Sunday, September 4, 2016

Come, Follow Me

 Rather Earnest Painter

I am moving. You will see why if you'll read this blog post that I have written on my new site. I take with me the name, bemol Ardiente. I hope to take you with me, as well.

Come see me in my new home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cat TV

I don't generally let television babysit my cats for me, but if it's a educational nature show, I don't mind.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


I swear this cat sits outside the office and as soon as I approach, the race is on to the office chair. And then lots of attitude.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


In a house full of cats, it's hard to believe that we ever had room for a dog. Fortunately, this one helped us raise some of the kittens. Sweet, gentle Bill had a way with kittens and even as full-grown cats, they still loved him and ran up to him when he came into the room, walking through his legs, rubbing against them. 

Yesterday was National Dog Day. I don't have a dog any more, but I thought I'd make this little post in memory of Bill, the best dog-mamma my cats could ever have hoped for. The best guard dog this property could need. The best companion I could imagine and the most loyal friend ever to walk on the face of the earth. 

Even when he was sick and getting more sick – he was weak, he was tired, but he wanted so badly to make us happy that we found it difficult at times to know what we needed to do to make him happy. We just made sure he was always with us, which is what he really wanted in the end.

Pets, especially dogs, take a piece of our hearts with them when they cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

Rest in Peace, Bill. We love you.

Earnest Painter

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Does my Brain Hurt?

Last week I posted a note for a group that I hang out with (WANATribes). I had had kind of a bad week with family and with myself and I wrote that something just didn't feel right. Like, I don't normally go to work with mismatched shoes on. I threw away my prescription for Stupid Pills, so I wasn't sure what to make of this new, incompetent-yet-rather-amusing Earnie Painter. I did the most logical thing I could do, and that was to visit my doctor. Because, don't you visit the doctor when you're stupid?

My suspicion was confirmed that I was anemic, though not terribly so. The issue is, the iron level has gradually been going down. I had been trying to counter the effects with coffee, but it didn't really help. I was more alert, but I was an alert idiot. Slightly more aware of the mistakes I had made in retrospect and abundantly more reactive to them.

So, armed with this knowledge I doubled down on my efforts to eat leafy vegetables and I began taking iron pills. (Along with vitamin C because my niece is a nutritionist and told me that it would help me absorb the iron.) It's not that I don't eat beef, because I do. It's not that my beef is fast food, because it's not. Hamburgers upset my tummy so I don't eat them, but I'm down with some steak. And, adding greens to my diet actually meant increasing the greens, because I already eat them. I just added spinach to my salad mix. I am to be retested soon.

I think I'm feeling better already. Monday was a little rough because I was dealing with things that I had done last week. Plus, I still get dizzy when I eat first thing in the morning, so some of my reactions were a little out of proportion to what I had actually done. Among the things I did was to write in the time for an online workshop that I took on Monday, and I neglect to note the time zone indicated, which means that I showed up an hour late. At first I thought that the person leading the class was just chatting before it got started, but then I was thinking, "Wow, she's really serious about this chat." I looked around and saw my mistake and lost it just a little bit. I was tired, but mostly I was tired of dealing with things that somebody else was doing to me — that somebody else being myself. At my job I have clients from Atlanta to Anchorage, so time zones are a big part of my life. There was really no excuse for that, except that I was under the influence of stupid when I put it on my calendar. There's been a bit of clean-up lately.

But, I do have more energy and I have gone several days without wearing mismatched shoes. I feel a bit of tightness at the top of my head, like on the scalp, and my head hurts a little bit. There is a ringing in my ear, which might mean that I'm still anemic, from what I've read. We'll see. But, I was wondering why my head was hurting, and why the tingling.

There is still the question of whether or not I'm still anemic. And, either way, one has to ask why I was in the first place. But, for the moment I'm glad to be able to trust myself a little bit more.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Literary Priorities

I think it says a lot about me that as I was walking out into the light rain -  carrying a book and an electronic device/tablet - I put the electronic device on top to keep the book from getting wet.

Nerd Level: 11

Seen recently in Houston, TX.

Nerd Level: 11

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dizzy to a New Level - Part II

As a follow-up to my post about laughing too hard, I just need to point out that I'm not allowed to listen to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me while driving.

Ever again.

Bad things happen when I laugh too hard.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Life Lesson

There is a life lesson that has taken me too many years (decades) to figure out. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life renting apartments rather than owning a home. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life obliviously walking around, skirting responsibility and commitment. Partly because I'm a hammerhead.

Having something beautiful is a luxury, a delight.

Maintaining something beautiful is work.

This applies to many things.

A home. The picture below is the entryway of a mansion in Galveston. It was built in the early 20th century, and it is gorgeous. Hand-carved wood all over. But, it takes a team of employees and volunteers - along with large grants - to keep it up.
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx

Or a patio with flowers. Flowers have to be watered regularly, and weeds will grow through the bricks unless we are vigilant.
Cat's Paradise

Jewelry - Silver will tarnish and must be polished.
Pendant - Silver, 18K and Opal by Barry Perez

Talent - musical, artistic or any other talent you may have developed - requires continued practice, or you will lose the skill, the edge, the ease and the beauty with which you perform.
The Talented Jorge & Nicole

Friendships and relationships
Courtesy of Pexels 
Courtesy of Pexels

I was walking home this afternoon from brunch - just before it began to rain. I passed a beautiful house, a house that I would have loved to live in. It occurred to me that the bigger the home, the more there is to maintain because there's that much more to break down. A few years ago I wouldn't have considered that. I have moved in with my partner – the same one who, without my having to call, came to pick me up when it began to rain – and I have begun to learn what it means to truly be responsible for something and its maintenance. The old house we live in has a leak in the roof and it's entirely up to us to fix it. There is no office to call to come take care of it. And, we either mow the lawn or it becomes a forest, regardless of how much I'd prefer to be laying around reading. I could leave when I got angry, or I could finally figure out what it takes to make a relationship work. I have a lifetime of leaving that has become a habit, a way of life. I am having to learn a new way of life.

The lesson hasn't been easy or without tears. But, I have grown so much in the last few years that I almost don't recognize myself. Has it been worth it? As far as I'm concerned, yes. (You'd have to ask my partner for his perspective.) I have a long way to go, but I am so glad I have begun.

Thank you for reading.


Cat fight in...




Thursday, August 11, 2016

How to De-Stress, or How Not to


There is something self-destructive about trying to de-stress – like a self-fulfilling prophesy, but backwards. Sometimes any steps I take to relax after a stressful week only lead to more stress, or simply time lost in the attempt. I'm certain that there are 123,623,326,098 books written on the topic, but sometimes one just wants to get away. Reading suggestions on how to focus, or let go, or any of the other things that my soul wants to do is not quite as appealing as getting in my car and just going. In this way I relate to Rose from The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett's debut novel. There is something freeing about getting in the car and driving, with no particular place to go. When I was younger, I used to see the signs over the highway indicating a distant city that the highway led to, and I would want to just leave, just stay on the highway and continue to that other city. Not go back home to get anything; that would break the spell. Just go.

Half a lifetime of going, and it's not quite as appealing as it used to be. The idea of escape is still there; it's just dressed in a different disguise these days. I tried drink; I was never very good at it. Intoxication never offered the freedom of driving on a highway with its untapped possibilities. All of it is an illusion one way or the other, but driving didn't generally lead to hangovers or regretful memories of how I had behaved.

This last Saturday I asked my partner if he wanted to go with me on a project. For some reason (mostly anemia, I have come to suspect) I had had a very stressful and anxiety-ridden week. I've had a project in mind that I wanted to work on, a photography project. I want to take pictures of Austin landmarks. Not buildings, but street art. The "HI HOW ARE YOU" frog, the "I love you so much" wall. I started last December with a painted privacy fence only to discover that the camera had no memory chip in it, which is the equivalent of having no film. So, I thought it was time to try again.

The painted privacy fence I pass on the way to work each day

About the only thing I took a picture of this sunny day 

However, we took off at 11 on a bright, sunny morning and this is not conducive to good outdoor photography, unless harsh shadows and overexposed highlights is what you're after. I was driving and I was frustrated. I was angry at myself for not taking off earlier; I was angry at my partner for delaying when I had asked him if he wanted to go; I was just angry and tired and stressed. I abandoned the project, but between the two of us we couldn't think of anything else to do that was fun, so we went home to take a nap.

The next day we had brunch at a local cafe and on the way home he missed the turn to go to our house, so he just kept going. The road got less smooth and more narrow. Eventually, we saw a sign indicating that state maintenance ended and sure enough the road changed from paved to semi-gravel all at once. Eventually we came up to the highway that leads to Lexington, but we turned off, deciding to save that for another day. We had other commitments that day and didn't have the time to spend just exploring a new town. So, we found another road that seemed to want to swing back around to Elgin and took it instead. After a couple of turns we ended up in Coupland, which is on the way back home from Dallas.

View from a random highway on the way back home from an extended wrong turn

I learned from that trip that maybe projects aren't what I need when I desperately need to de-stress. I learned that it can be better if somebody else is driving. I learned that there is an art to letting go, and it's all about timing. Finally, I learned anew that being in the car is relaxing and the anticipation of a new place can be a solace for the soul.

Happy driving. :-)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Flowerpot of Happiness

I was going to take picture of Austintatious things yesterday, but it got to be too sunny and too harsh-shadowy. So, I'll put that project off for another day. Instead I'll share a picture of the blissful feline Flowerpot of Happiness, which we are fortunate enough to have on our patio.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dizzy to a New Level

There were sounds around me – things being moved around. Music. Normal sounds for a house that has people in it. I had been thinking about something; what was it? I couldn't remember. It was like waking from a dream and trying to remember what you were dreaming about, but not quite able to do so. My head was on my arm on the desk and I listened to the music (my music) and the sounds filling the air around me, trying to piece things together. I stayed there for a few seconds, wondering. Trying to remember what brought me to this moment. I lifted my head up, a little groggy, and I was in front of my computer and the screen was unlocked with windows open. The air was warm and the music was coming from the computer; sounds were coming from my partner cleaning in the next room. I sat up. "What the hell just happened?" left my mouth and Barry stopped cleaning momentarily to look at me like I had lost my mind. "What's wrong with you?"

Nothing was wrong, per se, but I was curious as to why I had had my head on the desk and why I was in front of the computer in the first place. I hadn't actually been asleep; I knew that. My thoughts had blended with the ambient noise, like it happens when you're falling asleep. But, I had NOT been asleep. If I had been, then there would be no need for an explanation.

I looked at the computer and I saw that I had been working on my blog. That seemed familiar. It was coming back to me now. I had several tabs open, as usual, and one of them – as usual – was Facebook. I had been on Facebook. I had been laughing. My sister, my brother and I had been chatting and he had asked me an embarrassing question. I tried to change the subject, then ignore him and get back to work on my blog, but he kept asking. Then he posted a picture. I was laughing and laughing. Laughing so hard I couldn't write. I started to get thick-headed and I had laid my head down on my arm on the desk. That's what it was. That's how I had come to be in that position.

Fainting Goat

I've been on Atripla for many years now and I've written before of the effect they warn about on the bottle: "May make you dizzy". The same effect that tends to make me drunk the first time I eat on any given day. I've gotten light-headed before when laughing or straining (as in to pick up a heavy bag of soil.) But, I had never blacked out before. Even this time I didn't fall on the floor or anything – I had kept my balance and stayed in the chair, but when I came to (and that is a very accurate statement of how it felt) I had no idea what was going on, or how I got to be sitting there in that position. It even took me a few seconds to realize where I was. I noticed that all of my skin was covered in a layer of perspiration. Afterwards, and for the rest of the afternoon, the top of my head was a little tight. It didn't hurt exactly, but it felt like the skin on the tippy top of my head was, I don't know, being pulled. Like it was shrinking and pulling the rest of the skin on my head up a little bit. It felt a little tingly. I decided to have a lie-down, after letting my sister and brother know why I had stopped chatting. I was a little tired for the rest of the evening.

I'm not going to lie; it's a little disturbing. My sister told me that she hopes I never get the giggles while driving. I've gotten used to the intoxicated feeling that comes along after breakfast and I more or less plan my life around it. Sometimes there's nothing to do but lay down and sleep, though that's not an option at work. (Interestingly, at work I never feel like I need to lie down. I think that keeping myself busy helps. Not having a bed at hand helps.)

All in all, though, I can't complain. I mean, I'm alive. That's good, and it's thanks to Atripla. And, laughing is good. Maybe blacking out momentarily can be a little inconvenient, but it's not the end of the world. It's actually a little funny, if taken in the right context with the right company. My friends and family don't seem to mind. I think that in a perverse way I like it. I mean, not everybody can say that they laughed so hard they passed out. That's a good time, right there.

Monday, August 1, 2016


A warning, this might not be for the faint of heart.

I heard about this on the radio show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Somebody has decided to produce skin in a lab from human DNA and then use it... to make leather. Then use the leather for clothing and accessories. Designer, Tina Gorjanc, gives reasons for her Pure Human line of products on her website, but the reasons are very difficult to understand and all I can come up with is that they are trying to use sophisticated, artsy-sounding words and get away with it and/or it is a publicity stunt for the designer. (She wants to "address shortcomings concerning the protection of biological information" and move the debate into the court system?) (Because that's the job of designers of clothing and accessories.)

Brette's Disgust by Parke Ladd (Cropped)

Photo by Parke Ladd / CC BY 2.0

As if that wasn't creepy enough, they're going to call the items "Tanned Bag" (with a tan line where the label was laying over the bag), "Freckled Backpack" and "Tattooed Jacket".

I have read that blog posts should always include a picture, but I'm not going to include one here from the designer's site for a variety of reasons. One, the images are most likely copyrighted and I have less than no desire to be taken to court by a company or designer who makes human skin in a lab and then users that to make leather accessories. Two, I believe I read on the site somewhere (or in an article about them) that the images are mock-ups made from pig skin. And three: ew.

But, to make this story even more disturbing, as I was searching for this designer (after I  heard about it on the radio) I came across another company who claims to use donated skin to make leather. They went as far a to describe the best part of the body to use.

All in all I'd say that people have far too much time on their hands and they need to stop.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cats in the Sun

I'm not certain that is should be legal to love something as much as Clarice loves this sunbeam.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Studio Cats

I look out my bedroom window at Barry's jewelry studio, and I can tell that he is busy making his art. It's not that there is smoke coming from a chimney – there is no chimney and no smoke in his art. (Not much, anyway. Vapors from the pickling solution, but not real smoke.) 

The black and white cat on the step – his name is Tom Cat. He more or less adopted us last year. I thought he was feral and we decided to have him fixed when Emancipet was in town with their Mobile Clinic. On the day scheduled we hadn't trapped him, so I thought I might be able to catch him or lure him into the carrier with food. As it turns out, all I had to do was bend down, pet him on the head and pick him up. This cat was not feral. Clearly he used to belong to somebody, but whoever that is he clearly has chosen not to be there any more. Who am I to judge that relationship? 

After the operation, and after the healing time, I let him out of the carrier. We have ferals neutered and spayed regularly with the trap-and-release program through the local SPCA. Once we release, they usually stay away for a day or two before returning to where they know there is food to be found. Not Tom Cat. I can't say he was thrilled, but he strutted around and rubbed against my leg. He had made up his mind where his home was and a small thing like this wasn't going to change it.

Originally, I tried to feed him on the other side of the property to keep from having fights with the cats in our yard. But, Barry moved him into the yard when it got cold and he needed a warm place to be. Our house is pier and beam and cats keep warm under it, plus we (Barry) put out insulated boxes for him and another stray who has planted himself here. 

I don't want to say that Tom Cat like either one of us better than the other, but when Barry is working in the jewelry studio, Tom Cat is waiting against the door for him. When Barry is working in the tile studio, Tom Cat is waiting against that door for him. I think he instinctively knows which one of us is the bigger push-over. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I am a morning person in that I like to drink coffee with my cats, be still and quiet. My partner is a morning person such that when I go to make coffee he's washing the shower curtain, all the towels and washrags, cleaning the kitchen and has the day's list of projects lined up.

Carmela appreciates our quiet times

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Know a Published Author!

I have met a couple of published authors in my life. However, recently a friend I hadn't seen or heard from in years showed up in a Tweet from Book People, a fabulous local independent bookstore. They were going to be hosting a book signing for him and his debut novel, The Mirror Thief. Martin Seay, friend of mine, had become a published author. That was new. And... WOW.

Martin Seay - Author
From The Elliot Bay Book Company

Of course, I went. I was there early. I brought friends. I listened to the question/answer session shared with Kirk Lynn, another author. Martin looked tired, but what do you expect from somebody in the middle of a fabulous national book signing tour?! There were other people there that I knew, from the same time that I knew Martin. It was like a mini-reunion of people who used to work together. (We worked together in a bookstore, no less.) Afterward, I wanted to hang around and chat with him, but he looked so busy and so tired that I really just wanted to give him a hug. He even had a handler, if I'm not mistaken. (A guide would be a better word, perhaps? An agent? An escort? Somebody from the bookstore or the publishing house to make sure he was where he needed to be when he needed to be there?) (I want a handler.)

Now, I am reading the book. It took a while to get around to it, mostly because it's not small and it's not particularly light reading from the looks of it and I wanted to be sure that I was in the right mindset. Plus, I discovered that it's on Audible, recorded by the wonderful Edoardo Ballerini . Since I have a 30-mile commute to and from work five days a week, I enjoy listening to audiobooks. (This narrator is truly gifted. And the accents he can do! He has an Italian/American inflection when he's not in character, but he IS the character when they are speaking.) Now, I wonder why exactly I waited. I take that back; it's got a lot going on and the prose is incredible. I do have to be able to pay attention. But, I LOVE it. I mean, first it was awesome when a friend of mine had a book published. I had read some of his writing before and I knew he had talent. But, when I know somebody who actually produced THIS?! Incredible.

He described it as literary fiction, with mystery added to give it more popular appeal. I'm still in the beginning, but I know from the blurbs and discussion that there are three distinct parts: 16th century Venice, 1958 California and a close-to-modern-day Las Vegas. It involves a mirror (duh) and a book. I LOVE books that have an obsession with a specific book (as in that particular physical object, not just any version or publication) as part of the story. I love it. Have I ever read another story with that aspect? I have no idea! But, I love it!

The most truly amazing thing, though, was to read the first pages – and then hear them when I restarted the book as an audiobook – and hear Martin. I think that's why it's so amazing for me to know somebody first and then for them to be published. It would seem on the surface that if I recognize the author in the prose then it means I'm not able to suspend disbelief properly, which could almost seem like a criticism of the writing. But, it's not that. It's intriguing. From page one, the story hits the ground running, even if the only character in the scene is unable to convince himself to get off the bed. It moves. It pulled me in. But, at the same time I just kept thinking, "That's so Martin!" This is what it's like to have friends who become fiction writers. I had no idea.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Weekend in a Gutter

This week, like so many times before, I am housesitting/dogsitting/catsitting for my younger brother and his family. I am not Guinea pig sitting because, alas, Manu has passed on to the next realm. But, I do have three dogs and a cat in my charge, which, as it turns out, is no small responsibility. It would be fine if my life were only about feeding, letting dogs outside to poop and subsequently picking up poop and emptying litter boxes. My brother and his family have a swimming pool decked out in limestone and they have a home cinema. Totally worth it.

But, as I said, other things happen. The little bastards want to run away. Why? I mean, my sister-in-law is the best pet mother ever to walk on the planet. These animals want for nothing. Even so, the last time I was in charge of them, I noticed at one point that it was quiet. I like quiet, so it took me a while to get suspicious. When I noticed it, though, the quiet was SO eerie that I knew something was amiss. It would seem that the side gate to the back yard sticks before it completely closes and two of the dogs took advantage of my ignorance and were wandering the neighborhoods, making new friends and spreading the word of ‘spaying an neutering your pets’. Sadie knows what life is like on the outside, so she didn’t leave the yard. (She’s always been my favorite. She smiles when she sees me. If you’ve ever had a dog literally smile at you, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.) I had walked the streets calling their names and I was in my car driving around the neighborhood when I got a call from my sister-in-law that somebody had called her because they found her number on the back of the dog tags. *sigh*  At least I was able to go pick them up. The man who called had not been able to put them in his vehicle, but he did a remarkable job keeping them corralled until I got to where he was – in the next neighborhood over!

Not this time, though. Not this weekend. I planned to not even use the side gates. That would keep me out of trouble.

The first morning I woke up in the house I went outside to drink my coffee. Summer has officially set in, here in Central Texas, and the humidity hasn’t quite left. So, it could have been more pleasant, but I don’t complain. The dogs weren’t terribly interested, though, and after a while I gave up and went back inside. I went shopping a little bit, then back home to let the dogs out before I went to meet Barry with one of his clients for brunch. It was a nice brunch – about 30 minutes before dinner was beginning because Barry is an artist living in Artist Standard Time – and afterwards I came back home to let the dogs out again and feed them dinner. When I went to feed the cat, though, I noticed that the morning’s food was still in the bowl, mounded just as it had come out of the scoop. Mister, the cat, had not touched his food, which is VERY much not like Mister, the cat.

I looked around to see if I could find him. I hadn’t gone into very many rooms in the house, so there weren’t a lot of placed he could have gotten into. Cats have ways, though; this I know from experience. If he was not feeling well, then it would be best to give him time alone.

I tried to relax. It was Sunday and I could get into the pool, or the Jacuzzi or write. I could not focus on any of these things, though. In the back of my mind, I was not comfortable with Mister’s absence. I have cats. (Lord! Do I have cats.) With my cats I’m used to them disappearing for hours at a time and wandering back as if nothing had happened. But, I wasn’t used to it from Mister. Wandering around outside is a lot more physical effort that I am used to him being willing to put forth. My brother later confirmed that even when he gets outside, he chills in the flower beds in the front of the house. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Around 8 in the evening I was wondering whether I should alert my brother and his wife. They might be able to call their neighbors, or suggest something else. It turns out my brother texted me to see how everybody was doing, so I mentioned that Mister, the cat, was missing in action, that I hadn’t seen him since earlier that afternoon, or morning, and he hadn’t eaten his dinner. This last part, naturally, caused him to sit up and take notice. (If you get the idea that Mister is overweight, you’re correct. He’s down to 20 lbs, last time I heard.) He told me Mister’s favorite hiding places, most of which were in rooms that I had not entered since I'd first arrived. I looked around the house and the back yard. I looked up and down the street and in the front yard. My sister-in-law chimed in and began suggesting some other places: "Under Daughter’s bed, in Daughter’s closet, in movie room, behind Daughter’s headboard, behind sofa upstairs, on dining room chairs, under Daughter’s bed, in closet under staircase, in pantry at the back in a box, did you look on the dining room chairs?" I asked if Mister tended to meow when he was trapped somewhere, and my brother said that he did not, and that this had caused problems on more than one occasion. I gave up the idea of ruling out rooms that I had not entered; my sister-in-law's father might have come by and anything could have happened. So, I looked in all of the rooms, all of the closets, under all of the beds and I thought, "Is this a home or a Manor House?!" I mean, who has this many rooms in their house?!

I moved the search to the outside and by now it was dark, so I used my mobile phone as a flashlight, looking (again) through the bushes and in the flower beds. I was wondering how it must look to have a stranger to the neighborhood on his knees, looking through the bushes with a flashlight and I couldn’t stop thinking about Betty White’s character in Bringing Down the House when she was talking about Mexicans in the neighborhood. “Oh, please. If those people are on this block and not holding a leaf blower...” I was relatively certain that I was going to be arrested. It also crossed my mind that it’s a good thing that I use sunscreen. My sister-in-law had mentioned hearing a cat in heat across the street, so after looking through the bushes for the 3rd time I crossed the street... to do what? I wasn’t quite certain. But, across I went and the light from my mobile phone/flashlight fell across the storm drain and I saw a black tail.

“For the love of cake,” I thought to myself. This cannot be where he has been this whole time. I crouched down and he began to meow like nobody’s business. It was a deep meow and it was unmistakably Mister’s. He moved around and I could see his head. The storm drain is a very steep drop-off from the street into a cement box under the sidewalk, and the sidewalk hangs over the box. So, I had to look at an angle and could only see Mister when he was at the back of the box. He stood with his paws on the side of the box, but he couldn’t get out. I called my brother to give them an update and told him I was going to try to get him out.

It was incredibly awkward, though. I couldn’t see unless I held the phone/flashlight and I couldn’t reach if I was holding it. I lay down on my belly on the street and reached my arm inside the drain. I could grab tiny bits of Mister’s scruff, but he’s a big boy and I’d need more than a tiny piece of his scruff in order to pull him up and over the edge of the drain. Plus, the opening is only about a foot high. Reaching and grabbing I think I finally got on his nerves and he moved out of the way to where I couldn’t see or hear him. As I lie prone on the street with my arm in the storm drain I thought, “If this doesn’t get me arrested, I’m not sure what will.”

I called my brother back and asked him if he knew any of his neighbors well enough to call them. I needed help. People had been walking up and down the street earlier, but there were no pedestrians now. (Can you blame them?) He said that he didn’t know anybody well enough to call at that hour (After 10PM by that point.) I asked about calling 311 and he was hesitant. I could hear him talking to my sister-in-law laying down the law that we were not going to call the fire department. I looked at the manhole cover over the storm drain and it was bolted down and the whole thing looked rusted and very, very heavy.

I tried coaxing with a doggie treat, I tried reaching down. I tried calling and sweet-talking. It seemed that there was a tunnel that I couldn’t see; I could see the back and both sides but not directly under me, because of the angle. I mean, of course there’s a tunnel – for the water to go through. The problem was, I could still hear Mister every once in a while and he sounded weak. When I had seen him earlier he had been panting. It is summer in Central Texas and he had been stuck in a drain under the sidewalk most of the afternoon. It was dark and it was still warm. Imagine in the heat of the day. No, on second thought I don’t want to imagine.

My brother agreed that I could call 311 and at least see what they had to say. The nice lady I spoke to was very understanding of my concern, that Mister had been in the storm drain all afternoon and he was too tired and too heavy to be able to get out by himself. She immediately put in a service request and told me to call back with the reference number if I hadn’t heard from the Animal Control in 30 minutes. I was wondering if 30 minutes would be quick enough.

Apparently, while I was on the phone with 311, my brother had changed his mind about calling the neighbor, because he texted that Neighbor Dave was going to call a friend at the fire department. Dave emerged from the house next to my brother’s and walked over to me. We discussed the possibilities and he was of the mind that Mister could jump out. Then he heard him and quickly changed his mind and redoubled his sense of urgency. I told him that I had called 311, but he ran back to his house saying that there was no need, that he was going to call his friend at the fire department. He eventually came back out stating that his friend was on vacation, but he was going to run over to the fire department to ask for help. He was very sure that help was on its way and away he drove, like a hero appearing out of nowhere and then flying off for back-up. I communicated back and forth with my brother and sister-in-law. My brother told me that he had given Dave my number and sure enough, I got a text that he couldn’t find anybody at the Jollyville fire department but that he was heading over to another station.

Meanwhile, I got a call from the animal control. I got a lot of “I see” and “Okay…” She seemed convinced that Mister would eventually get out by himself. I assured her that this was not going to happen. She asked if I’d reached in, if I’d called and all of the things that I had done. The she suggested that I put a branch in so that Mister could climb out. I felt like she wasn’t really listening to me, though she did sympathize with me. I asked if she could remove the manhole cover and she said that Animal Control did not remove manhole covers. (The nice lady at 311 indicated that they most likely would. I guess I've learned something here.)

So, wait again. I looked again at the manhole cover and I remembered that I have a ratchet set in my car and that I am, after all, clever. As it happened, I couldn’t find my tools, but my brother is a man and he has tools. So, I went inside, found a can of salmon (there was no tuna) and went to the garage and grabbed a pliers and screw driver, leaving the salmon on the counter in case I needed it. I hadn’t been arrested so far and I was beginning to feel immune. Outside, back at the storm drain, I looked at the nut on the manhole cover and tried to see if I could turn it with the pliers. (Not likely, I thought, but worth a try.) The damn thing wasn’t even screwed in! It was just the head sitting on top to give the illusion of being secured. So, I angled the screw driver into the small hole revealed and made short work of lifting the (very heavy) cover off.

I could see the tunnel that Mister had gone down. I couldn’t see Mister, but I knew he hadn’t gone far. I went back inside, opened the can of salmon and brought it outside with me. By this time Dave was returning saying that his buddies from the Fire Department were right behind him. I was moving the cover back over the hole when I saw Mister pop out of the tunnel. Whatever, I thought. Let them do what they want. I moved the cover back off the hole and dropped a piece of salmon down. Mister came right up to it and began eating. I laid down on the sidewalk and reached in, but I couldn’t reach him. I told him that he needed to work with me, but he wasn’t being reasonable at this point. He was focused on eating.

The fire truck pulled up, shining their white light on me as I sat on the sidewalk with a can of salmon, next to a manhole cover that I may or may not have been legally allowed to move. They took no notice of that, but began discussing the situation, basically starting with the thought that Mister would get himself out. (Clearly, nobody understands this cat’s girth.) Dave was 100% on my side about it and one of the firemen went to get a glove and coat. Dave did say that this was a particularly gentle cat, but I can understand their concern. Mister, though, had concerns of his own about a gloved hand that he did not recognize coming at him and he ducked back down the tunnel. (I had put a few more chunks of salmon down to get him to come out again.) Dave is a good guy. He said that he could probably reach him, and he took the can and dumped almost all of it in the hole. I said, “You blew my wad,” but none of them paid any attention. (I mean, there was only one can in the pantry. What if we needed more?!) Dave lay on his belly and reached in while the firemen held onto him. He came up with Mister in his hand and I took the cat into my arms. We were all afraid he would jump back down the hole to eat more salmon, so I said a quick thank you and hustled Mister into the house, leaving my mobile phone and everything on the ground across the street, but not before Dave caught the moment on video – me with a black line on my face and my mad-scientist hair. After I got Mister situated Dave came in with my phone, the salmon can and he had brought the watering can that I had used to try to give Mister something to drink while I waited, which had only resulted in him running back down the tunnel, as it turns out.

Before I could tell my brother and sister-in-law the good news Dave had sent them the video. I felt (feel) horrible, like I'm the worst petsitter in the world. They both took pains to tell me that it wasn't my fault, that Mister is sneaky. The thing is, one of my cats also likes to sneak out, so I thought I was being very watchful. Oh, these animals! We discussed it a little bit more and then called it a night. It was after midnight by then. I had been prepared to take Mister to an overnight vet clinic and front the cost, just to have him checked out and pumped with fluids, but he was actually not as distressed as I would have thought. He did drink a ton (a day later he’s still drinking a quite a bit), but he had that Big Lebowski expression on his face. “The Dude abides. Where ya been? Meow.”


This is, of course, the dogs' water bowl.

Best of Friends

And, that's how I spent my Sunday evening in a gutter.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26th, 2015

Today we celebrate the one year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision declaring that state laws banning marriage between same-sex couples were unconstitutional. I almost couldn't sleep the night before, and the first thing I saw when I woke up that morning was their decision. Throughout the day I watched as friends got married – after being together for years. States resisted, Texas among them. The Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, issues an opinion and a notice to all of the county clerks in Texas telling them that they did not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it went against their religion. In Kentucky, one county clerk chose to go to jail rather than issue licenses, catching the world's attention, which I suspect is what she had in mind. But, in the end, the states and counties comply.

This changed everything, even though it didn't particularly change much for me personally. I am still not married. The only thing that it changed is that I could legally be married, but I'm not. Whereas before, it simply wasn't an option.

But, Adelaide's Lament aside, it makes me think about things like Torch Song Trilogy in which Arnold says in a soliloquy that if the Equal Rights Amendment passed, he and his kind (drag queens) were done with. As far as I know there are still drag shows, but there is something different. Perhaps it was already different when the decision came down. A few years back President Obama revoked the 'Don't Ask / Don't Tell' rule, which was all that President Clinton was able to accomplish toward allowing gays in the military. (I truly believe that he wanted more, but this sort of change takes time.) What I remember about Obama's move was how devoid it was of fanfare. A friend of mine at a family party mentioned it and I didn't believe her at first. But, it was true. It just seemed so anticlimactic after all that people had gone through. Just a change, and on we go with our business. My cousin informed me that quite a bit of rules and regulations had to be rewritten, but so be it.

Today's young gay adults will have it easier than we did when I graduated high school. But, there is a price to everything. That's not to say that one Supreme Court decision can eradicate bullying. That still goes on. We are still human beings and that kind of behavior will always be a part of us, just like love and lust and the rest of the human palate. Even the bullying, though, isn't enough to maintain the counter culture status that we had when I was learning about myself. At the job I had when I graduated high school, I was far too afraid (with reason) to be out. NOBODY was actually "out". (I wonder how many millennials know why we use the word 'out'.) It was more or less a don't ask / don't tell situation. Later, when I began working at the bookstore – on my first day, even – two guys asked me, "You are gay, right?" I was a little shaken, but it was kind of nice. They meant no harm. They may as well have been asking me if I was Hispanic. They just wanted to get to know me.

What if the ugly duckling had washed the dirt off his downy feathers and gone back to being a regular duck? What we went through is so much a part of who we are.* The struggle built (or broke) character. It's cliche to say that today's youth don't appreciate what they have. Some cliches are true. If asked, I would say that no, I wouldn't want anybody to have to grow up in the hostile atmosphere I did. I suppose that what I am saying is that at this point, I wouldn't change it for myself. I've finally gotten to where I kinda like me and my sense of humor. And, the way I grew up – that same hostile environment – is very much a part of who I am.

The air of mystery that was my twenties has pretty much been blown away by the winds of change. So, boys in high school can have boyfriends. (I do not know if this is actually happening, but if it isn't, it isn't far away.) The oblique looks, the waiting, the wondering, the excitement... *poof*. Gone. That's the price for being mainstream. Frankly, though, computers, the internet and mobile devices had washed a lot of that away already, but that is another gripe session for another time.

So, on we go with our lives. There was, indeed, quite a bit of fanfare on this day a year ago. That has died down. The divorce rate among same-sex couples seems to be the same as with opposite-sex couples. This is according to a couple of online sources, including an article by The Wall Street Journal. We're fighting over whether a bakery can refuse service to same-sex weddings, but I, for one, would never give my money to a business or person like that anyway. I go to work and pay bills. I have left the intrigue of dating and night clubs behind. I feel a little bit mainstream, a feeling that a part of me is resisting tooth and nail. So, I write and paint and let that part of me express himself. And, I wonder how it's going to be for a generation of people who never knew what a closet was.

Until we meet again I remain,

Yours truly,


* I will grant you that I, for one, could have focused on other things as well – a college education, for instance. There are gays who have college education and who are very successful in the business world. My older brother is one of them, though he works for a nonprofit, so I don't know if you would technically call that the business world. I was a little too focused on figuring out who I was to bother to actually make something of myself, until recently.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Galveston Weekend 2016 - Final Day

The nearly full moon reminds me that it is time to return home. We slept a little late this morning. Nameless is glazing tiles because that's how he relaxes. I am writing and drinking coffee. I didn't get around to walking on the sand at night, with the waves coming at me. I'm not a huge beach fan, but there is something very relaxing about walking in the seawater with sand beneath your feet, and watching the waves' endless approach. I did watch the waves, and I did smell salt air. And, Galveston is still here. I can come back.

Driving around, you can see some of the more influential families. Moody, Gresham, Kempner are a few. I kept seeing the name Galvez, which stands out a little bit. It seems very Spanish in a place that seems to have less Spanish influence than other places I've visited. (My home town of San Antonio, for instance.) At some point I read about the way the city got its name, for Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez. Galveztown – Galveston. I'm rather dense that way, sometimes. Things just have to be spelled out for me.

Nameless has a friend, Chin, who invited us to lunch since we were going to be in his neck of the woods. Vorakit Chinookoswong's home and studio are nearby, so we jump in the car and drive out to meet him and his brother and sister. The house is on a stunningly beautiful place, right next to the water with grass that is greener than green. They suffered, like many others in the area, from Hurricane Ike. His brother showed me where the water had come up to half the height of his kiln (brand new!). I remember when it was going on. I didn't have a phone number; I just had an email. The email I sent was answered weeks later when Chin managed to get to a place that had a computer. All of our technology was of no use; nobody had heard from him. So we waited. Where a house had been is now a field of bright green grass that Chin's brother grumbles that he has to mow. It truly is a beautiful place, even if it is exceptionally vulnerable.

I've written about Chin before here, but below are a few pictures of some of the work that we have.

Chin told me I could take some pictures. I am very fond of seeing artists' workspaces. Here are a few.

A Potter's Wheel with a View of the Gulf

Chin, when are you going to glaze those spiky things?!

Work in Progress


I found the Top Secret Instructions!!!
But, I can't read them.

More seafood for lunch. We had a wonderful visit with Chin.

Good friends


Much better

As the afternoon progressed it became time to take our leave and let Chin get back to producing his beautiful art. A few pictures of his place before we leave.

Older work used as a road block

A snail that complements the round accents

The world is a better place with these two men in it

Back at the house we take a quick siesta. It's time to pack and leave. I think about what we've seen.

The Bishop's Palace

Guarding The Bishop's Palace

These stairs are much creepier than this picture indicates

Ubiquitous "Hurricane Ike Water Level" marker

Historic Home

Pleasure Pier

We clean the house (Nameless actually did most of the cleaning; I loaded the car.) We are ready to take our leave of this vacation. We both agree that a few days is best; it's time to be home. We did what I came to do. It's time to be home.

Sunset on our Galveston Vacation

P.S. I'll mention again that Chin has a website: If you visit, tell him Earnie sent you.