A lady in her 60s or 70s with dyed black hair leaned over to roll down her driver’s side window.She smiled as if we were old friends.

“Y’all doin’ all right?”

She asked this as if it weren’t a rhetorical question. I got the feeling she didn’t want to be rude and interrupt us if, by chance, we were simply taking our evening constitutional along an Interstate highway at dusk, while holding a gas can.

We explained the situation. “Hop on in, I’ll take you to get some gas!” Disregarding all that “don’t get into cars with strangers,” noise, April and I hopped into the car with head-spinning alacrity. 

A Wal-Mart employee name tag dangling from the rear-view mirror told us that nice lady’s name was Ruby. "My name is Ruby," she said, as if to confirm that she hadn't stolen Ruby's car and thrown her in the trunk. She was just coming off a long shift at "the store," but she managed to seem cheerful enough about her self-imposed temporary guardianship of two Teenage Water Park Refugees (I SO want to learn to play an instrument, just so I can have a band and call it that...).
Ruby's Buick

“I have granddaughters about your age,” she said. “I’d hate to see them stranded out here at night.”

At this point, I just have to thank my lucky stars that it was Ruby, and not any one of a thousand serial killers or just plain nutcases who could’ve stopped to pick us up. Even if we hadn’t run into some murderer, we might’ve just as easily met our untimely demise if the wrong truck had swerved just a little bit. It’s funny how you never know what moments might’ve been the ones that changed everything. But I've always relied on luck and the assumption that "probably nothing bad will happen," which is why it's a good idea that my career path has never involved access to contaminants or radioactive materials.

But hiking along the Interstate at night was not the biggest folly of that day. That prize would go first to the unfortunate pink-and-orange ruffled bikini I thought was very stylin' (and I thought the ruffles made my boobs look bigger, when in fact, it just looked like I had pink and orange ruffles in the general area where boobs might go). The second prize for the Youthful Folly of the Day was the fact that April and I neglected to wear sunscreen during five hours at a water park. Not a good way to get a tan, as it turns out.The next day, I literally couldn't move, and was in agony when touched. Over the two weeks that followed, my appearance recalled some particularly gruesome cautionary tale from The Old Testament.

Much in the way that one does after a bad hangover, I swore then and there that I would never be sunburned again. While the "I'll never drink another beer, ever!" pledge never seems to last very long, the sun thing really took. Like my Southern Belle ancestors before me, I wore floppy hats, and slathered on buckets of sunscreen any time I went anywhere that wasn't inside while living in Florida. Even in Paris and New York, I never failed to wear sunscreen. But living in Seattle, especially in the winter, wearing sunscreen is about like using a condom if you're trying to get pregnant. Any rays of sun are so scarce and welcome, I want them to penetrate my skin (this series of metaphors is sounding much dirtier than I intended, but it's late, so let's run with it).

Now, it's back to Sunbathers Anonymous for me. I'll have to take it one day at a time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Spy in the House of Cake

In which we continue yesterday's post about Seattle's various deceptively named retail establishments...

A bit further down Seattle's Deceptive Naming Corridor between Pike and Pine Streets, you’ll find a colorful little place called Cake Spy (415 E Pine Street). Approaching this boutique, you might be tractor-beamed in by a large picture of a cupcake. Or the word “cake” in neon letters (hungry yet?). Before you start salivating, be warned! You will find no cakes, nor edibles of any kind. Most of the merchandise features paintings or drawings of sassy, “emotive” cupcakes, often involving bacon and/or unicorns, for some reason. It’s a bit like having a shop called Sex Spy, but instead of selling sex toys, they only had framed pen-and-ink pictures of sassy, “emotive” vibrators and butt plugs (come to think of it, there's probably a market for that in Seattle...).
Yes, Unicorn and Robot have hit "that phase" in their relationship. He thinks she's to old for the heart "tramp stamp," and she aught to consider laser tattoo removal.
This isn’t to say that I’m immune to Cake Spy’s discreet charms. In fact, I'm kind of in love with the place. On a recent trip to their storefront on Pine Street, I purchased an adorable mug featuring a pie-eating robot and his/her companion (partner?), a unicorn holding what appears to be a dildo. I plan to give this to a friend who is a “unicorn” (i.e., a single woman who is occasionally the magical, unpaid “third” sex partner of a married couple).  I also snagged a print of two cupcakes—one standing on a footstool, for some reason—embodying an Andy Warhol quote. It is now hanging in our foyer, next to a painting of a panda eating a corn dog (from an unrelated artist). In fact, a disturbing amount of our household decor involves an anthropomorphic ______ eating a phallic-shaped object.
Surely Andy meant to add, "...and a penis" to his list of requirements (not pictured).
The planning phase of the shop must’ve gone something like this: “Hmmm… let’s open a cake-themed shop, but, we won’t sell any actual cakes (way too in-demand!). Instead, we’ll sell prints, and mugs, and tote bags featuring Zen cupcakes who make pithy observations about life.”  That, my friends, takes guts.You might also say it takes the cake. But that would be really annoying, so please don't.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy endings: Not just for novels and massage parlors any more...

Oh, no! I really don't want the kids at the imaginary charity that is the recipient of Blog-a-thon funds to miss out because I didn't post today! However, it's quite late in the evening, so I'm just going to post something I wrote a while back and forgot to post. Anyone who is dissatisfied will be given their money back..

Today, I'd like to pay tribute to some of Seattle’s Most Deceptively-Named Retail Establishments. In a down economy, you have to say “hats off!” to the folks who have the courage to open and operate stores with a completely unclear theme and/or business model. Really. We need more shops like you.

Happy Endings (1409 East Madison Street). You know how it is with today’s hectic lifestyles. You’re in a hurry, running late … You need to pick up a used sombrero, an electric bingo machine, and a case of organic buffalo-meat cat food. Normally, you would have to go to three different places to check everything off your list. Not anymore! Now, there’s Happy Endings, a self-described “urban mercantile” which is apparently not a code for a “massage parlor,” despite the missed opportunity in the name. On their website, you’ll find their mission succinctly described: Vintage Finds. Pet Grocery. Art Gallery.

If a pet food shop decided to host a neighborhood garage sale, Happy Endings is what it would look like (please don’t ask them if they sell organic cat food “with release…”) In addition to organic pet food, you can snag such gems as a non-vintage red sombrero—the kind a tourist might’ve bought in Tijuana in 1987 after doing one too many Jell-o shots at Senior Frog’s. If you’re good on sombreros, pick up a 70s-era divan that looks like something from your Great Aunt Maude’s house (for better or worse), and a synthetic cardigan that, at $40, costs more than it would have retail. The selection of health-conscious pet foods, although strangely out of place in this bizarre, bazaar environment, is good and reasonably priced. I was delighted to find cat food made of organic rabbit (no, seriously), since the vet prescribed rabbit-based diet for my obese cats as part of hypo-allergenic weight reduction (a.k.a. “money reduction”) diet. Here, the rabbit cat food was about half the price charged by the vet. But, sadly, the only items that even come close to living up to the shop’s suggestive name were a small selection of artisanal dog collars, which, in larger sizes, might appeal to the fetish community.  

Speaking of… if you have good vision, you can stand in front of Happy Endings and spot a shop across the way called The Doghouse (1312 East Pike Street). You may think, “Fido needs a new leash and a chew toy!” If Fido is your submissive Bear boyfriend, this is the perfect place to get that special gift. At first glance, I seriously thought it was a pet shop. It’s…not.  It’s almost as if there were a mix-up with the sign maker, and Happy Endings and The Doghouse each got stuck with the wrong signage, but for some sitcom-y reason, both shops decided to just make do.