July 6th, 2017


Four-Day Fourth of July Weekend with Barry

Friday was scheduled to be my last day at work before being laid off, but on Friday I accepted a new job, so I headed to Barry's house in a very good mood to spend my four-day Fourth of July weekend with Barry. My lodger was also spending the four-day weekend out of town, at her boyfriend's house, so I didn't have a pet-sitter handy; therefore, I taped some pee pads into the back seat of my car for Boston (she's incontinent on most car rides these days) and brought her along with me to Barry's house. I also brought three loaves of frozen bread dough (we made two loaves over the course of the weekend, although one of the loaves we made was from the remains of an identical package already at Barry's house), a bag of barbecue potato chips, a loaf of pumpernickel bread, two bags of Muenster cheese, and a big package of thinly sliced turkey sandwich meat. The last three items, I brought simply because I happened to have recently made a sandwich out of them and mentioned it to Barry via instant message, and Barry had said it sounded good, and he did not have the ingredients on hand to make an identical sandwich, so I decided I would bring them with me and make him an identical sandwich.

Upon arrival at Barry's house, I found Barry's pickup truck parked diagonally across two spaces of his three-car driveway, and the back of his truck filled with a mix of 50% dirt/50% compost to fill up the third planter box that Barry recently built. He had parked the truck diagonally for easier wheelbarrow access. I put Boston in Barry's back yard and went inside to eat a delicious dinner of Pasta-Roni and some side dish that we both seem to have forgotten the precise identity of. We also watched some Battlestar Galactica.

On Saturday morning, Barry made waffles, and then we tied Boston to the roof rack of Barry's truck while we filled up the planter box with the soil mixture from Barry's truck. Barry did all the wheeling of the wheelbarrow over to the planter box and dumping its contents into the planter box; I stayed at the truck, where we had two shovels, and we both shoveled the soil into the wheelbarrow until we got the truck emptied out. When the truck was fully emptied out, the planter box still wasn't as full as I wanted, so I drove to Home Depot and bought a big bag of some more dirt, plus a bag of mulch to spread on top of it, and some plants to put in the new planter. I bought a variety pack of six eggplants, a variety pack of six bell peppers, one prostrate rosemary plant, and two chili peppers. After I got them planted, I showed Barry the labels from the plants. He was freaked out by the ghost pepper and showed me a YouTube video of some guy eating a tiny piece of a ghost pepper and moaning a bunch and then deciding he needed to go to the hospital. I agreed to unplant the ghost pepper. We both were kind of disturbed to discover that Home Depot would sell such things without some sort of biohazard warning label.

I chatted with Mikie for a bit, updating him on my new job, while Mikie was attending the World Pride celebration in Madrid and while I was watching Barry shoot zombies in a PlayStation game called Killing Floor 2. I also set out a loaf of frozen bread dough to thaw and rise.

Then Barry got a call from the Yolo County animal shelter about a new pair of foster kittens, and we went to pick them up together. They are about eight weeks old - old enough to be adopted - but they've contracted the cat flu and need to be in foster care until they recover. One is a medium-haired calico girl, and the other is a short-haired grey tabby boy. We immediately started calling them Fluffy and Not Fluffy, respectively, but it soon became clear that they had such starkly obvious personality differences that it seemed a shame to name them only by their appearances. Fluffy looks far sicker, appearance-wise, because the nictitating membrane on one of her eyes is constantly closed and protruding slightly (which tends to happen in response to any eye injury; it can be the feline equivalent of a black eye). However, she is very active, like any healthy kitten, and she starts purring instantly at the slightest petting. Not Fluffy, on the other hand, looks pretty healthy (he had a visibly runny nose for the first day but looks fine now), but he is the most sedate and immobile kitten I've ever seen; he spends pretty nearly 100% of his time sitting, usually in kitty loaf position, with all four paws hidden underneath him. The only movement I've seen from him has been just walking a few steps between his food dish and his cat bed, not running around pouncing on things like kittens normally do (and like his sister does). Also, we couldn't get any purr out of him for days! It took until Monday (the third day we had him) before I finally managed to coax him into purring. After that I was able to get him to purr fairly reliably; however, it always took several minutes of petting to coax him into purring, whereas his sister would always purr instantly at the first touch. So we decided that Fluffy's full name is Fluffy Active Purr Paws, and Not Fluffy's full name is Not Fluffy Not Active No Purr No Paws (because usually none of his paws are visible). I suggested just calling him Not for short.

Both of them wanted nothing to do with food for the first 24 hours or so. The animal shelter staff had told us that the kittens didn't seem to be eating, and that it might be because their noses were so stuffed up that they probably had trouble smelling the food. Barry gave them a dish full of canned food, a dish full of dry food, and some treats, in hopes that they might find something to their liking.

Collapse )

Here they both are on my lap on Saturday, the day we got them. They are in characteristic positions here, with Fluffy standing up and responding to petting, and Not sitting down, largely ignoring his surroundings.

me with Fluffy and Not

For dinner Saturday night, Barry made cacio e pepe, which he proudly assured me was authentically Italian. It was delightful. We ate it with homemade bread, while we finished watching Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry says there are board games for each season of Battlestar Galactica, and we are now at the right point to play the first of them.

On Sunday morning, we found that the kittens didn't seem to have touched any of their food. Barry placed Fluffy in front of the dish of canned food and managed to induce her to start eating some of it. Not continued to refuse food for a while longer. We had seen Fluffy drinking water even before we coaxed her into eating food, but we weren't certain whether Not had drunk any water. I started to worry that his motionlessness might mean he was more seriously ill than Fluffy and maybe even at risk of dying. I put him on my lap and started petting him, and got him to start leaning his face to one side as I petted his cheek. Then I asked Barry to pass me the water dish, and I held the water dish in front of his face and petted his cheek so that he leaned his face practically right into the water. His whiskers got wet, and then he finally started drinking. Hooray! A little later, I did the same thing with the canned food and got him to eat some of that. After that they both started eating and drinking much more regularly. Here is Not on my lap on Sunday.

me with Not

On Sunday afternoon, Barry took me out for a hot date at the grand opening of the new makerspace in Barry's local library. I had told him I wanted to do something to celebrate my new job, and my narrow escape from the previously looming threat of unemployment, and we had tentatively settled upon the idea of getting some soft-serve ice cream from a food truck. But we arrived earlier than we probably should have and had time to kill before the makerspace opened, and the food trucks weren't there yet either. And it was hot! It was definitely a hot date, but not entirely the kind of hot that I was hoping for. And when we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat, all the restaurants that were open at all on Sundays had closed before 1:00.

Finally we discovered that Steve's Pizza was still open, so Barry bought us a small pizza there. Then we went on to the makerspace when it opened at 2:00. It has one laser (much smaller than both of Barry's two lasers), a woodshop with a bunch of other wood-cutting tools, some 3D printers, some metal-soldering devices, a button press, an iron-on design maker, a sewing machine, and some knitting/crocheting classes. Barry had brought a flash drive with him on which he'd designed a product in advance that he wanted to print out on one of the 3D printers, but the makerspace requires people to take classes on how to use each type of equipment before being allowed to use the equipment independently, so he just signed up for the 3D printing class. He also used the button press to make a button advertising the makerspace, and then used the sewing machine to sew a design onto a paper card and matching envelope.

Using the makerspace is free, except that people have to pay for the materials they use there. Users must have a library card, and the costs are charged to their library card account.

There was also a garden outside the makerspace, planted with tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. I may have been somewhat more interested in the garden than in the makerspace. But I can imagine that some of the makerspace might eventually be useful to me someday.

We left the library at 3:00, when the food trucks were being set up, but we found out that the food trucks wouldn't actually start serving until 4:00. We didn't want to wait that long, so instead we went to a grocery store and bought a big tub of "double chocolate" frozen yogurt, a big tub of "orange-vanilla swirl" sherbet, a smaller tub of "peanut butter chocolate chip" "healthy" alternative ice cream, a coconut-flavored non-dairy whipped cream, a "healthy" alternative chocolate sauce, and a jar of maraschino cherries. We brought this pile of loot back to Barry's house and assembled a banana split for each of us (using the three flavors we had bought rather than the traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), with a cherry on top of each. It was fantastic.

Then we took Boston for a walk to a different grocery store, where Barry bought more celebratory foods - this time for dinner rather than for our pre-dinner dessert. I stayed with Boston in the parking lot while Barry went inside and did the shopping. As soon as we finished walking back home, I put on fluorescent yellow and teal running clothes and went out for a run, leaving Boston and Barry behind this time. (Boston would be able to keep up with me, but I didn't want to have to worry about encountering off-leash dogs - although this is significantly less common in Barry's neighborhood than in mine.) I ran in various loops through Barry's neighborhood for 20 minutes; attempts to retrace my route on MapQuest later suggest that I went about two miles.

I came home just as the last of the daylight was fading away, and took a shower, and then Barry started barbecuing steaks and chicken and also pineapple on his back patio. Barry's neighbors kept setting off early fireworks, though, and Boston is terrified of fireworks, so Boston kept trying to shove her way into Barry's house anytime we opened the door a crack. We did not want her in the house, because she is incontinent and because she was dirty from being in the yard and because she is unlikely to get along well with Barry's cats. So I stationed myself in a chair on the inside of the sliding glass door with a book (To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North, the cartoonist of Dinosaur Comics fame) while Barry was outside with the barbecue, and by coordinating, we were able to hand things through the door to one another while keeping a free hand available to wrangle Boston as needed. We made a good team.

Dinner was amazing! And over dinner, we continued our progress through the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 by starting to watch Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II. Also, Barry made a point of congratulating me several times on my new job during our celebratory dinner, and my need for a sense of celebration was fully and properly sated.

Monday was our designated day for staying in and not doing much. I did some gardening, made another loaf of homemade bread, and also made Barry a sandwich with the sandwich materials I had brought from home. We finished watching Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (Internet connection problems had interrupted us halfway through it on Sunday night) and started watching Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry made deviled eggs in preparation for the Fourth of July party we were planning to attend the following day, and we ate leftover barbecued amazingness from the day before.

Tuesday was the party! First we stopped in at Barry's parents' house for half an hour and watched an annual hot-dog eating contest with them. Then we went a few blocks away to the house of one of Barry's friends who was throwing a party. The party was not really Fourth of July-themed in anything other than the date it took place. It was really a board-game party, and more specifically, a party for a particular group of friends (including Barry and the host) to play the next couple of installments of their ongoing game of Seafall.

We arrived at the same moment as the car containing all five of the other guests, so we all went to the front door at once. We were greeted by the host cursing and exclaiming that he and his girlfriend were still in their pajamas and had thought they had invited us for four hours later. Uh . . . the Facebook invitation said 10:00 a.m., not 2:00 p.m.? They let us in and quickly changed clothes and scrambled to do the minor grocery shopping and cleanup tasks they had planned to get done before we arrived. The party got started in earnest at about 11:00 a.m. Four of us girlfriends weren't part of the ongoing Seafall legacy game. The host's girlfriend largely vanished and removed herself from the party, but the other three of us - me, my lodger, A, and her co-worker S from the local air force base - gathered at a second table to play board games of our own. (Side note: S also could have become a lodger in my house; when I told A I was scheduled to be laid off at the end of the month, A told me that S was interested in renting another room in my house. It might have been quite financially helpful if I were to be unemployed for a very long time, but I had a feeling I wouldn't be unemployed long enough to suffer any major financial straits, and I plan to continue living in my house myself for a while longer, so I said that I thought having two lodgers at once would make my house feel excessively crowded. To me, anyway! Apparently both of them would have been fine with it. Anyway, it was kind of nice to know I had the option, even though I was also relieved to have the freedom to decline that option.)

Although the host's girlfriend did not join us for board games, she did join us for lunch. Since she hadn't originally planned to join us for that either, the host had gotten it in his head that there were only eight people at the party, rather than nine, and so he only barbecued 8 steaks for lunch at first, rather than 9. Then he discovered his mistake and went back out to barbecue the ninth. He was having a bad day with numbers. It worked out all right, though.

At our table of three, we started off by playing the storytelling game "Once Upon a Time" that Barry bought me in Fort Bragg. I was the only one of us who had played the game before. We played it twice; I won the first game by concluding our collaborative story with my designated sentence, "Although his wound healed, his heart remained broken forever." (The story was about a king who fell in love with a princess and wanted to marry her, but he was caught in a forest fire and unable to escape because of an injury he had received earlier in the story. The king's son heroically rescued the king from the fire, and the princess fell in love with the heroic prince rather than with the king.) S won the second round of "Once Upon a Time," but I don't remember what her ending sentence was. I remember that our collaborative story that time involved a witch queen who had kidnapped the child of a king in a neighboring kingdom, and my designated ending was supposed to be "Her courage had made her rich," but the witch queen's behavior did not lend itself very well to claims of either courage or becoming newly wealthy (she was presumably already wealthy to begin with, being a queen), so I could not gain enough control over the story to direct it toward my ending.

Next we played Five Tribes, which A and S had played before but I hadn't. I found their attempts at explaining the rules to me hopelessly confusing, and no one seemed to want to hand over the rules and just let me read them for myself, so I resigned myself to just trying to learn by observation as we went along. I soon figured it out, and I actually ended up winning the game by a thoroughly decisive margin. I did not like the game, though. I thought the mechanics were boring and stupid. I won it mainly because A and S kept bidding a bunch of money to get to go first in each new round of play, whereas I saved up huge stacks of money just by bidding nothing on every turn except for one single time when I saw an exceptionally good move available and bid quite a lot of money to get the first chance at it. But by simply not spending any money unless I could see a clear, guaranteed profit resulting from my expense, I became vastly wealthier than A and S, and my wealth translated at the end of the game to enough score points that I won the game quite handily.

After that we played Gloom, another storytelling game, one that only A and S had played before. We each got assigned a family of five, with cards describing the five people in the family. Our job was to make our own assigned family members die more miserable deaths than the other two families, by drawing cards describing good and bad events and assigning the bad events to our own assigned family and the good events to the other players' assigned families. I took an early lead by a small margin, but then A and S both ganged up on me and started using all their turns to make my assigned family happy all the time, rather than ever making each other's assigned families happy, and I couldn't fend them both off at once. S kept complaining through much of this game that she thought we were ganging up on her instead and this did cause me to occasionally aim my happiness cards at S rather than at A, and pretty much as a direct result of that, S won this game.

Finally, we played Tokkaido, a game that I had played once before with Barry and his parents. A and S had never played it before. The idea of the game is to compete for who can have the most fun on a vacation in Japan. The primary obstacle to having fun is a shortage of money, and although there are places to earn some money along the way, you can't get a job at those places if someone else has gotten there first and taken the job before you could. I took an early opportunity to earn money that put A at a major disadvantage, because she was particularly in need of money then and had to skip a bunch of fun tourist attractions to find somewhere else to earn money. I'm not as sure how S ended up at any disadvantage, but somehow A and S both finished the game with dramatically fewer points than me.

So in the final count, I won three games that day, and S won two, and A won none at all. (Or at least, that was the final count at the point when I left the party. A and S stayed longer than I did, so hopefully A got a chance to win a game or two at some point.) Before I left, people were joking that I am a board game shark and that being a board game shark is a requirement for dating Barry. Someone asked me whether that was a stated requirement in Barry's OKCupid profile. I said no, and if it had been, I would have assumed I didn't qualify. Someone else said that this is the definition of a shark, that they don't seem like a gaming afficionado but they somehow keep winning even when you didn't expect them to be good at the games.

Barry won the second of the two installments of the ongoing Seafall game that they played that day, and he is now ahead by one point (90 to 89) in the ongoing Seafall campaign. He says he would rather be behind by one point, though, because being behind confers advantages.

Barry and I had agreed in advance that I would leave the party before he did. I left at 5:00 and went back to Barry's house so I could defend Boston from fireworks. Barry stayed until around 8:00 or so, I think, and then went back to his parents' house. He had planned in advance to spend the night at his parents' house and have them drive him home the next morning. Alone at Barry's house, I mostly finished the job of pruning away all the dead brown remains of the spring annuals in Barry's front yard. All my efforts in the past month have left his yard still covered with dry straw, but at least now it's horizontal straw rather than vertical straw, and this makes it easier to see the remaining live green plants that were previously being blocked from view by dead annuals.

I also gave the foster kittens their eye drops and started packing to leave, but then Barry messaged me that his mother was driving him home that night rather than the following morning, so I decided to stick around for an extra half hour or so to see him again. We had some more of those celebratory dessert foods we'd bought at the grocery store two days earlier, and they were fantastic all over again. Then I loaded Boston back into my car and drove her home to Marysville, seeing some fireworks along the way (although not all that many in the middle section of the drive, because not all that many people live in most of the area between Barry's house and mine).

This morning, Barry brought the foster kittens to the animal shelter for a checkup. I was kind of expecting that Not would be put up for adoption immediately, because although he's inactive, he looks very healthy now, visually. I knew Fluffy was not in adoptable shape yet because of her eye, but the vet's diagnosis was much worse than I expected: the vet has scheduled Fluffy to have her eye removed next week. She will be a one-eyed cat forever! Unless her eye unexpectedly recovers somehow within the next week, anyway. We are wishing Fluffy's eye the best possible health outcomes, but apparently the odds are not good for her eye. Anyone within traveling distance of Yolo County, California, want an adorable one-eyed kitten? She is a very high-quality kitten, as fluffy and purry and playful as you could ever wish for. Having only one eye will damage her chances of being adopted. Hopefully she'll be okay. Anyway, she has a week to try for a miraculous recovery, and also her brother Not will remain with her for this week to keep her company.