Monthly Archives: January 2013

This past week—on Friday, January 11th, to be exact—we lost a member of our family: Jimmy Stewart, our beloved, bizarre chinchilla. The condition afflicting him is still something of a mystery; the good people at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary Hospital are doing an autopsy on him, and we’ll know something in a day or two. All I know is that I took him in to get a fairly routine procedure done—the trimming of his incisors—and he never really recovered from the anesthesia. He was put down shortly afterward.


This post, however, is not meant to dwell on his ailment, or even the very real, devastating fact of his death. It’s just that I feel compelled to tell a few stories about him: how he came into my life, where he’s been with me, and how many fond, sometimes hilarious memories I have of him.


I’m 28 years old—29 in one month—and I got Jimmy when I was about 20. A friend of mine back in Georgia had a chinchilla that had babies, and Jimmy was the last one, something of a runt. I didn’t know a damn thing about chinchillas. I’d seen pictures of them, and I agreed to take him mainly because I thought it might garner me some cool points at college (it did).


I didn’t, at first, know what I was getting into.


The first thing I remember about him is that he was much faster than I’d expected. Ridiculously agile, blindingly quick. He was chill enough to ride around on my shoulder, but would jump from five feet away to the top of the refrigerator without warning. He would scamper up sheer vertical walls nearly a full foot before gravity kicked in. He was a novelty, and I liked having him around.


And then, of course, I grew to love him. He was, as you’d expect, extremely hard to catch hold of, but once you had him, he loved being held close and securely. His whiskers tickled. He twitched a lot.


One of the things I loved best about him was that he didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. Anything. When I vacuumed my room—later my apartment, later our apartment—he never cowered, but jumped up on his perch inside his cage and tried to get a better view. When Jack, my mother’s yappy-dog, tried to intimidate him—after being otherwise put in his place by Fritz, our 13-year-old Schnauzer mutt and Otis, our 15-year-old cross-eyed and toothless cat—Jimmy simply charged at Jack from across his cage, sending the intruder scampering back down the stairs to, I assume, reassess his place in the great cosmic pecking order.


My favorite story: one night, Michelle and I came home to the apartment we shared in Milledgeville, GA. We’d just adopted a second cat, Penny, who was only now beginning to understand life outside the shelter. Michelle and I walked in the front door to find a curious scene playing out in front of us. Jimmy had somehow managed to get out of his cage, and was sitting on the floor in the study, chilling out as usual. Penny was hunched at the end of the hall, obviously prepared to pounce at any moment. It took us a minute to see why she didn’t.


Roxy was standing in the doorway to the study, her back to Jimmy, staring Penny down in a manner that clearly, though gently, said “Over my dead body.” It was pretty remarkable. We scooped Jimmy up, re-deposited him in his cage, and had a good laugh. Roxy and Penny too, I like to think.


Jimmy was, by far, the strangest pet I’ve ever had. He was fairly private, but had personality to spare. I was with him when he was only a few months old, I saw him get plump, and I was with him when the vet administered the dose of drugs. He was in no pain at all.


I only have the one picture of him on my phone. It does, though, capture him at his best, though I look kind of like a serial killer. I can think of nothing else he must be doing right now besides, as my sister Sara put it, riding Fritz in heaven like a horse.




RIP, you little bugger.


When you consider how long it’s been since the last time we posted anything, you might not be surprised to hear that we’ve been to a few restaurants since then. Here are some quick and dirty reactions.

Sofra Family Bistro:

I went here with a friend for dinner one night. I haven’t been back since, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The food was good — I had a chicken and date salad, everything tasted fresh, and I thought the flavor combinations were interesting. We might have been there on a weird, off night, but it was so quiet inside the restaurant that I felt self conscious having a conversation. I also thought it was a bit pricey.

Verdict: I’ll probably go back. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back, especially if someone else paid. Hah!

Palmyra Restaurant:

I tried to go here several times, but it was always closed. Apparently, that’s because it’s gone out of business.

Verdict: Closed.

Prairie Cafe and Bakery:

According to their website, this restaurant was “established as ‘the meeting place’ for the New Urbanism Community of Middleton Hills.” I am not at all sure that I fit into that category. I am new to Middleton, having moved here within the past year. I am urban, I guess, in that this is a community of people. And I did “meet” someone at their restaurant, so… the formula works! I had the scramble of the day, and it was tasty. Ham, cheese, and veggies, so it’s hard to go wrong, but it was well done. The restaurant had a happy, warm, bustling vibe, but we were still able to find a table without a problem. I found the coffee a bit acidic for my tastes (it reminded me a lot of the coffee they serve at Indie Coffee in Madison, where I actually go quite frequently for the chicken and goat cheese sandwich. I had dreams about that sandwich when I was in Honduras).

Verdict: Will definitely return!

La Zacatecana:

This is a grocery store on the the north side of Madison. There’s a little restaurant in the back that serves El Salvadoran, Honduran, and Mexican food. The ambiance is such that I could have believed I was back in Honduras (except that it’s winter here and it’s cold). We went there for the pupusas, which are an El Salvadoran and Honduran food. Pupusas are made by grabbing a ball of uncooked corn tortilla dough, putting some filling in it, and then flattening the whole thing into a tortilla shape and cooking it on a griddle. Because the dough and the filling are cooked at the same time, the cheese inside is melty and crispy in all the right places. When I was in Honduras, I found these to usually be filled with just cheese and maybe some chopped up bell pepper, but in El Salvador they are bigger and have more variety of filling. At La Zacatecana, Josh and I tried all three kinds of pupusas — those with beans, those with chicken, and those with chorizo. They’re served with the traditional, vinegary coleslaw of cabbage and carrots, and some pretty banging green chile sauce. I was surprised that the chicken was my favorite, because it was arguably the most Americanized, but dang it was tasty. Josh liked the chorizo the best. All three were pretty good though, and were the closest I’ve gotten to a “real” pupusa since I left Central America. (I tried to make them myself, and no.) Also, they are very affordable, at $2 a pupusa.

Verdict: I can’t wait to go back and see what other Honduran food I can get my hands on. Baleadas, anyone?