This morning I received an email from Chewy.com telling me that today is National Pet Parents Day! Apparently it’s some holiday dreamt up to be like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Alas, the animals can’t get me brunch or flowers.
Anyways, time flies – it’s been more than a whole year with Seymour! I was so cautious about being tied down by a cat again, but this is a life decision that easily tips over into the PRO category. His presence is worth the trouble of the litter box and the price of the cat sitters. It’s been fun to get to learn his personality over the past year.
10 Funny Things About Seymour
After taking him to the vet for an initial checkup, a specific caloric intake was recommended. Well, he’s been on and off his diet for an entire year and he’s gone from 17 to 15 lbs. The vet says he should be 12. That’s my bad of course as the owner, but I swear this cat just wants to be large. I mean, his previous owners actually named him “Fat Cat.” Maybe we should move toward acceptance, as long as he’s healthy.
Seymour is so fat that he has to go up and down the stairs in one big burst of energy, lest he lose momentum. To go up the stairs, he crouches, his butt wiggles a bit as he prepares mentally, then he huffs up the stairs in a flurry, with a little “mrowwwww!” of effort all the way up. When hurtling down the stairs, he can’t control his speed, and his tummy fat waddles left and right.
Going up the stairs is such an annoyance to him that he does something Ryan calls “Seymour Sonar.” He’ll sit at the bottom of the stairs and yowl plaintively like he’s been hurt, waiting to see if one of us will respond with “Seymour??!!!!”. Then he knows whether it’s worth the effort to go upstairs.
Despite his girth, he’s an agile and ferocious hunter.
He loves to play with string, and if I’m ever flossing anywhere in the house (4 times per day now that I’m doing Invisalign), before I’m done, Seymour will show up to watch me floss. To get a better look he’ll stretch up against the vanity and try to bat at the floss. How does he know that I’m flossing? I think that maybe the floss I use is squeaky and sounds like a bird?
He fits a lot of cat stereotypes. He loves boxes, has hairballs, and pops the dog with his paw when annoyed. Just like Garfield!
When it’s cold he sleeps between my legs for warmth. Once he falls asleep, he snores the cutest little kitty snores.
He’s like a litterbox version of the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea”. If there is but one smidge of poop hidden in the litter, the whole box is tainted, and he’ll wail angrily for me to clean it up. If I wait too long to take care of it, he’ll poop outside of the box in protest. Because of this, we have 3 litter boxes – almost one on every floor of the house. Every day I’m running all over the house checking each box, just in case. It’s ridiculous, really. He’ll also poop outside of the box when he’s angry at me. When we went on vacation back in October, he had perfect litter box manners for the sitter for a whole week. I come home, and within 30 min there’s poop on the carpet waiting for me to clean up. What the hell.
I can walk into his room (my office) with a bowl of wet food, set it down, and he’ll sit outside the doorway staring in. He loves dry food, and sometimes he will wait for me to add dry food before he’ll come over and start eating. I’ve figured out how to trick him by just lightly crinkling the kibble bag. Just the sound gets him running!
He is a good cat-brother to Bogie. They tolerate each other 🙂
Here we are entering month 8 of coronavirus times. Looking back over my photos there isn’t much to share, but here we go.
At the beginning of the month we’d rented a car for our trip to the Poconos. The rental period was by the week, so we had an extra day or two before we had to return it. Having a car allowed us to finally go to a drive-in movie theater! The Philadelphia Film Society recently set up shop down by the navy yard. We saw Tenet there, and while the movie was not one of Christopher Nolan’s finest (honestly it was a hot mess and not even in a fun way), I really enjoyed the drive-in experience. I was dressed cozily and had all my drinks and my snacks. What’s not to love?
I really miss going out to see movies.I don’t think I realized how much a part of my identity it was until I moved here and just stopped going due to inconvenience. I’ve been keeping a running list of movies I’ve been watching this year, and I’m averaging about 15 films per month. Unfortunately I am behind on watching AFI’s top 100 movies, but at this point who cares? Time is meaningless.
One day while I was out on a run on the path by the water, a swarm of dirt bike and ATV riders came through en masse. I’d seen them plenty of times before, but this time they literally held up traffic for like 10-15 minutes. It was wild. When I got home I did some research, and it turned out that it was “Dirt Bike Rell Day” – basically a memorial for a local dirt biker who was gunned down back in 2014. According to the Citizen app, there were about 3,000 riders out and about. Wild. Here’s a news video from 2018 that explains it a bit more.
Recently a new group of bros moved in to the apartments across from our house. Now we have vocal bros to the left, to the right, and across from us. Not to mention the group of women who live underneath New Bros. Everyone likes to party, but the new bros are the most insufferable. They have really loud parties at least two nights every week, let’s not even talk about the lack of social distancing. But for some reason whenever they party they leave all their doors and windows open, so it’s incredibly loud late into the night. Finally one night our Neighbor Bros to the Left climbed up to their roof deck and had it out with the New Bros. I was in bed at the time, and once the screaming started the dog, the cat and I all bolted right up. Then we each looked at each other. It was a strange moment.
I don’t know how we ended up surrounded by so many partiers, but it’s still not as terrible as Ralph, the burnout living for the 90’s tweaker who lived above my bedroom in San Francisco. I don’t think I will ever be woken up at 4 in the morning with the walls shaking to “Thriller” ever again, so that’s progress.
Time has been weird. While I’m surprised that it’s already October (my favorite month!), September dragged on for ages. Here’s some highlights from the month.
Fun Things in My Neighborhood
I’m always noticing new things on my runs.
Since social distancing started, community fridges have popped up all over the city. Take what you need. Leave what you don’t. I know how I’m getting rid of all those gross egg noodles in my pantry!
You know those “Mystery boxes” that you can get from stores? A box full of different books, or clothes… A neighbor has set up an “Urban Yard Sale” with mystery boxes full of house stuff (glassware, books, garden stuff, sewing, kitchen appliances). It’s based on the honor system. You pick a box you want and then put a few bills in the red box on the right. Pretty cool, right? Well of course on Nextdoor somebody’s already complaining about private use of public land, blocking right of way, blah blah blah…
Ran across this kitty cat village in an abandoned lot. Obviously neighbors built their shelter and donated the cat trees, but I’m not sure if they are fed by humans as well.
Chopped Off My Pinky
One day I was running a little late on lunch, and was hurriedly making this tian from the New York Times. I got a little too into my work with the mandoline, and sliced off the tip of my pinky finger, a straight diagonal. It looked like a part of my finger had just been erased. Then the bleeding started. It was a total mess, so I’ll spare you pictures, even though you know I took them.
I grumpily wrapped up my hand in a kitchen rag and ran across the street to the urgent care center. The doctor told me there wasn’t much they could do since I hadn’t hit bone and had no skin left to stitch up. I should just keep it clean and keep changing the bandages. Eventually it would heal itself.
One hour and one co-pay later, I was back at the stove, angrily finishing my cooking with a raised pinky finger. Should have read the recipe first, because after an hour of prep and baking, you’re supposed to let it set for another hour! It was a frustrating experience, but an excellent recipe (and easily made vegan with fake butter). I’ve made it once again since then, and if you try it, I’d suggest throwing garlic, red pepper and Italian herbs in with each layer, salt and pepper alone is too bland. Oh, also my pinky did make a recovery. It just healed itself up from the edges, pretty amazing actually.
We Got a Pizza Oven
We haven’t quite cracked the code on perfect pizza yet, but between the pizza oven, the smoker, and baking bread, Ryan’s been keeping busy.
For the first week or two of the month, we started having problems with people sitting on our and our neighbor’s steps. Drugged out couples, high school kids, and even random construction workers eating lunch and leaving a mess.
One Sunday I noticed a suitcase in the middle of the street. Upon opening the door we found an intoxicated man laying on our stoop and charging his phone in our exterior outlet. Ryan took the dog out and asked him about the suitcase, which he claimed wasn’t his. I came out as well and told him I was going to be in and out cleaning the street, and had him move. Gave him a seltzer water because he seemed out of it, and he took the suitcase and was on his way. We found him charging his phone again, this time with a friend, a few days later around 11pm. That was a little creepy, so we zip tied the outlet to keep people out.
Several days later, we woke up to find the zip tie had been burnt off with a lighter. This was extra infuriating because my neighbors’ houses are identical, and there was an open outlet like 2 doors down.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a way to turn off that specific outlet, so Ryan went hardcore and bought a metal cover with a lock. Ever since, we haven’t had any problems. Hate to be that person, but I guess that’s who I am now.
Hot Poirot Who Fornicates
Detective novels continue to be a source of comfort. I’m still bingeing lots of Poirot and Sherlock. I saw there was a Death on the Nile movie in the works, and came across this Vulture article that tries to pin down the best screen version of Poirot. I had mixed feelings on Kenneth Branagh in the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, but this description of his portrayal is pretty hilarious:
Branagh plays Poirot just a little bit camp, too, embracing a sentimental side of the character that we’ve rarely seen without becoming too self-serious. A former female lover has been grafted onto his backstory, which Branagh, hilariously, cannot sell. But with Branagh’s ocean blue eyes, he’s the closest we’ll get to Hot Poirot Who Fornicates. (You know, until the inevitable CW origin series.)
The CW part is spot on, really. Who knew they could bring us Hot Jughead?
I’ve joined the A11y team, which works on making our site accessible for learners with disabilities. It’s a different type of work, which honestly can be exasperating in its trickiness, but at least I’m doing something new. More importantly, I’ve joined a welcoming team of company old-timers, and I’m learning a ton. Definitely feel less lonely at work!
In order to cover accessibility for all users, I’m now working on a PC as well. My desk is becoming super crowded!
My summer mentorship program came to an end, so I’ve been looking for something new to put my energy into. Since I’m pretty healthy, I’ve decided to take on some bigger risk opportunities.
I signed up to do some volunteer work with Philly Fighting COVID. They’re the folks we got our super fast, super easy COVID tests from. Hope I don’t get COVID! 🤞
Ryan and I signed up to be poll workers in Philadelphia. The pay is fine ($250), the hours are atrocious (training day, plus 6:30am – 9:00pm on election day), but it must be done. Ryan received an email acknowledgement of his application submission, while I haven’t heard anything at all, which is a little frustrating at 30 days out. I tried to find more information about the process online, and found this absolute nugget from a presentation posted online called “Work the Polls Philly.” Poll working’s gonna be awesome you guys!
When looking for other opportunities to volunteer politically, I shied away from phone banking and text banking. My friend Jill suggested I check out Vote Forward, and write letters to encourage reluctant voters to get out and vote. I’ve been writing letters in batches, and I know every little bit adds up to a greater goal, but it still doesn’t feel like I’m actually doing anything or having an impact. When does volunteering start to have these “positive effects” they tell you about?
Getting Out of Town
The last week of September Ryan and I rented a cabin up in the Poconos. I was still working, but it was a nice break from feeling stuck in the city surrounded by trash. I thought about it, and it’s actually the first trip we’ve taken together since Portugal last November. What a year!
Sometimes I think about the last time I did something “normal.” My last concerts before lockdown were Of Montreal and Destroyer. Ah, simpler times. Bernie was still a candidate then! Doesn’t that sound like forever ago?
The last dinner out we had before lockdown was Laser Wolf. There’s been a lot of hype around this opening, and I’d say it’s justified. It’s at the end of our block, and they’ve been doing a lot of takeout lately, so it’s funny, it feels more like one of our casual neighborhood spots than anything super hip or exciting.
And then lockdown started. Commence the hoarding.
It rains heavily and often here, which I actually like a lot. San Francisco didn’t have true thunderstorms. There are some unfortunate side effects, however. It was maybe around April when I started taking pictures of trees that had toppled over in my neighborhood. The storms are also deadly to the local wildlife, which is something that I’ve never noticed anywhere else I’ve lived. On my daily walks with Bogie we frequently come across dead baby birds all over the sidewalk. Sad.
In May our close friend and occasional roommate Pravi moved out and joined the army. I felt ineffable sadness that things hadn’t worked out for her in Philadelphia, but a large part of that was just being reminded of how lonely I am out here. Later she told me that she saw this stint as a transition period. Mostly she had just needed to get out of the Bay Area. That helped me reframe things a little. Things hadn’t worked out, but that was never really the intent. At least Ryan and I were able to be good friends to her and help her move along in life.
The same week our friend left, I started a new job. It’s with a fully remote company, which was one of my career goals! Everyone is super nice and so far I’ve been impressed with how the company is run, and how they’ve handled things during this time of upheaval. They ended up on Inc’s 2020 Best Workplaces list, which lead to a lot of people messaging me on LinkedIn asking for a job.
There is a lot of autonomy and they’ve tried to slash meetings since folks are taking care of kids and whatnot, but it does make for a lonely start as a newcomer (see a theme here?). It’s hard to make strong coworker connections completely remotely. I was looking forward to meeting everyone at our retreat in September, but that got rescheduled to September 2021😞. I think if we weren’t sheltering in place, then it wouldn’t be so bad because I could get social interaction elsewhere.
We installed a custom made ladder to the roof. We now have roof access! Really thankful for all the outdoor space in this house – balcony, roof, backyard.
Oh, and the basement flooded. That was novel. Thankfully nothing was seriously ruined. Things were just musty for a few days.
Ryan’s garden flourished, but the yield left something to be desired. STILL WAITING ON MY POTATOES.
In June most stores boarded up to avoid looting and vandalism. I was pleased to see all the black owned businesses in my neighborhood, but it started to remind me of 9/11, when my dad put up an American flag sticker on his Jeep because he was worried his car would be vandalized.
For a few weeks, the police set up a command center in a strip club parking lot that I pass on my runs. There were dozens of police on bikes, buses, tanks, etc. It was super weird and lent an ominous feeling to the area. Then one day, it was all gone, just like that.
I buzzed my head. When on occasion people ask why, I say something like “Oh I’ve been cutting my hair myself since March, and this time it all went wrong, so buzz buzz.” When I said this to a TSA agent last week he said to me “Instead of saying it all went wrong, you should say it all went right. Looks good!” Isn’t that sweet?
For the summer I’m mentoring a Bay Area high school student through a nonprofit that posted on a programming website I read. The program is supposed to empower underprivileged youth with a growth mindset and help them get a leg up on college apps. So there’s a provided curriculum and a summer project. My role is to check in via videocalls every other week, and provide guidance where I can. Mentoring is one those things I’ve always said that I wanted to do. I’m glad that I’m trying it, but I don’t know if I’m actually being helpful or effective to my mentee. Not sure I’d do it again.
I finally got off my butt and cleaned up the sidewalk outside of my apartment, which was littered with everything from dirty diapers to used drug needles. It looked like a normal sidewalk for about 5 hours, before it was hit with trash tumbleweeds again. Thx Philly. Never change. Currently the city’s trash problem is even worse than normal . Lots of the sanitation workers are out with coronavirus, and the level of trash is up something like 25%. For a while pickups were running nearly a week late, and we haven’t had recycling pickup in 3 weeks. Sigh.
Just got back from closing out my San Francisco apartment. One roommate wanted to move out, and then the other two found a great deal on a new place due to pandemic pricing. It was bittersweet, but it was time. Maybe I’ll write some more about it once I’ve processed. Au revoir 14th st!
July 1 marked one year in Philadelphia. On good days, I think “This city is alive and has lots of opportunity for all types of people. It’s gritty, it’s real. It’s nice to see people of all ages, and not just tech bros in their 20s and 30s.” On bad days I think “This city thinks it’s hot shit, but really it’s a backwards shithole.” At this point, I feel like this city ticks off a bunch of things that I want “on paper,” but I do not vibe with the soul of the city AT ALL. If anything, I am actively repelled by the Philly stereotype – aggressive yet lovable assholes who love sports and do whatever they want because anything goes when there are no repercussions for bad behavior. This Eagles t-shirt illustrates the attitude, ugh.
Ok so for my anniversary I’ll try to end with something positive.
Top 10 things I like about living in Philadelphia so far
Mutter museum and Eastern State Penitentiary. I love me some medical museums and prisons, so these two places were the #1 selling point to me for Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I’ve only been to both once this year. I think maybe I would be happier if I visited the megacolon more often.
A+ coffee town. From Reanimator to La Colombe to Elixr, there’s so many good options. I don’t take that for granted. And you know what, I love Dunkin’ too.
Great brewery scene. Cocktails, not so much, but at least you can buy them to go now.
Food scene is solid, vegan options are great, bar food is exceptional. I now have a few go to places, including an Indian place, local vegetarian fast food joint, and a vegan Chinese spot. Still have yet to find a decent burrito here, but I can dream.
Wonderful murals everywhere. Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program. According to their site, there are currently about 3,600 murals in the city.
Living in a house is nice. Having pets is nice. I love Bogie and Seymour both very much, and my days are better with them.
The Philadelphia Opera company seems pretty dynamic, with a digital festival, Opera in the Park, and the Opera Philadelphia Channel. I should get more involved once things open up again.
There is a neighborhood / community feel that I appreciate. People are friendly and chatty in general. I honestly don’t know how to reconcile this observation with the generally high level of aggression and negativity in all other aspects of life.
Lots of little cemeteries, public gardens, neighborhood parks (Penn Treaty, Palmer, Liberty Lands, Hancock Park…), dog parks (Orianna, Piazza, Palmer Doggie Depot…). It’s also cool to see all of the former factories, churches, and schools that have been converted into housing.
Probably my favorite thing about Philadelphia is running in the city. It’s kind of the inverse of San Francisco’s constant 60 degrees and hilly. It’s incredibly flat with more intense weather. Running in the cold, in the rain, in the heat sounds miserable, and it is, but it’s definitely made me a stronger runner. And starting from my neighborhood, I can have lots of different run experiences. If I go in one direction, I’m running in a vast wasteland, past overgrown lots, endless construction, stables… If I go another way, it’s cute leafy neighborhoods. And then most often, I run by the river all the way down to the historical part of the city.
What a decade it’s been already! This isn’t going to be in depth, but here’s what I’ve been up to lately.
Ryan and I joined a social bowling league. It was just for fun, but once we started playing, our competitive sides came out 😃 I’ve been watching tons of YouTube videos and trying not to suck.
I’ve made a couple of friends in Philly, which is progress!
After a series of unfortunate events, we had to stage an intervention with our friend about her drinking problem. That was tough, but necessary. She’s been having a hard time in life, and trying to help her sort things out was starting to affect me. So I’m trying my best to be supportive but also keep a healthy emotional distance from the drama.
Oh, we got solar installed. We now have roof access! The roof is unfinished but usable. Looking forward to hanging out up there once the weather warms up.
WHAT ELSE… OH YEAH CAT
As I detailed in my last post, I finally made my long time dream come true and adopted a cat. He’s really wonderful and sweet, but I’m having a hell of a time coming up with a nickname for him… Bogie has so many great nicknames… Bogu, Bud (his shelter name), Bogs, Bogie Butt, Mr. Butt, Bogie Smalls, Sir Bogingsworth of Buttingham Palace… but I just can’t think of anything for Seymour. It’s such a serious name! Sy? Is that a nickname? Meh.
So I did my annual 30 days of yoga / vegan thing, and this time I’m trying to keep it up as best I can. Basically, I watched the pro-animal rights doc Dominion (voiceover by Joaquin Phoenix and friends…), and that did it. If you want to go vegan, watch that doc. It will give you nightmares and make you sick.
I’ve always known that I wanted to stop eating meat, and I don’t even like cow milk. But the eggs… I was more wishy washy. You’re just taking an animal byproduct right? Is it a big deal?
Well, I’ll admit I never thought about the fate of the male chicks. What happens to them? There were plenty of visceral images in the doc, but watching piles of male chicks fall en masse into a whirring macerator to become dog food, or being gassed in little gas chambers was what stuck with me most. Seeing hens stuck living in their cramped cages next to decaying corpses melting into the ground, or falling below the cages and slowly dying of hunger trapped in piles of chicken poop… yeah…I don’t like eggs THAT much. Factory farming is messed up.
That said, I want to be successful. So I’m trying for 90% vegan. I’ve had two meals in the past 2 months that had meat, which I’m fine with. And I’m still going to eat the many tins of canned fish I have in reserve. Thankfully Philly is actually really vegan-friendly (who knew?) so it’s not hard at all when out and about. And I’ve lost 5 lbs and my skin looks great, so maybe vanity will keep me going whenever I’m tempted.
Anyways, that’s it for me. Hopefully the next few months will be more calm, but we’ll see. 🙂