Monday, October 26, 2009

Koko and the Gladiator

This over-served gladiator, too sauced to completely fathom his surroundings, conceded defeat to the demon rum and took a much-deserved rest next to the popcorn machine at the Rex Bar in Duluth this weekend. Sensing his loneliness, Koko gamely joined the down-on-his-luck gladiator in protecting the vat of salty bar snacks against hordes of superheroes and sexy maids hellbent on eating the fiber-rich puffs of corn. Koko's presence clearly uplifted the gladiator's dampened spirits, if only for the second the photo was snapped.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Superheroes Wear Fanny Packs

Like Toto the dog pulling the curtain aside and revealing that the great and powerful leader of Oz was nothing more than an ordinary man, this dude dressed as a superhero at the bar in Duluth last night revealed too much when he turned around and showed the embarrassing fanny pack he was sporting.

Superheroes don't wear fanny packs, man.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Lucky Ones

I think about the sulfur miners of Indonesia, a lot. They cross my mind almost every day. I think about them when I'm feeling good about life and even more so when I'm feeling bad.

The sulfur miners spend long days hacking off chunks of sulfur using heavy steel bars, inhaling dangerous gases as they do so, then they hand carry baskets of their work, weighing between 100 and 200 pounds, uphill several kilometers. At their destination they sell the sulfur for a couple of dollars and then make the trek back down to do it all again, maybe even two more times in the same day. Then they do it again the next day and the next. They have to hope to save up as much money as they can because, as you can imagine, this is not a job that can continue into old age and other opportunities for income in this part of Indonesia are hard to come by. These guys are actually the lucky ones. They're lucky.

It's too much to think about.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bean Curd Love

After the overindulgence of fish & chips last night (an overindulgence I would gladly repeat anytime!), as well as a morning spent baking pita bread and jalapeno-cheddar scones, dinner was going to have to be a little lighter. Enter a dish I saw made on a great PBS show last weekend called Gourmet: Diary of a Foodie, prepared by Ruth Reichl herself. It's a fascinating program that showcases food from all corners of the globe and I hope it won't go away like the magazine with which it shares its good name.

After the show last week I ran right out to United Noodles and purchased a good quality soy sauce and some organic tofu, and for some other use a banana sauce from the Philippines (can't say I'm in love with it yet) and various other Asian delights. I've had a difficult time finding soft tofu that isn't silken, which the recipe requires, I'm hoping my search in the future won't be as difficult. They don't even have it at my local co-op and those folks are supposed to live for tofu! I was very excited to make this simple dinner and invited my mom over to enjoy it as she is a real lover of the bean curd. It was, in a word, wonderful. Spicy and complex, yet so easy to make that it could easily be thrown together on a work night. I couldn't find the Korean hot red pepper flakes the recipe calls for so I substituted a lesser amount of regular red pepper flakes and cannot complain. If you are interested in giving it a try, check it out and prepare to fall in love:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ireland By Way of Northeast

I finally tried the new Anchor Fish & Chips chipper shop in my hometown of Northeast Minneapolis and I am happy to report that it is awesome. From the outside signs, lovingly painted by my pals Faith and Eric, to the indoor decor, dark and warm and cozy, The Anchor is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. My friend Koko and I enjoyed the fish and chips under the gorgeous tin ceiling, marveling at how the tiny, open shop didn't smell the least bit of fried food, the mainstay of the restaurant. Served with your choice of vinegar (but not the malt variety, I guess that's not truly Irish) or a deliciously rich tartar sauce made in house, the fish is an enormous slab of Wild Alaskan Cod hand dipped in batter just before serving and deep fried to a lovely golden brown hue. The chips are hand cut, thick and substantial, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. We didn't try anything else on the menu, like the pastie or the shepherds pie or the curry chips – a pint of Harp was enough this time – but there's always tomorrow. Having heard about the crowds we wisely arrived tonight for an early dinner and by the time we left about an hour later, there was a line at the door. I'm sure the the hopeful diners found it was worth the wait.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October Snow

If you've been giving serious thought to uprooting the family from your sunny southern California digs for the family-friendly, Minnesota-nice plains of the Twin Cities, you might want to consider that we're in the middle of receiving two to three inches of snow today. It's early October. It's snowing. I'm suicidal.

While I can't deny that it's beautiful outside with a clean white layer of snow everywhere, my snow crab trees didn't even get a chance to shed their leaves and dry their berries before the snow settled on their tender branches. Sigh.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Fetid Pile of Dung

I don't write movie reviews and I'm not about to break that rule, but I must warn all of humanity to avoid the movie Couples Retreat like the fetid pile of dung that it is. Avoid it, run from it, and don't look back. It's the rare film with such great leads (Vince Vaughn, hilarious in Swingers; Jon Favreau, a gem in Elf; Jason Bateman, my hero in Arrested Development; and Faison Love, my chubby sweetie in Blue Crush - the last a guilty pleasure of a movie that proves I'm not a movie snob) that delivers no laughs. Not one. Maybe the essence of a hint of a light giggle once or twice, but nothing more, and I'm only saying that to be kind because of my deep and yearning attraction to Vince Vaughn. Kristin Davis from Sex and the City must have practiced her "excited at the thought of sex with a stranger" face in the mirror quite a bit in preparation for this, because it was all she was allowed to do, over and over and over again, in this disaster called Couples Retreat. Vaughn and Favreau, the writers, clearly phoned this one in as a reason to film in Bora Bora and while I can't say I would never do the same, I wouldn't be proud of it. They owe me five dollars.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thank You!

Just dropping a quick note to thank everyone for expressing concern for my big fat guy, Hakeem. It seems the worst is over and he's on the mend, I'm thrilled to report. I was so happy tonight when I opened the front door and there he was, in the way, greeting me as I stepped inside. Just like it was before this whole sick business started. He's still not eating as much as he probably should, but considering what he's been through, that's pretty normal. People always gasp when I tell them this, but he used to eat two to three tuna can-sized containers of cat food per day. By their responses, it seems this is equivalent to that guy who has a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon and a loaf of bread for breakfast, six burgers and six fries with four liters of pop for lunch, and two pot roasts for dinner. But all I can say is that I tried to keep it to two cans per day, but in six hundred and eighty-nine square feet of space, there was nowhere for me to run when his hunger hit and he insisted I had to know about it in the middle of the night. So perhaps once he's back at a hundred percent, he'll be accustomed to taking in a smaller amount of food on a daily basis and this whole awful episode will end up having been a boon for my boy.

Either way, I really appreciate everyone's positive thoughts for my buddy. I'm lucky to have him and lucky to have you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Weighty Subject

My boy Hakeem doesn't like going to the vet for myriad reasons, not the least of which is his reluctance to get on the scale. Even in his sickness last night he cowered in his beloved basket, keeping his distance from the hated beast that spits out with brutal honesty his size defined as a stupid number. I think we can all relate.

He appears to be feeling better today, but still somewhat low energy and lacking appetite. I shall be plying him with a variety of canned meat products purchased today at PetSmart, in order to find that magic that will seduce him. If those don't entice, it's going to be real meat. Anything to keep him from going back to that horrible place with the evil scale. (As always, click on photo for a close-up shot).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beat Down and Squinky-Eyed

Hakeem made his third visit to the vet in one week tonight, this time to address his squinky eye, lethargy and lack of appetite. I thought for sure he had contracted pink eye from one of his visits there, and he's been unable to keep the eye open for any length of time for two days straight. So, in addition to injecting him in the back fat with a syringe full of antacids, I've also been wiping his weepy eye. Turns out injecting a pudgy kitty is not that difficult, he doesn't even flinch. I flinch more than he does. But after a weekend of watching him barely move, barely eat, and barely open his right eye, it was time to go back to the doctor.

Today while I was at work, my dad stopped over to see how Hakeem was doing and reported that he still looked beat down and squinky-eyed. I stopped home during lunch and he was the same, and remained so when I got home from work. My mom came over to go with us to the vet and she noticed it first that he seemed to be a little perkier. Not a lot, but a little. And his eye, miraculously, so gummy and sad for two days, was suddenly just fine. Upon walking into the vet hospital, my little fighter came back, hissing and spitting like the kitty I know and love. The doctor could see nothing wrong with his eye, though I hope he believes me that it was bad. I, of course, felt like I was totally making it up about his eye! But the doc was ultimately concerned about the lethargy and lack of appetite so he prescribed Hakeem, if you can believe it, an appetite stimulant. I never would have believed in a thousand years that my boy would need an appetite stimulant, but apparently it's dangerous for a big kitty to suddenly eat so little, so we need to normalize his calorie intake. So tonight I gave him his last shot and now he starts with the appetite stimulant.

And I swear to you it's true, about one minute after Hakeem got home, his right eye went squinky again. I think he was faking it at the hospital so the doctor would leave him alone.

It's a Awesome Treat!

If you've got a crazy thirst for frozen flavored milk drinks and bad grammar, go no further than the McDonald's on West Broadway in North Minneapolis. It's one stop shopping for both.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Had a Worse Day

Just when I thought that Hakeem was getting better, watching him jump into the tub and onto furniture with ease, this morning he wouldn't eat. I didn't worry too much, as unusual as this occurrence obviously is for such a portly feline, because it's been a rough week and he still has the pain patch on. But then when he walked out of the bedroom with dark blood covering his chest and mouth, I worried. I thought that his gums were bleeding from the extractions so I immediately called the vet who advised me to bring him in right away. When I went into the bedroom to get dressed, I saw that it wasn't his gums that were bleeding. He had thrown up a stomach full of black blood all over the carpet and my new pants, which he had been sleeping on. It looked like a mini-crime scene. Of course, the condition of my stuff wasn't my immediate concern, I just needed to get my boy to the doctor, fast.

I tucked him into his favorite purple laundry basket lined with an old flannel sheet and draped an old towel over the top to carry him in. I knew he wasn't feeling well in the car because usually he's quite vocal, letting me know for the whole ride that he would prefer not to be in a moving vehicle. Today he hardly lifted his head for the entire drive. At the vet's office, with the smells and barking and all, he did come to life a little to protest, but nothing like when he's feeling good and sassy. While I waited for an exam room to become available, a couple came in carrying an obviously old cat with a crooked jaw. The kitty didn't even need a carrier, it wasn't feeling good enough to make a run for it. The old couple asked about Hakeem and told me about their 19-year-old buddy who was no longer eating. It had developed a tumor on its face that was pushing its jaw aside unnaturally. The man, who looked to be in his late 70s, said that since the cat had taken ill he had placed two sleeping bags on the floor and put a heating pad under one of them. He slept on one of the bags and the cat slept next to him on top of the heating pad. I felt so bad for the cute couple, worried that they weren't going to go home with their cat. They were so nice, telling me how gorgeous Hakeem was and saying they could tell how much he loved me by the way he looked for me when I stepped away from his basket. As if I wasn't emotional enough over the panicky situation, they were killing me.

The vet tech told me Hakeem could go into the exam room so I hoisted the heavy laundry basket into the little parlor and onto the stainless steel table. Hakeem protested, but only a little. However, he protested a little more (okay, a lot more) vigorously when the doctor came in and took his temperature rectally. Not surprisingly, you're never too ill to hate that. I took this photo of Hakeem snoozing in his basket at the office because I'd never seen him so calm there. That's how bad he felt. Thankfully, the doctor removed Hakeem's pain patch so that I didn't have to do it tomorrow as scheduled. That was another ordeal that Hakeem didn't care for much and let he let the vet know. The doctor poured over the medical records but could find no reason for him to have all that blood in his belly except that possibly he had swallowed it post-surgically from the mouth wound. But to be safe, he gave him an injection of a medication that would decrease the acidity in his poor little stomach, and he also gave me six more syringes so I can give Hakeem more injections over the next few days. I've never done this, but he showed me how and said that Hakeem's extra fat makes giving him a shot much easier. It's nice when being fat works in your favor, but I'm still not looking forward to it. The vet also gave me his pager number and told me to call him if anything else happens over the weekend and he'll be available, or else to call him on Monday to give him an update on Hakeem's condition.

When I returned to the lobby with Hakeem in his basket to pay the bill, the receptionist looked at Hakeem's record and mentioned that it looked like he had a better day today than Tuesday. Turns out Hakeem has a recorded reputation of not being a nice kitty when he visits the vet! The old couple was still there with their sick kitty, waiting. Even though they hadn't been seen yet, they asked how Hakeem was and repeated what a nice kitty he was and how much he obviously loved me. They were so nice because they were obviously in pain over the condition of their beloved pet but they just inquired about me, assuring me that my kitty was going to be okay. I sure hope their little guy is okay.

Hakeem is home now, sleeping soundly on the well-covered couch, just in case of further incidents. He has been eating a little but he's definitely worn down. My mom and dad came over earlier and my mom scrubbed the blood stains out of my carpet while my dad went to Surdyk's to buy some cheese. Typical. Thankfully, my mom knows how to handle some pretty serious cleaning issues and isn't afraid to help out. I got the blood stains out of my cargo pants with the help of my friend Shout. I'm just keeping my eye on the kitty, hoping there won't be a repeat of the horrors of this morning and dreading giving him his injection in a couple of hours. But mostly I'm just glad we're home.