Friday, April 13, 2007

He Told the Truth, Mostly

I used to watch Kurt Vonnegut at a bus stop on 47th and Third. He would hang out, watching people and I watched him. I never approached the man, never spoke to him. I can tell you that he moved like a sloth. Deliberately, slowly and it was maddening how little movement you sometimes got out of him on any given lunch hour that I spied him at that bus stop.

I happened to be in Manhattan yesterday. I stopped by the bus stop to pay my respects.

Vonnegut had a tremendous influence on my life. I read Palm Sunday in high school. It was the first Vonnegut novel I read and I think I shall re-read it now. It's one of the only ones that I've read once. All the others are dog-eared. I kept reading him in college, even though none of the courses I took required his books. Rather, as an enormously shy, long haired solitary kid who had the socialization skills of a rock, I spent hours at the college train station reading Vonnegut. When I wasn't fantasizing about getting on the next train home, I was in his world, figuring out what he was trying to tell me or not as the case may be. Mr. Vonnegut had a bent for encouraging self discovery and independent thought.

Couple of things that have stayed with me from Vonnegut:

-describing the blood of army scouts turning snow to cherry slush.
-Sally in the garden, sifting cinders, lifted up her leg and farted like a man. The bursting of her bloomers broke sixteen winders and the cheeks of her ass went (you need your hands now).
-A love of Twain.
-His Indiana accent that was like a bandsaw cutting galvanized tin.
-Being merciless. If a phrase or sentence does not illuminate or describe your subject in a new and unique way, scratch it out.

I disagreed with the man fervently in later years. A written response to one of his tomes, emailed back to the friend who emailed it to me cost me that friendship. I haven't heard from Marty since.

Too bad. I think for myself and I stick to my guns. Vonnegut would have despised me but respected me all the same and I him. So it goes.

Goodbye Kurt. And thanks. When I crawled out of my freshman shell at college and traded your books for a beer glass and friends, they used to say to me that they thought I was some super intelligent grad student immersed in serious work taking time out for intellectual exercise at the train station.

How's that for foma?

Bunny on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Believe it or Not

So here was this cat stuck somewhere inside the house in places only she could get to. And here was I like an idiot having let her get in there and now not having the faintest clue on how to get her out.

I've got a pretty active imagination as you may be able to tell and I envisioned sneaking a fiber optic camera into the crawl spaces of the house. This would be equipped with a night vision scope so that I could find the little critter wherever she might be.

Right. First of all, I haven't the tools to get a '91 pickup truck running. Where am I going to get a fiber optic camera? Bond R Us? And a night vision scope? So lets suspend reality and assume I put all that together. What happens when I find the cat? Is there an attachment that would tap her on her little kitty shoulder and ask her politely to come to the nearest human accessible entry port? Assuming we had all that and all that happened as planned, she's still a cat.

She'd politely decline just to be contrary.

I got the next closest thing I had to a fiber optic camera. A step stool and fist. I figured somehow that if I got on the stool and rapped gently on the ceiling I'd find the place she was hiding between the first and second floors. The hollow rap of fist on drywall would occasionally raise its pitch to a more muffled thump of fist on drywall nailed to floor joist. Then, if I persisted, I would hear the distinct "phfnumph" of fist on drywall on kitty fur. There she would be. I would then gently rap, annoying her with the noise and continue rapping and annoying until she got up and came to the opening she had crawled down in just for a little relief from all that noise. Then I would get her out.

Two things here: One, I must have been feverish. Two, if this is the best an developed cranium can do against a cat, lets just give up and give the planet back to the animals.

I rapped for about five minutes until I concluded how stupid this whole exercise really was. Aparently I was inspired at the moment to spend just a little more time atop the food chain.

Ripley played her part at the cessation of my rapping by conveniently clawing. Yep! There she was, the exercise was not in vain and she led me to once again believe that I earned the place on the pecking order of the planet when in fact I had probably stumbled there on my opposable thumbs. Never mind. I had a general area I knew she was in. All I had to do now was...

Get through drywall.

How does one get through drywall? Why, with a crowbar of course. And so it was that I hit upon drywall with crowbar and hammer until a hole large enough for my head to fit through existed. At which time I thrust my head through into the crawlspace. Ok, came back and opened the hole up a little more to allow a flashlight in. At that last second, I had visions of Ripley being on the other side of the hole with sharpened claws waiting for a good scratch at the idiot doing all that knocking on the wall.

Fortunately she was curled up in a corner of the crawlspace, scared out of her wits. With a crowbar bashing a hole in what she once thought a solid floor, I can't imagine why.

So I had found the cat, there was an opening for me to tuck food and water into, there was a little light and air circulation and all I had to do now was get used to having a pet that I never saw that lived somewhere in the recesses of my house. I should have adopted rodents.

Mornings were a ritual where, in t shirt and shorts at five thirty, a.m. I ascended an eight foot aluminum ladder (that got really cold in January) with cat food and water to place in the ceiling. I'm glad the neighbors keep an eye out for me in only the loosest sense. But I found that if you repeat a stupid pattern often enough, things start to work out. Look at county government for a working example of that principle.

Ripley got curious once she figured out that the head always cooed at her and then left nice food to eat. She'd stand by the hole in the ceiling waiting for breakfast and dinner, disappear as I ascended the ladder and then re appear to eat and then seemingly to taunt me. She got friendlier and friendlier as I kept feeding her over three weeks. It occurred to me that I had better get her out soon or knock a bigger hole in the ceiling. Or tell her to hunch.

Then came the morning of her freedom. I don't know what got her to the access panel she had crawled into and not come back to since but she came back to the panel opening. Maybe I hadn't fed her. Maybe there was something in the shaving cream scent that attracted her. I was of course, shaving. I don't use the stuff for anything else. At least not when I'm alone.

At any rate, I turned from the mirror to see her head poke out of the access opening. She then ducked back in. I needed a stronger draw. Down to the kitchen. Dash and get some cat food in a bowl, ignoring the fact you are naked and your face is covered in lather. Great, a rabid exhibitionist. Just the kind of thing that will get me a sheriff's car ride to city limits and a finger pointed at the horizon. Once again, I'm glad the neighbor's watch out for me in only the loosest sense.

The cat food worked. I drew just enough of Ripley out to grab a hold of her and get her out of the crawlspace. Naturally, she was not too happy about being manhandled out and did her share of claw and tooth flailing as I did my corresponding share of flinching as "Claude Balls" is not the French nom de plume I am after right now.

So the access panel is sealed. Ripley has entered a phase of detente with Boomer, thinks that finger chewing at three am is appropriate and has generally settled into a nice healthy kittenhood. I'm fine as well but one of the spring projects, once school is over, will be do drywall up some illogically placed holes in the ceiling.

Bunny on.

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