Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cats, Catfish & Cars

The desperation stage hasn't arrived yet. I'm still not so tired and twitchy that I am slamming around the house in frustration. I lay in bed downstairs for an hour, rearranging my pillows and my position on the mattress, placing my hands on my belly, then at my sides, staring up into the whirling blackness where my ceiling fan spins, turning to face the windows, then the wall. I wandered upstairs twenty minutes ago, where the daybed now sits between the bookcases in my office. Last night, I was finally able to doze off here--and then the cat bounced around nipping my exposed toes at dawn. When my alarm went off, I rolled out to stagger a couple of feet to my desk chair, which screeches whenever I lean back in it, and Trixie tore off in terror from her perch on my pillow, where she'd been comfortably purring while I dozed. She hates the sound of the chair's creaks and squeals. I could probably quiet them a little with a generous application of WD40, but I don't want to drip grease on my rug. And the sound serves as a mechanical proxy for voicing my editorial frustrations. Instead of cursing, I rock back in my chair and pump frenetically on the treadle (my desk is constructed on an old cast-iron Singer sewing machine base). This is also an effective strategy for dealing with writer's block.

Suggestions for my upcoming South Korea trip have come in from several directions, and include everything from dating advice (hah, as if!) to tour recommendations (most useful). A coworker said she sees me meeting a nice childless Korean widower and getting married--I told her if that happens, I will fly her over for the wedding! Seriously, I am looking forward to visiting the DMZ, Namsan Tower, taking the cable car, going on a hike, and eating lots of good food. 

I interviewed a second cat this evening, but he is too young right now to be adopted. Five week old kittens are so absurdly tiny. The five I saw were wee fuzz balls with stiff short tails and clumsy movements, like animated toys. There were two calicoes, a tortie and two dark tabbies, one with a tuxedo chest. The little guy I liked looks to be a miniature version of Trixie--ye olde standard brown tabby, sans white. So much for variety. But if similar coloration implies a similarly mild character, there is no reason to deviate from the tried and true.

I bought a laser pointer. Trixie is not immune to the siren call of the uncatchable red dot. It's much easier for me to encourage her to gallop from the dining room to the bedroom this way than it is by trailing the cat wand. I'm less likely to trip over her or my own feet while shining a light from a standing position than when jogging.

Petra and I went out to eat at a fish camp in Edgefield, SC, this evening. They have the best grits I've tasted. It had been nineteen years since I had last been--a dreadful evening which I spent mainly holed up in the ladies room, miserable for having broken up with my boyfriend. They serve their sweet iced tea in mason jars, and the ice is the size of BBs--I don't usually have sweet tea, but theirs is delicious. Goats and geese and ducks roam the ponds and paddocks around the building, and on the porch was a single black and white tomcat that waylaid the two of us as we left with takeaway boxes--I offered him a pinch of fried catfish, which he enthusiastically devoured.

Petra's new car is plush--like me, she's a Honda girl, and she'd driven her last one until the locks had broken and the only way she was able to enter was through the passenger side. She had briefly considered getting a used vehicle, but then had been called for jury duty on a major drugs case--and learned that big-time cocaine runners had been making a practice of renting cars, secreting kilos of drugs in the tires and driving hundreds of miles to exchange the goods for cash, which was put in the tires on the return trip. She couldn't help but wonder thereafter if the year-old models on the market (which weren't so much cheaper than brand new) had been used for such nefarious purposes, and since she works in public education, she had visions of the campus drug dogs pinpointing her vehicle as suspect for that reason. So, she bought a really new car, reasoning that she'd get her money's worth out of it just like she had the last one.

My own car is starting to make unpleasant noises. But my mom is out of town at the moment, and besides, the glass people are coming to fix a chip in my windshield tomorrow, so I cannot take it to the shop until next week. My uncle finally got the key to the house where we're setting up the estate sale for his friend's mother, so that process gets underway this weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2016


My cat is convinced that all I do is eat, sleep, and look at Windows. I took a few minutes away from my computer at lunchtime today to trail the cat wand (it's a stick with a colorful length of felt attached, perfect for flipping through the air and dragging on the carpet for cats to pounce on) around the house, then tucked it back on top of the cedar chest in my room. Ten minutes later, when I was back in my upstairs office in front of my dual screens, I heard a clatter on the stairs following by plaintive meowing. Trixie almost never meows. She purrs a lot, but doesn't vocalize. I looked to my right to see what was the matter, and there she was, sitting on the landing, the cat wand beside her, looking at me soulfully. Poor little thing--she was so desperate to play. So, what could I do? She'd brought the toy upstairs for me, so I grabbed the wand and ran her all over the house for ten minutes, until I was sweating and she was panting. Then, I hid the wand where she couldn't find it. I need to find Trixie a friend--she's going to be bored out of her little furry mind otherwise.

She has chosen a favorite chair--one of the pink ones in the living room. She's no longer hiding under the bed or the sofa, but strolls comfortably around her kingdom, lounging on the Persian rugs and rolling over for side and belly rubs. I did take her back to the vet that did her spay, because it looked as if she were getting some sort of infection, with a swelling over the tiny incision in her abdomen. She howled like a barmaid in a tumbrel the whole 25 minute trip each way. The vet check itself, including waiting, took less than 60 seconds--they took a look and said she was having a suture reaction (apparently quite common) and would be fine. I was sure she'd sulk once we got back home, but once she was released from cardboard jail, she immediately forgave me the last hour's indignities and resumed her comfortable acceptance of her surroundings.

I haven't had any allergy problems. For one thing, Trixie doesn't really shed, and for another, I have tried to forestall issues by installing several air filters at strategic points downstairs. These have the added benefit of creating white noise, which is pleasant at bedtime. I have a new vacuum, so my house is dusted and de-furred fairly easily. I'm making a point of not permitting her in my closet and putting all clean clothes up immediately, which means dander isn't spread hither and yon.

Speaking of forbidden territory, I was on my way out to a country wedding Saturday when I passed a church billboard, which read: Pride Kills Faith. True, and succinct, I thought. Then I saw the name of the neighboring landscaping firm, and burst into giggles: Turf Pride. So, serendipity, or subtle aggression?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lightning, Feline, Felicitations & Sloth

The night before last, we had a spectacular dry thunderstorm. I don’t think a drop of rain fell. I was already tucked in for the night, my earplugs secure (I’ve noticed I’m getting more sensitive to sound over time—I can’t even dream of sleeping without earplugs nowadays, even when nothing louder than a handful of crickets and cicadas are shrilling at a considerable distance), when the lightning began coming in such rapid succession it seemed like ghostly midday outside, or the phosphorescent crescendo of the local 4 July fireworks display that I didn't get to see.

 The silent strobe light flashes froze my ceiling fan mid-spin. Trixie lay under the bed. Despite my invitations to join me atop the mattress, she seemed content to cohabit with the dustbunnies. In the middle of the night, I did wake up to find a curl of warm cat next to me, but once she was discovered she returned to the rug.

 The first several days Trixie was here, she remained mostly underneath my bed, or beside it. She came out occasionally to be rubbed and complimented, but despite the fact that, after the first day, I left the door open from my room to the rest of the house, she didn't seem inclined to explore. On the third afternoon, I actually carried her out to the living room, hoping that she would find the sun enticing, but after she glanced around briefly, she calmly walked back to the bedroom and reestablished herself on the carpet. I was somewhat concerned that she was ill, given her willingness to lie quietly in semidarkness, not jumping on counters or furniture, but remaining neatly composed at floor level. It seemed downright uncatlike. But she’s since wandered out around the rest of the first floor. She’s been quite ladylike, still not getting up on the furniture, rather inclined to arrange herself elegantly (except when I want to take a picture, and then she invariably looks either judgmental or goofy) on my Persian rugs.

 Trixie doesn’t vocalize, but she does purr robustly. She has a healthy appetite. She uses her litterbox without a problem. The chicken-flavored kitty treats that I bought are to her liking. She enjoys playing with her cat wand. But when I tried to put a collar on her today, she totally freaked. Not that she’s going to be voluntarily permitted to go outside, but I wanted her to wear some form of identification on the chance that she escaped. In lieu of chipping, I may have one of her toe pads tattooed green. She’s already got a little green dot tattooed on her tummy to indicate her spay, so this would coordinate. My first foray into independent feline ownership (or subjectship, depending on one’s perspective) seems to be going well.

Bella invited me to go with her to a cousin’s wedding last night. It was a formal occasion, with many men in tuxedos and at least one woman in a glittering mermaid-like gown. The bride, whom I had met at a family Christmas party two years ago, was stunningly beautiful—she would have been exquisite in a burlap sack, but the strapless ivory dress she wore showcased her perfect features and figure in the candlelit simplicity of the church. What was more astounding to me was that she remembered my name when I congratulated her at the reception. I can’t remember names under the most ordinary circumstances—this morning, I was talking to an elder whom I’ve known for more than 30 years, and I couldn’t remember his at all (all I could think of was the first letter of his first name)—and here she was, on a day that even in its most blissful incarnations is not known for being stress-free, graciously thanking me by name for attending. I don’t think I’ve been to a wedding which had more, or more lovely, flowers. The cake was frosted plain white, and there weren’t tulle or ribbon frills anywhere, but there were cabbage sized pink peonies alongside creamy roses and white hydrangeas festooning four of the eight wrought iron and crystal chandeliers in the reception hall at the country club, and a huge arrangement in the sanctuary foyer and in the center of the reception hors d’oeuvre table.

My Sunday mornings typically follow a pattern: I get up in plenty of time to go to Sunday school and church, or even to make it to the early church service before Sunday school. Then I see something that needs fixing, or needs cleaning, or some paperwork that needs to be filed. And before I know it, I am late to Sunday school, or worse, late to even the 11 o'clock service. I am so efficient in getting things done on Sunday morning that should have been done the previous week. This morning, I woke up in time for the 8:30 service. “I'll be on time to Sunday school!” I thought. Then I remembered that I hadn't filed my Georgia sales and use taxes. So I went upstairs and filed them. Then, when I was putting on my dress, I noticed that the ceiling fan above my bed was very dusty. So I climbed up on my bed and dusted it, a process which required two dust cloths. Then, I spotted the right shoe from the pair that I had worn to last night’s wedding. It needed to be superglued together. So I glued it. I tried on the new blue floral dress I was planning to wear to church, and discovered that it was translucent. So I looked through my entire slip collection, only to discover that I do not own one that was short enough to wear with the dress. I briefly considered simply wearing hosiery, but the first pair of hose I pulled on disintegrated—the elastic had gone the way of all flesh. And as a result, my flesh was covered with sticky rubber residue. So I threw away the hose, sponged off, and went in search of a different dress. By the time I got in the car it was 9:50. Sunday school starts at 9:45, and it takes 20 minutes, when one hits all the lights on green, to get down to church. And did I hit all the green lights? No, I did not.

Honestly, I would use lose my brain if it weren't attached. Maybe it's not – maybe it's untethered and floating around, occasionally bumping up against the sides of my skull. That would explain a lot.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Helluva Week

One of my journalist Facebook friends described this as a “bitch-slap of a week.” Pretty much. I spent some time kneeling on the floor this morning, crying and asking the Almighty to have mercy on my country.  First, yesterday, two men get murdered, then, this morning or late last night, five others were murdered…and it seems that in both situations, it was entirely because of their skin color—black, then white—not one of them was doing anything reprehensible. And the Right and the Left have both been vigorously blaming each other for the deaths, ascribing these acts of evil to various rhetorical effluvia the other has released. This also is cause for sorrow and frustration—not seeing this as a common human sin and instead ascribing its inspiration to one’s political opponents. And this same week (was it only Tuesday?), a friend of mine called me in tears because she just narrowly escaped being raped. There have been multiple (naturally caused) deaths in her family over the past three weeks, so she’s already frazzled, and now she finds herself victimized. If the world ever seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket, it seems to be in a dead level sprint in that direction lately.

In light of Thursday’s events (do none of the gun control lobbyists not realize these people would still be armed? They’re supposed to be “peacekeepers”) of policemen killing two Black men, a white friend of mine, X, shared the following experience:

It's been almost ten years, I guess--those of you who knew me back then remember what a reprobate I was. I was working as a draftsman for a company based in Atlanta's West End. My truck was in the shop for some reason, so I had to take the train to work. One of the engineers I worked with--I'll call him Chuck--was kind enough to pick me up from the station.

That's the setup.

Here's what happens:

As Chuck pulls into the pickup area, a MARTA police cruiser immediately lights him up for a traffic violation; he's driven into the exit instead of the entrance. I walk up as they ask him for his license and proof of insurance. He gives them his ID and his CCW, and informs them that his insurance card is in the glovebox, along with his pistol (Springfield XD Tactical, .45 ACP for you gun nerds--a super nice rig at the time, and not cheap). They immediately escalate to "hands where I can see 'em!" pull him out of the car, cuff him, and put him in the cruiser. Then they turn their attention to me. "Do you have any ID?," one officer asks. "Yep," I say. "OK," they respond, "Do you have any weapons on you?" "Yeah," I say, and I pull up my shirt to show them the shitty Davis pistol stuffed, holsterless, in my waistband. The quiet officer holds out her hand and I give her my gun. She can't figure out how to unload it, so she hands it back and asks me to do it, which I do. They ask me to sit in the backseat of Chuck's car while they search it and run the serial numbers on his pistol. They never look at my ID. And they seem pretty unconcerned about the fact that I'm carrying a pistol on MARTA, which is a felony at the time. Chuck's gun comes back clean (of course), and there's nothing in his car except books about math and the Roman Empire. But they inform me that they're taking him to jail. Supposedly he has a warrant for a speeding ticket in Cobb County (false, as it turns out). They give me his pistol and the keys to his car; he's screaming, "X, call my mother and let her know what's going on!" out the window of the cruiser as they drive away. I take his car to work and start making phone calls. Chuck is in a holding cell in Atlanta for 18 hours before they let him go without charges.

Recap: I'm disheveled, hungover, walking off the train like a zombie, being a smartass, feloniously carrying a shitty $80 murder pistol--no harassment whatsoever. Chuck is wearing slacks and a tie, driving a nice car, being super polite, with a $700 handgun safely and legally stored in the glovebox--he gets the handcuffs and jail. Wanna guess what race Chuck is?

I know a single experience doesn't constitute "research," but my experience certainly opened my eyes to a reality that I wasn't aware of. I normally don't post on political or hot-topic subjects, but I figured I'd throw this out there.

What he didn’t include in the story was perhaps a salient detail—that both of the police personnel involved were African American.

My own experience was much less dramatic, but no less eye-opening (I blogged about it when it happened—again, this occurred almost a decade ago, but I’ve no reason to think that the situation has changed remarkably since then). My then-boss’s husband, a long-time UPS guy, in uniform, with his truck, found a purse on the sidewalk in DC. Like any decent citizen, he went in search of a law enforcement person to give it to. When he did, the guy (of whose ethnicity I am unaware) acted like my boss’s husband was the purse-snatcher, and ransacked his company truck, looking for other stolen goods. This was a phenomenally humiliating experience, as you might expect.  My former boss and her husband are both African American.

In both my friend’s experience and in mine, the treatment of the darker-skinned person was entirely irrational, when viewed from a colorblind perspective.  Obviously, I am glad for his own future prospects that the smartass felonious pale guy didn’t get arrested (he’s now non-felonious and a business owner who employs several others), but to cuff someone without cause and incarcerate a clearly decent man who is guilty of a $25 traffic offense, if that? To suspect a UPS guy, complete with truck, of purse-snatching?

The slaughter of those Dallas police officers was pure multiple murder in cold blood—black and white in blue were all watching a peaceful protest. It was a demonstration, not a riot, and no one, protesters or police, was physically battering anyone else. And this person, who had been looking for an opportunity to murder people, took it.

I emphasize Black Lives Matter because we all—at least since September 11—should know Blue (and other first responders’) Lives Matter. The problem with all those who are ascribing the problem to “guns” is two-fold: first, as aforementioned, not recognizing that many of the perpetrators of violence would either be legally (or illegally) armed whatever the restrictions on ordinary civilians might be, and second, not recognizing that the fundamental problem is with the human heart, the motivation of individuals to take away other’s life suddenly, casually, whatever mortal tools are available.

Ultimately, the mayhem of this week distills to the issue of whether we will kneel to a common Maker who says that He made all people in his image, or whether we continue to each do what is right in our own eyes—and boy, does that vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance!

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Estate Sales & Catspaws

I can't sleep, so I'm blogging for the first time in what seems like an eternity. Lots of goings on in the interim, but little inclination to devote the necessary hours to attempting a clever description, and even less to sit in front of the computer to which I am already tethered 40 hours a week to do the necessary tweaking to material that will have been dubiously dictated.

 Weeks and weeks back, my uncle-in-law, Bill, told me that an old friend of his had asked him to do an estate sale for his mother, and he wondered if I were interested in helping him. We met the widowed lady and her son, spent a couple of hours chitchatting and poking through the house, and settled on her having a month to finish going through her papers and sorting out what she wanted to keep. We were supposed to start working last weekend. But she wasn't finished sorting, and a bad fall had hospitalized her for several days. We planned to begin this weekend. Nope. Maybe next Saturday will work...however, now I have weddings to attend on that evening and on the following Saturday. The lady was hoping originally for an end-of-June sale, but at this point, it may be a middle-of-August event. Even though it's a small house, with just two of us working on evenings and weekends, it's going to be slow coming together.

 To get a handle "on the competition," as Bill put it, he and I arranged to meet a month ago at a sale run by one of the few estate companies in this area--if this prospective informal event we're planning comes off well, we'll consider formalizing our business, particularly as I also have been asked to conduct sales. It was neat and organized, and the prices were fair. I bought a Christmas ornament for 50c. Definitely not DC level items, though--a bit above the common condition of the retired Methodist ministers' widows' neat poverty, but not by much. The decor had not been updated since the mid-1970s. The split level featured orange shag carpet and the furniture was finished marbled yellow. It was packed with budget tchotchkes, holiday decorations, and other comfortable accoutrements of middle class middle America. Yet, Bill sounded out the staffers, and they'd done pretty well even in the hour or so they'd been open before we arrived. A bunch of furniture had sold, as had most of the lamps. People were buying.

 Retiring outside, Bill and I sat on the tailgate of his truck for two hours as the sun sank toward the horizon, first talking about sale planning, and then him telling me stories--about his and my aunt-in-law's menagerie (seven cats, three dogs, four miniature horses), antique military vehicles (there's a whole subculture of restorers), and adventures in animal control. I think if I were to record his tales, I'd have a ready-made novel, constructed of fascinating factoids. He also told me he knew of a cat living in a radiator shop in South Augusta who needed a home.

 I've been considering getting a cat for a long time, but it wasn't until I was recently allowed to start telecommuting three days a week that I felt the moment had arrived. I wanted an adult, a lap cat. Kittens are all cute and adorable by definition, but I wanted to know the personality of the creature with whom I would be sharing my living space, and adult cats have a harder time attracting potential adopters. I bought a litter box, after researching which had the highest ratings. I bought an automatic feeder – I didn't want the potential cat to expect me to feed it in the mornings, but to get used to having regularly spaced meals that weren't dependent on my schedule (necessitating my rousting out of bed at the crack of dawn to scoop kibble). I bought a water fountain. I acquired not one, not two, but three scratching posts (two of those I bought at my next door neighbor's yard sale--her garage is impeccable, so I know the inside of her house is spotless, and they look like new). I got a soft-sided carrier and a conventional hard plastic one. Now all I needed was the cat, or cats (two at most).

 The radiator shop cat turned out to be pregnant, and unvetted. My aunt (she of the menagerie) wisely advised me against acquiring this untold burden. When I was helping to set up for communion June 12, a lady from church, who had worked with my dad (whose grave I went to visit that afternoon for the first time since the funeral), initially said she was interested in unloading her late mother's cat, but she eventually decided that she sheould keep it. My aunt recommended I look at specific rescue groups.

 I went on the interwebs and was completely overwhelmed. There are so many cats online! It was worse than a matchmaking site, because I don't really care much about a cat's appearance (other than it not be longhaired, because managing the shedding would be a Sisyphean task). So I finally wrote one rescue, explained my situation, and asked for their recommendations. The director invited me to the Saturday/Sunday event at the local Pet Emporium, so after church I went to see their selection of fuzzy beasts.

There were dozens of cats and kittens in wire cages at the front of the store. I told the volunteers what I was looking for, shopping like I would for wine. One, a young nursing mother, a brindled tabby barely out of kittenhood herself, who reminded me a lot of my beloved childhood cat, I ended up holding for fifteen minutes. She calmly observed the world, not wriggling to escape or displaying fear in the face of the dogs who came into the store with their owners, her paws soft on my arm.

Is the world run by big, blousey women who like to put the innocent bystander on the spot?! I can understand wanting to assure the safety and well-being of the vulnerable, but as a painfully honest person I find that questionnaires are a huge minefield, as I tend to think about all the possibilities for each and every answer and am thereby thoroughly confused. I repeatedly get tripped up, ruined by my inability to see the forest for the trees. In a fit of OCD, on the preliminary "Are you the sort of person we would consider allowing to adopt one of our cats?" form, I had mentioned that if I were to get a job overseas, I might have to give up a potential pet. Honestly, you'd have thought that I'd suggested the occasional interest in beheading infidels. This fiftyish blonde put me through the third degree. I weakly extracted myself from her verbal clutches and skulked out of the store, thinking wryly that not only was I a failure at romantic connections and employment searching, I'd apparently also flunked cat adoption. But before I left, the foster parents of the cat in which I was interested pressed a post-in into my palm inscribed with their names and telephone number.

I thought about the cat--Trixie--for several days, and then called the fosters to arrange a face to fur meeting. Thursday, my friend Susanna--whose birthday it was--and I spent almost two hours sequestered with Trixie and her two remaining kittens, talking with the fosters and stroking the cats. And the upshot was that I decided to adopt Trixie.

I went back to the Pet Emporium and filled out most of the paperwork on Friday. Another blonde lady with the feline rescue--this one was friendly, approachable, and displayed good taste in estate jewelry--helped me and took my deposit. Trixie is going to be spayed and I'm scheduled to pick her up Wednesday, while she's settling in to wearing her Cone of Courage. I hope she likes living with me, and doesn't get bored as an only cat. Awaiting her arrival are three catnip mice, a bag of kitty treats, and a pouncing wand.