Hmmmm. Well, my first instinct is to say New York. My life so far has been a progression eastward to bigger and better cities, and New York has all the qualities I love about Chicago -- it's a big city, with a rich history, gorgeous architecture, a thriving arts community, lots to do, and tons of energy -- only bigger. However, never actually having been there, I can't be sure. My feeling is that, as much as I love Chicago, if I ever visited NYC I would want to say.
San Francisco is very, very nice; I like it better than any city I've been to other than Chicago. But, again, I've never been to New York.
Eventually, I'd like to do what Robert Crumb did: sell a box of sketches (or writing, in my case) in exchange for a nice house in the south of France somewhere. Rural life in a beautiful country where I can make things my own and have to deal with assholes as little as possible is a really appealing idea to me -- just not yet.
2. If you could be the pampered paramour of any famous, dead author, who would it be and why?
Virginia Woolf (or Little Ginny Stephen, as I like to call her) is probably a bit too crazy even for my tastes, and Hannah Arendt would probably think I was a moron. So I think I'll have to go for Dorothy Parker. She was witty, smart, funny, bright, and really hot; she was just crazy enough; she liked to have a good time; and she had a lot of cool friends. Plus, she would make all my friends jealous.
3. You wake up tomorrow morning and, due to Red Kryptonite or something, you have switched bodies with George W. Bush. I mean you're in his body and you wake up wherever he is, in the White House or passed out in the Rose Garden or whatever. How will you spend your day?
It depends. Is it, like Red K, a temporary effect that will wear off in 24 hours? If so, I would just run around doing all kinds of crazy shit. I'd order my troops to shoot babies, I'd call Colin Powell a nigger, I'd make a bunch of insane racist statements, I'd call a press conference and call for homos to be put into death camps, I'd punch Sen. Byrd in the eye. Anything to insure that by the time Bush got his body back, he'd be so widely reviled that he couldn't get elected shit-sweeper.
If it was permanent, I guess I would just do some shit that was just bad enough to not get re-elected, but not so bad that I'd go to jail. Then, once I was defeated, I'd have a "change of heart" and start spouting my own (Leonard's) political beliefs, knowing that people would have to listen, me being an ex-president and all. Right before I left office I'd make all kinds of insane executive orders.
4. What are the names and histories of all the pets you have owned?
I assume you mean all the ones in my life, not just ones I have owned as an adult. Okay:
1. Tiger & Dee Dee, my parents' pet Pekingese when I was born. Dee Dee was foul-tempered enough, but Tiger was an absolute monster. If I got withing 10 feet of him when he was eating, he'd try and rip my hand off, and when I'd be home alone on my parents' bed watching TV (I was a latchkey kid), he'd hide underneath the bed, and when I would get up to go to the bathroom, he would bite my feet.
2. Rosie, our Rhodesian Ridgeback/German Shepherd mix. She was my favorite dog ever, a huge, friendly protective girl who doted on me. She lived a very long time -- almost 20 years -- and it really choked me up when I found out she died. Despite her gigantic size, she was terrified of Dee Dee, who was about the size of my fist. Rosie used to accidentally cause me terrible injuries: once she buried a knife in the back yard, and I tripped over it and cut open my foot, and another time she ran to me when I came home and, in her excitement, knocked me down flat. I cracked a bit of my spine. Despite this, she was the best of all dogs.
3. J.R., our toy poodle. He was a pretty good dog -- friendly and excitable -- but I never really took to him the way I did Rosey. Still, he was lots of fun to play with, because he had tons of energy. He ended up either running away or being stolen, depending on whether you believe my dad or my mom.
4. Freddie, J.R.'s replacement. Another toy poodle, this one smaller and black. Freddie was not friendly or playful, and in addition, he barked non-stop, pissed everywhere and tore the whole house to smithereens. He seemed to be totally untrainable, and we ended up giving him to people who could take better care of him.
5. Annie, my dad's dog. Annie is still around, though she's pretty old by this point. She's a great dog, super-affectionate and friendly almost the way Rosie was. She's a huge, beautiful cocker spaniel with very expressive eyes.
6. Whisper, our cat. When I lived with my mom after the divorce, we had a pretty small apartment, so we didn't really want to have a dog. We ended up adopting a mutt cat from the local shelter and naming him Whisper, although it turned out that he was extremely loud. Whisper was a pretty good cat, but he was an outdoor cat and got in lots of fights with strays and other cats in the neighboorhood. He was extremely bad-tempered with other cats, though he was really good around people. Once, he got into a wicked fight with a stray, and I had to break them up by turning the hose on them. When I went to pick him up, he was so keyed up and agitated that he jumped onto the top of my head and sunk his claws deeply into my skin. To avoid death from massive blood loss, I had to walk around wearing him like a hat until he calmed down enough to let go, which ended up being, like, two hours.
7. Gus & Maybelle, the cats I have now, and whom you already know about. BEST CATS EVER!
5. What's the best thing you cook? Please include a recipe with your answer.
Wow, that's tough. I have a couple of really good recipes I fall back on when I really want to impress guests, and it's hard to decide which is the best one. I have a cream-mashed potato cassoulet Dijon that's really good, and a really good sausage ragout that I'm making this weekend. I've recently been making a scallop bisque that I think is fantastic. However, I think overall -- taste, presentation, everything -- the best thing I've made is Vegetables Farci. I think I may have sent you the recipe for this once; if not, I'll post it when I get home.
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