Do What Thou Wilt

My gardener, David-Talks-To-Cheese, has been waging a losing war on the voles, who have taken to hollowing out the unripe tomatoes like a posse of snarky rodent pranksters. It is hardly uncommon to have voles around here but for some reason this summer they have gone crazy. I don’t know if they got in an extra breeding cycle or are simply flocking to my yard because the jungle vines are overtaking it and providing shelter. Usually I police these things up but the heat index has been up over a hundred fucking degrees way too many days already this summer. The response to “Do what thou wilt” has been pretty much “wilt.”There are voles; okay, there are voles. Tough titty.

David is persevering though, and he shipped in a gallon container of some sort of vole and chipmunk and mole repellent whose active ingredient — David being relentlessly organic — is castor oil. Maybe it gives the voles the shits, or something.

He and Mrs. David were casting about in the garden rows trying to pursue one of the little bandits, as if they intended to spray him directly, when I came around the corner of the house to fill the birdbath. Just standing there next to the birdbath with the garden hose feels like being under twenty Kleig lights at close quarters. I don’t know how they found the spunk to chase a vole around. Or why.

A little while later I was on my way to the gym and found them packed up to leave; David was toting a couple of cucumbers. “Would you like a cucumber?” he asked. “I got a big one, or would you like the small one?” (You have to imagine his accent, which is right out of Hee Haw.)

I restrained myself from saying I was not a size queen and took the small one, tossing it in my gym bag, which was going to be in a cool room, after all, till I got it home again.

That was yesterday. Today I opened up my bag at the gym. Um.


Further proof that the heat is driving me out of my mind

Please just let this end. If it won’t end — which the Capital Weather Gang says won’t happen till at least Monday — can I have my very own climate change denier to stake out on the lawn? In the direct sun? On top of an ant hill?

Dog days, dog breath. Just trying to hang on.

All Hail Fancy Feast

Not the stripper (and yes, there is a badass plus-size burlesque performer by that name), but the canned cat food. I never thought I’d be saying this, but this comminuted slaughterhouse-sweeping gravy-suspended meat collation is my current Gratefulness Object. See, a client who nursed an old cat through the terminal kidney disease of old age brought me the book she came to depend on, and I frantically opened it to the chapter about CAT WON’T EAT ANYTHING. “Cats who reject everything else,” said the oracle, “will sometimes eat Fancy Feast.”

If you are not a cat person, understand that this is pretty much Burger King or Popeye’s for cats, pulverized and pressed-looking fragments of vaguely animal flesh swimming in gluey sauce. The Engineer ran right out to Shoppers Food Whorehouse on his lunch hour. We put the dish in front of Torvald, who was sitting rather glumly on the bath mat in front of the first floor commode — somehow, that was the new favorite place, a bit inconvenient for clients. He looked at it and looked up at us. The Engineer hugged me. I was sad. The Engineer patted me on the back. The Engineer dug his blunt chunky fingertips into my deltoids and forcibly turned me around, a wildly out-of-character act, and there was Torvald ear deep in the dish of soupy crap.

He’s been eating it ever since, at the rate of about three little cans every day. Another client had a case shipped to him from Amazon; he’s got fans, that one. No more turkey baster. The vertebrae have stopped sticking out like nailheads and he trots and leaps and butts me with his head.

No idea why the vet didn’t know about this.

A day may come when his appetite for everything fails. But it is not this day.

His Majesty


Torvald has been having a difficult week, which is one reason I’ve not posted in ages; that, and the heat, which melts your brain.

I fuss over him a good deal, my fluffy Viking. His appetite flagged again about eight days ago, something which was going to happen, given that his kidneys were never going to completely recover from the heart medications that have kept him alive since May of 2015. He is thinner, and spends less time bounding and more time just chilling (though he can still show a clean pair of heels off the sofa back), but he is still every inch a king.

He does not really want to eat, but he’ll let me, without a fight, give him cream in a dropper and cat food by hand, and it perks him up at the cost of two thirty-second indignities every day. The vet said there might be ups and downs. I’ll take what I get, so long as his life is still about catting, not just surviving.

In the evenings he jumps onto a platform on the porch, or stakes out the fascinating Buddy Door (which leads to the upstairs where the senior cats are secured when Torvald is up and about). Occasionally there is a conversation through the cellar door, which is almost all glass, and a white tippy paw thrust under it to try to get at Nickel or Fergie.

As long as he holds like this, tired but seemingly happy, there will be no trips to the vet.

I carve out moments to contemplate his unquenchable majesty.


I have often posted about politics in the past. Lately it has been too damn depressing.  I was surfing around, however, at a Facebook page titled Historians Against Donald Trump, kicked off by the iconic Ken Burns, and some fuming and festering in the comments about illegal immigrants made me realize: you know, goddamn, at least one of my ancestors was an illegal immigrant. No shit.

What the story is, at least as my father told it to me, is that once upon a time there was a Norwegian able seaman named Michaelssen who put into port in the great city of New Orleans, and Herr Michaelssen, whose antecedents are fairly sketchy, apparently decided he had had quite enough of the seafaring life. Having jumped ship, he made his way inland, and I mean way inland, finally fetching up, like Odysseus, at a point where people didn’t know what his oar was and had to ask. We’re talking Nebraska here.

Just speculating, but I don’t think he went through an immigration office. Eighteen hundred something. He married into a German family that had entered in a more formal way, and eventually there was a daughter who married a second-generation Scots-Irishman, which is sort of a parlayed Norwegian anyway, und so weiter until you get to me.

But, you know, all very very white and Northern, which I guess is the difference. No stories of great-great-grandfather Michaelssen (who did change his name to avoid awkward inquiries, to something very drab and English) encountering suspicion from the authorities or hysteria from the populace.

Just sayin.


I have not been posting much but I have been doing stacks. I sense the distant rumble of some vicious workouts over the next hill.

I got stuck for time a couple weeks ago and had about a half hour of weight rack time to kill my back and chest, and decided to do my old cherished Darden Stack. It’s a sort of giant set. Ellington Darden, so far as I understand it, had a lot to do with designing Nautilus workout equipment — does anyone remember when Nautilus was the new cool thing?  Am I dating myself? Anyway he is in his seventies and still killing it, so the Net tells me, though I can’t find anywhere the book I took this workout from, one of many screeds he issued on “high intensity training”. When you got thirty minutes you want high intensity. I used just the upper body half of a break-in routine that he cooked up three decades ago.

First you ballpark what you can huck for twenty reps on a series of upper body lifts and line it up by the bench because you are not going to want to waste time going and looking for weights. Then you cinch up the belt and grab a pair of dumbbells, even though it says a bar in the book because I broke my elbow when I was nine and the arms will never straighten out at the same angle, and do a whack of shoulder presses, fling the dumbbells, grab a Z-bar, go to 90 degrees at the hips and row the fucker up to your abs till it don’t come up no more, grab another pair of dumbbells and knock out as many bench presses as you can, grab another and crank some bicep curls with your elbows locked hard to your floating ribs — this is where it gets intense because you start to get that air-pumped, stretched feeling in the arm muscles and the dumbbells are coming up kind of as if under water — then fling the bastards and drop to the bench to execute a set of dips.

Make a woofing noise as you crash down on the last dip to amuse your trainer friend who is currently abusing a gym member a couple of stations down the free weight line. Repeat.

Late in the day the strange air-pumped feeling returns to your shoulder girdle and you feel odd tractions within the muscle bellies that make you at one with the cosmos. Also you experience a sudden craving for disgusting whey protein gels that look like Dr. Jekyll cooked them up.

It has been way too goddam long since I stacked it up. We all have our ups and downs. I have been just barely keeping my head above water lately, for whatever reason, but I am hearing the siren song of blown-out muscles. Some people download porn, I do this. I can’t explain it.

The Best Weather Graphic Ever Devised

Washington, D.C. was recently described as “a marble-encased griddle” in the summer months, according to a blogger my Engineer follows.

The thing is, it’s not the heat, as the old saw goes. Arizona is a griddle. Nevada is a griddle.

Washington is an industrial steamer. In the words of the longtime columnist Henry Allen, breathing its summer air is like giving artificial respiration to an old bathing suit, like trying to suck-start the outside exhaust vent on a Chinese restaurant.

The Washington Post’s “Capital Weather Gang” rose to the occasion earlier today with the best goddam humidity/dew-point rating scale I have ever seen in my born days.Humidometer

Click here for a link to their entire post.

The Fury Of The Northmen

Torvald got upstairs again.

This always happens when I have no time for it. Actually, it hasn’t happened in a long time — not since the boy developed his heart condition, which isn’t the sort of thing you want to stir up with his idea of convivial play. Someone always gets bitten, or peed on, and cats roll over and over one another in tightly clenched balls like the original undivided human in Plato’s Symposium.

So when I saw that the upstairs door — I freely admit, I had to be the one that failed to check the latch — was ajar and yet an eerie silence prevailed above stairs, I was apprehensive in the extreme. I tiptoed up the steps.

Torvald was reclining odalisque on the landing. Mystery, yellow, dopey and half again his size, mirrored his posture about a cubit away. They were in suspended animation, not looking immediately hostile, but my noise must have made Mystery blink, or move, and before I could reach the top Torvald had pounced and a wild scramble ended up in the dressing alcove with a cloud of variegated cat hair flying aloft, like Jurassic dandelion fluffs. Mystery one-eightied and headed for my closet, followed closely by a growling Torvald, who clearly hadn’t had this much fun in months. I got the laundry out of the basket and the basket over him just in time to keep him from rushing Mystery, who was disappearing behind my formal gowns. (I have some. Don’t ask why.)

There followed a laborious process of levering the basket-encased Torvald down the stairs, one tread at a time, carefully maintaining the position of the basket to prevent escapes and going slowly enough to keep him from coming to grief. Did I mention that I had just returned from the gym, sticky with sweat and smelling like six small goats, and that a client was due in twelve minutes? I got him down the stairs finally, shut the door, released him and gratefully watched him stalk toward the door of the sunporch. I let him out there. He immediately discovered he was on the wrong side of the door and let me know, indignantly and unrepentantly.


Fig. 1

A quick survey determined that Mr. Ferguson was cowering under the bed, Lilly Bast was secreted in the nethermost recesses of the closet, and Nickel Catmium was perched tensely on the tallest platform of the cat tree. I now had eight minutes to shower, dress and be ready for my first client. By the time I had gotten clean her car was in the driveway. We know each other pretty well, so I went down in my spa robe with a towel wrapped around my head and explained the situation. (This kind of thing is happening a lot lately.) Agatha Voleslayer, who usually occupies the lower floors with Torvald (he tried to mate with her when they met, and somehow exempts her from flying tackles), was still MIA. I found her on a window platform when I went back upstairs, but ended having to haul her out from under the dresser. As soon as I dressed and let Torvald back in the house he ran to the upstairs door and said “Can I do it again?”

By the time I had beaten three suffering butts everyone was more or less calmed down, but Mr. Ferguson required a lot of reassurance.


Fig. 2

It seems my Viking is hale and hearty and has no notion that he suffers from a cardiac condition, at least at this point. He’s back to pestering me for food at all hours, and he’s up to making Mr. Ferguson, an Irish charmer if ever one existed, importune Deity with the apocryphal supplication of the Irish monks: “From the fury of the Northmen, dear Lord, deliver us.”

Torvald just wants to know when the buddies can play with him again.