Cat Stories

One of the beings in this photo is responsible for breaking a lot of dishes last month. Hint: It’s not Taffy, and it’s not Lickety.

I’m taking Dear Reader and Commentor Patricia’s advice: Lead with the cats.

Last month I went out of town for a weekend and while I was away there happened a dishwashing incident  which depleted our inventory by three dinner plates, one salad bowl, and one drinking glass.

Our previous inventory of dinner plates served us well, five in total, being that there are only two of us in the house who use plates for dinner. But now, because of the infamous dishwashing incident, we were down to two dinner plates in total, and we soon discovered that being a two-plate family did not really suit our lifestyle of opulence and luxury. I needed to shop for new plates.

Note to Top Cat: Please get a bigger lap. Your current lap does not meet my requirements. From: Lickety, on the edge of the couch.

My original set of five dinner plates was what was left of a mis-matched collection of bits that I’d found in thrift shops in the past 20 years so, at first, I was all excited about shopping for new dinner plates. For I have changed since my thrift shop days and  it turns out that I now rather like the housewares section of Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s, and I love Home Goods.

But in the hours I spent wandering amongst the brand-new china I never saw anything that I liked more than my old favorites, the ones that were in pieces in the local landfill. Those were the dinner plates I wanted. My old, lost, done-for dinner plates, of which I only ever had three that matched anyway. So I turned to the internet.

BTW, the more I type the word “plate”, the stranger that word feels in my brain. Plate. It’s not a pretty word at all, is it?  Any hoo. . .

. . . of course we all know that you can find ANYTHING on the internet, so after 15 minutes of browsing, I hit the Checkout button and lo, a mere four days later, a huge box was deposited on my doorstep:

Here’s where things get a little weird because here is where I discuss an internet thing that you might not have heard of. It’s called Unboxing. It’s a thing, especially on YouTube, where people watch other people unwrap, or unbox, some new item from its factory-sealed packaging. Millions of people watch people unbox stuff, and the best unboxers have followings that earn them big bucks in this strange, bizarre internet economy. Why do I bother writing books when I could unbox instead?

So for today, let’s consider ourselves to be part of this weird cult and let’s unbox, with the added attraction that, at the end, I will reveal the most perfect plates from which to fork up your dinner.

This unboxing experience comes to you thanks to a fabulous site, replacements.com, that will find the old stuff that matches the old stuff in your cupboards.

While we unbox (let’s face it, this really only works in video) let us think back upon the events in Las Vegas, which still bother me and, I’m sure, haunt you Dear Readers as well. The best we can do for each other is to do as was advised by Ms. Moon at  Bless Our Hearts:

Let’s try to be one of those people who remind others that this world is not all bad.

I think that’s the sanest thing I’ve heard in all the words that have been spoken and written about the great loss of life in Nevada, and is why I’m unboxing dinner plates and queuing up lots more cat photos for you all today. I’m trying to be one of those people.

Are you ready?

Ta-da: These are, in my expert opinion, the best dinner plates ever designed by mankind except for the Wedgwood that we only use for Thanksgiving because we don’t deserve to use it every day:

I looked closely at the stocking labels and yeah, that seemed about  right:

The word “snot” always makes me laugh.

For the record, SNOTETY stands for Studio Nova Terrace Twist, Yellow. Apparently these plates also come in red, white, and gray. But yellow is the best.

Replacements.com only had 7 of these yellow plates and I bought them all. In my original collection I only had three of them. Now I have 8 and I feel rich. (It doesn’t take much.) They were $7.99 per plate and I also found out from Replacements.com that my plates came out in the long lost year of — wait for it — 1987. I love the idea of having the ’80s on my table.

Here’s how good my favorite breakfast looks on these ’80s plates:

Toasted ciabatta bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pink Tibetan salt. Because I’m fancy.

The  only down side to this life-enhancing unboxing experience is that the plates came with a crap load of packaging:

Sorry about that, world.

I promise to re-use every bit of paper and styrofoam.

Since this blog post is all about making the world a better place, here’s a picture that is sure to make most of you Dear Readers happy although, unlike unboxing, there is no known name for this thing, which I will call: This Is My Kitchen, But That Is Not My Cat:

Top Cat and I came home one evening to find Dennis, our next door neighbor’s cat, in the kitchen. He had hopped in for breakfast that morning and I forgot that e was in the house and he forgot to leave. I am saying right here and now that finding your neighbor’s cat sitting in your kitchen like he owns the place should be a thing. A huge thing.

See that small pot on the stove? That is my Tea Kettle of Perfection. I got it about six months ago and it has made me happy every day, sometimes twice a day.

Yes, it’s just a regular one quart Calphalon pot, but it’s the best tea kettle I’ll ever have because, for one, I like a tea kettle that I can clean inside of.  For two, it has a glass lid so I can see when the water is boiling, which I just get a kick out of. And for three, it has a nice rubber-coated handle so I can lift the lid easily and not get my fingers steamed off.

For a person who thinks the word “snot” is hilarious, I have very connoisseur taste in tea pots, n’est-ce pas? 

And now for keeping the promise I made before the unhappiness in Las Vegas happened. This is how you can get your own happy daily flower from Claude Monet’s own garden in Giverny . . .

. . . in the form of a lovely desk calendar, photographed by Giverny resident and Monet garden tour guide Ariane Cauderlier.

The Monet’s garden calendar is on good, heavy paper stock, nice and glossy, very luxurious. Because it is a perpetual calendar, it can be used over and over, for many years to come, and it is only sold in Giverny.  It’s very easy to buy one for everyone you know because Ariane accepts payment by Paypal, and the French government charges minimal postage to send this anywhere in the world because, as an artifact of French culture, this calendar is shipped under special, very inexpensive, government rates. The total cost, postage included, is 26 US dollars or 22.50 euros.  France wants you to have this calendar!

You can contact Ariane at Giverny News and brush up on your French while you’re at it. (Ariane speaks and writes perfect English, and a few other languages as well. But not Strine.)

This is today’s photo from Giverny, of Claude Monet’s dining room, by Ariane (on her blog, Giverny News). Please note the plate in the center of the table, under the vase. Look familiar?

And as another treat, Ariane sent me more cat photos from Claude Monet’s world famous garden in Giverny for your viewing pleasure. Please meet Eden, the dear heart who reigned over the Clos Normand until last Winter, when she crossed the rainbow bridge:

Eden in Eden:

Todays’s special Wednesday post was brought to you by my favorite flower of all:

The Cosmo.

I am glad that through all the chaos and noise, that you, Dear Reader, have found your way to this gentle corner of the cosmos where teapots, Giverny cats, perpetual flowers, and 1980s dinner plates are a thing.

And because I haven’t said it in a while, der Drumpf is still a huge, slimy, steaming piece of shit who makes the world a terrible place with every utterance from his pig-eyed face and every Tweet from his short, fat, worm-like fingers.

See you back here on Friday.

xoxo

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I adore the  State Flag of Maryland:

Photo credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM on Flikr

There are 50 states in the USA and this is the only one that has what I call style. The colors and shapes are so unexpected, so discordant, so difficult to pull off in that limited amount of space, yet it holds together like an epic poem reduced to haiku; like the way the weirdly plastic flavors of Cool Ranch Doritos pairs outstandingly well with an ice cold Grand Marnier margarita; like the way the audacious and sophisticated cord progressions in a Burt Bacharach song (like, in Alfie) take you by surprise and yet seem so right. Like that. I really, really love this flag.

Marylanders also have a State Cat, chosen on the same design principles and esthetic as their State Flag:

Right. The State Cat of Maryland is the Calico.

So, yeah, I’m fairly sure that by now you and me both think Maryland is pretty much our favorite state in the union. And now you can understand why a person of culture and taste might get a strong desire to visit Maryland and why last week I, being such a person, ventured off my Isle of Long and drove down to The Free State:

Once I rolled onto Maryland soil I kew I was south of the Mason-Dixon line because I followed this homeboy for about a mile, laughing all the way. It looked hugely funny, the way this Chevy seemed to be coming apart at the seems at approx. 60 miles per hour, bumper flapping in the breeze the way a bumper should never, ever, flap in the breeze.  Ha ha ha ha.

Well, I laughed about it until I pictured what would happen if the damn thing actually fell off (which I then hit, spin into on-coming traffic, and die) so I veered onto the nearest exit towards the reason for my visit to The Free State:

Marilyn: Note the sleeveless top. I’m 9 years away from proving to myself that I can achieve my new goal in life, which is wearing a sleeveless top with no shame when I’m 70.

You might remember how, several months back, on a cold late Winter day, a skinny, straggly, smelly, and sick stray cat wandered into my back yard, and how I couldn’t take him in because I needed to take in another cat like I need to take a joy ride over some Maryland guy’s Chevy bumper, but you might not know that a Dear Reader of this very blog saw the forlorn Mr. Fluffy here and decided this was a match made in Kitty Heaven.  So after Mr. Fluffy got his bill of health from the vet, we enacted some inter-state Cat Commerce and Mr. Fluffy was exported to Maryland, and this was the first time I got to visit a new and improved Mr. Fluffy in his forever home.

Mr Fluffy loves his forever people, and his forever people love him, and all this love has made Mr. Fluffy fat and beautiful. Just another reason why I LOVE Maryland.

Texas, however, can go fuck itself.

In the fiscal year 2011 – 2012 Texas — yes, TEXAS — received more federal disaster relief aid than any other state due to wildfires there in 2011.

And then in October 2012, Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast of America, crippling the country’s most densely populated region with a 600-mile long swath of destruction.

So of course every Texas Republican in Congress (except for the guy from Houston, Rep. Joh Culbertson) voted against disaster relief aid for New York and New Jersey — that’s 20 in the House and both Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Republican claims that the Super Storm Sandy aid bill was loaded with pork-barrel spending have been proven false time and again. The Texas Republicans were just being dicks. They are being their usual greedy, self-righteous, white-supremist, anti-women, “Christian”, small-government-hypocritical dicks.

Jeff Sessions, currently Attorney General, was a Senator at the time and he also voted against Super Storm Sandy aid. His home state of Alabama is one of those Southern Republican states (inc. Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina) that sucks vast amounts of federal money out of Washington D.C., way more than what they put in, so that 34.9% of Alabama state spending comes from taxpayers who live thousands of miles away from that shit hole.

Republican lawmakers from Long Island (where I live) have reminded the Texans’ of their stand against Big Government in 2012 but have said that there will no hard feelings when it’s time for them to vote for Hurricane Harvey aid. Don’t worry, Texas, our New York and New Jersey federal tax dollars will go to help those poor people suffering in the wake of this terrible disaster. Yeah, yeah,yeah; it’s the right thing to do, we are all Americans together, etc.

That doesn’t mean that Texas . . . at least those parts that send Republican dicks to Washington . . .  can’t still go fuck itself.

Dear me, dear me. . . Is that kind of language unbecoming to a woman my age? Shouldn’t a lady of my mature years refrain from telling Texas to go fuck itself? Or is the fact that I can still get so riled up at smarmy-mouthed self-serving lying bastards a fabulous sign of vim and engagement with Things That Matter? (Spoiler alert: I think this opinion polled is rigged.)

Aging gracefully means something different these days than it used to mean.

This is what 58 Years Old looked like in 1954:

This is me at 61 Years Old in 2017:

I used this photo of me because all the 58-year old celebrities I found pix of have obviously had “work” done. And I happen to be wearing blue.

OK, OK; everybody looks awesome compared to Mamie Eisenhower (for those who don’t remember, Mamie was the wife of our 34th President, Dwight Eisenhower), but that was fun.

But the consensus from last week’s Comments was that the years 60 – 80 are, as experienced by our Dear Readers, can be a whole lot of fun, mostly because it’s the age at which one becomes more skilled at impropriety. Like Gigi said, every day is a once-in-a-lifetime galaxy event, through which we dance as if we have diamonds on the soles of our shoes whether they are Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choos.

Full disclosure. I tried on a pair of Birkenstock shoes once. They made me cry.

I’m agreed with Becky and Jeanie and Monique: the arts keep you from miles away from becoming the kid of old lady who yells at the TV all day.

Claude Monet, mourning the death of both his wife and his son and with his nation mired in the stalemate of slaughter that was World War I, responded to well-wishers on his 75th birthday with these words: “I am happy to let you know that I am more and more passionate about my work, and that my greatest pleasure is to paint and to enjoy nature.

His biographer Charles Merrill Mount wrote about Monet in his 70s: …that cagy resolute crank determinedly struck a defiant attitude. No one expected from him more than intermittent vitality…Instead he boldly embarked on the largest and most protracted work of his lifetime.

This is just one mural in the Grandes Decorations. There’s 7 more where this came from.

That’s what Monet did during the last years of his life: he painted the Grandes Decorations, the 8 murals that line the walls of a specially-built oval gallery in Paris. See? THINKING BIG can happen at any age.

I’ve had some Big Thoughts in my life. Going to Paris for the first time, when I was 19, that was a Big Thought, maybe the biggest one I ever had. 

The last Big Thought I had was  two years ago when I got Top Cat to go on a walk across England along Hadrian’s Wall with me. Well, on second thought, maybe that was just a Slightly Larger Than Average Thought; after all, all it took was money and time.  And we were certainly not the first, nor the oldest, nor the youngest, nor the fastest, to walk from Newcastle to Bowness.

A really Big Thought should take more personal, creative effort, don’t you think? Something that only You, and You Alone, could conceive and achieve?

I will think on this and report back.

In the meantime, this weekend in America we say Good-Bye to the Summer of ’17.

Labor Day — the first Monday in September —  signals the un-ofifcial (but heartfelt) end of Summer in the U S of A. One last True Summer day dream, one last True Summer sweet sorrow. Let us observe a moment of silence for What Might Have Been. (Oh,Summer, why do you burn so bright only to smolder into the most regretful season of the year?)

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone. May all your beverages and your thoughts be super-sized.

**The Maryland flag bears the arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. Calvert was the family name of the Lords Baltimore who founded Maryland, and their colors of gold and black appear in the first and fourth quarters of the flag.

Crossland was the family of the mother of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. The red and white Crossland colors, with a cross bottony, appear in the second and third quarters.

So now you know.

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So this showed up in my backyard last Tuesday:

But I had nothing to fear, thanks to my crack team of Security Experts (Taffy and Bibs), who utilized their best Stink Eye maneuver to keep The Dastardly Mr. Fluffy at bay. . .

Mr. Fluffy is actually a very sweet kitty who is obviously a lost house cat. But he’s long overdue for his rendezvous with destiny so I’ve made appointments for him too visit the vet, to make him less likely to roam; unfortunately it’s not until Wednesday. Riding herd on a randy Tom Cat is, honestly, more work than I am in the mood for. We’ve searched for flyers and “Lost” posters in the neighborhood but no one seems to be missing this sweetie and NO, we are NOT looking for ANOTHER cat to add to our posse so if anyone knows of anyone who would like to adopt a smart and gentle Maine Coon, I will personally deliver within a 90-mile radius of Oyster Bay, Long Island.

The news came a few hours after I posted last week’s blog that der Drumpf’s idiotic health care repeal had been effectively defeated by his own party. Oh, lordy, it was just what the doctor ordered: a big fat dose of relief and overjoy! Because of this gift of uplift I am a better, kinder person: I sing to myself, I turn on You Tube and dance, I give people the benefit of the doubt (at least half the time, no matter how un-freaking deserving they are of my patience and I’m talking to you, lady at Costco who held up the checkout line while you searched the boggy depths of your handbag for the elusive credit card that you should have had ready in your hand because, surprise, it’s the CHECK OUT LANE), I foster stray cats when I need another cat in this  house like I need a hole in the head, I am delighted by the small moments of pleasure that have gone unnoticed in these past four months, and I sleep at night like I’m in the middle of a kitty puddle of snooze:

I even got word of a debut novel about another sexually-abused autistic teenager and did not despair for what passes as literature these days. At least there’s not a dog fight in it, or a multi-generational saga from the mean streets of Detroit. See? I’m all about the silver linings!

Last Christmas someone gave Top Cat a gift certificate to Red Robin restaurant. Top Cat and I are not Red Robin kind of people. But last Friday we were in a good mood and decided to not be ourselves and we went for a dine-out at the local Red Robin. I don’t know why these kinds of places are in business when there’s a perfectly authentic Cajun restaurant in a trailer not two miles away, but there you are. Before I received my cold black beans and barely warm “mac’N’cheese” (it was elbow macaroni smothered in a lukewarm cream sauce of some kind) I was served a glass of chardonnay in the filthiest tumbler I have ever seen this side of a Bangalore recycling bin. I handed the foul vessel back to the waiter and yet, I was still in such a good mood that I privately thanked the slovenly bartender for disgusting me — no overindulging on Happy Hour wine for V. Swift, that’s for sure! In fact, I think I might be sober the rest of my life. All I have to do is conjure up the memory of that spittle-encrusted glass and I turn into a tea totaler. At the end of our “meal” at Red Robin we had a largish balance on this gift certificate, which Top Cat gave to the waiter because neither of us has any intention of ever returning to this place ever again.

I should mention that it is cold and rainy today here on the Isle of Long, as I type this on Friday morning. Every cat-body is in the house today, as it is too gloomy and muddy to be prancing around the estate, so that in addition to the regular crew of six who inhabit these rooms, plus the guest in the downstairs powder room, I have the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, in for day care:

Dennis is such a frequent visitor that he has his own spot, on his own pillow atop a cabinet in the basement.

Steve showed up on the front porch as usual for breakfast, but has since then been curled up in his cubby in the garage, that’s how lousy the weather is today:

But it’s still sunshine and flowers in VivianWorld, which I was able to paint this week!

I have to remind you that I am actually not a painter, I am an illustrator, and as such I hack my watercolor to get certain effects. Last week I wanted to paint flowing water, and here’s how I hacked it:

I used masking fluid to map out some “swirls” in the water:

Then I removed the masking fluid, exposing the white, unpainted paper underneath:

Then I painted in a thin, color-matched line inside the empty space:

I turned the picture on its side, just as shown here, because it’s easier to paint these lines smoothly when you use your brush in an up-and-down motion, rather than a side-to-side (if you ask me). Here’s how it looks with painted-in:

I think this is a perfectly fine facsimile of rippling water, and it couldn’t be easier!

DONE:

Remember, I have a darling Maine Coon kitty that needs a home and forget about the 90-mile limit I posted (above). I once drove a cat to Rhode Island (where he found his perfect forever people) so I’m willing to go as far as one tank of gas in my hybrid car. That’s about 550 miles. OK, two tanks if you have the perfect forever home for this guy.

Have a great weekend, everyone — do a Happy Dance against der Drumpf!

 

 

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Last week’s painting:

I give it a 5 out of 10. And that’s only because I’m looking at it cross-eyed and from across the room and there’s a really nice CD playing in the background which puts me in a good mood, namely Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, and because, by my count, there are only 310 minutes left in the day in which I have to stay sober and that makes me very happy indeed.

So, this (above) is a 5-out-of-10 picture. Well, I am not a 5-out-of-10 kind of person. Nope. Not me.

So today I am going to take out another piece of paper from my stash of specially-cut 90-lb Canson  (perfect for doodles) . . .

. . . and I am going to do this:

Yes, this week I am at it again, only this time I’m going to start the bleeds from the top (Literally. You can check out last week’s painting — I started the bleed at the bottom last week, which was very whimsical of me):

Next, I’m dabbing in a really strong gray here (below), which would appear to be far too dark except for my secret knowledge that this paint will turn much lighter than this when it dries:

While the pic is still wet . . .

. . . I will “pick up” some of the paint (again, this is different from last week’s strategy):

I used a hair drier to get this show on the road, which is why there is an unsightly puddle there on the right edge. Guess what’s going to be cropped out at the end of this pic???

Feeling much less ham-handed today than I did last week, I am using my China White watercolor here for this next step, instead of acrylic, since I really loathed the way I could not control the acrylic paint the last time I attempted this:

Today let’s see what happens when I “shadow” these white trees like this:

And then, let’s see how it looks when I paint in the background come ca:

I’ve always said that the only thing that makes me a decent painter is not that I have innate talent; it’s because I’m willing to PRACTICE until I can turn a 5-out-of-10 skill into at least a 7-out-of-10 aptitude. This is AFTER:

And this was BEFORE:

All I can say is that it’s BETTER. Not good, but BETTER. And if you keep at it, my darlings, you can not help but get better and better and better, even if (and this is the lesson of this week’s post) the range of improvement isn’t drastic, it’s still worth it to try, try, try, try again. Example follows.

This week, I am painting this:

I’m doing just the one tree, in the front there. I don’t recall ever painting a snow-drenched ever green before so this is all new to me and you can watch me work it out from step one.

I begin by taking a good look at this photo, to map out where I will NOT be painting — the secret to painting snow is that YOU DON’T PAINT IT. The important thing to understand is that you will be painting around the snow, leaving only blank white paper to “stand in” for the shite stuff.

So, having thought about what I won’t be painting in this tree, I put down just a few pencil lines to indicate the shape of the tree:

I’m using a blue-gray paint because evergreens rarely look green on a snowy day, right?

I’m working with very diluted (watery) paint:

Now I’m painting around the “snow” (which calls for a lot of self-control and attention(:

Of course, since it was a first attempt, it STINKS:

My big mistake was that I had tried to “shade” a big hunk of snowy branch in the middle of the tree with pale blue but it didn’t work. And there is no finesse with the way I’ve laid down the paint inside the tree. I obviously have a lot of room for improvement.

So what do I do?

I try it again, and again, and again. (My final attempt is the one on the lower right.)

Here’s a close up of me using watercolor over those pencil makes I drew on the paper as guide lines for my painting:
Now that I look at this pic in this un-finished state, I kind of like the way this tree looks. Maybe it’s not necessary to paint a background for it after all. Hmmmmmmm. [Pause for thought.]

I will probably incorporate this idea into my painting for next week, when I attack the problem of How To Paint a Deciduous Tree in Winter (see below, the one with all the pointy branches going every which way):

And then I’ll put it all together and we will have a complete Winter scene:

OTHER STUFF:

To answer your lovely inquiries about our calico cat, Candy, who returned from her three-month vision quest last November looking much, much the worse for wear, and hunkered down in one corner of the kitchen from which she refused to budge because, having lived with us for 9 years now, she knows that basically we are serial cat murderers who can’t be trusted to get within 10 feet of her.

Candy stared out curled up on the bare floor, but I was able to pull a fast one and get her a small hand towel to ward off the chill (it’s November her perch in the kitchen is near the back door and we live in a 100-year old house that is as hard to keep heated as a birdcage anyway):

One day, taking advantage of her dinner break one evening, I managed to slip an additional fuzzy wuzzy blankie under her to make her old bones a tad more comfy:

Then one day I did the unpardonable. I tucked a heating pad in between the folds of that pink blankie, which was an objectionable level of comfort that Candy refused to have any part of. She abandoned the kitchen and found a “safe” corner on the hard wood of our living room, which meant that  yes, I had to finally wash the kitchen floor, but also meant that I didn’t have to vacuum the L.R. because we still consider Candy a flight risk (yay!) Eventually I was able to sabotage her perch there:

But you know how cats have a thing for not doing what you wish they would do. One day some big boxes full of packing material got delivered to the house, and we unpacked them and carefully arranged the packing material in a place where I would get to them on my next thorough cleaning day basically when hell freezes over, so here is where Candy now spends her days, giving us the stink eye:

BTW, Candy is the mother of two out of three of these lunk heads:

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your Comments and B-day wishes. You are all so kind and caring and I am grateful to have you all in my mind and heart when I sit at this computer and type my report on cats and cups of tea and countdowns to cocktail time.

Here’s to us, my Wonder Ones, on this strange and mournful day:

 

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The last time we saw Candy, our calico cat who came to us 9 years ago, was when she went on walk-about on September 1.

This is the last photo I took of her, napping with her boy Taffy in their favorite place for nappage (the leather love seat in the den):

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Last Friday, on November 18, Candy showed up on our back doorstep. She’s much thinner, very dirty, and very wary of us and the house. So far, in 7 days, she has not left the kitchen — her favorite spot is by the dining room door, from where she can keep the entire room and its hallyway entrance in sight:

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It took me four days to get her to use this little towel, instead of curling up on the cold hard floor.

Baby steps. We’ll get her back, in baby steps.

I’m making my way back in baby steps. Very angry, very vengeful, very disgusted baby steps. I don’t have many positive thoughts to share lately, which is why I am keeping to myself these days. I am still pretty damn pissed off. And it just gets worse — how did I miss the news that Mike Pence was such a self-righteous pious-mouthed slime-ball ass-hatful-shit-stain?

Tea. I need tea:

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That’s Taffy, posing with my big box 0’P G Tips tea (“240 lovely cups of tea”) and the quart-sized jar of honey we get from a local beekeeper who delivers that stuff to our door.

My best advise to you all, WonderOnes, is to treat yourselves to a good cup of tea as needed.

Taffy also advises, it’s better when you can share it with a friend:

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I’m sorry, Wonder Ones, Dear Readers, and people who searched “One By One The Penguins In My Backyard Are Stealing My Sanity” and ended up here. I have nothing soothing, enlightened, hopeful, or mature to say today. Nope. Can’t even fake it. And I can hardly type this because of the tears in my eyes.

And here’s a warning to the world:

This is not the time to fuck with me. I am full of rage and I don’t mind sharing it up close and personal.

All I got is something that my No. 6 cat (in order of acquisition), Bibs, gave me yesterday:

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You could hear him purring all the way down the hall.

I hope you find your sunbeam today.

 

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It’s so good to see you all again!
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One too may vodka tonics for Taffy.

Come to think of it, “One Too Many Vodka Tonics” would be a good way to summarize my August vacation.

While you were gone we got a good old fashioned heat wave here on Long Island, 99 degrees for days on end, which necessitated the numerous inhaling of ice cold refreshments because, duh: health. Also, Top Cat’s tomatoes started to ripen in force, I found 6 more Blue Jay feathers, and I got at least 12 more bad ideas for books that I won’t write.

I also had a great adventure, which I am going to tell you all about in the post that immediately follows this one. Yes, it’s the one titled: Is That, Or Is That Not, a Corgi?   (see below)

 

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It’s like finding an early morning treasure when I come across Dennis, our recently-acquired feral freeloader, on the back patio when I go out to feed him at 6 o’clock in the morning — isn’t this a great way to start the day?:

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And, sometimes, there’s other treasures out there, awaiting me:

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You might remember that in last week’s blog post I demanded that the Universe send me a damn Blue Jay tail feather (for my collection). Well, later that same day, after sending my peevish request out into the infinite benevolent indifference, I was cleaning out my refrigerator and I smacked my head really hard and good against the corner of the freezer door handle, and it hurt like being jabbed with a hot pocker and smacked with a sledgehammer at the same time (I’m guessing) and is an injury that is only possible because I have this kind of out-of-style refrigerator:prod_2041918312

A bump on the head is how the English actress Natasha Richardson died (in 2009) and is what killed Michel de Montaigne’s brother (in 1569). So I took care to notice any symptoms of double vision or confusion the rest of the day until bedtime, at which time I warily laid myself down to sleep with the thought that if I don’t die during the night, I would most likely wake up the next morning and sincerely thank my lucky stars (and you well know that in my case, I do that literally; the “stars” being the Sun and Deneb Algedi).

And I did wake up the next morning, and the first thing I did do was promise the day that I would love it and treasure it. And then I forgot about it as I got out of bed and put Top Cat’s coffee on and fed the indoor cats and cleaned litter boxes and headed out to the back yard to give Dennis Whiskerbottoms his breakfast. And then came the small jolt of electricity when I saw the Blue Jay feather right at my tootsies.

Without meditation, without searching, even without being the least bit mindful of my endless quest for Blue Jay feathers and their purpose to remind me to pay astonished attention to life, there was my treasure, as if delivered right directly to me. I was reaching down to grab it into my chubby mitt when I remembered that such a momentous find needed to be photographed in situ:

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I know it looks staged, but I can’t help it if the Universe is a tad ham-handed when it comes to depositing Her gifts at the feet of a wretch like me, and I promise that this is a true story:

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And yeah, it’s a tail feather.

I KNOW! Life is like a dream! If, that is, you dream of Blue Jay feathers! Thank you, Blue Jays and Universe!

You know who else gives me dreams?

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I have Taylor Swift to thank, from the bottom of my heart, every time I make a reservation or leave a message or make an appointment and I don’t have to spell my last name, S like Sam, W, I, F like Frank, T like Tom. And it would still end up as Smith or, most of the time during the 11-year run of the television show M*A*S*H, Swit.

Loretta Swit is a fine actress and exemplary animal rights and military veteran rights activist, but I don’t like her last name and I absolutely hated the inevitable “joke” whenever a stranger heard my name: Any relation to Hot Lips, ha ha?! I must have heard that “joke” thousand times in my 20s. No wonder I can’t stand people.

Taylor Swift is her generation’s Joni Mitchell, a brilliant singer/songwriter dream girl who is always ahead of fashion, and always has the hottest boyfriends. (If you don’t know Joni’s dating history, here’s partial list from back when these guys were the topper-most hot guys: James Taylor, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and I think one or two of the Byrds.)

Until recently, Taylor Swift was the long-time girlfriend (15 months, which is almost a decade in famous pop star years) of a handsome, 32-year old  6’5″ multi-millionaire DJ and Scotsman named Calvin Harris:

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They were such a cute couple. But they did break up and shortly after they went to splitsville, I began having infrequent but repetitive dreams that I was back in my 20s. That alone would be a most excellent reason for me to wish for 12 hours of sleep every night, but wait there’s more. In my dreams, there’s also a young man, courting me, with a fervor and sweetness that only happened once in my real 20s, back when a book shop co-worker confessed that he had a crush on me and thought I was so adorable that if I were a dog, I’d be a collie.

I dreamt of that same scenario last night, only this time the dog-allusive young man gave me a gift that I was able to inspect in detail, and then later remember in detail after I woke up. It was a necklace, a fine gold chain on which were strung white pearls alternating with polished rock crystal spheres of a very beautiful type. Namely, colorless rutilated quartz:

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Photo from the internet, curtesy of mineralminers.com.

I guess you can tell that I am a certified gemologist (from waaaaay back); I hardly ever dream of jewelry but when I do, I tend to be very specific about the gems. But rutilated quartz? That’s a new one. I didn’t know I liked it enough to dream about it. (FYI: I can not think of a way to put pearls and rutilated quartz beads on a gold chain, since piercing the quartz would pretty much ruin the effect of the rutile inclusions.)

It was while I was pondering upon this jeweled necklace that I figured out why I was dreaming these weird happy dreams of dating.

It’s because I’ve been closely following Taylor Swift’s new romance with the elegant and sexy actor Tom Hiddleston because yes, I read the Daily Mail.com every day so sue me.  Tom Hiddleston is 35 (9 years older than Taylor), 6’2″, from a very classy family, English with a Scottish father, Eton and Cambridge educated. They met at the 2016 Met Gala and, in my opinion, he fell for her like a ton of rutilated quartz and swept her off her feet as soon as she became available. I like her with him.

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So I’ve been feeding my mind lots of Taylor Swift romance and my brain only hears the Swift part before it jumps to conclusions, i.e., that the Swift it knows best is the Swift who was once favorably compared to a collie, so I’m dreaming about my old romance when I was Taylor Swift’s age. I’m old enough to have been Taylor Swift’s kindergarten teacher. Should I feel creepy?

Other follow-up from last week: I did make contact with the Cat Lady three streets over and she graciously gave permission to TNR her crew of feral freeloaders, so: YAY! Master trapper Susan has captured 9 of these guys so far, including the very sick one that we were out worried about.

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Three Desperados (out of 15)

And as for Steve, well, he’s still Steve on our front stone wall, sleeping off a two-course dinner of Friskie’s Turkey & Giblets pâté and more Friskie’s Turkey and Giblets pâté, and dreaming of a three-course dessert of Friskie’s anything:

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And, without segue, here are pictures from my little village on July 4th, Independence Day, America’s 240th birthday:

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And, for obvious reasons, my favorite:

P1080282Sweet dreams, everyone.

 

 

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If not for watching the Blue Jays in my backyard, I’d be licking batteries, or kayaking, or whatever it is that people do to alleviate their boredom.

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I used to think that I could never get tired of life because the world was so damn interesting that I’d have to stay alive just to find out what happened next. The tip-top height of my enthusiasm over the goings-on of this little rock adrift in the Universe was the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, when I watched my fellow citizens of Planet Earth tear down a hateful ideology, joyously, hand by hand, with the whole world tuning in on their TVs to be there in spirit and celebration. Wow, I remember saying to myself, with pride in and hope for humanity; The 1990s are going to be awesome!

I don’t have to tell you how desperately I mis-read the situation. The 1990’s sucked, the 2000’s sucked a thousand times worse, and the 20-teens’s are trying their best to convince me that life (in the words of memoirist Mary Karr) is really nothing more than a shit-eating contest.

Thank DoG for these cat-food eating Blue Jays with the collectible feathers molting in my backyard.

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This is a Blue Jay choosing dry cat food over luscious sunflower seeds. The tiny little yellow pellets — millet? — are always the last to go.

You see, in addition to my weariness with current events, I am also still not writing a new book, meaning that I am effectively unemployed. And it’s horrible. I like to work. I’m happy when I’m working…or, I should say, I’m less un-happy when I have work to do — I’m a Capricorn. We are not life-of-the-party people.

So I spend my days trying to keep sane by finding things to do. I color-code teveryhing hanging in my closet. I find fault with my home furnishings. I wonder how closely related I am to Taylor Swift (who is perfect, so shut up). I research YouTube for videos of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking French (he’s perfect, even with his heavy Canuk accent, so shut up*****). It’s all very useful stuff, but it’s not real work.

Studs Terkel used his hammer-like intellect to hit the boredom-nail right on the head when he observed that work is about the search “for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

I found that quote in the introduction to Dave Isay’s excellent new book about people and the purpose and passion of their work, called Callings. Who knew that to the guy at Zabar’s deli counter, slicing lox is his calling?

I don’t, as of this writing, have a book that needs to exist in the world calling out to me, but I do hear the call of Blue Jays. So until further notice, collecting Blue Jay feathers is pretty much my job.

And so, as this is Take Your Blog Readers To Work Day here in VivianWorld, I’m going to take you with me as I do a search for All Things Feathery and Blue, which is the only way I know how to not let the terrorists win.

Starting out, I know that those Blue Jay feathers are already out there — all I have to do is find them. And if mind-mowing my front and back lawns doesn’t yield a plume or two, I start eyeballing the fringes of my acre of Earth. This is a neglected patch of old mulch near the garage:

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The camera lies.

Because to my eyes, that teeny little Blue Jay feather amidst all that dead brown stuff is glowing like bright, hot, blue-glowing thing:

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Sorry this picture is out of focus. The camera, again, misses the point.

Then I walked across the street and examined the rubbish along the curb for the same phenomena, which was bound to happen:

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See it now?

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Five minutes later, in the shade of a hemlock tree, it was pretty easy to be hit by another blot of tiny blue lightning:

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If you are keeping count, that’s three in one day. But wait . . . there’s still the hideous late afternoon doldrums to contend with. So there I was, with Top Cat, sitting in our Adirondack chairs in the backyard, discussing whose turn it was to fetch ice cubes for the pitcher of vodka tonics we were working on, when I happened to look down into the clover patch that I have been defending for years now against Top Cat’s urge to go all fescue, and something not-clover swam into my ken:

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There is no moral. There’s just, for the time being, four small reasons to keep the despair at bay. Plus, I haven’t found a tail feather yet (see: map of Blue Jay at the top of this blog post) and I WANT A DAMN TAIL FEATHER.

Before I go, I want to clear up the impression I might have given you, Dear Readers, last week, that I live amongst millionaires here on the north shore of the Isle of Long. Oh sure, there is the odd McMansion that goes for 1.388 million:

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But this is the mansion directly across the street from me (and just two houses down from the cut-rate Tara of above):

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One of my neighbors calls the local authorities about once a month to complain about this house, which he calls an eyesore (and it’s inhabited, by the way– by a bachelor who’s lived there since 1981), but I find it rather picturesque:

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And, in keeping with my theme of what a slum I live in, I also recently discovered a bit of a Cat Lady situation three streets over:

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I’ve been bringing food and water to these sweeties this past week, and have contacted the wonderful TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) network about the 15 feral (that I’ve counted so far, and two are seriously ill)  who live on this property, but the TNR people are all about Getting Permission from the Home Owner, and I’m all about trespassing the hell out of the place.

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This is the basement window (in the pic above) that the home owner has rigged up with a tiny kitty door so that the cats can come and go in and out of the house — check out the two white paws visible above the head of the kitten that is far right — and the lawn is kept and tidy, but the food bowls are always empty when I check and the smell is about what you’d expect when you have 15  + cats using your yard as a litter box.

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I’ve knocked on the door many times, I’ve asked the neighbors, I’ve left notes. I think I’m going to have to stake out the place to get a moment with the Cat Lady here, but no matter what she says I WILL get these cats. I’ve gone rogue before. I’m a one person Cats Protection League.

I’m sorry if reading this has raised your blood pressure — I feel my heart racing just thinking of the neglect, pure and simple, of these dear kitties going on here. Which reminds me that it’s time to TNR our new friend, Denny Whiskerbottoms, who is nothing if not fetching on a Sunday afternoon in the shed:

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Steve, as you can see below, has gone totally groovy since he was TNR’d last month; so groovy, in fact, that when I came across him sticking halfway out from under the holly bush in the side yard, I thought he was dead:

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He was just doing his Steve Yoga:

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He favorite time for getting all Zen is after diner, when the cement on the front porch is in the shade, but still warm from gathering the day’s worth of star shine:

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This is a true story: I put this exact image of Steve in my mind when I was getting my blood pressure checked last Friday; my first physical in eight years. I wanted to do well on the cardio front even though wearing those idiot paper gowns at the doctor’s office stresses me out. So I thought Steve Steve Steve, and my BP was 104 / 75. I did the same for the EKG and the doctor said to me, Wow — you have a nice slow heart beat!

So, between the bunny-butted bliss of my Manx Steve and the ever-blue joy of Blue Jays, I guess life won’t tire me out yet, and I will go forth, panther-pawed, in the ways of awe and folly.

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This is from Ray Bradbury:

Not smash and grab, but rather find and keep;
Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep
To detonate the hidden seeds with stealth
So in your wake a weltering of welath
Springs up unseen, ignored and left behind
As you sneak on, pretending to be blind.
On your return along the jungle path you’ve made
Find all the littered stuffs where you have strayed;
The small truths and the large have surfaced there
Where you stealth-blundered wildly unaware
Or seeming so. And so these mines were mined
In easy game of pace and pounce and find;
But mostly fluid pace, not too much pounce.
Attention must be paid, but by the ounce.
Mock caring, seem aloof, ignore each mile
And metaphors like cats behind your smile
Each one wound up to purr, each one a pride,
Each one a fine gold beast you’ve hid inside,
Now summoned forth in harvests from the brake
Turned anteloping elephants that shake
And drum and crack the mind to awe,
To behold beauty yet perceive its flaw.
Then, flaw discovered, like fair beauty’s mole,
Haste back to reckon all entire, the Whole.
This done, pretend these wits you do not keep,
Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep.

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For those of you who might not know, our own Dear Reader Monique, French-Canadian as all get-out and an amazing photographer, has been to Paris and her blog posts about her June journey are not to be missed. I LOVED the get-away I got just by reading all about it here.

Have a great Weekend, my velvet-footed Wonder Ones.

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It crossed my mind more than once last week, as I was tooling around the Great Pacific Northwest, that I am not as good at this travel-thing as I used to be.

I still think of myself as the intrepid 19-year old who took on the French railway system one-on-one to reserve a one-way ticket from Paris to Rome and didn’t think twice about the 20-hour trip, or the strange people I’d be bunking with in a tiny, uni-sex (the horror!) couchette on a rickety sleeper train. I stuffed a baguette and some Boursin into a plastic bag and took off.

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So here I am now, approx. 40 years later in my own native land, with a rental car and good luggage and Google maps and a platinum AmEx, and I can barely navigate myself for the three-hour drive down I-5 from Seattle to Portland. And once I arrived in the lovely precincts of Portland’s NECN (Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods), after confusing left with east for the 100th time, the best I could do — for two nights in a row (in this land that invented the gourmet locavore) — was walk to the Safeway for a do-it-yourself take-out dinner of Pop Tarts and wine. I can’t help but think that my 19-year old self would look at me as proof that travel is wasted on anyone over 30.

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Amazingly, on that epic 175-mile road trip, I had no trouble finding Exit 135, and rolled easily up to the doorstep of King’s Books in Tacoma. King’s Books, in case you do not know, is famous for its bookstore cats, Atticus. . .

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. . . (whose bio states that he was once a prize-winning rodeo rider who then became a friar, and joined the bookstore staff in 2009 where he now serves as both a shoulder-warmer and a spunky bookseller). . .

. . . and Herbert (seen below at the cash register):

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Believe it or not, but this (below) is Herbert’s Happy Face:

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My scritches had the same airplane-ears effect on Portland native Mahitabel:

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Mahitabel’s Person in Charge of Happiness, who is also a Dear Reader of this blog, rounded me up one fine morning and carted me to a handful of Portland’s great sights, such as the view from the beautiful  Tilikum pedestrian bridge of majestic Mt. Hood (a mountain named after the USS Federation starship, Excelsior class, Starfleet reg. NCC1703). Thank you, Vicki!

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Of course, the reason I was in Portland in the first place was to give the good people of Rose City the Vivian Experience at Broadway Books, a cozy Coney Island of the mind disguised as Portland’s best-hued and most lusciously-shelved independent bookstore:

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As you can see, I still do that funny thing with my mouth that bugs me whenever I see myself on video or in photos (in spite of the very kinds words of Dear Reader Kirra), and that’s not counting the crap that comes out of my mouth, meaning that I have amends to make to two lovely ladies who came to the event on May 5: both watercolor artists, they asked me about how I get such good-looking greens in my illustrations (example below):

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I must have looked puzzled by the question, because they explained that they were taught to make “color charts” in preparation for their watercolors, obviously by a teacher who really, really wants to make things as complicated as possible, and, they said, getting good greens was hard.

First of all, I was flummoxed by the whole “color chart” thing, having never heard of any such thing: I think that if your teacher makes you do color charts, that’s just your teacher trying to prove the rumor that watercolors are hard and must be taught by a professional. What crap. There. I said it: Color charts are as relevant to painting as diagramming sentences is to writing.

So, when these two sweet ladies who took the time to come out on a beautiful Thursday evening to hear me yak about myself and mentioned that, in their experience, getting good greens was hard, I proved once again to my 19-year-old self that I have indeed become a real asshole when I replied by scrunching up my face and bleating: Really?

I am ashamed that I, however inadvertently (the thesis surprised me, caught me off-guard), implied that anyone who found it hard to get good greens was worth a dismissive and snotty Really??  Instead, these lovely ladies’ question has stuck in my brain as a sorely missed opportunity for me to have asked some follow-up questions, gain some understanding of another’s process in creativity, learn something.

So, dear ladies of May 5, if you are reading this, please accept my apologies for not answering your extremely thought-provoking question and let me make amends by addressing the making of greens (which, I confess, in my ignorance of academically-accepted practices, I have never thought of as “hard”) in a future post.

Meanwhile, on one of my trips to and from the Portland Safeway, I came across this fella. . .

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. . . and this completely different black and white furry fella. . .

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. . . who, for obvious reasons, reminded me of this fella, in a village 5,000 miles away:

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Cats. The world over, they think they own the place. In the case above (Dear Reader Carol S., this is for you!), the cat in question is named Gaston, and he “owns” a little road called Rue aux Juifs in the village of Giverny, France. In the case of the Portland kitty, I don’t know that cat’s name but I do know that he’s as big a smooch as Gaston is, because when a little girl hopped off her bike to chase him down to say hello, Portland Cat did this:

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I met another of Portland’s Finest on my way to breakfast — Boo Boo, it seems, “works” at a dress shop on Alberta Street and couldn’t wait to clock in:

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What a way to start the day; a selfie with a cat named Boo Boo:

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Boo Boo must have been my spirit guide because five minutes later the universe let me check off a Top Ten item on my Before I Die Wish List and I got this breath-taking encounter:

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This is the Western Blue Jay known as the Scrub Jay — really?, bird-namers? You couldn’t do any better than “scrub jay”? Considering that blue is the rarest color in nature, and that birds with blue feathers are extraordinarily found only in the New World, and that blue is an awesome color. . . you couldn’t have found a better tag than “scrub jay”?? How about “Sunset Jay” (since it’s found where the sun sets, get it?), or “Frontier Jay” (in honor of its geography)? And that’s what I came up with after a solid 20 seconds of thought. . . cries — even “Boo Boo Jay” would have been an improvement. You namers of western blue birds stink.

Contented with my cat and bird sightings, I left Portland early on a Saturday morning to make a detour to the Oregon Coast, to a place called Seaside, to a place in that place called Beach Books:

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I got there around 11:00 am, just in time to catch Book Shop Cat Oz making his commute to work:

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Oz hoists himself up onto his window seat and checks his To Do List. EAT is the thing he took care of back in the storeroom, on his way into the office. Next item:

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SLEEP is the next item on the agenda:

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Chances of him knocking off READ before the end of the day look slim.

Adieu, sweet prince, and onward: My reason for being (that day) lay 8 miles down the road– Cannon Beach Books, whose booksellers can read readers’ minds and put in hand a reading experience that was curated specifically for you. (I saw them do it, over and over.)

Another bout of travel-induced mid-life soul searching began a few hours later, as I finished my delightful visit to the Oregon coast and got into my rental car for the drive back to Seattle. I used to be good (or so I thought) at logistics, but I hadn’t bothered to look very hard at a map when I planed this trip and booked my flight home out of Seattle. When it dawned on me (just the day before) that it would have made much more sense to fly home from Portland, the penalty to change plans at such a late date would have cost me, in dollars that my 19-year-old self would understand, five-and-a-half weeks of backpacking around the South of France.

So I drove north that late afternoon, spending four hours trying not to feel like I’ve become the kind of dopey, half-assed traveler my 19-year-old self would despise, before devoting the final 90 minutes of my Great Pacific Northwest Road Trip to repeatedly making the wrong turns on the various I-5 exits to Burien.

And just think: if I had not made the blunder of flying home to the Isle of Long from Sea-Tac airport, I would not have been able to catch this view of Mts. Rainer and St. Helens . . .

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. . . and would probably not have had the opportunity to leave my glasses on the plane (rendering me functionally blind for the next week while I awaited replacement!) or pick up a nasty pulmonary infection (that has leveled me for the past 9 days!).

Now, this is only the last half of the story (of me, half-sighted and hacking). There’s a whole other first half that I haven’t even told you about yet, in which my 19-year-old self might not look at me with all that much disgust, as I only got the car on Day Four (it was the driving that done me in) and thus greatly reduced my opportunities to act like a dip shit. I’m still an awesome pedestrian!!

Next week, my Wonder Ones, we will explore that mythical city, Seattle, in a post that I will Call:

The Side Effects of Travel

Maybe we’ll even paint something green.

This Just In: I’ve been hearing from Dear Readers this morning that the Comments button to this post is not working. Serves me right, for any number of reasons, but mostly I guess it’s to mortify my grubby need for approval (You Comment! You like me!!). While my crack team of IT interns. . .

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. . .fixes this latest glitch, you can email me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and I will re-post your dear words with tear-stained alacrity. Soon as we sort out the series of tubes.

XXOO

P.P.S. OK, it seems that the Comment thing may or may not be fixed. You are welcome to try to leave your message, or email me, or not. *Sigh*. Whatever.

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