Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Do I Write Like?

I finally gave in this morning and plugged a couple blog entries into the "Who do I write like...." site, which purports to apply various algorithms to your writing and tell you who you stack up to.

Apparently, according to this site, everybody writes like David Foster Wallace -- whereas in real life almost no one does -- or Stephen King (whereas in real life, yeah, probably everybody tries to at least). I am almost sure Hoda Kotb, for example, does not write like David Foster Wallace, especially since she giggled obliviously when that name was assigned to her on the Today Show -- suggesting perhaps she's unaware of either the tragic circumstances of his untimely death, or his staggering genius.

I expected I would get one of those two (or maybe Kathie Lee Gifford) , but my first post turned up "Cory Doctorow," whom I had never heard of. (Science fiction I think?).

So naturally, I googled "Who the fuck is Cory Doctorow?" and this is what came up:

"Cory Doctorow is an egotistical ass/Internet celebrity/hipster/self-promoting back-stabber and bureaucratic fuck. Ten years ago he was just this guy, y'know, who'd fucked up and flunked out of no less than three university degree programs... Cory likes to say that he runs the BoingBoing (gee, isn't that just the whackiest!) web logs. Cory (or Dr. O, as he likes to be called) and his underlings steal ideas from other popular weblogs and post them on BoingBoing, usually years after everyone else forgot about them—showing, like Paris Hilton, that you really don't need any skills to be popular. If you keep telling everyone you meet that you are popular, it will eventually work." 
And that led down the rabbit hole to this along with this, an article he wrote this spring on the Digital Economy Act. It maybe sounds a little like me, except I never use the word "mates."

Still, it was better than the next post I randomly entered, which showed "I write like Dan Brown." I don't think I've ever read a word of his, but I've certainly heard of him....and I don't exactly consider it a compliment. (Though to be fair, I doubt he'd be flattered either.)

Maybe I'm onto something though: "If you keep telling everyone you meet that you are popular, it will eventually work."  ...?... Will give it a go. Mates.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Next Bourdain

 "He speaks as if not releasing an album is just laziness on her part, as if people just walk in off the street, lay down a dozen or so tracks, and hand them over to eager radio stations."

I called my Dad today to wish him a Happy Birthday. I wanted to get him a copy of Anthony Bourdain's new book as a present -- but he refuses to read. Because he can't see the print...and refuses to wear reading glasses. New music is also out, because he can't hear either, but refuses to get a hearing aid.

He is, of course, surprised to be celebrating a birthday at all this year, as he spent most of the Spring planning his funeral.

It took a lot of probing to get to the root of that particular obsession with death, but after a long inquisition, he finally admitted that he thought he'd had another series of heart attacks. (None of which merited a visit to the e.r., or even the doctor, because, "what are they gonna do anyway?" I had to admit I didn't know, exactly, but that might be because I didn't go to medical school.) After a few dozen more questions and a couple hours of online research, the best diagnosis I could come up with was an inflamed phrenic nerve. The best treatment I could come up with for that was Advil -- which promptly cured the symptoms. He said he only kept his annual cardio appointment at all so he could tell the doctor he'd been "googled" (which apparently set off gales of hilarity and laughter among the nurses, if you can believe his account). 

I told him all about the new book, which seemed to set off a fit of initially inexplicable indignation on his part. "Do you think your baby brother's read this new book?" he demanded. I said I didn't know. Probably not. He hasn't said anything about it to me.

"Well," he said patiently, as if explaining something so obvious he couldn't believe it hadn't occurred to me, "don't you think that would be the perfect job for him?"

What would be the perfect job for who?

"The. Travel. Channel." (oh? well, duh?) "You know your brother's going to Budapest here in a few weeks, and he just got back from Turkey, and they need somebody besides just Bourdain. They don't have anybody else who knows anything about food. Just that dumbass who's always eating grubworms or some shit like that." (I've never seen Andrew Zimmern, or the show Bizarre Foods, but I know all about it from my dad -- he apparently watches it just to stay in rage-practice.)

His tone of righteous outrage makes it sound like he just can't believe my brother hasn't stopped at the airport to pick up a small camera crew on these trips -- as if maybe that was just negligence on his part... that he can't be bothered to broadcast his adventures on the appropriate network.

As if I'm opposing his case as to just how right my brother would be for the gig, he argues, "don't you think he has just as much cheffin' experience as Bourdain? And you know he can talk to anybody. You should see him whenever we go out to eat. The whole kitchen comes out to talk to him. Next thing you know he's behind the bar making everybody drinks." He adds admiringly, "That kid never met a stranger." (It's true. He's both an accomplished chef, and delightfully gregarious. I have no rebuttal argument for whatever is coming next.)

"So," he asks, finally warming up to his point, "couldn't you get him that job?" hesitating only slightly, clearly not wanting to doubt my powers of influence, "or maybe one like it?"

I started to formulate a lengthy response in my head, but thought better of it. Not wanting to disappoint him, or the land where he lives -- a land where my brother just hasn't gotten around to applying for a job hosting his own food travel show, and I just haven't gotten around to forwarding that application to the appropriate media overlords --  I say what any good daughter would on her father's birthday.

I tell him "I'll look into it."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Sombre Frittata

It's ridiculous that I'd never made a frittata before today. I like quiches but can't make crust. I like omelets, but I always make such a mess out of them that they end up looking like an autopsy. A frittata is the obvious solution. But most varieties call for them to start on the stovetop and end up under the broiler, and A. that seems like a lot of work, and B. I am afraid of the broiler on the gas stove; it looks and sounds way too much like Apollo 13.

I googled around and found something that basically said whisk eggs with stuff you like and stick it in the oven, so that's the one I went with (gorgonzola, pine nuts, basil, etc). They mentioned adding a dash of baking powder -- which I assume is the miracle that accounted for its magic puffiness.

Unfortunately, it had already begun to deflate by the time I got the camera out ("if I had a nickel..."), but you can get the general idea.

It's not everyone who'll eat your culinary experiments, but Chef Tom and Michael and the BFF soldiered through.

I was so proud of it, I posted this picture, prompting an emergency text from my gay husband "did I miss a brunch?!" thinking he'd inadvertently skipped official hosting duties and was probably in big trouble.

That reminded me of this David Thorne oldie-but-goodie (click for the entire exchange)

"Last week when I checked my mailbox, I found that my new neighbour had left me a note stating that he was having a party and to let him know if the noise was too loud. The problem I have with the note is not that he was having a party and didn’t invite me, it was that he selected a vibrant background of balloons, effectively stating that his party was going to be vibrant and possibly have balloons and that I couldn’t come.
If I was writing a note to my neighbours saying that I was going to have a party but none of them could come, I would not add photos of ecstasy tablets, beer and gratuitous shots of Lucius going down on men to show them what they are missing out on, I would make it clean and simple, possibly even sombre, so they didn’t think ‘you prick’."
So, let me clarify, there were no balloons or anything. No ecstasy tablets either. Just a sombre frittata. (I think the British spelling gives it a little more gravitas.)


I consider myself very lucky to live alone, for too many reasons to list (but let's not let that slow us down).

For one, I treasure the unimpeded access to all the food. I am happy to share of course, but there's nothing worse than finding out after a long hot day that someone else drank the last Coke. Well, rickets would be worse. But I take probably unnatural comfort knowing that everything is exactly where I put it. (When the BFF asked yesterday if I'd noticed that my tomatoes were growing through the deck stairs, I think my response was "DON'T TOUCH THEM!! I TRAINED THEM TO DO THAT." Even though of course I know she wouldn't have actually ripped out the vines I'd meticulously threaded through the trellis, she did say I looked at her like she was Veruca Salt-about-to-push-the-button "hey, what does this do?")

Then there's the free-range insomnia, not to mention my Rainman-aversion to human contact. And despite the fact that I was born into a house that did not have indoor plumbing, I quickly grew up to be a girl who considers sharing a bathroom to constitute third-world living conditions. Despite decades of serial boyfriends, I still don't typically allow sleepovers. When one of my coworkers recently asked "how does that ... work... exactly?" I had to think about it. Over the years, I've developed some variation on Last Call, along the lines of "ya don't have to go home, but ya can't stay here." She said something like, "don't they think that's...weird?" Hunhhh. I don't know. Maybe. I never really asked. I do know part of the reason my relationship with my ex-fiance was so torturous was not the long-distance part (which I loved), but the fact that he couldn't reasonably be expected to make the six-hour-drive home to his own bed every night when we were together. (I hinted, believe me.)


 The cutline with this photo reads, "Cats can turn when they're hungry."

Every so often one of those ("ahem") "news" reports surfaces about a single woman who died alone and her face was eaten off by cats before the neighbors were eventually alerted by the smell. I always assume  reports like this one are urban legend, in which "a dead woman was found eaten by her 20 cats." The commenters are clearly not too busted up ("And now, those cats, with a taste for human flesh roam the streets...who knows who will be next!" and "If she was already dead, why would it matter? It isn't as if they attacked her. At least, that isn't implied in the article. '...nibbled... AFTER she died....'") The stories come around often enough to end up on Snopes, at any rate.  But a real one also turned up on boing-boing just this week.

The thing is, I don't have cats, but just by virtue of living alone, I think the obvious eventuality of this fate has always worried my friends. In their minds, I think "Love means...At least someone will find the body." (If I ever get married, I plan to cross-stitch that on a pillow for my husband.)

As long as I had the dogs, they relied on them for my safety -- confident that if I say, fell down the basement stairs and couldn't get up, Travis and Martha were thoroughly capable of busting down the doors and alerting the neighbors... that their Iams was running low. Once the dogs died, however, I noticed I suddenly got a lot of daily phone calls. "So...whatcha doin?" "Um...nothin." "Well....ok, just checkin. SeeYaLaterBye." If I didn't answer, drop-ins ensued.

Then along came facebook and Twitter and they could relax. Even if they didn't hear from me for a week or two, they could clearly see that I was going about a fascinating daily life of dentist's appointments and deadlines -- alive and more or less un-molested by cats.

But of course there are lots and lots of things that shouldn't be posted via social media, and Ambien Walrus notwithstanding , there's a lot I leave un-reported -- mostly, as it relates to not invading other people's privacy. For example, my Ring-Toss-Ex hangs out here periodically, and while he's very happily divorced, I don't think his kids want to read any facebook updates from me about their Dad and the hibbity-dibbity.

More awkwardly than that, however....though we all amicably went to college together, he happens to have profound political differences with my gay-husband, and the two of them nearly recently tripped over each other at the back door. I'm ecumenically-non-partisan when it comes to half-time rituals (vote your conscience and we can all probably get along) -- plus, whatever goes in one ear, stays there (because I have no short-term memory) -- but it's nice to keep the peace. It's hardly crips and bloods when those two see each other, or even West Side story, but traditionally, one side doesn't mix with the other. My friends good-naturedly tolerated a marxist in their peripheral midst this spring, but I'm not sure they'd be so forgiving of a Republican, and I see no need to put them to the test.

So, after that near-miss, my gay husband proposed a social media cue that he and a few close friends could rely on -- whereby they'd all know that I was alive and well and my face was intact -- but that I was just "otherwise engaged."

And thus "mistletoe" became the equivalent of the tie we used to hang on the doorknob in college, but this place has three doors and it's just too confusing to keep up with all of them. Plus nobody can afford to get their Hermes tie stolen. Not even a Republican. Not in this economy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Blurb Transparency idea

Today I landed on Emily Gould's post about blurb transparency which she wrote in response to Laura Miller's Salon piece saying book blurbs probably shouldn't exist.

I won't post the link to Salon, because when I clicked on it, it took me to a very long ad for some ABC show called "DRUGS!" There was no way to exit out of it short of eventually shutting down the laptop.

I'm guessing that Miller's article conveyed a caveat emptor approach to blurbs, and Gould's point, on balance, was that a little bit of fair disclosure might benefit the process.

Dozens of books cross my desk in a given week.

The one I'm not reading right now is The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel. It's sitting on my mantle. I made it as far as page 33. But Ayelet Waldman's blurb says, "it's the rare literary novel that can stand up to the rigors of six hours sandwiched in coach between a shrieking newborn and a gentleman hacking up at least one of his lungs." That would never happen to me (I won't fly, or have kids), but if it did, I would consider that high praise.

I think I'm just not into novels right now. I loved Waldman's Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace -- which recently came out in paperback, and I finally got around to reading at the exact same time I read her husband's most recent non-fiction, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son (P.S.). I love Michael Chabon (I practically wrote a eulogy for his last Details column), and was actually shocked (shocked!) that I liked her book better.

 I found Emily Gould by way of two other books: Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum (whom I've written about before  - but not nearly in proportion to the amount of time I've devoted to thinking about her and the fact that my life would be perfect if I had her site), and How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley, whose name is everyday-familiar to me, because she's a publicist, so I get emails from her like this one, "it's on the way" (in response to a request for Dave Eggers' Zeitoun (Vintage) -- new in paperback -- one of those books I always meant to read last year but never got around to). It's not exactly the sort of breathless-cafe-exchange People Magazine apparently envisioned for the two of us.

The other reason I feel like Sloane Crosley is so familiar is because her first essay collection was I Was Told There'd Be Cake, and I liked it so much the first babystep words I ever posted on facebook, twitter, and all-social-media as a status update were: "was told there'd be cake." For me, it was the equivalent of my "Watson, come here, I need you." And the first person who ever responded (after I let that update sit there for a long time because I couldn't figure out how to change it) was Aimee Lynne Hirschowitz who wrote back, "well, there won't be cake, but there will be wine and cheese," inviting me to her art opening.

I bought Crosley's new book (I actually did buy it, though ordering a review copy was on the intern's to-do list for a long, long, long time) at least partly because the blurb at the top described it as "relentlessly funny," which really meant something coming from David Sedaris. I didn't feel as confident about the comment from People, "you'll feel as though you're sitting with her at a cafe, breathlessly waiting to hear what she's going to tell you next." Oh, People Magazine, sometimes it's like you don't know me at all.

My favorite chapter in the book is "Off the Back of a Truck," which she spends furnishing her apartment with ill-gotten, upscale, purloined goods from the store she refers to as Out of Your League, fenced to her illicitly by their lovably irascible vaguely mafia-esque employee Daryl, who tells her the one thing no one else will after she wastes a year of her life on a relationship spent in an accidental, inadvertent double life with her boyfriend who, as it turns out, hadn't really bothered to leave his last girlfriend. She was leading one life; he was leading two. Or as she puts it when the girlfriend calls her, "the bigger picture was too difficult to understand. In that picture, the person I loved not only stepped out of the frame but turned around on his way out to tell me he was never there." As she reels and recovers, everyone consoles her with unsolicited advice ("plenty of fish!" and "it could be worse!" or "it has nothing to do with you")  but it's Daryl who tells her The One Thing, and The One Thing is this: "It wasn't as real as you thought it was. Whatever anyone else tells you is bullshit." It's one of the best chapters you'll ever read about heartbreak and home decor.

I knew Emily Gould's work because a lot of readers sent me her famous 2008 NYTMag piece, "Exposed" -- most with cautionary notes attached about what happens when you write too much about the "characters" in your life and how they might not like it so much. I re-discovered her this year because writers kept lumping her in with reviews of Meghan Daum and Sloane Crosley, presumably because all three of them happen to be women, who have new books out -- and then I realized I wasn't the only person who'd noticed how often they got grouped, after the Awl post: "These are definitely both books about being alive and a human being while, incidentally or not, also having a vagina. Also, don't forget, you know who else has a vagina and also lives in a city? That's right: Meghan Daum."

As soon as I get Emily Gould's  And the Heart Says Whatever, I will probably write a lengthy post that compares and contrasts it with Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, and How Did You Get This Number?.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Archives. October 18, 2001. Tight Ends

I posted a blog during the last basketball season called The Agony of Defeat not remembering that I'd written a column with the same headline (subtitled "Now That's what I call a Tight End") about a decade ago. This was one in a long series of columns about Mr. Impressive, most of which weren't recoverable in the  wreckage. It was this particular game -- and heartbreaking loss -- that became the inspiration for the Lucky Halftime Ritual.

October 2001

Tight Ends

"'s just a game of inches. And so is football."
-Any Given Sunday

It's the rare week that our sports columnist calls in sick but I told him I had it covered.
I could sense him cringing on the other end of the line, but I assured him I had actually attended this weekend's football game and had, in fact, already planned to write about it. He remains dubious. (As well he should.)

I have had many heated exchanges since then, relating to the absolute state of fury I've been experiencing, ever since the fourth quarter.

As my friend Lee noted, somebody, "audibled a pass play on the line because he thought there were eight in the box when in reality they were just in their standard 4-3," but he insists that it was good to be IN the game.
And in response to my complaint that we should never have tried to run the clock out (and shut down our offense) with eight ETERNAL minutes to go, I received this insightful response: "the 3rd down you are referring to came with about 3:45 in the final quarter, when we needed one yard for a first down (which likely would have sealed the game - or come close). We passed, instead of running the ball."

But really, who am I kidding?

Acknowledging the fact that I'm not qualified to cover last weekend's activities from an athletic perspective - I can really only judge it on its merits as a date.

First off, there's "tailgating." (OK...Turns out he had something entirely different in mind than I thought he did, but don't get me wrong, his menu was superb.)

Wardrobe was the next challenge. I do have excellent running shoes, but since I was not planning to A. run, or B. wear sweats (though I've since discovered that "track suits" are the outfit of choice at many stadiums), I thought (misguidedly) that they'd be out of place.

The hike to the stadium in my inappropriate shoes was blessedly brief, followed by a moderate climb to our seats. Most of the time, I had my fellow sports fan's hand in a death grip, because I knew if we got separated and my cellphone died, I would still be there. Irreparably lost.

The problem is, he's roughly twice my size (and in perfect shape), so this was no romantic stroll in the moonlight that I'm describing.

I'd say it's more like hopping onto a skateboard and grabbing the back of a semi until you're dragged to your inevitable, yet merciful, death.

At the top of the stairs, he solicitously stopped to ask, "can I get you anything?"

To which, I could barely gasp out, "fast-acting inhaler."

I was trying to catch my breath and walk off a charley horse, but other than that, I was fine.

Then we get to our seats. If you could call them that.

They are actually numeric decals glued to an aluminum bench.

They are glued there with absolutely ZERO regard for this country's national epidemic of obesity, so thanks to our oversize neighbors, I had to spend most of the game practically in his lap (not a hardship... for me).
The first half was, by anybody's standards, a yawn - affording me some much needed spare time to text.

It also gave me time to contemplate a phenomenon I vaguely remember from psych class about "identification" and how impotency goes up (so to speak - because nothing else does) in towns with losing sports teams.

Apparently, when the team wilts, so does the citizenry.

It was around this point that I became suddenly interested in a victory.

By the beginning of the second quarter, I was in abject fear that nobody was gonna be dialin' zero on the pink telephone that night.

By halftime, I was all but sobbing openly.

Against all odds, we stayed.

I prayed... I grew increasingly impatient with the flaccid offense.

Then, miraculously, we rallied.

I grew hopeful. I was on my feet, screaming at the officials, like the rest of the real fans (with admittedly more selfish motivation).

Then we choked.

I was despondent.

Fortunately, Mr. Impressive remained remarkably... sanguine about our defeat. And I do mean remarkably. Over and over.

I'm not getting cocky though. I never thought I'd say this, but, Thank GOD for basketball season, where we have a better shot.

I just have to see if Prada makes a blue track suit (to match the paw I plan to paint on my face).

Archives. October 11 2001. My Life with Sammy Jenkis.

October 2001
My Life with Sammy Jenkis

Born with what my mother defined as an 'artistic temperament,' Gretchen floated from blossom to blossom in a blissful haze... You could tell Gretchen anything in strict confidence, knowing that five minutes later she would recall nothing but the play of shadows on your face.
-David Sedaris

I think the minimal interest I have in the institution of marriage might have something to do with the fact that I already have what amounts to a perfectly good husband with all the benefits and none of the downsides.

On at least one occasion, he's told people that we had a fake wedding in the Bahamas (sort of a Mick Jagger-Jerry Hall thing), but everybody knows that's a joke, because I don't fly. (Also, because I'm smarter than the average model. Which maybe isn't saying much, because I'm also smarter than the average slice of toast. And that's probably a horrible example of bigotry on my part; I just hope I can withstand the vast loss of my supermodel readership.)

He and I finish each other's stories in public. (OK, to be honest, I finish his, because he talks slow, and I get exasperated.) We (then) exchange dirty looks like a real married couple. We always have pre-arranged escape signals for leaving parties (the most common one being, "time to let the dogs out"). I pick out his clothes before we go out, and if I don't, he's an exceptional sport about changing if he's created an ensemble I don't like.

There are things he's good at, and there are things I'm good at - and they absolutely never overlap in any way.
I often describe him as "detached," for want of a better word, but all I really mean by that is that he occupies a different world than I do. He resides in some airy universe that I won't ever understand (and he won't remember), whereas I'm more earthbound and practical.

He happens to be extraordinarily attractive, but is completely oblivious to it - not because he can't process his own reflection in the mirror, but just as part of his general obliviousness to most things. He takes no notice of the trail of swooning servers (male and female) that litter the floor as we leave any restaurant - he just absentmindedly steps over them as he tries to remember which pocket he put his car keys in.

I can say - with great virtuousness -that I'm totally above any shallow interest in his looks. I just think of him as a great ocean view. Those sunsets are incredible the first few weeks - after that, you become immune. You might as well be looking out at the airshaft over an alley. Oddly, he knows I mean this as a compliment.

Last week he asked me, with a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement, "what are you going to be for Halloween?"
"Thirty six," was my simultaneously unimaginative and sarcastic answer. "Why?"
He, of course, had already picked out a costume, and ordered it online, and was trying to talk me into something that would match. From there, within 48 hours, he had half the city engaged in an email exchange wherein the merits of various superheroes and their sidekicks were debated, mercilessly, for hours on end.

We just don't go about life in the same way.

When we got home from a party last night, for example, I somehow wedged my stiletto heel in the slats of my porch steps.
If left up to him, I swear to God, I'd still be trapped there, and an intern would've been dispatched by now to bring me breakfast and a change of clothes.
At some point, he did pause absentmindedly to wonder why my progress up the stairs had been impeded. But it's not like he formulated a plan to resolve it.
In fact, once I explained the situation, "my shoe is stuck," he responded with (and I'm not making this up), "hmmm. Is there something we can do here?"
Followed closely by, "why don't you just leave it?"

When I commented, innocently, that I seem to shoulder the bulk of the problem-solving duties in our relationship, he answered back in my voice, with a perfect impersonation of the usual withering sarcasm I constantly subject him to, "Oh, I'm sorry. I've been trained to listen to women bitch, not to respond. I thought you didn't want me to solve your problems, because you can do it yourself. That you just want me to 'listen,' and that it's not my job to 'fix anything.'"
Awwww, he knows me too well sometimes.
This weekend, he's taking on the rare task of organizing a night out for everyone. I'm staying out of it, but I've explained to him that it's not as easy as it looks: "You have to get the tickets. There's transportation to consider. You have to get them fed... And so on." It is exactly like herding cats. Or two-year-olds. Really wily two-year-olds. He thinks he's up to it, but I predict an evening that includes a minimum of one trip to the emergency room and another to jail.
This is one of the rare columns I actually asked his permission to write - and he gave me a blank check - saying, "I guess I'll have to trust you."
I don't think it's because he really does trust me. I think it's because he knows that whatever I write - even if he doesn't like it - he'll have forgotten it before he even gets to the end of the page. His life is like Memento in that way.

Even though I have no interest in heading down the aisle myself, I confess I'll be a little sad when he does get married - probably to some 20-year-old named Trixie.
Whoever lands him will be lucky indeed, because I will have already performed the vital functions of any first wife. He will arrive on her doorstep a model husband, with his spirit broken and his standards lowered.

And like all second wives, she'll take all my hard work for granted.

Archives. August 2002. Scrubbing Bubbles

After this came out in print, I got a lot of helpful reader-emails identifying the mutant of this August 2002 column as the "Humpback" or "Urban Camel" cricket. Consider this one of the many, many "prequels" to Chekhov's Spider

Scrubbing Bubbles
(August 2002)

“Am I intolerant, Gabe?!! Am I?”
Am I supposed to answer that?"
—Andie McDowell and Dennis Quaid in Dinner with Friends

I hate it when guys use feminism as an excuse not to kill bugs for you. (I’ll accept pacifism, as long as they peaceably remove the bug to a suitable distance.)

It’s not that I can’t kill a bug. I don’t even bear them any real animosity as long as they stay outside, but once they come in the house, all bets are off. And if there’s anyone else around (male or female, I don't discriminate) it’s a job I’d just as soon delegate.

It’s not bugs per se, it’s spiders that I can’t take.

More specifically than that though, there is this particular mutant species of insect-arachnid that I’ve been seeing around my house for about the last two years… ever since I quit drinkin’ (ohhhh just kidding).

I don’t know what they are, but they look and act like a cross between a cricket and a spider.

The way I used to handle them -- if I was alone, was to throw phone books on them (from as far away as possible), and then have whomever I was dating at the time remove all remains whenever they got home.

The thing is, the bugs seem to be catching on to this (hiding out on the weekends, when menfolk in size 12 shoes [minimum] can be found sunning themselves on the veranda, sipping iced tea with mint and lemon balm…and skittering out during the week to terrorize me…the bugs, that is, not the menfolk).

Keeping to my usual insomniac’s schedule, I was up late last night reading, and wandered into the bathroom around 3 a.m.and flipped on the light.

That’s when I was confronted by one of these creatures,only this one was of the scope and variety not normally seen outside a Night Gallery rerun (specifically, the one where Patrick O’Neal is a phobic food critic who gets trapped by an ex-girlfriend in a room with a spider the size of a German Shepherd).

There was no one I could call at that hour.  I had to stay and fight it out.

I’m not proud to say this, but I do have a can of highly toxic insecticide. I keep it on hand for two emergencies: spiders and bees (only because I’m phobic, and allergic, respectively).

I’d like to say I eliminated this possibility because my ecological conscience would prohibit me from releasing a toxic mushroom cloud into the air—probably mutating my own chromosomes and those of the neighbors in the process—just to dispatch one stupid bug.
But that wasn’t it at all.
I’d have cheerfully detonated a nuclear missile if I’d had one.
The problem was, the can lives in one of the bathroom cabinets, and I’d have had to pass by my opponent to get to it.

Blunt force trauma was the only way to go.

I picked up a book on shade gardening from the hall table, and advanced into the room a few inches. I then heaved it as hard as I could, and retreated for a survey of the damage. A glancing blow at best. And that’s being charitable.

The thing nimbly leaped a little closer (drawing on his cricket genes I guess, which gave me a moment’s pause, because it IS bad luck to kill crickets, but a cricket that looks like it has EIGHT legs is clearly askin’ for it… the wily bastard).
Time to regroup.
The shade garden book seemed suitably heavy (very thick),  but it was also narrow. What I needed was something with more surface area.

I’m out of phone books (used ‘em all up in the last invasion).

And this month’s Vogue and InStyle had already gone on to new homes (as I responsibly recycle them among my friends).
I was back to my chemical weapons arsenal.

Of course, like most homeowners, I keep the vast majority of my small array of toxic poisons under the kitchen sink (where they can seep into both the water and food supply). I ruled out both Windex and Glass Plus as inadequate to the task, along with Pledge (I didn’t care if he was clean, or lemon-fresh, with or without waxy buildup).
Ultimately, it was a two-pronged attack that did the job.
From across the room, I was able to safely launch a steady spray of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. And, as expected, the foam incapacitated him -- giving me just enough time to scamper in and drop the new issue of GQ on him (loaned to me earlier by my pal Anthony, because of this month’s coverage of Chris Rock, wilderness avenger Doug Peacock [one-time running mate of Ed Abbey], and Tom Waits).

This was NOT a willing sacrifice … but I got another one the next day... only to read, on the last page, the “top 56 signs that your new girlfriend may be trouble,” and realize that I’m guilty of six of these traits, including, but not limited to: “owns a mastiff” and “calls all guys by their last name.” The others are more incriminating, and best left for another time.