Cactus craziness

My book will be called “The Cactus Eaters.” It will be coming out next year, and the book has required me to do a lot of research about cacti. The book is not about cacti per se, but a cactus figures prominently in one very painful backcountry scene that takes place about a quarter of the way through, in the middle of the desert. For this reason, I’ve been looking for all kinds of ephemera and weird facts about cacti. My wife dug up a great piece of information: she found a document that suggested that a prickly pear cactus caused a shocking international incident in California about a half-century ago )I won’t go into any more details — you’ll have to read the book to see exactly what happened.) I also found out that Aztec priests used cactus spines to scourge themselves as part of a painful-sounding purification ritual….

Life Without Rats

It’s weird to live in a place where there are no rats, or where the rats, if they are here at all, are keeping a low profile. In New York, my life was rat-o-centric. I saw rats all the time. Rats fighting. Rats jumping through the laundry area. The last week I spent in New York, I even saw a rat hanging out in a poisoned rat trap! I asked it what it was doing, living in a poison-filled chamber in the middle of an alleyway. “Location, location,” he replied.

Falsely accused beagle is now suing me over missing eyeglasses

I am looking after a beagle right now near the beach. Anyhow, the other day my glasses went missing, and I was sure — absolutely sure — that the beagle had eaten or hidden them. I asked the beagle to give me some clue about the glasses and where they might be but she refused. In desperation I searched every bush and section of the yard, trying to find the beagle’s stash, and ended up more than an hour late for my sister’s birthday party at the Star of Siam restaurant in Soquel. So I searched the grass and my suitcases and drawers to no avail, which increased my suspicion that the dog had indeed gobbled the glasses. Anyhow, it turns out that I threw the eyeglasses in a garbage can by mistake. The dog had nothing to do with it. The Innocence Project has intervened on behalf of the…

Weird week, lost glasses

This week we drove all the way across the country. During this time, we saw some strange things, including a strange man in Wisconsin, riding a jet ski through a drainage ditch off the side of Highway 94; intense snow falling all over us in Idaho — on June 5!! — and the nearly deserted downtown of Minneapolis, occupied solely by vagrants. In California, I was walking on the beach just the other day when I saw a guy listening to a garbage can, sticking his face in it, collecting its inner vibrations. It turns out he had one of those itty-bitty black and white TV sets connected to a generator and an extension chord and shoved into the bottom of the garbage can. The TV set had a radio attachment, which he had set on full blast. “Wild Thing” was playing on the TV set. Only in Santa Cruz!…