Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Grand Tour

When I was little, my godmother took me on an exclusive tour of the White House. I got to experience sights that people would not normally get to see on White House tours, she told me. I got to stand at the Meet the Press podium, grinning my gap-toothed smile. I got to see the entrance to the kitchen where the chef told me that Bill Clinton loved cheeseburgers more than anything.

This tour is going to be very underwhelming in comparison, I’m afraid. No former chef to former president Clinton makes an appearance in this tour – merely my kitten, Olive. Actually, Olive plays the role of tour guide; I, the role of photographer. Olive does not have the manual skill to operate a camera and lacks my steadiness of hand.

This tour is of my apartment, which is the basement of a house that is not white, but minty-green in color. A furious owl guards the property.

Our entrance is marked with a creaky screen door that blows open and closed in the wind. Beside the entrance is a smaller door which leads to a place that I have named “The Chokey.”

Olive laments her inability to turn the doorknob.
From the entrance, we have a delightful view of the mausoleum in the driveway, accompanied by its mistress the Guillotine, both of which seem to have been inching closer and closer to the door since our arrival. I hear that the landlords put on an extravagant show at Halloween.

You might notice a tiny guillotine to the  right of the mausoleum.

Inside the apartment, we have a wall of books and lots of anthropomorphic animal pictures by Michael Sowa and Louis Wain. The futon is rock-solid and the glass coffee table is a surface that Olive frequently attempts to dive through it, certain that it is a portal to another realm.

A construction worker once described this area as "groovy."

I write at a desk in the corner when Dave isn’t using the area to compose electronic music, but I couldn't take a single clear picture of it. Eventually, I intend to turn a closet in the kitchen into a writing nook where I can be a writing hermit. I also intend to install wall-to-wall Christmas lights on the ceiling pipes. Angelina the pitcher plant continues to thrive in the windowsill.

I finally have a bookcase large enough to contain my personal collection.

Olive has a cat-nook in the bookcase that she likes to think of as a treat depository. Her main goal in life is to acquire as many Greenies cat treats in her mouth as possible until her immaculate incisors fall out.

Olive sometimes sleeps here on her back with her legs straight up in the air.

I refer to this lamp as “the cocoon of the giant moth” or, alternatively, “the mummy.”

Olive has taken over many parts of the apartment, including the desk chair and the inside of the ceramic fruit bowl.

Olive territory.
Our kitchen is very utilitarian. Usually every surface is marred with borscht. Empty teacups and sticky, hollowed grapefruits are strewn across the counters. I tidied it up to give you an illusion, dear reader.

The fruit bowl, when not filled with browning bananas and granny smith apples, also serves as a container for Olive’s body. It has become her favorite cat bed, the only bed she can’t rip with her teeth. She cowers in the fruit bowl when we try to remove her from the kitchen table by the scruff.

This is our bathroom, complete with an unconventionally placed mirror-cabinet.

Sorry if I'm being invasive.
Alas, I have run out of apartment.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pepto-Bismol Suitcase

Image from No, really.

I love traveling, but it always makes me sick. No matter how many times nausea strikes my gut at an inconvenient time, I somehow never seem to lose my enthusiasm. I did not regret my trip to Boston even when I was curled in a ball on my bus seat squeezing my knees to my chest and chewing a chalky disk of Pepto-Bismol. I had a sheet of it tucked away in my bag and by the end of the bus ride it was nothing but shredded plastic.

I’ve learned to prepare for the inevitable lurch after lunch – a chocolate chip scone and fudge brownie shortly before my departure was a probably culprit. I got sick in Prague during my first week and I got sick leaving Prague for the United States. I also fell ill in Berlin and Cesky Krumlov and almost every time I’ve ever chugged into New York City on the Metro North.

If I were really practical, I would religiously pack a medium-sized rolling suitcase full of Pepto-Bismol for every voyage. I would fold up an enormous sheet of Pepto-Bismol tablets as small as it would go, like a pink polka-dotted pool tarp. I would pack the neatly folded antacids into the Pepto -pink suitcase, sit on the flap to flatten the air pockets, and zip. I would wheel the onerous load behind me like the queer biological baggage that it is and hoist it onto the next step of the escalator.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Golden Triangle

My short story "Magic Tricks" was published in the first issue of The Golden Triangle today. Click the poorly-drawn stick figure below to be instantly transported to my story on the Golden Triangle website via magic.

You should also take a look at the other lovely stories and poetry and admire the decadent layout. All of the etchings of gods, swans, and full-breasted mermaids in the background have exponentially inflated my sense of self-importance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Space

          This is a short story I started in class three or so years ago that I'll probably never finish.... Well, here you go.

          Space Commander Dunham awoke from hyper-sleep to see two round pixel eyes staring down at him through five inches of chipped glass. His helmet slowly lowered onto his head and the robot took two heavy steps backwards, letting the Commander’s sleep module open in a cloud of steam. The robot extended a tube of coffee to the yawning space traveler. The Commander sleepily tried to put it to his open mouth and it hit the glass of his helmet.
            Drowsily, he said, “Eugene 3.1, what happened to my sleep module? It’s all chipped. If that glass broke, why, I could have asphyxiated!”
            “I was so lonely,” said the robot, who was awake the whole time. “Hold me.”
            Eugene 3.1 sought comfort in the folds of the Commander’s space suit.
            “But… where’s the rest of the crew?” said the Commander, looking around at the empty, cracked sleep modules. “Are they outside? What planet are we on?”
            Eugene 3.1 stepped to the side to block him from the spacecraft portal. “Yes, what is left of the crew is outside, Commander. We crash landed on Ziploc 5 two months ago. Only Clipper, Garbler, and Quiche survived the landing. However, there was something wrong with the colonists of Ziploc 5. It was discovered to be a space virus. Don’t go outside. I beg you.”
            The heedless Commander pressed a button and the portal opened to the planet outside.
            “My God, I’ve never seen anything like this, Eugene 3.1. What happened…”
            He could find no words. The entire planet was swarming with adorable puppies.

Image Credit: The People Magazine pet section and a preschool education website.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Bacteria Farm

Dave and I have decided to make our own kombucha - an effervescent, probiotic beverage that we mutually enjoy. A bottle of bubbling intestinal regularity costs about four dollars, but if you brew it yourself in a big glass jar or a claw-foot tub it costs fifty cents a serving. We purchased a gallon glass jar from the Container Store, a box of organic green tea, a bag of sugar and a bottle of commercial kombucha.

Once we began boiling the sugar and water, Dave referred back to his directions and realized that we needed to grow a scoby before we could brew the kombucha. A scoby is a slimy bacteria culture that resembles a mushroom or a soggy pancake.

This is not a pancake. This is also not a picture of me holding a pancake. I don't know who this is.
You need scoby to start brewing kombucha and every finished jar of kombucha produces a new scoby that you can give as a gift to a confused friend. So why not give the gift of digestive balance this holiday season? There’s no cure for the nausea caused by receiving a scoby like a tall glass of probiotic drink.

We found detailed directions for making a scoby using a bottle of kombucha online. It appears that you brew a saucepan of sweet tea and pour it into a jar with twelve cups of water and a bottle of finished kombucha from the grocery store. Then you cap it with a towel secured with a rubber band and watch it grow for three weeks. When the time comes, you lift out the glob of bacteria and use it to brew a jar of delicious kombucha. The rest of the jar goes down the drain.

If you like instant gratification and want to produce a jar of kombucha sometime within the next month, you could buy a designer scoby online or get one from a kombucha chemist you know and trust. Or put it on your Christmas list. Maybe Santa will take note of your need for a doughy disc of single-celled organisms.

Valentine's Day isn't too far away.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Some Thoughts for a New Year

I’m feeling rather inspired by Neil Gaiman’s New Year wishes.

This year, I hope that at least once a day you hurt the muscles in your stomach laughing – but not at someone’s expense. (Something dirty would be acceptable.) I hope this laughter is so intense that your abs become rock solid and you feel more than comfortable in swimwear by May. I hope that every public restroom that you enter in the next twelve months is fully stocked with pristine, unadulterated toilet paper. I hope you make at least one baby laugh, because it releases euphoric chemicals in the human brain without producing side effects or damaging brain cells. I hope that you remain so healthy this year that you produce a noticeable decline in your insurance company’s annual profits. I hope you go to a new, disorienting place in comfortable walking shoes and never feel stuck where you are. I hope you become more yourself and have lots of silences among good friends that don’t feel awkward.