Archive for the ‘Bad news’ Category

Bugged

March 11, 2020

Hel-lo, sailor!

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, what in the actual fuck?

R.I.P., Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein

March 6, 2020

His Excellency has gone west.

Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment), stood his final watch yesterday.

The old soldier was stricken suddenly and definitively, but the medics did their best to keep him here with us. In the end, we chose to let him go, and a fine strong wind arose in the evening to bear his spirit west.

The young Turk, playing with his absurdly huge, pink, bunny feet.

The Turk came to us in the traditional manner (“Hey, want a kitten?”), but with a twist. We’d only ever had girl cats, and back in April 2007, we simply assumed he was a she. Nope. The difference manifested itself in late May.

And he proved a wild boy. Rubber bands, paper bags, cardboard boxes, computer keyboards and the legs leading upward to them … nothing and no one was safe from Mighty Whitey, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg.

This included our other cat, Ike, a.k.a. Chairman Meow, who was not exactly overjoyed to find The Great Leap Forward shaking the foundations of her People’s Republic of Oz.

Ike had come up the hard way, from the mean streets of Wetmore, Colorado, to the wilds of Weirdcliffe, where she survived a coyote attack that left her looking like she’d been shot at and hit, and then shit at and hit again. Life in Bibleburg was easy-breezy. All the predators worked for the government. Surely she could survive this latest assault on her person and dignity.

But in addition to her battle scars, Ike also had an enlarged heart we didn’t know about, and it abruptly did for her in October 2007, when the Turk was just eight months old.

“I hope we never die.”

In our grief, we immediately acquired another cat. Miss Mia Sopaipilla came complete with her own medical history (feline upper-respiratory disorder), but once she’d beaten that back we were all one big, happy family.

People without children probably attach outsized importance to their pets. As a teenager I used to enjoy a good heehaw at a neighbor couple who referred to their portly dachshund as their “child.” But I came to appreciate their perspective over the years spent with my own animals. Jojo, Fuerte, Bandit, Ike, Tina, Turk, Mia, and Mister Boo weren’t blood kin, but they damn sure were family.

It was funny. I chose Mia from the congregation of cats at the shelter, but Mia selected Herself as her personal servant. Herself brought Turkish home, but he attached himself to me, probably because I was the dude with the lap who was home all the time, knew where the cat food was, and could operate doorknobs.

Before Turkish came along, I’d never seen a cat like him, and suddenly I was seeing two of him.

Because the Turk’s outsized personality could not be contained by four walls and a roof. And so he was an inside-outside cat for a while. He climbed apple, apricot and maple trees, earning a new moniker (“The Rare and Wonderful Albino Tree Weasel”); scaled the garage to strike a Peter O’Tooleish “Lion in Winter” pose; and even brought home a dopplegänger once. Swear to God, the two cats were identical save for the eyes. Turk’s were a striking blue that made Paul Newman’s peepers look like pissholes in a snowbank.

His vertical leap was marvelous, so much so that a neighbor had to relocate her bird feeder because despite the tall fence separating our yards, it had suddenly become a cat feeder. Whoever said “white guys can’t jump” never saw the Turk grabbing some sky.

But after the big fella came home with an expensive war wound, that was the end of that. He and Mia still went out, but only on harnesses, and under strict supervision.

All I ask is a tall sink and a window to steer her by.

That was OK, kinda, sorta. The house in Bibleburg had a ton of windows, and Turk came to appreciate a relaxing sprawl on the back of the couch, or atop my drawing board, where he could keep an eye on the street.

The long kitchen window was another favorite spot; from there, he could spy on the neighbors, Marv and Judy, and enjoy an occasional drink from the faucet, his favorite source of refreshment. Now and then he’d simply curl up in the sink. Turkish Vans are famous leapers and swimmers, and ours certainly had the family affinity for both.

Turkish working on his tan

Once the Turk was no longer at liberty to roam as he pleased, he settled for watching what we called DoorVision®.

The downside of becoming an indoor cat? Weight gain. His Anatolian ancestors may have been champion open-water swimmers and high jumpers, but our big, big boy developed into an all-American couch potato. It was a struggle to keep him under 15 pounds (Mia, a smaller, more active cat, weighs 11).

When we moved to the Duke City in 2014, the big galoot started giving hints that he would not be what Herself calls “a 20-year-cat.”

He developed arthritis and some muscle loss in his once-powerful hindquarters, which made it tough for him to get to his beloved sinks and windows. Happily, his new digs had two sets of sliding glass doors, so he could still inspect the perimeter from ground level.

Chronic constipation reared its ugly head, but was brought under control with a light dose of stool softener. Then, like Mister Boo before him, Turkish developed bladder stones, which happily required only a change in diet rather than surgery.

Also like The Boo, The Turk had a profound lack of faith in the medical-industrial complex. And he was not shy about airing his opinions on the topic. One was inclined to pay close attention to these diatribes, because a pissed-off 15-pound cat with teeth like a young Dracula and paws like tennis balls studded with X-acto knives is not something you want to turn your back on.

Waiting for a snuggle.

If the Turk occasionally got a cursory once-over during a regular checkup, it was because the vet didn’t want to have him sedated by a robot orderly just to be able to sneak into the exam room. Also, it’s hard to practice medicine in body armor.

It’s a pity that his doctors never got to see his softer side. True, the voices in his head were not all friendlies; more than a few of them came from outside the wire. And he had been known to actually bite the hand that fed him.

But he relished a short snuggle in the bed nearly every morning and evening. And he loved performing his dance cycle, The Roll of the Happy Cat, on some sunny spot on the brick pavers.

So why should yesterday have been any different? But it was.

The day began with rolls and happy cat and breakfast and ended with an injection in emergency care, after an operation to remove an unidentified mass from the Turk’s spleen. It had ruptured. There was internal bleeding. Kidney failure. Part of his pancreas had to go, too. He crashed three times, the last time as we discussed heroic measures and likely outcomes. Brain damage. Cancer. Diabetes. Dialysis. Pancreatitis.

We said, “Enough.” We said our goodbyes. And we went home without my friend, my comrade, my big, big boy.

In the night, I went to a place where the Turk lounges in a backyard tree, drinks from a faucet, and performs the Roll of the Happy Cat in a perpetually sunny spot. The breakfasts are large and endless and nobody gets fat. Snuggles come with.

But they wouldn’t let me stay. And I woke up crying.

Foot, loose

February 23, 2020

They didn’t have any Reynolds 853 crutches with cup holders.

So there I was, JRA (Just Running Along), when my right ankle folded up like a cheap umbrella, only with an ominous crunch that said, “Try walking this one off, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”

I’m no stranger to sprained ankles. Don’t know why. A rolled ankle is just one of those deals that keeps coming around, like acid flashbacks or “Golden Girls” reruns.

But usually I walk that shit off.

Not this time.

Oh, I had to walk, all right. I never run with a phone. And even if I did, Herself was in Florida, so who was I gonna call to come get me? Batman? I never run with a Bat-Signal either.

So I hobbled home, wrapped the ankle up like a fat burrito, and drove to the neighborhood urgent-care outfit for an X-ray, expecting the usual RICE advice with a sizable bill attached to lend it some authority.

Not this time. Sumbitch ain’t sprained. It’s busted.

So I drove home with a removable ankle stirrup, a list of orthopods, and the obligatory pair of aluminum crutches.

And can you believe it? Crutches still don’t come with cup holders. I had to fabricate that sucker myself with a big assist from King Cage and the USB (Universal Support Bolt).

R.I.P., Charles Portis

February 17, 2020

“The Dog of the South,” by Charles Portis.

One of our best and perhaps least known writers, Charles Portis, has gone west. He was 86.

You may recall the name from “True Grit,” which was made into two movies (John Wayne and Jeff Bridges).

But the former New York Herald Tribune reporter also wrote “The Dog of the South,” about a former copy editor who pursues his wife, his Amex card, and her first husband with his chow dog, to Mexico. Being familiar with copy editing, the relentless vindictiveness of American Express, and chow dogs, this naturally spoke to me.

There was also “Norwood,” about an itinerant ex-jarhead trying to collect a debt; “Gringos,” featuring the search for a lost Mayan city; and “Masters of Atlantis,” about a cult based on the “secret wisdom” of that place.

His books were filled with screwballs, dingbats, and scammers, and his use of language was superb, particularly in “True Grit.” At times I wonder whether Thomas McGuane might have absorbed a bit of his style.

And yet hardly anyone knows him, or his work. He guarded his privacy, but the Alzheimer’s stole his wit.

A final bit of strangeness: Roy Reed, the reporter who wrote Portis’ obit for The New York Times, is himself dead. Another, Steve Barnes, handled the finishing touches.

The Monitor in the Merrimack

February 11, 2020

C’mon. When you’re staring at this much screen you want a box of popcorn, a big ol’ soda, and a preview of coming attractions that does not include the honking 18-wheeler into whose lane you have strayed.

I have an ironclad disagreement with the notion of a multiplex in motion.

My argument is a simple one: If you want to drive, get an automobile. If you want to text, tweet, phone, Facebook, Instagram, eat, drink, smoke, shoot, or stream anything other than your own bad self down the road, why, get a sofa and some fixed location to put it in.

Our discussion of the Escalade Multiplex with its 38 inches of curving OLED real estate caused me to remember an earlier screed on this very topic, from the pages of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News circa 2014. For a change I cited sources other than the voices in my head, though of course they too were interviewed at length.

Rather than simply reprint the column — c’est ennuyeux! — I barked it into the old Shure SM58 and presto! Yes, yes, yes, out popped another episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

Too late for this year’s Pulitzer for Audio Reporting, but hey, there’s always next year, amirite? Or maybe 2024, when the sonofabitch will be 10 years old and journalistic standards may have declined even further, perhaps to my level.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder, then edited in Apple’s GarageBand on the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. Post-production voodoo by Auphonic. The background music is “Well Oiled Machine” from Zapsplat. Sound effects from Apple’s iMovie effects bin and Your Humble Narrator.

Orange Julius Caesar killed Spartacus

February 5, 2020

Can we impeach the sonofabitch again?
This time for homicide?

He did it by giving that bloated scumbag Flush Limburger the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the same honor Kirk Douglas received from Jimmy Carter.

Douglas died today at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 103.

Interesting notes: He made his bones with “Champion,” based on a Ring Lardner story of the same name. And his favorite movie apparently was “Lonely Are the Brave,” which was based on an Ed Abbey novel, “The Brave Cowboy.” I had no idea that was his fave; I certainly liked both stories, the way I like all Lardner and Abbey stories.

And I loved me some Kirk Douglas movies.

Today, we are all Spartacus. Except for, well, you know. That guy.

 

R.I.P., Dirt Rag

January 30, 2020

Ah, Dirt Rag, we hardly knew ye.

Well, this sucks.

Dirt Rag has been in the bicycle-journalism racket exactly as long as I have. We both rolled around in 1989, though I was mostly on a road bike.

American Cyclery is getting a seismic refit and, eventually, it is to be hoped, a new owner.

I never thought of myself as a mountain biker. And Dirt Rag was never just a mountain-bike mag. Maurice Tierney and the gang were into art and culture and all manner of good shit. Did you know Mo is a deejay at KALX, 90.7 FM in Berserkly? True fact.

Also, this:

The oldest bike shop in San Francisco is on the block. American Cyclery built my Soma Saga Disc for me, and they did a stellar job. I haven’t had to do jack shit to that bike except ride it and fix an occasional flat.

I thought Friday was the day when all the bad news dropped. Trust the bike biz to get it wrong.

 

R.I.P., William Greider

December 29, 2019

William Greider went west on Christmas. He was 83.

His résumé was impressive, and eclectic. The Washington Post. Rolling Stone. The Nation. He found out where the bodies were buried, and he dug them up.

He worked with Hunter S. Thompson, and spoke kindly of him when the gonzo chieftain passed. And The Nation‘s John Nichols did likewise for Greider, noting:

I knew Bill as a quick-witted comrade in the press corps of too many campaigns to count, a generous mentor, an ideological compatriot, and an occasional co-conspirator. He taught me to see politics not as the game that TV pundits discuss but as a high-stakes struggle for power in which the Democrats foolishly, and then dangerously, yielded far too much ground to increasingly right-wing Republicans. … He wrote truthfully, boldly, consistently, without fear or favor, and without the empty partisanships of these awkward times. He was our North Star.

R.I.P., Larry Heinemann

December 17, 2019

My old paperback copy of “Close Quarters” has taken a beating from reading and re-reading.

Goddamn, this is turning out to be an ugly day.

Larry Heinemann, who was the surprise winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 1987, died Dec. 11 in Texas. He was 75.

Heinemann won the award for “Paco’s Story,” but I read his 1977 novel “Close Quarters” first, and it is one of the best Vietnam War stories out there. Not a pretty story, but it was not a pretty war. None of them is. It was one of the books that made me glad I missed the party.

He did his year in an infantry battalion, then came home, went to school, and started writing.

“I was not one of those guys who got home and went to their room and shut up,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1988. “I know guys who the war’s been eating up for 20 years. Anybody who asked me about it, I told them. I shot my mouth off about everything — the whorehouses, the endless hatred, the ugliness, the real work of the war. It took two to three years of talking to get the story out.”

Heinemann got more of the story out later, in a memoir, “Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam.” His hometown paper wrote about it, and him, even including an excerpt.

Upon his return from Vietnam, he wrote:

I felt joyless and old, physically and spiritually exhausted, mean and grateful and uncommonly sad; relieved as if a stone had been lifted from my heart and radicalized beyond my own severely thinned patience: pissed off and ground down by a bottomless grief that I could not right then begin to express.

So, still sore and raw from the war I began writing.

Figures lie, and …

December 1, 2019

Roll the tape.

Ho, ho. It seems the Albuquerque Police Department has copped to a few “inaccuracies” in its crime stats.

As pictures go, this is on a par with Leonardo da Vinci admitting that Mona Lisa was actually a dude, and a car-stealing serial killer to boot.

In a chat with the Urinal, Mayor Tim Keller spake thusly:

“The mirror doesn’t lie and the mirror says violent crime is up, and that’s a huge problem, but it also says that property crime and auto theft are down. I don’t think it’s about people believing one thing or another, I think it’s just what your definition of crime is. And we have always said that crime is the biggest problem in our community and that continues to be the case.”

Boy, I’ll bet he’d like to walk that one back now that it’s limping down the street with a bullet wound, trying to find its stolen car.

The good news: It can take the bus! And for free, too. If you overlook the $133 million startup charge, that is.