Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Puss Out

Am I qualified to write about cats? I sure thought so. I'm well into my second generation, having seen twins Libby and Putz through their seventeen-year stint from birth to garden. I have to struggle to remember their unmarked graves, lest I pay them a surprise visit while doing my spring planting.

God sent Spek to replace them almost immediately by leaving her, a terrified kitten, in my juniper bush. That was seven years ago. Romeo showed up four years ago as he went from house to house, and didn't bother to leave.

So when I was offered a chance to write some essays about cats, I pounced. I wrote about them literally from stem to stern: how to read their minds and analyze their tails. How to tell a male newborn from a female (it's harder than you think--the obvious pearls of wisdom aren't apparent yet). I wrote the whole poop on cat litter, and a story about how to groom a cat, titled, Hair To Eternity.

One essay was about how to know what your cat is trying to tell you. So I was qualified enough to notice my own cat Spek yelling at me through the veranda door when I came home at two o'clock in the morning. She'd been locked out on the porch since . . . hmmm . . . lunch.

Opening the door, she skipped the hero's welcome as she hustled past me to the litter box. I didn't need any essay to help me interpret her body language. It is commonly known that cats don't have opposable thumbs, but few people are aware that cats can independently raise their middle finger.

I offered her the feline equivalent of apology roses: a can of Whiska's Whitefish and Shrimp Feast (which, curiously, is brown). She ate it without satisfaction, her tail raised high so that the Brown Eye of Disdain was always aimed at me.

I gave up with a sigh and headed for bed, stopping on the way to check my e-mail. A pop-up from my calendar interrupted to remind me that the day had been Spekky's birthday.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dash to The Finish

Last week I posted a photo of that beautiful bruised leg of Flying Wallenda Woman. I don't think she was exactly thrilled, but man, it's a bruise to be proud of. While trying to find a video to explain what a "pitchpole" was, I lost about three hours of productive work, chasing every movie link that popped up when I searched "boat crash." It's like looking in a Kleenex: you know it's not going to be pretty, but you can't help yourself.

I tell myself it's part of my job. I am indeed advertising shows at Mick's, right? And I need content. Right?

My computer is no longer a Time-Saving Device. Today's newspaper reported that every time you take a break to check for email, which I do every five minutes, it takes sixteen minutes to get back to work. And me, being a word nerd, I can spend ten minutes writing, "Hi—how are you?", worrying whether to use an em-dash or comma. But em-dashes don't travel well between Macs and PCs, unless you hard-code them, which I do by typing the burdensome code — because that's how much I hate using a double-dash. (Actually, I could just use two independent clauses, no? Hmmm…wait, where was I? Oh yes) this here e-mail (wait—did I spell that as email elsewhere? Must be consistent!) this here email could have been done at noon, but now it's a quarter to three, and I won't send it until after I've set it down and re-read it later with fresh eyes. It would be faster if I would just phone you, each of you. We could chat a bit before I bombard you with all the shows at Mick's I want you to see. "Great weather, huh? Did you watch Nastia get robbed of her gold medal on the unevens last night? By the way, Joe Purdy is performing Wednesday with Meiko…"

You see my problem.

Then there are my favorite websites, which I go to when I need a diversion, which is never. Add all the accidental web content that discovers me, from dying rich Nigerians wanting to give me their money to unconventional uses for common barnyard animals, and the day is shot.

Last night my daughter called me over to her computer. "Dad, I found the perfect font for my website," she said. "It's airy and stylish and classy, without being too foofy. I spent an hour converting every page. But some viewers are seeing Helvetica, and I can't stop it."

"Helvetica is close," I shrugged. "It's a time-tested classic. Not bad."

"It's unacceptable," she said as if referring to the Russian invasion of Georgia. "I want my font."

I was so proud I could have popped. So—two hours later…

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ahoy, Matey!

Sailors get to yell a lot, which makes them sound important. "Avast! Mast a-beam! Yer wimmin or yer beer!"

They also have a different word for everything. A turn is a tack, unless it's a gybe. Front, middle, back = bow, beam, stern. It makes skippers seem smarter than they are. I like that. A rope is a line, unless of course it's a halyard. I asked a sailor once what the difference was between rope and line, and he answered, "Three dollars a foot. Har har har!" Sailors all laugh like that.

I love to sail, but I don't know all the words, so I have to make some of them up. Last week my crew was trapping when the bow speared into a swell and we pitchpoled. Trapping is when you're attached to the boat by a wire to your harness, and you lean clear off the side. Pitchpoling is sailing's equivalent of pole vaulting: the bow of the boat buries into the water, the rear bucks up and everyone goes airborne.

If you fall off the side of the boat while still attached to your trap line, that's tea-bagging. But my crew didn't fall; she swung at the end of her trap line all the way around the bow to the other side of the boat. I think I'll call that may-poling. She hit just about everything along the way, which I'll call pinballing. Then, as she cleared the front, the bow popped back up and the sailboat took off again, dragging her upside-down along the port beam. I've dubbed that an acrobatic malfortune. The daggerboard whacked her in the leg on her way by, resulting in one M-F-er of a bruise. It looks like a full-calf tattoo of a green and blue serpent.

She'd be a great skipper. She made up all kinds of words, right on the spot. They came so fast I didn't catch them all, but I think a lot of them had something to do with my mother.

Okay, now I'm just being self-indulgent. Look up "pitchpole" on YouTube. The first movie is dramatic. The Hobie 18 movie second on the list is just like my boat, except I don't have an oil tanker in the background and my theme music isn't nearly as annoying.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mr. Know-It-All

The last time I performed at Mick's, it was kind of weird.

I work there. My day started with booking some performers and designing ads. I dropped in on a radio show to do a short interview and played one of my songs. On the way to Mick's I picked up some groceries for the bar. I set up my own sound because the regular tech was sick. I bartended while the staff took a break, then I went up and did my show. After that I took out the garbage.

Nothing does more to keep me from getting a big head than taking out the garbage. Every single time I do it I think, "Ah, yes—my dad mentioned something about this regarding my philosophy degree."

In a way it is fun to be so involved. But I do wonder what it might be like for the other artists who show up, play to strangers, do an encore and drive away into the darkness. It looks attractive from my end—especially when I'm taking out the garbage while they're loading up to leave, smoking cigarettes and talking about the women they met—but judging by how they usually look when they first arrive, touring is no bed of roses either. They certainly don't smell like roses, anyway.

This Friday I get to creep back on stage, this time with 5 Story Fall frontman Pat Gehrman and OEA-award winner Tim Wildsmith for an in-the-round show. The soundman has already called in sick. I know that for the two hours I'm on stage with those guys, I'll feel like a big shot. And somewhere in between fixing a blown fuse and plunging out the plugged toilet, I'll give the best performance I can.