Memento mori Monday.
The year was 1999. I had moved to the sub-sub-basement of a historical Queen Anne apartment building. A friend, making the long, long descent for the first time remarked: This is somehow apt. And it was: a dark subterranean apartment was simply a mirror of my personal interior. I had been without any animals in my life for several years and four since I'd had a cat. I had a very clear thought one night: If I don't get an animal, I will cease to be (and if you had a sudden flash of the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, well, stop it). So, that weekend I contacted a woman who rescued and fostered cats and she thought she had just the right one for me. It turned out to be a giant one eyed Persian who, that day, was being returned from the home where he hadn't quite worked out. He was traumatized and I met him, and he simply wasn't my cat. I made my escape and sat in my car and cried, feeling like a piece of shit for leaving him behind. I drove around for awhile, getting lost, until I finally found the Eastside animal shelter. In the back, one little room bled into another little room and then another, all full of cats, not mine, until I came to the last room and looked around the corner and down and said, There you are. And there he was: sitting Spinx-like, black and sleek. I sat down on the ground and he got up, stretched, then came and sat in my lap. I took him home.
Bif Loman was his name. The shelter named him Othello, which I changed to Sambo, but he didn't like it, nor did the black receptionist at the vet when I called to make an appointment (to which I say: read the goddamned story, for Christsake: it's the tale of a smart little Indian boy who outsmarted lions - no racism there, folks). I had him for about a week when I was watching a remake of Death of a Salesman on tv and he was asleep in my lap and I said, softly, 'Bif?' and he woke right up and looked at me. So, Bif it was. Other names he had over the years: Monkilly Man, Noodle Rancher, Not a Medical Doctor, BifLomanClature and Bifwack. I taught him to come to 'Cheese!', whereby I would reward him with said substance and after a while, I could spell it out and he would still come.
It was just him and me for 5 years and I figured out early on that he thought of me in that way. He would perch on the back of the couch and knead my shoulders and then take the back of my neck between his teeth and just hold it. He was also Kato to my Clouseau. He would attack with no provocation, the target usually being my face. It kept me on my toes. We had arguments. One time I had to get in my car and drive around to cool down until the absurdity of it finally kicked in. Like most important cats, I knew him to be much more than what he was. I finally figured out he had Single Cat Syndrome, which results in your cat treating you like another cat, so I added Dinsdale to our family, much to Bif's initial disgust, but they became pals. He would still continue to come up to my lap and knead intensely, which I would endure until he would start a little hip shake thing and then it was, ew, down you go. He slept with me every night, on my right side. He would always come nap with me and I haven't really dreamed the same since he's been gone.
The day before I was to have my final chemo session, his breath became labored and two days later, his heart was failing fast and I had him put to sleep. Chicken Vickie held me together: coming with me to the vet and later, digging a grave for him while I washed his feet and wrapped him in velvet and said my goodbyes. I had no reserves for this: I was on empty and I was devastated. I mourned and wailed for a solid fortnight.
That was exactly a year ago. I still miss him, but time truly is a salve that eases up on that killing, immediate grief that, if sustained, would finish us.
Thank you, Bif, for saving my life. I sure wish I could've saved yours.
C'mon!!!! Seriously. Another Night of the Flies. I killed 5. Either they are slow and ready to die, or I kick ass in the fly killing department. The theory I have is it's something in the basement - does this sound like the synopsis for a horror movie or what - and the flies are coming up through the central heating. I had a similar - no less horrifying - situation this summer when Dinsdale was peeing in the basement and the forced air was bringing it up to the house. But first thing tomorrow I'm down there, with flashlight - Nancy Drew, The Later Years - to see what I can see. Aside from the swatting activity (various methods: broom, rolled up New Yorker, hand), a quiet evening. I spent some time on a paper and thread project and then watched an installment in J.J. Abrams shit-o-riffic new series, Fringe. Memo to JJ: stop trying to build a fucking empire and focus on just not Twin-Peaking your Lost storyline. TV and movies having to do with horror - NOT splatter - are hold overs from my days weaned on Thriller, The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock and continue to be a guilty pleasure. I even watch Medium, talk about your walking and talking crap. So I rent all this crap that comes down the pike and most of it is just that, with some exceptions.
As for the weekend, the weather is supposed to be shitty and after chores are done, I have nothing to do but paint, so that qualifies as a lovely time in my book.
I am suffering from chicken withdrawal.
I only see the girls for about 30 minutes in the morning, and they're already alseep when I come home. I have a timer, which always seems to work on the weekends, when I'm there to observe it, but not on weekdays, when I'm not. And once they're bedded, it's probably a bad idea to wake them up with a few more hours of light (although I'm sure they'd be amenable if food was involved). I have to just content myself with painting them: I'm currently working on a large, reproachful painting of Beulah. Additionally, I'm toying with the concept of comb adornments, for special chicken occasions (in the paintings, silly, not actually).
And: GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a fly problem in my house. Aside from the creepiness of flies, in winter, in my house, they drive the cats crazy and they're constantly knocking shit over in their ineffectual attempts to catch them. I killed four last night - with my bare hand, ick, but effective, and three the night before. Since my basement is dark, low-ceilinged, wet and rife with spider webs, I'm going to wait for the weekend to see if there's a rotting corpse I forgot about down there.
In my recent sobriety, I appear to have replaced hooch with chocolate chip cookies, which I can't seem to stop making. Chocolate chip cookies have never been my favorite - I'm not a freak about chocolate and they were always too cloyingly sweet. However, I have modified the recipe and it has resulted in something like crack. And I will share it with you:
Modify any chocolate chip recipe with GOOD chocolate: 70% or above cacao content and - important - bittersweet. I use Scharffen Berger or Guittard. Whether you're using chips or block chocolate, mince it up. Add 1 cup chopped walnuts and after you drop the cookies on a sheet, press each with a wet spoon and sprinkle with gray sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon per cookie). Bake and become your own special Amy Winehouse.
Memento mori Monday!
This is my sister, who is not dead, but living her Fox-News-Watching-life in Sparks, Nevada. We exist now to push phantom buttons and disappoint each other by expectations we've never even voiced aloud. She is my senior by seven years, and growing up, we were close and still managed to torment each other, in equal measures, although I was running rings around her by the time I was five. Being a devil-spawn, I kept a little rainbow pad full of dirt on her, and would use it for occasional blackmail. She was also very easy to play tricks on. One of my personal faves: they used to packet Kool-Aid without sweetener - you would add your own sugar - and the stuff was like Drano. I would make a big show of pretending to take a big snort of it and then with kind of a puzzled look I'd go, hm, smell this, and she would obligingly take a big whiff and hilarity, on my part, would ensue. And I only had to wait a couple of weeks before I could do it again. She fell for it everytime. For her part, she introduced me to sex and drugs by an early age, which I always considered a favor, but not everyone would agree.

On Friday I schlepped to Home Despot and bought my early Christmas present: a phoney fireplace. It's basically a motion lamp, which I've always loved. I own several clocks with a similar principle, one depicting a waterfall, the other a miniature fireplace. Obviously, it's not the real thing, but it is incredibly satisfying - primal even. Even though there is no heat coming from it (there is a feature, but electric heat: ugh), all the animals seemed to gravitate towards it. In so many ways, I love winter.

Buttery Butters in the buttery morning sun.
She's such a pretty girl. I hope one day I get lucky and snap her in mid-squat, the position she generally assumes when I first greet her. I believe she's waiting for me to fertilize her. God, I love chickens: instinct, pure and undiluted. Little machines of nature.
Pretty lazy days in my household. It's hard to get energized when it's dark a little after 4 in the Godforsaken afternoon. At night, it's reading and/or DVDs (I'm reading The Satanic Verses - yeah, shut up - so it only took me 20 years to get around to it - and working through the box set of Angel). My place is very cozy, it just needs a fireplace and I've been eyeing these phony jobs they have at Home Despot. My friend Jimmy used to have one of the old motion lamp/fake logs on fire, set beneath a faux mantlepiece, and you would always head over to it, first thing, to warm your hands on it. Except there was no warmth. Psyche!
Memento mori Monday!
On Tuesday! Some early cheesecake. While not particularly evidenced by these photos, my father was a professional photographer when I was little. I think he shitcanned it around the time of my birth - my sister got the full onslaught of his shutterbugginess in her childhood, but also, she was Gerber-baby pretty, with perfect Chicklette teeth. He gave his reasons, when asked, for closing down his studio as his weariness of 'drippy babies', which was never hard to swallow, since my father loathed children for the most part. As with most of the photos from this time, I covet most of the furniture. This would be 1954 and the Oriental mid-century motiff was in full swing. Ah, political incorrectness.....
I don't know about you and yours, but my cats double as The Help.
Here they are assisting me in setting the table for company. But I draw the line at letting them dust off the crystal.
Today feels better. It's a lovely Fall day and I'm happy not to be mad. I was reading an interview with Mary Karr, who wrote one of the few memoirs I found to be truly dazzling (The Liar's Club), and she was talking about her conversion to Catholicism. To paraphrase: 'It's about not wanting to kill the people on the subway, or want to kill myself for wanting to kill them'. I can relate to that sentiment, and believe me, I'm open to suggestions on how not to be a full time Tazmanian Devil, but I stop with a screech when it comes to organized religion. But the I Ching refers to our intellect as the 'great pretender', and I think I understand that whole non-thinking thing (I think y'all call it faith). Which comes back to one of the reasons I don't think I could ever embrace religion, at least in the conventional sense: I think religion encourages people NOT to think (with the exception of Buddism). And God knows (and weeps about it daily, I'm sure) we are overrun with the non-thinking variety, everywhere.
Memento mori Monday!
And what better way to be reminded of our impending death than pictures of the past? Better still: pictures of your dead parents. The photo above shows Mom and Dad on their wedding night in 1945. I learned later that he conned her into a fake wedding (while his divorce was proceeding) so she'd put out, and they later made it legal. He does seem pretty pleased to have pulled it off, doesn't he? Mom is too busy trying to keep that fruit salad on her head to worry about anything else.
This will be a regular 'feature' here at EF. And this weekend evoked DEATH, on numerous levels. But then most of my weekends do, that's just the special kind of life I lead. First, there was scarrrry Halloween: usually a favorite holiday, but I just wasn't feeling it this year. A lot of it has to do with employment worries, but I got a good word today on that front, so I can cross out one thing at least to be spooked about. I had dear, dear friends over for dinner on Saturday and it was a complete debacle and instead of just being a good little hostess and let it go unremarked - which I did, the evening of, more or less (and that's saying something, when a guest is so pissed they repeatedly piss all over your bathroom floor), felt the need to tell the parties what I REALLY thought on Monday. DEATH. I am the personification of esprit d'escalier, only with me, it is the retort on the staircase. Days go by and some stupid something that someone said and I responded to in a entirely benign fashion will bob back at me, like that turd that won't flush, DAYS later and then I will see their stupid remark in a new light, or just see it illuminated as the stupid remark it was or perceive it in the opposite way it was intended and I'm off, with this mad, internal jibber-jabbing. And now that I've quit drinking, it seems to be getting worse rather than better. Oh, peace, where can I find you? Yeah, yeah, I know: DEATH!