Prolific belletrist, novelist, and NPR commentator Codrescu (The Blood Countess, 1995; Zombification, 1994; etc.) offers his trademark benign-oddball perspective on a broad array of cultural topics in another scattershot collection. Codrescu grew up in Communist Romania and came to America in 1966, and most of the essays here are either explicitly or implicitly about the experience of exile, whether linguistic, political, or geographical. The subject of computers and the Internet prompts several Luddite outbursts about the failure of communication; the titular pet's surgically implanted ID tag inspires a brief technophobic fantasy poised between humor and genuine uneasiness. Codrescu cocks an eye at young lesbians in San Francisco, a Japanese game show, Brancusi's life and sculpture, airline travel, and the faithful in Jerusalem. But he's at his best when his subjects are most personal. He anchors a diffuse piece about the complications and rewards of communicating across language barriers with a single perfect anecdote about arriving in Detroit without speaking any English and being befriended in a ghetto coffee shop. A pilgrimage to Mexico with his Castaneda-obsessed 14-year-old son sparks a splendid piece that poetically conflates his son's adolescent volatility and Mexico's tempestuous history. And his takes on life in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism are acid reminders that the adoption of ``freedom'' and ``democracy'' has by no means solved most problems there. But when Codrescu riffs on abstractions, he tends to strain his whimsy to the point of opacity. From a piece on walls as metaphors: ``The only creature worthy of respect is the wallflower. A creature is a wall. Respect is space. Therefore, worth is the space one accords a wall. Whatever. Newcomers to Codrescu may be put off by some of his slapdash indulgences here, but his many fans will welcome the opportunity to roam around again in his quirky mind.