Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bored dog (Daily Photo 5.29.11)

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Stanley with nothing to do. May need to watch this for a few seconds.

The enormous marshmallow (Daily Photo 5.28.11)

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Known as Kraft jumbo marshmallows, these are your Godzillas of the marshmallow world. Each one of these babies comes packed with 100 calories of pure puffed sugar and is the size of a young child's fist. My hot cocoa will never be the same again.

Home run (Daily Photo 5.27.11)

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I've been trying to spend a little more time in the yard, so it's not just a wasteland behind my house where my dogs defecate and attack each other. Taking a turn through my grounds, I noticed at least two baseballs, this one chewed up by dog teeth. Which makes it official: every block has one house where, when you knock baseballs over the fence, they stay there forever and you go home to supper early. You're impressed at the hitting power it takes to whack the ball that far, but disappointed because every home run means you have to scrounge up another ball for tomorrow -- and there's no way in hell you're going to knock on the door to ask if you can have the ball back because the people inside are a little scary and they have a huge mean dog that eats boys.

Apparently, my house is that house.

Meet the new job, same as the old job (Daily Photo 5.26.11)

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So I got a new job. I'd been laid off for about four months, since just before my birthday. I'm now a copy editor at a newspaper where I'd worked, in the same capacity, from 1998 to 2006. So I know the place inside and out, know almost everyone there. It's a mile from my house. This is the view from the break room.

I don't really want to talk about the new job. I'd rather talk about my brief stretch of unemployment. Even though I didn't earn any money and had to take a pittance from the state as support, and I spent most of my time filling out paperwork or scrounging up job listings or obsessively tweaking my resume, and spent even more time chasing down leads for jobs that ended up in dead ends, and I looked at every mortgage bill like it was a coiled snake, frankly I'm going to look back at this time from early February to late May very fondly. There are some ugly aspects of unemployment besides what I've already mentioned. Online job applications are for the fucking birds. I applied to about 15 different jobs online. I received 4 replies, with 3 of those being impersonal rejections. It's difficult hearing from loved ones and friends that I should have a job because I'm "great" and "special," and then face a wall of technology built into the application process that mainly serves to dehumanize me into a robot capable of performing certain tasks and thus prevents potential employers from discovering the alleged traits that would make me a good worker. I also discovered that some people are shockingly underpaid. One job listing I saw called for a news person at a radio station in Providence, a decent-sized city. The job as described involved reporting, writing, editing, photography, web updating, generating news, planning coverage, audio editing, some video, hiring and firing other employees, and running the live radio desk, all for about $32,000 a year. Which is nearly criminal for that amount of work.

But that's behind me, and the majority of my time spent being A Gentleman Of Leisure was very peaceful and happy. I got to eat breakfast in my kitchen with my wife every morning. I played with my dogs in the yard for the first time in several years. I wrote some stories, an aspect of my life that the stress and frustration of my previous job managed to throttle utterly. I came and went places as I pleased without having to be in bed or in front of the computer by a certain time. I watched the Red Sox at Fenway Park and visited the Museum of Fine Arts at least three times that I remember. I stopped reading news entirely and felt quite OK about this. I noticed things like the trees in my neighborhood growing leafy. I already can't wait for my vacation.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The back lawn (Daily Photo 5.25.11)

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We're trying to (eventually) grow a clover lawn. When you read about the advantages and disadvantages, it's pretty clear that a lawn of clover is better than a grass one. Clover is self-fertilizing, for one thing, and--

I just realized that this is incredibly dull to write about. Go here if you want to know more. Holy shit.

Anyway, we spread some seed and let nature take its course.

Roll over (Daily Photo 5.24.11)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Birds of China (Daily Photo 5.23.11)

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Got a package from Hong Kong -- some jade earrings I bought for Nik for our anniversary from an Etsy seller. I'm not a stamp collector, but sometimes they fascinate me for some reason.

Three ideas (Daily Photo 5.22.11)

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Idea for script: The year is 1593. William Shakespeare is framed for the stabbing murder of dramatist and poet Christopher Marlowe, and sentenced to death. On the eve of his execution, and with the help of his roguish partner in crime John Donne, he stages an explosive and death-defying prison escape and goes on the lam, hell-bent on tracking down the real killer and clearing his name. Title: "Bard for Life."

Idea for product: Invent a classier version of the Foam Finger to sell at operas and ballets.

Idea for novel: Follows much of the plot of Les Miserables, but from the point of view of the bread loaf.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Animal faces (Daily Photo 5.21.11)

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Leah, in one of the only photos I've taken where she hasn't moved.

Myrna, rather incapable of moving.

Pairs (Daily Photo 5.20.11)

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On the day after my 10th anniversary, Nik & I visited the Museum of Fine Arts. I was seeing pairs everywhere -- some intentional, some not.

10th anniversary (Daily Photo 5.19.11)

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Nik & I have spent the past 10 years married to each other, and together for almost 17. 

In the morning we visited the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. I'll offer some photos from our hike without comment, and pick up captions again when you see a photo of a man riding a lobster.

As promised -- here's a picture of a man riding a lobster.

Being married for this long hasn't been difficult. Frankly I don't understand what people are talking about when they say being married is "work." Really? Are you sure you're doing it correctly?

I think of us less as a couple and more as a duprass anyway.

Kennebunkport (Daily Photo 5.18.11)

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On the eve of our 10th wedding anniversary, Nik & I decided to take a short trip somewhere. We don't have a lot of money, so we found a bed & breakfast in Kennebunkport, Maine, less than a 3-hour drive from home. 

It's a town with a reputation for extravagant wealth. Usually rich people keep it classy. Not this house. There's a giant sculpture of an abacus on the front lawn. If the numbers here don't spell out the address number, this is a huge waste of space.

Kennebunkport is also the summer home of the Bush family. You can get pretty close to the compound, which frankly seems kind of small -- at least compared to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis. There's a guard shack out front, but from this vantage point on Ocean Drive he's too far away to see people (like me) flipping the bird to any Bushes in residence.

We went for a 5.5-mile run along the shoreline in cold rain and mist -- not ideal running conditions, but at least ideal running partners. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The dog's bollocks (Daily Photo 5.17.11)

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Stanley is neutered, and has been for about 5 years. You should know that before I go on.

So today we're in the kitchen, Nik & I and Stanley, standing around very leisurely and talking about the crappy weather. At some point, Nik looks down at Stanley and says, "What's with his back?" Dog's standing there with his back arched. And his stomach and hindquarters are sort of convulsing or something. To be honest, with his spine bent and his bum wiggling, it looks like he's trying to take a shit in my kitchen. He's fully housebroken, so I immediately think he's sick. His hips look like they're spasming. Then I see that he's got a boner, and he's humping the air.

On an average day, Stanley doesn't have a big'un. So I notice the difference. Also, he's never humped anything before. Now he's humping nothing.

"He's got, like, kind of a boner," I say. I whisper the word: "boner." So he won't hear me.

His little hips are going, humping the air. His front half isn't doing anything special. This goes on for some time while Nik & I decide what to do. We figure he'll stop after a minute or so, but he doesn't. Just keeps air-humping.

Nik decides to give him a cookie. The idea, I guess, is that he'll be distracted and calm down. He waddles over, still humping, and eats it.

"Maybe cheese," she says, and gives him a piece of cheese.  He eats the cheese, his hips still moving back and forth. So now he's basically getting rewarded for having an erection.

"You're a guy," she says. "How do you handle this?"

I say I don't know. I don't hump the air like that. "And the times you get a boner uncontrollably, it's pretty much only in the mornings."

"We'll walk it off," she says.

So we lead Stanley out to the yard. We figure moving around might help, and plus it's cold out. But he can't really run around because he looks uncomfortable doing that with an erection. Instead, he just stands in the grass with his back up, humping. His back half is busy, but his front half is perfectly normal. He starts munching some grass, humping the whole time. He appears to have very little, if any, idea that something's wrong. He's so innocent that he's got a raging hardon with no clue how to use it.

We're not sure if we should call the vet. I don't know what they can do -- but I've heard when you have a Viagra erection that lasts more than 4 hours, you should call a doctor. This is similar.

"You're going to have to talk to them," Nik says, "because I don't think I can explain this over the phone."

"I'm sure he'll stop," I say. "He kind of just needs to rub one out." Myrna stands nearby and sniffs Stanley's dick while he keeps humping and chewing grass. "Myrna, help him out," I say. Normally I think of Myrna and Stanley as "brother and sister," even though they're not. But now I'm sort of hoping she'll take one for the team so he can relax. But also I don't want this at all. She walks away, and I'm both irritated and relieved.

Many minutes pass. No change. Stanley hobbles around and humps, apparently not 100% realizing he's doing it, but knowing that something is happening. It occurs to me that he could do this for a long time. Because he's not actually fucking anything -- his dick isn't touching anything. I start hoping that he'll just get it over with and come already. But also I don't want this at all, because I find the idea extremely nasty. But if he does, I'm glad he's now in the yard and not in my kitchen. I figure if he just finishes, he can go lie down and take a nap like anybody else.

More minutes pass, and by now we're in the house and he's still outside, sniffing a hyacinth bush and humping. He's got stamina, anyway. Then Nik knocks on the window to call him back in the house, and he looks up at us and runs in.

"He can run," she says. "That's a good sign."

When Stanley gets back in the house, he's not humping anymore and he's back to normal. Something broke the spell. We pet him, very gingerly. So he won't get excited. I know that basically it's purely a chemical reaction and he had his humping spell out of instinct, but I've barely been able to look him in the eye since.

Painting with snot (Daily Photo 5.16.11)

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Nik's brushes are Leah's now, by Cat Law.

Sunset (Daily Photo 5.15.11)

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But not really.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Seven ideas (Daily Photo 5.14.11)

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Idea for novel: Like "Twilight" except the vampire and werewolf are fighting over which fork to use with salad.

Idea for joke: Two dolphins are swimming along together. One dolphin says to the other dolphin, "EEEEEEECK! [click click] EEEEECK!" then swims off.

Idea for script: "Emmanuelle vs. Godzilla."

Idea for joke: Guy walks into a bar. Bartender says, "What can I get you?" Guy says, "Scotch rocks," because he's in denial about his alcoholism.

Idea for novel: Like "Twilight" except it takes place at voke-tech and the girl is torn between a boy who wants to be a plumber and a boy who's taking HVAC.

Idea for product: Invent cat pajamas. Think of a good slogan.

Idea for joke: A traveling salesman is driving through the country on his way to Omaha when his car breaks down. He walks to a farmhouse and asks the farmer if he can spend the night there. Farmer says, "You can spend the night in the barn, but you better not be sleeping with my beautiful daughter. Six feet tall. Blonde hair. Tits out to here. But nobody can ever touch her!" Waggling a finger for emphasis. Later, under cover of night, the traveling salesman sneaks out of the barn past the mutter of sleeping livestock, his stocking feet soaking up dew as he slips toward the house silent as the breeze. He climbs into a window to the farmer's daughter's room, and she's even more gorgeous than the farmer described. They make passionate love -- the union of two lonely souls. The farmer never catches them together, and the next morning the traveling salesman leaves for Omaha. Several months later, the farmer's daughter starts showing her pregnancy. The farmer is horrified and tells his daughter she's a disgrace before God and not fit to live under his roof. She packs a suitcase and buys a bus ticket to Chicago. She gets a job waitressing at a Greek restaurant and the owner lets her sleep in the pantry at night. Soon the owner and his wife take pity on the farmer's daughter and they give her an advance on her pay, so she can rent a cheap apartment from a cousin of theirs. The farmer's daughter's belly grows heavy with child. Still, she works hard and comes to an arrangement with her employer and landlord so she can pay her rent and accrue some savings. Months pass. Eventually she goes into labor mid-shift, is rushed to a hospital, and gives birth to a beautiful blonde girl. She calls her father, the farmer, to tell him the news and that she's named the girl after her dearly departed mother -- but the farmer wants nothing to do with her, still stricken with shame. The farmer's daughter and her girl live frugally but as five years pass, then ten, their economic situation improves and they can breathe more easily and move into a better apartment. The farmer's daughter's looks begin to fade with the constant toil and stress of financial hardship, but in her more lighthearted moments a trace of the beauty she once possessed resurfaces briefly. The girl grows tall and excels at school. She has many friends, since she is a sociable child and loves to laugh. She plays the violin and sometimes tells people she wants to become a veterinarian, though secretly she dreams bigger and her mother suspects this and encourages it. The girl is vaguely curious about who her father is, and her mother, the farmer's daughter, tells her the truth: simply that when they'd met, he was the kindest man she'd ever known and that they'd never met again. The farmer's daughter has, by this point, long since given up hope of ever communicating with her father again, and has made a sad but firm peace with this fact. Their life has been a struggle financially and emotionally, and she's frustrated that her father's stubbornness and poor health habits will see him dead before he ever meets his lovely and talented and emotionally stable granddaughter -- but the farmer's daughter never once regrets having left behind her sheltered past and her controlling and ignorant father, and having created a meaningful and satisfying life of her own in the city. The traveling salesman has, by now, been dead of venereal disease for some time.

Stripper (Daily Photo 5.13.11)

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As in DIF. Taking off some wallpaper.

Xbox (Daily Photo 5.12.11)

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OK, so we went out to Target for a few things. We ended up walking out with an Xbox. Right. Don't judge me. I feel you judging me. This is the first video game console I've bought since 1998 and it was $50 off. Also yes, I'm still looking for a job and leaving the house once in a while and doing other fulfilling things with my life. Nik & I have both wanted a video game console for years now, because we both like casual video games as a fun stress reliever once in a while. We don't play much, and we live very frugally -- you can see from the picture above, we don't even have cable. We deserve one nice thing, goddammit.

So no guilt. Knock it off.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Everything's bigger at Costco (Daily Photo 5.10.11)

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Need a grill?

How about a teddy bear?

Clams (Daily Photo 5.9.11)

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My dad brought over some fresh live clams. Like most things, this caused me much anxiety.

I don't really like clams. I have no qualms at all with eating the flesh of other organisms, or indeed their muscles, skin, flanks, bellies, thighs, legs, ground-up-everything-stuffed-into-their-own-intestines, ribs, wings, patties, pepperonis, and nuggets. But I turn up my nose at the idea of eating the entire organism, all of it, as in consuming the whole thing all at once including its mouth and kidneys and anus and whatever material is in its digestive tract that it didn't have a chance to excrete yet. I care fuck-all about the ethics -- I just think it's strange. Clams aren't nice animals. They hardly even qualify as living. They have the vaguest whisper of a nervous system and no other senses. A clam is a pink-white sac of involuntary chemical responses to external stimuli. They burrow in sand and eat plankton (capturing their food passively, by the way) and basically most of them is composed of some icky flaps of muscle used to feed and excrete, and that's it. A clam has one foot and no brain. On a good day, a clam looks and behaves like a gob of snot.

It might be their preparation. I don't mind fried clams or clam cakes. Anything tastes good deep-fried: it's the medium, not the message. I like clams in pasta. Again, this may be because of the pasta. Eaten raw (or alive, in other words, to the extent to which a smear of pink goo with no brain can be called "alive"), I've done that but I prefer not. Neither do I like clamboils, because there are very few meals that I like boiled anyway and in fact none are leaping to mind right now so I'm going to go ahead and say I don't like any boiled type of meal, period. When I think of clamboils, I think of steamed, soggy food, of slurping and smelly fingers and having to peel the black wrinkled membrane off the siphon and depositing it on the edge of a plate like a dead foreskin, of cups of milky and disgusting broth to wash off the shit and sand inside the clams, of never being able to do a good enough job and eating sand anyway.

I'd never cooked clams myself. When my dad gave the soggy-bottomed paper bag of clams to me, I had to ask what the hell I was supposed to do with them. I had a vague idea that I should put them in water so they could filter out whatever sand and muck was in their stomachs. After that, I was lost. Somehow I've gone 34 years living in New England without knowing how to cook clams. My mom said I should wait until the clams open just a crack and "catch them unawares," not difficult considering they don't possess awareness. Then while the clams were thus distracted I should sneakily slip a heavy knife between the halves of their shells and split them open. This seemed like a lot of work. One medium-sized clam contains about 10 calories.

It stressed me out. I didn't know how to make them and didn't really feel like eating them. I briefly considered lobbing them one by one into the river, but then I remembered I live near two power plants and thought it would be less cruel to eat them.

I found a recipe online that made cooking clams seem easier than lurking behind a bush and jumping out at them with a knife: heat some butter or olive oil in a pot, and saute some garlic. After a minute of that, drop the clams in there and pour a little wine over them. Turn up the heat and cover the pot, then go do something else for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and it's like magic: the clams should now be open and cooked and covered in sauce. Any clams that didn't open, throw out. Done. I threw some basil on them because it didn't seem like I'd worked enough.

They weren't bad. Nik agreed, and said they were "the best clams I've eaten in a long time." I'm curious about cooking them that way again, except with white wine this time (all I had was red) and maybe some more herbs. I'm more curious to try this with mussels, which is a creature that's also basically a blob of brainless snail-glop but which tastes better in my opinion. Should work delightfully. Although you don't get much for your money.

Mother's Day (Daily Photo 5.8.11)

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M is for Mattapoisett, where we took my mother this morning.

O is for the outside, where we ran. I'm struggling already with this.

T is for the Tiara Classic 5K, where Nik and I earned PRs and mom missed hers by just 2 seconds.

H is for the heroic effort it took to run those 3.1 miles.

E is for the effort it took to run those 3.1 miles. Definitely struggling here but this is almost done so I have to see it through.

R is for the run we did earlier. In Mattapoisett.

See more photos from the run here, on 4 Feet Running.

Monday, May 09, 2011

There will be bunnies (Daily Photo 5.7.11)

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Possibly many more.

In the yard (Daily Photo 5.6.11)

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Been lucky weather-wise lately. It's nice.

Leaf underwater (Daily Photo 5.5.11)

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Took Stanley out for a short run. He spent every chance he could staring into gutter-puddles. I've decided he thinks water is another dimension. Either that or he's dumb.

Yellow spots (Daily Photo 5.4.11)

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From lying in the backyard on top of dandelions, I presume. Either that or someone with mustard on his fingers tried to pet him.

Kitty asshole (Daily Photo 5.3.11)

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No grace at all.

Peeking (Daily Photo 5.2.11)

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None of our animals likes it when a door's closed. They immediately have to know what's happening on the other side.

Fenway (Daily Photo 5.1.11)

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By some miracle, Nik not long ago suggested that we watch a Red Sox game. She isn't a baseball fan, and had a lengthy and gruesome list of alternatives that she would find preferable to watching it live. But she was curious and decided to have a new experience, so I sold a kidney and got us two tickets.

I'm not a rabid fan, but I do like the Sox, follow them as much as I can, and baseball's the sport I prefer the most. Incidentally, this is why I don't go to sports bars and talk shit with other men: I say things like "I do like the Sox, follow them as much as I can, and baseball's the sport I prefer the most." This is not the way men are supposed to speak about sports. We're not supposed to have moderate views.

After the game (Sox won over the Mariners, 3-2), they opened Fenway Park's warning track to fans who wanted to check out the field personally. They also had various objets des sports out there including the World Series trophy -- but I breezed past those so I could spend more time absorbing what it was like to be in the field itself, in the same spot where some of great baseball plays in history took place, gazing up at the Green Monster and the scoreboard pocked with baseball-sized dents. Again, I'm reminded why I can't talk sports with other men: I just said objets des sports. Fuck. Anyway.

I saw a curious thing on the Green Monster: graffiti. I wondered how it got there, since it's not like a wall anywhere else. This is inside a stadium, in center field, far from any seats and low down to the ground. Whoever scrawled it had to be on the field, standing on the warning track, and arguably the people most likely in that position are either players or Fenway grounds crew. I don't know what it means or who it refers to, and a quick Google search didn't help me. But I like to think some outfielder was bored one day while  -- maybe it was Tony Gwynn -- and, in the middle of a game, realized he'd brought a Sharpie with him.

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