Friday, May 23, 2003

androgyny and inclement weather

We have three cats, my wife and I. Their names are Lincoln, Tag, and Cleo. About two weeks ago, Cleo began to sneeze. This behavior is not particularly out of the ordinary for Cleo, who likes to stand under the bathtub faucet and drink, consequently soaking her head to the skull from the dripping water and thereby exponentially increasing her chances of catching cold. She sneezes fairly often. The evening in question, however, she sneezed and kept sneezing, and so Cleo went to the vet the next day.

This stupid cat. Cleo is the only feline I’ve ever taken in directly from outdoors. When she arrived on our doorstep back in December, it was obvious she’d been turned out. Too friendly to be feral, too small and thin to be fed, too clean to have been outside for long, and too cold and shivery to ignore, the sorry animal suckered me into unnatural weakness, and I invited her to stay. She promptly made herself at home and gave the other two cats ear mites. Tag’s left ear grew swollen from his tossing it back and forth in itchy frustration; it required three or four vet visits and a small surgery to remedy and left me feeling like an irresponsible jackass and a terrible father.

And then she started sneezing.

‘Upper respiratory infection’ was the official diagnosis from Dr. Hendrix. The doctor also informed us that we were absolute morons and had somehow lived with this cat for almost six months without figuring out she was a he.

“We have to think of a new name for Cleo,” Holly says on the phone, "since she's a neutered male."

My brother and his girlfriend want us to call him Cletus. We have tossed around Sue (and an accompanying memorial 'June Carter' suggestion) as well as RuPaul, Otto, Marvin, Jolson, and Beano. Having been denied the opportunity to name Tag, whose preexisting moniker we tried desperately to change to ‘Opie’ upon his adoption but failed in the end to break, branding Cleo anew is very important to us and garnering appropriate deep reflection. I don’t want to swear I’ve settled on ‘Shuggie’ and then waffle in a couple of days.

The huge AMA motorcycle race is over at last. 60,000 people turned out and bought up nearly every piece of event merchandise we’d produced. I would have considered the affair a moderate success had its finale not been a brief thunderstorm that pitched the heaviest gust of its precursory winds beneath the eaves of our 16 x 25 x 20 foot marquee tent and flipped it over backwards. Its mass crashed spectacularly down upon a white pickup truck and the two bikes strapped into its bed and also somehow managed not to kill or seriously injure any one of the nine employees standing inside it when the tables turned (this list including my brother, his girlfriend, several eighteen year old kids, and myself). The customers were making their ways home already, and at least everything was in boxes when it started pouring rain immediately thereafter, truly so immediate as to seem divine, like a cosmic chuckle. The storm dumped its bucketsful for each moment we were hustling the perishables to safety and then just as promptly stopped once we were done.

One of the vendors at the race was Sobe, who had arrived in a black and green bus to give away samples of their tasty beverages. I spent most of my weekend in a golf cart, riding between locations to distribute merchandise, handle paperwork, and attempt to resolve issues the sometimes delicate nature of which were revealed to me only in static barks from an ageworn walkie-talkie. In the midst of this business, I drove past Sobe's bus several times before recognizing my old friend Nancy, whom I hadn’t seen in many years, among its employees. The last information I’d received about her placed her in London, but I learned she’d moved back to Georgia after six months’ time and had in fact been living in Athens since before Holly and I moved here. Her apartment is perhaps two miles from ours.

Sunday was my birthday. My boss bought cupcakes topped with plastic Incredible Hulk pinkie rings, and everyone sang while the candles burned. I wished for a nap.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

to distraction

Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been spending the better part of the last two weeks in preparation for a huge motorcycle race this weekend. This is the racetrack’s most attended event of the year, and my running has turned to scrambling in these past few days as all the last-minute details are moved into place. Or pounded into place with the heel of my shoe. I do love t-shirts, and they have provided me no end of variety and comfort in their service as the bulk of my wardrobe for twenty-nine years, but if I see one more I’m gonna start tearing out fistfuls of my hair.

This morning I traveled the fifteen minutes to the Regions Bank in neighboring Oakwood, Georgia, for the purpose of converting a five thousand-dollar check into a plenitude of cash. Two thousand in ones, twelve hundred fives, and so on, all smaller denominations to be split as bank between the several remote store locations we set up at various strategic points around the track. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated floorboard, a slick, smelly, oily something has been leaking from the hidden depths of the steering column in my car for many months, the source of or correction for which the most knowledgeable mechanics have been as yet unable to determine. The optimist in me says it’s cable lubricant; the paranoiac says it’s power steering fluid. Whatever it is, it’s ruined three pairs of pants and thereby inspired me to wear ratty towels draped over my shins whenever I drive. Several times I have walked halfway through a parking lot before noticing these cotton shinguards are still clinging to my feet, and now I try to be more careful about remembering to remove them when I stop, just as I was careful to do upon arrival at the aforementioned Regions branch today.

The bank wasn’t crowded, but it took a little while for the teller to gather the piles of notes I was requesting. I stood to the side while several other customers were processed, drumming my hands on the counter, waiting for his order to come from the vault. They gave me a big bag made of heavy cloth in which to carry the cash, like Scrooge MacDuck without the spats, and I felt more than a little conspicuous walking back out to the car. I began digging in my pocket for the keys, picturing a fast, clean getaway. But I couldn’t find the keys.

I was still walking, about to put the bag down and search with both hands, when I saw them, swaying slightly from side to side where they hung in the ignition. And while the optimist in me believes no one would want the several quarters, old blue yo-yo, Muddy Waters cassette, and Pez dispenser capped with a pointy-eared Yoda bust to be gained by violating the drippy interior of my chariot, the pessimist in me always locks the door. So I’m standing in the middle of a parking lot with a bag full of small unmarked bills, and I have locked my keys inside the car.

As luck would have it, the stoner in me left the hatchback open.

Saturday, May 3, 2003

undue significance

7:53 PM – Nearing the end of a blissfully uneventful several hours, the body of my first day off from work in ages. I thought I might sit down for a portion of this time and write a real entry, something more intelligent than the half-assed throwoffs that have been all I can muster at the ends of recent twelve- and fourteen-hour shifts, but all I’ve done is lay around dormant all day, warming the sofa, and now the hour that my wife Holly returns home from her own work shift is fast approaching, when she’ll find that I’ve accomplished none of the tasks I’d planned to take down. Kitchen a disaster, dishes unwashed, trashcan overflowing and ditto the litterboxes (thank God the vacuum is broken or I’d never get it all done). And speaking of the cats (sort of), I’ve discovered that one or more of the ungrateful bastards has been mistaking my lp collection for a scratching post, inspiring me to grind their furry carcasses into chum with the garbage disposal. Fortunately for them, I don’t have the time. And unfortunately for you, here’s another half-assed throwoff.

About nine months ago the light in the ventilation hood over our stove went out. We used to leave this light on at night so that the aforementioned bastard cats could see their food and so, if Holly or I stumbled downstairs at 3am in desperate need of cookies & milk or something, we wouldn’t have to suffer the wicked glare of the overhead. Then, just as we came to depend on it, the blasted thing went out.

Like a good domesticated manchild, I attempted to change out the bulb and renew our nightlight. However, try as I might, I could not figure out how to get inside it. That seemingly innocent stove hood presented a maddening puzzle for which I could find no solution. After several days of poking and prying and cursing bruised fingertips, I finally gave up.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I went into the kitchen for a drink. As I opened the cabinet to retrieve a glass, the corner of the cabinet door struck the hood, and lo and behold, the light came on. I was awestruck, then giddy—I gleefully ran over to the wall switch and turned off the overhead light just so I could better enjoy the hood’s gentle illumination. I got close, dared to switch it off, then on, then off and back on again. It worked perfectly. Holly won’t believe this, I thought, and switched it off one last time. My plan was to wait until she arrived home, bring her into the darkened kitchen, tell the story slowly and suspensefully, and then, at the moment of truth, click!, I’d share the magic.

Which is exactly what I did. I played it up to be the most wondrous of miracles, and then, as dramatically as possible, I reached for the switch. Click!

Nothing. The hood stayed as dark as the rest of the room, and it hasn’t worked again since.

You may be thinking what a pathetically uneventful life I must lead that such inconsequential nonsense excited me so, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Perhaps that’s the lesson I should be taking from the stove hood. I had thoughts of using the event as a metaphoric standby for years to come, applying it conveniently to any situation wherein I thought someone was trying too hard, etc. I’m bad about such stuff, tagging meaningless little incidents with undue symbolism or significance. Still can’t stop thinking about it, though.

Oh, and speaking of undue significance: there have been two earthquakes in Georgia over the past few weeks. Yeah, Georgia. The first was just outside Athens, where I live, and the other nearer Atlanta, about forty miles away. Both registered relatively high on the Richter scale (4.7 and 4.9, I believe), and both struck in the middle of the night. In neither instance did the earth’s grumblings manage to wake me up.