Archive For 2008

That Actually Sorta Smells Good — In A Weird Sorta Way…..

Whenever you hear (or think) these words, beware…

I was just heating up the Quesadilla maker (which my co-worker Kate generously gave us — no doubt because she got tired of trying to clean the goddam thing), and after waiting for it to heat up I thought… “Hmmm… That actually sorta smells good — in a weird sorta way… Sort of like those flat breads that you get at the State Fair………”

But when I went to insert the tortillas, I opened the thing up to find a crusted horrid mess of burnt cheese and former tortilla and egg (I think?) and beans and god-knows-what-else.

Not so much appetizing.

Nevertheless, I cleaned it, and shall now place tortillas upon its surface and eat the result. Whatever that may be……..

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

How to amuse someone into quitting smoking…

This isn’t the first time my 12-year-old step-daughter Abbey has decided to quietly deposit my cigarettes in the trash receptacle. (I managed to dig them out — at least the ones not covered with bits of coffee grounds and Cream of Wheat…) It is, however, the first time she has thrown them on the lawn and proceeded to smash them to bits with a badminton racket.

Later, I go to get a cigarette from the pack on the night stand, and imagine my surprise when in the box I find not sticks of tobacco, but rather this:

That’s right: some delicious Cap’n Crunch cereal.

Any annoyance that I might normally have felt was instantly obliterated by helpless laughter.

I mean, did I light the bits of cereal on fire and try to inhale the fumes? Sure. But I had a bemused smile on my face as I did it — and, well, that’s a start…

The trick I’ve found to quitting is to just identify those times when you smoke the most. So all I really have to do is stop smoking while driving, for example. Or in the morning with my coffee. Or after eating. Or on breaks at work. Or when drinking. Or after a long day at work, or when streesed out, depressed, angry, or anxious. Or, when every cell in my brain and body is telling me I just really need a fucking cigarette…

Should be easy enough…

Especially after I found this perfect smoking replacement at the local gas station (didn’t know they still made this stuff!) :


Or, I could just switch to one of these brands :

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

Cars & Cats: A List

So I bought a new — which is to say, very old but different — car today, and I’m super excited about it.

Why? Well, because it runs.

Which is pretty much all the guy said when I went to look at it: “All I can tell you is, it runs. I don’t know how, but it just runs.”

It’s a 1991 Mazda MX6, with over 250,000 miles on it. It looks about as old as it is — paint peeling and fading, several dents — but runs like a fucking top. Your basic beater.

I was dead set on buying a moped — and had my eye on one of these on CraigsList:

( My brother Shane had an awesome Vespa :

but some cracker stole it while he was out of town… )

Anyway, I guess pragmatism ( and Kari’s vehement dissent ) got the better of me…

Anyway, got to thinking about all the cars we’ve owned, between my wife and myself, in the past decade or so. It’s fairly ridiculous:

  1. ’73 VW bug (which I rolled and destroyed). Made me very sad. It was one of those souped-up Baja Beetles, with an absurdly loud exposed engine in the back and huge tires and roll bars and etc. Probably would be dead had I been driving a normal Beetle…
  2. ’86 (?) Dodge Colt — worst car I’ve ever had. Bought it with around 60,000 miles on it, for a few grand; it was nothing but trouble and lasted barely a couple years. POS. After paying once to retrieve it after it was towed, the second time it got towed (because after doing a 180-spin on an icy hill and ending up parked in a snow bank facing the wrong direction, I couldn’t get it out nor could I get it started in any case), I just said fuck it and let the city keep it. Good riddance. The jumper cables and text books in the back seat were probably worth more than the car, at that point.
  3. A ’79 Datsun station wagon — this car RULED. 4-speed stick shift, rusty as hell, seats shredded and covered with duct tape, smelled like oil, and when driving at highway speeds for great lengths of time you had to turn the heater on full-blast to keep the car from over-heating. But I loved it. (Also I remember it had only a sliver of wiper blade on the driver’s side — so it made this hideous maddening screech whenever the wipers were going.) Made at least 3 trips, as I recall, from Minot, N.D., to Minneapolis and back one summer to look for apartments, and never broke down. Eventually the clutch finally went out. (And, yes: we did push-start and drive the little bugger many times before finaly parking it and then giving it away for free. [I was actually really pissed off that no one wanted it — and almost, out of sheer spite — put a new clutch in it so I could just keep driving it… It was a GREAT FUCKING CAR, just needed a clutch…])
  4. A ’76 Volvo wagon that I bought at the Salvation Army (yes, I’m not kidding) in Minot. Love Volvos, but this car gave new definition to the term “lemon.” What I remember most about it was that I kept having issues with the fuel system — replaced the fuel pump twice (the second time left the car stranded on the side of the road about an hour from town, after stalling on a trip to some cabin for a theater party). Mechanic figured out that there was some sort of lining in the gas tank which was peeling off and clogging the fuel pump — so they had to take the tank off, clean it all out, etc. Even after this the pungent gasoline smell permeating the car did not go away — this got worse the fuller the tank was. Oh, yeah: and the gas gauge didn’t work. This meant: you had to constantly guess at how much gas you had left (the smell was somewhat helpful in judging), and then fill the tank JUST A LITTLE BIT — never over half a tank, or you’d risk passing out from the fumes while driving and veer into oncoming traffic — but enough to keep you going for a while before the next refill…. Yeah, that was fun…
  5. When I first met Kari she drove an old Nissan — which was a great car, except that the passenger door would not stay shut, so she had to tie it shut with string wrapped around the door frame and tied to the seat belt or some goddam thing.
  6. Perhaps because she had a child, and this car did not seem the optimal choice of transportation in this situation, she bought a sweet old Jeep Grand Wagoneer — the brown kind with the wooden panels on the side. V8, 4-wheel drive, the whole 9 yards. A lot of fun to drive in the winter in N.D./Minnesota. Eventually had to sell it because it got approximately 8 gallons per mile. (This reminds me of our nightmarish move to the cities. Perhaps that will be my next post……..)
  7. After selling the Datsun and the Volvo, I bought the best car I have ever owned: a ’93 Subaru Legacy wagon. Had over 150,000 miles on it when I bought it, I paid $1,500 for it, and ran it with NO problems until it had over 250,000 miles. Finally, the brakes gave out (had I been better at maintenance, this probably would have been avoided, but alas) — the cost of replacing calipers, rotors, etc. on all four wheels was at least $800. So I decided to sell it for $400. But that thing ran like a brand new fucking car. I almost wish I’d just fixed the brakes and kept driving it….
  8. Bought an old (’89?) Hyundai something-or-other. Hatchback, 4-speed stick. Nifty little car. A bit loud. Can’t remember what happened with that, but I do remember learning that Hyndai’s weren’t exactly as good back when they were first built as they are today…
  9. An ’86 Toyota Tercel. Reliable little car, though it had trouble with things like acceleration (e.g. merging onto the freeway…) and traveling over 65 mph… Ran it till it pretty much died.
  10. An ’86 Audi — 4-cylinder 5-speed manual, miles unknown (odomoter didn’t work, but I think it read around 200,000). Bought it for $500, just needed a new exhaust system, ran it without any trouble. Ended up selling it, for some reason, to our friend Paul… Who proceeded to abandon it in a goddam field, for some reason. (Paul, WTF??) Good car, well worth it.
  11. An ’89 (??) Volkswagen Jetta. Solid car. Great boxy little thing with some character. Bought it for $450 and finally sold it when we were so behind on our mortgage payments that we were considering selling our internal organs…
  12. **UPDATED: forgot about ye ol’ Mazda MPV mini-van (and yes, Kari, it’s a mini van. Just because the back door opened like a regular door instead of sliding open doesn’t make it a station wagon : ) ) Gotta insert that here — cause I do remember that was right before we bought our first non-ancient vehicle. (MPV was great, by the way, but used a bit o’ gas, and the breaks, I think, or the front axel was dying so we sold it.)
  13. A 2000 (?) Kia Rio. (Great cars. Unfortunately they don’t have much resale value, for some reason, though…)
  14. A 90-something Mazda Protege — actually, THIS is the worst fucking POS car I’ve ever had. Drove it for less than one day before it started on fire — on our way out of town, miles from home. Took it in to Firestone to have them look at what was wrong with it, and they basically said, “Yeah, someone went to great lengths to hide a whole lot of shit that’s seriously wrong with this car. I wouldn’t even try to fix it — it’s going to cost you about $3,500 just to do all the diagnostics on this thing…” And so, to the crooked fucker who sold me that car: I hope you get mugged, beaten senseless and then urinated upon. And then beaten some more.
  15. Finally we broke down (so to speak) and bought a newish, fully-functional and reliable car: a 2003 Hyandai Elantra. Pretty much the perfect car (o.k, except it’s not a hybrid). No problems yet.
  16. And now: the ancient Mazda. We shall see……..

Believe it or not, this list now actually seems rather short to me. It just seems like we’ve had SO many bloody cars….

This is what I’d really like to drive again:

But, well, I don’t feel like driving to Montana.

“So, what’s with the ‘Cats’ part of the title of this post?” you may be asking (assuming you’re still reading this, which is very, very unlikely indeed)…

Well, that’s another area where it feels like, Holy Mother of Fuck, how many of these have we HAD??!!!

Here’s a list:

  1. Moved to Minneapolis with three: Keeshawn, Tinkerbell, and … shit, I can’t even remember the third one right now…
  2. Little Brother. I remember coming home one day, and there was Kari, sitting on the couch with a tiny little baby orange and white kitten cuddled next to her. What could I do? (He is, though, pretty much the perfect cat.)
  3. Lickey (So named because, well, she liked to lick people. She would simply lick your hand, and never stop.)
  4. Smokey. Ah, Smokey. Kari and Abbey went to the pound to look at the cats, and saw this poor sad looking guy, fat and old and completely shaved (clearly he’d had mats all over his fur, which could not be combed out), shy and timid but loving… We had to have him. But, the other cats ended up trapping and terrorizing him……..
  5. Grey Pie. (Yes, you read that right: “Grey Pie.” Because, as Abbey quite logically explained, “Because he’s grey! And I like pie!”
  6. Crooshanks… O.K., there’s sort of a story here… My friend Mary came to visit from Montana, and along the way (somewhere around St. Cloud) at a gas station saw this poor cat hanging around — super friendly and sad-looking, tail and ears frozen off, hungry… She asked the people at the gas station if they knew whose cat it was, they said, “Nah, just a stray, probly.” And of course she couldn’t just leave him there, so, she took him with her. And left him with us. Which is fine — he really was quite possibly the nicest cat I have ever met. However: in addition to his putrid smell, he was not fixed… He proceeded to impregnate all of our (3) female cats. We found out later just how quickly he had “gotten down to business” : all three cats gave birth in one weekend. That’s right: we had three litters of kittens in one weekend. What was amazing about it was that rather than being territorial or protective of their young, all three mothers conglomerated into one basket and joined together as one big group family — sharing the nursing, etc. We had no idea, after that, whose kittens were whose. (All these cats were basically black and white, so…) So, in short, our cats turned into fucking goddam pinko commies.

  7. One kitten was named (by Abagail) : Blackberry. He was pure black (obviously), scrawny and sickly, and we tried to bottle-feed him and keep him healthy, but he died, and we buried him in the backyard. (I remember that well, because Abbey wanted us to “say something,” like for a funeral, but I had nothing to say… But I knew she felt really sad, so I tried, but it was difficult for me…)
  8. Was “Zebra” one of those kittens? I think so…
  9. And then there was “Chewbacca,” who we kept also — and who freakishly makes a wookie noise — I kid you not — when he speaks. But we had never heard this when he was named. Some predestination, apparently…
  10. We had another batch of kittens — just before FINALLY getting Chewbacca fixed — and they were absolutely the cutest, cuddleyest, sweetest kitten I’ve ever seen. One of them — horrific story — got his tail chopped off in the paper shredder. He was playing with the shredded paper in the basket, and somehow managed to step on the “shred” button and turn the thing on, just as his tail happened to be near the slot… That is one of the more horrific experiences I can recall — the sheer sound of his screams, and his desperate flailing about, and my own yelling in horror, and trying to hold him still while trying to turn the thing off, and then reverse it so that his little tail would come back out, and him feeling as though I was the one hurting him, and scratching the living shit out of my hand, blood all over it…. Yeah, that was no fun. And then afterward, seeing the end stub of his tail cut off and stuck there underneath, in the blades of the shredder…. *shudders* But you will be happy to know that he went on to live a perfectly normal and happy life, and was as cute as every — in fact the cutest kitten of the bunch — long-haired and fluffy, just like his dad.
  11. Anyway… So we managed to give away the kittens to friends of ours, and — oh, yes: WANDA! Forgot about her. There was a nice lady cat named Wanda, who sort of became antisocial and we ended up giving her away.

Our cats at present:

  1. Little Brother (not so much little any longer)
  2. Chewbacca (yes, he has stayed with us — and he and I, as Abbey says, “share a love”…)
  3. Zebra (Abbey’s favorite — lets Abbey pretty much do whatever she wants, and hold her in all sorts of contorted positions without complaining or trying to flee…)
  4. Mabel — the one kitten we kept from the last batch, after — Oh! Shit, I forgot a kitten. “Popa Di Milo III” — the perfect little all-grey kitten, who we loved and had planned on keeping — and had desperately bottle-fed, to no avail… died also. But: Mabel is the one kitten we did end up keeping from that batch — not all grey, but grey and white (the others were all black), and (at the time) the sweetest of them all. Calm and sedate and loved human contact. Now… well, she’s kind of insane, and appears to despise me at times… Ah well.
  5. Binjigate (or, “Binnie,” as we call her) Abbey named her after the last name of our good friends Dillon and Emily Binjigate (sp.), and she is a bit aloof, will only be held for approximately 22 seconds, but is quite nice. Cat #5…

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)


Well, the wee Oskar Bram Hansen has emerged :

[ slideshow ]

[ turn your sound on, if possible — i fortuitously heard this great song on NPR Saturday night ( “Olha Maria” by Gene Bertoncini ), while sitting in the car in the hospital parking lot and eating my rather grotesque Arby’s chicken sandwich, and made a note to find it and use it for this here slideshow. ]

No webbed feet (sadly). And unfortunately not a deity, either.

But pretty damn cute, nonetheless. I would say a “good egg.” ( And my recurring dreams of having a baby Stewie thankfully proved not to be prophetic. )

Although perhaps that remains to be seen…….

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)


[ thanks to c. george for the link to this insanity. ]

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

Dream: Shape Shifters Have Taken Over The World

Everyone in the world is dead except for us — a small group of people hiding in one little town. The world is filled with these shape-shifters. They have found us and surrounded the giant house that we’re in. They sometimes look just like regular people, other times like animals, other times they are surreal beings with horrific demon faces…

There’s some kind of key inside this box that they want, also, but apparently they can’t open it — they have to trick us into opening it for them. We’re on this balcony on the second floor, and notice some bowls of food, like taco salad or something, setting on the ledge. Someone I’m with excitedly goes to eat some but I stop him because I notice these thin barely-visible strings coming down from above and attached to the bowls — it’s like some pulley system, so if someone lifts up the bowl the string will lift open the box down below… Also some birds keep coming down to eat the taco salad, and we have to chase them away…

For a long time we’re fighting the shape-shifters off, keeping them out, etc. — and we think we’re going to make it.

Then the reinforcements show up — countless numbers of them, thousands, surrounding the place completely. Helicopters, etc. I and some little midget guy find a hidden tunnel under one side of the house, and we crawl down in there — it’s just a huge cellar, dirt floor, stone walls. We hide in there and peek out at the carnage.

Then we hear a noise and go into the next room — it’s a kind of cell. It’s open (there is no door), but a creature is in there chained to the floor. We’re not sure if it is a human or a shape-shifter, so we leave him there.

That’s all I can remember.

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

Dream: The Underwater World Inside The Pop Machine

High school again. Buying something at the pop machine. Jenny Sellers is next to me, and she invites me somewhere, but just where exactly is unclear.

Somehow we go into the slot in the machine (where you get your soda from) and into this other world — an ocean. We’re not swimming, exactly, but floating under water. Carried away without effort by the underwater current.

Tony Miller is also there, under the water.

We are all naked, and I keep kissing Jenny’s legs and thighs.

At some point I’m back in the school — the last day of senior year. But I’ve already graduated from college, and had to come back for some reason.

Apparently there’s one class that I hated or found boring, and stopped going to. Now I find out that if I don’t do such and such — finish this certain paper and that certain project and write this or that — I will fail EVERY class and will not graduate.

I am talking angrily with the secretary at the desk at the entrance to the school — yelling at her: “I’ve already taken 200 credits in college and got straight A’s, and you’re going to flunk me for THIS?”

But for some reason it matters — it’s like I’m in some sore of rehabilitation program, and if I don’t pass, don’t graduate, I’m fucked.

I growl at her through clenched teeth, “If you do not pass me, I will fucking KILL YOU.”

I’m incredibly pissed off, but also very anxious — I have to pass this one stupid fucking class, or I don’t graduate.

Somehow I have gone home, crammed in a bunch of paper writing, etc., and am back at school — turning it in JUST before the school year is out and the bitch secretary has gone home for the summer. (I have no idea whether or not she’ll get it, see it, read it, and pass it on to the teacher, etc., in time to change my grade before the final grades have been issued…..)

Now stuck in the street — no ride, nowhere to go. Somebody is burning meat — but not burning, exactly: they have this special formula, some kind of translucent clear crystalline gel that they have been soaking this meat in, so that it will cure or something…

I’m not sure who it is, but he says: “This takes out all the rot, all the death. Try it!”

And he offer me some meat. But when I stick my hand in, this translucent stuff sticks to my hand and burns me, searing off my skin.

I am walking through the streets — angry enough to kill someone — with huge gaping infected open wounds on my hands and face. I need to get home, but don’t want to call home until I know for sure about whether I graduated or not…. If all else fails, I will stay at Eric’s house, if he still lives here…

I am back at the school again. In the art room (which did not exist), and all the students have made the most disturbing and incredible images I have ever seen in my life — I can’t stop looking at them, even though they make me literally afraid and a little bit sick…

I’m in the weight room, trying to lift weights — but can’t because every time I move blood starts squirting out of my wounds — not only messy but also excruciating.

Art room again (waiting for the secretary to return). Karen Healy has drawn all over everyone’s art — stupid juvenile stuff, mustaches and eyebrows on every face, and sloppy words in speech bubbles. It’s childish graffiti, destroying every piece.


(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

Dream: basketball game cancelled due to virus/quarantine

High school, getting ready to take a bus trip for a basketball game — but I can’t find my uniform anywhere, or my shoes. I look everywhere, but my room is full of art and garbage, and the more I dig the messier it becomes. I literally can’t walk without tripping or climbing over stuff. I think, “I’m not gonna get to play anyway. Fuck it, I’m not going.”

In the locker room everyone is about to leave. Someone finds a uniform for me, and I find an old pair of shoes that should work — they’re not basketball shoes, but actually much more comfortable. Coach Lavachek tells me I can’t wear these shoes, cause they’re not the right color. “What are you talking about?” I say. He holds up an example of the correct shoe: it’s exactly the same, except for a white stripe on mine. I point this out, but he’s adamant.

They leave on the bus.

At some point I guess I find what I’m looking for — or else I’m just going as spectator — because I’m in the car with my parents, on the way to Des Lacs for the game.

When we get there, it’s impossible to navigate because there are no roads in the town — every square foot between houses is covered with lawn, or gardens, flowers, or fences, or piles of rubbish. We’re in a truck or bus now, and I’m driving. We’re precariously inching our way along this really narrow concrete ledge, trying not to tip over the side. Somehow make it through…

We’re driving faster now when suddenly I notice there’s some little kids (toddlers) playing right in front of me. I am able to slow down before running them over. I see my aunt Caroline off to the side, paying little attention — apparently these are her kids, or anyway she’s watching them. This bus has no windshield, so I lean out and look down, shake my fist at them and at Caroline and yell jokingly, laughing, “Get the hell out of the way, you bastards! get off my lawn!” (I am not worried now that I see Carolyn, since she will have plenty of time to grab the little ones and move them out of the way.) She looks up at us, recognizes us but doesn’t do anything. I am still moving, and the kids haven’t moved, so now I’m sure I’m going to run them over and cannot stop in time. Now I’m enraged and terrified, yelling at her. …….. I can’t remember if I run them over or not…..

We park somewhere and get out. This nice, somewhat old lady is tending her garden, raking leaves or something, and she smiles at us and says, “What are you doing here?” “We’re here for the basketball game,” we tell her. “Oh, goodness, no. Oh, that was cancelled, wasn’t it?” “Not that I know of.” “Well, it should have been. You’d better leave. I’d get out of here as soon as you can.” Crazy old lady? She goes on, “It’s not safe, haven’t you heard? There’s a virus going around, it’s contaminated the whole town.” O.K., she’s standing outside… Crazy lady, clearly.

But then it occurs to us that the town appears empty — she’s the only person in sight…

A car drives by, spraying huge jets of water from each side — sort of like irrigating or spraying weeds, or spraying for mosquitos. I think it’s water, and since I’m hot and thirsty, I let it wash over my head and face, and open my mouth wide to drink some of it.

My dad suddenly, without a word, turns around and starts running back the way we came, toward the car. (I have never seen my dad run like this.)

Apparently there is indeed some horrible chemical contaminant engulfing the town — and I’m not sure if this spraying car was responsible for spreading it or trying to control it, but in either case clearly I should not have drunk this stuff or gotten it all over my face….

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

Dream: Grandma crashes pickup, chased by bear, man comes back to life

Dream: 3/7/08

On the farm. Parents are gone for some reason. We have to do some work, though. Grandma Eva is driving the ancient International pickup — Kari and I next to her. At 96 years old she has never gotten a driver’s license or learned to drive — and this is evident. She swerves all over the gravel road — even more so because the steering on this old rusted pickup is so loose that you have to turn the wheel about ¼ turn in either direction before anything actually happens. But when I look at her, she is not nervous in the least. In fact she’s smiling and having a great time. I am sure we’re going to go into the ditch. I tell Kari to tell her not to drive on the edge of the road, where the huge lumps of sod are from the maintainer — but too late, she’s already over there…

We go into the ditch. Grandma keeps driving as though nothing happened. Over and around little lakes, huge mounds of earth, pieces of concrete drainage pipes. Bouncing up and down like crazy…

This ditch is much deeper than I thought, too. I look over to the left side (next to the road), and notice there are some deep caves dug into the side of the ditch. In one of them I see a bear – or think I see one… “I hope that bear doesn’t come out after us,” I think to myself…

At some point the inevitable happens: grandma plows into something and rolls the pickup over.

We get out and try to push the pickup back up onto its wheels – lifting the back end. As we’re doing this, I see/hear the bear coming behind us. We manage to get the truck flipped over, get back in and drive – the bear now chasing us…

Then we’re on the farm again, working on the pickup, I think, by the garage. I’m in the big pen next to the barn, feeding or doing something… There’s no cattle in there except for one giant bull — and he sees me and decides he doesn’t like me in there, charges as I run and jump the fence. But he breaks right through it — the biggest bull I’ve ever seen — and now HE’S chasing us… With the dog I manage to get him back in the pen. I find a plank to fix the fence with — there are a bunch of them pre-cut the perfect length, and I realize this must happen frequently. But while I’m trying to fix the fence, the stupid bull gets out again…….

At some point we find an old man lying in a field, near death… He dies in front of us. We put him in the garbage can in the back of the truck, close the lid, and take him into town.

When we get there and take him out of the can, he still looks dead — but I notice his stomach moving slightly. He’s still alive. He opens his eyes, looks at us. It really is as though he was dead and came back to life — he is so happy to discover that he’s not dead, he jumps to his feet – now seeming years younger.


Later on, dad is home, and he asks what I’ve been doing all day. I start to tell him the whole story, about grandma driving, crashing, the bear, the dead guy, etc. Then it occurs to me: wait a second, grandma can’t drive… And I realize that it was a dream (in the dream). But then what DID I do all day? I can’t for the life of me think of what I actually did while they were gone, so I don’t know what to tell him…

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

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