Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kitty Snippets (Ruby, No!)

While there are stories to be told of Ruby the Cat that will hopefully fill pages, there are other tales of the feline we at times alternatively named "Jack", "Rubus", "Mr. Delicious" and "Rubyno" that can be can be easily summed up and stitched together in a few paragraphs.

In fact, Ruby's antics sometimes stitched themselves together such that remembering them just seems like recalling an average day.

We used to live on a pretty busy road. It had a double yellow line on it and was the main thoroughfare for semi-trailers heading up to Worcester, Massachusetts. The hours of three to four in the morning were relatively quiet and I used to thank my bouts of insomnia for exposing me to what it might be like to live in a normal neighborhood without the constant din of what seemed like a freeway outside. It made living under one of the approaches to a regional New Jersey airport seem almost pastoral.

I say this to give you an idea of the volume of traffic outside and how I seriously looked into surplus Navy gear hoping to find an old aircraft carrier launcher to help me get out of the driveway into this maelstrom of a road. Of course, crossing the road was perilous for humans (we used semaphores to talk to the neighbors) and instant death for pets.

Which of course meant that Ruby had to cross the street. Not, as the joke goes, to get to the other side, but rather to get me as close to a coronary as possible.

I think he took secret kitty delight in elciting facial expressions on me that could only be replicated by holding my breath, lifting a too heavy box and sucking on a lemon all at the same time. He would hang out in the back yard, taunting smaller woodland animals until either I or my wife at the time dared to wander into the front yard. Perhaps we were spreading mulch around the dwarf apple trees or taking bets on when the hundred foot spruce rotting from the inside out would eventually topple into the bedroom window. It didn't matter, as soon as Ruby noticed us out he'd migrate to the front of the house, queue up at the edge of the road and with a "watch me, watch me" yelp, tear ass across the street right into whatever was barrelling at him.

Of course, we'd scream, yell, faint and then try to coax the cat, now safely on the lawn across the road to stay there under any and all circumstances. This had the immediate effect of launching him back into traffic and in retrospect we would have had more success if we told him to go around back and ask the nice people in the house to serve him lunch. That of course was an actual trick that one of the other cats had learned in a quieter neighborhood we had lived in as we puzzled why Crittur seemed to be growing fatter than her siblings all of a sudden.

So Ruby serpentined his way across the road at least two or three more times until we finally caught up with him and confined him to the house for the rest of the day. This, I am convinced was the result he was after for we always found him curled up on or under the bed sheets in the afternoon, blissfully alone and away from the other cats with the biggest only child kind of self satisfied smile on his mug.

Ruby also got us off on the entirely wrong foot with the folks across that main road in the first week we lived in that house.

We had bought the place from a couple that had moved to Virginia a month earlier and the house had stood vacant until we got through the paperwork of closing. The mortgage market then, unlike today, actually verfied incomes and assets on more than your capacity to consume and and expel air but I digress.

In that month, the folks across the street had thought it entirely appropriate to offer up our backyard as an exercise space and crap repository for their two Bichon Frises. This seemed like a fine bargain but they forgot to check their calendars for when the new folks might be moving in. They also seemingly forgot to phone ahead to see if these new folks might be bringing along a little red hellion who might look askance at his backyard being soiled by dogs who should in truth limit their out of house activities to bobbing their heads in the back seats of cars.

Ruby was no more than let outside on his first day of occupancy than he discovered the two; let's call them "Thing One" and "Thing Two" because we never did find out their real names. The reason for that being that Ruby promptly chased one across the street of traffic death (the dog made it unscathed but its yapping did bring out its owner to watch the next episode) and feeling he had to prove a point about kingdom, domain and territory proceeded to jump on Thing Two's back and ride the dog down the length of the driveway before getting off and sending him home with compliments as well.

I relay this all secondhand because I was in bed at the time of the Broncing Bichon. We had just unloaded the last of the rented moving van the day before and I was evaluating whether I would ever regain control of my muscles without eviscerating pain ever again.

I am told though that the neighbor, now out after the first chase, watched in horror as Thing Two was a'ridden down the drive a'yelping and a'hollering.

She never spoke to us for the entire time we lived there.

Ruby, for all his athletic prowess, was awkward at parties. He'd mingle for a while but, never sure of which leg to rub or lap to curl in usually eventually sought me out. If I were sitting, he'd sit on my lap and go catatonic for the rest of the evening. If I were standing, he'd cause a distraction like digging in the potted plants until I'd pull him away and hold him at which point catatonia for the evening set in again. This all changed if there were food out.

We were giving a party one night and just finishing up hors d'oeuvres. John Grogan and his wife were among the guests and John and Jenny were hanging in the kitchen. We were telling pet stories about Ruby among others when we pulled the last tray of baked canape something or other out of the oven and put it on the counter. This was Ruby's moment: not only was there something cheesy within reach, he was actually the focus of attention. He leapt up on the counter and landed all four paws into whatever we had just baked.

The food was discarded, the cat sent to bed in a locked room and we apologized all around. John said it was hilarious and that he had this dog that he had a million stories about...

Somebody owes that cat royalties.

Bunny on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where'd I Put the Chainsaw?

Rare was the occasion, but they did come, when I could coax the old man into providing me with the requirements for one of my projects.

These usually took the form of a play space, or a game table or some sort of tabula razza for my overactive, sugar soaked young imagination. That was all I needed or could get for that matter. These years were just beyond the midpoint of the twentieth century and video games were still a wet dream over at the Nintendo's who lived in the stylish bungalo down the road. Video for that matter was still a churlish infant and join me in remembering the live news spots where reporters would cover a story in a windy field. Yep, the microphone picked up the gusts that sounded like a twenty moon pie fart atop a half case of RC Cola. Either that or you covered the mike head with a furry cover that looked for all the world like you picked it up for that special someone in a store called Pleasure Chest or perhaps Come Again.

So, whipped into a High C frenzy, I would approach the old man with plans for a race car table or base for model train or just a secret room in the basement to hide in. If he was in the proper spirit, which is to say if he had gotten after a few bottles of Orange Crush and potato chips, he'd be pretty pliable and I could get him to promise that, yes, this weekend if its raining I'll put something together for you.

He was pretty good about play tables, sometimes even taking the initiative. Once, after an overnight to relatives trip with my mom, I came home to the old guy having put together a kid height table for toy cars. This essentially was a slab of plywood, some half round edging, stubby legs and the whole thing painted yellow. He then laid down a frame of colored masking tape to simulate a road. Called the whole thing a race track and when I pointed out that the curves were awful sharp, each one of the four being a ninety degree angle, he took me out for a ride in the Oldmobile at high speed to point out that my opinion was in fact mistaken.

A couple of times he tripped me up however. Finish up the rec room so you can put the ping pong table up or move the table hockey out of the basement, that sort of thing that was incidental in the scheme of things but moved the earth for a twelve year old. We'd set a date to do the work and I'd count it down on a calendar and perhaps not even sleep the night before. Get up early, wolf down some more sugared cereal and keep up an excitement level just below frenzy. Then he'd get me.

The room was dirty.

It was disorderly in some way or not properly arranged or didn't fit into his scheme of the universe.

Instant derailment. Whatever it was we were doing took an immediate back seat to cleaning the place up and that became secondary to getting that one spot out of the rug that had always bothered him or putting up those shelves and arranging stuff in tighter order than stiffs at the morgue.

My day was shot, the ping pong table would stay lashed up tight or the board games stuffed away or whatever and at the end of the day he'd gloat about how neat and clean the space was and my mom would cluck approvingly and I'd hang dejectedly in a corner. But I was wrong and my mom had it right because only by agreeing and honoring his nutty tidiness did we ensure that any space was ever available into which you could haul out ping pong tables or play Twister or set anything up for more than a day. The old man would sail off to watch football or wash the car and, presto, although we didn't have a finished rec room or whatever, the basic elements were at least in place and when he wasn't paying attention you could more or less finish it off.

This of course differs markedly from my approach to stuff these days which is dictated by a brain that clearly suffers from information overload, an inability to prioritize and like most simple things, is easily distracted.

Take any bit of work I'd doing and where I'm doing it looks like a train wreck site. Writing? Papers flying about a computer like swallows on acid. Woodwork? Enough sawdust to hide the Queen Mary and the last place you used a tool is where you left it so the floor is a veritable crime scene of drill bits and try squares.

Would the old man know about this, the question would not be that he would spin in his grave, the question would be at which velocity was he rotating.

But there you go. I get things done, just don't ask me about housekeeping. Or moving in a logical fashion. Start the dishes and you notice the lightbulb in the dining room is burnt out. Replace it with those wet soppy hands and, in the process you remind yourself to pick up bandages as you're applying salve in the bathroom. Oh, did we not finish that last bit of trim on the door frame? Well, down to the table saw to cut it, past the sink with the dishwater now running all over the floor and by golly where's that mop and plumber's phone number?

The old man might just have been on to something.

But I'll never admit it.

Bunny on, mes amis, bunny on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Its Swell

An update on the hazardous toy recall, the list has expanded from the original Chinese-made toys like Falun Gong Barbie and Jailed Dissident Ken to include a number of other playthings that are deemed dangerous.

Here is a brief list:

-Barbie and her dog Tanner: Tanner continues to fall into leather processing vats to provide new shoe material for Barbie. There are issues of toxicity with the hides.

-Magna Batman: Small but powerful magnets in the dolls attach quickly to metal objects like cars pulling out with fathers on their way to work. Bobby Ransome of Marietta, Ga. caught an involuntary ride on the bumper of the family minivan down I-76 just last week.

-Polly Pockets: Kleptomaniac doll thought to be a poor role model.

-Sarge Cars: Sarge cars were recalled to active duty and are posted in the Falujah motor pool. Look for Too Many Tours of Duty cars in stores this Christmas.

-One Piece: Toy is just one piece. Boring! What do you do with one piece? You can't cut it, there are no moving parts, its just one piece. Shoot, if this is supposed to be a fun toy, how about I just go play in the dirt with a rock? One piece. Gimme a break!

-Doggie Day Care: This toy does not have a doggie day care license and is operating in an illegal manner. Doggie DCYF, Doggie IRS and Doggie State Police will be raiding Doggie Day Care shortly.

Other toys such as Sweatshop Susie, Sergeant Shellshock, bag o' glass, and Pocketfull of Roaches are still under review. Large Plastic Thing that Makes Noise and Squirts Red Dye was requested to be pulled from the market by the 4th Street dog tired parent's council but, aside from being a pain in the ass, was found to have no defects or dangers.

Books are in no danger of recall but few children actually know what to do with one of these strange but dull objects.

Bunny on.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bizarre History

In the German general election of 1933, the voters chose a little known Adolf Hitler as chancellor of the republic. His party was the National Socialist, German Workers, Lorry Drivers, Cattle Drayers and If You'll Vote for Us, We'll Mention You in the Credits. They ran to rebuild the nation shattered by defeat in the Great War and to admit that, for all their pretense, the French could indeed turn a gnarly souffle.

The NSDAFT, or "Knahwzies" to the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised "an end to reparations, a return of national honor, a land rendered politically in two, bombed to the stone age and set competely afire" all within the astonishing period of ten years. Further, they stated that, if elected to a simple majority in the Reichstag, they would eradicate the concept of simple majority along with half the population of Europe and shame Germans with their crimes for the duration of modern history.

The people, excited about an end to reparations, elected them and their leader.

Re-armarment of the German nation began during the last exit poll before the election was declared final. Nazi operatives handed out clubs stating; "Here, you're going to need this for the Belgians." In retrospect, it is remarkable that other nations did not react more strongly to the open developement of weapons with such names as "Bloody British Bashing Tanks", "Untersee und American Shipping Destruction Booten" and "V Rocket for Places that Have Yet to Piss Us Off." War was on the horizon but the League of Nations continued to debate the composition of the furniture polish used on the large conference table, the one where the drinks were served every day after five p.m. GMT.

In 1938, Czechoslovakia was annexed as "Lebensraum" or translated "A place to put the lawn mower and camping trailer when we're not using it." The newly formed allies, united in finding a good place to hide for a few years until all this blows over, thought they had appeased Hitler. The Fuhrer (German: asshole at the head of the table) had promised to end his quest for territory and name the place something more easily spelled.

They were wrong and he lied about the spelling part too.

Open war finally began on September 1st, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. Claiming that "we forgot a Kubelwagen when they created the Polish corridor and are only going to fetch it back with this tank" the Germans stole across the border and were soon shelling threatening legions of WWI era biplanes, cavalry and any odd Dragoons they could find.

Other countries followed. Belgium was conquered, the Netherlands and France. Austria volunteered conquest under the "lost cause" clause of their hastily drawn up constitution. Thereafter followed a relatively quiet period known as the "Sitzkrieg." However, hostilities flared up again in 1940 as Goering's Luftwaffe launched the "Blitzkrieg" or "Lightning War" against England where the action was more popularly known as the "This Shits Krieg" which is self-explanatory.

The Luftwaffe strangely abandoned active engagement with R.A.F. forces during the Blitz, preferring a full scale bombardment of Cities, pubs, restaurants, beer gardens and other social centers that had refused the portly Goering admission in peacetime owing to his reputation for comsuming most of the food stocks of the week. This strategy did of course not work from a military strategic point of view. R.A.F. fighter planes continued to harass German bombers and even London experienced only brief spot shortages of blood pudding and other delicacies, the English smuggling cold cuts into the city in the tube.

Hitler eventually abandoned "Operation Sea Lion" or the invasion of England claiming that "Welch is much too hard for our occupation troops to learn anyway" and turned his attention to the east. Although Nazi Germany had signed a "Non-Agression" treaty with the Soviet Union, Hitler superceded the document with a "Just Kidding" treaty he negotiated with his foreign minister in the office just down the hall. "Operation Barbarossa" went into effect in 1941 with the invasion of the Soviet Union. Proudly launched with the codewords "Napoleon who?" the invasion met stiff resistance when the Russian population realized that German plans for conquest of their nation would suck just a little bit more than Stalinism.

The tide of war was turning and even the most elaborate cinematic tricks of Leni Riefenstahl could not mask the allied bombers in the background at Party Rally days. Retreats were strategic and measured; from a citie's core back to the suburbs, then to the outskirts, then back across the German border then to the living room with a fall back position of the kitchen. When retreating armies from the west had been pushed back to the eastern front and eastern armies to the western front even the most senior generals had to admit that things no longer looked so good.

In the final capitulation, Hitler committed suicide along with his mistress and dog. Raving that "no pooch of mine will eat of this Bolshevist kibble" he killed the animal. Himmler and Goebbles also took their own lives but Goering, Bormann, Von Ribbentrop and Speer preferred to sneak out of the bunker under cover of dark. Wearing sweater vests and thick glasses, they claimed to be the lost chess club of 1936. The ruse failed when Goering claimed that if he was ever in checkmate he could be called "Meyer."

With the war over, the German nation went back to the business of starving and complaining quietly about the neighbors next door. However, the nation emerged in the 1950's as an "economic miracle" exemplified by the Volkswagen, a car that sold millions simply because people were curious if a silly looking vehicle like it would actually run.

Reunification of the two Germanies came in 1991 with the passage of the constitutional ammendment that, no matter who was running, no one was allowed to vote without actually fully reading, understanding and passing a short quiz on having read the fine print.

Sneaking Around

There's a Good Morning America or Today Show or one of those "Wake the Freak Up Already" morning show clips where a haughty little editor corrects the host on shoe terminology.

"We call them running shoes." says he, rebuffing the reference to "sneakers."

Well, la de dah. And if you slow to a walk, need they be removed? How about if you're just standing around? Slip into a nice pair of "Standarounds?" Whoops, we're off and running again, no doubt the morning copy of the New York Times has just arrived and we're going to solve the secret word puzzle. This week, it spells "we make this shit up for our own chuckles."

Sorry to have ruined that for you, Orphan Annie fans.

So we're standing around outside yesterday, on the running track, waiting to do some speedwork in the blazing mid-day sun. We're wearing our "idiots ready to boil our brains out" footwear, no doubt.

Actually, a few of our ilk had picked up some new shoes and were comparing notes on what they got. "Its a 500GT." "I got the A-340-Performance."

What are these? Cars? Geez, there was more excitement abounding than if someone had waltzed in with a Ferrari. And then we could have spent our lunch hour with the air conditioning on.

Are shoes becoming like cars? If so, will we stand around with our buddies in the driveway admiring what's under the toebox of his new Balance 929? How about Friday night? Take Missy out to the movies and get frisky in the heel? Yum! That's where the shock absorbing gel insert is. Let's hope she doesn't have one as well, she swore they were natural.

I go through a pair of shoes I use for running about once every three months. I use these shoes I use for running quite a lot and they naturally wear down. There is a group in our town that recycles these shoes used for running. They are gathered up, cleaned and sent out to the less fortunate in other countries. In other words, they are returned to their point of origin.

"Look Abu, here are those bitching K-330's you sewed up last January. Nice job on the arch support."

"Hey, this S-660 you soled barely looks used."

"Fat kid from Jersey bought it. Used lightly, only hung around the mall."


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