Moving Day

We’ve moved.

And by “we,” I mean “my blog.”

“Why, Mickey? Why mess with a good thing?” The main reason was the ads that popped up at the bottom of posts. They drove me batty. There’s also more freedom – design, content, functionality – when you own your own blog. I’m told. Hey, I’m still learning.

So if you want to keep up with my zany hijinks and occasional bizarre adventures, I hope you’ll consider following me over to mickeygomez.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope to see you over at the new place soon!

Moving Day

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As Explosive as a Dog Sneeze

“As explosive as a dog sneeze.”

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There’s a phrase you don’t hear every day, and here’s another: I am no stranger to being sneezed upon by dogs.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m haunted by the thought that this could be my epitaph:

Here lies Mickey, no stranger to being sneezed upon by dogs. 

I suppose there are worse ways to be remembered.

Anyway, earlier today I decided to make a smoothie. Shiloh, Mischief Dog can tell when I’m getting ready to make a smoothie.

Can he tell because I get the blender out? No, because I’ve learned to get the blender out LAST and throw everything in willy-nilly and turn it on quickly to drown out his barking. This has led to the smoothie-on-the-kitchen-ceiling and spoons-don’t-blend scenarios, but that’s not the point.

The point is this: now he can tell I’m getting ready to make a smoothie when I get the oats out of the pantry.

Yes, the dog who gazes at you in gentle bafflement when you say, “Shiloh, want a treat?” has figured out the recipe for a smoothie. There are people in this house who can’t make scrambled eggs, but one of the dogs now knows how to whip up a tasty frozen treat.

Today seemed like a good day to begin training Shiloh out of his driving need to bark whenever the oats appear. I called him into the kitchen and took the lid off the tin. I knelt down and let him sniff – he’s a very curious dog. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised when he plunged his nose through the opening, but I’m here to tell you that steel-cut oats stick to a dog nose like jimmies on soft-serve ice cream. He sucked in his breath, and I had just enough presence of mind to cover the top of the can with my shirt before he sneezed.

And boy, did that dog sneeze.photo (30)

I got oats on my shirt, on my face, in my hair. There were oats in my eyelashes, there were oats in my EARS. When I went upstairs to shower and change, oats fell from my clothes. They sat there on the bathroom floor in sad, abandoned little drifts.

Unlike regular oats, which I suspect have greater drag due to design, steel-cut oats appear to be quite aerodynamic. In direct defiance of the laws of physics, I found oats in the dining room around the corner from the kitchen. Maybe the explosive nature of the sneeze launched them with such velocity that they banked around the dining room wall and ended up in our neighbor’s living room. It really wouldn’t surprise me.

It took a good ten minutes to clean poor Shiloh off before I even started on me or the house – getting oats out of a dog nose is a delicate business, fraught with peril. Having experienced the wordless joy of having simple WATER stuck up my nose, I certainly didn’t want to risk having oats stuck up Shiloh’s. And it’s not like you can hold a Kleenex up to a dog’s nose and say, “Blow.”

Well, you could. I suspect that this is in the advanced dog training course, though. We’re still working on “Stay.”

All in all, it was an interesting day.

Also? You might be tempted to think a dog sneeze is funny, but it’s snot.

<muffled snorts of laughter>

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The Perils of Doggie Bath Day

“Someone smells like a dog.”

“Why are you looking at me?”

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Our dogs are pretty clean, overall. They don’t have many chances to get dirty, although in our old house Sophie managed to find stinkbugs in the basement with alarming regularity. She’s smart, though, and soon made the connection between rolling in the latest Eau de Canine perfume and going straight into the tub, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Our philosophy behind having clean dogs is pretty simple. We like petting them without getting grime on our hands, and we prefer that the house not smell like dogs.

So today was Doggie Bath Day. As soon as I said the word “bath,” Sophie went stone-still and tried to melt into the couch. She knows what that word means – she can even spell it – and she wants no parts of it.

Shiloh followed me right upstairs and into the bathroom, because he doesn’t know what ANY words mean. He watched me hook up the spray hose to the shower head. He observed me getting out a stack of towels. Being a good sport with a bad memory, he even jumped into the tub, wagging his tail.

He endured the first round of water and soap with equanimity. “Hmmm,” I could see him thinking, weighing his options as I lathered up his back. “This doesn’t seem TOO bad. It’s kind of like getting petted, only with bubbles. Odd but strangely compelling.”

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When I moved on to his head and neck, however, the situation deteriorated rapidly. He went from gentle and amiable to panic-stricken in seconds, even though – and here’s the interesting part – nothing unusual happened. I did not spray gallons of water directly into his eyes or ears. I failed to squirt dog shampoo up his nose. We were not suddenly menaced by a gigantic wall of water. There was no gelatinous ooze monster with teeth like razor blades emerging  from the drain. 

“Good boy, Shiloh! Good, good boy. That’s right, you’re a good HEY STOP! NO! STAY IN THE TUB! No no no no Shiloh what are you OUCH! NO! NO CLIMBING ON MY HEAD! COME ON, BOY, GOOD DOG AIIIIGGGGHHHHHH!”

Afterwards, I dried him off, mildly stunned. He even gave me his paws, probably out of sheer embarrassment. I squelched downstairs, dripping, to inform my husband that he was on deck to wash Sophie. I was done.

There were two spots – one on my shoulder, one on the side of my shorts – that weren’t soaked. Muscles I didn’t even know I had ached from keeping Shiloh in the tub. In direct defiance of basic anatomy, I somehow got water in my spleen.

Doggie bath time isn’t fun for ANYONE.

Sure, there are local places that wash dogs, but Shiloh hates them. Despite the attentions of caring, gentle staff who genuinely love dogs, he struggles and wheezes and sounds like Darth Dog to the point that even Sophie feels sorry for him. Last time we took him, she toddled into the washing area and laid down on the rubber floor mat in a surprising show of solidarity.

It didn’t help, of course, but it was still cute.

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So I’ll wash Shiloh at the house, and he’ll remember halfway through every bath that he hates getting baths, and I’ll get soaked, and he’ll get embarrassed. And Sophie will hope against hope that Shiloh continues to go first, and that we’ll somehow be distracted into forgetting that we have two dogs. At least as far as bath-time is concerned. Dinner time? That’s a whole different story.

And we’ll ALL keep our eyes open for a gelatinous ooze monster with teeth like razor blades emerging from ANY drain.

You know, just in case.

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Heartfelt Thanks

Thank you.

Because of you – my friends (online and offline), my family and my readers – I was honored with the title of “Best Celebrity Bartender” for Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle and Spurs.

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But the real winner is the Howard County Library System, which is as it should be.

Because of your generosity – and the generosity of those who gave to the other incredible (and formidable) Celebrity Bartenders – we doubled the amount raised by this aspect of Evening in the Stacks.  Last night we raised over $2,200 to help support  A+ Partners in Education (which includes the STEM Program, Battle of the Books, Spelling Bee and Rube Goldberg Challenge) and Project Literacy, a wonderful and successful adult literacy education program.

My hat is off  to fellow Celebrity Bartenders Tom Coale, Victoria Goodman, Dick Story, Kristi Simon, and Paul Skalny. They made this fun, and I mean a LOT of fun! Shooting the promotional video was hilarious, even at silly o’clock in the morning in the snow. They didn’t even laugh at me when I almost fell down the stairs. They showed up last night dressed to the nines – vests, badges, cowboy hats,

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boots and bolo ties – and they worked HARD. I am not kidding when I say that they were all about raising money to support the library, and it showed.

Thanks to the library staff – especially Christie – who made it remarkably easy to participate. So much work goes into this event – I can’t even begin to imagine – and she answered every call and email with extraordinary patience and good humor.

The decorations last night dazzled, but I was way too spazzy to do anything like take photos. Decorations abounded on both floors of the Miller Branch, and the Antler Bar (where we served drinks for 45 minutes) was everything I’d hoped and more (“Omg, an ANTLER BAR!”).

The folks who assisted us behind the bar were rock stars. All we had to do was serve wine and sodas and water – they kept us in glasses and opened the wine bottles for us. People who know me well realize that this was A Very Good Thing. The thought of me trying to open a bottle of red wine in a hurry is pretty chilling, right? Can you imagine? “It was a festive event until one of the Celebrity Bartenders slipped while opening a bottle of wine. We’re still not sure exactly how the bottle broke, but she needed 127 stitches and we never were able to get the blood stains out of the carpet.”

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There was a margarita bar, too, and libations were provided by The Wine Bin and the Ale House of Columbia. The music, by Dave Chappell and the Lone Stardusters, set the scene perfectly.

I bought my hat and badge at Carol’s Western Wear, and the staff could NOT have been kinder or more helpful. Mr. Bob even taught me the proper way to put on my cowboy hat (front to back) and how to sit it down when you take it off (hint: brim side up).  He also told some great jokes and sounded exactly like the character Hershel Green from The Walking Dead.

As promised, there was a horse (“But not a REAL horse!”) in the lobby. I managed to snap a photo of it on the way out.

I really don’t know if I’ll return next year as a Celebrity Bartender – if I’ll even get invited to return, because I think part of the fun is changing it up, you know? What I’d really like is to be a Celebrity Librarian (or maybe an Honorary Librarian). I have no idea what that would entail, but it sounds like something right up my alley. Surely they could find SOMETHING I could do that wouldn’t mess things up too badly

Thanks again, everyone. Your support truly did make a real difference to two exceptional programs of my favorite library system, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

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An Open Letter to Dave Barry

Dear Mr. Barry,

Where to begin? I suppose the most logical place is this: I swear I am not making this up.

I’ve been a fan of yours since I lived in Miami in the 90s. Your ability to sum up the absurdity that is South Florida while maintaining an air of unwavering loyalty always brought a wry smile to my face: It might be crazy, but it’s OUR crazy.

I saw you play as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders one year at the Miami Book Fair. The show was in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse on not-yet revitalized South Beach. It still ranks as one of the most enthusiastic live performances I’ve personally witnessed. There is no denying that you were having a blast, power strumming chords to that perennial crowd favorite, MacArthur Park. Hahaha – just kidding! It was La Bamba. And possibly Wooly Bully.

I’ve taken part in the Tropic Hunt and the Post Hunt. One of the only overt exhibitions of civic pride I ever witnessed in Miami happened when the crowd united in anger against a team from North Carolina that won the Tropic Hunt one year in Coconut Grove. I’m pretty sure the winners were ferried to an undisclosed location across Biscayne Bay in order to give them a head start in fleeing the city ahead of an aggrieved yet highly motivated mob. Woohoo, Miami!

I proudly (word choice?) performed as part of the Kazoo Processional that led guests to dinner at our local Chamber of Commerce Signature Event the year that you were the Guest Presenter. Let’s just say I am not one of the world’s naturally-gifted kazooers: to this day I have no idea if my cheeks hurt so much afterwards from steadily sustained laughter or from honking out “When the Saints Go Marching In” eighty-seven times in a row.

I’ve read several of your books, most recently Peter and the Starcatchers. I’ve laughed out loud at your columns, especially the Year in Review and the Gift Guide. However, if forced to choose one of your most notable literary achievements, it would have to be the naming of the title character in Naked Came the Manatee: it’s hard to go wrong with a manatee named Booger.

Recently, a friend wrote to tell me that you were coming to Annapolis, Maryland for a book signing of your newly released Insane City. I was excited all the way up until I remembered I’d committed to making a presentation that day, clear on the other side of the state. Even though Maryland isn’t Florida, where travelling across the state can take up to three days depending on traffic in Orlando, it was still enough to prevent me from making the event. My friend magnanimously offered to get a copy of your new book signed for me.

The following Tuesday, I entered my office to discover the book sitting on my chair. I was elated and extremely grateful. Rumors suggest I may have run a celebratory lap around the first floor of the office with the book proudly held over my head.

On Thursday I brought the book home. I took it out of my bag – worried about it getting crushed or torn there – and placed it in the middle of the dining room table. The large dining room table. My husband and I went to dinner and returned less than ninety minutes later to find the book laying open on the floor. The cover had been removed and – how shall I put this? – artfully redesigned by Shiloh, Mischief Dog. He even ate part of it.

Here’s a photo of Shiloh refusing to look at the camera when confronted with the Evidence of the Crime.

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Now I don’t mean to start any trouble, but the copy of Stephen King’s Wind Through the Keyhole sat on the same table for several days, untouched. Shiloh also ignored a copy of the Post Magazine, temptingly opened to the column Gene Weingarten wrote for the 2012 Post Hunt. In Shiloh’s defense, we’d only had him for about a month at that point, so it’s entirely possible that he wasn’t yet aware that the table existed.

Even so, I think you’ll agree that the evidence is crystal clear: he loves your writing SO MUCH he decided to eat it. In the words of Maurice Sendak, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so!” He’s a pretty deep dog with what appears to be a rare appreciation of excellent fiction.

It is, however, equally plausible that he loathes your book. Alternately, he may have confused it with a dog treat. Or a plush squeaky toy.

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He’s kind of difficult to interpret, when you get right down to it.

Sophie, our Main Dog, was appalled by the entire episode. If she had opposable thumbs, she’d waste no time in contacting her congressional representative and formally requesting legislation to reclassify Shiloh as a cat.

The good news? You’re in excellent company. Shiloh has also eaten a paperback  and nibbled the corner of Terry Pratchett’s Nation audiobook cover, both on loan from my the Howard County Library System.

That brings me to my request. No, I do not need you to send me another signed copy of your book. I’d be delighted to buy myself a replacement solely for the cover, or even to enjoy the copy I have sans cover but lovingly drooled upon by my misguided yet well-intentioned rescue dog.

If you happen upon this message and are so inclined, I’d like to ask you to consider helping to promote our local libraries. They are top-notch, but – as with all libraries – there are programs that need support in order to continue. I’ll be raising money this weekend as a Celebrity Bartender during Evening in the Stacks, their annual fundraiser that supports two exceptional programs: A+ Partners in Education and Project Literacy.

And who knows? Maybe one day Shiloh will be ready to take part in their DEAR Program (Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers), in which third graders improve their skills by reading to attentive dogs.

But only if we can keep him from eating the books.

In closing, I’d like to thank you for the laughter. It’s made a world of difference. According to this Alert Reader, at least.

And I swear I’m not making that up, either.

Sincerely,

Mickey

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Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle and Spurs

I walk in the doors and inhale, smelling the slightly sweet, dusty scent of old paper. I walk straight to my favorite section and stop in front of a particular shelf, pull down a book and smile at the soft crackle of the plastic-cased cover as I ease it open and begin to read. An hour later my parents  wander into the crowded maze of ceiling-high shelves to find me sitting right there on the linoleum floor, my nose inches from the pages, utterly absorbed.

I’ve always loved reading. For as far back as I can remember, I’d routinely walk around reading, completely unconcerned about bumping into walls, objects or people. I couldn’t travel without at least two books: a main book and a back-up book (being caught someplace with nothing to read ranks somewhere between “trampled by a herd of rabid cows” and “forced to listen to Kevin Costner attempting a British accent” on the Avoid-O-Meter scale). I was one of the only kids I knew whose parents would encourage her to put the book down to go outside and play.

My first library? The Miller Branch of the Howard County Library System.

It looks a lot different these days, but then it should. It’s been rebuilt twice since I was little to keep up with the growing and ever-changing needs of the community. I firmly believe that my overdue fines alone helped finance the second building – checking books out was great fun. Returning them? Not so much.

So why am I telling you all of this? Simple. This year, I’ve been asked to return as a Celebrity Bartender for Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle and Spurs being held at the Miller Branch of the library. How cool is that? I’m definitely going to need your help, though.

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“But Mickey, we didn’t know you were a celebrity!”

I’m not, but I’m happy to perpetuate the myth for the purposes of supporting the Howard County Library System. I’m selfless like that.

“But, Mickey – do you even know how to bartend?”

Yes, of course! And by “yes” what I actually mean is “no.”

I’ve never worked in the service industry, preferring to focus on retail during my formative years because, let’s face it, retail is far more forgiving of sarcasm. If you want to know about  pressure treated 2x4s or how to fold a shirt for a shelf display, I’m your woman. The good news (for me, anyway) is in order to level the playing field, we’ll only be pouring beer and wine. Even I can’t screw that up too badly. Right? Right? Hello?

If you can join us on Saturday, February 23 from 7-11 pm at the Miller Branch, it’s sure to be an amazing evening.  During the first hour, all six Celebrity Bartenders (Dick Story, Vicki Goodman, Tom Coale, Pam Klahr, Paul Skalny and I) will be serving drinks simultaneously at the Antler Bar. I have no idea what that means, but I have to admit I’m intrigued. And it will all be in good fun, because we’re really not all that competitive:

Okay, so we’re a little competitive.

If you can’t join us, you CAN virtually tip your favorite bartender by going to the Evening in the Stacks page, clicking on the “Donate” button under Celebrity Bartenders and filling in the name of choice when you click “Add special instructions to the seller.” I think I speak for ALL of the Celebrity Bartenders when I say that the name you MOST want to virtually tip begins with Mickey and ends with Gomez. Just a thought.

Hahaha! I’m joking!

Kind of.

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In all seriousness, the most important aspect of the event is supporting two outstanding programs: A+ Partners in Education (which includes the STEM Program, Battle of the Books, Spelling Bee and Rube Goldberg Challenge) and Project Literacy, a wonderful and successful adult literacy education program. So please consider donating – it really would mean a great deal to me.

To get you in the mood, so to speak, here’s a photo of spurs (not mine), boots (mine), my dad’s Akubra hat from Australia, the guitar I need to start playing again and two book recommendations:

Territory by Emma Bull, a retelling of the events that unfolded once upon a time in Tombstone, Arizona.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King, a series featuring the ultimate gunslinger, Roland Deschain of Gilead.

If I make it through this year’s event, perhaps next year I’ll ask if I can return as something far, far cooler than a Celebrity Bartender: a Celebrity Librarian.

Stay tuned!

And thank you kindly for considering my request to support my favorite library system.

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Will Exercise for Food

I don’t exercise because I love exercise. I exercise because I love food.

I like fitness in theory, but to me it’s more of a means to an end. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life flailing around in my living room to the most recent exercise video. And trust me when I say I FLAIL. If there were an intergalactic award for “Most Likely to Flail,” I’d be ALL OVER it. That’s why, for the sake of humanity, I tend to keep my exercising limited to my house.

You’re welcome, world.

Also? I’m easily distracted. By the time I get in a car to drive someplace to exercise, the feeling has passed and I’m just as likely to end up wandering into a conveniently located cupcake place. Or an inconveniently located cupcake place, depending on how good the cupcakes are.

“How was your workout?
“Hmmm? It was cookie dough with vanilla frosting.”The wrong way to run.
“What?”

I’m also not a racer. I completely understand the motivation of signing up for a race in order to get in shape. I also have the deepest of respect for my friends who do this. It simply doesn’t work for me. I get resentful.  “Stupid race. Who do you think you are? I don’t owe you ANYTHING. Not one thing, you hear me?” I find myself shaking my fist and yelling. At A RACE. That’s just crazy.

Then I panic – why did I wait until the last minute to start training? A race isn’t like an exam you can cram for the night before.  “Okay, I only have to remember to move my legs quickly until about 10am. Let’s go, legs!” Nope. Doesn’t work. As a former runner, I’m almost constitutionally incapable of walking during a race. That means I’ll keep running until I collapse, and even then my legs will probably just keep on going, dragging my lifeless torso behind them like some horrifying mash-up of Forrest Gump meets The Walking Dead.

I guess I simply like doing things in my own time, and that really doesn’t work with exercise. I’ll start the P90X program and get distracted right around P6X. Then I’ll take a couple of days off and have to start all over again. I’ve done the first workout roughly 43 times, and there are two workouts I’ve never even seen because I haven’t made it that far.

Superman what?

I don’t particularly trust the people in those videos, anyway. They look suspiciously cheerful and happy while doing exercises called Crunchy Frog and Supreme Ab-Ripper Oblique Tricep Pain Extravaganza.  There’s one exercise with the amusing name of Superman Banana. Sounds fun, right? WRONG. I tried them once and my abdomen jumped right off of my body and ran screaming into the night. Rule number one of exercise? NEVER trust a routine with a cute name. Ever.

The other week I actually tried to trick myself. I was only allowed to watch episodes of Doctor Who WHILE exercising. I’m brilliant! Go, me! I’ve always meant to watch Doctor Who – here was the PERFECT plan. Only I ran into trouble when I was trying to watch the episodes while also watching P90X workouts. I ended up pausing a lot, and my foot is still bruised from dropping a weight on it during a particularly suspenseful scene. When I tried watching while using the recumbent bike, I couldn’t hear very well. I plugged in earbuds, which got caught in the pedals. Also, an hour of pedaling allegedly burned something like 400 calories, which is roughly equivalent to – in Mickey-speak – not-nearly-enough-damned-calories-for-an-hour-of-pedaling.

Also, I don’t know how I feel about trying to trick myself into working out. Am I brilliant for coming up with a plan that works, or am I stupid for falling for it?

But I do love eating. And my metabolism – once so mighty! – is letting me down. The truth of the matter is I don’t fear gaining weight nearly as much as I fear having to shop for new clothes. So there you have it: fitness through an intense fear of shopping.

Perhaps I’m on to something: “Will exercise to avoid shopping.”

Or, of course, the far more direct: “Will exercise for food.”

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