Animalize!

I used to be an edgy guy. Seriously. Total bohemian, outside the mainstream and all that. In my head I was consumed with being the next big thing, plotting to drop a literary bombshell like no one’s ever read before.

Then I listen to a bad Nick Lowe song, “Time Wounds All Heels,” and it dawns on me: I was myopic and self-absorbed. Silly me.

Here are the loathsome details: I had burned through a marriage, lived alone in a Los Feliz bungalow, smoked a good deal of pot, and was being eaten alive by a woman who yelled in her sleep, among other things. And when I wasn’t busy thinking of ways to spend my unemployment check (usually distributed thusly: records, another eighth of pot, and several trips to Zankou Chicken), I was left contemplate the greatness of my future.

I look back on my immediate post-divorce, post-living-briefly-in-New York years as bursting with freedom and possibility, but the truth is I was actually anxious and miserable, and had mastered the art of self-sabotage (just ask those I worked with, or the woman I dated, pre-psycho girl).

I imagine that my old self would’ve slagged my current self as a sellout (i.e. I have a job) and a sentimental fool. But fuck that guy, you know. You haven’t a clue how good it can be.

With a wife, a kid, and a house in the suburban nirvana that is Valley Glen, I am now driven by the responsibility of keeping it all together. I’m ninja that way. But I no longer project future happiness, since it’s right in front of me. Sure, I live in denial of encroaching middle age (“40 is the new 30” has become my mantra as the days tick away toward that magic number), but who doesn’t? While literary grandeur still lurks in the back of my mind, it’s become a hobby rather than the bottom line.

Instead, my life is all about fluffy bunnies. And I’m totally cool with it. So without further ado, here’s the story, and stop me if I get too Erma Bombeck on your collective asses.

I married a vegetarian (more or less – she never met a sushi she didn’t like) who is also a fairly hardcore animal rights activist. And I’m not. Though I’ve cut back considerably, I still dabble in carnivorism, especially when someone suggests steaks at Taylor’s.

The downside is that I get to hear my wife describe some of my most delicious meals as “gross” and “disgusting.” This condemnation is invariably followed by this rhetorical question: If you love animals, would you eat your cats? (I have two of them). My friend Max, a feline fanatic, has the best response: “No, because my cats wouldn’t taste as good as that steak.” Amen, brother.

Though I’ve disavowed cows and chickens inside the home (except when I host Super Bowl parties), my continued consumption of animals remains a sore subject. Maybe someday I’ll read that factory farm propaganda Carrie gave me years ago, and I’ll live happily ever after on tofu bratwurst, but alas, it remains at the bottom of my pile.

My lovely animal-loving wife once kept a pair of rats as pets (Bertha and Sugaree – I’ll save the Grateful Dead jokes till next time) and often threatens to turn our backyard into a menagerie – including more rats. The thought of which takes me into nightmare memory mode. In 1984, I was living with my family in a skanky Granada Hills rental house near Kennedy High School. We had rats then, and they often visited my bedroom, nibbling on my sheets, but they weren’t pets.

I’m more than content with my cats Schlauffie and Oblio, and that gimpy possum who walks through our patio every night. But recently Carrie told me she wanted to adopt adult (and fixed) rabbits and keep them in the back yard. She promised she would take care of them and besides, think about how much Emmett will dig ‘em.

She played the Emmett card, which always works on me. Still, when I think of rabbits, I think: tastes like chicken. Then about keychains. But I went along, because relationships are all about compromise. Maybe they’ll eat all the weeds, I thought, wishfully.

Next thing I knew, Dawa and Nyima (that’s pronounced Nee-ma, for those not versed in Tibetan mumbo jumbo) were hopping along in our back yard, and the hardened bunny-hater quickly melted away. Sitting on the bench in the backyard, watching my 20-month-old son run wobbly and laugh uncontrollably as he futilely chases the bunnies around the yard damn near makes up for every single missed opportunity in my life.

I may even feed them myself someday, though you might want to ask me again the first time I step in bunny shit.