Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Some time ago I tried to describe how my beloved cat Monika seemed disturbed by Mom's failing health, which she seemed to sense before even Mom herself did. It was as though she had some sort of sixth sense, or at least an acutely-tuned awareness of an inevitability already in the air. But this, this one seemed to sneak up on her: Monika has died.

Her health had been failing, or maybe it was just time catching up with her. She was sixteen, after all, the oldest cat I've ever had in my life, and her natural exuberance was bound to dim with age. Yet she continued, even this morning, to do all the things she's always done, bumming food off of me and rubbing against me, and curling up at my feet.

Still, it had been apparent that her time was winding down. And when I came home from work tonight, she laid motionless in front of the recliner in the living room, the very chair she had claimed as her own from the moment we moved into the new house. I thought she was already gone, but her silvery fur twitched from breathing. I put a blanket in a box and made a little bed for her. I carefully set her inside--she yowled desperately as I picked her up, the only evidence I've seen that she's felt any pain--and sat beside her.

I talked to her. She knows my voice, of course, and I thought the sound of it might provide some comfort to her in her final moments. I said her name over and over, and stroked her between the ears, and reminded her once again that she's the most beautiful cat in the world.

Then she stopped breathing. Simple as that.

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot to be thankful for right now, but I'm trying to remember this: Monika was a wonderful cat, and I gave her the best home I could, and I loved her with all my heart.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Been in the new house a couple of weeks now, and I've been feeling pretty fine and mellow. So good, in fact, that a fall was inevitable. Now here it is.

Not quite my old unwanted companion depression, but still a familiar acquaintance: melancholy. But it's a gray, rainy day, and the coming of Thanksgiving reminds me that I really don't have any family to share it with. A sense of being alone has returned, the only company I'll have this holiday.

Surprisingly, though, I'm spending less time on the well-traveled boulevards. I'm not dwelling on the failure of my marriage to Sue Ellen, or the family I might have had with Tabbatha and Paul, or even my more recent assignations with Katie and Jessica. (So many names--it's kind of nice to know I have a past. How much better, though, to have a present.)

I'm thinking instead of the things that slipped by completely, the things that could have happened but didn't. Like the girl whose name I don't even remember that I spent some time with at a writer's conference I attended. She was maybe eighteen, I was only twenty-one, and we were much younger than most of the other attendees. She said she liked the story of mine that had been discussed in a group the day before, and I tried to play it cool, saying it wasn't even one of my better efforts, and I had plenty more, maybe she'd like to read them sometime. She said she'd like that, but no definite plans were made, and we saw each other only occasionally throughout the day's activities. At the end of the day, I found myself talking to some of the other attendees, one of whom I saw as a possible path to publication. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the girl lingering by the doorway, looking in my direction. I continued talking. Finally, she left. The conference was over.

There were others, some of whom I knew better, more intimately, but who somehow failed to gain traction on my heart. (I'm busting out the overwrought metaphors like crazy today, aren't I? Must be the weather...) They all mattered a great deal to me once, but ultimately they were filed away into memories and mostly forgotten. Today, for some reason, they have chosen to visit, to pay homage to my own haplessness.

I thank them for stopping by, and I don't wish to be a bad host, but I can't wait for them to leave.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Maybe it's because the kids today are so busy wasting their literary tendencies on texting (a popular fad, I understand, along with wearing dungarees, listening to that infernal bebop and cavorting on my lawn), but it's getting really really difficult to find a good graffiti-covered stall in a public restroom. Even the men's rooms at Southridge Mall, the most notoriously down-market shopping destination in the Des Moines area, are remarkably pristine.

Fortunately, I've started regularly frequenting a Chinese restaurant in which the bathroom walls are as gloriously profane and pre-adolescent as anyone could wish. It even has a straightforward transcription of the old "Here I sit, broken hearted" chestnut, which...Really? You go through all the trouble of bringing a marker to the bathroom, and that's the best you've got?

Much more entertaining are the scrawled redundancies. One comment suggests that someone named Tracy (or possibly Terry--the name has been smudged for some reason) is "a hore and a slut." Assuming Tracy/Terry does not, in fact, make her living as a prostitute, I'm forced to assume that this disgruntled acquaintance is merely using the term "hore" to describe a woman (again, assuming Tracy/Terry is female) of loose morals. In which case, it goes without saying that she's a slut.

Similarly, another message assures us that the writer likes to "HAVE SEX AND EAT PUSSY." Well, maybe this is getting too technical, but I must assume that "eating pussy" is a description of oral sex, not a feline-based delicacy. In which case, I'd pretty much go ahead and classify it under the rubric of "having sex." Perhaps what this person meant to say was "I LIKE PUTTING MY PENIS IN VAGINAS AND EATING PUSSY." It's always good to be precise.

But my favorite of all the comments on the wall would be this: "Come to New York, get blow jobs." This is one of the most cryptic things I've ever read. If I come to New York, do I automatically get a blow job? (I've been there several times, and found that to be only occasionally true.) Or, alternately, is this meant to suggest that blow jobs somehow aren't available locally? That doesn't seem possible, not while Tracy/Terry is still plying her trade.

The sad thing is, I've been to this restaurant several times, and every time I fall under the spell of the New York blow job comment. It's like a Zen koan, a riddle without an answer, an enigma eternally casting a spell. I think we can all agree, if you can't have a little mystery while taking a dump, life just isn't worth living.

Oh, and yes, I'm well aware: This is the silliest, most tossed-off post I've ever written.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I just called to shut off the power at my apartment. The rent is still paid through the end of the month, and I have a few things left there to be brought to the house, but basically my life there is over.

Yesterday morning I stopped by to grab a few more things, and as I climbed the steps to the third floor, the steps I climbed every day to what was once my home, I was amazed by how much I didn't care, by my complete lack of nostalgia or sentimentality, or feelings of any kind.

How unlike me. I lived in this place for years. Shouldn't I be lost in some hazy reverie? I can't say I ever loved it there, but at least initially, so much about it--the clunky old Otis elevator, the authentic Murphy bed--appealed to me. It was a perfect temporary place. But time passed, and I stayed, inertia my dominant state. It suited me there, or so I wanted to believe. Besides, I wasn't going to live in Des Moines forever. No sense putting down roots when that gypsy highway would be calling me. Eventually.

But that call never came, and I stayed, nested, or perhaps entombed. Nothing really challenged me, inspired me to leave until I met Tabbatha. We looked for places together, and suddenly my eyes were opened. Even though she tore out my heart and threw it on the ground, I still have to give her credit: Through her, I realized that I likely wasn't going anywhere, that I was here, and this was likely where I was meant to be. She made the idea of being rooted sound appealing. Of course, that realization came out of a desire to be rooted with her, to start a family and have a life I'd never imagined. Some kind of normalcy, which for me would be an unimaginably exotic adventure.

Well, the happy family thing may not have happened, but the whole experience led me here, to my own house, a place to finally call my own. And a weird sense of domesticity has enveloped me. My neighbor told me I could borrow her snow blower, which means a) I'm thinking of snow blowers, and, more shockingly, b) I'm talking to my neighbor. Which is no big deal for most people, but I have no experience doing this sort of thing, I might as well be flying the Millenium Falcon or something, and though I have no clue what I'm doing, it's kind of fun.

Friday, November 06, 2009


I'll be computer-free for awhile, so there'll be even less activity around here than usual, but I figured I should toss one final dart before departing, so here it is: A nearly unwatchable late seventies Burger King commercial. I remember this ad campaign, and sadly, I remember the jingle (which will be going through my head all day), but I didn't remember just how long this thing was. Just when you think they've finally gotten to the tagline, they go on to another verse. That, and production values on the level of Bill Osco's Alice In Wonderland, make sitting through this a singularly unpleasant experience. In other words: You're welcome!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I pull the heavy wooden outer door shut, then the cage door, then punch the button. The elevator descends. I've enacted this ritual countless times, but the feeling now is different. I'm constantly aware that this is one of the last times I will ride this elevator, walk these halls, descend these stairs. This has been my home, and soon it won't be.

I'm moving. I've bought a house, and if all goes according to schedule, all the major items will find their way to the new dwelling by the end of this weekend. The rent at this apartment has been paid until the end of the month, so there is still plenty of time to move the smaller stuff, the books and CDs and silverware, all the bits and pieces that I will need in time. And there will be time to linger.

This apartment was never meant to be a permanent home. It was the first place I could call my own after I split with my wife, after months and months of living with family members. I moved in here mostly because it was cheap, I liked the neighborhood and the landlord allowed cats. I refused to sign a twelve month lease, because I assumed I wouldn't be here that long. This was just a place for me to clear my head, get my bearings, figure out my next step. There was no intention of making this apartment, or this city, my regular address.

But momentum slowed. I intended to put money away for my eventual move to someplace, anyplace else. But I started dating again, and that can be terribly spendy, and there were car issues, and an expensive DVD habit. I was never out of money, but I never had enough to comfortably strike out to a new location, to have something in reserve.

So I stayed. And this apartment became the sight of some mild debauchery--I'll spare you the details--and my home base as I eased my way back into the land of the living. It's also where I lived when my divorce became final, where I heard my mom had died, and where I realized I was still capable of falling in love. I've cried here, and I've laughed here.

But it's just a place, right? I know that, intellectually, but...I get too attached to things, graft sentimental meaning onto inanimate objects and empty rooms. As I pack, it becomes impossible to decide what to toss and what to keep. Familiar shadows haunt every corner. In a kitchen drawer I found a ticket stub for Talladega Nights, the first movie Tabbatha and I saw together. I have no idea why I kept it, but there it was, a tactile reminder of something that almost was. Is there any meaning to this? Does it matter that I fell in love with her? Does it matter that it ended? Is the memory more important or...or...Crap.

See, this is what I mean. The intention was to keep this little essay a little more focused, but I've wandered into the cul-de-sac of wistful memory. It's the same way with the move. I know what needs to be done, I need to stay focused, but there's a part of me that just wants to stay awhile, surrounded by these walls I know so well.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Could be writing about the results of various elections around the country--Republicans won some key races but lost the one they tried most desperately to win, and a gay marriage initiative was soundly defeated by the placidly homophobic residents of Maine--but the story that I kept rereading this morning was a brief item from Reuters detailing the sentencing of a man accused of stalking Ryan Seacrest.

I kept rereading it because it seems frankly impossible. Why the hell would anybody stalk Ryan Seacrest?

Sure, most stalkers are victims of extreme mental illness, and are driven by their demons to do things that seem incomprehensible. But their targets, at least, usually make sense: They want to bask in the aura of icons like John Lennon or Barbra Streisand, or they see TV actresses like Stephanie Zimbalist or Rebecca Schaeffer, who are pretty in blandly unthreatening ways, and they think they can get close to them, make them their own.

But Ryan Seacrest? Seriously? I mean, sure, the guy's ubiquitous, and has an annoyingly gladhanding manner, and...Actually, I'm having a hard time saying anything about him. He's as substantial as heavily-moussed cotton candy, and it's hard to imagine him inspiring any sort of passionate feelings in anyone one way or another. Maybe the alleged stalker, an Army Reservist named Chidi Uzomah, is a hardcore Casey Kasem partisan who is pissed about Seacrest hijacking that sweet, sweet America's Top Forty gig.

Otherwise, the question isn't so much Why? as Why Bother?