Archives For Love

So yeah, I haven’t been around for a while. This is why.

Over the past several months my dad braved a massive onslaught—the evil ravages of severe COPD, liver disease, bladder cancer, and a handful of other medical problems. He had an astonishingly strong constitution but he was so tired from fighting such a difficult battle. Dad died on Saturday morning, October 11th, 2 months and 13 days short of his 76th birthday.

I was with him during his final days. We talked, we even laughed a few times, and I told him everything I wanted him to know. I also said I’d be pissed if he didn’t stop by every so often to haunt us and fuck with our lights.

We weren’t with him when he died—I think he wanted to check out on his own, without us hovering. I know he’s happy to be free of all that illness bullshit. I know because when my mother called to say he had just died, I felt a cloud of energy wrap itself around my head and shoulders like a shawl—it was full of happiness, relief, love, and peace. It was Dad, without a doubt, letting me know he was fine now. I couldn’t stop smiling for several hours after that. That was his final gift to me.

Everything looks strange, as if viewed through a filter or from a warped angle. I can look at something blue and know that it’s blue, but the color doesn’t look right somehow. Objects appear closer or further away than they actually are. My normal surroundings look familiar but foreign. The reality sometimes slams me out of the blue: Dad is really gone. It helps me to know he’s okay but it doesn’t keep me from crying.

Anyway, enough about me. This is about my dad. And in honor of his 100% Irish ancestry, his twisted sense of humor, and his fondness for the occasional cocktail or two, I’m holding a virtual Irish wake for him, where we’ll eat, drink, celebrate his life, and tell some stories. He’d like that.

So help yourself to some refreshments, mingle with the other guests, pour your favorite tipple—gin, tea, soda, beer, whatever—and let me tell you a few Dad stories.

For starters, Dad had the best poker face of anyone I’ve ever known. It’s a shame he didn’t actually play poker because he could have cleaned up and retired early. Between the poker face and the gravitas in his voice, he could have you believing almost anything he said.

When we were at restaurants, he liked distracting me during dessert so that I’d look away. When I looked back, my dessert would be gone. As I got older I became wise to this ploy. Mostly. One night he sat across from me and stared behind me. With a perfectly straight face and a calm voice he said, “Isn’t that strange…a three-headed man just walked in the door.” Mind you, I wasn’t a little kid at the time; I was about 16 and knew there was no such thing as a three-headed man. I said to myself, I am not turning around, he’s just messing with me again, I am NOT turning around…  But the expression on his face—a mix of genuine curiosity and confusion—would have convinced even a seasoned FBI profiler to check it out. What choice did I have? Of course I turned around. And of course there was nothing there. When I turned back, Dad had my chocolate pudding and a shit-eating grin on his face.

Then there was the time he had Army recruiters calling me. Those of you of a certain age will remember those business reply cards inserted in magazines, where you could send away to the Army, Navy, etc., for information on enlisting: Yes, please send me some materials on joining the United States Army. Dad filled one out with my name and contact information. I was 12 at the time. He figured they’d send me some brochures and it would be a good laugh and that would be that. Little did he know then that the gag would go even better than he expected; one night I received a call from a sergeant at our local Army recruiting office. I stammered through the call, trying to discourage the sergeant from having any further interest in me without disclosing that, you know, I was only 12 and my dad was just fucking with me. Dad was tickled pink that his prank yielded a bonus prank. He would talk about that sergeant for years. “That poor bastard…” he’d say.

Like most dads, mine had many words of wisdom. One of my favorites was the way he explained why he didn’t put any stock in UFO sightings:

“Think of the advanced technology required to travel light-years to earth. Now if you’re an alien that advanced, why would you fly all the way over here just to fuck around and play UFO??”

He was nothing if not practical.

Dad was a good-natured guy and very charming when he wanted to be. The nurses in the ICU said he was their favorite patient because he was pleasant and funny and never complained unless he was really in discomfort. That’s how he was. He didn’t make a fuss and he didn’t need anyone fussing over him.

Two days before he died, he said Mr. Weebles and I should have some fun while we were there (my parents retired to Florida, as all New Yorkers are required to do). He told us to go to Universal or Disney but urged us to avoid the new Harry Potter rides at Universal because he heard they were still ironing out some mechanical difficulties. Unbelievable. The Grim Reaper was pulling up to the curb and there was Dad making theme park recommendations. As if I’d leave him to go stand on line with a bunch of sniveling kids, obnoxious adults, and teenagers wearing TURN DOWN FOR WHAT t-shirts. As if I’d leave him to do anything.

For as long as I can remember, every phone call with my dad concluded with both of us saying, “Okay, talk to you later. Hug.” I don’t know how it started but it lasted right up to our last phone conversation—with him being 75 years old and me 46, we still said, “Okay, talk to you later. Hug.”

Here’s to you, Dad. Here’s to everything you were, and are. I love you, and I miss you. Talk to you later. Hug.


I don’t want the comment thread to turn into a pile of maudlin. I’d rather continue the celebratory vibe, so I invite you to share a funny anecdote about one of your dearly departed loved ones.

Also, what’s that fragrance you’re wearing today? I find it especially provocative.

The latest news in the House of Weebles is that I got a tattoo this past weekend. Many of you knew about this already because I haven’t been able to stop yattering about it.

For years I’ve wanted a tattoo but I couldn’t think of anything that was meaningful enough. Until the ideal subject occurred to me and it all fell into place.

So behold, my first ink, in honor of the one and only Pickles:


Doesn’t she look annoyed?? It was her default look—her resting bitch face. Those ribbons are there because even though Pickles didn’t like the things most cats typically like, she loved those ribbons that you curl with scissors. They were like kryptonite to her, she couldn’t resist.

I can’t tell you how much I freaking love this tattoo.

And it was a great experience except that after a while, it hurt like a motherfucker. It’s on my right shoulder, about 4-5 inches in diameter (that’s 10-12 cm for my metric friends), and took about 2 hours. I was mostly okay for the first hour but during the final half hour, if I had any secrets, I would have sung like a canary. I was kind of disappointed in myself; ordinarily I have a pretty high tolerance for pain so I thought I would fare better.

I’ve been trying to figure out how much getting this tattoo hurt in the context of other painful things I’ve known. I don’t have kids so I can’t use childbirth, the mother of all painful experiences, as a comparator, but I’ve known other flavors of pain. You may have seen this pain scale:

Pain scale

I posit that this scale is not sufficient. I propose this slight modification:

Improved pain scaleAnd now, here’s the list of my Most Exquisite Pains, in no particular order:

  • Severe sciatica. During the worst sciatic pain I ever had, it felt like jagged little shards of glass scraping along my nerves. I’m not a fan of this particular sensation. I give it a 5. Maybe a 5.5.
  • Having a head wound stapled shut. As if the pain of the stapling wasn’t enough, I could also hear the staples pushing into my scalp. An audio track does nothing to make this shit any better, trust me. This one is a 6.
  • Slamming my thumb in a car door. This happened to me more than 35 years ago but I still vividly remember how it felt. It sucked. A lot. I give this a 6, plus another 6 for the excruciating nail drainage that followed.
  • Stubbing my toe. I do this often because I usually walk around the house barefoot. The pain is relatively brief but always at least a 5. If there’s ever a competition for hopping on one foot while stringing expletives together, I’ll be a gold medal contender.
  • Leg waxing (yeah, including bikini line). The only time this really hurts is when the weather is humid. In which case I have to white-knuckle my way through. Beauty is pain, people. It’s no joke. But maybe only a 4 at worst.
  • Upper lip threading (which hurts WAY more than lip waxing, by the way). A friend of mine recommended this hair-removal method and she said it didn’t really hurt. She’s a fucking liar. I cried like a little bitch. I give this experience a 4.5 on the pain scale. And a 10 on the embarrassment scale.
  • Various medical interventions. Some hurt more than others, but the worst of them was a 5 or 6. And if you ask me, patients should be offered general anesthesia for all procedures, even for things as minor as stitch removal, mammograms, injections, etc. Yeah, yeah, I know about the risks involved with anesthesia, but you know what? I don’t give a fuck.

So on my pain scale, the tattoo was a 5. But on the scale of happy I’m at about a 12, so it was totally worth it.

I think a lot about my beloved, dearly departed cat Pickles. Some of you who know me in real life had the distinct privilege of knowing the Divine Miss P. For everyone else, click on the image below for an idea of what she was like:Equation

Pickles was unlike any other cat I’ve ever known. She was her own breed—a breed of One. Fiendishly smart, contrary, spoiled, overbearing, disdainful, and endlessly lovable.

I’d like to share a little of what our days together were like. Below is an example of a typical Saturday for us. The dialogue has been altered for creative purposes, but the events are all true.

I’m sleeping.

Pickles:  Bored.
Me:  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Pickles:  BORED.
Me:  Zzzzzz–sngh?
Me:  What the fuck? I was sleeping!
Pickles:  You were boring me. You will entertain me now.
Me:  It’s 4 o’clock in the morning.
Pickles:  I fail to see your point. You will entertain me now.
Me:  I’m not entertaining you now. I’m going back to sleep.
Pickles:  Suit yourself. But one day I’ll smother you. You’ll be sorry.

Pickles is sitting on my lap. She peeks in my coffee cup and wrinkles her nose.

Pickles:  Is that coffee?
Me:  Yes.
Pickles:  I don’t care for coffee.
Me:  I know. We go through this every morning.
Pickles:  You insist on drinking coffee even though you know I don’t care for it.
Me:  I’m not asking you to drink it.
Pickles:  (sniff sniff)  What is that smell? It’s foul.
Me:  It’s toast.
Me:  Sigh. We do this every day, Pickles. It’s toast. It won’t kill you.
Pickles:  VILE!!!  ASPHYXIATING!!!!
Me:  Oh stop, you’re being a drama queen.
Pickles:  You should cook whatever you made yesterday. That smelled delicious.
Me:  I didn’t cook anything yesterday.
Pickles:  Yes you did. That blue liquid you had in the kitchen. It smelled delicious.
Me:  That was Windex.
Pickles:  I don’t care what the recipe is called. I want some.
Me:  You’re so weird. You don’t like food smells but you like cleaning products.
Pickles:  Don’t judge.

This was how Pickles looked most of the time: annoyed.

This was how Pickles looked most of the time: annoyed.


I’m about to go out to run errands. I can’t find one of my flip flops.

Me:  Have you seen my other flip flop?
Pickles:  No.
Me:  It was right there. You must have seen it.
Pickles:  I haven’t seen it. (Pickles shifts position, revealing what appears to be part of a flip flop.)
Me:  What are you sitting on?
Pickles:  I’m not sitting on anything.
Me:  Is that my flip flop?
Pickles:  No.
Me:  Yes it is. That’s my flip flop.
Pickles:  No it isn’t.
Me:  Pickles, I can SEE it. Get up, I need it.
Pickles:  No.
Me:  Get up. Come on.
Pickles:  No.
Me:  Don’t make me take it from you.
Pickles:  No.
Me:  Come on, give it to me. (Tries to slide shoe out from under Pickles. She takes a swing at me and her claw snags on my arm.) Hey! Look, you drew blood! Give me my shoe, you rotten cat.
Pickles:  No. I’m keeping it.
Me:  Sigh. (Puts on sneakers instead)

I’m in the shower. Pickles is curled up on the bed, sleeping.

Pickles:  WAIL!!  BLOODY MURDER!!!!!!  HORROR!!
Me:  (running out of the bathroom and almost slipping and cracking my head open)  What??? What happened??? What’s wrong???
Pickles:  (sitting calmly on the bed) I want to go under the covers.
Me:  That’s IT? That’s your emergency? It sounded like your tail was being hacked off, the way you were carrying on.
Pickles:  I want to go under the covers. You will lift up the covers so I can go in now.
Me:  You know very well how to go under the covers yourself. You do it when I’m not home.
Pickles:  But you’re home now.
Me:  So what? You can still do it yourself.
Pickles:  Not when you’re home. When you’re home, you do things for me. That’s how it works. So lift up the covers and let me in. But if you don’t make an interesting enough tent, I will come right back out and you will have to try again. And stop dripping on me.
Me:  Sigh. (Lifts covers so Pickles can go under them. After three attempts, a satisfactory tent is created and Pickles is reasonably content.)

Post its

This sort of thing might explain why Pickles looked annoyed all the time. 

I have music playing. Pickles is sprawled on the couch. Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” comes on.

Pickles:  This song is too loud.
Me:  It’s the same volume as all the other songs.
Pickles:  I don’t like it. Turn it off.
Me:  Maybe you’ll like this one. (Plays “Diamonds Are Forever.”)
Pickles:  No. I hate this one too.
Me:  What is it with you and Shirley Bassey??
Pickles:  I don’t like her voice. Turn it off.
Me:  No, I like this song.
Me:  Okay, okay. Relax.
Pickles:  Yes. This song is acceptable.
Me:  There’s nothing playing right now.
Pickles:  Yes.

Pickles is taking up a disproportionate amount of space on the bed.

Me:  Time for bed.
Pickles:  Whatever.
Me:  Move over, you’re in my way.
Pickles:  Why can’t you sleep around me?
Me:  Because it’s not comfortable.
Pickles:  Yes it is.
Me:  I can’t curl up into a perfect circle the way you can.
Pickles:  Too bad for you.
Me:  Come on, shove over or I’ll move you myself.
Pickles:  (Moving) I was going to move anyway.
Me:  Good night.
Pickles:  Good night.


Pickles:  Stop that.
Me:  Stop what? I’m not doing anything.
Pickles:  You’re in my area.
Me:  I am not in your area.
Pickles:  Look at your arm. It’s on my blanket.
Me:  So what? It’s not in your way.
Pickles:  It’s on my blanket.
Me:  Big deal. You drape your tail over me half the time and I don’t get all bent out of shape about it. Or how about when you sleep on my head?
Pickles:  That’s different.
Me:  How is that different?
Pickles:  Because it’s me.
Me:  That’s not an answer.
Pickles:  Yes it is.
Me:  (long sigh)  Fine. I’ll move my arm. Is that better?
Pickles:  I suppose.
Me:  Good night.
Pickles:  Good night.

Pickles comes over and curls up against me.

Me:  What is it?
Pickles:  Nothing.
Me:  You’re right up against me, you know.
Pickles:  I know. I was bored with my blanket and wanted to lie over here instead, that’s all.
Me:  I see. Okay. Good night.
Pickles:  Good night.

Pickles rubs her face against mine, purring loudly.

Me:  What’s all this about?
Pickles:  I’m—my cheeks are itchy. Yes. I’m just using you to scratch them, that’s all.
Me:  Is that purring? You’re purring.
Pickles:  No I’m not.
Me:  Haaaa, you’re purring.
Pickles:  Shut up and go to sleep.

Pickles rests her head in my palm.

Me:  You have your head in my hand, you know.
Pickles:  Just in case my cheeks get itchy again, that’s all.
Me:  Mmm hmm. Good thinking. (Kisses her on the head)
Pickles:  Stop that. (Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)
Me:  Good night, little Pickles.
Pickles:  Good night, Mommy.

But she was still the best cat ever.

She was the best cat ever.

I love television.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  From my earliest childhood, with  Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Captain KangarooThe Electric Company (the original, not that bullshit remake), Zoom (the original, not that bullshit remake), and a zillion cartoons, that big box has been a huge part of my life.

A lot of buzzkills argue that too much television is unhealthy.  My reply to them is, “Suck it.”  I learned to count to 20 in Spanish thanks to Sesame StreetSchoolhouse Rock taught me about the parts of speech, and I can still sing the preamble to the Constitution.  And raise your hand if, like me, you learned to twirl your arms from watching Bernadette on Zoom.  Now tell me that trick hasn’t held you in good stead all these years.

I have learned much from TV shows over the years.  I’ve also drawn very important conclusions from my recent TV watching habits.  I’d like to share a few of them with you.

  • Life insurance companies should automatically report to the police anyone who takes out extra policies on their spouses.   Per 48 Hours Mystery, Dateline, and everything else that runs on the ID Channel, this should be a no-brainer.  If you take out an expensive policy, you may as well be wearing a sandwich board that says, “I’m about to commit murder!!”  So just go ahead and report these folks to the police and save them some legwork.  (Note to Mr. Weebles:  That million-dollar policy I just took out on you is in NO WAY related to this.)
  • Similarly, people with Crazy Eyes should be summarily reported to the police. Check out the perps featured on the ID Channel.  They ALL have Crazy Eyes.  I don’t care what profilers and psychologists say—ocular creepiness is the most reliable indicator of criminal intent.
These are Crazy Eyes.

These are Crazy Eyes.

These are NOT Crazy Eyes.

These are not Crazy Eyes.

  • No matter what day or time it is, some version of Law & Order is always on.  ALWAYS.  I find this oddly comforting.
  • Any man who tried to call me “Baby girl” would get the asskicking of a lifetime.  Except for Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds.
  • There are a LOT of aliens, chupacabras, sasquatches, and other mysterious creatures around us.  Be careful out there.
  • Most ghost hunters are obnoxious dickwads.  They walk around allegedly haunted places trying to taunt the spirits by yelling, “Show yourself!!”  If I were a ghost, I’d scare these idiots so badly that they’d need diapers for the rest of their lives.  Just because you’re talking to dead people doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have good manners.

Surely, my friends, you have also gleaned crucial learnings from your TV viewing.  Please share.

I’ve been wanting to write about Kitty Emeritus for a while now. Kitty Emeritus is one of the many names for our dearly departed cat who died more than two years ago at the ripe old age of 19.

Her real name is Pickles. I almost never called her that; I had 2,051,942 nicknames for her. But it didn’t matter which name I used because she ignored all of them.

Pickles and I met on November 8, 1996, at about 6:00pm. That’s the night I went to the ASPCA to adopt a cat. I was in a room lined with wall-to-wall cages of cats and it felt like it would be impossible to choose just one. Finally, after looking at each cat, I decided on a very sweet male tabby. I was about to tell the ASPCA volunteer that I wanted to adopt him when I had this very strong urge to turn around.

I turned around and my eyes fell upon the center cage in the bottom row on the wall opposite me. Staring at me was a little grey face doing hypno eyes on me. For some reason I hadn’t seen this cat when I looked at all the cats earlier. I walked over to that little grey face and read the tag on the cage. She was a 6-year-old girl, which was perfect because I wanted an older cat. They opened her cage so I could see her better. I picked her up and she just sat there in my arms, purring. And I said, “I’ll take her.” I had no choice. I had to adopt her. It was as simple as that.

That was the beginning of the best 13 years of my life. She was my little friend, my little companion, my little roommate, my little banshee, my little teddy bear.

She was the smartest cat I’ve ever had, and also the pissiest. Just like me, Pickles was a cranky broad. She was 16 pounds of pure attitude. She had a dead-eye stare that could make the temperature in the room drop about 20 degrees. She didn’t like the smell of people food and it didn’t take much to set her off. Any sort of cooking—even mild foods like toast, scrambled eggs, spaghetti—was enough to get her wailing and crawling under the covers to escape from the noxious fumes. When it was bedtime, she got annoyed if I strayed too far over to her side of the bed. She’d look at me as if to say, “Really? Do you value your life that little?” Once I awoke in the middle of the night to the very peculiar sensation of being shoved by a furry mass. Pickles was using her back feet to brace herself against the side of the bed, trying to push me out of her area. She’d make little snorts and snuffles to express her displeasure with me. When I laughed at her it pissed her off even more.

She was not your typical cat. She didn’t like toys or catnip. Soon after I adopted her I tried to engage her with one of those toys dangling from the end of a string. She swatted it out of her way with a look that said, “Get this annoying thing out of my face.” She couldn’t be bothered with the things that normal cats enjoy. She was above all that juvenile nonsense.

One thing that Pickles loved, though, was men. She tolerated me, of course, but she loved men. Every night I’d let her out of the apartment for her evening constitutional in the hallway (always closely supervised by me). I lived in a walk-up building and over time everyone in my building knew her by name. She always gravitated toward the men. She flirted with them, draping her fluffy tail around their legs. One of my upstairs neighbors, a WWII veteran named Joe, was enthralled with her. Every time I saw him he’d ask, “How’s my furry little girlfriend?” And he knew her name but not mine.

Then there was the night I woke up at about 3am because of a commotion in the hallway. Pickles and I went out to see what was going on. Someone had called the fire department and a bunch of firemen were going up and down the stairs. One of them was standing near my door, talking on his radio. My cat, being a brazen little hussy, marched right over to him and rubbed against his legs. The fireman leaned over and started petting her, all the time still talking on the radio. Pickles was thrilled. To this day I wish I could have taken a photo of that scene.

And then there were the times when she and I would just hang out. We’d zonk out together on the couch. Sometimes she’d sleep on me with her head tucked right under my chin. Sometimes at night she’d lie next to me and rest her head in the palm of my hand. She trusted me. And I’m pretty sure she knew I loved her more than anything in the whole wide world.

When Mr. Weebles entered the picture, Pickles accepted him immediately. That’s how I knew he was a keeper. But Mr. Weebles wasn’t quite sure what to make of her at first. I told him, “Trust me, you’ll like her. She’s very charming.” Sure enough, within a very short time he too was under the spell of Pickles. And when the three of us moved in together, she had no trouble adjusting. Actually, that’s not entirely true—she never did accept the fact that Mr. Weebles was now taking up her side of the bed. That always stuck in her craw. But she loved him anyway.

I still marvel at the fact that she made it to 19; she had more medical problems than any three cats I’ve ever had. But she was a tough old gal, she took a licking and kept on ticking. She never had simple ailments—they were always complicated disorders that cost a fortune to diagnose and another fortune to treat. Fatty liver, bladder stones, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, heart murmur, gall bladder problems, tooth infections, kidney insufficiency, special dietary needs . . . if I could have deducted her and her medical expenses on my tax returns I would have been sitting pretty.

Of course the day came—January 12, 2010—when her medical conditions and old age caught up with her and it was time for me to let her go. Mr. Weebles and I were with her until the very end. I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do, at the right time. I think Pickles knew it was right too—I just have that feeling from the interaction between her and me during those last minutes. It felt like she was saying, “It’s okay, it’s time.”

So now she’s in the Great Catnip Patch in the Sky (not sure why I keep calling it that since she didn’t like catnip). I like to think she’s having a wonderful time bossing people around and charming all the gentlemen. We have three other cats now, the Weeblettes. They’re nothing like the sophisticated, redoubtable Pickles—they’re very playful, silly, and catlike. I love them to pieces. But Pickles is and always will be my special girl. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and smile. And I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.

I’ve written most of this with tears streaming down my face. I cry because I miss her like crazy, but mostly I cry out of joy. Joy because I had her with me for as long as I did. Joy because she made my life so much better. Joy because I was lucky enough to have such an incredible connection with such an extraordinary creature. And joy because I know that someday I’ll see her again.

I am a babbling moron

April 17, 2012 — 56 Comments

At least, when it comes to animals, this is true. Maybe you’re the same way.

You know what I mean. You could be in the middle of an intellectual salon, discussing Sartre’s philosophy or sharing your views on string theory. It doesn’t matter. The minute your dog or cat walks in the room, your IQ drops about 80 points.

I think this graphic illustrates this phenomenon most clearly:

I have 3 cats (the Weeblettes). All I have to do is look at them and I can feel my neurons fusing together into a lump of putty. “Who’s a good kitty?? You are! Yes you are! Oh yes you are. Goochy goochy goochy goo!”

And that’s if I’m still somewhat articulate. Otherwise it might go something like this:


Fortunately, the Weeblettes are pretty tolerant of my yatterings and don’t seem to mind. And Mr. Weebles has had plenty of time to become familiar with my work. But our Kitty Emeritus, who is no longer in corporeal form, used to look at me like I was truly the dumbest sentient on earth.

I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about this. It just happens. I can be having a normal conversation and then maybe one of the Weeblettes will show up, or maybe I’ll see someone walking a dog, or I’ll stumble across a photo of a bunny or otters holding hands or baby hippos or dolphins or whatever. Doesn’t matter. I can guarantee that my brain will go into a death spiral.

I’m glad I’m not alone—judging from the zillions of visitors to sites like Cute Overload and I Can Has Cheezburger, anyway. Can you imagine what would happen if a bunch of us got together and went to a petting zoo or something? There would be so much incomprehensible gibberish we’d sound like escapees from a mental institution.