Saturday, August 15, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Dog Show

We had a variety of pets growing up. A black cat named Bishop. A parakeet named Maynard. Various guinea pigs and hamsters. But only one dog; a black, scruffy mutt named Caruso.

I honestly cannot recall where Caruso came from, whether we adopted him from the pound or found him as a stray; but come he did and he stayed. Caruso was one of the most ill trained dogs ever. Whenever we took him off the leash he would run away. He never learned to sit or fetch or do any of those dog tricks. But he was madly loveable and so ugly-cute that you couldn’t help but be charmed.

He had free reign of our back yard, and a long leash in the front. All the neighbors knew him and so too, luckily, did the mailman. For one time Caruso got loose and was gone for hours. I was frantic, until the mailman drove up with Caruso sitting proudly in the mail truck, tail waving, barking happily.

I suppose I was about 7 or 8 when a national dog food company sponsored a dog show in the parking lot of the supermarket. There was a cute dog category so, of course, I had to enter Caruso.

In spite of his protests I bathed and combed him until his scruffy hair was slightly less scruffy, put him on his leash, and headed downtown. There amid the purebred pups I strutted with him. Well, technically I pulled him and then he pulled me. While Mrs. Albreckson walked her annoying Pekingese like she was at Westminster, and the annoying Pekingese acted like she was one of the Queen’s corgis, I dragged poor Caruso in front of the town. Of course, being Caruso, he misbehaved. He stopped to pee. He barked at the crowd. When the judge walked by Caruso rolled over to have his tummy scratched. And he sniffed the crotch of the man next to me with a neurotic Poodle.

Since Caruso was well known in town, he had his fair share of admirers in the crowd. In fact the mailman was there, cheering him on. But, alas, he had no chance amongst his well-behaved, well-groomed brethren. But the judge, taking pity on either the clueless child or the careless dog, awarded us an Honorable Mention ribbon, which Caruso promptly tried to eat. I was so proud of that ribbon. It was the first thing I’d ever won, even if it was won by my dog.
Photo of the day: Floral Arrangement or Murder Weapon -- You Decide

No clue what these berries are. They look like something growing on a hedge in St. Mary Mead (Miss Marple's village) that she would immediately point out with some quaint name like "oh yes, that's known as the misstress killer. So called after Miriam Clethorne died must unexpectedly right after it became common knowledge that she'd been seen holding hands with Dr. Richardson."

I'd stay away from nibbling on this just in case you've been cheating on someone and have a Miss Marple around.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Photo of the day; My Smarter Cousin

He can do quantum physics in pencil on the back of a zoo program. He's lunched with Stephen Hawking. He can swear in 15 languages. I'm so proud.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Overheard at the shelter. For those of you not from around here there's a wildfire in a place called Bonny Doon, in the Santa Cruz mountains, not too far from here:
Guy 1: Have you heard about the fire in Bonny Doon?
Guy 2: No, what about it?
Guy 1: Um...well, that's it really. There's a fire in Bonny Doon.
Guy 2: (Obviously full of concern): Do you think I should grow a beard?
Photo of the day: Ground Cover

Oh the secrets scurrying amid the leaves and stones. Coffee-colored salamanders with zipper-fast speed moving too fast for a cheap camera to focus. Small mice chattering around mouths full of fallen berries. Tiny brown birds looking suspiciously inconspicuous poking amid the leavings for worms and other delicacies. One man's fallen brush is, to another, an afternoon buffet. Champagne extra, of course.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Snow White and the 7 Cats
There are currently seven cats in our backyard. I tried to photograph all of them but two are in the shade and I just couldn't get a good shot. But I did catch five of them, including all three brown tabbies.

Two brown tabbies and the Siamese-y one.

One of the orange tabbies and the third brown tabby.
Photo of the day: Under the Overpass

Because sometimes you just need to stop and smell the freeway. Or something like that...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Talky Crew
I went to cat duty today. I never go on Tuesday and I think I now know why; it's the talky day. Very nice people who won't shut up. Volunteers, not customers, which is what made it so strange. All I wanted to do was hang with the kitties and give them extra love and it turned into Chatfest 2009.

There was the volunteer who kept asking me about Lola* (*All the cat names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Lola is a "red cat" who can be a real handful. She takes all your attention. So having some woman asking you, in one breath (take a big breath here and read this out loud): "How long have you been a volunteer? Do you work only with red cats? Have you worked with Lola before? How do you know what to expect? Do you shave or wax your bikini line?" (OK, I made the last one up.) But she wanted to know all about working with Lola. Which is fine....just not when I'm working withLola. Ask me later. But distracting me when I'm working with a cat known for biting the limbs off unsuspecting volunteers is not the way to endear yourself to me. To make matters worse, her constant chatter freaked out poor Lola, who then took it out on me. I had to cut the visit short, without taking her out of her cage, because she was getting so stressed from two people looking at her.

Then there was Mr. Nice Guy. Who really was nice but who also came into the rooms when I was doing one-on-one with the cats to give them some two-on-one, which sounds dirty but really wasn't. I'm not sure why he didn't just take his own cats out, but this volunteer apparently just wanted to hang and chat so he kept coming in where I was. Odd. Um, hello, there are dozens of cats that need attention so why are you ignoring them to be with me and the cat that I'm socializing? He came in when I was with Milo*, one of my favorite cats, and completely ruined my rhythm. With Milo there's a ritual. First play, then catnip, finally pets and combing. But when Mr. Nice Guy came in during catnip time Milo didn't know what to do? Do I go back to playing? Is it petting time? Who is this man and why is he here? I didn't want to be rude, but I was wondering why he didn't go get his own cat. (And before you think "hitting on you" he was about 70 and talked a lot about his wife.)

Finally there was the volunteer who told me WAY too much about herself. I mean sure, make polite small talk. Say hi. Discuss the cats. But for the love of cheese do not tell me about your divorce, your shoulder operation, your much younger boyfriend, your cat's digestive problems, and why you think your church choir director is having an affair. I mean I don't know your name and now I know how often Mr. Fluffy poops. Thanks, really needed to know that.

For me the oddest one of the day wasn't one of the volunteer's who kept trying to make conversation -- it was the looker. She kept looking through the windows of the room where I was socializing cats. When I went into one of the cat condos, she looked. When I was socializing a cat in her cage because all the rooms were busy, she looked. It was kind of freaking me out? Was my fly open? Did she think I was hot? Did she think I was going to try some weird voodoo experiment with a cat, a chicken, a black candle and some bastardized Latin?

I think I'll stick to my regular cat socializing days. Tuesdays are too weird.
Photos of the day: Cuteness X 2

Two charmers from the kitten nursery. These two won't be around long once they're up for adoption.

I'm skipping my radio show tonight so I can pull some extra cat duty today. The shelter is desperately short of cat TLC-ers right now (I think people are on vacation) and there are so many kitties who need the attention so I'm heading off to spend a few hours doing what I love.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Today in the Kitten Nursery

The usual suspects of cuteness. This guy was extra snuggly, in spite of the heat. More pictures on Flickr.
Photo of the day: Waiting for the Cemetery Bus

Uh, her, not I.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Parade Continues
The neighborhood cats continue to confound and congregate in our yard. We recently discovered that the one brown tabby we kept seeing was actually two brown tabbies. I have just discovered that they are, in fact, three brown tabbies. I tried to take a photo of the three of them, but our own little brown tabby got in the way.

I have also found that the black cat is two black cats. That makes:
3 brown tabbies
2 black cats
2 orange cats
1 gray cat
2 calico cats
2 black and white cats
1 siamese-y looking cat

That regularly hang out in our yard. Apparently our yard smells like free tuna.
Scenes from Silver Creek: Johnnie’s

Johnnie’s was a family restaurant owned by a friend of my father. Johnnie Cannazaro and my dad grew up a few blocks away from each other; beat each other at baseball beat each other up over girls, eventually served in WWII together. They enlisted together, went to basic together and then ended up in different parts of the war. Afterwards there was some talk of going into business together, but they could never agree on what. My dad wanted to open a garage, but for Johnnie, there was only the idea of opening a restaurant and serving the recipes of his Italian grandmother.

Johnnie’s was the kind of place where you were served massive platters of antipasto before you even ordered, and where they actually had candles in old Chianti bottles. There was no menu, just a blackboard where Miriam, Johnnie’s wife, wrote the day’s offerings in pink chalk over drawings of misshapen bowls of soup and loaves of bread.

We didn’t often go out to dinner, as it was too expensive for our large family, but when we went, it was to Johnnie’s. As a child, I loved going there because I imagined it was what a celebrity felt like. We’d be greeted with hugs, shown to the best table, and generally fussed over. They’d bring me a Shirley Temple with extra cherries, which I hated but never said because I was afraid if I confessed my detestation for cherries the drinks would stop. And after dinner all us kids got free dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or rainbow sherbet in a cold, silver cup.

It was at Johnnie’s where I first heard the phrase “your money is no good here.” We’d gone there for my mother’s birthday and when my dad went to pay, that’s what Johnnie said. As a kid, I was terrified. What was wrong with my dad’s money? Was it counterfeit? How would we pay for dinner? Would we be arrested? Hell, what did I know; I’d never gotten a free meal before and had no clue what he meant.

My brother Ronnie got a job there as a busboy for two summers in high school, and I remember Johnnie catering my sister Kathleen’s wedding. I also recall my mother sending me out on cold winter nights to pick up take-out containers of Johnnie’s minestrone to which he’s always add (to my immense pleasure) a warm, foil-wrapped plate of garlic bread.

Johnnie retired when I was in high school. He and Miriam had no children and, therefore, no one to leave the restaurant to. But after 30 years of feeding the town, the Cannizaro’s decided they wanted to relax. The last night at Johnnie’s party was full of great food and good memories, and my very first glass of wine. With a “don’t tell your mother” Johnnie passed me a plastic wine glass with Chianti in it and I lifted a toast with everyone else when my father said “to good times.”

I cried when it became a southern café that served pretty good fried chicken and pretty awful biscuits. And to this day I miss that minestrone and garlic bread.
Photo of the day: Pearls in the Distance

Because I don't own any diamonds.