Thursday, October 05, 2017

COLUMN: Cricket

I am not a big sports guy. This may come as a shock to those of you who look at my picture and naturally assume that I'm a buff jock.

In this world, there are those who play sports, there are those who watch other people play sports, and there are those who were too busy DJing the post-game dance to even worry about what the game even WAS. When it comes to athletics, I have always been, and shall always be, woefully inept. For me, gym class was little more than legalized child abuse and a daily opportunity to get picked last for any team.

Occasionally, though, sports can be fun to watch, especially if you have no clue what's going on.

Last Saturday, my friends and I were heading out on a much-needed aimless joyride when we stumbled across something I'd never seen before in the Quad Cities: a cricket match. There, in the fields of Jacob Park in East Moline, a handful of guys stood around gleefully cricketing away. None of us had seen a live cricket match before, so we decided to pull in and spectate for a bit. After watching for fifteen minutes, we still had NO clue what was happening.

Cricket is somewhat of a distant cousin to baseball, in that both sports involve batters trying to hit balls that are pitched their way. Instead of a diamond, cricket is played on an oval field with defensemen surrounding the batter on nearly all sides. There's a whole lot of standing around and not doing much. In other words, cricket might just be a sport I could handle.

When I got home later that night, I researched cricket to figure out the rules. It turns out this simple-looking game is a bit more complex than it appears, and comes with its own incomprehensible vocabulary -- such as this, from Wikipedia: "The ball can be bowled so that it bounces on the pitch, is a yorker, or a full toss. A no ball or a wide does not count towards the six balls in the over." Oh, I completely understand now, thanks.

Wikipedia also informs that when it comes to determining whether or not a batter is out, "even though the wicket may have been put down, or the ball caught, the batsman is not actually dismissed until the fielding team appeal to the umpires for a decision, traditionally using the phrase 'How's that' or 'Howzat.'" I was now more than ever convinced that cricket could just be MY sport. I might not make a good ball catcher or a good wicket put-down-er, but I'm pretty sure I could make an exceptional Howzat-man, should any team need my services.

I honestly DID want to learn more about cricket, but had no idea where to turn. Then I had an epiphany. Unfortunately, it may have been a slightly racist epiphany. At the end of my block is a gas station that I frequent daily, and over the years I've become friendly with the Indian family that runs the place. Cricket is HUGE in India, and I had a feeling those guys knew everything about the sport. But would it be an uncool stereotype to just assume so?

Thankfully I'm friendly enough with them to risk it. So yep, yesterday I started a gas station conversation with the phrase, "I apologize if I'm making a bad stereotype here..." which ALWAYS means "I'm definitely making a bad stereotype here," but thankfully my inquiry was met with a smile.

"Sorry, dude," my friend said. "I'm not very sporty," which is probably why we're friends. But he DID know everything about the rules of cricket, and told me all about how it's played. I now know about wickets and outs and yorkers and a really interesting game that's been around since the 16th century.

Even more convinced that I'd finally found a sport I could get along with, I got home that night and decided to check out some cricket videos on Youtube. This wasn't a good decision. Well, for ME, it might have been the BEST decision. As it turns out, right next to all the "How-To-Cricket" videos were dozens of videos with titles like "HORRIBLE CRICKET INJURY!" and my personal favorite, "TOP TEN CRICKET DEATHS ON THE PITCH," inferring that some cricket deaths on the pitch are just not awesome enough to make a top ten list. Whoa.

I'd like to say that I was respectful and classy enough to skip the shock-and-awe videos and focus only on the educational videos. Nope. Instead, I sat there for a half hour watching the sport of cricket maim people. I saw teeth fly out of mouths in slow motion. I saw groins that will never be the same. I saw an Australian pro take a cricket ball to the neck so hard he never got up again.

Over the years, I've learned a few simple Laws of Shane. An important one: If it's possible for something to injure me, it most likely will. Cricket seems fun, but so does keeping all my teeth in my mouth. I've seen all the safety equipment you should be wearing to play cricket, but I didn't see much padding going on at Jacob Park.

Before I discover my inner jock, I want to watch a few more matches. When it comes to cricket, I might make a better spectator than player. If you're an area cricketeer and you're playing soon, shoot me an e-mail and maybe I'll come check it out. Howzat?

COLUMN: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

A little bit of change is often a big deal in my world. Change can be exciting, intimidating, scary, and exhilarating. In other words, it's usually not for me. "Exhilarating" just isn't a word that creeps up in my couch-dwelling lifestyle too often. However, a little bit of change has entered our lives this week here in Dispatch-Argusland. That's usually my cue to curl into a fetal ball and commence panicking.

I've always had a natural resistance to change. Admittedly, this is a pretty stupid mindset to have. Without change, there's never any possibility for growth. More often than not, change is a risk worth taking, whether you have to push yourself or accept the occasional push of fate. After all, without a good push or two, I'd be a 250 lb. fetus making my mom SUPER uncomfortable right about now.

This time around, though, I strangely haven't been panicking. I've yet to reach for a fidget spinner or search the internet for coping mechanisms. In fact, this change is giving me a strange new feeling I'm unfamiliar with. I looked it up, and I think it's something called "optimism." Weird, huh?

You're reading this now, which likely means you're a fan of our papers, so you've probably already heard the news: last week, the Small Newspaper Group sold the Dispatch•Argus•QCOnline to the good folks at Lee Enterprises. 

What's this mean? Well, it means we'll be saying goodbye to the Small family, who have been steadfastly sailing this ship since before I was born. We're also saying goodbye to Jerry Taylor, who retires as our publisher after 40-plus years of service. With soft voice and steady hands, Mr. Taylor has been our rock, our captain, our friend, and a man whose only error in judgement may have been letting the weirdo kid from advertising write about his cats every Monday. I couldn't be more grateful.

It also means we'll be saying hello to a company with a proven track record of excellence, who already serve 49 markets in 21 states. This week, they've been meeting our team, and I hope they're discovering they just inherited a scrappy crew of hard workers equally devoted to the noble pursuit of journalistic excellence -- and one columnist who probably uses the word "poop" too many times for their liking.

The ones who should benefit the most from this new partnership are you, the readers. With renewed vigor and newfound resources, we're committed more than ever to serve our community the very best print and online products we can muster every day. The Dispatch•Argus isn't going anywhere.

So if the order of the day ISN'T to panic and curl up into a fetal ball, how did I cope with the spectre of change this time around? Well, with some acoustic folk music, naturally.

The night that news of the sale broke, rather than sit at home and convince myself that change must always be bad, I instead took an invitation from my friend Sean Moeller and headed to downtown Davenport's Raccoon Motel to catch Son Little and singer-songwriter Korey Dane.

"I wrote this one a couple years back when I was hitch-hiking across the U.S.," Dane said at one point, in an instantly successful attempt at proving himself way cooler than I'll ever be. That's when it hit me. Maybe I resist change because I've never had my walkabout moment. I've never thrown caution to the wind or hitchhiked across our great land with Kerouacian passion. I've barely left the corn belt.

Then again, I've also never been axe murdered, and that's what my mom always promised would happen if I ever hitchhiked. The gods of fate are something I seldom toy with, so it WOULD be just my luck to begin my life-affirming spiritual journey by hopping into a car with a blood-thirsty sociopath. Plus, Dane's good looks and natural charm probably scored him rides fairly easy. My aged and tubby silhouette would probably still be on a roadside as we speak, trying to stick out my thumb while balancing an armful of cats.

Just today I read an article about all the free-wheeling travelers that converged on Stonehenge for the summer solstice last week. Dozens of new age hippies weeped at the morning sun while presumably renewing their chakras through the karmic vibrations of the ancient ley lines. Had I been there, I'd have been the guy whining about the mosquitos and asking if anybody knew the password for the Stonehenge wi-fi. The traveler's life is not for me.

No, my place is here, contentedly couch-surfing and waiting for my cats to do something funny enough to write about. I'm no sage philosopher, so all I can tell you is this: I'm excited about the future, and I hope you all are, too.

Here's where I should probably quote REO Speedwagon's "Roll With the Changes," but I just can't bring myself to cite a song so bad it dares to rhyme "brink of" with "drink of." Instead, I will follow the orders of the great David Bowie, turn and face the strange, and see what these ch-ch-ch-ch-changes have to offer.

COLUMN: Catfight

It's normally my goal to try and bring a little levity to your Monday newspaper, but it's tough to be carefree and jovial in times of war.

I refer, of course, to the battle of wits that I'm currently waging against one of my cats.

As you may already know, I recently got some bad news about one of my feline houseguests. After eleven years of companionship and column fodder aplenty, poor Bez's kidneys are starting to give out. There's no magic fix for kidney failure in cats, but there ARE therapies that can slow the process while hopefully giving her continued time for her favorite hobby: testing my patience to its absolute breaking point.

Specifically, this therapy involves subcutaneous fluids to help take some of the load off her kidneys. This means sticking my cat with a IV needle three times a week and somehow getting her to hang out while 100 cc's of fluid drips under her skin.

In theory, it's an easy process. You just grab the cat by the scruff of her neck, make a little tent with the skin, poke the needle in, and just sit there for a few minutes while gravity does all the work. It's so harmless that my vet showed me how to do it using one of their office cats, who strolled in and sat amiably while a vet gave her a few cc's of fluid.

"See?" the vet tech told me. "They don't even feel it."

Clearly, they had never met MY cat.

Back home, I logged onto Youtube and watched countless instructional videos. In each one, happy cats sat around seemingly undisturbed in the slightest by the process. The most common advice was to distract your cat with food. As long as there are delicious nom-nom's, cats don't generally care who's doing what to the scruff of their necks.

Clearly, they had never met MY cat.

I was ready. IV bag in place? Check. Delicious cat treats at the ready? Check. As Bez began to chow down, I lightly grabbed her scruff, made a tent, gently put the needle in, and then watched in horror as my cat turned to me and squealed as if I were trying to kill her. Next thing I knew, claws were sunk in, needles were pulled out, and IV fluid was shooting around my living room willy-nilly. Not good.

Things haven't improved. I did not raise a dumb cat. Now all she has to do is SEE the IV bag and she runs for the hills. I'm doing everything right but she's just being a huge baby. I tried distracting her with food -- and now she's equated food with pain. When I set down dinner for her, now she circles it warily for minutes as if she expects someone to leap out and stab her in the neck the minute she takes a bite.

Happily, my vet's office will do the deed for me as often as needed -- but this creates a whole new set of problems. The minute I put her in a carrier, she howls like the world's ending. My vet's office is only nine blocks away from my house, but the other day she spent those nine blocks howling so loud that she blew out her little cat voice and spent the rest of the day hoarse, meowing at me like a chain-smoking cat reincarnation of Brenda Vaccaro.

Of course, to make me look even crazier, the minute we're inside the vet's office, she shuts up and acts like an angel. Doesn't even make a peep when they put the IV in.

"She's such a sweetheart," they told me the other day. "We can't imagine how she could give you trouble at home." And then the SECOND I take her outside of the office, she starts howling again like I'm the world's worst human.

And now she's catching on. After two times of waking up early to take her to the vet before work, she now hides in the mornings. Last week, I mixed it up and took her on my lunch hour -- and now she hides from me any time I come home mid-day. I was hoping as the sub-Q treatment carried on, eventually she'd get used to it. Instead, she's getting more stubborn. Work is sympathetic to a degree, but I can't exactly call in late because I'm playing hide-and-seek with a scaredy-cat.

Like I said, she's not dumb. When I come home from work at night, she knows the vet's office is closed. There's never any hiding at night. Instead, she comes running for skritches and spends most of the night contentedly purring on my lap. As I type this, I'm laying on my stomach while she's sprawled out on my back, checking out the laptop over my shoulder and probably learning how to read.

I suppose it's all worth it. Despite our ensuing battles, the therapy's working. She's back to her usual self and seems happy (except for the stabbier parts of her week.) I know friends whose cats have lived for years thanks to sub-Q fluids. At this rate, Bez might just outlive ME -- the stress of being continually outsmarted by a cat might just be MY early end. War is hell, friends.

COLUMN: Editor Shane

So I couldn't help but notice the alarming fact that I'm not yet a multi-millionaire. This is kind of a bummer.

I've done everything right. I've played the lottery at least a dozen times. I've provided you all with moderate levels of entertainment every Monday. I've brought beats to as many local dancefloors as my weekend DJ gig allows. But for all this work, I've yet to win a single jackpot. No publisher has handed me a global syndication deal. And even though I'm quite adept at mixing TLC's "No Scrubs" into N*Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," Lollapalooza has yet to invite me to headline their main stage. What gives, people?

I'm a realist. I'm not asking for Bill Gates levels of wealth. I'd be perfectly happy with just a mansion or two and perhaps a modest handful of personal assistants. That's not asking too much, is it?

At this rate, I may be forced to turn to Plan B. I don't really have the time, but I may just have to write the next Great American Novel.

Wait, scratch that. Great American novels might be beloved, but they're not exactly money-makers. People never camped out for days in front of a Barnes & Noble waiting for "Moby Dick." Universal Studios never opened a Grapes-of-Wrath-land theme park. I don't need to write great literature, I just need to write POPULAR literature. I want Dan Brown money. Stephanie Meyer money.

All I need to do is come up with a... what's that thing called? Oh, yes. A plot.

Truth be told, this isn't the first time I've sat down and declared myself a novelist. Each time, it's been nothing less than unmitigated disaster. One time, I thought I could cash in on the Twilight craze by writing a page-turner about a teenager who falls in love with... a leprechaun. Laugh all you want, I still say it could be a romance for the ages. Nobody better steal my idea. It could still happen.

The problem is, I'm just not that good of a writer. I'm horrible at coming up with original ideas, and the few times I've tried, I end up writing dialogue where every character acts, reacts, walks, and talks just like me. If there's a more hellish nightmare than the prospect of a town filled with Shanes, I can't imagine it. And therein seems to lie my biggest problem: I can't imagine.

So there I was last year, banging my head against an empty screen in frustration, when an e-mail from an old friend showed up. Back in junior high, I rolled with a close-knit posse of proud nerds, and they didn't come much nerdier than my good friend George. Some of my fondest memories involve slumber parties at his house, slamming Jolt Cola while watching wonderfully awful horror movies until the wee hours. George has since become Dr. George, working in the field of artificial intelligence and data science while making the rest of us feel very, very stupid.

Why was my old friend e-mailing? Because in his spare time, George decided to try his hand at writing fiction. As opposed to my empty screen of frustration, George wrote a novel -- and it's GOOD. Hundreds of hundreds of jealousy-inducing pages. I won't give anything away, but its a tale of gods and goddesses and a mortal hero who has to descend into the bowels of Hell to rescue his beloved. It's legimitately a great read.

And for some reason, he wanted MY feedback on it. Folks, I may have found my new calling. I'm lousy at writing fiction, but as it turns out, I'm kinda decent at telling people how to write theirs. For the past year, George has been e-mailing me drafts of his book and I've been serving as an amateur editor. It's become a fun hobby. He writes phrases like, "Visions give way to faceless night, crawling infantile in the smothering blind-dark: weary, fog-benumbed traveler on the unlighted Path of the Dead." I write phrases like, "He was asleep." Somewhere in the middle, I think we balance.

As opposed to my motivation of vast riches, George wrote his book pretty much just for fun. So rather than struggle with landing a book deal, he's planning on self-publishing, hopefully later this year. His once epic tome is now shaping up to be a multi-book saga, and I'm happy to lend a hand whenever he needs it. This week, he asked me to edit the book summary for the e-jacket. Here's what I came up with:

"Paul Masterson is a lonely professor of religion and mythology.  As a child, recurring dreams of a suffering woman of divine origin sent him to a psychiatrist. Those dreams are now gone, long since dismissed as a childhood fantasy.  But the arrival of a mysterious letter awakens more than just old memories. Could his dream-goddess be real?  And if so, can anyone ease her suffering? To find out, Paul must come to terms with his past and visit a city he's long avoided. Can a shy loner at life become a true hero of myth?"

What do you guys think? If you saw that description on Amazon, would you read that? If all goes well, you might be able to later this year. If I get thanked somewhere in tiny print, that's reward enough for me. Unless, of course, it becomes the next Harry Potter. THEN I'm politely asking George for a mansion -- you know, so I can edit his next book in comfort.

COLUMN: Blog Stats 4

There are lots of ways to take an effective barometer reading of just how crazy the world is at any given time. You could peruse the news in this very paper. Some believe all you have to do is follow the president on Twitter. Me? I just have to check my blog.

Lurking in an inconspicuous back alley of the internet is For the most part, I just use my blog to house all of my columns in one convenient place, for those times when you absolutely need to binge-read the weekly ramblings of a middle-aged nerd. But there's another reason why I've kept my blog online all these years.

I have a stat tracker attached to my blog. I installed it more than a decade ago just so I could see how many people visit, which columns attract the most readers, etc. I also can see what country my visitors are from. (I'm quite popular in Italy for some reason. Ciao!) I can see which websites referred the most visitors my way.

But most important, I can see what search phrases lured people to my blog. Let's say you hopped on Google and did a search for, I don't know, "POOP COFFEE." At some point, I might have written columns that contain the words "poop" and "coffee." If I had, and if you were to keep scrolling through your Google search results, you might very well reach a link to my blog at some point. And whenever someone gets to my blog via a Google search, my stat tracker tells me what that person was searching for. And seeing what people search for is nothing less than a front-row seat to Crazytown.

Want to guess what the most-searched phrase that's brought people to my blog is? That's right, it's "POOP COFFEE."

I suppose this merits a bit of an explanation. About a decade ago, I wrote a brief column about the culinary delicacy known as kopi luwak. It's a rare and expensive blend of coffee from Sumatra. You see, in Sumatra, there's an animal called a civet (imagine if a cat and a weasel had a clandestine tryst, and you'd be close). Well, some Sumatran civets have a taste for coffee beans. The beans go in; nature takes its course; and the beans come out. Then, locals pick up the droppings, roast them, and sell them to bohemian idiots willing to pay upwards of $200 per bag for what is essentially dried civet poop.

Experts say it tastes amazing, although I'm generally inclined to distrust anyone who is an expert at drinking poop.

The second most-searched phrase that leads folks to my blog is "KATIE HOLMES," and I'm perfectly OK with that, given the fact I'm in love with her. Maybe one day she'll reach a point of insecurity in her career, and in a fit of despondency, she will Google her own name. When that day comes, there my blog will be, where I've professed my undying love for her on multiple occasions.

That's when Katie Holmes will have to make the ultimate decision: Stay in Hollywood with her millions of dollars, Tom Cruise's baby and purported boyfriend, Jamie Foxx? Or pack it all in to experience the love only a middle-aged, fat, newspaper columnist from Illinois can offer? Until then, I'll leave a dresser drawer open for her things.

Beyond those popular searches lies a vast smorgasbord of crazy. These are actual Google searches that have somehow brought people to my blog during the past 12 months:

— "WHAT TO DO FOR ITCHY KIDNEYS": Stepping away from the computer and heading for a doctor might be a good start. My general rule of thumb is that, when your internal organs start to itch, you're probably past the "Hi Google" stage of curiosity.

— "HOW MUCH CHOCOLATE DOES IT TAKE TO KILL YOU?": Based on my annual Halloween intake, I'm going to say a lot. I'm still here, so that says something.

— "BEST NICKELBACK SONGS": Finally, something I can help with. With absolute certainty, the best Nickelback songs are the two seconds of silence between each track on their albums.

— "APPLESAUCE IN MY PANTS": My blog might not be famous. My blog might not generate a ton of traffic. But it's good to know my blog has landed the attention of the coveted applesauce-pervert demographic. Success!

I guess all I can do is keep writing, keep blogging and keep saying "POOP COFFEE" as many times as possible to keep the weirdos coming by for a visit.

COLUMN: Stress

My right eyelid is twitching. Is that a bad thing? I'm a little stressed out... or maybe just a little over-caffeinated. In reality, I think it's a delightful combination of the two.

I wear a lot of hats in life. If you're a regular reader of my column, you know that in addition to writing this weekly confessional, I also spend my weekends DJing at area nightclubs. But if you REALLY know me well, you might also know that this column isn't my only job here at the paper -- the majority of my day is spent in our advertising department, working to bring you the area's best classified section. (We have the awards to prove it, too!) Today, though, I might have tried on one or two hats too many.

My day already started out pretty lousy -- remember a couple weeks back when I revealed that one of my cats was recently prescribed home IV fluids to fight kidney failure? Well, as it turns out, the cat is not a big fan of IV Therapy: The Home Game. Last night, she wouldn't let me come anywhere near her with a needle (possibly because I'm more scared of needles than she is, so we make a great pair.) I had no choice but to get up early today and take her into the vet to have them administer the fluids.

What I didn't know was that my vet sponsors ONE day when a traveling specialist visits to perform some kind of cutting-edge non-invasive doggie tooth cleaning -- and guess which day it was. I walked in to a crowd of over-anxious yip dogs and their over-protective owners, none of which helped the mood of my already displeased cat. By the time I finally got her loaded with fluids and back home, I had precious little time to get to the office -- which, of course, was the cue for every little old lady, rickety semi truck, and slow-moving construction vehicle in town to pull out directly in front of me. I was stressed before I even GOT to work.

Our newspaper office is a hectic and ever-changing world that constantly produces new challenges and keeps us on our toes. On the whole, though, it's a fairly well-oiled machine. We've got a fantastic product to offer the world, and everyone does their part to ensure that our daily miracle makes its way to your doorstep every morning. If one of us goes on vacation, someone else steps up and takes care of their duties for the week. For instance, in my neck of the department, I have two colleagues whose work I cover whenever they're gone.

But this week, thanks to a perfect storm of Memorial Day vacations, they're BOTH gone. For the most part, Team Classifieds this week has consisted of one advertising assistant and yours truly, trying my hardest to bend time and space in an ill-advised attempt to be three people at once.

Some folks enjoy multi-tasking. Not me. I can do it when forced, but the OCD part of my brain greatly prefers when my tasks form a nice, orderly line with no pushing or shoving. But in the fast-paced, hustle-bustle, white knuckle thrill ride of print advertising, one-at-a-time tasks are something of a pipe dream.

After being in this game for half my life now, I'd like to think I know my way around the office a bit. But when you have to cover duties you're not used to, there's nothing worse than feeling your brain downshift into first gear as you work your way through unfamiliar projects at a slow pace. I knew this week would be a challenge, so I came prepped with two important coping tools:

(1) Coffee, and lots of it. Usually I arrive to work with one of those cold cappuccino drinks that's basically coffee-flavored chocolate milk. This week the cappuccino stayed at home. This week called for high-test premium unleaded, folks. Brazilian roast, black as midnight on a moonless night, as venti as they make them. I may as well have just poured pure caffeine into my cat's IV drip and hooked myself up.

(2) Music, and lots of it. To the benefit of my co-workers, I usually keep workplace tunes to a minimum. But since everybody's out vacating, I've been reserving the right to respectfully rock out at my desk. Shh, don't tell, but I've been quietly sneaking in my satellite radio every day. Music helps me focus. Except for the new wave channel, which, as it turns out, makes me rock out a little TOO hard. I needed to find a genre I could enjoy yet ignore. Something familiar yet not so familiar that I start reminiscing, crying, and phoning up old high school girlfriends. This explains why I've been sitting at my desk listening to the 70s disco channel all week. You can laugh all you want, but I will survive and I'm stayin' ali-i-i-i-ive.

If I make it through the week with no worse maladies than a twitchy eyelid and "Y.M.C.A." stuck in my head, I'm calling it a win. Pretty soon it'll be MY turn to go on vacation. Just wait til my co-workers learn their job duties that week will include writing an original column, stabbing a cat in the neck, and spinning records at a dance club til 3 a.m. Mark my words, eyelids will twitch.

COLUMN: Twin Peaks

Well, things were rough going there for a bit, but finally, all the world's problems are fixed. It almost doesn't seem real.

I mean, who'd have thunk that ONE television show would be enough to cut through our petty differences, mend global fences, and unite the world together for a cup of coffee and a slice of perfect cherry pie?

Yes, after 25 years of being away, the greatest television show in the history of history returned to the air last night: Twin Peaks. Less than a day later, world peace and global understanding has been reached.

Or at least I assume it has. Truth be told, my column has an early deadline. As I type this, it's Wednesday night and the Twin Peaks premiere is still four arduous and impatient days away. Ergo, at this time I can only presume that its return has ushered in a new era of world peace and a cultural revolution that will change the course of humanity from this time onwards.

After all, that's kinda how it felt the first time around.

When I was in high school, I pretty much ignored TV. Movies were cool, video games were cooler, music was the coolest, but TV? That was the lame thing my parents watched every night. Let's just admit it -- television in the 1980's was abysmal. Think about what some of the top offerings were at the time:

* a show about a guy and his talking car

* a show about a truck driver and his chimpanzee

* a show about wise-cracking mercenaries who drive around in a van loaded with weapons shooting at a measurable percentage of the population yet never hitting anyone EVER.

* a show about high drama and romance onboard a cruise ship where Charo keeps inexplicably popping up.

* a show about an island CLEARLY run by a supernatural demon and his vertically-challenged minion

The list goes on and on. They didn't call it the "idiot box" for nothing.

And then it happened. By divine providence or complete accident, a network TV executive green-lit a new television series from director David Lynch. The same David Lynch responsible for cult classic movies like "Eraserhead," "Blue Velvet," and "Dune." A guy whose film catalog is equal parts weird, wonderful, disturbing, and deranged. A guy who had no business being a part of the idiot box.

But with the partnership of Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, Twin Peaks ended up the perfect melange of compelling drama, quirky charm, and Lynch's patented weirdness. Within days, it seemed like the whole world wanted to know who killed Laura Palmer, the high school beauty whose life was filled with dark secrets. My roommates and I watched the premiere from our dorm room and were instantly mega-fans. Back then, TV reception in the dorm was spotty at best, so my poor parents were tasked with taping and mailing us every episode immediately after they aired.

With Twin Peaks, filmmakers learned that television could be art. The infamous dream sequence from the third episode might still be the weirdest thing ever aired on broadcast television. Twin Peaks almost single-handedly paved the way for the concept of TV as an actual artistic medium. Every envelope-pushing show from Lost to Mad Men to Breaking Bad owes a little bit to Twin Peaks for forging the trail.

We may be decades away from the original show, but I've never stopped being a fan. I bought all the books and own the series in multiple formats. I went to a Twin Peaks convention. A few years ago, I had the honor of interviewing David Lynch for this very paper, and it took Olympic levels of self-control to keep me from turning into a stammering fanboy.

And now, 25 years later, Twin Peaks is back for a limited run on Showtime. Most of the original cast jumped at the chance to be onboard for the reboot. My hope is that it's everything I loved about the original and more. Now that it's on a cable network, Lynch and Frost have the freedom to make the show darker, creepier, and sexier than ever. EVERY episode will be directed by Lynch, so anything's possible.

It could also be a spectacular flop. Lynch's most recent offerings have been SO out there that it's often hard to discern a plot. To keep viewers in suspense, no advance screenings, trailers, or previews of the Twin Peaks relaunch have been issued.

My hope, though, is that last night's episode was amazing. I've said it before: 2017 is The Year of Shane. Two of my favorite bands of all time (British shoegazers Ride and Slowdive) have reunited and are producing some of the best music of their careers. And now my favorite TV show is officially back on the air. Last night's episode might not have changed the world, but odds are pretty good that it rocked mine.


As reliable as the swallows returning to Capistrano, at least a couple times a year, you can count on me to write one of my patented, "Wah! I'm so old! Where did the time go?" columns. I suppose this could be considered one of them, but unfortunately, this column isn't about me.

For years, I've written about my feline furbabies, Bez and Isobel, my twin rescues from Animal Aid. Truth is, though, they're not exactly babies any more. I still picture them as the tiny balls of fluff I brought home from Animal Aid, but that was eleven years ago this month. My kitties are more like grannies these days. Last week, the reality of their age was cemented home.

Last Sunday, Bez came walking up and it was clear something was wrong. Her normal confident gait was reduced to a pained limp. Her head was down, her tail was low. For the first time in her life, she was a sick kitty. I took her to the vet on Monday, and the news wasn't great. My favorite non-human on the planet has bad arthritis. Worse yet, her blood work showed that she was in acute kidney failure.

Last week was pretty much awful. Every morning, I had to take her into the vet, where they've been placing her on an IV to get her rehydrated. They've also been giving her laser treatments to curb the arthritis. On Day 1, the nurses at the vet told me, "She's such a sweetheart." On Day 2, they told me, "She's feeling a little bit sassy today." By Day 3, it had turned to, "Can you help us move her into her carrier? We're kind of afraid to touch her." I was kinda proud. My cat might be down, but she's not going out without a fight.

So where does that leave us? Well, she's home and happy. Her limp has disappeared, her tail's back up in the air, and she's back to her old self. To keep things that way, all I need to do is give my cat subcutaneous IV fluids three times a week at home. Not good. The last time I had to have a vaccination, I screamed so loud it broke all the blood vessels in my face and I walked around purple for a week. I have acute needlephobia, and now I have to basically become my own worst nightmare and stab my cat in the neck multiple times a week for the remainder of her life.

This isn't my first hurrah with cats and needles. I once had a diabetic cat that required daily insulin shots. I've already had to play Freddie Krueger: The Home Game to save a cat's life. But insulin needles are tiny. IV needles are big and awful.

"Don't worry," the vet tech told me. "If you inject her at the scruff of her neck, they barely feel a thing."

"Barely feel a thing," my fanny. The first time I put that needle in her scruff, she yowled in pain and wouldn't stop screeching until I was done. This, of course, made ME start shaking and crying, so together we make a super awesome health care team.

Loads of my friends have experience giving cats fluids, and I've been taking advice from them non-stop. Distract the cat, they say. Give her food and she'll be so preoccupied she won't even notice the IV. Yeah, not MY cat. I went out and got some gourmet cat food, but I didn't raise a dumb cat. When she saw me holding the IV, she started yowling before I'd even touched her.

Food is another challenge at the moment. Some friends have recommended a low protein cat food that's easy on the kidneys. My vet says a high protein cat food won't help the kidneys, but WILL help her keep weight on. The choice is mine. Well, the choice is actually Bez's, because so far, she's not a big fan of the low protein stuff. I even bought an amino acid supplement to sprinkle on her food. She took one whiff of it, looked at me like, "really?" and sauntered off in disgust.

The OTHER cat, meanwhile, wonders what's become of her high-test Cat Chow, and she shouldn't be eating low protein cat food, because she's already a skinny Minnie. But they've spent their entire lives eating out of the same bowl, so now EVERYONE's confused. Like I said, it's been a real banner week.

There's no magic fix for kidney disease. It's not going to get better, and I'm a realist. But if I can get her to cooperate with the fluids and dietary changes, my cat could be around for a good long time still. So for the foreseeable future, I guess I'm the proud owner/operator of the Brown Home for the Aged & Infirm. Wish me luck, keep Bez in your thoughts, and if any of you have any more advice to make this process better, shoot me an e-mail. I'm all ears.