Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This week's Suburban Fringe

Hey there kids - sorry for making you hunt for today's Fringe, but my editor decided not to run the column I wrote. Don't be upset with her - it's entirely her right to do such a thing; in fact, it's her job. She felt that the column I wrote was "just too gross, and not funny enough to offset the gross-out factor." And you know, she might be right.

But, since I know lots of folks can't stand a Tuesday without a Fringe, I'm posting it here, on my long-lost blog. Enjoy.

My life with the Smelly Cat

My cat stinks.

I don’t mean that in the figurative sense. He stinks. He smells bad. All the time.

There’s one reason for it, really. He is, to put it bluntly, insanely flatulent.

The cat in question is named Dexter. He’s the youngest of the three cats in our house. (Yeah, we have three cats. Yeah, we actually like it that way. And yeah, I realize that this makes me That Guy With All The Cats. In my defense, they are all very fuzzy.)

We’ve only had Dexter since around Labor Day, so we’re still figuring him out a little bit. A few things about Dexter are already apparent. First, even though he’s the youngest and smallest of our cats, he has already established himself as the alpha male in the household. Not that he had a lot of competition for the job; Frisco is something like 4,000 years old in cat years and only wakes up to eat or have a little “me time” in the litter box, and one-year-old Charlie is about as rough-and-tumble as a tub of baby wipes.

Second, we’re pretty sure Dexter is going to be straight-up enormous when he’s fully grown. He eats constantly and is growing faster than a fat kid locked in a burrito factory.

Third, he stinks.

I’ve never been around a living creature, animal or not, who breaks wind as often as Dexter. He cracks ‘em off like he gets paid to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held him in my arms and had him look up at me lovingly while he softly fires a stink-biscuit into the crook of my elbow. It’s disgusting. Every single one is vile enough to make professional wrestlers weep like little girls.

The whole thing wouldn’t even be that much of an issue if he weren’t the most affectionate cat of the three. Dexter is more consistently desperate for attention than the average Rock of Love contestant. He sits outside our bedroom door every morning, waiting for us to open it so he can jump on the bed and sit on our faces. Literally, he sits on our faces. To him, this is the ultimate form of affectionate cuddling. To Colette and me, it’s like having a fuzzy breathing toilet on our heads. We push him away, but he’s not easily deterred. He usually tries to park himself on our faces two or three times before we give up. We try very hard not to think about what he might be leaving behind after we move him.

I don’t know what to do about it. We’ve tried a couple different kinds of food, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference. Everything he eats turns into gas, apparently. Maybe he’s just gifted in that way, not unlike my brother. Part of the problem might be that he almost never stops eating. He loves chow so much that even when he’s not eating, he’ll often hang around the food dish. It’s like he enjoys being in the company of his beloved kibble-nuggets.

Because he’s eating all the time, Dexter also hangs out in the litter box a lot. It’s kind of remarkable, actually. It’s like he can poo on demand. Every time I’m cleaning out the litter boxes, Dexter sits next to me and waits until I’m done. The moment I put the lids back on, he wanders into one of them and stinks it up like your Uncle Steve after Thanksgiving dinner. This happens every time. It’s like he has some kind of reserve tank in his bowels, so that he can be sure to have a loaded clip of ammo, so to speak, at all times. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified. Frankly, I think I’m a little bit of both.

I don’t know what to think about the whole thing. One of the reasons I have come to enjoy cats over the past few years is their remarkable ability not to smell bad. Dogs, for example, often smell. Most dogs only smell good while they’re actually in a bath. By the time you finish drying them off, they once again smell like that towel your roommate in college never bothered to wash and they can’t wait to enthusiastically rub that smell all over you. Cats are clean. If anything on their bodies might possibly generate an odor, they simply lick it off. This, of course, is entirely disgusting, but as long as they don’t care – and clearly they don’t – I am not of a mind to stop them.

Dexter can clean himself all he wants, but it’s of no use. His coat is shiny and clean, but he still smells like a military latrine the day after Taco Night. He can’t clean his intestinal tract with a few licks, you know. If he could, I think I’d have to confine him to a closet in the basement, because really, that just wouldn’t be cool at all. OK, yeah, it would be a little cool at first, but after a while, no.

We’re hoping that maybe this is all just a phase that Dexter is going through. After all, he’s still only five months old, and he has a lot of growing ahead of him. Maybe someday we’ll look back at the Stinky Times and laugh, and Dexter will develop the ability to smell like springtime daisies and fresh-baked cookies.

Of course, the opposite could happen as well. Maybe as he gets older, Dexter will discover entirely new levels of toxicity and develops smells never before seen on our planet. Maybe we’ll have to start changing his litter every hour in order to prevent it from collapsing under its own weight.

I guess for now we’re stuck waiting. And, unfortunately, smelling.

Bob Rybarczyk (brybarczyk@sbcglobal.net) writes stuff. When opportunity comes knocking, he assumes it’s a kid selling raffle tickets and hides in the kitchen. Look for his first novel, “Acoustic Kitty,” at area Borders stores and at online booksellers, and say hi to him on Facebook.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I'm not sure.

I was roller skating with my daughter last night, and it occurred to me that I wasn't sure which was dorker - being a terrible roller skater, or being a fantastic roller skater.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

That's one heck of a toilet seat, lady.

So, this doesn't count as hate mail, but it is interesting mail.

I got an e-mail from someone named Tricia. It's obvious that Tricia works for a public relations agency. As someone who also works at a public relations agency, I can recognize my own kind, much like one zombie will recognize another and not eat its brain.

Unfortunately for Tricia, her client roster includes a company that makes luxury toilet seats.

No, really.

Here's the e-mail. (I took out the company's name and the names of its product lines because I didn't want Tricia to get in trouble with her client. Hopefully a maker of luxury toilet seats has a sense of humor, but I don't want to presume such a thing.)

Hi Bob;

Good afternoon. I hope that you’re doing well today and had a wonderful holiday weekend.

Last month, I had sent you information on a new client of ours, [Company]. [Company] manufacturers eco-friendly and luxurious toilet seats. I wanted to follow-up with you to see if you had any questions, would like samples or high res images.

Their [Brand A] line of high-tech toilet seats combines the latest innovation and design to bring you a new level of luxury and hygiene. With its warm air dryer, the [Brand A] 800 eliminates all need to use toilet paper – yes it’s true! In addition to the warm air dryer, the [Brand A] 800 includes a bidet, water and seat temperature controls, wireless remote control, germ resistant lid as well as many other features. Sheryl Crow can now really only use one piece of toilet paper!!

In addition to the [Brand A] series, [Company] also offers the [Brand B] – a line of deodorizing toilet seats which provide a more comfortable bathroom experience for your family and guests. No more embarrassing odors!! Now, your bathroom will smell of either Citrus & Eucalyptus, Rainforest or Jasmine & Lavender everytime a visit is paid.

To learn more about the [Company] line of eco-friendly toilet seats including the health benefits, visit [web site]. Sold at participating retailers nationwide, the [Company] Toilet Seats range in price from $155.00 to $920.00.

If you would like a press kit, high res images or samples, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yep, you read that right: eco-friendly luxury toilet seats. For a mere $920 each.

So awesome. I just had to share.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Haaaaate Mail!

Okay, I know, it has been WAY too long since I've blogged. In order to make it up to you, I have something exciting for you: hate mail.

If you're a fan of my writing at all, you know that I love hate mail. I like the regular fan mail, too, so don't you all go writing me nasty-grams just because. But true, bile-encrusted, nasty hate mail is sometimes way more fun.

I actually got this one a week ago, in response to my surprisingly popular column about my cat Charlie acting like a vampire. It's from some guy named John:

What a poor excuse you are. I am not surprised that you have a job at that horrid thing called a newspaper. It just shows how journalism has sunk over the years. You remind of a p**** who thinks he is cool but just needs a good a**-kicking. Your articles are not cute or funny. It is as if the rag just hired a 15 year old kid who likes to tell fart jokes or actually or more appropriately a 15 year old girl who fawns over boy bands. I know that I am wasting my time even writing a silly a** like you but I am amazed that you are not teaching AV at a poor school district and thinking you have what it takes to be an assistant at the school year book. Do not think that you have some talent. Sure you get paid but so do a******s like those freaks on Jacka**. People are laughing…at you and you are too stupid to know it. Now onto your next juvenile project. Maybe how you just discovered how to j*** off. Loser.

(I put the asterisks in there, by the way. Yeah, this is a blog, but I like to keep it clean here, since anyone can read it.)

Pretty cool, huh? This John guy really hates me. Must drive him crazy that I've been doing this column for seven years now...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Acoustic Kitty - now at Borders!

So I have a little bit of exciting news to share - ACOUSTIC KITTY is now available at three local Borders stores. You can get it at the Sunset Hills, Ballwin and Creve Coeur stores. Even better, the Sunset Hills location is going to have me come by for a book signing on Sunday, September 14. I don't know the exact time yet, but it'll be around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. I'll let you know for certain once I find out more.

How I got to this point is actually kind of a cool story. I signed up for Facebook a few weeks ago and a woman named Susan added me as a friend because she is a fan of the Fringe. As it turns out, Susan's also the general manager of the Sunset Hills Borders store, and I remembered her because she had said hello to me when I was in the store about a week before that. (It was maybe the tenth time in the seven years of writing "Suburban Fringe" that I've been recognized in public - I'm still not used to it.)

We struck up an online conversation, Susan expressed interest in carrying KITTY in her store and a few of the other local Borders locations, and voila, I am now officially in Borders. Still not quite the same as being in bookstores coast to coast, but all things considered, I'm excited. Baby steps, people, baby steps. If KITTY does well, that might help me land an agent, which in turn would help me get a publishing deal, which in turn would get my book into stores all over the country.

As a "St. Louis-is-a-big-small-town" aside, my wife's cousin used to work at the Sunset Hills Borders and is friends with Susan. So we were only one or two degrees of separation apart to begin with. Facebook just closed the loop. Weird.

Well, okay, maybe that story was more interesting for me than it was for you. But still - at least now you don't have to wait for a copy in the mail if you don't want to. W00t!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hilarity. Nonstop hilarity.

Overheard this morning while buying a soda at a gas station convenience store:

Clerk 1: Hey man. Have you ever seen a Jenny McCarthy movie called "Dirty Love?"

Clerk 2: No.

Clerk 1: It is hilarity. Nonstop hilarity. Jenny wrote and directed it herself.

At that point I finished paying for my soda and left.

"Jenny wrote and directed it herself." Sweet mother of God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I love me some Neil Gaiman.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman. Neil, in case you don't know, is one of the best writers of supernatural fiction working today. He made his mark writing the 90s-era Vertigo comic THE SANDMAN and is also the author of a number of most excellent novels (and big sellers) like AMERICAN GODS and ANANSI BOYS. If you want to know more about Neil, check out his web site and pick up, oh, just about anything he's written.

I'm mentioning him today because lately I've been reading old trade paperbacks of THE SANDMAN and am really loving it. It's creepy, twisted stuff. There's no way I could accurately describe the plot, but if you enjoy graphic novels - and even if you don't - I think you'd like it.

In one of those weird-coincidence type of things, I happened to finish watching Beowulf (the semi-animated film with Ray Winstone in the title role) this morning. (I watch DVDs on my laptop while walking on my treadmill at the crack of 5:45 a.m.) I got to the end, started watching the credits, and who was listed as the co-writer and co-producer? Yep. Neil Gaiman. No wonder I enjoyed it so much.

There's actually a remote chance that Neil and I may have something in common sometime down the road. His agent, Merrilee Heifetz, is currently reading my ACOUSTIC KITTY manuscript. I don't have a literary agent but very much would like to have one so I can have a shot at getting KITTY carried in bookstores everywhere. Keep your fingers crossed; Merrilee is, by all accounts, a fantastic agent, and I'd be very lucky to work with her. She also represents the bestselling author (and St. Louis resident) Laurell K. Hamilton, another crazy-good writer. Who knows if Merrilee will sign me, but heck, I'm honored to have her even consider the notion.

The moral of the story: read a lot, and when you do, find some time for Neil Gaiman stuff. And Laurell K. Hamilton, while you're at it. Oh, and keep your fingers crossed.