Saturday, December 31, 2011


I'm not linking because most of the post is old news, but thankfully the first line says it all.

A few weeks after this picture was taken, Moo got sick.  She vomited everything she managed to choke down and eventually refused to eat at all.  Apart from a malformed heart, arthritic hips, and the withered lungs of a cat twice her age, the vet found nothing wrong with her.  She advised me to make her comfortable and wait.

Bullshit.  With that giant knot of arthritis around her hips, she was probably just miserable in the cold.  As I blogged about, that was the coldest winter of my life.  My arthritis made me miserable, too.  MiniMooMooMaMaMe just needed a reason to live, that's all.

If there's one substance guaranteed to changed Moo Cat from a house pet into a safari savage, it's turkey.  It looks something like what happens to Bruce, the shark from Finding Nemo, when he smells Dori's blood (:33).  I bought two pounds of Boar's Head Mesquite Wood Smoked Turkey and fed it to her gradually over two days, switching to regular food when she ate several slices in one sitting and kept it down.

She stuck around the Treehouse, helped Becky and I move in, and terrorized poor Dylan non-stop.  I assumed that's were our relationship would settle.  She'd be boney and fat-bellied at the same time, we'd play Spot the Vomit when we got home and when we woke up, and she'd purr in bed all night long.  I mean, she was an indoor cat.  We had at least another decade, right?

Then, she started peeing.  As anyone who knows anything about cats will tell you, when an adult cat starts peeing outside her litter box it means something is wrong.  We assumed it was the fleas, which were especially bad this year.  We bathed, we Advantaged, we bathed, we Frontlined.  We made a healthy dent but never managed to erase them.

Moo stopped peeing in the bathroom and started peeing in the hallway instead.  And the living room.  And my closet.  She barely ate.  She became skin and bones.  She developed a weird walk.

She also started being super-affectionate, even with Dylan.  That should have been the big red flag; she was a little snurtbag, and only gave affection grudgingly, but that was her charm.

Two days before we took her to the vet, I dropped her from my arms and she fell instead of landing on her feet.  I thought it was the arthritis, and being underfed.  I started gently placing her on her feet when I put her down.

The day before we brought her to the vet, Moo tried to eat and fell over.  Becky put her foot and water on a stool so she wouldn't have to bend over, and fed her a package of treats by hand.

But she was still pooping, still jumping (albeit to lower heights), still lovey-dovey.  I fooled myself that they'd give her pills for arthritis and she'd bounce back.  Still, I'm not a complete fool.  Before I went to work and Becky and Dylan brought her to the vet, I said goodbye.

I wish I'd gone with them.  I wish I'd taken Moo to the vet sooner, even though they can't do much for kidney failure (at least not much that we can afford).  I wish I never lost my patience and forced her outside when I found pee on the floor.  I wish I'd done better.

Goodbye, Moo.  I hope where you are the beds are cushy, your body is healthy, and they serve turkey three meals a day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sweet Wishes You a Merry Christmas

May you be a better person than you thought possible.

May happy music fill your heart.
So you can do this.

May you get everything you asked Santa for.

May you recognize the angels in your life.
To help you avoid the demons.

Merry, merry!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Girl with the Pigeon Tattoo Gets a Tractor to the Forearm

Barack Obama's daughters loved Drummer Boy so much that when Obama wrote a children's book, he picked Loren Long to illustrate it.  The result is Of Thee I Sing:

Buy it, coz.

But toddlers couldn't care less about that.  When you need to entertain a five-year-old, you want something a little more funkengrooven.  You want a friendship between a tractor and a calf.

If that sounds dumb, it's because you're old and your heart is a brittle, numb thing.  It sounded dumb to me when Dylan requested it as his bedtime story, the first time I ever watched Becky put him down. When she read the gentle purring of the tractor's engine that lulls the little calf to sleep, Otis's putt puff puttedy chuff, I fell in love.  Being a family is mostly making things up as you go.  There are very few moments you feel you're getting it right, while they're happening.  That was one.

Also, when it comes to matters of the heart, Becky is my Otis and I am her calf.  In fact, when Loren Long scheduled appearances at Books & Books Bal Harbour and Coral Gables, I wanted to ask for the calf to go with her tractor.  It would have represented her saving me, us as a couple, and the father I became when she brought Dylan into my life.

But I didn't ask, so we'll have to come with another couple tattoo.

You know how this thing with Becky's arm works, right?

First comes the drawing.

While Mo Willems scribbled the Pigeon in about twenty seconds ("The thing is to capture the energy!"), Loren Long was meticulous.  He stopped several times.  He'd stand, step back, stare, erase, and start again.  "I wasn't this nervous for President Obama," he said.

Then comes the tattooing.

Dicky Magoo of Tattoos by Lou (seriously) loves the challenge of replicating other artist's work, trying to get the same effects in tattoo as they did in whatever medium they originally used.  He did Becky's first illustrator tattoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and returned to the scene of the ink for Otis.

Side Note: That last link is to the Los Angeles Review of Books, where Lisa Jane Persky writes, "Becky Quiroga’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” drawn on her arm by Eric Carle himself, is a piece of body art that soccer moms from Sandusky to Timbuktu would find it [SIC] hard to disapprove of."  But people see what they want.  The more ink Becky gets, the more strangers are wary of the badass tattooed chick.  Few look closely enough to see that they're pictures from children's books.

So it's a tattoo artist's rendering of an illustrator's actual drawing on Becky's arm, get it?  Stop saying, "I guess you'll never wash that arm again."

Becky was able to get Otis between Loren Long's first and second appearances, so he was able to see the finished product.
Pictured: Natural behavior.
Long was soooo nice.  He's the type of nice guy who's so nice that I walk away thinking, "Why can't I be more like him?"  Most people who meet me immediately think I'm an asshole.  Which is 1) not far off 2) why hand-selling books is difficult for me.  So this asshole thinks I should buy "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet;" whoop-dee-freaking-whoo.

The Otis tattoo made Shelf Awareness as well, on September 19th.  Yes, that's how topical I am.  More to the point, that's what Miami Book Fair International 2011 did to me.  It took over all three of my lives, the internet one, the writing one, and the breathing one.

With the presidential credentials on her forearm, can Maurice Sendak's Max be far behind?  Are you listening, Mr. Sendak?  Say the word and we're Connecticut bound.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five People I Hate (and How They Make a Living in Today's Economy)

5: People who say "I like the one where Ross and Rachel argue" when Friends comes up.

Or "I like when he meets that one girl" when someone mentions How I Met Your Mother, or "I like the episode when they sing" if someone says they love Glee.  I get it, har-har, every episode is interchangeable and they're pablum.  You only watch Breaking Bad and The Wire, or The Office when you're in the mood for a chuckle (the British version, of course).   

These phrases are so self-consciously witty and glib, so wanna-be sophisticated.  This is a person who wishes they could get more enjoyment out of life, a person bitter that they can't escape the prison of their harsh judgements and who must therefore piss on the things others enjoy.  They either become critics or waiters at TGI Friday's.

Fuck these people.  And while we're at it, fuck...

4: People Who Think Out Loud

Because I usually don't know how I feel about something until I write about it, I'm automatically prejudiced against folks whose minds work this way.  Even if you don't process the world by writing about it, I think we can all agree that being used as someone's sounding board is... exactly as fun as that phrase sounds.  I talk to myself but I'm not cruel enough to expect people to listen (unless you count Sweet).

Professionally, there is nothing more annoying than co-workers who have no idea what kind of help they want but who somehow have all morning to slather you with blather about it.  They say things like, "I got this paperwork with your clearly detailed notes on what I need to do with it but I just wanted to be sure..." or "I just sent you an email but I thought I should call..."  Needing help is one thing; keeping me trapped while I get a terrifying window into your thought process is something else.

Outside the workplace, there are few things as beneficial as a friend who's willing to listen to your problems.  But to people whose every thought and emotion needs to be verbalized before they can make sense of it, and who think nothing of spewing forty-minute monologues over coffee or beer, there's a word for the kind of friend you're looking for: a psychiatrist.  

Unfortunately, if you work with these people, you probably work for these people.  Parcelling out when their outer-inner monologue suddenly requires a response from you is the unwritten part of your job.

If they aren't your boss, chances are they work part-time, freeing more hours in their day for jabber.

3: People Who Don't Know How to Act in Parking Lots

When I lived in Syracuse and Virginia, this niggling annoyance centered around shopping carts - when you're finished with your shopping cart, you bring it back to the store.  It's just good manners; you took it out so you put it back.  But living in Miami, poor parking lot etiquette has become a full-blown pet peeve.

Miami is series of neighborhoods joined by population growth rather than urban planning, so cute little lots which should accommodate the attached buildings have become slices of hell where drivers are doomed to circle forever.  To compound the problem, every lot here seems to have been designed by the same dude: Stuffspace McCrammer.

McCrammer saw the hairs on his chin and thought, "I can do this with cars!"
McCrammer's mission is to fit as many spaces as possible into every lot he designs, making spaces so narrow and corners so close that matchbox cars couldn't fit in them.  Keep him in mind while I list these problem people.

Lazy fuckers leaving carts wherever they please?  We got em in droves.  Fucktards who don't pull in all the way and turn the aisles into obstacle courses?  Got those, too.  Dumbasses who miss the space and accidentally take up more than one?  We could fill a stadium.  These are clueless assholes barely paying attention to life.  We forgive them, for the most part, because they know not what's going on while they're on their cell phones.  We don't forgive the domino effect one person parking like this creates.

Also, some winners dump trash in parking lots.  What better place to dispose of that old diaper, or the packages on the toys you just purchased, or the doggie bag you thought better of taking home?  Go ahead and drop it right outside your door and drive away fast, because once one person sees trash in the middle of the concrete, another one thinks, "Oh, so that's where this empty soda bottle / cigarette pack / fast food container goes."  Then the fast food container fucks the dirty diaper to make trash babies, and you can't pull into the space without 1) overlapping the space on the other side, or 2) double-parking, getting out, and removing the offending pile.

We don't forgive litterbugs.
Then there's people who say "fuck it" and double park their car where it lies.  What the hell is up with that, anyway?  "I've looked long enough.  I'm stopping the car right here, right now, and the world can deal with it."  That's a kind of psychosis, isn't it?

And luxury car drivers.  You're really something, aren't you?  Your car is too nice to risk the narrow confines of the parking lot, so you deliberately park your Jaguar / Lexus / Mercedes at an angle?  Not only are you so much better than me with your money wheels, I'm not even good enough to park alongside you.  Fuck right off.

The deliberate angle parker is a successful business person or the housewife / househusband of a successful business person.  Their bank accounts are full but they are living at the very edge of their means.  The only difference between them and the working poor is that the business person stands to lose more stuff if their job gets downsized.  Hence, the angle park.  It says, "Check out the lovely vehicle I can afford, but don't cause any damage because I can't afford to get it fixed.  You see, Johnson is gunning hard for my job and if I took a half day to bring the BMW to the garage, I know he'd make jokes with the boss behind my back while I was gone.  He'd be all, 'Where's Bob hiding out these days? Heh-heh' and the boss would laugh, but inside he'd be wondering."  Or words to that effect.  The house husband / housewife is so overwhelmed with keeping this stressful endeavor of a marriage afloat that they need to stop the car before they burst into tears.

If you are one of the "fuck it I'll stop the car anywhere I want and call it parking" service people bringing the angle-parker his lunch, please keep their sad lives in mind before you make it a sneezer.  Sure, they're assholes, but they're people too.  And who are you to judge with your issues, throwing the car into park at the last second so your head doesn't explode from anger?  Get a grip.

In addition to servers, business people, and housewives, "fuck-its" can also be Post Office workers, lawyers, or athletes.

Dumbasses and litterbugs come from all walks of life.

2: People Who Text While Driving

Having a death wish is one thing.  Take up sky diving, mountain climbing, or any other activity where the gun is pointed at your head and no one else's.  The text-driver thinks he's just living his life, but subconsciously he's no different than the pyscho who brings a gun to a public place and shoots a bunch of people before killing himself (or committing suicide by cop).  The text-driver isn't happy putting his own life in danger, he's got to go out in a miraculous blaze that takes as many with him as possible.  

While waiting to cross the street, I used to count how many passing drivers were on cell phones for fun.  Now, I look for people with their phones in the text position.  It's amazing how many people think they can get away with this.  Take your eyes off the road for one second in the city and you've travelled 44 feet.  More likely you're only doing fractions of second, but a lot can happen in a few feet.  And people do it all the time and think nothing will go wrong.

Why aren't cops and legislators working on this?  Because they're too busy busting people for photography?  If waving loaded guns around in crowded places suddenly became a thing, I think cops would react.  Is texting while driving not equally dangerous and irresponsible?  I guess they get a pass on the rarely invoked "everyone does it" rule.

By that rationale, it's okay to listen to this.
Some driving texters are over-scheduled moms.  They have a job teaching or instructing aerobics but they're also shouldering an unfair portion of the child rearing.  They started out trying to be hip by communicating via text to the young people in their lives and it all just kind of snowballed.  We pity their  struggle, but it will be tough for her to bond with her children when she's dead.  Ditto whoever she mows over.

The other texting drivers are high school and college students.  As we all know, God is making an exception for them and they'll live forever.  

1: Jeff Bezos

Jeff... fucking... Bezos

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Book World Just Got a Lot Less Interesting

George Whitman with daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman

If you didn't recognize it, the background photograph of SwF&F is a picture Becky took when she visited Shakespeare and Company in Paris.  Unfortunately, owner George Whitman died yesterday. 

Read his obiturary in the New York Times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

South Florida's Flash Fiction Contest

The Miami Herald had this contest and I didn't even rate, proving once again that I need to work for the things I want rather than hastily pushing something together and hoping it works.

On the bright side, the Grand Prize Winner is really, really good:

NAME: Roxanna Elden
TITLE: Bright Blue Day (Fiction)
Some days in Florida are so bright the world looks like a flashback scene in a movie. Everything gets bleached this shimmery, champagne color, and people are so busy squinting out the extra light that some of the important stuff gets blocked out, too.
I met Rey on a day like that.
All I could look at were his hands. The veins on them popped out in a way that reminded me of worms. I couldn't decide if it grossed me out or turned me on - but I think that's how I work. I get used to men's most obvious flaws. Then I focus on the little things until it drives me crazy. Rey's most obvious flaw was that he was nearly twice my age. And married. His hands really bothered me, though. But if he was reaching up for some reason - like if he was getting a beer out of the freezer, they just looked kind of strong.
It was a moment like that when I realized I wanted him to be mine. It was the day after our first night in his truck, which I felt bad about, but saying no to Rey kind of scared me. He dropped me off, and said, "Princess, I'd walk you to the door, but we both know your daddy would kill me. Why don't you come by and see me tomorrow, if you're around."
I spent the day figuring out how to walk the mile and a half to his house and still pretend I was just in the neighborhood. When I got there, he was pushing a wire hanger through the top of his garage door, and it hit me, like the harsh white light of the Florida sun: This is a man who can fix things. He can fix my life.

It's easier to lose to something better than you offered.