Friday, June 29, 2007

I've Been What by the Who, Now?

I've been tagged to do a restaurant list thingie. She's listing all the things she loves about Austin on her one-year anniversary here, and it's no secret that Austinites do love them some eatin' out. It's probably my curmudgeonry, but I'm not so sure about this taggin' business. Smells a little like chain-emails, and I do my best to break the chain whenever the opportunity arises. And it's probably my curmudgeonry and my pathological cheapness, but I'm just not the restaurant whore I'm supposed to be in this town.

I find these three facts about Austin irreconcilable:

1. Austinites love to eat out at heavily-trafficked restaurants during the peak restauranting hours.

2. Austin does not have a robust public transportation system.

3. Heavily-trafficked restaurants in Austin are required by city ordinance to have no parking. Parking lots are absolutely against the Austin restaurant-going credo.

So my restaurant list is probably a disappointment. When I was younger and tried harder to care about being a hep cat, I responded to a particular friend's repeated efforts to get me to come out to Z-Tejas and Shady Grove and Kerby Lane and Trudy's and Magnolia and Mother's and Hyde Park Grille and Chuy's and Katz's at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. He had a similar liking for live music venues at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. At first I tried to smile as I drove around and around the block. But more and more I started grinding my teeth and boiling my stomach acid. I tried to chat and enjoy myself as I waited by the bar, but more and more I resented saying, "WHAT??" through every conversation, and "Excuse me," to the folks who walked into me and spilled my $8 beverage on my shoes. It just didn't seem worth it.

So in proper curmudgeon fashion, I prefer dining out at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday at large, empty, suburban chain restaurants with parking lots. Though I stop just short of Luby's. Usually.

But, to try to participate in the spirit of the thingie with which I was tagged:

1. Hickory Street. I sometimes order off the menu, but usually for me it's like a fresher, higher quality Souper Salad with more variety and $2 draft Shiners. No parking, though.

2. Shady Grove. Hippie Chick Sandwiches, and it has a parking lot. The lot never has any empty spaces in it, though.

3. Kerby Lane. Greek Chicken. Mrs. Rodius and I had a favorite local deli in Everett, MA that had the greatest greek chicken salads we'd ever eaten. When we moved to Austin, we despaired at finding tabouleh, feta, and kalamata olives effectively deployed ever again in this Tex-Mex jungle. The original by 35th Street has no parking. The one on South Lamar is a little better, but now that we're Northies, we've discovered the one on 183 that's got an actual parking lot and even usually has an empty space or two. And draft beer specials, and 24-hour pancakes. But the service hasn't always been attentive. I have to admit, though, that Punk Rock Girl Shaved to Look Like Radiation Accident Refugee is pretty distracting to watch as you wait for your server to never bring you your dessert.

4. Chipotle. I have to agree with MTAMM on this one. I heard something about it being owned by McDonald's or something like that, but I don't care. It's that good. Chango's is a good variation on the theme, and may be more local, I don't know. There's at least two of them. But they've even got jugs of sangria. I tried my best to to like Chango's even more than McPotle, but there isn't one anywhere near where I live. There's one near where I work, but guess what? It doesn't have any parking.

5. Dandelion. Close to where I work, and sporting a unique, light, fresh menu that makes it perfect for workday lunches. Last time I was there, I had the cold, minted pea soup and the veggie sandwich with pesto mayo. Nearly orgasmic, as was everything else I've eaten there. Three down-sides, though: no parking; $12 lunch bill for one person; last time I was there, it was changing owners and becoming Blue Dahlia. Though I have to admit, the Blue Dahlia menu did look intriguing.

So there you go. Sorry, I don't really have anyone to tag. And even if I did, I'm breaking the chain, baby!

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Mrs. Rodius and I officially received our Birthin' Class Diploma last night. Last week, the teacher hung a poster just inside the classroom door. It asked: "What one thing can reduce the likelihood of c-section, decrease the need for pain medication, reduce the use of forceps, vacuums, and other interventions, improve latching on for breastfeeding, and increase a mother's satisfaction with the entire birth experience?" We were encouraged to write our guess on the poster. Some of the guesses were yoga, or emotional support, and one brown-noser wrote, "this class!" They were all good guesses, but not what she was looking for. If I tell you that the teacher is a doula, it's easy to see the answer coming, though: a doula of course!

This week, we entered the classroom to a dry-erase board full of "Resources for More Information on Doulas," so after we spent the first half of our last class discussing c-sections, I was afraid the second half of the evening, after the obligatory pregnant chick pee break, was going to be entirely a hard-sell session. Thankfully, though, she kept the doula marketing to a minimum.

Dutch at sweet juniper! called birthing classes "Fifteen hours of your life you'll never get back." I didn't feel that way about it. I consider myself an educated guy, fairly well-read, and the subject does interest me, so I know a little about it. Even if there wasn't a lot of information in the class that I didn't already know, though, it felt good to talk through it all with someone who was experienced and with a roomful of other people who were just as nervous or more so as we were. I'm usually not a group activity kind of guy, but I enjoyed the feeling of being in it with other people this time.

I did try to get Mrs. Rodius to skip the last half of the last class with me, though. The dry-erase board said we would be doing a "birthing rehearsal." Like I said, I'm not a group activity kind of guy, and the thought of a birthing rehearsal really kind of turned me off, I think for a couple of reasons.

One, performance anxiety. The doula had led the women through breathing and relaxation exercises each week, with a clothespin to pinch the ear to simulate a contraction. Some of the partners really got into their supporting role during these fake contractions, stroking the mother's hair, whispering encouragement to her. I kind of tried to, but I felt self-conscious, and I didn't want to compete for the position of Best Supporting Actor.

Two, how useful an exercise could it really be? Mrs. Rodius and I are both very familiar with the standard relaxation exercises. They're the same body awareness and focused relaxation techniques used in hypnosis and meditation, and we'd both used them throughout our lives. I had first encountered the techniques in the fourth through sixth grades, in a gifted-and-talented program called REACH ("Realizing Excellence in Academic Cognition Heuristically." What does Heuristically mean? Hell if I know...) Once a week, we spent half an hour in a guided breathing and relaxation session. When I think about it now, I can't imagine a public school committing resources to a similar program in elementary education, though it was the one thing about that program that has stuck with me the longest and proven the most useful in my life. In high school, I also played around with self-hypnosis and successfully blew my own mind by actually changing the temperature of my skin, verified by thermometer, by visualizing a heat source near it. So I just didn't think one more session of breathing through fake contractions with a clothespin on her ear would really change things much for Mrs. Rodius.

So I tried to get her to cut class. But she wouldn't do it.

"What about the diploma?" she said.

"What do I need with a birthing class diploma?" I asked. But I should've already known the correct answer:

"Put it in the scrapbook!" she said.

I should've known. She's been planning baby scrapbooks longer than she's been planning for a baby. I think she got her first Little Suzy's Zoo stickers three years ago. So we stuck around, and we graduated. And we've got the document to prove it. Come by our place some time next year, and I'll show you the scrapbook.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Within 50 Feet of a Celebrity

In writing my brush with greatness post yesterday, I wondered: do I have enough of these to justify an entire category? Probably not. I kind of work in show business, though. Sort of. I have a signed photo of Peter, Paul, and Mary on my office wall. And one of Mack Brown. I've heard Peter, or Paul, or one of them, but definitely not Mary, whine to his manager about how hungry he was. On my way into the office in the morning, I once had to stop to let a line of elephants in ahead of me. My nose hairs have been singed by the uniquely horrifying odor of tiger pee. I have seen the naked, tiger-striped animal activists in cages, protesting the exploitation of the real thing. A coworker has a picture of Jon Bon Jovi's bejeaned ass in her digital camera. I said, "Excuse me," to Chuck Norris once. I've seen Vince Young and his entourage holding court in the cafeteria. I've seen Colt McCoy eating by himself in the same cafeteria. I've heard the Dalai Lama speak, and Hillary Clinton.

But the story to which I alluded yesterday is probably my best celebrity moment. And since I wrote an email at the time with which to regale my friends and family, it's the best kind of blog post: one that's already been written. I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was. So without further ado, here is the tale of how I saw a barefoot Matthew McConaughey from a distance. And Jake Gyllenhaal in cowboy boots. Maybe.

It's not like he was playing the bongos in my living room, but this is as close as I ever get to partying with the Hollywood elite:

Big Brother and I tailgated at the Texas-Ohio State game. We staked out a spot on the top of the parking garage on the east side of the stadium, pulled out the cute little propane grill that his wife gave him for the occasion, unfolded our folding chairs, popped open a couple of beers, and commenced to making with the good ol' American fun.

The garage overlooks the soccer stadium, and a large group was partying on the soccer field with a couple of campers and big screen TVs. Just about the time I wondered aloud who you had to be to get to party on the soccer field, another tailgater said, "That's Matthew McConaughey." Sure enough, a barefoot, sweaty, straggly-bearded McConaughey was tossing a football around down there with a handful of other guys.

I didn't have a camera, or even a camera in my cell phone, so I did the next best thing: I called Mrs. Rodius and said, "Guess what I'm doing right now?" She didn't guess, but when I told her, she said if I got close enough to be sure to get his autograph and grab his butt. Fortunately I didn't get that close, though, because I think that might have been embarrassing for both Matt and me.

Before long, a small crowd had gathered along the edge of the garage roof. One mohawked young man suggested that he was going to go down there and tackle him, just to say he did. He went down there with a friend and took some pictures, but he never worked up the nerve for a good tackle. Big Brother and I were disappointed, because we didn't see any security staff around, so we hypothesized that his bodyguards were the regular joes he was throwing the ball around with. Those regular joes would probably be the guys delivering a beating to the mohawk man. We never got to see the hypothesis tested, though.

A young woman in an Ohio State shirt went down, too, and tried to work her way into their game. Matt wasn't throwing it to her, though. Her friends yelled down to her that she'd have more luck if she took her top off, but she wasn't going for it. Instead, she managed to chat a bit with another woman in Matt's party, which Big Brother and I agreed was a good strategy. She never quite wormed her way into his inner circle though, hindered as she was by the Ohio State gear. Matt and I are both loyal Longhorn fans you know, Matt and I are.

So that's my tale of greatness. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? Someone among the spectators said that one of the football-tossers who'd wandered off had been Jake Gyllenhaal, but I don't remember noticing "the guy in the black jeans and cowboy boots," so I can't attest to his authenticity myself.

And then the Longhorns lost. The End.

Hook 'Em!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

International Man of Mystery

I'm happy to report that, much like Hank, I am now an International Man of Mystery. Did I go somewhere exotic and exciting? No, not unless you count Ecology Action, and you might. It does have a sort of otherworldly quality to it. And a somewhat foreign odor.

So no, no exciting travel. But I did correspond today with a minister in the government of the Republic of South Africa. One that was jailed for his involvement with the United Democratic Front and the African National Congress. Exciting, right? His bio also says he used to be a hooker, but that's apparently some sort of rugby term and was in no way a factor in his incarceration.

Not as thrilling as the time I watched Matthew McConaughey and Jake Gyllenhaal throw a football around, but it seems more important somehow. More adult. More sophisticated. I emailed a South African minister today. And snail-mailed him. I hope I addressed the envelope correctly. As an American, it's my patriotic duty to remain completely unaware of how anything is done in nations other than my own.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Girly Man

I'd read something about elevated estrogen levels in men living with pregnant chicks. I just spent the last half-hour sobbing with Mrs. Rodius through the end of Bridge to Terabithia. I can attest to the truth of the rumor.

Fight the Power

Mrs. Rodius and I did our best to buy a car that doesn't have any bells and whistles. No power locks, no power windows, no automatic seat belts. Nothing. We had automatic seat belts on our first car in 1996, and the one on the passenger-side liked to mess with Mrs. Rodius' head: sometimes it would slide back while she was getting in, catching her in the throat. Sometimes it would start to slide foward as she was getting out, but quickly decide to slide back again, catching her in the throat. Sometimes it would waver while she hovered half in and half out of the seat, trying to figure out which way it would go, like they were in a standoff. I told her there was a switch for it on my side, and it was really me trying to strangle her. But it wasn't, it was the car. So we decided we didn't want automatic anything anymore, except the transmission.

We pulled it off when we bought our last car in 2003, but we couldn't manage it this time. The no-frills model the dealer quoted us in email was no longer available when we got there. So now we have power locks and windows. Turns out Mrs. Rodius kind of likes it anyway. Admittedly, it's kind of fun to try and beat her to the lock button, or sigh dramatically when she hits the lock when I still have to get something out of the back seat. But mostly, I just wish I didn't have to have a machine making all my decisions for me.

Like these daytime running lights. Why can I not put my car in park, put the parking brake on, and turn off the headlights with the engine still running? I can flip the switch to off, but they don't turn off; it could be dangerous! It won't even let me just switch them down to parking lights. Headlights must be on while the engine is running, because, of course, I might kill somebody in the dark of night. With my parked car.

Or the power locks. When I put the car in park, all the doors unlock. When I put the car in drive, all the doors lock. I suppose this is because my car stays up late nights worrying that I'll be carjacked. I guess I just need to remember not to put the car in park if I find myself in the midst of an angry mob.

But what really irritates me is the seat belt alarm. I always wear my seat belt. But if I choose to start the car first so the air conditioner can begin cooling the interior down from the 200 degrees it typically starts at on a balmy Texas afternoon, my car has an anxiety attack that I might suddenly fly through the windshield. So I called up my old buddy Google, and he told me how to fix the problem. Well, he told me how for an '05 Avalon, but it turns out it works for an '07 Corolla just as well. You just have to know when and how long to hold down the Trip Reset button. Makes me wonder what else that little button can do.

So, that's me, just trying to do my little part to Rage Against the Machine and "Take the Power Back!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Living in a Sensitive Age

Early in the pregnancy, we got What to Expect When You're Expecting. I've heard and read some criticism of this book, mainly that it takes some of the joy and mysticism out of pregnancy by trying to scare the crap out of you. I haven't felt that way about it, though I haven't read it as thoroughly as Mrs. Rodius has. I also signed up for "Heidi's Daily Delivery," a daily email that gives you additional tips and information to coincide with where you are in your pregnancy. Because I used my "high likelihood of spam" email address that I only check via a web page, and not one of our personal addresses that gets downloaded to Outlook on our home computer, I'm the only one who sees the emails. I tried to change it later, but tells me it's not a registered email address. Yet the emails keep coming. And I'm the only one reading them.

It's kind of fun getting the emails that are intended for a pregnant chick, though. I get tips on how to do my makeup to counterbalance the fact that my cheeks are probably starting to get puffy. I get explanations of why my vision may be getting a bit blurry these days, or how that buzzing sensation in my right butt cheek is probably because the baby's head is pressing against my sciatic nerve. I also get a weekly email that I'm supposed to forward to my "partner."

As someone who is looking forward to taking on a "non-traditional" role, I like that the authors of these kinds of resources are open to the possibility that not all of their readers are a married man and woman. The book, too, tries its best to be inclusive. For the sake of simplicity, it tells us, it uses the word "father" throughout, but if that's not your situation, that's cool too. If you're part of a lesbian couple, or if you're a single mom relying on the support of your family, or whatever your situation might be, just pretend we used a different word when you read those parts.

Despite that, the "for the partner" emails generally conform to a pretty stereotypical view of the father. They generally say, "Hey there, Dad. We know you were mostly in it for the sex, but it's time to get serious because guess what? Sex has consequences. So even though you're scared out of your mind, it's time to step outside of yourself and be aware of Mom. She's probably freaking out, too, and on top of that, some weird stuff is happening to her body. Maybe you could do some housework for once, and give her a massage now and then. You might even get laid!"

Our birthing classes have been kind of like that, too. The teacher always calls us "the partner" and never "the father" or "the husband." I get it, because some of the couples are unmarried. One woman was accompanied by a male partner the first week and a female partner the next. I'm not really sure what her situation is, but there's no reason she has to feel left out because she doesn't have a husband, or because the baby's father is not involved. But still, the tone towards the partners is always sort of patronizing. When addressing us, the partners, the teacher puts her hands on her hips. She tilts her head to one side. She nods a lot. She doesn't seem to think we're very bright, or involved. We have to be prodded off the couch, where we're probably watching football, and enticed into the supporting role with hints of the sexual favors to come and reminders that we did this to them in the first place.

Well not me, lady! I'm here, and I'm ready. I'm nervous, especially for her and what she'll have to go through. We tend to make 'em big in my family, and it could be pretty hard on her. If she does need a C-section, I'm not really confident I won't faint. I tried to watch a doctor put stitches in my hand once, and I came perilously close to unconsciousness. But I'm willing to give it the old college try! I want to give back rubs, and count, and tell her how well she's doing. I'm ready to be on my knees for hours, or be leaned on or yelled at, or otherwise engage in non-ergonomic activities if I can help carry some portion of the burden for her. Bring it on! I just can't promise I'll stay upright if I lay eyes on her intestines.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Running Off the Steak and Beer

Today I completed Session One, Week Three of the 13-Week Walk/Run Program. It was 1:30 running, 3:30 walking, 10 times, for a total of 50 minutes. I haven't weighed myself because I haven't done well on the diet and nutrition side of things, but so far, I'd give the program a thumbs up. None of the sessions have been dauntingly difficult, but each week steps up the exertion level noticeably.

As I ran today, I thought that this was a really good incremental program because my exertion level for each new week's incremental increase felt about the same. I felt like I was working as hard running my minute-and-a-half intervals today as I did the first week running thirty-second intervals. But then I hit the 25-minute mark, and I wasn't thinking any more about how easy this was. Instead, I was thinking how I'm probably going to be in bed around 9 o'clock tonight. Though my opinion might change over the next few weeks, so far it seems challenging enough to make me feel like I'm progressing, but not so challenging that I dread doing it and give up.

It's the ChiRunning part of my training program that's the most mental work, though. I haven't finished the chapters on technique, yet, but I've gotten enough to give me a lot to work on. It's hard to focus on so much at once. I feel like I'm in a plate-spinning act at the circus. When I start to focus on one part, the other parts start to wobble a bit. Lean forward, let gravity provide the forward motion. Pick up your feet, don't push off, let gravity pull you. Lean from the ankle, not the waste. Engage the core, relax everything else. Pain in your shins, you're probably pushing off your toes. Land mid-food, pick up your feet, don't push off. Your shoulders are tensing, relax. Breathe from the belly, not from the chest. Lean from the ankle, not from the waist. Relax your shoulders. Why aren't you relaxing?!!?!!

It's a lot to think about all at once. I think today I really started to do better on the breathing, though, and that's pretty huge for me. I'm sure other people on the track thought I sounded like I was dying, but I had a pretty good rhythm going, working as hard, or harder, on pushing all of the air out as on pulling air in. I only felt like maybe I wouldn't make it right toward the end. But I did make it. And that felt pretty good.

Happy Father's Day

Thumper's first Father's Day offering.

Thumper did good for his first Father's Day. I thought I might be starting that collection of ugly ties already, but this is much cuter. I can't wait to put them to use, but I think it'll be awhile yet.

He also took me out for steak and a beer!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Hobos

Writing about the time our cat was killed by a stray dog, in our living room, with all of the doors and windows closed and locked got me thinking about our other cats. These are mostly bad pictures, but here's Harley in his usual spot and usual pose. As I said, he was a very sweet cat who even had the approval of the otherwise very disapproving Tasha.

Sampson was our first, and our only Pet Shop Boy. We were living in our first apartment together, and I made Mrs. Rodius go and visit him until she couldn't do anything but agree to buy him. He was so small, she carried home in her pocket, but he quickly grew to 20 lbs. We got Harley from a shelter a couple of years later to keep Sampson company. Sampson developed diabetes that we couldn't seem to control with insulin shots, and he didn't live to see the move to Texas.

Harley kept wandering around the apartment meowing, like he thought maybe Sampson was just playing hide-and-seek, so we got Tasha from the shelter in Austin shortly after we moved here to keep Harley company. She was 6 pounds and a year old, and had recently had a litter of kittens, but the kittens weren't with her when the shelter picked her up. She was starving, and apparently made a vow never to go hungry again. She's doubled in weight, and, though she soon stopped immediately eating every bit of food we put down, she still pays very close attention to the feeding schedule, reminding us when it's time lest we forget. Tasha apparently understood that she was moving into Harley's home, and always treated him with respect, and even affection. Puck, however, still hasn't made it into her inner circle.

Shortly after we moved into the money-saving townhouse, a feral cat started bringing her kittens into our tiny back yard. I immediately saw where this was going and begged Mrs. Rodius not to feed them. I knew when I said it that she was completely incapable of doing anything else, and soon we were buying cheap cat food for the mother and her kittens. Of course, what I feared came to pass, and other cats were attracted by the food.

I begged Mrs. Rodius at least not to start naming them. I knew when I said it that she was completely incapable of doing anything else, and soon we were buying giant bags of cheap cat food for the twenty or more cats that regularly returned to our yard. We participated in a trap-neuter-release program that another resident had started. We found an adoptive home for one kitty (Inky), and tried for another two (Eenie and Meenie), but that ended in disaster. The original mother (Mama) was notoriously wary of people and proved impossible to trap and spay, so she went on to mother several more litters of kittens that she taught to eat solid food in our back yard. She was almost always pregnant.

Puck was one of her kittens. He was probably, based on his markings, fathered by Oscar (the Grouch), a big-headed bully of a tom who ultimately did get trapped and neutered, but who always maintained his dominance in the yard. Most of the kitties were happy to come and eat and sleep in our yard, but almost all of them were extremely wary of people. Only a small handful were willing to let Mrs. Rodius touch them. As a kitten, Puck was one of those.

At first he was just willing to be in closer proximity to Mrs. Rodius than the rest. Mama was pretty quick to cut the kittens off to fend for themselves, because she was usually already pregnant again. So the kittens learned to get in there and compete with the adults for the food we put out. Puck's willingness to be within a foot or two of her, and later his willingness to let her pet him, was his strategy for getting his share of the food and more. The more he let her love him, the more he got not only cheap cat food, but cheese, deli meat, leftover chicken, and more. He eventually even started following her into the house. That's when I knew for sure we had a third cat.

Once she finally trapped him, neutered him, and brought him home, his transition from feral to housecat was difficult. We kept him isolated in a separate room, and she spent almost all of her time in there with him. He howled miserably, and it broke her heart. She almost let him back out again. But slowly, he adjusted, and he has bonded to her in a way that is just sickening to those of us (Tasha and me) on the outside of their special relationship.

Soon, though, he developed a urinary tract problem that required surgery to correct. We had been saving up money to take a tropical vacation, but we had to spend it on him. He's felt guilty about it ever since, and has worked hard to keep our home bug-free in order to earn his keep. We sometimes refer to him as the $3,000 Kitty, because, like the $6 Million Dollar Man, we had the technology to rebuild him, to make him stronger. He has never trusted me, only Mrs. Rodius. I think he was probably tormented by kids in the neighborhood when he was still a feral kitten. I never saw it happen to him, but I saw kids throw rocks at the other ferals. Puck is particularly distrustful of me if I have something, anything, in my hand. He only has love, and trust, for his beloved Mama.

There was something very vitally important for Mrs. Rodius about saving those abandoned, wild kitties whose lives were tough, and often short. I'm glad it happened at that townhouse, though. We learned a few lessons in that time, through the disastrously failed adoption of Eenie and Meenie, and the difficult trapping and neutering of Gwynny that kept her from becoming a housecat, though she had much of the same willingness to be touched that Puck had. Maybe Mrs. Rodius' powerful need for them ran its course. Maybe she learned that she couldn't save them all. In any case, now that we have moved, she hasn't felt, or at least expressed, the same undeniable urge to feed the few strays that have wandered across our path since, and I'm glad. Sometimes, though, I miss those hobos, and I wonder how many of the ones we knew are still out there, scraping out a living. Do you think they ever look through the window at the new owner of that townhouse and wonder what happened to that nice lady who gave them a safe harbor in the middle of an otherwise brutal world?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Has This Ever Happened to You?

"I think someone broke in," Mrs. Rodius said. "And it looks like they cut themselves."

We had just come home from work, and I was still closing the front door as she walked in ahead of me. I followed her into the living room to see what she was talking about. My mind couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like a murder had been committed on our living room carpet.

We bought this townhouse primarily to save money while we straightened out our financial affairs and reduced our credit and student loan debt. It was a successful plan of action and helped enable us to buy the home we have now. But price was our first and greatest concern. We didn't research or explore the neighborhood much before we bought it, so we discovered over time that one of its drawbacks was a proliferation of loose dogs.

We learned something about our sweet, little Harley in this townhouse that we hadn't known before: he was tough and tenacious. He seemed to be more a master of the meditative arts than the martial. He was an active kitten that we adopted from the shelter. His owner had abandoned him there because, his information card said, he was "too much trouble." This was probably just a heart-string-pulling kind of marketing on the part of the shelter, but it worked on us. They called him Ernie because he came with a little doll of the Sesame Street character. He didn't look like an Ernie to us. He ran around like a little lunatic, and when he stopped long enough to sleep on me, he demonstrated a flatulence problem that would have been embarrassing in anyone else, but was just kind of adorable in him. He was consistently the most sweetly dispositioned cat I have ever known. He once went nose to nose with a skunk outside our apartment in Everett, Massachussets. I sweat bullets as I watched, and thought of what I'd heard about tomato juice baths. Harley was undisturbed, though, and only seemed to say, "You're a funny looking kitty. What have you been rolling in?" Then the two parted and went contentedly about their separate business.

As he grew older, Harley spent most of his time in meditation, and he was much more accepting of our adoption of Puck, a feral kitten, than his righteously bitchy little sister, Tasha, had ever been. He was a lover, so far as we knew, not a fighter. Mrs. Rodius and I were very much surprised, then, when a roaming Rottweiler barked at us through the open front window of our townhouse, and the 8- or 9-pound Harley, without a thought for his own safety, began charging at the screen. He rammed into it head-first several times before Mrs. Rodius grabbed him and carried him into another room. He threw himself against the screen with such determination that he bent the frame and almost knocked it entirely out of the window. "Aw," we thought. "How cute! The little guy's protecting his Mama!" All of our cats, we are sure, have thought of her as that: Mama. If she had not married me, she may very well have developed into the quintessential cat lady. They have always filled a deep and earnest need within her soul, and she, apparently, has done the same for them.

So we fixed the screen. We were careful not to leave windows open when we weren't home. We told the tale of our brave little Harley at parties. I for one, though probably not Mrs. Rodius, chuckled a bit at what a surprise the brave little boy would have had if he'd succeeded in getting at that Rottweiler. We thought of it as a charming little quirk to this small cat, like the fact that he clearly understood the mechanics of doorknobs, but without thumbs, was sadly unable to put that understanding to practical use. He stretched his full length and rattled the knobs, but his fuzzy little feet weren't able to gain enough purchase to make the damn things turn. We noted the Rottweiler incident as another interesting little fact about him, and then we kind of forgot all about it.

And it didn't come to mind immediately as we stood looking at the blood. It was soaked into the carpet. It was splattered on the entertainment center, the windowsill, the broken fragments of glass. We looked around, but nothing seemed to be missing. The TV, the stereo, the computer were all where we'd left them. Perhaps the burglar had cut himself breaking the window and decided to leave before he could make off with anything. But why did the bloody carpet look so smeared? Had he decided to roll around on the floor awhile, cradling his injured arm, or leg, or carotid artery?

Almost immediately, though, Mrs. Rodius said, "Where are the cats?" So we did some reconnaissance. Tasha came out when we called to her, but she was limping. Puck was hidden in the first place we looked: the deepest darkest spot under the bed. But Harley was not to be found. We agreed he probably went out the window to explore, but he wouldn't have gone far. He'd never stray far from his Mama.

And he hadn't. I found him in the back yard, stiff and still.

A new idea began to form for us about what had happened that day. But it seemed so bizarre, so surreal, that we called the police anyway. They sent out an officer, and we nearly begged him to come up with a more likely explanation. Harley had puncture wounds in his side, and his fur was matted like he'd been licked by a big, slobbery tongue. There was a trail of blood drops that began at the top of our fence. I followed it down the sidewalk to where it disappeared into the grass several units down from ours. The officer agreed: it looked like a dog jumped our fence, broke our window, entered our house, killed our cat, carried him into the back yard, jumped the fence again, and went on his merry way, probably with a minor wound from the broken glass.

Have you ever heard of that before? I mean, really. Is that, or is that not, a very freaky occurrence?

We took Harley's body to the vet, who confirmed that he had bled to death from puncture wounds in his side that were consistent with a dog bite. Mrs. Rodius sister and her best friend came over to clean up the blood while I boarded up the window. Once the window was replaced, there was nothing left to tell the tale of the carnage, except a faint pink stain, almost invisible to those who didn't know it was there. We had our suspicions about which dog had done the deed, but there was no way to confirm it. There was a Spuds Mackenzie dog that lived in a back yard in the direction the blood spots had lead. He was a bull terrier, I know now, but when I was trying to remember what kind of dog the Spuds Mackenzie dog was, "rat bastard terrier" was all that would come to mind. That dog had previously demonstrated his ability to clear his own fence and was frequently seen wandering around loose. Perhaps the glass wounds would have given him away, but we couldn't confirm it without making the accusation, and we'd already spent enough energy in neighbor battles over noise, and parking. We didn't have the heart to jump into another one with people who would probably not be willing to admit their fault anyway, even if the dog did have cuts on his belly. So we let it go.

We imagined the scene, though. The dog, in his wanderings, scales our fence. Harley becomes enraged at the interloper's audacity and attacks the window. The dog, seeing the cat, becomes excited and jumps up, his paws on the window. Sometime around this point, Tasha makes a frantic dash from the scene, pulling a muscle in her hip and accounting for the limping we will notice when we get home. Puck probably beat her under the bed, and for the first and only time in their lives, they are huddling together, unified in their terror. Harley and the dog proceed to drive each other to greater and greater levels of hysteria until finally the window breaks. From that point, we try not to imagine the scene any more.

We had our little Buddha kitty cremated. We moved him with us in his little box to our new home, because it just didn't seem right to spread his ashes there at the site of his murder. We thought about releasing him into our beautiful new garden, but Mrs. Rodius isn't yet ready to see him go. The previous owners built a deck, and installed a small pet door for their lhasa apso. The dog door is now a kitty door, and the first home project I undertook after we moved in was screening in the deck. Tasha and Puck spend most of their time out there now, watching the birds as they ransack the feeder I hung. Harley would have liked this place. I can see him curled up with Puck, something Tasha still, after all these years, refuses to do. I can see him out there in the last patch of afternoon sun, breathing in the smell of the flowers, eyes closed as he contemplates "the echo of the empty valley, bearing tidings heard from the soundless sound."

Monday, June 11, 2007

It Wouldn't Be Summer Without Them

I got some good work done on my sandal tan lines this weekend. These particular tan lines were shaped by the Mexican sandals. They're my favorite footwear because:

1. I got them in Mexico last summer, and they remind me of our week pretending we were the wealthy, resort-living types.

2. They were ten bucks! I wore a pair of $60 Nike sandals for four summers and even put new velcro on them. When one of the straps broke, I stitched it back together. I was determined to get my money's worth. I'd gotten my money's worth out of my Mexican sandals before we'd even left Mexico, so everything since has just been bonus sandal time. I should put that in my profile: I'm cheap.

3. They're sandals! This is the next best thing to being barefoot. Mrs. Rodius doesn't like to be barefoot because she thinks she has ugly feet. She doesn't. They're tiny, and as we all know, anything tiny is cute. But she still wears socks all the time, even around the house in Austin in the summer. Me, I'd be permanently barefoot if it weren't for sharp, pointy things and the societal standards that say that bare feet do not qualify as acceptable work attire. Not that they would be suitable work attire either, but I've been thinking about trying Crocs lately, mostly because the University Co-op has them in Longhorn orange and white. Even though they're full of holes, though, I kind of think they wouldn't be barefooty enough for me.

So for me, sandal tan lines are a sign of a good summer. So far this year, they've mostly been developing through yard work, but yesterday, I played 18 holes of disc golf with two guys I met through the Austin Stay-at-Home Dads group. I'm terrible at disc golf. In fact, one of the guys had never played before, and was flinging borrowed discs. He beat me by three strokes, and I've been playing for years, that's how good I am at this "sport." I feel obligated to put "sport" in quotes because disc golf probably approaches bowling in how much beer the average player consumes while participating. The SAHDs and I did not add beer to the competitive mix yesterday, though, mostly because beer doesn't sound so refreshing at 9:00 on a Sunday morning. But we could have. We'd have been well within our disc golfing rights.

So, there you go. A picture of my hairy foot. Happy Summer to you!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Boys Will Be Boys

At dinner last night, Mrs. Rodius said that Thumper must be sitting on her sciatic nerve, because she was getting a buzzing and burning sensation. She leaned a little to her left in her chair and said she was "relieving the pressure." I said it looked like she was letting one rip.

She was so genuinely shocked that I could suggest such a thing, I almost felt bad for saying it. If you never make a single joke in fifteen years about your wife farting in public, she really starts to develop a false sense of security.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

T-Minus Seventy-One

Tomorrow makes 30 weeks, with only 70 days to go. I know I shouldn't be complaining, since, well, you know... I'm not the pregnant one and all. But I am ready for this to be over.

First, I'm ready to get started. In some ways it feels like I have been waiting my whole life to be a father, and I've certainly been waiting for it since the end of July last year. There's little in my job to challenge me or give me satisfaction or meaning. I'm not relied upon; I make no meaningful decisions and solve no complicated problems. I'm ready to find out if I can do this job. I'm ready to find out if I'm buried under the mountain of parenting minutia, or if I revel in it. I know, it will probably be both. But my past work experience demonstrates that I have a huge capacity for carrying on through the most soul-crushing monotony, so with the added bonuses of purpose and meaning, I think I'll thrive. I can't wait to find out.

Second, I'm ready for the pregnancy part to be over. I'm superstitious enough to cringe at saying that and whisper, "Not premature, though, please. Not premature." It's just been hard on Mrs. Rodius. Well, the first and third trimesters have been hard; the second flew by much too quickly. She was happy, laughing. I felt and saw the baby move for the first time. It was glorious. But now, she's tired. She's uncomfortable. She hates the way she looks. Her clothes don't fit. Her shoes don't fit. She can't get enough sleep. She cries more than she laughs.

And I'm not happy with my performance as her partner through this. I don't do enough to support her, or I do too much. I get mad at her for being unhappy, and angry at myself for being mad. I promised myself that I wouldn't drink while she was pregnant, because she can't drink either. But I broke that promise after three months and repeatedly since.

Ah well. We'll get through it. We've made it through tougher times. But 71 days through the middle of the pregnancy was too short, was gone before I really knew what happened. 71 days through the end, though, it just can't go fast enough.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Mrs. Rodius and I went to breakfast yesterday. We've been together for fifteen years, married for almost twelve. The couple that sat at the table next to ours took me back to those early days of our relationship, days when we regularly sickened those around us with the giddiness of our love. We prided ourselves on how often we made Mrs. Rodius' sister roll her eyes and tell us to "get a room." I almost believed that our love was different from the more mundane loves of other people, that we would remain giddy in our love together forever. Of course, we didn't. Love changes over time, as it must. Better writers than I have written on how the raging river of passion mellows over time into a deeper, broader lake. But as I watched the couple next to us yesterday, I remembered those days.

They smiled like maybe they couldn't stop. They touched like that, too; hand to hand, finger to arm, foot to foot. I watched them surreptitiously, but I needn't have bothered; they seemed not to know that anyone else was in the room. They talked and talked, about what I do not know. I'm sure it was vitally important, and completely meaningless.

It came to me then that there are moments in our lives when we are lit as if by a spotlight by the sanctity of our condition.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I Talk Too Much

The problem with everyone knowing that I'm working out to lose weight is they've all got something to say when I buy a Butterfinger out of the vending machine.
Related Posts with Thumbnails