Friday, March 28, 2014

Four Glorious Years!

I don't know why he complains when I take pictures of him. Obviously I ensure that we both look great.

Today is the four year anniversary of when Ray and I met.

We had brunch at Coffee Emporium in OTR, next door to where he lived at the time. It was a white hot occasion, marked by me wearing jeans and a t-shirt (is there any better way to make a first impression?) and Ray was wearing a pea green zip-up that I still make fun of.

I asked him, 'Are you going to a track meet after this?'

I sure am charming!

I made a fleeting reference to this auspicious occasion in a blog post that weekend called That Was Fun.

From the post:
Sunday at brunch I grossly over-syruped my waffle and learned that my worst injury is a "chick injury." And if Jack White were to wail on his guitar and come bleeding from his fingers into my apartment, the drops of blood dripping onto my hardwood floor would form into the shape of Jesus, holding a guitar.
Those were the highlights of Ray and I's first face to face conversation apparently. He said I had a "chick injury," which I'm not sure now what we were even referring to, and I obviously talked about my love of Jack White, who even bloodied, is awesome.

Sounds about right.

I'm surprised I ever saw Ray again given that he said I had a "chick injury." But he was funny and cute, which can get you a long way in life really. And he told me his condo next door had a rooftop terrace with a grill, and I thought I'd look real good up there that summer sunning myself and eating hamburgers. (And indeed, I did.)

Over the last four years I've occasionally kept track of the funny things Ray has said to me, in addition to insulting my "chick injury."

In honor of our anniversary, here they are:

  • I know yoga is no joke and all, but I don’t think you should tell people that you have a yoga injury.
  • Have you ever noticed that chicks who are really into horses have hair that is way too long?
  • You aggravate the hell out of me! Being mad at me, needing tissues, demanding tea, taking my photo all the time!
  • I don't claim to know a lot about housing and infrastructure, but I know a firetrap shithole when I see one. 
  • Are you feeling a Reds game tomorrow night? It might be kinda nice to drink an overpriced beer, eat some stale nachos, watch a ballgame and bail when we get bored.
  • If we were broke up and you texted me a year later, hours before you’re supposed to get married to someone else and said, ‘I’m in over my head, come get me,’ I’d come get you. But I’d still be pissed you almost married someone else.
  • You know, I don’t think I ever felt teen angst. I never felt put upon or confused or ill-at-ease. I just wanted to get the hell out of Greenville, Pennsylvania.
  • I don’t why they call them boyfriend sweaters because this doesn’t look like anything I would wear.
  • Gina, I would walk through hell in gasoline underwear for you. But if you asked me to drive back from New Mexico when there are perfectly good planes, we’d be in a big fight.
  • General Tso's is the bomb. It's fried chicken with sugar sauce on it.
  • We cannot ever break-up. You have to love me forever because there is no way we'll ever be able to get all the furniture out of this house. The dressers barely made it through the window. We just have to stay together until the end. 
  • It looks like the Easter Bunny took a pastel dump in here.
  • I swear to god that place was a Superfund site. We drove all the way to Indiana to pay $8 for a JTM burger that made us sick and a packet of Swiss Miss with some lukewarm water. They just handed us the packet and told us to put the water on it ourselves. Plus, it was the shittiest hayride ever. ...God I loved that place.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a Ray.

Happy anniversary to us! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two Turn Tables and A Half-Read Book

When I pulled this off the shelf to take the photo, I was stunned to see I got better than halfway through it.

The summer of 1996 was a formative one.

I was an intern writing features at the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, a city far bigger than the one where I grew up, working with people far smarter and more creative than I was, and those people listened to cool music.

I was learning more and writing more than anything three years of college had taught me, plus I met a cute weird boy who I would go on to date for several years.

Fountains of Wayne's Radiation Vibe was always on the indie radio station and Beck's Odelay was always in my CD player. I didn't have cable in my short-lease studio apartment, but I'd watch the Atlanta Summer Games on the newsroom TV.

The entire experience was transformative, like drinking from a firehose. But I loved it. 

I was also reading Naked Lunch that summer. Or rather, I was trying to.

I remember one of my friends/coworkers left me a message on my answering machine (it was 1996, after all) telling me:

'You're never going to finish Naked Lunch so just forget about it. It's too much, too weedy. We're going to The Emporium, all of us, to check out the scene. If there's no scene, we'll be our own scene. See you there.'

I was at once delighted I was invited to be part of the 'scene,' but also stunned. How could he say I was never going to finish Naked Lunch? I mean, other than the fact that it is impenetrable, how could he say that?

I was reminded of my storied history with Burroughs' seminal novel last weekend when I read a review of the new book Call Me Burroughs, by Barry Miles. 

From the review:

Miles charts in detail how dependent this singular iconoclast was on the inspiration and editorial skills of his friends. Without Allen Ginsberg, who spent 10 weeks establishing some kind of order on the pages of “Naked Lunch,” scattered around the floor of Burroughs’s room in Tangier… we wouldn’t have any of his major works in their present form. Though the first and last drafts were always his, collaboration rescued Burroughs from the terrors and falsities of single authorship, giving him access to kindred minds with different resources. He knew they made his work, as Ginsberg put it, more “decipherable.”

I was staggered to read that Ginsberg spent 10 weeks putting order to the book. I can't fathom what it would have read like without that influence, nor can I fathom spending 10 weeks in the vain exercise of reading Naked Lunch as a 'draft.'

Ginsberg, you poor bastard.

I can't say for certain but I'm pretty sure I went to The Emporium that night with my coworkers. I can say for certain that I never finished Naked Lunch that summer… because I still haven't finished Naked Lunch.

I've moved that book from Fort Wayne to Virginia to Ohio and to probably 10 apartments in Cincinnati. I will never part with it.

I will never likely finish it either. It is a bright yellow, bound reminder of a great summer.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Cassius Clay, The Greatest Kitty of all Time

Cassius and I lived in 9 different apartments together over 13 years.

This past summer, the day before we had to put him down, Cassius Clay, The Greatest Kitty of All Time, caught a mouse.

Technically, the mouse ran right into him as he was lounging around in the liriope. But still, he chased it and caught it fair and square, pinning it to the sidewalk by its tail.

Even at death's door, he was still a bonafide attack cat. No mouse would be tolerated running through The Greatest Kitty of All Time's liriope.

Say what you want about kids cats and "screen time," but I think all that practice with the iPad mouse game really paid off.

Cassius had several favorite iPad games and videos, including the bird feeder video. He also liked the squeaky cries for help that the iPad mice let out when they were 'caught.'

The next day we told him he'd soon be going to kitty heaven because of the tumor in his mouth.

We described to him the miles and miles of grass there was to eat in kitty heaven; how numerous the lawns were that kitties could trespass on; the stacks of ponytail holders that just sit and wait to be batted around; and how there is all the turkey and gravy baby food that a kitty could want.

At that point he hadn't eaten in five days. The tumor had severely distorted his jaw and left his tongue dangling outside of his mouth at all times. He drooled constantly.

Regardless, he remained a true threat to all mice and ponytail holders... when he wasn't asleep in a shoe box.

The Greatest of All Time

Cassius was no ordinary house cat. He enjoyed several careers in his nine lives, including serving as the hush puppy frier at Long John Silvers when he was a teenager. Unfortunately, he was fired for smoking cat nip before his management dreams came true.

After that he started his own limo service, Top Cat Rides. He worked the night shift driving partying alley cats to and fro, which explains why he slept all day and was always groggy. He especially loved wearing the little limo driver's hat and bowtie. (Very handsome.)

Later in life he became quite the outdoorsman, begging to be let outside where he always followed the same pattern - he jumped off of the porch, snaked behind the big evergreen bush, had a grass snack in the neighbors' yard and then headed to back to our yard where he would lounge in the liriope.

'All of the mice! All of the yards! All of the porches!'
This outward appearance of relaxing in the flowering yard plants was really a ploy to lull us into disinterest. Because as soon as were diverted to other topics, Cassius would seize the opportunity to trespass into the other neighbor's yard and run up onto her porch.

For hobbies, he enjoyed criticizing neighborhood dogs - I saw him laughing at a greyhound once, which he said was the weirdest dog he'd ever seen - downloading apps on his iPad and offering his opinion, without being asked, on blog copy.

'It's ok. I've read better. Is there any Cat Sip in the kitchen?'

He was also a convincing liar. He once told Ray during an extended front porch petting session that he was a physicist. (There is no way this is true as he was 'held back' in kindergarten at least five times.)

Even with all of these achievements, his crowning moment was catching that mouse.

He was preceded in death by his frenemy, Cassady Daugherty, (RIP Cassie), and is survived by his mom and dad, Gina and Ray, and two little brothers he didn't meet, Hunter S. Tomcat and Chuck Norris.

Frenemies: Cassady Daugherty in the box; Cassius Clay horning in.

He went peacefully into that great good night with his mom and dad rubbing his head and ears, just the way he liked.

His final request was that we not forget to mention the mouse. Also, he would like to let aluminum foil  - that noisy, terrifying, substance of evil - know that it can go straight to hell.

Until next time, Cassius Clay.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Chill

Because the last thing you want to hear your wife say when the pipes freeze and you're covered in sweat and anger from tearing out the wall is, 'I told you so.'

But I couldn't help myself.

At the beginning of this arctic winter, when the threat of the first subzero temperature in Cincinnati was upon us, I told Ray we should let the faucets drip. This was before unfreezing pipes became a weekly past-time.

He dismissed the suggestion and we went back to talking about the winters of our youth, when we had to walk to school uphill both ways through 10 feet of snow and they never cancelled school not even once, ever.

The next afternoon, when the temperature really did hit the negatives, I received a text that said: 'The pipes are frozen. I had to tear a few walls out to get at them. Don't freak out when you get home.'

Don't freak out when I get home?

No worries there. I was already freaking out. Tear the walls out?!

I drove home bundled up in my parka with my snow hat pulled all the way down to my eyebrows and a scarf wound around my neck and face. The only thing exposed were my eyes, which were trained on the road, glowering.

He never listens to me. Just because I'm not the “chief engineer of our house” - I thought mockingly - doesn't mean I don't have good ideas. We turned the faucets on all the time in Indiana, I'm a pro at winter. He doesn’t even KNOW who I am. 

I was so mad I was happy he was working that night at the firehouse so I could call a plumber in peace and get this straightened out myself.

So I was surprised when I pulled into the driveway and saw his truck.

Oh, GOOD. Now I can tell him what I REALLY think.

I came into the kitchen to find part of the wall exposed and a fan swirling heat around the pipes. I could hear swearing upstairs. Loud swearing.

Sonuvabitch… I swear to God, you no good…

I found Ray lying under the pedestal sink in the bathroom with a cat sized hole cut into the wall. Calmly, but in my best aggravated tone, I gave Ray a piece of my mind.

I don't appreciate you dismissing my suggestion to let the water run. Just because you do all the work around here doesn't mean that I don't add value. Of COURSE they were going to freeze, it's negative one degree outside! I TOLD you this would happen.

Ray, sweaty and desperately trying to unfreeze the pipes says, 'You're right. We should have let the faucets run. I'm sorry.'

It was like that scene in American Hustle when Jennifer Lawrence's character nearly gets her husband killed by mafia henchmen.

He tells her: ‘They put a bag over my head and pushed a gun into my temple! But as this happened I came up with an idea to get out of this.'

She replies: ‘Good. I knew they'd knock some sense into you.”

Him: ‘They were going to kill me!’

Her: ‘Without me almost getting you killed you wouldn't have had your great idea, so you're welcome. Thank God for me.'

Defeated and emotionally exhausted he says, 'Thank you. Thank you for giving me the idea.' He doesn’t even bring it up again that she nearly got him killed.

I looked at Ray under the sink and threw my hands up like, ‘I’m no engineer but I know pipes freeze! Thank God for me!’

Never mind that time I cost us $500 last winter by flushing baby wipes down the toilet.

We had to have a plumber come and snake it with this gigantic scary tool, on a Saturday, five hours before we were having a party and 40 people were coming over.

Surprise, party people! The toilet’s clogged up!

But in my defense, I was the one, not the plumber, who noticed that the wet wipes on the back of the toilet, the ones I’d been flushing for weeks, weren't flushable.

Now, why on earth would they even make wet wipes that aren't flushable? I swear they are in cohoots with Roto-Rooter. But anyway, I just quit using those wet wipes after the plumber snaked it and voila! -  problem solved.

The difference here is that we knew it was going to be freezing and I didn't know the wipes weren't flushable.

Anyway, as Ray continued his unfreezing efforts in the bathroom I huffed off to the attic to get the space heater.

These pipes won't be frozen for long, I thought. Imma about to blast this joint with some equator style heat right here. Stand back and watch how it gets done!

We called a plumber, just in case, who said he'd be over in an hour and a half. The cost was whatever it took to unthaw the pipes plus another $200 for the after hours service call.

Two hundred dollars before the problem was even solved? $200?! The race to unthaw the pipes before the plumber arrived was on.

I pointed the space heater into the hole in the bathroom wall while Ray started cooking the kitchen and basement pipes with a hair dryer.

I joked that what we really needed to speed this process up was an open flame.

'Where is our blow torch,’ I wanted to know. ‘I could have this fix in seconds.'

I was informed we do not have a blow torch, which I find unacceptable. (Christmas idea!)

As hot air was blowing on the insides of our house, I started making dinner (cheese tortellini with bread and olive oil). It didn't seem that anything was working, so we might as well have full bellies when we wrote the gigantic check for the plumber.

And then, something thawed. I heard Ray yell from the second floor, 'I think we got it!' I shoved the last bit of bread into my mouth and headed for the stairs. We met in the kitchen and double high-fived.

One-and-a-half hours later, we had hot water again.

Ray rushed to call the plumber back.

‘Yes, we are sure. Positive. Yes, that is close, but thanks anyway.’

The plumber was only a half-mile away.

Before Ray left for the firehouse we marveled at the exposed walls in the kitchen - we could see the horse hair that was holding the plaster together. (That’s how they rolled in 1906.) And we saw that our kitchen had previously been covered in paisley wallpaper and had at other points been painted green and possibly… is that orange?

In our elation of thawing the pipes and saving ourselves a small fortune, we bonded over these formerly hidden secrets of the house. I apologized for saying ‘I told you so’ and he apologized for having to tear up the joint.

All of this is to say: Let your facets drip when the temperature dips below freezing; go see American Hustle; and make sure your wet wipes are flushable.

Monday, January 06, 2014

NYE 2013

New Year's Eve 2013 - The night my shirt matched the curtains in Kari's kitchen. Jenna Lyons would not be pleased by this. Or would she?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

How To Nearly Burn Your House Down, A Recipe

Have some wilting vegetables at your in your fridge? Each rich.

Where Ray comes from they eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's day. When I was growing up we'd go to my aunt's house for cabbage.

“Eat poor on New Year’s day, eat rich the rest of the year,” the adage goes.

But that wasn't what I was thinking when I started dinner last night. I was thinking I wanted to order in, have a hoagy delivered or maybe make a frozen pizza. I was feeling too lazy to make anything and Ray was in the basement sawing things.

But since it was the first day of 2014 I thought we should kick it off by having dinner at home - start us on the right foot healthwise and moneywise.

There was a sad, wrinkling red pepper in the vegetable crisper, a bunch of broccoli that needed to be eaten, some pine nuts in the pantry and a half a bag of penne. Good enough, I thought.

Maybe we just should have ordered in.

Within minutes I had nearly burned the house down. Or at least nearly killed us by smoke inhalation.

Turns out, you shouldn't leave a red pepper and broccoli to sauté in olive oil on high heat while you do other things, like unload the dishwater.

No matter. We feasted on only slightly charred penne and ate around the scorched little pieces of red pepper flakes.  I tossed in some side salads with cut up string cheese for a bit of protein and we had ourselves a New Year's evening meal.

I called it 'everything but the kitchen sink,' because I tossed in everything we had, which wasn't much.

After we cleaned up I remembered the adage about eating poor on New Year's day. A little accidental luck never hurt anybody, even if you do almost cause a kitchen fire.

Everything but the kitchen sink pasta

[Feel free to make your own and pretend it's New Year's again.]

Sauté in plenty of olive oil everything that is going bad in your crisper - red peppers, yellow peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, whatever. If you have any garlic cloves or minced garlic in the fridge, add that too. Add in red pepper flakes for heat. I like a lot of heat, so I add a lot of them. Don't walk away and unload the dishwasher; keep the veges moving.

In another pot prepare whatever pasta you have in the pantry, letting it get not quite al dente. (It will finish cooking when you sauté it.) Drain the pasta and toss it into the pan with the veges. Add a bit more olive oil and red pepper flakes; throw in those pine nuts you've had in the pantry for months. I like a bit of the penne to be crispy, so I intentionally scorch a bit of the pasta for texture.

Add a side salad of spring mix, string cheese and the rest of those pine nuts you're never going to use.  

Eat rich the rest of the year.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

To 2014 And Beyond

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Dickens' memorable opening perfectly summarized my 2012. And now that 2013 is over I feel like I can finally look back on 2012 with some distance.

It would be wrong to say 2012 was the worst year ever when there was so much that was wonderful. But as Bob Dylan said, behind every beautiful thing, there was some kind of pain.

There were times when the sun seemed to shine perfectly on everything - Ray and I went on some wonderful trips, we moved, moved again, searched for houses, picked out an engagement ring.

We saw Madonna in concert (!!!!).

And there were other times when it felt like everything was falling apart.

My mom began to suffer terribly from her Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the midst of her crippling flare-up with seemingly no treatment options, my dear brother died. We buried him the day before my birthday, leaving my mom with two deceased sons and me feeling like I'd been orphaned.

A few weeks later, I suddenly faced some serious health complications. After six weeks of doctors appointments and surgery consults, we still weren't sure what was going to happen or if they could correct the problems. I wouldn't really know anything until I woke up from anesthesia. It was horribly scary.

Then, two days before the surgery, my beloved cat died. It seemed like the ground just kept coming out from under us.

2012 was tough. But in all that was grim, there were still those bright spots. But you know it's bad when you can't even say, 'Well, at least we have our health.' All we could really say was, 'Well, at least we have health... insurance.'

I think this is what folks call 'a silver lining.' Sure you got your ass kicked, but all the swelling gave you that bountiful booty you've always wanted!

When the end of December finally closed in, I couldn't wait to turn the page to 2013. It was a chance to mentally start over, wipe the slate clean. And I couldn't have been more in favor of that.

I had the first surgery in December 2012 and woke up to the reality that, "It went ok. Sort of. But you'll need another surgery and you might start crapping your pants."

We considered that a victory. Ray and I practically high-fived it was so exciting. "You might crap your pants, that's it?! Woo hoo!"

We moved into our new house a few weeks later and as I hobbled around with my new 12 inch incision I declared right then and there that 2013 was going to be my year.

And what a wonderful year it has been.

Our house felt like home as soon as all of the boxes were moved in. With one more surgery in the spring, the difficulties that surrounded my health problems were largely repaired.

Ray and I got engaged shortly before my second surgery and we planned our wedding from my hospital bed. Then we threw a big housewarming/engagement party and the rest of 2013 just flowed.

We had a lovely wedding, honeymooned in Hawaii and hosted our first Thanksgiving. We did lose our other sweet kitty, Cassius Clay, but our hearts were healed with the addition of Chuck Norris and Hunter S. Tomcat.

We also saw Bob Dylan and LL Cool J (!!!!).

And, gift of gifts, my mom was able to finally find a medication to alleviate the crippling pain and misery of her RA.

Way to punch 2012 right in its stupid face, 2013.

As the leaves changed and the weather got cooler this fall Ray and I were reminiscing about when everything went to hell last year.

"I wish I could whisper into our ears: Hang on," he said. "It's going to all be fine. It's going to be a lot of good and bad, but it's going to be ok."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could do that? To whisper to our past selves that it's going to be ok, just hang on.

I would also like to whisper to my past self not to worry so much, that taking Imodium will keep me from crapping my pants. (But wasn't it a fun few weeks figuring that out!)

So, I'm going to go ahead and call it again, 2014 is also going to be my year. Ray and I are going to win the lottery! Ok, maybe not. But still, greatness.

Health, happiness, friends, love. Maybe some more kitties! (Ha ha, just kidding, Ray.) (Not really, readers.)

Here's to a wonderful 2014 for all of us.