Monthly Archives: March 2013

Changelings: Game of Thrones Thread

Tumblr_m64ep1saht1ryc3zao1_500

Awww yeah. He’s completely my favorite.

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Beef Stroganoff is Rocket Science, Too

So a rocket scientist died, and the New York Times, in some kind of effort to be witty and ironic, led off her obit with this:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

And it wasn’t that we didn’t get the joke, it’s that it wasn’t funny, so when Twitter reacted by mocking the outdated notion that it’s somehow incompatible with rocket science to know how to cook (career women being All One Thing, and housewives being All The Other), the editors changed the lede to this:

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

WHICH IS NOT BETTER. I’m glad she was an awesome mom to her kids. That’s not nothing, so let’s get that out of the way. Of COURSE the kids are going to see her as mom, and it’s great she was a good one. But the Times made sure we ALL saw her that way, instead of as this:

Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

The system became the industry standard, and it was the achievement President Obama mentioned in 2011 in presenting her with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

The article goes on to contrast the work she did with the family she had, as if these two things are totally incompatible and it is a wonder she was able to pull them off, and what an abberration, a lady with kids who still had a brain! I am just about done with women bearing the full brunt of having to answer for the “work-life balance.” Just once I’d like to read a story about some prominent Washington asshole who has a bunch of kids where he’s asked if being a dad is the most important job he’s ever had. Just once I’d like to read something that vaguely shames a fellow for achieving so much while there were little mouths to feed at home. Just once some famous actor clutching an Oscar should give a speech about how he’d give it right back if it meant he could have more time with his kids.

Just once I’d like us to act as if this stuff is difficult for men to pull off too, because IT IS, and as much as it’s unfair to place the entire cultural burden on women, it’s equally unfair to act like men who are involved in their families are unicorns. The more we disappear guys like that, the easier it is for everyone to just keep expecting the ladies will do all the work, because it’s not like we have examples otherwise.

Mostly, reading this, I’m just glad I learned to cook, because should I ever accomplish anything worthy of a NYT obit, it’ll surely be buried under an assessment of my peach-blueberry pie.

A.

Beef Stroganoff is Rocket Science, Too

So a rocket scientist died, and theNew York Times, in some kind of effort to be witty and ironic, led off her obit with this:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

And it wasn’t that we didn’t get the joke, it’s that it wasn’t funny, so when Twitter reacted by mocking the outdated notion that it’s somehow incompatible with rocket science to know how to cook (career women being All One Thing, and housewives being All The Other), the editors changed the lede to this:

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

WHICH IS NOT BETTER. I’m glad she was an awesome mom to her kids. That’s not nothing, so let’s get that out of the way. Of COURSE the kids are going to see her as mom, and it’s great she was a good one. But the Times made sure we ALL saw her that way, instead of as this:

Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

The system became the industry standard, and it was the achievement President Obama mentioned in 2011 in presenting her with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

The article goes on to contrast the work she did with the family she had, as if these two things are totally incompatible and it is a wonder she was able to pull them off, and what an abberration, a lady with kids who still had a brain! I am just about done with women bearing the full brunt of having to answer for the “work-life balance.” Just once I’d like to read a story about some prominent Washington asshole who has a bunch of kids where he’s asked if being a dad is the most important job he’s ever had. Just once I’d like to read something that vaguely shames a fellow for achieving so much while there were little mouths to feed at home. Just once some famous actor clutching an Oscar should give a speech about how he’d give it right back if it meant he could have more time with his kids.

Just once I’d like us to act as if this stuff is difficult for men to pull off too, because IT IS, and as much as it’s unfair to place the entire cultural burden on women, it’s equally unfair to act like men who are involved in their families are unicorns. The more we disappear guys like that, the easier it is for everyone to just keep expecting the ladies will do all the work, because it’s not like we have examples otherwise.

Mostly, reading this, I’m just glad I learned to cook, because should I ever accomplish anything worthy of a NYT obit, it’ll surely be buried under an assessment of my peach-blueberry pie.

A.

Sunday Morning Video: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 30th Anniversary Concert

Live In Gainesville, FL, in 2006 with special guest Stevie Nicks:

Sunday Morning Video: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 30th Anniversary Concert

Live In Gainesville, FL, in 2006 with special guest Stevie Nicks:

More on Patience

Because you are all brilliant and are keeping the comment thread going on John Kass’s column*, there’s something I want to ask, in all sincerity:

Is there an age after which you no longer have to grow and change and work and learn?

Because like 90 percent of the frustrating conversations I have with my fellow rapidly-approaching-middle-age humans revolve around how they’ve never learned a skill or changed an opinion and they think it’s cute not to have done so.

I’m not saying you have to WANT to text, or code, or spend all day playing Candy Crush on Facebook (fuck you, Doc, for sucking me into that game) or do deep thinking about politics or whatever, but the thing that drives me absolutely up a goddamn wall all the time is this idea that not growing, not learning, not changing, is in and of itself a virtue that age allows you to claim.

I used to tell the newspaper kids I worked with that I was too old to text, just call me, my fingers don’t work like that. Well, that was not, shall we say, a sustainable viewpoint if I wanted to communicate with the world in 2013. So now I text. Badly, but I do it.

And maybe I just know too many people who are in their 7th and 8th and 9th decades, who have never seen discrimination as a permissible thing, who have always embraced new ways of doing things, who when faced with something they don’t know about have dived into it, who have not wished for the world to wait for them but have hurried to keep up with the world. Maybe that’s skewing my view here. Maybe we all get tired. Maybe I will too. But I hope not.

I’m asking.

A.

*I’m predicting, right now, that the next column is nothing but quotes from people calling him a horrible bigot, and just proving his point. Would love to be wrong.

Saturday Night Music: Easter Parade

Judy and Fred are as seasonal as I get for Easter:

Saturday Night Music: Easter Parade

Judy and Fred are as seasonal as I get for Easter:

Friday Guest Catblogging: Cam and Robert Observing a Suitcase Being Packed

These are my friend Kevin’s kitties looking pitiful for classic feline reasons. They all hate suitcases.

Cam is the tabby and Robert is the black beast. They shouldn’t pout: they have a good home after being adopted by Kevin from the Louisiana SPCA.

Kevin's kitties

Picture by Kevin and post title too.

The beginning and the end (Abby, Part 1)

HOLDEN: I know this sounds
pretentious as hell, but I like to think of us as artists. And I’d like to get
back to doing something more personal – like our first book.

ALYSSA: Well when are you going to do
that?

HOLDEN: As soon as we have something personal to say.

The term “Spring Break” has been a misnomer around my house
for years. Since I stopped taking Easter Vacation trips with my folks somewhere
around age 15, the “break” usually meant a chance to catch up on work, take on
a part-time job or find some other thing that would suck up what should have
been a week of freedom.

At the front of this previous Spring Break, we had one of
those family obligations that we hadn’t really looked forward to as much as
most people would imagine. My grandfather was turning 90 and Mom’s whole side
of the family was heading out to Arizona for a visit. Thus, I packed up The
Missus, The Midget and myself and headed out for a four-day break that would at
least reassure me that somewhere on this god-forsaken planet, the temperature
was above freezing.

The trip was fine, the weather was good and The Midget spent
more time in the water than out of it. I loved recalling the days in which all
you needed to be happy was a hotel with a pool. Hell, my parents could have
taken me to Uzbekistan for a break, for all I cared, as long as the place had a
pool.

We landed in Milwaukee, took the two-hour drive home and I
prepared for what should have been a decent week, free of most problems.
Somewhere along the drive home, The Midget fell asleep in the car and The
Missus and I mused about what kinds of fun we’d be having if we could get some
time to ourselves. I’d do some writing, she’d do some knitting and we’d
probably get some minor satisfaction out of being done with the hard part of
break.

When we got inside, The Midget went upstairs to check on her
hermit crabs and I went downstairs to water the pets. Archer still had plenty
of meal worms and a “Who the fuck are you?” look on his gecko face. Abby’s bowl
was full and her water was burbling into the bowl, but I couldn’t see her in
the shadowy room. I heard her moving, so I snapped on the light.

Something wasn’t right. Even with that “mercy C” I earned in
zoology in college, I knew that much. Her leg was tilting out of her cage. The
pet who never needed litter box training had made a massive pile on the floor
of her cage and the carpet next to her. She was laying on her side, a small
fore-paw trembling.

Oh. No.

I heard a wail from upstairs that I recognized as having
come from my child, so I hustled up the stairs. The Midget was wrapped around
my wife’s leg sobbing.
“One of her hermit crabs died,” The Missus said in a hushed tone.

“Why don’t you put her in the tub and come downstairs?” I
said in that “you need to come with me right now” tone parents have learned to
master.

“Oh… OK… but.”

“Get down here. Seriously.”


If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past five
years (man, that time flew by…), you know two immutable truths about me: I hate
pets and I’ve reported on crime long enough to have stronger intestinal
fortitude than a billy goat.

How we ended up with Abby the bunny was completely my wife’s
doing.

Somewhere around Year One of our marriage, she was lonely
for a pet or a kid. I think at the time, both of us kind of viewed a rabbit as
a test balloon: If you don’t kill or severely damage this thing, chances are
you’ll be OK with a kid.

After studying the greater Indianapolis area for rabbit
breeders and other rabbit folks, she found a number for a rabbit rescue
foundation. Turns out, a lot of people buy rabbits for little kids around
Easter, realize that rabbits aren’t what they thought they were and then dump
the bunnies off at shelters, many of which don’t have a “no-kill” policy.

Abby had likely been an Easter bunny for a number of
reasons. She was a brown and white mini-Rex, with a brown outer coat and white
apron of fuzz down her belly. She was at least a year or two old as she had
been fixed.

The ad for her noted that she was “very affectionate” and
“demanded constant petting,” two things we later found not to be true at all.
She feared being touched or held or petted. She also had a small scar that ran
down the back of her spine near her neck, a likely result of being grabbed at
by an impatient child or a negligent adult. She was constantly in a mode of
dynamic tension, seeming to want to spring in any direction that didn’t pose a
specific threat.

Despite my protestations, I agreed to meet with the “bunny
mommy” as she called herself. The woman, Amanda, had about three dozen rabbits
and a house that smelled like piss and hay. When we got into the room with
Abby, our job was to sit quietly and see if she came over to sniff us. Three
hours later, she kind of did.

My wife was bound and determined that this would be our pet.
I eventually allowed my distaste wane into malaise, so we agreed with Amanda
that Abby would be ours.

The process would take a couple weeks. They’d check us out,
check out our home and eventually bring us the rabbit. The cost was $40 plus
some sort of fees or other that added ten bucks to the bill. The Missus agreed
to pay it.

We parted company and I now had to figure out where the hell
we were going to put this thing.

With the child in the tub, The Missus came down the stairs
in a “what is your damage?” kind of trot.

When she saw the cage, she knew.

“Oh no…”

At first I thought Abby had a broken leg. I figured she had
gotten it trapped in the cage somehow and snapped it. However, after I pushed
the leg back into the cage, it dawned on me something else was wrong.

She couldn’t get up.

She was laying flat on her left side, her right eye wide
open to the point where we could see some white around her brown iris. Her
right paws flapped as they tried unsuccessfully to pull her onto her haunches.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” I began. “I came down and she
was like this. She’s still alive but…”

The Missus looked at me with clinical precision and yet a
tinge of finality based sadness.

“I think she had a stroke.”

Abby flopped harder as if to say, “No! NO! I’m fine. I’m
really… I’m…”

She collapsed. Her nose pulled hard at the air as she tried
to breathe.


The adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” came to
fruition with this rescue rabbit. First, there was the adoption fee. Then there
was the food bucket, the water bucket, the litter box and more. Finally, we
needed a place to put it.

The Missus pointed out a bi-level “enclosure” that would
allow the bunny to poop on one floor of the cage and sleep in the upstairs
level. It looked solid. It looked decent.

“How much?” I asked.

“Only $450 plus shipping!” she said as if her excitement
could outweigh the cost.

“Fuck that!” I spit out, as she suddenly glared at me. It
was instinct more than anything. There was no way in hell I was spending half a
house payment on a rabbit condo.

Instead, we found some plans on how to build one of these
things. I spent two days in the garage wiring one together with old metal
pieces, cloth-covered wood and zip ties. By the time we were done, it looked
just as good as the real thing.

“I bet she’ll like it,” The Missus said.

“I know I do,” I said. “It’s not $450.”

She just sighed at me.

I have seen some of the most truly horrific things a
reporter can imagine, short of spending time in a war zone or in the ghetto.
Farming accidents, fatality accidents, kids getting run over by cars… I never
once threw up. I never once teared up.

“We need…” I began and there it was.

Tears. Uncontrollable.

I wasn’t even crying. It was like my eyes were just
overfilling beyond capacity for some reason. It felt like blood pouring out of
two holes in my face.

Abby flopped again, her nails skittering on the plastic part
of the flooring in her cage.

I pulled it together.

“We need to find an all-night vet,” I told my wife. “She
can’t stay like this. She needs to be put down.”

The Missus began to look online, only to find that one of
the downsides of small-town life is that your options are limited.

No dice.

She got a small towel instead and placed it over the bunny’s
quivering body, trying to add some warmth and dignity to her.

She then looked at me.

“We have to go upstairs. We have to tell her.”

Friday Night Music: Sweet Georgia Brown

It’s March Madness time. In between being blinded by Oregon’s green uniforms and the day glo yellow worn by Michigan, I found myself hummingSweet Georgia Brown. But not your common garden variety version, instead it’s Oscar Peterson’s manic semi-crazed arrangement of the venerable tune:

Friday Night Music: Sweet Georgia Brown

It’s March Madness time. In between being blinded by Oregon’s green uniforms and the day glo yellow worn by Michigan, I found myself humming Sweet Georgia Brown. But not your common garden variety version, instead it’s Oscar Peterson’s manic semi-crazed arrangement of the venerable tune:

Friday Ferretblogging: Claire vs. The Sick Edition

So Claire decided to get whatever hell-flu-cold-plague is going around Casa Athenae again this week (I went to a conference over the weekend and brought back my third virus in two months, WTF) and Mr. A and I have spent most of the last couple of days anxiously watching her. She’s perked back up, is eating on her own and kicking the ass of her favorite toy, so I think she’s going to be just fine:

Clairenom

A.

Traditional Procreative Concept

Start breeding or get divorced, ladies:

Attorney Charles Cooper, the former Reagan administration official arguing in support of Proposition 8, stressed that recognizing same-sex marriages would “sever (marriage’s) abiding connection with its traditional procreative context.”

In turn, Justice Elena Kagan countered with the example of elderly couples and others who marry, despite being past child-rearing age.

“There are lots of people that get married that can’t have children,” Breyer added.

Yeah, but they’re not REAL families. They’re not families with 2.5 kids and a dog and a white picket fence. They’re not families with soccer practices and PTA meetings. They’re not really married, not really really. Not like real married couples are, browsing the baby aisle at Target, dreaming of the nursery. Those are the real families. These people are just second-class.

I can’t tell you how many times I was asked, early in my marriage, when Mr. A and I were going to “start a family.” I can’t tell you how many times it’s been implied, usually by relatves or co-workers with kids, that they had a life that somehow carried more weight because they “had families.” I can’t tell you how often we were treated like we had no responsibilities at all, like we had nobody we cared about or were obligated to, because we didn’t have children. Because the implication was that we two, we were not a family. Our friends, our pets, our house, our jobs, that wasn’t a family.

(Could have fooled me, come birthdays. Wasn’t the second cousins who showed up for those, thanks.)

I can’t imagine the extra level of horror attached if people then went on to imply we weren’t even a COUPLE. Assholes.

A.

Who Will Speak Up for Christianity in an Age of Rampant Girl-on-Girl?

If only it had a champion, such as the Tribune’s John Kass:

I’m not opposed to same-sex unions. Americans have the right to equal protection under the law, and same-sex couples should be able to expect the same tax benefits and other considerations allowed to those of us who are now being called, in some quarters, “opposite-sex couples.”

As far as I’m concerned, Americans have the right to do as they please as long as they don’t infringe upon the rights of others. America is all about liberty and freedom.

But this all comes now during the season of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer, when Christians are compelled to confront the obligations of their faith.

And while I hear the new moral arguments, about equal rights and equal protection, I’ve read little about the religious freedom aspects and what the Supreme Court’s ruling might mean for houses of traditional worship.

You’ve read LITTLE?Really?Wherehaveyou been?

And by the by, “opposite sex” is what heterosexual couples have been called since I was a kid. The opposite sex, that isn’t a pejorative, unless you make it one in order to feel put upon.

The federal government has already told religious institutions that run hospitals that they must provide contraceptives to their employees, even if it runs counter to their beliefs. So now, if the government ultimately compels us to describe same-sex unions as marriage, what’s next?

No, they’ve told religious institutions that run hospitals that they must provide COVERAGE for contraceptives to their employees, if they employ large numbers of employees. They don’t have to hand out condoms at gunpoint and put the pill in with the W-2s every spring.

Plus Catholic women are already on this. Never mind the non-Catholic ones who just want to get jobs.

As for “what’s next,” I think the answer is church-mandated man-on-dog. We’re only a minute away from that at any time.

To speak of faith in this context is to invite the charge of bigotry — if not outright, at least by comparison to angry fire-and-brimstone preachers who seem to use the Bible as a lash. Some wield the Old Testament like a cudgel, and avoid the New Testament, in which Christ asked us to refrain from judging and to love our neighbor.

No one with half a brain wants to be thought of as a bigot. But that’s what I and others risk as members of a distinct and irritating minority — as traditional Christians in journalism.

No, being a bigot is what invites charges of bigotry. There is nothing in “traditional Christianity” as embodied by Jesus Christ that makes you a bigot. There is much in the politics of traditional Christianity and Roman Catholicism as embodied by its present leaders that makes it glacially slow to change and pathologically quick to conflate religious and secular practice in an effort to hold onto power, but that has absolutely dick to do with Jesus. So to speak.

As to the minority status Mr. Kass is so quick to claim, nailing yourself to the cross and then bitching that your hands and feet are sore and you’re thirsty is not martyrdom, it’s self-indulgence. Nobody is going to fire you because you go to church on Sunday or wear a cross.

Being incoherent and maudlin, on the other hand, should be a dismissable offense:

It is a world of language and political symbolism, a world where ideas are often framed so that they may lead to inexorable conclusions favored by the dominant culture. In this media world, I sometimes wonder whether the word “sin” has been outlawed by the high priests of journalism for fear of offending one group or another.

So you really WANT to write a column calling all gays sinners, but you’re afraid for your job? What? What does this even mean?

As to the great risk you’re running here, Mr. Kass, I’d note you’re writing this in a major metropolitan newspaper. You’re not exactly preaching in the desert, to the stones.

Now that the debate has been framed, if I hold to my faith and resist applauding the changes, I’m easily cast as some drooling white cartoon bigot of the Jim Crow era, denying black Americans the right to sit at a lunch counter and have a meal with the white folks.

You know, you can’t claim to be the voice speaking up for the unpopular view, and then lament that it is so unpopular and makes you a target for negative attention. I mean, you can, but the rest of us find it exhausting.

What is also clear is that, given demographic shifts and attitudes, particularly by young people regarding sexuality and family, traditional Christianity is no longer the dominant culture.

It is the counterculture, fast becoming a minority view.

No, opposition to marriage equality is fast becoming a minority view.Christianity is in no danger whatsoever. Mistaking the one for the other is the central problem with this piece.

And while I struggle with the fast-moving issue of the redefinition of marriage and its effect on our culture and how to reconcile the rights of others and my own religious beliefs, I ask only one thing:

Tolerance.

Remember that word? Tolerance?

Tolerance for those whose faith and traditional beliefs put them in what is fast becoming the minority.

Absolutely no one is breaking down your door demanding you marry another dude. You can go to church without fear of ever having to see two women plighting their troth before the altar. This changes nothing for you, except that you have to deal with losing privilege and impunity to say whatever you please without fear of disagreement.

That isn’t being a “minority.” It isn’t being persecuted. You long for bastions of traditionalism; well, you have those in your churches. You can go there and feel the comfort you need. And when you say, over and over, that you support gay people having the same rights as everybody else but you are just afraid this will start some kind of pogrom against Christians … I mean, remember the way the cities of Iowa were in flames for months after the first gay wedding? People were eating their household parakeets to stay alive. It was monstrous.

Pray, I ask you all, for peace in the Middle West.

Snark aside, somewhere in this mess is a good column, about the inability of many to articulate the fear of change that strikes us all at one point or another, and how that fear of change can prevent us from being the people we know we should be. I think what Kass is really asking for is not tolerance, but patience.

Patience with the struggle of people to understand their own faith (and their own religion, and the diferences between the two), to reconcile their childhoold lessons with the consciences God gave them, to grow and change and love each other not just in words and hugs at Christmastime but in actions and rights and responsibilities.

And if he’d asked for patience, for time to adjust, I’d still respond, and direct him to a fierce and unapologetic proponent of Christianity for some words upon the subject:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

There is, you see, a tradition here as well.

A.

Update: Whet has more on the utter allergy to facts going on here.

The beginning and the end (Abby, Part 1)

HOLDEN: I know this sounds
pretentious as hell, but I like to think of us as artists. And I’d like to get
back to doing something more personal – like our first book.

ALYSSA: Well when are you going to do
that?

HOLDEN: As soon as we have something personal to say.

The term “Spring Break” has been a misnomer around my house
for years. Since I stopped taking Easter Vacation trips with my folks somewhere
around age 15, the “break” usually meant a chance to catch up on work, take on
a part-time job or find some other thing that would suck up what should have
been a week of freedom.

At the front of this previous Spring Break, we had one of
those family obligations that we hadn’t really looked forward to as much as
most people would imagine. My grandfather was turning 90 and Mom’s whole side
of the family was heading out to Arizona for a visit. Thus, I packed up The
Missus, The Midget and myself and headed out for a four-day break that would at
least reassure me that somewhere on this god-forsaken planet, the temperature
was above freezing.

The trip was fine, the weather was good and The Midget spent
more time in the water than out of it. I loved recalling the days in which all
you needed to be happy was a hotel with a pool. Hell, my parents could have
taken me to Uzbekistan for a break, for all I cared, as long as the place had a
pool.

We landed in Milwaukee, took the two-hour drive home and I
prepared for what should have been a decent week, free of most problems.
Somewhere along the drive home, The Midget fell asleep in the car and The
Missus and I mused about what kinds of fun we’d be having if we could get some
time to ourselves. I’d do some writing, she’d do some knitting and we’d
probably get some minor satisfaction out of being done with the hard part of
break.

When we got inside, The Midget went upstairs to check on her
hermit crabs and I went downstairs to water the pets. Archer still had plenty
of meal worms and a “Who the fuck are you?” look on his gecko face. Abby’s bowl
was full and her water was burbling into the bowl, but I couldn’t see her in
the shadowy room. I heard her moving, so I snapped on the light.

Something wasn’t right. Even with that “mercy C” I earned in
zoology in college, I knew that much. Her leg was tilting out of her cage. The
pet who never needed litter box training had made a massive pile on the floor
of her cage and the carpet next to her. She was laying on her side, a small
fore-paw trembling.

Oh. No.

I heard a wail from upstairs that I recognized as having
come from my child, so I hustled up the stairs. The Midget was wrapped around
my wife’s leg sobbing.
“One of her hermit crabs died,” The Missus said in a hushed tone.

“Why don’t you put her in the tub and come downstairs?” I
said in that “you need to come with me right now” tone parents have learned to
master.

“Oh… OK… but.”

“Get down here. Seriously.”


If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past five
years (man, that time flew by…), you know two immutable truths about me: I hate
pets and I’ve reported on crime long enough to have stronger intestinal
fortitude than a billy goat.

How we ended up with Abby the bunny was completely my wife’s
doing.

Somewhere around Year One of our marriage, she was lonely
for a pet or a kid. I think at the time, both of us kind of viewed a rabbit as
a test balloon: If you don’t kill or severely damage this thing, chances are
you’ll be OK with a kid.

After studying the greater Indianapolis area for rabbit
breeders and other rabbit folks, she found a number for a rabbit rescue
foundation. Turns out, a lot of people buy rabbits for little kids around
Easter, realize that rabbits aren’t what they thought they were and then dump
the bunnies off at shelters, many of which don’t have a “no-kill” policy.

Abby had likely been an Easter bunny for a number of
reasons. She was a brown and white mini-Rex, with a brown outer coat and white
apron of fuzz down her belly. She was at least a year or two old as she had
been fixed.

The ad for her noted that she was “very affectionate” and
“demanded constant petting,” two things we later found not to be true at all.
She feared being touched or held or petted. She also had a small scar that ran
down the back of her spine near her neck, a likely result of being grabbed at
by an impatient child or a negligent adult. She was constantly in a mode of
dynamic tension, seeming to want to spring in any direction that didn’t pose a
specific threat.

Despite my protestations, I agreed to meet with the “bunny
mommy” as she called herself. The woman, Amanda, had about three dozen rabbits
and a house that smelled like piss and hay. When we got into the room with
Abby, our job was to sit quietly and see if she came over to sniff us. Three
hours later, she kind of did.

My wife was bound and determined that this would be our pet.
I eventually allowed my distaste wane into malaise, so we agreed with Amanda
that Abby would be ours.

The process would take a couple weeks. They’d check us out,
check out our home and eventually bring us the rabbit. The cost was $40 plus
some sort of fees or other that added ten bucks to the bill. The Missus agreed
to pay it.

We parted company and I now had to figure out where the hell
we were going to put this thing.

With the child in the tub, The Missus came down the stairs
in a “what is your damage?” kind of trot.

When she saw the cage, she knew.

“Oh no…”

At first I thought Abby had a broken leg. I figured she had
gotten it trapped in the cage somehow and snapped it. However, after I pushed
the leg back into the cage, it dawned on me something else was wrong.

She couldn’t get up.

She was laying flat on her left side, her right eye wide
open to the point where we could see some white around her brown iris. Her
right paws flapped as they tried unsuccessfully to pull her onto her haunches.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” I began. “I came down and she
was like this. She’s still alive but…”

The Missus looked at me with clinical precision and yet a
tinge of finality based sadness.

“I think she had a stroke.”

Abby flopped harder as if to say, “No! NO! I’m fine. I’m
really… I’m…”

She collapsed. Her nose pulled hard at the air as she tried
to breathe.


The adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” came to
fruition with this rescue rabbit. First, there was the adoption fee. Then there
was the food bucket, the water bucket, the litter box and more. Finally, we
needed a place to put it.

The Missus pointed out a bi-level “enclosure” that would
allow the bunny to poop on one floor of the cage and sleep in the upstairs
level. It looked solid. It looked decent.

“How much?” I asked.

“Only $450 plus shipping!” she said as if her excitement
could outweigh the cost.

“Fuck that!” I spit out, as she suddenly glared at me. It
was instinct more than anything. There was no way in hell I was spending half a
house payment on a rabbit condo.

Instead, we found some plans on how to build one of these
things. I spent two days in the garage wiring one together with old metal
pieces, cloth-covered wood and zip ties. By the time we were done, it looked
just as good as the real thing.

“I bet she’ll like it,” The Missus said.

“I know I do,” I said. “It’s not $450.”

She just sighed at me.

I have seen some of the most truly horrific things a
reporter can imagine, short of spending time in a war zone or in the ghetto.
Farming accidents, fatality accidents, kids getting run over by cars… I never
once threw up. I never once teared up.

“We need…” I began and there it was.

Tears. Uncontrollable.

I wasn’t even crying. It was like my eyes were just
overfilling beyond capacity for some reason. It felt like blood pouring out of
two holes in my face.

Abby flopped again, her nails skittering on the plastic part
of the flooring in her cage.

I pulled it together.

“We need to find an all-night vet,” I told my wife. “She
can’t stay like this. She needs to be put down.”

The Missus began to look online, only to find that one of
the downsides of small-town life is that your options are limited.

No dice.

She got a small towel instead and placed it over the bunny’s
quivering body, trying to add some warmth and dignity to her.

She then looked at me.

“We have to go upstairs. We have to tell her.”

Friday Ferretblogging: Claire vs. The Sick Edition

So Claire decided to get whatever hell-flu-cold-plague is going around Casa Athenae again this week (I went to a conference over the weekend and brought back my third virus in two months, WTF) and Mr. A and I have spent most of the last couple of days anxiously watching her. She’s perked back up, is eating on her own and kicking the ass of her favorite toy, so I think she’s going to be just fine:

Clairenom

A.

Friday Guest Catblogging: Cam and Robert Observing a Suitcase Being Packed

These are my friend Kevin’s kitties looking pitiful for classic feline reasons. They all hate suitcases.

Cam is the tabby and Robert is the black beast. They shouldn’t pout: they have a good home after being adopted by Kevin from theLouisiana SPCA.

Kevin's kitties

Picture by Kevin and post title too.

More on Patience

Because you are all brilliant andare keeping the comment thread going on John Kass’s column*, there’s something I want to ask, in all sincerity:

Is there an age after which you no longer have to grow and change and work and learn?

Because like 90 percent of the frustrating conversations I have with my fellow rapidly-approaching-middle-age humans revolve around how they’ve never learned a skill or changed an opinion and they think it’s cute not to have done so.

I’m not saying you have to WANT to text, or code, or spend all day playing Candy Crush on Facebook (fuck you, Doc, for sucking me into that game) or do deep thinking about politics or whatever, but the thing that drives me absolutely up a goddamn wall all the time is this idea that not growing, not learning, not changing, is in and of itself a virtue that age allows you to claim.

I used to tell the newspaper kids I worked with that I was too old to text, just call me, my fingers don’t work like that. Well, that was not, shall we say, a sustainable viewpoint if I wanted to communicate with the world in 2013. So now I text. Badly, but I do it.

And maybe I just know too many people who are in their 7th and 8th and 9th decades, who have never seen discrimination as a permissible thing, who have always embraced new ways of doing things, who when faced with something they don’t know about have dived into it, who have not wished for the world to wait for them but have hurried to keep up with the world. Maybe that’s skewing my view here. Maybe we all get tired. Maybe I will too. But I hope not.

I’m asking.

A.

*I’m predicting, right now, that the next column is nothing but quotes from people calling him a horrible bigot, and just proving his point. Would love to be wrong.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Sin On Wheels

WatchingJustified the other night made me think of this trailer trashy image. It is also featured on the cover of a journal, of all things, that a friend gave me a few years back in tribute to PFT:

Sin-on-wheels-movie-poster-9999-1020429417