Archives for May 2008
I lost my debit card last week on St. Pete Beach at about 2 a.m. Saturday. Assuming the card was gone forever and if found would result in $500 in Big Gulp and Marlboro purchases at 7-Eleven, I canceled it the next morning. However, when on Monday morning I got to work in Sarasota and the receptionist said to me, “Some guy sent me an e-mail. Said he found your debit card on St. Pete Beach,” I was like, Wah? The guy’s name is Mark Prue and he runs one of those metal detectors up and down the beach on weekends. When he found my card Saturday morning he Googled my name and figured out who I worked for. He contacted me via e-mail and I got the card in the mail the next day.
An artist in Sarasota named Tim Jaeger gave me this sketch in 2005. A couple years later Tim opened his own studio/restaurant in Sarasota called Canvas Cafe. The fact that he offers drag queen bingo on the front porch of this place draws almost as much attention these days as his artwork.
This loaf of bread came from a place in Tampa called Pane Rustica, where Joe and I sat for a good hour and half playing Uno last weekend with friends. The owner of the place came up to us just before we left, set a giant loaf of bread (priced at $18) on the table and proclaimed that it had been “his dream” since he opened his bakery, that people would come in to hang out and play cards. “The bread,” he beamed, “is on the house.”
Cathy Guisewite drew this for me in March to go with a Q&A I did with her for the paper. We were on a tight deadline so she FedEx’ed it next-day delivery from Studio City, California to Sarasota, Florida. It’s now framed in my bedroom. I love it.
The dish towel on the right (the blue striped one) came from Philadelphia. I helped move my old roommate Zac up there in September and I’m not so much impressed with the towel, given to me by a girl named Marcie in Philly whom we stayed with when we arrived and who without my knowing used the towel to wrap around a jar of spaghetti sauce I purchased at Di Bruno Bros. so it wouldn’t break in my suitcase, but that Marcie let us stay with her unannounced for three days, and that she let Zac whom she had only met once unpack a Uhaul’s worth of stuff into her living room and then one week later moved said stuff up three flights of stairs into Zac’s new apartment three blocks away. I think about that every time I use this towel. Her goodness.
Balls. I’ve been told I can’t post about “Lost.” As much as I want to rip into the show, Joe has informed me that in order to give an accurate critique of the tangent-tastic, scuzz opera I have to rent all the seasons on DVD. Apparently watching only 10 episodes doesn’t cut it for Siskel & Joe-bert. So, I must wait and Lance must remain nonpartisan on topics such as “Lost.” (I knew this topic would rile him more than Towelie.)
So instead let me pontificate on Stein Mart. Why I’m rip roaring crazy over Stein Mart, the shopping plaza department store that, on the surface, sells merch to outfit an old biddy and old biddy condominiums.
There’s a Stein Mart up the road from me, in a Publix plaza maybe two, three miles away. Whenever I go there (and it is often) I feel like I’m going to my favorite Q-tipped Aunt’s house for mint juleps and scrabble. The women who work there are sweet as pumpkin pie and call me hon. The first time I walked in there, brand new to St. Pete and on a mission to find a lamp for our new apartment, a lone male employee walked up to me in housewares and asked if I needed help. I never saw the Stein Male again, though he was just as helpful and fatherly as the ladies were doting and maternal. (I think they keep him chained up behind the swinging door in housewares, where he works on Sudoku puzzles and if needed is unchained briefly for heavy lifting.)
Since that day I’ve returned to Stein Mart perhaps two dozen times. I purchased all my family’s Christmas gifts there and traveled with an extra suitcase to Buffalo with all these oddities inside – rubber boots with enormous flowers on them for my sister, Heelya; a blue, blue handbag for my sister PK, pug slippers for my mom, the list goes on …
People have said to me (particularly those family members mentioned above): “What the hell are you doing at Stein Mart, Bea Arthur?
And to them I say: “The place rocks my socks. I got the ass-iest pair of jeans* ever at Stein Mart.”
Some of the other things I’ve purchased there:
1. Two blankets
3. Green shirt that I am wearing to the left on this Lance
4. Our kitchen table, which Joe and I call Grandpa’s snack tray
5. Bed sheets
6. White granny sweater
7. The butt jeans*
*And it’s thanks to my Stein Mart sistahs that I even own the butt jeans at all. I almost bought a frilly, caketopper dress instead for this wedding we went to last week, but Jesus no I didn’t really want to buy it and upon seeing my scrunched up face as I half-heartedly twirled for them in the dressing room, the Stein Mamas told me, “Hon, if you really like the jeans better, get the jeans.”
Which is precisely what I did.
My theory is, is that I’m sister-less and mom-less here. PK, Heelya, mom, Nana, Aunt Winnie … they’re all up in Buffalo. The ladies at Stein Mart fill that void. Perhaps I wouldn’t even shop at Stein Mart if these women lived here. Perhaps I specifically sought a Gouda cheesy department store in an attempt to stir up substitute retail relatives so that when I go shopping it’s like I’m shopping with my ladies back in Buffalo again, which leads me to my final point of the morning – PK is moving here in less than three weeks.
Things are gonna get funky.
This was Joe’s Florida State beach towel that he had for 10 years.
To call this towel a beach towel would be like calling Jonah Hill Chris Farley.
No longer used for drying up after a shower, I think Joe used Towelie to slough off dead skin cells. (The fabric was the consistency of 80-grit sandpaper and couldn’t dry an elephant’s trunk.)
I know for a fact he used two towels after a shower – a fluffy, downy human towel and this – a feudal servant’s wash rag, tossed on the bedroom floor like a swath of cotton Eczema scabbing over anything it landed on.
A few weeks ago I nagged him like an old bitty in hair curlers and Isotoner slippers: “Can you at least hang Towelie on the hook behind the door?” I squawked from the bedroom.
“Bring it here,” he said.
“Bring it here. Throw it in the garbage. You’re right. It’s gross. It’s old. Let’s ditch it.”
“Ooo no,” I said. “I won’t be responsible for this.”
(No way would this come back to bite me. No way would Joe use this as leverage … to say throw out the quickly-accumulating-dog-haired koosh balls I keep in the living room.)
I shook my head no. Not on my clock. If you want to throw the towel out do it on your own time, I said.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped, popping open the garbage can. “Toss it.”
As if carrying a ticking bomb held together by Hitler’s comb-over, I pinched the the end of the towel and carried it to the garbage, placing it gently on top of a heap of coffee grounds and dried pasta. To cushion any repercussions I grabbed Joe’s camera and insisted he pose for this picture next to the garbage as evidence.
So far it’s worked. No woe-is-me towel postmortems. No after-shower bellyaching. I’m in the clear. For now.
Up next: why I think the TV show “Lost” is “The War of the Worlds” revisited. How viewers got snared and duped into watching an ABC soap opera with more B.S.ing and sudsy tomfoolery than an episode of General Hospital.
It’s 12:03 a.m. and I’m sitting in the dark under a blanket on my couch. I can’t sleep. The thought of this lost Bichon Frise in my neighborhood has been killing me for weeks.
Where is this dog?
Did someone steal him/her?
Was he/she killed by a passing car?
Did he/she run away with a maverick beagle in town?
Is he/she sucking on spaghetti from a restaurant dumpster in an alley off Central Avenue?
About a month ago (maybe longer) someone started posting these flyers on street posts and trees in Old Northeast. At first they simply asked for the safe return of their dog, who I might add “needs medicine,” and is “very old” and when returned “no questions asked.”
The reward is set at $5,000. Today while driving north on 4th Street I noticed the Bichon’s heartbroken owners had rented billboard space at 22nd Ave. Billboard space!
Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids. Maybe it’s because I’m crazy in love with my own dog. Maybe it’s because it’s sickening to think a stranger might harm this old Bichon. Maybe it’s because my dog curled himself into a tight spiral tonight filling the space Joe and I make for him when we crawl into bed. Maybe it’s because my heart breaks for the person in my neighborhood who is laying in bed mourning the whereabouts of her dog.
Joe and I picture this person like this:
a single-dog owner.
sweet-natured and trusting of other people.
pampering of the dog.
owns several framed photos of the dog (pre-dognapping).
Please will someone return this dog.
Ps. I just found this St. Pete Times story. The dog’s name is Pooh Bear and Joe and I were (almost) absolutely right about its owner, Patricia Bonati, known to Old Northeast dog lovers as The Poodle Lady. According to Bonati, she was walking her dogs – some of which are rescued poodles – along the Vinoy Basin around 5:45 a.m. on April 7 when the 15-year-old Pooh Bear, apparently off his leash, mysteriously disappeared. Bonati said, “It’s like the Earth swallowed my dog.”
Bonati also hired a pet detective. Phone in your Pooh Bear tips to (813) 892-1865.
I woke up this morning first at 7:30 and then at 8:30. At 8:30 I shuffled to the kitchen. Made coffee. Made toast. Sat on the couch and opened this page. Two and half hours later I’ve accomplished nothing. Nothing. I blame MySpace, Facebook and random news stories about Broncos players diagnosed with diabetes, Britney’s preggo sister, a story about an Asian man whose skin turned to tree bark and another story about an Asian man whose face developed gargantuan tumors spilling out from under his chin like tsunamis of yellow flesh. Freakish stuff. This is what I chose to do with my precious three hours before Joe wakes up.
(He’s still sleeping by the way.)
Maybe if I go out on the porch in the sunshine.
Anyway. When I was in Gaitlinburg, Tenn. last summer I set up camp beside a 20-something couple from Baton Rouge. Their names were Rachel and Shawn. Newly engaged. I remember several key things about Rachel and Shawn. Namely that their tent leaked in a rainstorm that night and Rachel, totally pissed about this, stormed Shawn’s truck like an army sergeant first thing in the morning, hauling armfuls of wet clothes into the cab, cursing in a southern tongue that their “god damned Wal-Mart tent was a piece of goddamned shit.” I also remember that Shawn surveyed my car one night between bites of Smores and said, “That’s a Honda HX yer drivin there.” And I nodded and said yes. And he said, “Funny. I never seen an HX before.” And that was that.
I think about it often. Probably every day since that night in Tennessee. Whenever I’m driving and I pass another Civic, I check out the rear model name – LX. EX. CX. DX. Never HX. I drove from Sarasota, Fla. to Coos Bay, Oregon and not once did I spot an HX on the road, in a parking lot, at a traffic light. I was floored by this, so floored that I made a habit of announcing the make and model of every Civic I passed from there on.
“LX. Not an HX.”
“EX. Not an HX.”
It is a lame road trip game, but one of many Rain Man-ian ticks I developed while driving and camping alone, spanning our country’s most lunar surfaces – specifically northern Utah – doing maniacal things like rolling my tongue into a Tootsie Roll on the roof of my mouth, making noises I thought only my dog could hear and of course looking for Honda Civic HXs and never once finding one.
… Until yesterday on Siesta Key Beach, under the North Bridge facing the Ringling Causeway at 4 p.m. I obliviously parked next to one. A red HX. My car’s hamster-like twin, dustier and littered with fishing tackle. Its owner, a Mexican kid in a Hanes undershirt, knee-deep in salt water, was futzing with a bucket of oily jacks flopping to and fro. And since I was in the middle of photographing someone for the paper, I stupidly forgot to snap a photo of the car.
Though I’ll probably never see the thing again I drove home yesterday with a renewed sense of worldly order like now I can scratch the missing HX off my existential scavenger hunt. It’s one of many scratch-offs on an assignment I gave myself years ago. The existential scavenger hunt assignment.
It started four years ago with a dog in the passenger seat of a truck. I was sitting in traffic at McKinley Parkway and Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg, New York, staring at the truck parked next to me. Riding shotgun was a dog mangy from age, with a beaky face and once-crazy eyes. I remember sitting at the intersection we all called Seven Corners and looking over at Mangy Dog and thinking, shit Mangy Dog, I’ll never see you again. This moment I’m sharing with you now at the Seven Corners in Hamburg, New York in one minute will be over and I’ll never see you again.
At that time I had only a month to go before leaving New York for Florida. I was in that mode we all slip into before leaving a place for whoknowshowlong. It’s a state of mind I describe as Steely Sadness. Before leaving a place you grow balls of steel. “I can do this. I’m cool. I’m free spirited dust in the wind. I’m the stuff you write home about. Eck. Ugh. Sigh.” Which is such a farce, because really what happens is this:
You spot a mangy dog riding shotgun one day at an intersection famous for its deadly crashes and you start crying in spastic waves because you know this is It. You’re looking into the once-crazy eyes of a beady-beaked dog and you’re saying goodbye, out loud and in between snot-sucking sobs, you think: ‘I’m 23 years old and this is the most pitiful moment I’m ever going to have. (Which we all know is not true.) And if I weren’t at the wheel of this rattletrap jitney, at the deadliest intersection in Western New York, I’d be brought to my knees.’ But you’re wailing now like a breeched newborn slapped on the ass. And the dog is cocking its head and not blinking. And in his once-crazy eyes you see a shimmer of recognition (because glassy eyes make ghostly mirrors) and you know that in .3 seconds the light will go green, you’ll grit your teeth and say buh-bye.
Thus you are born into what I call steely sadness.
Light turns green. Dog looks away. You press your foot to the pedal and accelerate. With the window down you hear the sound of your car’s engine – not smooth, not steady, but high-pitched and throaty – and you shrug, because nonetheless you are moving.
I’ve not had another mangy dog moment. And like finding the HX yesterday (or as Joe calls it, “lampooning my white whale”) I have no idea what it will mean if it happens again. I like to reckon it’s one more kill in an existential scavenger hunt, though I fear it’s just one more asinine thing I do to distract myself.
Ps. The picture above was taken in Jerome, Idaho. If anyone ever calls Idaho ‘West-bum or East-bum’ anything please dismiss it. Idaho is beautiful and solitary. Idaho sunsets cast the best pink-ish light I’ve ever seen blanket a field at dusk.
I took this picture at 8 a.m. this morning while I made a few phone calls before work. Joe perked up, saw the photo and said: “I sense a blog post coming on. Something that goes: ‘These are the men in my life sleeping while I do work. I hate them both. Seeing them like this burns like battery acid going down my esphogus. Burrrrrrrns. Burrrrrrrns.'”