Saturday, July 25, 2009

Overheard at the shelter
Woman one (who was adopting two kittens): I'm going to name them Diego and Freda.
Woman two: You can't name them after lovers, they're brother and sister!

Not really eavesdropping as this woman at the shelter was talking to me
"I want to adopt a another cat because my kitty, Princess Maxine Pussyboots is lonely."

(Princess Maxine Pussyboots???!!!)

Overheard at the grocery store
Man (on cell phone) in the wine aisle: I prefer red, she prefers white. So I think I'll get red. Besides, I think I'm going to break up with her anyway.
Scenes from Silver Creek: Keeper of the Keys

Back in the dim mists of time, some enterprising student at Silver Creek High found, stole, or otherwise acquired a set of master keys to the school. For many years most students thought this was just a legend designed to intrigue gullible freshmen. But these keys were not a legend they were real. And they were handed down from generation to generation (OK, from one outgoing senior to a suitable junior) throughout most of my memory.

The keys were never used maliciously, which was always amazing. No theft. No graffiti or vandalizing. Just practical jokes of varying degrees of imagination and daring. There was the year all the jars of pickled dead critters from the biology lab ended up in the girl’s locker room. The time all the chairs in the library were stacked on the tables in a series of impressively unstable pyramids. And the time when the floor of the cafeteria was covered with a giant Twister board.

In my freshman year, the pool was turned into a giant luau complete with tiki torches and a grass shack hut. A surfboard and a large inflatable shark bobbed around the deep end and there was an endless loop of Beach Boys and Sam and Dave music playing. In my sophomore year I was let in on the secret when a friend’s older brother was keeper of the keys and he needed help switching all the desks, bookcases, and posters from the English classroom with the furniture in the chemistry lab. It took a lot of stealth and two weekend days, but we did it. Shakespeare now presided over the rows of gas jets and steel sinks. And the walls were lined with Dickens, Hemingway, and Austen. While in the other classroom Madame Curie looked down with French inscrutability upon Bunsen burners, microscopes, and test tubes place on desks, rather than long tables, and presided over by a large Oscar Wilde quotation painted on the ceiling.

Oddly enough, the administration never did much. They’d give the usual serious announcement over the loudspeaker system and talk in stern tones about suspension and detention. But, in actual fact, they seemed as amused by the whole thing as the rest of us. All year long people would wait for the joke and speculate on who would be behind it and what it would be. I remember hearing several teachers laughing at the ingenuity of the joker who took everything out of the principal’s office and set it up in the main hallway.

The last week of my junior year I was stunned when Malcolm Headley told me I’d been chosen to be keeper of the keys. I couldn’t understand why, but I wasn’t about to refuse. All summer long I plotted who I would let in on the secret and what my contribution to local lore would be. Eventually I swore my two best friends, Carmen Martinez and Sean Logan, to secrecy and the three of us began to set into motion our version of the grand plan. It involved a lot of babysitting and minimum wage jobs to pay for all the needed props. Then it just required the right time. The week before the drama club produced “West Side Story” was our cue.

We went in after their last dress rehearsal and made the balcony look more Romeo than rumble. Then we hit the biology lab for Heckle and Jeckle, the two plastic skeletons that stood like naked sentries on either side of the blackboard. These we moved to the theatre and dressed them the closest we could find to Renaissance wear from the costume shop. Heckle, as Juliet, completely with long blond wig, we placed on the balcony, turning her, well, it really into a sort of “come hither my long-lost skeleton lover” stance.

Jeckle we got down on one knee, with the aid of some legos and rubber bands. He wore black tights we bought for a buck at the thrift store and some sort of brocade cloak thing and a big flowered hat. That hat we also got from the thrift store and it would cause some amusement as it had often been seen on the mousy head of Mrs. Caspitor, the choir mistress at St. Edith’s.

We then filled every seat in theatre with stuffed animals, potted plants, bits of sporting equipment, even a life size cardboard cutout of David Hasselhoff (in the front row, of course.) We put more animals on the stage and gave them violins and flutes to set the music. We tried for a tuba but discovered your average teddy bear is incapable of supporting a tuba.

And the final step was to sneak into the library for the classic recordings section for the recording of Orson Welles and Romeo with miss forgettable (and I’m sure she was famous, but it was a long time ago) doing the balcony scene. Sean figured out a way to using fishing line and some small electric gears to move the arms of the “actors”. So when everything, lights, the recording, the movements came together it was the freakiest thing I’d ever seen.

The reactions upon the next school day were universal. I actually heard about it before I left home, someone called to tell me the keeper of the keys had acted and I had to get my ass down to the theatre. The place was packed, four deep trying to get in, even the faculty had to push through. And it didn’t disappoint. It was surreal and imaginative, and quirky and kind of cute. I was damned proud of myself all day.

The only thing left to do was to pass of the keys to the next keeper…
Photo of the day: The Angel Does Not Approve

Is it just me or is this one disapproving cherubim? Did she not like the guy and is, therefore, unhappy that he's up there playing in the eternal floating crap game in the sky? She doesn't look sad, more disappointed. Maybe she wanted a better gig, standing over someone famous instead of some random dead Californian.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cooper Goes Home
The only bad thing about volunteering at the shelter is that sometimes you become very attached to certain animals and you miss them when they're adopted.

Cooper was very special to me. I loved that cat and always made her my first visit of the day. I would look forward to her crawling into my lap, giving out with her rusty purr, and enjoy the cuddling. Well today she went to an off-site adoption event and found a home.

Of course I am thrilled. I am so happy to know she no longer has to live in a cage and that she can have a lap whenever she wants. Somebody got very lucky today and found that once-in-a-lifetime pet that will brighten their days and make their nights warmer.

But personally, I am sad. I shall lose all my cold, heartless bitch street cred when I admit that when I found out she'd been adopted, I cried. How much of a softie am I?

It's purely selfish, of course. I am going to miss her very much. I wanted to much to adopt her, but I know from sad experience that Cipher doesn't like to share. But I think she's one of those special cats I'll always remember.

I envy whoever got to take her home, and I hope everyone has a long and happy life together. But for me, it's a bittersweet celebration. She has finally found the forever home and the love she deserves, but it's going to be hard going into the shelter next week and know she won't come to the front of her cage to greet me as soon as she hears my voice.

Bye Cooper. Be happy, you deserve it. And thanks for all the lap time, I'll never forget you.
The Case of the Traveling Luggage Tag
Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) is a bit of a sneak thief. She's "a picker-up of unconsidered trifles." If it's in reach (and sometimes even if it's out of reach) and can fit in her mouth, she'll nab it. Pens. Power cords. Pieces of mail. Sometimes she just pulls them off a table, and then leaps back in surprise when they actually fall. Often she'll strut into the room with something in her mouth as if to say "look what I just stole because you were stupid enough to leave it where I could get to it."

We have a leather luggage tag that is currently making the rounds. It was on the floor of the closet in the music room. Then it was in the middle of the music room. Since then it's been circumnavigating the house, going on it's own world tour. A luggage tag traveling light, without luggage. It was by the bed yesterday. In the kitchen last night. And now it's sitting by my feed in the middle of the living room.

Unlike her other crimes, I've not actually seen the tag in her mouth. So perhaps I am maligning her unfairly. Maybe she is innocent and the tag is moving itself around the house, playing its own little game of freeze tag. But I have a feeling Cipher is behind it.

Right now she's sitting in her favorite perch, in the front window. Her back to me and the room; purposely ignoring the moveable tag. But I have a feeling when I come home from cat duty later today, the tag will have once again migrated to another room. And there Cipher will sit, all innocence, pretending she knows nothing about the case of the traveling luggage tag.
Photo of the day: Cuteness

He's brand new and not too sure about the whole sticking things in the mouth that taste like food thing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Best wedding processional EVER. Guaranteed to make you smile!
Photo of the day: Dove in Stone

Rest is peace, little dove, because you're not going anywhere.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Red Means Gloves
Being a red cat volunteer is something of an education. Today I worked with three of them in varying degrees of mania. Cat number one was sweetness itself and should definitely not be a red. She spent 30 minutes curled into my lap, purring, nuzzling into my arm and generally stealing my heart.

Cat number two was all lollipops and light until he turned without warning and nipped me.

Cat number three was the stand-in for the shark in Jaws. She (I'll call her "Lulu") had no interest in anything other than having me for dinner. She didn't want to play. She didn't want the yummy cat snacks I carry with me. She didn't want to explore the room. She just wanted to swallow my hand.

I would back off to discourage this behavior, and then she'd wander over as nice as you please and try to put me between two slices of bread and spread mustard on me.

So out came the gloves. I hadn't had a reason to use them yet, but Lulu was a perfect illustration of why it was suggested I invest in a pair of leather gloves. I could have used chain mail, but they at least kept me from becoming a shredded, bleeding mess.

The weird thing is that Lulu looks very much like Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) except that Cipher has never tried to digest any of my limbs.
Photo of the day: Fenced in by the Church

A not-at-all-subtle metaphor for my relationship with my Catholic upbringing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photo of the day: The Snugglers

I'm just going to sit back and let you wallow in cuteness.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Photo of the day: On the Shady Side of the Street

Moss on a tree in an area so heavily wooded that light rarely seems to creep through. In the underbrush, unseen critters skitter amid the dry leaves and cause amused speculation among the walkers. Snake or squirrel? We'll never know.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: Jacques and Emilie

For my entire childhood the house across the street belonged to an old French couple named Jacques and Emilie. They never seemed to get older and, to my child’s eyes, were always about 120. I think they were probably in their 70s and 80s and were something like protective godparents to everyone who lived on the block.

Jacques would spend his entire day sitting in his garage with the door open. He had a white El Camino that was a favorite hiding spot for the neighborhood kids playing hide-and-seek. I don’t know why we always hid there because it was always one of the first places anyone looked, but someone was always there. He’d sit at an old chrome kitchen table with his radio tuned to either a baseball game (when there was one) or the 24-hours news station during the off-season. He’d putter in the garden, read four or five newspapers a day, make birdhouses that he’d give to every person on the street, and watch the world walk, skate, bite, and drive by.

My dad, who spoke some French thanks to his French mother and grandparents, would go over every evening after work and before dinner. He’d come home, change out of his suit and into his jeans and a faded blue work shirt, and walk across the street. There, like two old Basque farmers, they’d drink strong red wine out of water glasses and nibble on cheese and the sourdough bread that Emilie made from scratch three days a week.

The wine came in big gallon jugs that Jacques would pour over his shoulder in a fountain that never once missed the glass. It’s a maneuver that always impressed me. When I was a child I was equal measures terrified and fascinated by him. The trick with the wine seemed like magic. But his serious expression and strange accent intimidated the hell out of me. He was a small, compact, bull of a man and had too much the look of a garden gnome about him. I was then, and still am, scared of garden gnomes.

Emile, by contrast, was the kindly grandmother out of a fairly tale. She baked bread and cookies that made the whole street smell glorious. And for a child growing up on my mother’s dreadful cookie and cakes-from-a-box, the scent of homemade ginger snaps and the warm, yeasty aroma of fresh bread was enough to bring tears to the eye. Her house was always spotless and her vegetable garden was like Eden. I’d been raised on a steady diet of canned food, with the exception of salad and, for some god unknown reason, zucchini. But Emilie had rows of fresh corn and sweet orange carrots. Sweet beans that made a satisfying, candy-like snap and the wonder of warm from the sun tomatoes.

She sang old French songs that I tried, in my head, to imitate and, like Jacques, loved baseball. Her backyard was a veritable subdivision of her husband’s birdhouses. Every bird in town seemed to have a map to her yard where she’d leave small glass dishes of sunflower seeds and fresh fruit. They had two fat, sleepy cats that glared threateningly at the invaders but never had enough energy to actually attack. These cats, Miro and Lalu, hated everyone but Emilie. Her, they loved. They’d slink between her feet and fight for lap rights when she sat down in the evenings. They would tolerate no attention from anyone else, not even Jacques, though they would hang around the garage when my dad was over, hoping one of the men would drop some cheese or bread.
Photo of the day: Kilmer's Muse

Shot on Sawyer Camp Road.