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July 16: Top Cat finishes mowing the front yard and he comes into the house and he says to me, “Did you see the cosmo growing in the old flower bed?”

That’s the cosmo, in front of the Cosmo-O-Meter

And I said, “Hmmm… I haven’t planted cosmo seeds in three years. If there’s a cosmo plant growing, this I gotta see.”

And I kept watch every week ever since then.

July 23:

July 30:

August 6:

August 13:

August 20:

And on August 27, the same day that my brave little cosmo bloomed her first flower, Hurricane Irene threatened to flatten my dear cosmo, so I had to dig her up and bring her inside to safety:

And I thought for sure that would be the end of the brave Cosmo of 2011. But the storm passed, I put my cosmo back out in the front yard, and she’s been blooming like crazy ever since.

And this is what she looks like today, Sept 23:

I usually try to steer my blog readers clear of any sappy life lessons, but in this case it’s kind of unavoidable.

Life is wonderful.

 

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The proofs of Le Road Trip came today!

 

These pages are all set to go into production: if I have any objections I have to make then now, or forever hold my peace.

The proofs are on the same quality of paper that will be used for the book itself, so I can get a good look at how the art work will print.

Suddenly, all those homely hand-made pasted-up sheets of paper look dignified, presented in (almost) end product form.

Each sheet of proof paper holds two pages of text in numerical order. This happens to be pages six and  seven. I’m supposed to look each page over and let my production editor know if the color saturation and contrast in up to snuff.

I looked, I judged it perfect, I sent in my OK.

As far as my part in the creation of this book, my work is done.

To celebrate, Top Cat said “Let’s pack a picnic dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux and go to Morgan Park and watch the sun set tonight.”

And as we are hauling ourselves and our buffet from the parking lot to the lush lawns of Morgan Park, I say to Top Cat, “I’m putting out a request to the Universe for a Blue Jay feather tonight, so keep a look out.”

And, not a half minute later, Top Cat says to me, “Oh, here it is.”

That’s the Blue Jay feather that Top Cat almost stepped on, on our way to our picnic dinner. (That’s my dear sweet Top Cat in the background, with the picnic hamper.)

I was ecstatic, of course. And I said something like, “More! More! I want more Blue Jay feathers! This is a Blue Jay feather goldmine!!”

Top Cat tried to calm me down by saying, “Sweetie, come on, what are the chances that lightning will strike twice?”

And then he said, “Oh. Never mind.”

That’s one of the best things about my Top Cat. His magic is strong.

And as the last SkiDooer motored in to port in the last light of day, me and Top Cat were grateful that most of the 20 million people who live within a 20-mile radius of our picnic paradise decided to stay home and watch Entertainment Tonight than come out and watch the sunset.

Even though this looks fake as can be, this is for real. I took this picture with my own camera and, of  course, with my own eyes.

Life is good.

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Oh, right. Hurricane Irene.

This is my first ever attempt at taping my [any] picture window against hurricane-force winds.

Good thing Top Cat was in charge of hunting and gathering vital provisions for our bunker:

2 bottles of cheap champagne (my fave), two bottles of 2005 Bordeaux reds, two packets of tea biscuits, an angel food cake, 1.5 quarts of vanilla ice cream, and 24 Klondike bars.

And fwhat more could you want for your Impending Doom Dinner but Homemade Macaroni and Cheese?

The candlelight was a nice touch, non?

And then it started to rain with a vengeance. Of course, I could not coax my bad boy backyard feral cats indoors. This is me, hanging out my back door, trying to cajole Bibs to come bring  his ass in out of the rain:

When we woke the next morning, it was still grey and rainy and so very windy. In fact, it was the sound of the wind that really got on my nerves. So I stayed inside and soldiered through the various power outages all the live long day, thinking that Hey–this hurricane stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all.

Because I did not see for myself, until the next day, how narrowly we missed having a totally awful hurricane experience. Because this is what the house next door looked like:

That’s not a hedge in the middle of the drive way. That’s the top of a tree that collapsed across the yard…

…just barely missing the side of the house:

.

Our neighbors up the road also had a close call:

And the historic district of our beloved village also managed to escape destruction by the  very smallest [insert some measure of really, really fine distinction]:

How wierd is it that this tree (see below) fell exactly in between these two historic landmarks?

The red house on the right is the oldest house in all of Long Island, having been built by some Dutch guy in1645. The pretty blue house is also old but is from the mid-1800s and I forget why it is famous.

Top Cat and I wandered further afield and saw how broken telephone poles are repaired:

That guy in the blue shirt is one second away from telling me and Top Cat to get the hell out of their way.

And in case you’re wondering, this is how our Bibs and our patio looked The Day After (Irene):

All we got was a bunch of downed leaves.

Here at Feral Cat Mansion, All Is Well.

So have a happy holiday weekend, everyone.

And to Irene, Merci mille fois.

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Thank you, Donigan Merritt, of  Random Literary Blogging at www.doniganmerritt.blogspot.com.

Readers, Mr. Merritt is a man of taste and perception who, when he walks the early Winter-time streets of Buenos Aires, he takes pictures of things like this:

This is an old kitty keeping warm in Buenos Aires on an August Winter day.

I know! I know! We should all go to B.A. and get our cats Argentinian coats!!

Thank you, my friend Melinda, for taking her annual four thousand-mile road trip through America (she’ll go anywhere except home, in North Carolina. It’s like a 1000 degrees there).

This past week Melinda was in the little town of Champlain, New York. She stopped to admire the town’s old Town Hall, which is really very old.

And Melinda got to chatting with an elderly lady who was also looking at the old Town Hall. The lady lives in Champlain and knows this old town hall building very well, and she showed Melinda something very wonderful about the brick work of the old Town Hall:

It seems that in the olden days, the brick maker of the old Town Hall had a cat.

A cat who seemed to be very curious about the brick-making process.

I know! I know!

We  all need to live in houses made of paw-printed bricks!!

(You. Are. Welcome.)

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August is my favorite month of the year.

So I make it a point to take long slow walks on August mornings, getting a good long look at what I’ll miss most when it’s Winter.

I promise you that none of these photos were staged. But they do look too perfect to be true, don’t they?

Even the pillows look like props.

Another perfect front porch. Does the family ever come out here and set in the wicker furniture and tell tales about Summers past?

it’s got, for when Ma sets in this here rocker , a handy place to set her Long Island Iced Tea.

Two things I love about this photo:

First of all, is this not an adorable little parcel on the door step? I love brown-paper boxes with collage-like mailing bits arranged like a work of art.

And secondly, who can notbe compelled by the disinterested gaze of the house’s watchcat?

And as I stood there, snapping my photo of this doorstep, I noticed out of my peripheral vision that I had attracted the attention of another member of the household:

Yes, that’s a real cat. I know! Everything in my village is all too twee!

A Wrap around front porch:

I  want to puke from the overdose of perfection:

Yeah. Life isn’t really like this, is it?

BAtthe end of my first August Walk, I came home to find a pretty-near perfect situation going on in my backyard.

This is Blackie and Duds  fretting over Standard and Poor’s downgrading of the United States’ credit rating, so I don’t have to.

In fact, I think I need another long August walk if only to keep my mind off the economic apocalypse.

What are you doing these days to ward off the pointlessness of existence?

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I looked out of the picture in my den and I called out to Top Cat, “Come see this! The mortal enemies have called a truce!”

Usually, these two cats can’t stand the sight of each other. For two years they have been skirmishing out in the backyard, squabblingover who’s going to be head honcho, call the shots over the breakfast buffet and get first dibs on every body’s favorite door mat on the back door steps (the dry spot ,under the eaves, when it rains).

Top Cat takes a look at this scene and he shrugs, and says to me, “I can’t tell who that is.”

Can’t tell who that is???

How can that be? We only have four black cats for DoG’s sake, and they are all so very different from one another that it’s the easiest thing in the world to tell them apart!

See for yourself –here’s Timmy:

And here’s Blackie:

This is Dudley:

And this is Cindy…

…who is an indoor cat and not really part of this Black Cat Mystery but I wanted to show her to you to prove how very dissimilar all our black cats are, in appearance, attitude, body language, etc.

Right? You see it, right?

So now you tell me: who is on the stone wall?

And everyone who gets it right will receive in the mail a special print of a Vivian Swift cat painting along with a certificate for Superior Achievement in Catology.

Deadline for this contest is noon, Eastern Standard Time, on Saturday July 30.

Please leave your two names (either Timmy, Blackie, and/or Dudley) in the Comments below and if you are correct I will contact you for your home address so I can send you your prestigious credential, suitable for framing.

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Another week of sad, heartbreaking, awful, terrible news.

I was sitting on my patio.  It was 86 degrees at 7:30 am. The air was  numbingly still, suffocatingly hot (week long heat wave: not good) . I was already exhausted by the weather, the news, and the future.

My head drooped, my eyes barely focused on the bricks on our patio.

That’s where I found my sanity.

Do you see it?

That’s because it’s a tiny bit camouflaged, lying in wait (being aerodynamically designed to land up-side down). Raisons d’etre tend to fall into your life that way.

Let me turn it over for you:

It’s a Blue Jay tail feather, the center tail feather — the one around which the bird’s symmetry is arrayed.

 

No scientist would have the nerve to invent such a thing, the way its form and pattern meshes so effortlessly.

No artist would dare invent such a color, a cool steel-blue that shimmers hot turquoise like a flash of lightning.

This is the kind of miracle that you only get in nature, as a gift, just for paying attention,on this planet that seems determined to kill itself with sorrow.

In the quantity of joy this Blue Jay feather brought me on the morning that I found it under the rhododendron tree, this little little occasion of beauty and surprise, the world was redeemed. At least for the day.

Well, at least for the rest of the morning.

 

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Some of us think Summer is the time to slack off.

Some of us think it’s a great time to go to an air-conditioned thrift shop!

Today I took a trek into the village to check out the Junior League Thrift Shop. I live in a fancy town. IThere might be an unnoticed Dior or St. Laurent hanging here.

Or not.

But I can’t resist old LPs. I have a weakness for great album cover art of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

(Those records are a mobile hanging from the ceiling, made of one 45, one 75, and one 33 RPM piece of plastic. Cool, huh? )

And I think I discovered here the Most Boring Album Cover in the World:

Some Big Band recorded a live album in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. LPs cost 25 cents each…I actually debated about whether or not I should buy this. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes. I bought it.

I loved these chairs, though, but I didn’t buy them.

I almost didn’t go look at the books because  lordy, I Do Not Need More Books.

Especially a book that looks a dull as this one:

My first impression of this book, judging it by its cover, was that this was an old guide book from the early 1980s to some Eastern European country. It looks totally un-enticing and I would have let it remain in the Bargain Bin of 20 cent hardback books…but I noticed that there was a little Union Jack flag on the bottom corner , meaning that this had an English translation inside.

The title of this book is: A Dream Journey Through Sweden.

Dromresan. Means Dream Journey in Swedish.

Good to know.

So I picked up the book and flipped through it. And a card fell out.

BTW, that’s a European butterfly hovering over that weird green cake, called a Peacock, le Paon-du-jour (Peacock of the Day) in French. Now that you know it’s name, you’ll see it in a lot of it in European art.

It’s been a long time since something spiffy fell out of a book for me. And a Swedish Birthday Card is what I call a JACKPOT.

Thank you, Universe; Thank you.

 

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One thing I liked about Seattle is that it shares my feelings about the magnitude of a good cup of tea (left) in relation to a cup of coffee (right). Here’s what  tea-drinking heaven looks like:

You never know, in Seattle, where the perfect gustatory experience will reveal itself. Top Cat and I walked all over our University Park area on our first morning of the Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour and we could not find one single cute quaint achingly chic hipster-Seattle breakfast experience. Hunger got the better of us so we stopped in at (what I thought was) a one-off neighborhood establishment called Burger Master. (Turns out it’s a local chain.)

The place was clean, well-lighted, and full of regulars that looked like truck driving college professors. And the best thing was that if you order tea, they give you a choice of half a dozen black, green, and herbal teas. AND THEN THEY GIVE YOU A BACK UP TEA BAG.

Burger Master is the ONLY PLACE ON EARTH where that happens.

“We’re coming here every morning,” I told Top Cat.

And we did.

Here’s what the best breakfast place in all of Seattle looks like.

Although Burger Master is totally 100% my kind of place, you know that Top Cat, like most grown-ups, is much more demanding when it comes to cuisine. So he dragged me to a couple of fine dining experiences.

First, there was Elliot’s on the warf there, underneath the Pike Place Market.

The Copper River salmon had just that morning arrived from Alaska, an event that is as ballyhoo’d in Seattle as the Nouveau Beaujolais is in France.

This (above)  is what a $35 piece of fish looks like at Elliot’s. Top Cat said it was worth every farthing. ( had a $6 Caesar salad and couldn’t wait until it would be time for breakfast again.

The next night we drove across the West Seattle Bridge across the Puget Sound to go to Alkai Beach, to Salty’s restaurant, where we could dine while gazing at the Seattle skyline. Also, out in the middle of the bay there’s a float on which huge fat sea lions pile and bark their constant complaints that there are too many huge fat sea lion asses on this damn float.

This (above) is what a $50 piece of Copper River salmon looks like at Salty’s. Top Cat said it was worth every half-farthing.

My fish-n-chips were pretty good too.

The next day we headed to Edmunds.

Edmonds is a lovely town, as we walked around and poked into a few other book shops and Top Cat discovered that the wine shop there stocks a little-known Bordeaux that we discovered in the Cotes de Castillon— Chateau Robin — and he also found out that the wine we paid $40 for at Salty’s costs $14 out in the real world. It’s called 14 Hands and you will not regret spending $40 on it if you have to.

So we got a bottle of 14 Hands and drove to have a look at the coastal town of Mukilteo.

We had heard that Mulkiteo is a fine place to watch the sunset.

It was a tiny bit chilly, slightly colder than usual for May, and windy, and we had an open bottle of wine, so we sat in the car and opened a small bag of pretzels that Top Cat had been carrying in his jacket pocket for four days, and I opened the doggy-bag (Styrofoam box) that I’d got for the half sandwich I couldn’t finish at lunch, and we hunkered down for the view.

The light got dimmer, the wind got colder, it began to rain, the seagulls called one another, and we kept toasting our luck in being together in a rented car with left overs on the edge of the beautiful Puget Sound.

Here’s what a priceless dining experience in the Great Pacific Northwest looks like.

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Overheard at the Commerce Bank

the scene:  A mother and her teenage daughter were on their way out.

The daughter , wearing very short cut off jeans,  had long glossy hair like you only get with an expensive hair salon blow out.

She was scowling at what looked like a deposit, or a withdrawal slip.

The mother looked exasperated, and as they passed me I heard the mother say to the girl (in a half-lecturing, half-annoyed tone of voice, clearly rebutting something the daughter had said shortly before):

“We are not poor.”

I let my eyes follow them out to the parking lot,  to see what kind of ride the “poor” kid had.

It was a white Mercedes SUV.

Then I went home and called to  order the Long Island Iced Tea Appreciation Society.

Although I was not drinking iced tea. It was just  a gin and tonic — but it was in a tea cup.

OK.

When I was a kid, it took me a long time  to figure out whether I was born rich, or not. Doesn’t every kid, at one point, ask their parents, “Are we rich?”

I know what answer I got. It was something along the lines, “We’re not rich and we’re not poor. Son’t worry about it.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my parents were smoothing over the fact that we were well on the poor side of a Mercedes SUV.

But I can honestly say that today, I am awfully rich. This is a picture of me, proof of how very rich I am these days.

And that’s only the 25% of it.

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