Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The N Word

Here's poor Mo, trying to take a nap with the camera flash in his eyes. He's got a hair cut that would make any groomer cringe. In the first place, he had those three surgeries on his back -- all in different places -- so he has four levels of fur up there, counting the untouched hair.

In the second place, his under-carriage was cleanly shaved last week so the sonogram could be performed. That's when I discovered, to my ignorant amazement, that he has nipples.

Now, it was already concluded at lunch yesterday -- at the Kopper Kitchen on Central Avenue and 56th, eating the best patty melt in the world -- that it's okay to mention nipples in a blog if they belong to critters or human males. Human females must be excluded from the discussion. Well.

Anyway, why in the world does a male cat have nipples? Male humans, I get (and for the men who refuse to experience pleasure there, well, I'm sorry). But why critters? Symmetry with the females? Irony? Oversight?

I have a couple women friends who've gone without bras for decades. This is for comfort and health, not exhibitionism. They're in need of tee shirts designed with nippouflage in mind -- tee shirts with a dense enough design in the tip-of-the-chest area that coverage is achieved. That's my next project, although I get immediate satisfaction from the name: nippouflage.

This next picture is again of Mo. I looked all over for him -- all over except for on the edge of the tub between the shower curtain and the liner.

Cast your minds back to the mailbox question on August 20. The woman chose the plainer box, the one shown within the body text. She blamed her classy neighborhood, implying that it wouldn't stand for anything less conservative, but I don't believe her. It doesn't matter, but I wish she could have just chosen, without any bogus explanation.

And my car? Well, I got the pricey, Toyota-built distributor assembly installed. I went home, and then to my massage, and then to Panera, and then I couldn't leave because my car wouldn't start. This was actually good news, because my mechanic finally had a chance to see my car in non-action. He was able to get to it before its mood passed. He banged some things under the hood, and when one of the bangs started the car, he said -- with immense satisfaction -- "It's the starter." We'd replaced one eighteen months ago (the plural pronoun is used as a sign of solidarity), so the starter had been removed from the list of suspects. It turned out to be a lemon. The starter was ordered -- no rebuilds! -- and installed, and I didn't have to pay for it. Yay.

And my computer? I woke up Saturday without an internet connection. The call to Bright House determined that it was my computer's fault. I won't go into the painful story of trying to back up my data and losing all my processed photos. Four days later, the computer guy came over. I was prepared to pay big bucks for a new computer. Instead, he spent about forty-five seconds in my chair before announcing that my Norton Anti-Virus software was the problem. Indeed, Marty removed Norton, and my internet connection sprang back to life.

How can such things happen and not be prevented? How can Norton keep selling its product? Why doesn't Bright House go through its gyrations and then, just before it blames the customer's computer, ask, "Do you fraternize with Mister Norton?"

I hate to quote an outdated beer commercial, but why ask why?

Because I can't help it, that's why! Why, for instance, is my PREVIEW mode here at blogger dot com so terribly unlike what I get when I publish? If the text wraps around the photos in a stupid fashion, it's Mister Google's fault entirely. If it works okay, it's because I was doing it right. Yikes! I have to re-publish! It's leaving only three or four characters on a line. Grrrr!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whose Story?

I had lunch with a new acquaintance yesterday, a photographer. Although she's a prize-winning photographer (yay!), she's also a fairly new one. She took a black-and-white photo of another artist's watercolor of eggs in a nest. She did some magic with it, and it was the first prize she ever won. When she brought the painting back to the artist, he told her to keep it. It was entitled New Beginnings, and he felt that my friend was the one with the new beginnings, not himself.

Well, that's a nice enough story, isn't it? But here I am, being disagreeable again. I love the photo of the eggs and, even more, the watercolor of it. But all that back story does nothing for me. It may actually detract from the pleasure. What if, for instance, I love the egg piece because it reminds me of gathering eggs with my grandma when I was really small? That memory, stimulated by the painting, doesn't conjure new beginnings for me. It conjures the past: my past.

I was at the photographer's house, and I saw a gorgeous ... um, piece. It's a wooden board maybe four feet long, with seven or eight five-inch pieces of wood glued onto it like big rectangular buttons. Each is painted in beautiful seashore colors, bold and happy. I love it.

But then I'm told it's made from wood found in the artist's yard after Hurricane Ivan. In fact, "Ivan" is in the name of the piece, which I forgot because I wanted to. It might have been something like Ivan's Gift, which is okay, but. But. I love the thing for its color and shape. I don't need the history to appreciate it even more. Like the egg painting, this extra information takes away from it.

My photographer said that many people ask for the stories. Yes. I bet they do. And they should be told. But I, apparently, am one of the ones who doesn't want to know.

I'm wondering if it's a form of territorialism on my part. When I buy something with a sticker on it, I remove the sticker. I don't care if it's a watering can or a trash can. I don't care if the sticker's on the bottom or inside. It's not mine until I remove the sticker.

Somehow, not wanting to hear the artist's story about her own work seems connected. If the painting is now mine, then I'm going to tell the story of how I found it and what it means to me. It's the artist's prerogative to tell her story about it, right up until she sells it. Then it's mine.

Well, as you know if you've been paying attention (and you know who you are), I don't like naming things anyhow -- neither cars nor cats -- and naming a piece of art seems extra awful. If art is in the eye of the beholder, then you're better off keeping it Untitled.

As I left my photographer yesterday, she pointed out a watercolor that had somehow ended up in her garage. She doesn't remember where it came from. She doesn't especially like it. It's on my desk right now, just so I can watch it. There's no room on my desk, of course, but there's no room on my wall, either. (I really need that new house!)

There's a volcano in the picture (which I'm sharing) and a village at the bottom (which I'm not). The house roofs are thatched. The colors are absolutely beautiful -- a lot of olives and sages with just enough blue, purple, and red. The whole thing is very restful. Even the volcano seems to be having a post-prandial smoke, with nothing fatal in its evening plans. I mentioned the church, but the photographer looked at me askance. Oh. She's right. There is no church. But I see a holy man anyhow, so there may as well be a church.

If the title turns out to be Happy Hour, I'm not going to be happy.

You Facebookers will find out this evening which mailbox was chosen. You Bloggers will have to wait till the next blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tidying Up

Let’s do a little housecleaning, shall we?

You know my poor car has been stranding me for about a year now, and you remember my agonizing about loyalty: Do I stick with my beloved mechanic or switch to the place that actually fixed the problem?

Not to worry! The new place didn’t fix the problem, despite its two-hundred-dollar solution. I got stranded at a fancy house at the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club while delivering a mailbox. The well-off woman and the sweaty, raggedy artist made awkward conversation while waiting nearly an hour for Triple A.

And that’s another story. I so resent getting letters from AAA, telling me I’m over-using their services. In the many years when I’ve used their precious services not at all, did I get letters thanking me for being so kind as to give them money for absolutely nothing? I did not.

But let’s get back to the mailbox, okay? You Facebookers know that I took a commission for a mailbox. The woman wanted a peach background with palm fronds on top. Well, after the first ten minutes, I saw that I wasn’t giving her what she wanted at all. I was giving her what I wanted her to want. I went out and bought another mailbox and painted it per instructions. (Hey! I didn’t get fired just to follow instructions!)

I brought both boxes and gave her a choice. Which do you think she chose? The one at the top of this blog, or the one below this paragraph?

But let’s get back to the car, okay? I’ve heard of jump boxes, so I looked at some online. I even watched a video on how to use one. That’s my solution: A charged battery that I carry in my car. When it acts up, I jump it with the jump box, and I’m not stranded, I’m merely inconvenienced for a couple minutes. I can handle that!

Ah, but the clerk at the auto parts store said, “Sweetheart, you don’t need a jump box. You need a master ultra-static relay. You can only get ’em at the dealership. It’s a hundred bucks. It’ll fix your problem.”


Oh wait! Not yay. Toyota had never heard of a master or slave ultra-static relay. Neither had Jon, the aforementioned beloved mechanic. The plan now is for me to show up at nine tomorrow morning. He’ll install a brand new, Toyota-built distributor assembly. I made him give me a percentage on how sure he is that this would solve the problem. I have, after all, had a new starter, new alternator, new battery, new fuel pump, new fuse, and new fuse box in the last year. And look at me! I was also willing to have a new master ultra-static relay!

He gave me ninety-six percent, so we’re on.

Okay. And remember those holes in my lawn? They turned out to be big beetle bugs. I rarely see them alive. I can’t imagine how they spend their days. I do, however, have photographic evidence of how they spend their afterlives. Look at that! Spiders have strung up at least two of those giant beetles. One was tied up to this little pot of flowers that, clearly, didn’t have enough to drink that day, and the other was roped up to the rosemary. What the heck? The bugs are empty, too. Now, maybe the spiders are carrion-eaters. Maybe they just wait for the bugs to die and dry out and then they drag them home. They’re decorative planters, for all I know, and soon we’ll see spider-sized geraniums spouting out of the bugs’ ears. Still, I suspect foul play, both before and after death.

I have no idea why I must take such horrendous, out-of-focus photographs. My favorite soothsayer sayed a man would teach me -- for free -- so, step up, lads!

And books. I’ve just read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I really liked it. A Southern friend has no interest. She said she lived it. Or maybe she resents everyone pushing it on her just because she has a beautiful accent. In any case, I liked it a lot. It’s a book about a book about the relationships between the colored help and the white helpees in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s.

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass was good, too. In fact, I’ve had a nice run of good books, which I deserve, having read Close Encounters of the Third Kind just before John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick. I had enjoyed The Witches of Eastwick in the eighties and so expected to enjoy this. I was wrong.

I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, as prompted by my wise friend in Minnesota, Kati. Parts of it were too intellectual for me. I had to stop and think. And parts of it were so profound, I had to stop and think. And it was funny and suspenseful, with cats and wealthy foreign men. Well, I guess all the men were foreign, since it was written in French (but read in English, I assure you).

Anything else? I guess not. I’m just waiting for my computer to give the go-ahead to Well, and to Facebook and my bank, too. Suddenly, I’m told that those sites are having problems with their security certificates. I doubt it. I fear it’s my own computer. If it were universal, I could accept it with good grace. I’d just sigh and wait. If it’s just mine, though, I’ll burst into flames.


Hah! instead of anything dramatic, I merely eed the right man with the right question. My computer's time had reverted to January 2002. No wonder it was upset!

Thanks, mcd.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Here in the Pasadena Shopping Center is my little Curves Weight Loss Center. The Power to Amaze Yourself, the sign says. Right next to it is Kumon, a tutoring business (Math Reading Success says the description, complete with no punctuation). Its slogan is Let Your Child Amaze You.

So maybe with all this amazing stuff going on, it's no surprise that it happens at Blockbuster, too, on the other end of the shopping center. "Did you find everything you were looking for?" asks the perky clerk.

"Yep," say I.

"Awesome!" she gushes.

Now, a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico could be awesome, I should think, or something to do with mountains. If the word grandeur springs to mind, then go ahead -- say it's awesome. But finding Disc Two of the Third Season of The Office? Nice, but not awesome.

I know the kid is just using kid talk, but I guess I'm middle-aged enough to find it offensive.

And oh! you don't want to be with me when the waitress calls us "you guys," especially when it's another woman and me. You guys is way beyond just kid talk. Our whole country talks that way, including people who hate it, including, I'm saddened to say, me.

No one says You're welcome anymore, either. I thank the clerk at Publix and he says, "No problem." Well, yeah. I didn't expect it to be a problem. The cash register told you how much everything was. It totalled it up. It added the tax. It figured out how much I saved. It told you how much change I should get back, plus it's the lesser-paid bag boy who's asking me about my paper-plastic preference, so, yeah, "No problem" is probably correct. I just don't see it as the appropriate response to Thank you.

Today at Blockbuster, the price was suddenly $1.99 per video per day, instead of the regular $1.00. "What?" I exclaimed. "The price doubled just since yesterday?"

"No. It started today."

Fine. She pointed out that it hadn't actually doubled. I pointed out that one penny away from two bucks is two bucks in anybody's book. She pointed out that some people think they're getting a deal by having it "under two dollars." I pointed out that her mother wears Army boots.


I'm copying this from an email I got this morning:

Reports in Newsweek and the LA Times indicate that Attorney General Holder is on the verge of appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.

Unfortunately, the reports indicate that the investigation may be limited to low-level CIA operatives who went beyond techniques authorized in the “torture memos,” letting high level government officials who commissioned and authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques” off the hook.

It is absolutely critical for Attorney General Holder to know that the American people support a full investigation -- wherever the facts may lead -- and that those who authorized these horrific violations of human rights must be held accountable.

Now please go watch this video and take the action it suggests, if you agree:

I know I have at least one reader of this blog who thinks torture's just fine, but every study done about torture shows that it doesn't work. It doesn't make people tell the truth. It's true that it terrifies and humiliates and permanently damages people, physically and mentally, but that's generally not the truth torturers are looking for.
Or is it?

Sometimes when I have the least little pain -- say a paper cut -- I wonder what it would be like if I had paper cuts all over my body, all the time. I wonder if that would make a good torture technique. What about an earache? In addition to everything else, what if torture victims also were given earaches, something to plague them between waterboarding sessions? Sometimes when my back goes out (I don't know where it goes, and I can't say I blame it, but still, it really hurts), I think, what if I were a slave and I had to go out and tote dat barge anyhow?

I think about that when I see street people sometimes. Some of them walk so awkwardly, with shoulders all skewed this way and that. I'm guessing they don't get a lot of chiropractor care. They just have to keep moving, no matter how painful, no matter the condition of their shoes.

I remember overhearing my parents talk when I was a kid. I believe now that the Ku Klux Klan was in the news then, and that the American Civil Liberties Union was defending the Klan's right to meet peacefully. That's what the ACLU is for. Mom said if we decide that the KKK isn't allowed to meet peacefully, then maybe we'd decide that oh, the Republican Party wouldn't be allowed to, either. It really had to be a right for all, or none.

I later discovered it was the issue that lost a whole lot of members for the ACLU, but I'm with Mom. She was right.

Now you know I can't stomach "news," but I'm pretty sure the United States has its own rules about torture, and that people in the Bush administration broke those rules. I believe they need to be ... hm ... "held accountable"? Would that do it? What does that even mean? Or should they be "punished"? What if they were subjected to the same torture they permitted? Do you think that would stop them? Or would we be just as bad as they?

And so what if we were?

What I can't stand about it is the cold cruelty of torture. If it were passion of some sort, it wouldn't seem quite so bad. But this is cold-blooded. It's discussed. It's decided exactly who will do what for a particular form of torture. And I suppose various employees develop specialties. Jesus.

There's a scene in the movie Stand by Me that just kills me every time. The big boys -- the JD's (junior delinquents, to the uninitiated) -- take the smaller boy's ball cap and play keep-away with it while he scrambles, in vain, to recapture it. The thing is, it belonged to his dead older brother and it really meant something to the kid. See? It's the meanness that makes it so awful, the complete lack of sympathy or empathy or compassion.

Well, I recently read the daily meditation page in the bathroom at The Longhouse. It was a simple statement from the Dalai Lama: We must be compassionate to all. All.

After I read that, I actually made a point to feed Nero every day, even though I'd started to dislike him because I think he bullies my Mittens. But surely Nero is part of this all His Holiness is talking about, so I do it. In fact, I just went out on the porch, and there was Nero in a chair, out of the rain, skeeters circling him. I sprayed him and Mittens with mosquito-repellent, which they both despised.

So we must be compassionate to Bush and his ilk. Man. I don't know.

A friend called and interrupted this blog with his opinions on this stuff, which I did not ask for. I guess now I'd have to say that at least two of my readers think torture's okay. Damn. Anyway, he says there can be no rules in war. The other side's going to break the rules, so we may as well, too. But, but -- the Geneva Conventions?

Well, I can't quite just shrug. I can't just shake my head at this torture stuff and get back to my book. So I'll write a blog that's remarkably informed (for me, who prefers the Dave Barry System of Research [ask someone else]), and I'll provide a link which I hope you'll follow, and I'll even put up a picture of a yawning cat, our dear dying Mo, so that his sharp, bared teeth may be a lesson to us all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Miracle Nothing

As you know if you'd been paying attention, I joined Curves last week. It turns out that you can't actually get fit that way. You have to go to the workout. Drat. Anyway, in a similar fit of self-loathing, I, uh, bought something. I suppose if I had a television, I'd have bought some fabulous jewelry from the Home Shopping Network, just to make my fat self feel better, or maybe I'd have ordered an amazing exercise system that works all my muscles in only fourteen minutes a day, so I suppose I should just be grateful that I only have a computer, and that I only ordered twenty seven-ounce packets of Miracle Noodles.

Near as I can tell, these noodles are a vegetable fiber, even though they contain zero dietary fiber. They're a filler -- a carb-free, calorie-free, fat-free filler. Like tofu, they take on the taste of whatever's around them. I committed two recipes: an Asian thing with shredded cabbage and a hot peanut sauce, and my own delicious macaroni salad. It was a costume ball, with the Miracle Noodle masquerading as elbow macaroni. Its mask kept slipping off, the hat tipping, the robe sliding off the shoulder, revealing not succulence but pestilence.

The only real trouble with the Miracle Noodles is that I'm simply not going to cook. I discovered, too, from post-purchase research that most people say the noodles work best in Asian recipes. Heck, if I'm going to bother to cook, I want to cook something I love.

I spent forty bucks for the things, which includes shipping, and since they're packed in some gelatinous, translucent substance that smells a bit like fish (but may taste like chicken), they're heavy. And that's what inspired today's blog for me. If these noodles weighed, say, five pounds, I'd have tossed them -- and my money -- out with Monday's trash and been done with it. You'd never have known about it. But it's a whole different thing when there's such substance. I feel truly wasteful throwing out twenty pounds of stuff.

The hole was dug even deeper when, refusing to throw the noodles out, I offered them on Craig's List. I put them under Health and Beauty and am asking ten dollars for the whole mess. Since my ad will stay on the list for a month, I think I have to keep the noodles in my refrigerator, even if I change my mind about tossing them out. They're good till mid-November, as long as we understand that "good" means many things.

As a special offer to my Blog Friends, I'll let you have the things for FREE. Just come and get 'em.

But let's move on to more pleasant topics, like my new license plate. Notice anything strange? Yes. The tags expire in September 2011. We Floridians can now renew for two years at a time. The price jumps thirty-five percent on September 1, so people born in the last quarter of the year (and you know who you are) have the option of renewing early, to enjoy the savings for both years.

I did that yesterday and while I was at it, I personalized my Imagine plate with -- you guessed it! -- BIEN50. It will be centered on the plate, which will cover up John Lennon's self-portrait, but that's what you get when you mix art and bureaucracy. I'm convinced they let a Republican design the plate. The background sky could easily have been much better, and the lettering for IMAGINE breaks the very first rule of typography: Make it legible. Still, the extra money I paid goes to local food pantries, so it may be sadly ugly, but at least it does some good.

Olga was over here the other day. Yes, the same Olga who needs to upload a photo of herself as my Follower. She, like too many, appears to be in the Witness Protection Program. Ah. Maybe I'll call those faceless Followers Stalkers. Will that urge them to show their faces?

Anyway, we saw a butterfly dragging a dead leaf as it lumbered from one branch to another. I thought it was gathering material to build a nest, although it is the wrong season and, um, the wrong species. It turned out that it was carrying its Significant Other, with makin' whoopee on whatever they use for minds.

I never know in the insect world who's doing what. Bugs are just too alien to me. I mean, when monkeys are making babies, I get it. Ditto ducks and dogs. I think the water mammals might baffle me, though, and I know bugs do, so it took a moment to figure out that the butterflies were mating.

I know in the bird world, the males are the showoffs, strutting their brighter colors to capture the females' attention. Mammals, too, have the males pounding their chests and smashing their horns to show who's got the best sperm. Of course, we're mammals, so I don't understand why the females are the ones who, for instance, jump on the backs of motorcycles wearing leather short-shorts and teeny bikini tops while the males driving the bikes are covered (except for their heads, of course) in thick denim and leather. I suppose it's the same thing that made girls in my high school wear their fat winter coats over their above-the-knee skirts (jeans and even slacks making the dress code cover its eyes with the back of its hand and feel faint). Our bare legs were out there in the cold. We wore our little white sneakers (kept white with baby-shoe polish) and little white ankle socks. In the Buffalo Snowbelt.

Something got turned around. I mean, women's magazine covers hint at the treasures inside: How To Make Him Really Hot, Top Ten Ways To Turn Him On. Huh? When did that become an issue? Goodness. Just say yes. That'll turn him on.

Well, I guess we got civilized. We crawled out of the caves and moved to Madison Avenue and Wall Street. Now instead of roaring and charging, the human male mammal buys a car that'll do that. Okay. Maybe my metaphors are getting puréed here, but, really, look at our progress: The males spend a lot of money to show us they've got the best sperm, and we females spend a lot of money to make sure that fine sperm goes to waste. It's like my Miracle Noodles. I've found a food that delivers absolutely no nutrition or calories or fat or protein. Next thing you know, we'll be sending it to Ethiopia.
I apologize for that awful photo of the butterflies getting it on. All the others were actually out of focus, and it's an auto-focus camera. But did you notice the ACCENT MARK? I'm so thrilled! My friend Luis turned me on to that. Yay!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Say Cheesy!

This was weird. This morning, while buying vegetables, washing the car, and doing a load of laundry at the Laundromat -- all pre-coffee, thank you -- I noticed that I'd missed a call from Amy Oatley, from the Industrial Arts Center (IAC) here in Gulfport. Well, she didn't leave a message, so I got on with my chores.

Just now, I decided to send her a message via the website:

My sound was on, and I heard her call out, "Hi Barbara!" Whoa! How 'bout that technology, huh? Well, I'd been to that site before. Maybe there's something about ... oh, I don't know ... cookies or worms or spies that enables the site to know who's looking and to yell out her or his name.

Well, then I realized that more was being said. I had activated a little video of me in all my glory, tripping over my words as I talked about my mailboxes, mumbling and talking too fast. I had no idea I'm that inarticulate, but now we have it in living sound. Amy's an excellent editor, though, so it's not nearly as bad as it, well, as it actually is.

In any case, go listen to me.

And go see how fat I am. Jeepers! Yesterday, I joined Curves. Yolanda took way too many measurements. This is so we can amaze ourselves with the progress I'll make. Uh huh. Except for my upper arm and upper thigh, all my measurements start with 4. This is appalling. If I were blessed with any shame at all, I wouldn't be telling you this. I had a nutbag co-worker who believed that 4 was an evil number. Her cubicle had a 4 in it, and at the beginning of her shift, she'd cover the 4. Now I understand.

But back to the video ...

Years and years ago, my mother was in the Wyoming County [NY] Bicentennial Singers' production of I Do! I Do! There's a male lead and a female lead, and that's it. The play follows a couple from their wedding day to their retirement. She was on stage for all three acts -- so was the bout of shingles that settled in the middle of her forehead like a good Hindu wife. Well, there was what she called The Flaming Agnes Scene, where she attempts to be seductive. My mother. Seductive. I wish she had let me show her a few dance moves before the play. Seriously. I could have helped.

Well, she could have helped me during this little video, and I wish she had. Alas, she left this vale of tears in 1998, so I was on my own and I talked too fast and too stupid, but there it is.

We're trying to put together a class so I can teach people how to paint mailboxes. It isn't going well. Frankly, it's embarrassingly expensive and I don't think it's worth it. Am I allowed to say that on a blog? The IAC is holding a mailbox contest in September, for Gulfportions. I think that will be a success, but this class? Nope.

Hey! Let me put up a picture of a mailbox! Ooh, I know! I'll just show the ends of the mailbox, making it just as awkward as my video!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Better Red than Dead!

My friend, whom I'll cleverly call Zil in order to preserve her anonymity, is pretty much a Communist. If she's got a dime she doesn't really need, and she sees that you (or at least I) need (or needs) a dime, she'll give it to us (!).

Knowing my poor car was in the shop for having stranded me again -- this time for more than an hour on a sultry night, with Benji but without his leash since it was to be a quick hop in and out at Blockbuster -- she drove by my house the other day. She called ahead to say she had something for me. It was a hundred bucks. When I refused graciously ("I'm not taking your freaking money!"), she drawled like the Atlanta Belle she is, "Then Ah'll jus' drawp it on yore lawn," using two full syllables for "lawn."

I recently read a Buddhist quote -- maybe from His Holiness Himself -- that basically said one must breathe in and out. One cannot breathe in only. One cannot breathe out only.

I took the cash.

I brought it to Pasadena Car Care (PCC) this afternoon and, after adding another $119.65, got my car back. Its random refusal to start every single time has been a problem for more than a year. I've had a new alternator, a new starter, and new fuses. I may have had other new things, too, but I prefer to remain in denial about them. I know it has cost many hundreds of dollars and many hours without a car. The guys at PCC are confident they've fixed it.

It was a melted fuse-holder. A short caused it, and general wear and tear caused the short. It's the third one they've had -- always on Toyotas -- in the last couple of months. Huh.

The problem now is one of loyalty. What do I do about the man who's watched over this car since I've owned it? Because he couldn't find this one (1) problem, does that mean he's out of my life? But he calls me Miz Nicolazzo with the sweetest South Carolinian accent! PCC's a lot closer, though. Both Zil and Mike ... er, Ekim ... use them. Well, if I quit the first guy, do I send him a Dear Jon Letter or just fade away? PCC actually had the problem fixed on Friday but no one called me. I called them today (it's Monday) and they acted surprised that I didn't know it had been ready all this time. Shall we vote?

Meanwhile, how 'bout them Scientologists? Did you get their big fat magazine in the mail? I just can't work myself up into an interest in them, although I have been on the sidewalk in downtown Clearwater when there's been no one else but Them, walking quietly in small groups their blue suits, and it really is a bit creepy, like a horror movie just before the first zombie reaches the square.

I wish someone I trust would tell me, in twenty-five words or less (and no using "u" for "you"), what their basic beliefs are. That would satisfy me. I don't need a whole magazine. All I saw at my quick run-through was an accusation against the reporters of the St. Petersburg Times. The article said the reporters had about seventeen thousand words on a recorded interview, but only used forty-one of them in the article. I hope whoever did the counting earns more than minimum wage.

The lawn here hasn't been mown in more than a month. That's partially why I didn't let Zil drop the bills there. We'd never find them again. The slumlord (from Atlanta, oddly enough) is doing an entertaining song and dance about Gino The Lawn Guy, but none of it is making the grass shorter. By the time I get from the side door to my car out back, I've got enough seeds on my legs to plant an acre. I also have something sticky -- bug juice or sap or frog spit -- around my ankles. I guess the liquid is heavier than the seeds. Neither dog nor cat wishes to slog through the stuff. Stanya, the Czech Republic woman on the other side of this duplex, parks her car out front, which helps keep the grass down -- on her side anyhow. If we pay for a mowing, we'll be setting a terrible precedent, so we just roll our eyes at each other.

Oh. Back to Benji and me at Blockbuster, panting in the heavy night air. I used my Swiss Army Knife's scissors to make a leash out of a Publix grocery bag. It was enough to bring him around the corner, where we caught a slight breeze. Now if I could just get him to eat grass, we'd be all set.