Thursday, August 28, 2008

Poem of the Week (or month, or year)

We Did Not Make Ourselves

By Michael Dickman

(from this week's New Yorker, and my apologies because the formatting isn't perfect)

We did not make ourselves is one thing

I keep singing into my hands

while falling


for just a second

before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the

other, like opening an Advent calendar

My brain opening

the chemical miracles in my brain

switching on

I can hear

dogs barking

some trees

last stars

You think you’ll be missed

it won’t last long

I promise


I’m not dead but I am

standing very still

in the back yard

staring up at the maple

thirty years ago

a tiny kid waiting on the ground

alone in heaven

in the world

in white sneakers

I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember

back there

How we’re born

Made to look up at everything we didn’t make

We didn’t

make grass, mosquitoes

or breast cancer

We didn’t make yellow jackets

or sunlight



I didn’t make my brain

but I’m helping

to finish it

Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad

daylight in bright


This morning I killed a fly

and didn’t lie down

next to the body

like we’re supposed to

We’re supposed to

Soon I’m going to wake up




There is only this world and this world

What a relief


over and over

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk

To spend two solid nights flipping between coverage of the US Open and the Democratic National Convention is to spend two solid nights watching a little bit of action and listening to a whole lot of commentary. Prime time early round matches tend to the boring, pitting top players against unheralded qualifiers, so I'm used to opinion trumping actual tennis during the first week of a Grand Slam event. It's been a while since I've watched more than a few minutes of a party convention, though, so I'm not used to half an hour of speechifying surrounded by what feels like hours of punditry.

In the hours leading up to Hillary's speech last night very little happened other than incessant discussion of what she "needed to accomplish" with said speech. I saw the last quarter of Casey's address and most of Warner's keynote, and am not surprised that most of the delegates who were actually in the hall were more interested in dancing, jumping up and down, and hugging each other than they were in listening. Both speeches were simultaneously vague and redundant: time for change, Democrats are great, let's create "green collar" jobs, let's all vote for Barak Obama. What else is there to say, given the fact that the platform was drafted before the convention, given the fact that the covention's outcome, a nominee for President and Vice President, has been predetermined?

The only intrigue, the only plot point, was what Hillary would say, and how effectively she'd say it, and even the first half of this "plot" was something manufactured so that the pundits would have something to talk about for the four hours leading up to her address. Of course she was going to support Obama and exhort her supporters to do the same. Of course she was going to emphasize "unity." Politically, what other options did she have? But just as she emphasized the need for the party to keep going, the pundits needed something to keep them going, hence the hours of idle speculation that led nowhere.

I suppose her address could have been as much of a letdown as Venus Williams' first round opponent, although given the fact that she followed a series of benign speeches given by mediocre public speakers she was able to shine with relative ease. It wasn't just that her text was very well-written, or that she's just more dynamic than Mark Warner, it's that the entirety of the proceedings that led up to her address were just plain boring. Halfway through her address I found myself feeling happy for Pat Buchannan, et. al.: finally, something real for them to talk about.

Perhaps tonight will provide more entertainment the whole way through. Roddick takes on Santoro over at the Open, while Bill Clinton takes on Bill Clinton in Denver. The trick to making it though, I think, is the mute button.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Report from the Economic Front

Brody ran through the woods Saturday and emerged looking like Julius Caesar, wearing a crown of brambles plastered around his head and to his ears, so I did something I don't ordinarily do: I went to the mall, to get a flea comb to help remove said brambles. School starts today or tomorrow all over the region, so I expected the mall to be crowded with kids and parents buying clothes and whatever. The place was crowded, but it didn't look like too many people were actually buying anything. Maybe the crowds were all there to steal vacuum cleaners.

When money's tight, puppies are probably down there on the bottom of a shopping list. The puppies at the mall pet store therefore tended to be much older than eight weeks, and to be on sale. It's never good to be a puppy in a pet store, but the present economic environment would seem to make it an even worse lot in life. Because the store happened to have a Brittany pup, I spent a few minutes visiting with him and finding out about his history. He's six months old, came from a puppy mill in Oklahoma, and had been shuttled around from store to store; this was his fourth pet store. I asked what happens to puppies they aren't able to sell, but the salesperson claimed not to know. I probably don't want to know the answer anyway. The Brittany was on sale for $399, with an additional $78 off Saturday afternoon.

So, no one was buying pets. While I was there, I thought I'd look for new pair of jeans. Jeans shopping is the bane of the American woman, or at least of this American woman, so it's important to follow through while an urge exists. I went to one of the department stores to check out the selection. The department store was essentially empty; the crowds were circling the mall itself, but not flowing into this particular store at all. I don't blame them, since all I found there were a bunch of Mom jeans. On to American Eagle.

This store was full of teenagers and their mothers pawing through the merchandise, but I was alone back in the dressing area. As crowded as was the store, I was also alone at the cash register, where I found that my jeans were not only on sale, but that I could get a second pair at half off. In other words, people weren't buying despite a pretty impressive sale.

I stopped at the Gap on my way out, just because everything in that store is perpetually marked down to ridiculous levels, and sure enough I found a nice blouse for $7.99. I also found an actual line at the cash register, three people ahead of me, all buying items marked down below ten bucks. Good news for the Gap, a company that has been battered in recent years: it was the only store making sales that afternoon. Bad news for the Gap: everything purchased was on clearance.

I've never been a retailer, but I do know that we are entering the crucial time of year for retailers, that mid-August through Christmas is the time when all the profit for the year is made. If Saturday was any indication, the last quarter of 08 is going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Old Man and the Brittany

If you're not watching The Greatest American Dog you're not missing much. I had high hopes for the show before it premiered - it's Survivor meets Big Brother meets America's Next Top Model, with dogs! - but in reality while all the dogs in the competition are great, the humans tend to bore. Brody and I continue to watch every week because of the presence of what must be the sweetest old man in the world, Bill, and his orange and white Brittany, Star. Bill and Star are simply in love with each other, and Star is incredibly well-behaved while Bill is incredibly, well, nice. We're rooting them on for the win, as I'm sure is every other Brittany owner in the country. We've never won Westminster, but our breed can at least win this piece of crap.

I naturally think Brody's the greatest American dog, but while we watch we play a game called "Imagine What Brody Would Do if He was on the Television Show." Brody participates by lying on my lap and listening to me talk. "Look, Brody, none of these dogs is humping another," I'll say. "If you were on TV you'd be humping the Pomeranian right now." Sometimes I'll exclaim, "Look, buddy, a good Brittany! She's sitting rather than chasing the other dogs around the sofa!" Sometimes it will be something like, "Wow, none of those dogs are taking a poop in the basement. Look at that, they all go on the grass, outside." Brody takes all this with poise and calm. He is an exceptionally good sport.

Even if you don't have a Brittany, you really should watch the show just once before it ends if only to see Bill and Star. I wish he was my grandfather. I wish Star had raised Brody. I wish Brody would stop pooping in the basement. It airs Wednesday nights at 8 on CBS.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At the Intersection

In front of me, a Subaru plastered with bumper stickers: Grow Local, Eat Local; Go Green; Organic Food is Good Food; No Farms No Food; I'm a Locavore. I continued straight through the intersection to meet my friend. The Subaru made a left turn, into the Wendy's drive-thru.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

At Least I Wasn't Naked

School always started the Wednesday after Labor Day. I think my college even began its term after Labor Day because we had 12.5-week semesters, rather than the more common 14-week terms, but I honestly don't completely remember. I really liked college and always looked forward to going back, so we could have started the middle of August and I would have been fine with that. Something's changed, though; my friends who are teachers or guidance counselors all go back to school the end of this week, with the students starting class Monday, a full week before Labor Day. Where did the summer go?

During times of transition I have dreams where past and present are confused. This happens to many of us, and the shape of my dreams also follows the predictable: I have to return to college or high school because someone has discovered I was missing credits for graduation, and I can no longer keep up with the classes. Or I'm back in college or high school and ready to graduate but it turns out there's one class I was registered for that I'd completely forgotten about, and I have to take a final exam in Chemistry V or something like that when I've never been to one class. Or I'm in college and it's my college but I don't know anyone. Or I'm naked and have to give an oral report.

Last night I dreamed that I was a senior in college, although I was my current age. The dream was populated with my real college classmates, all of us fortysomethings. The campus had been moved so some urban center, though, when in actuality my alma mater comprises thousands of acres in central Virginia. We are about to graduate, and are all bar-hopping. I find out that I'm going to receive some sort of award and will have to make a speech at graduation, and although I realize I should call it a night and go home to prepare I stay out with my friends. Suddenly it's the next day, after the ceremony, and I have no recollection of my speech, what I said, how it went. I don't think my lapse has to do with being drunk, because in the dream I'm not drunk. It was just some sort of blackout.

Everyone acts like I did well, that my speech was great. I'm upset because I can't recall any of it, and I rush around the town looking for someone who has recorded the ceremony. During my search I run into various friends' parents, not just college friends but parents of friends from as far back as elementary school. All ask me what I'm looking for, and when I tell them it's documentary evidence of my speech, they sigh and tell me they can't help me.

I gave myself until the end of the summer to decide what I'm going to do now that my business has been sold. I still have no idea. Clearly, the past can't help me. At least, not in my dreams.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cerealized Drama

On with life. Remember Quisp? Back in the day it was my favorite cereal for two reasons. First, I loved Quisp himself, that short outer space man with the propeller on his head. Secondly, because my mother didn't understand that it was essentially Captain Crunch in a different shape made by a different company, it was the only really sweet "sugar" cereal I was allowed to have.

Rules about food in our house were randomly created and steadfastly maintained. For example, my mother wasn't kosher, but she had been raised that way. Our house was in no way kosher, not by any stretch of the imagination. But shrimp were the only shellfish allowed. She'd serve pork chops, but not ham. We had bacon, but not sausage. We also had Christmas stockings, but no tree, so at least she was consistent in her randomness.

What she referred to as "sugar cereals" were bad for me and were forbidden. I understand that packaged food wasn't labeled as thorougly then as it is today, so maybe that explains why I was allowed to have Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, and Corn Pops; if it had a healthy-sounding word in its name, it must be healthy, right? What I wanted most of all was Captain Crunch, that nirvanna of a bowl full of sweet I encountered at friends' houses the mornings after sleepovers. No way; strictly forbidden. Maybe the docile, smiling Quaker on the label gave my mother a false sense of security (after all, would a Quaker ever endanger America's youth?), maybe it was the word "oats" in the Quaker Oats logo, but for some reason she felt that Quisp and it's brother-cereal, Quake, were acceptable.

Quisp and Quake were exactly the same cereal but in different shapes, and named for different cartoon characters. Quisp was of course from another galaxy and so was not truly sexually determined. His dress and hairstyle seemed to indicate that he was in fact a "he," but his masculinity was akin to that of a stuffed animal. His voice was high-pitched, his mannerisms childlike. Whatever masculinity he had was pre-pubescent, unthreatening. Quake, on the other hand, came from underground. While Quisp's cereal came from the galaxies, Quake's was of the earth, produced by earthquakes. Quake was muscle-bound, deep-voiced, virile. In the commercials shown during Saturday morning cartoons, Quisp and Quake are rivals for our affection. They are presented as superheroes, and in ad after ad they compete to see who can save the earth, Quake with brawn, Quisp with brains.

Naturally, I loved Quisp and hated Quake. After all, I could never grow up to be Quake. I'd never have brawn or a deep voice, but I could one day save the world through intellect and charm. My nerdiness could one day pay off. I don't know if the Quaker Oats marketers introduced two versions of the same cereal so that one would appeal to girls and one boys, but whatever they were thinking it didn't work. Sometime in the early 70s they decided they weren't selling enough of either cereal and to stop competing with themselves; one cereal would be discontinued.

They had a contest, and everyone could vote, including kids. Who do you want to keep around, Quisp or Quake? I enthusiastically voted for Quisp. How could he lose? He was cute, he was smart, he had a propeller on his head, for crying out loud! In what would become a lifelong pattern, I was on the wrong end of the vote. Quisp was toast, relegated to the infinite cosmos of memory.

Proud, defiant, I never ate Quake. Golden Grahams became my favorite cereal (again, the name of the cereal tricking my mother into a belief in imaginary health benefits) until I was old enough to stop eating cereal altogether. I never liked milk, you see. I only wanted sweet cereals to flavor the milk so that I could drink it. Quake also eventually disappeared from supermarket shelves, another victim of free love and disco.

All these years later I am avenged. A Quisp cult has been slowly growing, aided and abbetted by the internet. By the turn of the century, Quisp was again being produced in limited quantities. Today, it's available nationwide, at least according to Quaker Oats. Quisp has his own website, and a very good one at that. If you can't find it at your local grocery store, you can order some from the site. Chalk another one up for the nerds.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mastering the Art of Losing

A definite sign of growing old is turning to the obituaries first thing every morning to see who's died. I haven't reached that age. I'm old enough that having a contemporary pass away is sad and untimely, but not horrifyingly shocking. When I found out yesterday that a friend's brother had been killed in a car crash I felt surprise, disbelief, and sadness for her family's loss. I've spent the past decade living with death, so I can relate to how she must feel: my father, the two aunts I was closest to, my cat, my dog, my mother, all succumbed after an illness.

Getting older means learning to live with death, first the death of loved ones and finally your own. It's hard, but we do it, and then the process becomes easier each time. When someone dies young it feels harder to take because we aren't prepared for the loss, especially if there's been no illness, no struggle, no period to adjust to the inevitable.

When something ends - a life, a relationship - we mourn the loss of a future that we thought we'd been promised, a future that we had forseen. Mourning ends when we finally awaken to find that we see a future that doesn't contain the person who has been lost. I've learned to get to that place. My friend will learn, as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Games of the Whatever Olympiad

It's that time again. Commercials turn inspirational, most networks give up entirely on counter-programming, and America cares deeply about sports it then forgets about for the next four years. Yes, the Olympics are on. Beijing was undoubtedly a controversial choice as host, but that didn't stop me from watching thousands of men banging drums in military-like simultaneity Friday evening, or from staying up until midnight last night in order to watch really, really strong short men perform incredible feats (otherwise knows as the men's team gymnastics final). Before the Olympics are over I'll watch diving, synchronized swimming, table tennis, badminton, pole vaulting, and various other events. Then I'll forget about both the events and competitors immediately. What's my fascination?

It's not patriotism. I love my country as much as the next guy, but I certainly don't watch little girls in Spandex and makeup balancing on a beam out of national pride. I don't watch because I care who gets the most medals, either. In fact, a victory or two for, say, Cyprus would be fine by me. Since I'm not a regular fan of pretty much all of these sports there's nothing at stake for me in who wins and who loses.

NBC understands the viewers aren't fans of the particular events, in that the audience is continually primed with backstories on the contestants. Sometimes this leads me to care about the outcome, like the other night when the French swimmer was racing against the Spanish woman who stole her boyfriend. In general, though, I don't watch because of personality either. I don't know who these people are, and I won't think about any of them tomorrow.

I'm not the kind of person who loves watching sports so much I'll tune in to whatever is on TV. I do like baseball, but I never watch until the post-season, when things are at stake, and even then if I don't care about the teams I don't bother. I watch the Superbowl, but always in a bar or at a party, where the game isn't really the point. Tennis is the only sport I care about, and ironically it's an Olympic event I usually ignore. Because the participants are in the middle of the hard-court season that leads up to the US Open, some top players don't come, and some don't give it their all. Love of sport doesn't attract me to the games either, then.

I think I watch out of respect for the athletes. I think about what it must be like to be the best woman weightlifter in the world. I'd spend my days worrying about my caloric intake, sweating alone in a gym in front of a mirror, grunting for hours and hours. I'd have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the best, that all the work and obsession had paid off, but I'd mainly live my life in obscurity. Then, for two weeks every four years, the world would watch me. My dedication would be recognized, if only for a fleeting moment. I watch the Olympics so that athletes like that have a fan, albeit a temporary one.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Slippery Slope from Mormonism to Cloning

So, there's a company in South Korea that will clone your dog. The normal fee is over $100K, but the company came to an agreement with a woman who said she was a screenwriter from LA: they cloned her pit bull for $53,000, and she agreed to help with publicity for the cloning services. She went to Seoul last week to bring home one of the five pups cloned from the DNA of her deceased, beloved dog, and the story was released to the wires. This is when things got interesting.

You can Google "Mormon kidnapper" to get the complete story, if you haven't yet heard it, but here's a synopsis. Back in the 1970s the dog cloner was a beauty queen, Miss Wyoming, in fact. She converted to Mormonism, left the pageant world, moved to Salt Lake City to study at Brigham Young. There she fell in love with a young Mormon man seven years her junior. He broke it off after a brief affair, sought counsel, and became a missionary in London. She never got over him, flew to England with an accomplice, rented a "honeymoon cottage," and kidnapped the missionary and held him in the cottage, where he was shackled to the bed with mink-lined handcuffs. She and the accomplice forced him to have sex with her until he agreed finally to marry her, at which point she unlocked the handcuffs, he escaped, and he went to the police.

She and the accomplice were arrested. While out on bail they escaped from England by posing as Irish mimes. They flew to Canada, then took a bus to Cleveland, then she disappeared. She reappeared in 1984 again stalking the Mormon missionary, was apprehended, and again escaped and disappeared. It turns out she's been living in North Carolina since then, in and out of court, suing and being sued by her neighbors. Once press reports of the dog cloning appeared, it was discovered that the address in LA she had given didn't exist, and that the dog cloner and Mormon kidnapper were one and the same. British authorities are not seeking extradition, as the case against her has been closed. She left South Korea over the weekend to return to the US with her cloned pit bull.

I've read various accounts of this story, and I'm left with only two questions:

1. Given the fact that only physical qualities can be cloned, isn't it risky to clone a dog in the first place? I love Brody, and would love to have another, identical Brody after he dies. But what if I ended up with a dog that looked just like Brody, but was evil? How could I live with a dog that was identical to Brody, but who didn't act like Brody? I see this as the true danger of cloning.

2. Where did this crazy woman get $53K?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Technological Advances

When I moved last fall, the size of my living room tripled. All in all this was a good thing. In fact, I moved largely because I wanted a bigger living room. The one downside was my 20-inch TV; you simply could no longer see it from across the room. I set out Wednesday evening in search of an upgrade. At the same time, I'm working on a 4 1/2 year-old computer, and I've been worried about the health of the drives. I also decided Wednesday night to back-up everything and erase and reinitial my hard drive to try to help the computer out. The upshot of all this is that technology is wonderful, and technology at the same time sucks.

Sometimes changing one thing irrevocably alters a delicate technological balance, so that a new monitor screws up the DVR, the surround sound, etc. This was happily not the case. I swapped the smaller TV for a huge HD model seamlessly. In 20 minutes the deed was done, and I was looking at the pimples on the nose of the McNeil Lehrer newscaster. It's all excellent. I can now watch crappy reality television from every corner of the living room. For a moment life was complete.

Moving the contents of my hard drive to an external drive didn't take too long. Erasing and reinitializing the drive, then installing the new OS, took until 1 AM. No problem. However, I awakened yesterday to a computer that didn't have a single application. No Office, no Creative Suite, no Firefox. Everything got moved back, but my history was gone. My bookmarks, my contacts, my address book, my saved emails, my passwords, all gone. It was as if I'd never written or received an email, never browsed the Web. Restoring some semblance of the computer I knew took, literally, all day.

I spent most of my life without dozens of user names and passwords. It used to be that a Social Security number was all I needed. I spent most of my life without even the notion of email. How did it come to pass that I felt deeply troubled at the prospect of one day spent without access to my Netflix queue? And why did I give myself different passwords for different sites? And why couldn't I remember them all? How is it that technology runs my life, rather than the opposite?

It's all done, all worked out. All that's missing is the day of my life that this took. In Eastern cultures today is a lucky day, though, and the Olympics start tonight. I can watch table tennis in high definition glory. I can add Wikis to my dashboard. My new technology will let me get on with the business of living. Or at least the business of living inside my house. Technology hasn't yet figured out a way of coming along when I walk my dog, or of walking the dog for me. It won't be long, though. It won't be long.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fine Dining

Today's Times includes a review of a restaurant in Brooklyn that has only two items on the menu: dumplings and Hawaiian shave ice. There's no reasoning behind this other than the fact that the owner likes dumplings, and spent his Hawaiian honeymoon eating shave ice. Once he returned to Brooklyn he missed shave ice, so he decided to serve it at his restaurant.

Most restaurants have a theme, or focus on a particular type of cooking. But it really doesn't have to be that way, does it? A menu can be developed any way at all. If you're going to own a restaurant, why not own one that serves only the food you want to eat? With that in mind, I decided to create a menu comprised of my favorite foods. I'd name the restaurant "Like," because it would be a place I'd like. I wouldn't have any tables. Instead, I'd have a bunch of couches and TVs; diners could eat off the coffee table while watching Big Brother, just like I do at home. Here's the menu; there are no appetizers, salads, entrees, etc., because everything comes in a dinner-sized portion just like at home, where I'm too lazy to cook more than one item for dinner:

Garlic bread
Cantonese noodle soup with wontons
Lobster tail
Spare ribs
Raw fresh peas
Bagels and lox
Salad greens with goat cheese and candied walnuts
Roasted capon
Twizzlers (strawberry)
Hunks of cheese with one small piece of bread
Wild rice
Ribeye steak
Dark chocolate Klondike bars
Pigs in a blanket

I feel certain this would be the most popular restaurant ever. On the other hand, maybe there's a good reason why I'm not a restauranteur.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's the Stupid, Economy

I read stories about our economic woes in every morning's papers. Everything costs more than it did a year ago, it's a bear market, we're in a recession, blah, blah, blah. Besides annoyance every time I fill my tank, I don't really notice many changes in or around me. My friends and I are all living our lives just the same as we have been; no one has been laid off, no one is entering foreclosure, no one is eating cat food. It took a weekend at the shore to really see the economic downturn in action.

On the macro level, boom and bust were evident everywhere in Wildwood. I have no prior knowledge of the island, but the remnants of the recent housing boom were readily observable. It was clear that the Wildwoods were a working-class resort; most of the housing consisted of modest beach cottages. Many of those cottages had been recently renovated; many of them had been torn down and replaced with larger structures: long, narrow, three or four story multi-unit condos. I didn't walk down a single block that didn't feature a plethora of "For Sale" or "For Rent" signs. Had I awakened yesterday morning with a sudden desire to rent a house or a condo and stay for the week, I could have had my choice of rentals. Investment in Wildwood real estate had clearly been rampant for at least several years, and those investments were now clearly lying fallow.

Had I driven down Friday on a whim, I also could have had my choice of motel rooms for the weekend. Driving around Friday night, a "No Vacancy" sign was the aberration, not the norm. The motels that had vacancies weren't those on the bay, or four blocks from the beach, or those that looked sketchy. Even oceanfront motels had vacancies aplenty. From what I can tell Wildwood is not an expensive resort. An efficiency suite that sleeps four at an oceanfront motel, with balcony with ocean view, went for $195 a night in this, the high season. The number of vacancies would seem to indicate that even a weekend at a beach less than a tank of gas away is beyond the reach of many this summer.

This was proven at the micro level. All weekend the day parking lots and the beach were relatively full. Wildwood's beaches are free, so for a nominal parking fee a family can have a day by the ocean. Although the boardwalk had plenty of pedestrians, the shops and arcades were empty. As of 9 PM Friday night, the amusement parks didn't have enough takers for most of the rides, so that the roller coaster, ferris wheel, etc. were standing idle. People lined up for slices of pizza, but we were able to get a table at a seafood restaurant overlooking the bay without a reservation and only a half hour wait. This summer, a day at the shore wouldn't seem to include any extras.

For Sunday happy hour we drove to a motel that had a swim-up tiki bar. A DJ was set up in a corner for karoke, but no one was singing; the bar had fewer than a dozen patrons on this sunny weekend day. You know things are bad when no one's drinking at the Jersey shore.

The good news was a painless weekend away, when we could get tables without reservations and get a seat at any bar we desired. The bad news is the way business, even in this resort area, is suffering, the wait staff who aren't making the tips they need, the business owners who perhaps aren't covering expenses, the homeowners who can't rent or sell. And the bad news is that it's summer. In August, no one is paying to heat their home. What will it be like in January, even for me, when my heating bill is almost as much each month as my mortgage?

I guess it's a good thing I feed my cat nutritional high-protein food. Maybe we'll be sharing it come January.