Hard-hitting, clear-headed reviews of cats. Also, cat-related news.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How the Future Sucks (Another Post Not About Cats)

On the way home from work today I decided to write a series of posts titled How the Future Sucks. These posts will examine the one hundred thousand ways that current life has left us bitter and disappointed, with frustrated expectations. I thought about naming this series Everything you Want, but decided against it after realizing it was influenced by the radio.

Today's entry: The Cuban Sandwich

In Ames last winter while killing an afternoon with Lauren Cerretti I ordered a Cuban sandwich from a waitress in The Café, on the north side of town. This was a ritzier place I went to infrequently, the kind of place where sometimes you have to wait and where there's a separate room for a bakery (but where, still, all sodas come out of cans, mysteriously). I had never heard of Cuban sandwiches but this one came with baked and house-made plantain chips and it seemed impossible to go wrong.

The Cuban came and it was roast pork and un-roast pork and mustard and pickles and a thin layer of black beans pressed between two flattened and once-buttered slices of bread. Damn, it was incredible. So good. The sandwich tight and crisp and the chips salty. The thing more delicious with each bite.

When I decided to move out here to the rest home of America with Sarah I thought, at least there will be delicious Cuban sandwiches. At least if a restaurant in Ames, Iowa can produce such a delicious sandwich, I will be able to find better in a place with a large Cuban population.

Despite my anticipation, Sarah made it to a Cuban first, at some sort of work-related lunch. That night she expressed disappointment. "It was just ham," she said, or something like that. "You have strange taste," I said, or something like that, because she does. She won't eat beans most days and once was sent into a rage by a chili dog. However, I myself picked up a Cuban later that week and was similarly disappointed. I picked up another one at a different restaurant and was just as disappointed.

Was all lost? Was all hopeless? All was, until I went in for a job interview at a donkey show of a school on the north side of this town and found the interviewer out to a long lunch. I tooled around an unfamiliar district and went to an Office Max for ink and paper and then noticed the Cuban Café just down the street. Inside, the place was all newspaper racks and chilled and unfamiliar sodas and a menu written on a white board and a handful of people who spoke kindly and accented English. I ordered a Cuban and sat with a newspaper alone and waited and fantasized the food that would appear and found myself ten minutes later holding a slightly greasy and slightly dry ham sandwich with a few condiments tucked inside.

What the hell, I might have said.

And since then I have avoided Cubans altogether but today I picked one up on the way home when I stopped in the local grocery to pick up tortillas for dinner and soap for our hands and salmon for the future and then ate that sandwich as I drove to the post office. I wasn't expecting much and so was not disappointed but this thing was nowhere near the one I'd eaten at The Café last year. The pickles were crammed to one side and there was no roasted pork and the saddest thing was that even this was better than the Cuban I'd picked up at the Cuban Café here in Florida.

And perhaps the saddester thing is that of the six or so Cubans I've had since arriving here the best I've had was served by a flustered clerk at an overpriced quick-service restaurant at what used to be MGM and is now called something else. There was rain outside and it was eight and we'd slugged down five-fifty beers and maybe that had something to do with the taste but something about that sandwich was better than any others I'd eaten since getting here. It still was nowhere near the meal I picked up in Ames last winter.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tim(othy) Dicks's Review of Hurricanes

OH MAN it's starting to look like Disaster Christmas here. Sarah rolled in today as I sat stewing and choking down an energy drink and told me to prepare to be rocked by a hurricane. I imagined the balcony windows breaking out, breaking in, glass everywhere. Us untouched, hiding in the hallway, drinking fine Mexican beers from cans. Outside, palm trees crushing my junky car. The dick neighbor's house with an SUV stuck out of its side like a boil.


But it looks like things might not get so wild here. The governor has declared a state of emergency but it sounds more routine than desperate. The normalcy of the situation is almost a little disappointing, which I write knowing that it makes me one of those naive assholes who waits for something interesting and dangerous to happen without considering that it might tear his head off or blow his entire apartment into the uncovered pool in the neighbor's back yard. I still find myself hoping to see trees all over the road, the only path out of this neighborhood blocked. I still imagine the call to my job, the morning spent drinking bottled water, watching cats fly by outside the bedroom windows.

This probably has something to do with growing up in the Midwest, where the worst disasters came in the forms of monster snow storms that did nothing (in my perception) other than get me out of school for days on end. Here of course there would be property damage and injuries and death but I'm having trouble imagining those things as genuine consequences. The most valuable object I own fits in a laptop bag and my girlfriend and I are so far lucky in disaster situations. In the event of a flood or a tree through the wall, my first reaction would probably be to check on the landlord's dogs in the house at the bottom of the stairs. Let's go, dogs, I'd say. They'd rub their filthy noses all over my pants and tear ass up the stairs. They wouldn't know anything was really wrong either.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I should never have bought organic beans from that damned co-op.

I seem to have developed a new (to me) coffee formula for inducing strange head experiences. Usually after swilling a pot of coffee I feel electric and tightened in my brain and shoulders and racing in my thoughts but now I feel loose and liquid, as if some fundamental connective tissue that ran through my persona has been removed or dissolved and everything is spilling into a puddle.


Cat Turns into Woman

While desperately swimming through the internet in hopes of putting off any real writing or cleaning of the apartment or packing of bags, I found this story, linked to from Neil Gaiman's blog.

Here's a sample:

What could be described as a fairy tale turned real on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as a cat allegedly turned into a middle-aged woman after being hit by a commercial motorcycle...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cat Four, Huge as Hell

I stumbled over this NYT article today while taking a break from writing up a new short story. Goosebumps books were some of the first I owned, and certainly the first I collected, a longass time ago, in the third grade. They accumulated on the bookshelf above my bed and in my locker at school. They were the kind of dorky commodity that both entertained and could actually get you social credit. I remember an argument between me and another kid, a somewhat popular kid, regarding who owned the most individual copies. At the time it seemed that this was actually worth arguing about.

Last October, while visiting my parents' house, I climbed stairs to my old bedroom and dug out all my old Goosebumps books. The covers were gaudier than I remembered, the books themselves were thinner, and when I cracked a few I realized that the stories were much goofier. As girlfriend Sarah Rodenberg points out, "Only RL Stine can make a story about an evil sponge and have people buy it."

(I think she may be out of touch with the realities of publishing.)

I drove the books back to my apartment, and when I got home, I sat around with a beer trying to put them into order. They stacked up, kids' novels with gremlins and grinning wooden dummes on their fronts, and I was astounded and a little ashamed to have an almost unbroken run of the first 35 books. I tucked them into a cardboard box and donated them to a benefit auction for the literary journal Flyway, of which I am the fiction edtior. The goal was to raise enough money to finance our next issue, and we raised more than three thousand dollars. My Goosebumps novels pulled in fifteen bucks.


. . .

Sarah says, "Welcome to Camp Nightmare was my favorite. You think it's all normal and then you realize that THEY ARE ON ANOTHER PLANET. At the very end. Out of nowhere and for no reason."

Whatever your feelings about the Goosebumps series, you can probably at least agree that RL Stine is one strange-looking man.

. . .

I have no idea what this is about, but I'm impressed that somebody bothered making it.

. . .

After a nearly year-long hiatus, I am coming back to review Cat Four, Mulder.

Huge as hell!

Notice the goatee.

Watch for an update after this weekend.

Monday, March 24, 2008

That cat has let himself go.

And yes, I walked away from this blog last May and expected never to return. Really my enthusiasm petered out. This isn't true, but it may as well be: in the night a great black cat appeared in my dream and told me I'd reviewed every cat in this town worth seeing.

But a strange event occurred. Yesterday I visited my hometown for Easter. This isn't something I would regularly do, but it's been a while since I've been home, so I drove hours to get there. I spent the entirety of Saturday night playing video games with old friends and eating regrettable gas station food.

Every time I go home I have to be reminded that there are no late-night pizza or burrito stores.

The best you can do for food in my hometown after eleven pm is to buy a packet of roasted peanuts of, if you're feeling self-destructive, one of the prepackaged and chilled hamburgers.

Anyway: Sunday after lunch, my mother drove me to a care center to visit my grandmother. She was asleep but we woke her up. There was another woman in the room, curled up in her cot, and I felt bad for her but we spoke in quiet tones and leaned close when we opened our mouths. I sat on my grandmothers' bed and we talked about all the ham the care center serves. A few minutes in, I looked out the window and saw her old house across the street. I imagine it's coincidence that her room looks out onto her old house.

"Sometimes it's kind of sad," she said.

"I bet it is," I said, and felt bad.

Anyway: as we left we walked through a common room where people sat in wheelchairs around tables and birds talked in a six-foot cage in the corner. A white-haired woman sat at a table with a Scrabble board in front of her. She got our attention and said to me, "Aren't you that cat man?"

"Well," I said. I wasn't sure what to say next. She waited so I said, "I do, yes, yeah, I like cats."

She said something like this: I have a picture of a little black-and-white cat that looks like a raccoon. I'd like to show it to you at a later date.

As we left, my mother said, "I have no idea what that was about."


Today I happened to encounter Cat One, Rufus. He lived in a new smaller apartment with a better furniture arrangement and Modest Mouse coming out of speakers next to a window. He was fat. Fatter than hell. That cat has put on some weight. I attempted to shame him with straight talk but he had none of it and kept eating his dry cat food. Writing this I feel like an ass but that cat has let himself go.