Friday, March 8

The Walking Dead Friday - 'Clear.'

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Season 3 - Episode 12: 'Clear.'

The Walking Dead Friday is upon us. We have much to discuss.

Great episode this week. They didn't gain a lot of ground physically, and the war with the Governor is still forthcoming, but the acting clinic that Andrew Lincoln and Lennie James gave us was about as good as The Walking Dead gets on that front. Carl showed some heart, Rick became slightly less crazy, Michonne has earned the trust of the Grimes Family, and Morgan...well, he's just going to go ahead and keep being Morgan for awhile.

Now, let's make with the funny.

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("Hello? Could you please…AAUGH! It's Rick Grimes! Get me the hell outta here!")

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(Rick insists on listening to Mumford and Sons.)

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("Where did she get that calzone?")

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(This is also the state motto of Georgia.)

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(I don't care if it's the apocalypse, there's always time for some paintball.)

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(Never mind. This is the state motto of Georgia.)

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(I assume this guy was the bass player in a local Indie band.)

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(It's good to see that some parts of Georgia went unscathed.)

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(Where the hell did he find so much colored chalk? Does he live next to a Hobby Lobby?)

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("CLEAR!")

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("Damn it, Rick, admit it! When you cook a Boca Burger on a Foreman grill, it tastes just like the real thing!")

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(Carl stops in for one last Root Hash Scrambler before they hit the road.)

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("WE'RE OUT OF THOUSAND ISLAND IS FRENCH OKAY?")

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(Thanks, Obamacare. Pssshh.)

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("How did I get your picture? Magic, BITCH.")

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Season 1 - Episode 1 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 2 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 3 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 4 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 5 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 6 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 9 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 10 Review.  
Season 3 - Episode 11 Review.

Wednesday, March 6

2013 CDP Cat Update.

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It's become sort of a hack comedy bit, but I've never understood how Radio Shack could stay in business considering their inventory. My joke was that their revenue consisted of nothing but lamp cord and speaker wire, yet there was a location no more than 20 minutes away from anyone in America.

When I woke up from bed last week, I had become the karmic butt of my own joke, as I noticed that my newest cat, Faye, had chewed her way through nearly every piece of wire and string in the house. Two of the vertical blind strings were ruined. Two of the cords for my electronic drum set were chewed through. Most ironically, she had shredded one of my speaker wires, which meant I was hours away from doing my part to keep Radio Shack in business for yet another baffling day.

Maybe it's cats, not people, that keep Radio Shack in business. Just a thought. At this point, I'm spitballing anything that even remotely makes sense.

While Faye has a tendency to chew on stuff (she will eventually be electrocuted, which should put an end to such behavior), this was an unprecedented act of defiance. Furthermore, when I went downstairs, I saw that a potted plant had been overturned and there was blood on the linoleum. An outstanding way to start the day if I ever saw one. I nearly took the day off.

Eventually, I pieced everything together. My oldest cat, Gabe, has a recurring kidney problem (he's prone to stones and blockages), and unfortunately suffered a flare-up that had him peeing blood everywhere (the box hurts too much when you have a UTI, so you tend to go on cooler surfaces). This change in Gabe's attitude sent my other two, typically well-behaved cats (Faye and Rory) on a massive freakout rampage. It was a sympathy tantrum, and while I felt bad for all involved, I briefly entertained the notion of throwing them all into the Nature Preserve for the coyotes to deal with. These things never fix themselves.

Gabe gets sick every couple years (he's crazy old, even for a Siamese), and it always arrives at the most inopportune fiscal time. This time, he decided to suffer an expensive UTI mere minutes after our tax refund came back, money we were planning on using to buy a new car (jury's still out on that). However, the bulk of the new car money instead went straight into Gabe's wiener in the form of pills, blood tests and biopsy results.

As a pet owner, this is how you live. You give as much attention as you can while extracting as much love as possible, because when the end arrives, it's going to be sad and expensive. Cats generally don't even have the kindness to die suddenly; most of what I've had to deal with are slow, drawn-out illnesses that end in the middle of the night once your checkbook and sanity have been thoroughly tapped.

Most everyone will tell you it's worth it, though.

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(Andromeda - RIP)

Several months ago, we had to put down Andromeda, our female Birman (and retired champion show cat), after she contracted a fatal genetic disease that we discovered had a 100% mortality rate. Andromeda was a sweetheart to the Missus and I, but she was quite the bully to our Siamese males, who simply couldn't understand how someone couldn't like them (Siamese are the most emo of cat breeds). She clearly came into the house as the Alpha Cat, and ruled the roost with an iron paw (she also was not declawed, which meant she had an advantage in every skirmish).

While I don't necessarily endorse buying cats from a breeder (the local shelter needs your business much more), Celia wanted a Birman, so away we went. This cat's pedigree and popularity was ridiculous; she had more trophies and ribbons than anything I've accumulated in my life. In fact, she nearly had a larger web presence than me (there were many websites that mentioned this cat by name).

She bonded instantly with the Missus, who took it pretty hard when she fell ill. However, it was amazing to see the personality change once she wasn't around. Gabe and Rory acted like a weight was lifted from them, and they could once again be as playful and personable as they wanted. We both definitely miss Andromeda, but we were happy to provide her with a happy and comfortable retirement from the weird, weird and unbelievably weird world of professional cat shows.

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(Rory. 6-7 years old. A distinguished gentleman.)

Rory is initially skittish around loud noises, sudden movements and people that are going to give him a hard time, but once he warms up to you, he's as sweet and clingy as any cat I've ever owned. He's a big, beautiful boy that has since settled into his own as the official greeter of the household.

When we first adopted him, I was extremely opposed to the idea of having three cats in the house. But shit, look at him! As soon as his previous owner brought him out for me to see, I exhaled deeply and grumbled to nobody in particular as I went outside to get the cat carrier that would eventually transport him to my house. Jerk.

Seal point Siamese cats (and Siamese cats in general) are among my most favorite breeds, not just because they look amazing, but their temperament is phenomenal. They show (and retain) emotion, and their vocabulary is incredibly deep for any animal. They have so many different 'meows,' for when they're playful, angry, hungry, lonely...it's really an amazing thing when you start to pick up on the language of an intelligent cat. They're communicating with you in a way that most don't realize is possible with a feline.

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(Gabe. At least 13 years old. The official ambassador of the Zeinert household.)

Gabe is old school. Literally, he's like a billion years old. Doesn't have many teeth left and has been to the vet more times than I can count, but he's currently healthy and happy, which is all that really matters when you own a pet. Believe me, I know the difference between keeping an animal alive for selfish reasons versus quality of life reasons, and Gabe is extremely happy 24 hours a day. Not only has he never bit or hissed at anyone ever, but he's never even thrown up. I honestly didn't think that was possible for any feline (Rory throws up every other day), but he's anything if not surprising.

If I had to wish perpetual sickness on any of my animals (weird predicament, I know), it would have to be Gabe, if only for how well he handles it. Rory would have a nervous breakdown and hide for weeks. Faye would bite every hand that came near her. Gabe, on the other hand, doesn't hold grudges. We've had to do some terrible things to him for the sake of his health, and he'll be back to snuggling with us just a few hours later. There's also a slight chance he might be the eternal second coming of Jesus Christ, but we'll see how that plays out.

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(Faye. 3 years old. The reckless, hotshot rookie.)

We adopted Faye a month after losing Andromeda, as the Missus wanted to have at least one female cat in the house (that was an awesome argument). The bizarre thing about Faye is that, for all her unique markings and mannerisms, she looks almost identical to the first cat we ever owned, a female Siamese mix named Tinker:

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(Tinker - RIP)

We had no idea that Faye looked like Tinker until the day we came to look at her. It was like seeing a ghost; she was ours the very next day. Faye is the youngest cat I've owned as an adult, and I sort of forgot that they need to played with constantly, or else they'll find more reckless ways to entertain themselves (ie: cord-chewing).

Most importantly, Faye's relationship with Gabe and Rory is awesome. It's not an alpha mentality, it's a pack mentality. They're all seemingly friendly on the same level, playing without fighting and sharing space without conflict. They're all best buds, apparently, which was an unlikely stroke of good fortune for yours truly.

So, a few weeks after a barrage of medication, Gabe appears to be back to normal. The cord-chewing and plant-uprooting has ceased for the time being, if only because I've hidden almost all of them from Faye. My trip to Radio Shack/Guitar Center to replace my speaker/drum cords was about as pleasant as a root canal, but hey, everything's status quo for another few weeks.

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(A dog I saw at a parade once.)

Nothing wrong with that when you have cats.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Monday, March 4

It's (Still) Great To Be Eighteen.

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(This essay's getting a victory lap because I'm busy working on new stuff.)

Everyone in the Emergency Room was disgusted when they saw me.

As I stumbled through the coughing, sneezing and moaning onlookers, I pressed my left hand up to the left side of my head. The pain was still radiating through me, and the blood that soaked through the bandages and onto my palm was a reminder that the most painful moment of my life was seemingly finished.

My surgery was over. My mother was clutching my right forearm, leading me back to the car. I could keep my balance fine without her, but she clung to me because I couldn’t hear anything. The bandage was wrapped tightly around my head, cocooning both ears in silence. Tufts of hair sprouted out of the gaps where the turban of gauze was haphazardly applied, the left side soaked completely through with dark blood.

Even though I was hurting, I still wondered what the stunned onlookers were thinking. Maybe they thought I was shot in the temple. Perhaps they thought I had attempted suicide. A freak, earlobe-lopping accident at the barbershop was a long shot, but still entirely possible. One thing was for sure: I was officially deformed for life, and I could have easily prevented it by not being such a selfish, spineless, prideful kid.

I had turned eighteen less than two months prior, and for someone so intent on being treated like an adult, having my mother drag me out of the ER wasn’t necessarily what I had in mind. For as concerned as she was with my well-being, she still took a moment to revel in my misfortune when we got to the parking lot.

Tell me again how great it is to be eighteen,” she said with a satisfied grin.

I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.

ONE HOUR EARLIER.

AAAUGH! God f***ing damn it!

I was screaming so loudly, the entire wing of the hospital must have heard me. I was face-down on the operating table, strapped in tight and given no medication for the pain. Instead, two female nurses did their best to console me as the doctor began the process of cutting the back of my left earlobe off.

Ryan!” my mom exclaimed. “Don’t swear!

It’s okay,” one of the nurses said. “This is a very painful procedure.”

SHIT PISS CHRIST,” I howled through gritted teeth, my face mashed against the vinyl gurney.

I felt every scalpel slice. I heard every incision. I felt the warmth of the blood running down my head, and in my peripheral, I could see the mountain of crimson gauze the nurses were using to soak it up. If you were to tally up every drop of blood I had spilled in the seventeen years leading up to this moment, this topped them all combined.

This is one of the more…pervasive infections I’ve seen,” said the doctor in a horrible display of bedside manner. I responded by repeatedly kicking myself in the back with my heels. It was literally all I could do.

Let’s start suction,” the doctor said, motioning to the quieter of the two nurses. She then produced a device I normally see at the dentist’s office, only this time around, it wasn’t being used to remove fluoride and lukewarm water from my palate. It was being used to suck the pus and blood from the gaping hole in the back of my head.

As you can assume, the sound of this was repugnant, and the sensation was unbearable. I was making up curse words by this point.

AAAUGH! TONY SHIT-ASSING LITTLE!

This went on for about 45 minutes, until the doctor felt that he had sufficiently cleaned out the infected earlobe. “We’re just going to bandage it up for now and let you clean it periodically until it heals,” he said. “For the love of God though, don’t OVER clean it. Jeepers…that lobe blew open like a spider egg; you’re lucky the infection didn’t get into your bloodstream.”

Thank you for your time,” I said, composing myself as the nurses unstrapped me and began wrapping the gauze turban around my head. One of them got my mom’s attention. “Please assist him out; his hearing may be impaired.

ONE DAY EARLIER.

You have to go to the hospital right now,” Celia said. Thankfully, she was speaking to me again.

My girlfriend was checking out the back of my ear; I had been hiding it as best I could for the last six weeks, but it was becoming too big of a concern (emotionally and literally) to ignore.

Every day, the infection seemed to get bigger. No amount of ointment, rigorous cleaning or gentle massage seemed to do the trick. The pain was intense, and the swelling was now at a veritable breaking point. “It looks like a peanut M&M full of pus,” Celia said, silently contemplating just how much of a naive doofus her boyfriend really was.

Serves you right, really,” she chirped as she inspected the discolored lump. “This would have never happened if you wouldn’t have ditched me.

I…ouch…I already told you I was sorry,” I said. “Besides, it…OW!...it wasn’t my fault. And it was my birthday.

Yeah…how’s being eighteen working out for you, by the way?

Okay, that’s enough. I’ll go to the hospital tomorrow.”

TWO DAYS EARLIER.

I reached my breaking point on St. Patrick’s Day.

At school, all of us seniors wore shamrock-shaped nametags around our necks, and throughout the day we would give our lanyards away to a person of our choosing. This could be a significant other, a good friend or merely a random passerby (if you didn’t care). Like most high school gimmicks of this nature, the popular kids were given the most nametags, and the rest of us felt like the Sneetches without stars.

I was sitting in the library, doing the People Magazine crossword puzzle, waiting for Celia to show up so I could give her my lanyard as a way to apologize. Surprisingly, nobody had noticed my infected ear to this point; I was covert in my mannerisms and always backed away from friends when I ended conversations. Sort of.

Just then, Paul strolled in. Paul was a gangly, overbearing, foul-mouthed bully (one of those kids that got held back in kindergarten and took it out on the rest of the class for the next 12 years). I usually steered clear of Paul’s wrath, but he was on the warpath today, snatching lanyards from around the necks of anyone in his way. I’d say he was sporting about 30 of them by the time he got to me.

I’ll take this,” he grunted, as he violently yanked the lanyard from around my neck with an upward thrust. I was in the midst of standing up as this happened, perfectly content to remove the nametag myself and simply hand it to the mongoloid… but I didn’t do it in time. The pain hit me a millisecond before I realized what had happened: the back of the lanyard was snagged on my massively swollen earlobe, and Paul was tugging on it with all his might.

I’m not one to pick fights with bullies, but not only was I in pain, I also faced potential eternal embarrassment if my secret was discovered. Losing the nametag was no big deal; having the Class of 2000 discover an alien life form growing out of the back of your ear is another disaster altogether. I flipped out and started swinging until the lanyard came loose and we had to be separated.

Minutes later, I ran into the bathroom to survey the damage. The cyst was bleeding and hemorrhaging, and I spent the next 10 minutes getting it to stop long enough to face my peers for the remainder of the day. Celia, expecting to receive my shamrock, continued to not speak to me.

I couldn’t do this anymore. I had to tell someone.

TWO WEEKS EARLIER.

People with OCD shouldn’t get their ears pierced.

Everything I read preached constant cleaning and meticulous attention, but nobody said anything about the risks of over-cleaning and excessive attention. Using alcohol, saline and peroxide to the point where your body no longer manufactures the necessary chemicals with which to properly ward off infection and allergy. Chalk it up to inexperience; this was my first time.

When the swelling initially began, I did my best to drain it naturally and let nature do the rest of the work. However, once things began to get out of hand, everything closed up shop and I was unable to get anything out of there. Even my earring was stuck.

Nonetheless, I kept this a secret, mainly to save face in front of my girlfriend (who wasn’t talking to me) and mother (who was pissed off beyond words), but mostly because I was embarrassed and terrified. This was supposed to be something I did to look cool and rebellious, not something I did because I wanted to go to the hospital and get a piece of my head lanced off.

ONE MONTH EARLIER.

On the day of my 18th birthday, I was supposed to be at the high school. Celia was playing in the school’s Pep Band, and I promised her that I would be there to see her play for the first time. However, my friends had different plans for me.

We’re taking you to the mall to get your ears pierced. It’s free on your 18th birthday.

"Guys, I really don’t want to do this. Besides, I need to be back at the school. Celia’s playing in the-"

So what? You’re not leaving the mall until this gets done.

At this point, my friends had a 60/40 stroke over my decisions compared to Celia. However, today was the last day they would misuse their power of manipulation over me, as from February 2, 2000 onward, this Balance of Power switched permanently. In a moment of teen selfishness, I went along with this excursion, and Celia played her first Pep Band concert in front of nobody. I apologized to her from a pay phone in the Food Court, but she was having none of it.

The piercing didn’t hurt, but my anxiety was already in hyperspace. I asked volumes of questions concerning care and maintenance; why I didn’t just tear it out when I got home is beyond me. I guess part of me thought it was cool, and at that point in my life, I was doing anything I could to demonstrate my newfound independence in front of my mother.

That night, I burst through the front door of my mom’s house sporting my piercing with pride.

It’s great to be eighteen!” I shouted. And it was.

11 YEARS LATER.

Celia, now my wife, claims that it looks like a ‘baby’s butt.’

She’s referring to the back of my left earlobe, which long ago shrunk and healed up, but not before leaving me with a lump of misshapen scar tissue that (to her, at least) looks like the rump of a newborn. I never got another piercing, and to this day, my mother reminds me about the masterful judgment lapse on my first official day of adulthood.

We all make mistakes. Some of us get arrested. Some of us get our asses handed to us in an alley. For me, I just wanted to impress my friends and rebel against my parents in the most stereotypical way possible. In doing so, I was reminded that when it comes to me, there’s no such thing as ‘the most stereotypical way possible.’ I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about tattoos and piercings, but most of them don’t end with “And then they lanced my earlobe off.

Lesson learned. Again.