12.05.17

i roped joe into a facebook meme the other night.

WITHOUT prompting, ask your significant other these questions and write EXACTLY what they say.

1: What is something I always say?
2: Circa 2012, "lovely!"

1: What makes me happy?
2: Candy, sleeping.

1: What makes me cry?
2: Tigers.

1: How tall am I?
2: Five seven.

1: What's my favorite thing to do?
2: Candy, sleeping.

1: What do I do when you're not around?
2: Candy, sleeping.

1: If I become famous, what will it be for?
2: The Great American Novel.

1: What makes you proud of me?
2: That you struck out on your own, and are doing your own thing, and are putting yourself out there.

1: What is my favorite food?
2: Candy, sleeping. No, lentils.

1: What is my favorite restaurant?
2: Mission Chinese, interestingly, because you will not get Chinese food anywhere else.

1: What is my favorite place to visit?
2: Iceland.

1: If I could go anywhere, where would it be?
2: Antarctica.

1: How do I annoy you?
2: Questions.

1: What is my favorite movie?
2: Labyrinth.

1: Who is my celebrity crush?
2: I don't know. Just put who it is.

1: You get a phone call that I am in trouble, who am I with?
2: Your mother.

11.19.17

so we were in norway and iceland for two weeks. it was stupendous, even though i now seem unable to sleep past nine! (on a sunday. so gross.) many, many things fell by the wayside before we left, as i was determined to finish and file my early-november work before we left two thursdays ago (i failed at that, too: i filed an essay from oslo and three pieces from reykjavík). i haven't been to see ben at the wild bird fund since early october, which is the longest i've gone without seeing him since we went on our cross-country road trip in the summer of 2015. as when we were in milan and berlin at this time last year, i took my coffee in a mountain-print onesie each morning as i read about the shitty things americans do to each other. speaking of, we'll be at our place for thanksgiving again this year: our local family will be dining with my stepbrother, who works for donald trump in the white house (i doubt i'll ever see him again; i can't imagine being interested in seeing him again). this is more than fine with me—we didn't pursue other plans this year, as i like having a quiet night alone with joe, and we're bringing leftovers to our friends' place in brooklyn for a friday-afternoon gathering.

birds and bookstores to tend, a thanksgiving lasagna to assemble, the second half of the month's assignments to address before plunging into the hyperspace of the late-holiday season. hair to purple. a dragon to sew up for my little niece (don't tell her). part of me wishes we could have seen the northern lights one more time, but i am glad to have swathes of cat shimmering around my head once more. you are my horrora borealis, steve.

10.03.17

one of the wildlife hospital staffers asked me if i'd been using my name tag to sign in at their new tablet kiosk in the basement treatment room. i haven't, i said, though that would give them a formal record of my tardiness, and that would be something. "well i guess since you're at the highest level of training already, your hours don't really matter. although maybe you should wear the tag in case new people don't know what you...are?" "in case they can't see the waves of power rolling out from my body?" "...yes?"

09.19.17

the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person in a vehicle. 12:08 p.m. The caller reported an elderly man in a Toyota Camry, driving slowly in the neighborhood and possibly casing.
Disturbance. 8:17 a.m. The caller reported two male transients dumpster diving.
Vandalism report. 6:37 p.m. Caller reported someone keyed her car.
Keep the peace. 2:00 p.m. Caller said her neighbor below was yelling at her when she was walking.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 12:40 p.m. The caller reported two men walking inside and out of the business without buying anything.
Disturbance. 10:01 p.m. The caller reported kids using laser pointers.
Citizen assist. 8:47 a.m. The caller said a house owner hired the caller and other workers and is denying them any bathroom breaks.
Disturbance. 12:58 p.m. The caller reported a man asking for his money back after he ate a bad sandwich. The caller said the man told her, he was going to get his mom and come back to kill her.
Citizen assist. 10:56 p.m. Caller said she has an emergency with her TV.
Assist outside agency. 2:03 p.m. The caller reported a large bee hive with swarming bees on a city tree.
Disturbance. 1:58 p.m. The caller said a woman pushed him and told him to get out.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 5:20 p.m. The caller reported a man sitting on the corner and talking on a phone. The caller didn’t like him in the neighborhood.


*previous installment here.

09.15.17

What we build not only reflects but determines who we are and who we'll be. 'A city is an attempt at a kind of collective immortality,' wrote Marshall Berman in an essay on urban ruin; 'we die, but we hope our city's forms and structures will live on'. The opposite is true in the suburbs. They have no history and don't think about the future; very little there is built to last. Posterity is irrelevant to a civilisation living in an ongoing, never-ending present, with as much care for the future or sense of the past as a child. In his classic 1961 study The City in History, Lewis Mumford describes the naivety of the suburbs, which sustain in their inhabitants 'a childish view of the world', a false impression of security, if not an outright political apathy. Terrible things happen elsewhere, but never here, not now, not to us. It's the most natural paternal instinct to want to give your children a better childhood than your own; but the generation of city dwellers who invented the suburbs blew past 'better' in their pursuit of an impossible social isolation. It is as if they were trying to give not only their children but themselves the childhood they never had. The suburbs present the world to their children as if padded in felt, as if life were something gradually accumulated through commercial transaction, store by store. Often American literature and films about the suburbs feature children and adults alike losing their innocence, surprised, unprepared, for how terrible life can be: The Virgin Suicides, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Weeds — all of these ask not only 'is this all there is?' but 'is there really that, too?'

(lauren elkin, from flâneuse: women walk the city in paris, new york, tokyo, venice, and london)
elkin's take on the suburbs (she grew up on long island) is a savage one, but it tracks with what i remember and how i talk about orange county in the '80s and '90s (and even how i talk about going to college in a suburb*): it was a very conservative and homogeneous place to be, i would never want to live there again, but it was a safe place to grow up, and i know that my parents chose our unremarkable** stucco house in our unremarkable neighborhood because it meant that my sisters and i could eventually go to the very good, exceptional, local public high school. i also felt like a freak until i got to college, and i think sometimes about what i would do now with all the hours i spent in, say, church-related youth groups because i wanted friends.

*i didn't have a car or even a bike in college, incidentally; my bikes were stolen so quickly that i decided the universe wanted me to be a pedestrian. i started taking long late-night walks around campus when i was a freshman and crawled all over the school for four years, but those nights were nothing like the ones i'd later spend in san francisco and new york. those are other stories, though.

**architecturally speaking, that is. the roof was fantastic for climbing and there were so many places for lizards to hide.

09.12.17

the dirty dozen {twelve things i learned in tonight's squirrel-care class}*

01 "talking to them is OK, because they will eventually turn on you."
02 squirrels born in the fall aren't as healthy as squirrels born in the spring.
03 in the last stage of weaning, squirrels eat pumpkin mash (lab block dust, baby cereal, and puréed pumpkin—NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING).
04 "someone gave a squirrel pumpkin pie filling by accident once. he was really excited, but it didn't go well."
05 squirrels like to sleep in makeshift polarfleece hammocks.** "of course they drag all of their crap into their hammocks."
06 ADR in a veterinary chart = Ain't Doin' Right.
07 squirrels should not have KMR (kitten milk replacement), which has too much protein and will give them terrible diarrhea.
08 squirrels should have squirrel formula (fox valley), which is much better but can still make their hair fall out if you don't wipe their faces and arms after they nurse.
09 "is the squirrel nervous? try a burrito."
10 you can help a nursing squirrel that's aspirated milk blow its nose by covering its face with a tissue, putting your mouth to said tissue, and inhaling.
11 if maggots are crawling out of a squirrel's ears or eyes, you have to put it to sleep.
12 one turd is not enough.

*do not use these points to care for squirrels! call your friendly local wildlife rehabber.

**i knew that part.

09.10.17

And Autobiography is a lot of a bit much — nearly 500 pages, with tiny margins and no index. So instead of flipping around looking for "Boorer, Boz" or "busses, double-decker" or "Bowie, David, argument over fruit-salad buffet in 1992 with," you have to jump in. There are great moments everywhere, including that breakfast with Bowie. "David quietly tells me, 'You know, I've had so much sex and drugs I can't believe I'm still alive,' and I loudly tell him, 'You know, I've had so LITTLE sex and drugs I can't believe I'm still alive.'"

(rob sheffield, from "morrissey's autobiography: the dream is gone but the book is real")

08.25.17

at the end of a long night a few christmases ago, my baby sister told me that she and my brother-in-law were going to start trying to have a child. i told her in no uncertain terms that this was a terrible idea, for the earth with humans as its miserable stewards had a few decades left at best. it was a monstrous thing to say, and joe reminded me, as he always does, that i sound crazy when i talk like that. i apologized many times, though i haven't really forgiven myself for receiving their news that way.

erin, the friend who introduced me to the wild bird fund years ago, told me about her long island conservation and education group's offshore, overnight whalewatching trips—she'd be on the second one of the summer, and i'd have a chance to meet her in person—and i suddenly and desperately needed to go. i mucked around on the group's website for a while and then just called to ask about coming along. i got the society's president, artie, who'd been watching the comey hearing all afternoon, as i had. "it's nice...to be talking about whales right now," he said.

i packed up the sleeping bag i'd bought for my first ragnar last fall, wrapped an oversized plush peep in a pillow case, and filled a duffel bag with tank tops, pajamas(?), trail mix, candy. a bunch of sunscreen and prescription seasickness patches, per my stepfather's instructions. erin, as magical in person as she's been on the internets all these years, collected me from the platform at montauk and drove me to a grocery store, where i added a five-gallon jug of water, a couple of dutch rolls, vegetarian sushi(?), and a bunch of bananas* to my rations. we were to leave montauk at six to reach martha's vineyard by midnight, where we'd drop off a handful of commuters and pick up a few more watchers, then spend the night chugging out to the great south channel. our boat's hold was full of navy bunks, but it was traditional to drag one's mattress out to the deck, she said. it sounded like the rime of the ancient mariner to me, and i thought of the halloween in college when paul hung an albatross made of packing tape around his neck.

the perseid meteor shower was at its peak that first night, and spots on the top deck went fast—except for the raised ones, the big crates full of life preservers, so i flopped my dusty cot mattress down on one of those. it thrummed and rocked as the wind streamed over us, and i felt like an infant marsupial nestled against its mother. i was unconscious long before we reached martha's vineyard.

i woke up at dawn, soaked with dew, just as dolphins began to embroider the surface beside the boat. soon pelagic birds gathered on the water for bait fish, like truffle flies, and then—

joe and i went whalewatching in iceland a few years ago, at the end of the season when most of the humpbacks had migrated far from that part of the north atlantic. we saw a single juvenile, a straggler, at a distance, and our local guide's joy eclipsed any disappointment i might have felt at the ocean's stinginess. i was thoroughly unprepared for the great south channel, where the waters receded from the humpbacks' barnacled snouts, dozens of them, like fog rolling down a mountain range. a whale surfaced perpendicular to our boat with a great briny bellow, presented us with its ageless back, and dove beneath our feet. i sobbed.

i have been sprouting an avocado pit in a little sake cup on top of our cookbooks for the last several weeks. joe scoffs: we'll have avocados of our own in something like 12 years, he says. i once asked my sister what she would give up if forced to choose between avocados and the feeling of swimming in the ocean and being taken up by a wave just before it breaks. you're getting me where i live with this one, she replied. i would like for her son to have my avocados.


*"you brought bananas on this boat?" the captain said as we played cards in the galley. "seriously?" i did a bit of research when i got home: bananas bring the worst kind of luck on a fishing boat. no banana muffins, banana republic clothing, banana boat sunscreen.

08.22.17

we erupted from asheville yesterday morning, barreled west to franklin and invented a parking space in a wooded copse, and followed the dark side of the moon* to a local brewery that'd opened at nine. ("people were already lining up, so we figured, hell.") i maintained our table while joe talked a food truck into some quesadillas, and the older couple next to me turned around to say hello. they were silent partners at the brewery and spent half the year down in florida. i told them i volunteered at a wildlife rehab center. "one time a big pelican landed in our backyard and flopped over on his side. he looked terrible! i called the local folks and they said, 'oh, don't worry. he just ate too many fish and got tired, he'll get up on his own after a while.' and he did!"


*that segued into a lot of tom petty, which...fair play?

08.03.17

conversations with doctor omnibus {omnibus without borders}

there are at least three DO NOT TOUCH signs on the bookshelf in doc omnibus's shared reception area. the half-empty shelves against the back wall of his office are strewn with off-brand comic books about spiders and tsunami evacuation pamphlets. as of next year i'll have been seeing him for a decade.

doc: you'd have been a good lawyer.
LMO: [laughing] my dad used to say that.
doc: this is what i'm talking about!

doc: you're the parent.

doc: do you hate your kids sometimes, sure, but you don't tell them that.

doc: you decide what comes out of your mouth.

doc: you're too permeable.

doc: you need to decide what you want to do and do it regardless of how you feel about it.

doc: you're finally old enough.

doc: [rifling through papers] i can't find anything, this is your fault.
LMO: i know, i figured.

06.29.17ii {somewhere over alabama}

a food critic i met in orlando two years ago was headed back to florida after a week in the city just as joe and i made our way out to texas late this afternoon; he and his wife did their damndest to meet us for a drink before our respective departures until we realized we were not actually at the same airport. does one get credit for weathering the la guardia / JFK switcheroo if one doesn't actually miss one's flight? our flight is running at least two hours late and is so packed with inconsolable babies that those of us who aren't responsible for said babies actually laughed with something like delight when their cries of rage nearly harmonized.

i revisited the ob/gyn who talked me into an IUD instead of sterilization nearly a decade ago. her office told me they keep records for three years and box them up after five or so. i was a new patient again, essentially, and had to explain that we'd met before. this time she pushed vasectomy, as it's reversible; when men turn 40, she said, they go crazy for babies. she took my blood pressure—high, for the first time in my life—and noted that i should consider exercising to bring it down. i'd considered bringing my magazine essay about sterilizing childless women with me to our appointment, but concluded at the last minute that showing her an article which opened with a story about how terrible she herself was would compromise our working relationship. i stuffed her referrals in my bag and left.

06.29.17

a friend sent me a link to a job posting that mirrored my skill set so neatly it was almost a bit scary: an outlet wants a researcher-reporter-writer with crazy pet experience and solid veterinary and PR contacts to pen deep dives about the best products for beasts. it would have involved developing a peripheral relationship with amazon, though (fuck amazon*), and it was a full-time, in-house staff position. it turns out...that i don't actually want one of those? i mean, i reserve the right to revisit these feelings if the new yorker reaches out about a film-reviews-by-plastic-animals position, but i've gritted my teeth through two and a half years of Post-Office-Job Ghosthood and suspecting that editors who didn't respond to pitches within minutes hated my face, and i think i want these calluses. i love my hospital and my bookstore. i've actually started writing my book. i'm going on a crazy three-day whale-watching trip later this summer for it! (that will probably yield a health piece or two as well. i get so, so seasick.) i enjoyed knowing that i would impress these folks who want a researcher-reporter-writer—possibly i sent them a note to that effect—but this frankencareer means something to me. i think we belong together, at least until it starts killing my family and friends and leaves taunting notes for me all the way to the north pole.


*and fuck whole foods, i guess? truth be told, it's easy enough and probably more responsible for me to shop seasonally at farmers' markets and essex street marketand we'll have essex crossing in a year or two—but i will miss the comparative ease of filling a santa's-sack of groceries at one store on the way home from my weekly shifts at ye old charity bookstore. ah well. (fuck amazon.)