Category Archives: Uncategorized

Four reasons I love my cats

• Not feeling like getting out of bed?  No problem.  At least one cat is always glad to justify my abject laziness by cuddling with me, purring gently for hours.

• I like to randomly bust in on them while they are sleeping or licking their butts or indulging in other feline activities and say, “You guys are behaving like ANIMALS!”  Then I laugh when they look confused.  Then I pet them.  I’m also partial to using a 1930s Chicago movie cop voice: “Scuttlebutt around the precinct has it you’re a kitty, see?”  With cats in the house, this behavior makes me charmingly eccentric.  Without them, it would make me diagnosable.

• When I am startled by a weird noise upstairs, I can tell myself it’s the cats messing around rather than freak out that a foamy-mouthed madman has just bashed his way into my apartment to axe me into quivering meat cubes.

• They like to sleep like this:

One is cuddling with my jammies, the other is sleeping in the wreckage of a fuzzy blanket.  This makes the fact that I never make my bed a public service.  Seriously, if you’re looking for ways to vindicate your natural tendencies toward inertia, you can’t do better than get a couple of cats.

a new hope

Introducing a bold and visionary new presidential candidate

into the Republican field:

Ham Sandwich 2012

  • tough on crime
  • best foreign policy experience
  • delicious
  • cannot make the economy any worse
  • endorsed by a wincing John McCain, and Ficus.

Just substitute “Ham Sandwich” for “Ficus.”  Thank you, America.


Whoa.  Today is the last day of 2011.  That went by fast.  What have I accomplished this year?  I have:

  • gained some weight
  • lost some hair
  • broken a bone
  • passed a kidney stone

From this we can infer that the human body is indeed God’s finest joke.  Also I have:

  • published a novel
  • and some stories
  • had a host of adventures

So, not too bad.  Next year I am starting a new job teaching humanities at my local community college.  Next year I also hope to:

  • finish my next novel
  • and some stories
  • have a host more adventures
  • not break any bones
  • not pass any kidney stones
  • maybe reproduce.  I’ll pencil that in.

We’re also going to have to move.  Moving sucks.  Nothing like moving to make you ponder burning all your books.  Because–things that are dense:

  • bricks
  • black holes
  • books

So, 2012 resolutions:

  • collect plush animals
  • take up pillow making
  • basically, a light-weight hobby, is what I’m saying.

Happy new year, everybody!

Passing the Stone: Adventures in Pee

It all started with a rather noticeable, if not earth-shattering, discomfort in my abdomen.  Then the need to pee every twelve seconds even though nothing came out.  Then the realization that hey, I sure have been urinating a whole lot of blood these past couple of weeks.  Then a phone call to my HMO, followed by a course of antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.  Then increasing pain, becoming more localized in the right side of my back.  Then a slow but unmistakable drip.  It was very sad.  Seriously.

Things that are sad:

  1. war
  2. cancer
  3. smelling like pee

One evening, as the pain was turning rather vicious, it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have a urinary tract infection, maybe I had a kidney stone.  When I spoke the words “kidney stone,” it was as if I had summoned a demon.  My entire urinary tract went into spasms for the whole night that felt like I might give birth out of my pee hole.  It felt very, very wrong.  Not only the intensity of the pain, but also the fact that it was entirely the wrong aperture for this sort of business.  My vagina was like, somebody call the police.

Followed, the next morning, an excursion to my trusty HMO facility.  A doctor gently tapping over my right kidney and asking, “does this hurt?”  Then, once they had peeled me off the ceiling and administered sedatives, a meditative sojourn inside a CAT scan machine, watching it spin up around me like a giant hard drive.  “It is about the size of a pea,” they told me.  “You should be able to pass it.”  Then they sent me home with some really, really good drugs.

Followed a blurry series of days that I spent mostly unconscious, being woken up by peaks in the pain.  The occasional change of pajama bottoms to accommodate the unfortunate drip.  Taking a lot of awkward pees into a strainer.  Somewhere in there, a field trip to a job interview.  (I am teaching humanities at my local community college next semester!)  (Really.)  (Tip for an outstanding job interview: percocet.  It will mellow you right out.)  More pain.  Bizarre opiate dreams.  Then a sad phone call to my urologist to tell her that it has been days of unrelenting ouchiness without progress, that I was fairly convinced it wouldn’t pass, that I might need “The Procedure” she had mentioned earlier.

The urologist described The Procedure.  I would be thankfully anesthetized.  They would put a scope up my pee hole and through my bladder, all the way into my poor galvanized little ureter.  Then they would laser the stone into a bunch of bitty fragments that they would then extract.  This all sounded kind of awesome and Star Trek to me, until she told me about The Shunt.  Because the ureter was likely to swell up at being so invaded, they would have to leave a little shunt in there post procedure to make sure it could drain.  At which point I queried, “so wait, I would wake up with this device still in my body?”  “Yes.”  “And how does said device come out, exactly?”  “Well, we tie it to a little string that we’d leave trailing out of your urethra, and after about three days you would pull it out of there like a tampon.”

Had I not been so extremely sedated when I heard that, I likely would have never stopped throwing up.  Instead I said, “huh, that’s festive,” and proceeded with scheduling The Procedure.  Fortunately, if my upper brain hadn’t quite registered The Shunt and what it would likely feel like, my urinary tract had received the message.  It spasmed with such terror that I had to run to the loo and once again grunt over a strainer pondering the absurdities of the human body.  But lo, when I checked the strainer, I saw that I had indeed been delivered: I had urinated a small mineral accretion that looked like sandy gravel coated with some kind of ichor (kidney juice?).  After all the drama my body underwent extruding this thing, its appearance was somewhat anticlimactic.  Actually, it was even sort of cute.  It looked like a bitty mollusk, gritty from the ocean floor.

Now I get to take my spiky mollusk to a lab and find out what it’s made of.  Meanwhile, I gave my cat the paper bag my pee strainer came in and the glee with which she’s been tearing it to pieces is truly adorable.  I’ve been finding bits of it all over the apartment.  My cat thinks kidney stones are awesome.  She gets me to cuddle her in bed for days on end AND she gets a new toy to shred.  Me, I’m just happy the drip has stopped.

Trust me when I say you would rather not have this object in your life.

In which metaphors start off okay, then start to go wrong.

Ahoy fine people!  So, I went to Davis.  I am super proud of the Aggie students and faculty.  At the protest, the kids were so cute and polite and respectful it was almost wrong.  (Come on!  Get MAD!)  But there sure were a whole lot of us.  Thousands upon thousands.

Yay us!

Would you like to see a whole bunch of me?  If so, please come to the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley this Thursday at 1 PM to watch me shower the audience with history, romance, and my dazzling personality.  If you would like to see a little less of me–like maybe have a little amuse-bouche of me rather than the full-on Elena platter–please come to the Babylon Salon Reading Series at the Cantina in San Francisco this Saturday at 7 PM.  I will be part of a varied tasting menu of delicious authors.

This week, I have submitted to my ongoing obsession with this whole Titanic thing and written a short, hopefully polished piece about it.  I also got feedback from my agent about the perfume nose story, so that one’s back on the table.  Short stories are good: it’s kind of a relief to suck over the course of fifteen pages rather than suck over the course of three hundred.  To stay fit, you have to vary your training in sucking: even if a suckage marathon is the goal, sometimes you have to do a suckage sprint to keep your prose muscles spry at sucking.  Wow.  I apologize for the last two sentences.  But, clearly I am not ashamed enough of myself, because I did not delete them.

Confessions of an American Vicodin-Eater

What?  It’s already most of the way through November and it’s Thanksgiving next week?  How did this happen!?  CRAZYPANTS.  Amazing how time flies when you’re on palliative narcotics.  Which I’m currently withdrawing from.  Laaaaaaaame.  But at least the broken rib is healed enough that I don’t pass out from pain when I sneeze.  And breathing hurts only a little.  At some point I tried to do a take off on Thomas de Quincey called “Confessions of an American Vicodin-Eater” in which I chronicled all my fevered drug dreams in a posh late eighteenth century voice.  I only got two paragraphs in before the enterprise was abandoned because, you know, one’s motivation is not at its peak when on pain-relieving depressants.  Bummer because my unconscious was like Exploding Jungian Theater every night.  (The nightmares: I am trapped between the living and the dead.  I am trespassing on lost places I used to love and getting in trouble with the authorities.  I am always losing my teeth, or bleeding from somewhere.  I wake up to find that I am still asleep and wake up again to find that I am still asleep, thus in an infinite loop so that when I finally do wake up, I am not entirely certain that I am not still asleep.  I dream of babies and wounded birds and tiny fetal animals that fit in the palm of my hand, small vulnerable things that are easily destroyed.  The water is so icy and the shock of it when it penetrates my lungs makes me gasp and draw more of it in I am the wreck Titanic the wreck Titanic the wreck Titanic)–yeah, it was like that.  I might have also written a couple of ill-advised missives displaying atrocious vulnerability to certain individuals while in the more maudlin throes of chasing the dragon.  Seriously, kids, drugs are bad.  Don’t do drugs.

Somewhere in there, I wrote a short story about perfume noses that my agent liked, so it will probably be submitted after another round of revision.  Must get back to the novel though.  Good God, the nights are long all of a sudden.

I am the wreck Titanic.

Did you know that one of the first human responses in an emergency is to pretend that there isn’t one?  So much could have been done to prevent the staggering loss of life in the wreck Titanic if only those in charge had been scared enough.

They kick around ice chunks on deck.  They are not properly alarmed.  They send the first few lifeboats barely half filled with drowsy women, because this is not a serious situation.  This is merely a safety precaution.  Go back to bed, the rest of you.

Sinking for hours, sinking for miles, the American scientist in the submersible sighs when the Russian asks him for the piss bottle again.  When the light finally breaks through the silted darkness and shines on what he has been looking for, the American cannot breathe for joy.  The wreck Titanic is broken in two just like he has surmised in his conjectures.

It must have been the moonless night that made it so the lookout did not see the iceberg in time.  It would have been better had he not seen it at all.  Had they hit it head on and only breached the very front of the hull, the water could have been contained by specially designed floodgates and the vessel would have stalled, but not sunk.  It was the ship’s desperate turn at the last moment that made that long, lethal gash.

In the lifeboats, they hear the terrible sound of the ship rending itself.  They hear the screams but do not row towards them, though they have room for more.  Do you think that if they had been forced by the sun to see the faces of the dying bobbing in that frigid water, do you think it would have been different?

The American beams with pride that he is such a canny reader of the behavior of shattering structures.  The Russian cannot contain his excitement at this new find, and asks for the piss bottle again.  Then for a moment, they are quiet.  They think of the invisible life that is eating the wreck Titanic.  They know that one day, it will be digested away.  Except for the propellers and the steering column—they are made of bronze, you see.  Nothing down there eats bronze.  And so the wreck Titanic will never quite finish dying.

I am the wreck Titanic, and I am telling you: listen to the sound of tearing metal.  Do not go back to sleep.  Do not send the first class passengers back to their plush rooms.  Do not lock the third class passengers down below to maintain order.  Let them save themselves if they can.  I am the wreck Titanic sinking for hours, sinking for miles, and I am telling you: know when to be urgent.  Know when to get your life jacket.  Know when to brace yourself for a long wait in cold, cold water.  Do not tell yourself you are built too well to be destroyed.  But do—but do, on the way down—allow the violinists to fill the black night with music until the very last moment.