Archives For Pickles

In which I suffer for my art

September 4, 2013

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:

IMAG0020

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.

4:00am
I’m sleeping.

Pickles:  Bored.
Me:  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Pickles:  BORED.
Me:  Zzzzzz–sngh?
Pickles:  BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED
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.

10:0am
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.
Pickles:  NOXIOUS VAPORS. You’re trying to kill me.
Me:  Sigh. We do this every day, Pickles. It’s toast. It won’t kill you.
Pickles:  VILE!!!  ASPHYXIATING!!!!
Me:  Oh stop, now 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.


2:00pm

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.) Ow, you drew blood! Give me my shoe, you rotten cat.
Pickles:  No. I’m keeping it.
Me:  Sigh. (Puts on sneakers instead)

5:00pm
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. 


9:00pm
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.
Pickles:  TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF
Me:  Okay, okay. Relax.
Pickles:  Yes. This song is acceptable.
Me:  There’s nothing playing right now.
Pickles:  Yes.

Midnight
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 ball myself up in a perfect circle the way you can.
Pickles:  Too bad.
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.

12:15am

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.

12:30am
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.

12:35am
Pickles rubs her face against mine, purring loudly.

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

12:40am
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.

You may have read this already—I linked to it recently, and some of you may have read it when I originally posted it back in April.  In any case, I’m reposting it with an addendum.


It was one year ago today that Mr. Weebles finished radiation and chemotherapy.  He is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the privilege to know.
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This may be my very last blog entry because Mr. Weebles may kill me after he reads it. He’s a private guy, and he probably won’t love that I’m devoting an entire entry to him. But I’m doing it anyway. (What can I say, honey, you knew what you were getting into when you married me.)

I’ve mentioned Mr. Weebles in many entries here, and you’ve even seen comments from the man himself. Now I want to tell you more about him.

The first thing you need to know about Mr. Weebles that he is truly awesome. He doesn’t even know how awesome he is, which makes him even more awesome.

We’ve been married for almost 6 years—our anniversary is nigh—and we’ve been together for about 8 years total. Before I met Mr. Weebles, I had pretty rotten luck with relationships. During my dating life I encountered textbook examples of almost every disorder listed in the DSM-IV.

And because dating in NYC is only slightly less painful than tweezing your legs, I decided to cast as wide a net as possible to meet guys. I went online. That’s how I met Mr. Weebles. In fact, I saw his profile and wrote down his profile name so that I could write to him. But he beat me to it—I got a message from him the next day. And that’s how it started.

I knew pretty quickly that he was The One. Many, many years ago I asked my mother, “How do you know when a guy is the right one?” And she said, “You’ll just know.” At the time I thought it was a load of horse shit (sorry Mom), but of course she was right. With Mr. Weebles, I just knew.

He and I are very similar—sometimes when two people are so much alike it can cause friction, but in our case it’s just comical. One of us will say, “I want to use the brain today, you got to use it yesterday!” because we finish each other’s sentences and thoughts so often that it creeps me out in the best possible way. We get annoyed by the same things (although to be fair, he doesn’t get nearly as annoyed as I do), our neuroses compliment each other’s, we care about the same things, and we have the same sensibilities and opinions about how life should be.

He puts up with my crankiness. He tolerates the fact that I’m a Yankee fan (he is not). He takes it in stride when I’m randomly bitchy. He humors me when I do silly things. He talks me off the ledge when I’m really upset or worried. And I’m very lucky to have found a guy who can cook, is handy around the house, takes out the trash more often than I do, and often gets my coffee ready for me in the morning when I’m running late. Plus, he’s 6’3″ so he can reach stuff on the top shelves.

Mr. Weebles is a very funny guy. He doesn’t just make me laugh—he makes me cackle. I don’t know how he thinks of half the stuff he says. His brain just works so quickly, and it works in amazing ways. He’ll make some off-the-cuff comment about something on television or whatever, and invariably it will be the cleverest, funniest thing I ever heard. (Until the next time he says something clever and funny.) I always wonder, “How does he DO that??” And he has one of the most creative minds of anyone I know. If you could attach a megaphone to his head and hear him think of things, you’d laugh your ass off at how funny he is and how many great ideas he has.

He’s the kindest, most decent soul I’ve ever known. I don’t mean that in a treacly sort of way. I mean that he is truly the best person I know. He has an extremely honest, caring, and thoughtful nature. There is more integrity in his toenail clippings than many people have in their entire bodies. And he has a great deal of compassion. Stories about injustice upset him deeply. He’s far more savvy about world events and politics than I am, so he knows about all the awful things going on here and around the world. When he hears about the latest corruption scandal or about people who are being mistreated in some way, he gets riled up to the extent that you’d think it happened to him personally. And I mean that as a compliment; it’s one thing to think, “Gee, what a shame,” but it’s another thing to contemplate how these miscarriages of justice affect us all somehow. Mr. Weebles does that. If he were ever to inflict pain on someone, it would be because that person deserved it in spades.

But the acid test, of course, for determining whether people are truly good, is seeing them interact with animals. When Mr. Weebles and I first started dating, I had a cat whom I’ll call Kitty Emeritus because she’s in the Great Catnip Patch in the Sky now (although she never did like catnip so I’m not sure how thrilled she is about that). Kitty Emeritus was a fearless cat with a ridiculously well-developed sense of entitlement. You had to work hard to impress her. She was friendly and tolerant of every human I ever saw her with, and she usually gravitated towards men (I was so proud of her for that). But she loved Mr. Weebles. And the three cats we have now—the Weeblettes—also love him like crazy. They climb all over him and follow him around the house. And as anyone who has ever had a cat knows, when you have the love and trust of a cat, it’s because you’ve earned it. Mr. Weebles has earned it and then some. He’s the best Kitty Daddy a feline could hope for.

But wait! There’s more!

I learned that the awesome Mr. Weebles is more extraordinary than I even knew already. I found out in a way that people shouldn’t have to find out, but sometimes these things happen.

Last year Mr. Weebles was diagnosed with cancer, at the age of 40. Ironically—and cruelly—this cancer was a long-term side effect of the radiation treatment he received for an entirely different type of cancer when he was 21. Last summer he went through surgery, radiation (different type of radiation than the first time, fortunately), and chemotherapy, and now he’s doing great with an excellent prognosis. Overall it could have been much, much worse, but it still sucked pretty royally. For those of you who have cared for sick loved ones, you know how awful it is to see them suffer. It was brutal, knowing there wasn’t much I could do while Mr. Weebles went through treatment. All I could do was focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and keep him as comfortable and as stress free as possible in the meantime.

What I discovered, though, was that Mr. Weebles is one tough hombre. Even tougher than I thought. He’s fucking badass. The radiation and chemo regimen he endured was nasty. He hated going through treatment, but he did it. And he did it with class and dignity.

If I were in his shoes, I would have been spitting fire. Having cancer? Again? At the age of 40? Because of the treatment for the first cancer? I would have been mad at the entire world. I would have been a raging, self-pitying, sobbing basketcase and I would have been mean as hell.

But not Mr. Weebles. He was very upset, of course. And as far as I’m concerned he would have had every right to be a raging, self-pitying, sobbing basketcase himself. But he just has a different perspective on things—maybe because he’s been through this before, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. He just did what he had to do. And he was still polite to everyone. He was like a cowboy who rides into town, gets into a vicious shootout with the bad guys, drives them out of town, and then tips his hat, riddled with bullet holes, saying, “Bye, folks, be seein’ ya.” Fucking badass.

Watching him go through such an ordeal gave me an even greater appreciation for him and everything he’s about. I’m insanely proud of him. He inspires me to be a better human being. The world needs more people like Mr. Weebles.

If I could just get him to wear a combat uniform or some sort of Victorian gentleman’s outfit, he’d be perfect.

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 mean, she had done hypno eyes on me. What else could I do? 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, curling 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 only I could have deducted her and her medical expenses on my tax returns.

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.