Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Giver

The bench at the animal shelter started to dig into my rear end. I figured the estimated maximum butt time on this bench was about 30 minutes and I had been sitting there 45.

Done my time. Where's the t-shirt?

Please, spring my ass and let me out of here, I have been listening to barking dogs and smelling dog and cat smell for long enough. It must be part of the "experience."

I was at the animal shelter picking up an animal. Saving an animal, really. A cat with a broken tail named Kink. I had filled out the paperwork and was just waiting for Kink to get done with his exit interview and we would be outta here.

Exit interview. What were they going to ask him?

"How was the Cat Chow, Kink?"

"Well, for the most part the Cat Chow was fresh, and I liked how you alternated between fish and chicken. That was a nice touch. However, you could use a bit of pimento from time to time to add to the color and spice it up a bit."


I waited for Kink to complete his physical. People came and went. Some came to get rid of animals which for some reason they couldn't keep, and some came for other reasons altogether.

An elderly couple came in clutching a bundle of blankets. After a while the girl behind the counter asked if they were there to pick up an animal.

No, the lady said, we're here to donate some blankets and food.

Fine, the girl said, wait a moment and I'll get a cart and the paperwork.

The lady turned to me. She was in her seventies I would guess, moving well and with purpose. Her husband followed behind pushing the cart full dog food, blankets and dog medicine. He had a grim expression, resigned to his task and not questioning.

We stood there for a while, the three of us. Grim man, elderly, weepy woman and guy waiting for a cat.

Finally, the woman turned to me with the saddest eyes I had seen in 20 years and said, "She died last night."

I thought, Oh my God her daughter died of cancer. Or her even more ancient mother died of some unknown and rare disease. But, it turned out it was her dog. Her faithful companion of many years.

I looked at her as a tear welled in her eye, pooled in the corner, overflowed, and trickled down her cheek.

"She was our baby for 15 years..." her voice trailed off.

I'm not the kind of person...I don't know why...look, it's not me, but I was there and she was looking at me and...

I reached out, pulled her to me, stroked her hair and said, "I know, I know."

She sobbed great heaving sobs, her shoulders hunching up and down and her fingers digging into my back. Finally, she pulled back.

"I loved that dog for so many years," she choked the words, "from a puppy. We rescued her from the rain. The neighbors moved and just left her. She was almost dead but so sweet and she was my friend for so many years and now she's gone."

"You were her friend, too," I said, "you gave her life purpose. She loved you for that. You must know that."

She sobbed a bit more for a few minutes then pulled back. We all reached for some hankies and found a box by the sign-in sheet on the counter. Apparently, the Shelter people anticipate some emotion by people who pick up or drop off animals.

She dabbed her eyes and I dabbed mine.

I thought of the animals I had lived with over the years and how, over time, they had died and I thought of the love we give those animals and their trust and reliance in us and thought of this lady's grief.

After signing the invoice for her donation of blankets, food and medicine she turned to leave. Her husband, bent though age, followed.

She paused at the door, turned and looked at me.

"I don't think we'll be getting another dog," she said, but she wasn't convincing.

I looked at her and said, "I'm not so sure about that. I think there's a dog here who needs you, you know, someone who knows and loves dogs. There are lots of dogs here who need love. Maybe you should come back here in a week or so and check it out."

She looked down and pulled one of the paper Kleenex she had picked up from the shelter and blew her nose. She looked at me and said, "Yeah, maybe I will. We've always had dogs. Maybe I will."

We sort of half waved at each other, she climbed into the passenger side of a pick-up truck which roared to life, backed out slowly, and she was gone.

Shortly, one of the staff members came out with a small kitten.

"I've got Kink, here. Who's taking Kink?"

New Cat in the Hood

Hello Kink!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Save the Sprout

Brussels Sprouts.

How many millions of you are going “Ewwwwwwww!”

Many millions I suspect. The Brussels Sprout is the most hated vegetable in the world according to children, although how many children have actually eaten one? Really. Such a reputation. Undeserved, I say.

The mighty Sprout is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber. Furthermore, the noble Sprout has a crisp, nutty flavor that goes well with butter and lemon. So, there!

A little known fact is that the number one chocolate confectionary sold in Switzerland is, you guessed it, chocolate dipped Brussels sprouts! They are not exported, by law I think.

Of course we all know that things that are good for you are neither good tasting nor popular, like spinach, cod liver oil, exercise and moderation. Who needs ‘em? But, the misunderstood Brussels sprout is that rare exception that is both good for you and good to eat. Moderation, bah! Bring on the sprouts!

Today I write in defense of the regal Sprout, a vegetable I, and, apparently the entire Swiss nation, happen to like. It wasn’t always so. As a child presented with a plateful of soggy Sprouts I would run and hide or join the French Foreign Legion; anything to escape the mushy, foul-smelling, sulphurous pile of green nightmare in front of me.

So far, so bad.

Yet, what I ate as a child and what most people are presented with are the results of abuse and torture of the poor, naked Sprout by…



Yes, friends, millions of defenseless Sprouts are subjected to freezing every day. Torn from the warm, sunny climes of the California sprout growing region Sprouts are bundled into unmarked 18-wheelers at night and trucked to an undisclosed location where they are frozen like a brass monkey in a Minnesota blizzard. And heinous as that might sound it gets worse. Once frozen the hapless Sprouts are then shipped to elementary school cafeterias around the United States where they are subjected to days of incessant boiling! Boiling! Until their delicate leaves are reduced to shriveled masses and the exhausted Sprouts expire releasing copious hydrogen sulfide, i.e. fart smell.

American students presented with a steaming green pile of sulphurous green corpses of dead sprouts are commanded to eat them or there will be no dessert! How can you have your dessert if you don’t eat your Sprouts?

Meanwhile, a continent away, refined Swiss students eagerly devour their chocolate sprout truffles served on shiny silver trays.

Is it any wonder that education in America is going downhill?

To illustrate the plight of pitiful Sprouts I present the following series of photographs.

WARNING! The following photographs are of a GRAPHIC nature! Viewer discretion is advised!

The Sprout on the left is a fresh, happy Sprout about to embark on a trip to Switzerland where he will be dipped in warm chocolate and placed on a shiny silver tray.

The Sprout on the right is a very unhappy, shivering frozen Sprout about to be dropped into BOILING WATER!

Let’s watch.

Bubble, bubble toil and trouble! Sprouts boil and waters bubble! Eye of newt, toe of dog, rather than a Sprout you’d eat a frog!

Sad, sad bowl of Sprouts destined for an elementary school in New Jersey where they really won’t notice the smell so much.

How long can we allow this to continue? Free the Sprouts, I say! Contribute generously to the Sprout Liberation Front at P.O. Box BR-549.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bill Gets His iPhone!

Get yours, too!

Once the service with Cingular is turned on I should be getting calls any day now. At least on paper.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Apple's New iPhone

No buttons! Touch screen. iPod, video, Internet. Check out the Quicktime Movie of the phone in action!

Monday, January 08, 2007

I Sing the Sprout Electric

First, a well-deserved congratulations to Molly at Orangette for snagging a book deal. I am a huge fan, literally, of Orangette and am looking forward to her forthcoming book with a certain hunger.

Thank you, Molly, for reminding me of the Noble Brussels Sprout, but first a word from my electrician.

Dawn broke quietly over Casa Fondue. The cats were asleep. The birds were at somebody else’s house nattering away. The squirrels were tippy toeing around the yard picking up acorns. Barky Dog was, hopefully, trying to draw his last breath in the clutches of a half-starved python, and was silent. Not even the drone of the pool pump to disturb the solitude.

Not even the drone of the pool pump.

The pool pump that drones every morning was droning not.

No. Drone.

I bolted upright with visions of a mass of algae creeping across the deck into the kitchen! Quickly, I leapt out of bed, pulled on my best Pool Boy shorts, threw up the sash, and ran out to the side of the house to see what was the matter.

The pump was lifeless.

I opened the control box and toggled the switch. Nothing.

I went into the garage, opened the breaker box and…everything looked just fine. No red squares indicating a thrown breaker. To be on the safe side I “reset” the breakers. There were lots of breakers and I sort of had a Breaker Fest.

(Now, I put the word “reset” in double quotes because this particular action plays a role later on.)

Once again I checked the pump. Click. Click. Clickity-Click! Nothing.

Rats. Something’s wrong. What’s the best course of action at this point? Right, drink some coffee.

And that’s what I did.

On about the fifth cup, my daughter came downstairs and said that the lights in her bathroom weren’t working. Nor were the sockets. The lights downstairs on the same side of the house weren’t working either.

Uh oh. First the pump. Now the lights. Sounds like it’s time to call..

The Electrician.

“We can be there around 2. OK? If you smell smoke call 911 and not us. OK? Have a nice day!”


I brewed another pot of coffee.

Around about 2 the Electrician Guy arrived. After filling out the paperwork we went around to the pool pump, EG opened the box and probed around with his Magic Probe.

“Ah ha,” he said, “the pump is not getting power. Could be a problem with the cable under the house.”

What I heard was this: Ah ha. The pump is not getting power because the rats chewed through the cable. Rats? Well, they got in through this hole made by the termites. Termites? Well, they got in through this crack in your foundation. Crack? Well, that happened because a big sink hole is forming under your house. But don’t worry about any of this because the asteroid is going to wipe out your neighborhood in two days.

When we got back to the garage EG took the front off the breaker panel and checked all the circuits. They checked out just fine. Then he made an important discovery.

“Hey, lookie this!” he said, “This here main breaker thingie is not quite reset. When they put in the pool they jumpered these house light breakers over here. See? Looks like it blew, got stuck, and didn’t get reset. Then, somehow, all these house breakers got turned off. Did you try to reset any of these breakers?”

My silence gave him his answer.

Having thrust the knife in, EG twisted it for effect, “All we have to do is, click and click, and the problem is fixed. I like it when it’s this simple to fix!”

So, I called out an electrician to flip a circuit breaker. Nice. Although, as I wrote out the check for the service call I asked, “Now, about this asteroid…”