My local NPR station (WNYC, New York) was having its Fall Fundraising Drive so you all know what that means. I pledge my various dollar amounts to support listener-funded radio for another year and I head out of town.

Actually, I had made a dentist appointment. Because there’s really no difference between listening to an NPR Fundraising Drive and the ear-piercing whine of a dentist’s drill.

My dentist happens to be in the town of Sea Cliff, Long Island — so after the dental awfulness was done for the day I took myself  afterwards to my favorite museum on all of Long Island:

The Sea Cliff Museum. It’s housed in the old rectory of the old Sea Cliff Church. On the main floor there’s a fireplace that I long to illustrate —

I think this is one of the finest fireplaces on Earth.

I always judge a museum by its gift shop. The Sea Cliff Museum has a swell gift shop (even thought I couldn’t find anything to buy).  It stocks books by local authors, one who is a sketch artist and one who is a poet.

The focus of the Sea Cliff Museum are exhibits of relics of local life such as swimsuits fromf 1900 —

— from the times when the local lasses were noted for their high spirits:

Ancient household items include a push button phone from the 1970s.

And the preserved rectory kitchen c. 1929.

In an alcove there is a collection of dolls from the 1940s – 1970s on loan from a local resident.

But the star of the show is a scale model of a well-known Sea Cliff house called the Connor Cottage:

Which they say is this house (below), but I think they have the wrong house.

The model house was a project of Ed Knieriem, who started it in 1939 and worked on it until his death in 1969. It was Ed Knieriem’s wish that the model be given to the Sea Cliff Museum, where it is exhibited as a village treasure.

The interior of the house is decorated as the actual house looked in 1937.

What is it about miniatures?

Even in this CGI world, there is something irresistible about miniatures — so familiar, but so other-worldly.

I want to  have tea in this miniature house.

I want to have sweet dreams under this lace bedspread.

I would LOVE to  invite all my itty bitty dear readers into this itty city home to have an itty city cup of tea.

Happy Weekend, everyone. Occupy Everywhere.

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I have not been in lower Manhattan since September 14, 2001.

The last time I was in the neighborhood, the twisted steel girders from the World Trade Center were still smoldering. I could see that the Trade Center was gone, but it just did not comprehend it. I stared and stared, and tried to understand that it was gone. All gone.

I’ve been in Tribeca and the Lower East Side many times since 9/11 (I met Top Cat at a party in the old Meat Packing District in 2003) but I haven’t been near Wall Street for a decade.

The new Freedom Tower that is ring up in place of the Trade Center looks like it will be a beautiful building:

The reason I was in lower Manhattan is because I wanted to see Occupy Wall Street, so Top Cat and I drove in. It took us 40 minutes to find a parking space — the whole area is a huge tourist attraction now, now that it’s called “Ground Zero” (a name I loathe).

We entered Zucotti Park down by the Faith Tree.

The Faith Tree is a meditation circle that is the official “quiet zone” of Occupy Wall Street. You can see that people put little totems up and sit in contemplation here. That’s a photo of John and Yoko in the center, above a Petition For World Peace. That green and purple sign says “Community Altar. Sacred Space”. There’s little American flag there, incense, potted plants, picked flowers, and candles.

The park was packed with people, occupiers and visitors. We walked up to the end of the park where some clergy people were holding an outdoor service. The lady minister wore a turquoise jacket that you can see in the background.

I liked this guy in the hard hat with the tiny American flag on the top.

You’ve probably heard that the occupiers are not allowed to have tents at Zucotti  Park. But they can have cardboard boxes and tarps. Here’s an occupier at home in his cardboard abode:

Getting his sign ready for the next march.

This is the famous “grey water” purification system that the Occupiers use to water the plants at Zucotti Park.

This kid was doing his Holding Up The Sign For Tourists duty, eating a popcicle. I thought he was extremely cute. If that were my kid, I would be extremely proud that he was fighting oppression there at the grey water station.

I was excited to see the Press Working Committee in action —

—there were about five bloggers hammering away at lap tops, oblivious to the throng. In fact, it seemed that the occupiers were mostly oblivious to the crowds, busy doing their Sunday afternoon prep for the working week ahead.

I LOVED the Occupy Wall Street Think Tank stand:

The sign had an email address, with little arrows pointing to plastic bowls, “Deposit Ideas Here”.

And I had to get a picture of the guy holding up his iPad Protest thingy:

It says OTC Derivatives. I don’t get  it.

This whole Occupy Wall Street is  such a Baby Boomer-free movement — that that was one of the reasons I wanted to head down here , to show up for the nest generation. But I was happy to see a few fellow Boomers hanging out with the kids:

I also had another two reasons for coming down to OWS in person. I wanted to give them money for food, so I found the Food Working Group at their open buffet:

It was very well organized, with lots of pizza and rice and vegetarian dishes on a long table. People waited in line with a paper plate to choose from about a dozen hot dishes (and you can see that the food servers were wearing gloves — nice!).

 I had planned on giving lots of money. I asked the guy, “Can I make a cash donation?” and he said  “Sure!” And he pointed to a small locked tin, into which I stuffed $100.

I was also lugging two large tote bags of books for the library. Occupy Wall Street has a lending library and I had  some very good books  I had travel books, half a dozen Calvin and Hobbes books, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis books.

This is the library at Occupy Wall Street:

And these are the librarians at Occupy Wall Street:

I talked to these librarians, and there wre serious book lovers. They were very happy with my donation — they have a system. Each book that they take into the library is marked on the top of the pages with black magic marker “OWS” with a number. They have a ledger into which the book title and number is entered, and then it’s put on the shelves and people check them out.

Yes, those are copies of my book in that photo (lower left corner. I gave them three copies of When Wanderers Cease to Roam and I wasn’t going to mention anything, but Top Cat picked up one  and told the young man, “This is the book that my wife wrote!”

“Wow,” the guy said (which I thought was awfully sweet of him). “Would you autograph it for us?”

So I did, one book. I wrote:

Occupy Wall Street, October 16 2011

Occupy Everywhere! Vivian Swift

It is my dream that one day I will find that book selling on eBay for an obscene amount of money.

We’d had enough of the crowds by then, so Top Cat and I were edging our way out of Zucotti Park when we saw John Oliver from The Daily Show with a fim crew walk right past us.

And right before we exited, an occupier asked us if we would like to take home this:

Thank you, Occupy Wall Street.

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So me and my sister Buffy took our un-ironed selves down to the First General assembly of Occupy Wall Street at Washington Square Park last Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.

Buffy made us two matching signs that read: “I Am The 99%” — this is her picture from before we dove into the gathering, standing at the famous Washington Square arch:

And this is her picture that showed up on the famous website Gawker when they reported on the event later that day:


(In case you can’t read the sign, here’s a close up:)

Her sign — I Am The 99% — means, of course, that we are of the 99% of Americans who did not rape our beloved capitalist system of the USA with fraudulent and criminal bank loans/steals, yet we are the 99% being held accountable financially and politically for the devastation that has ravaged our society for these past three years (and for generations to come).

This is the Occupier “wave”, the way we all signify that we like what the speaker is saying — raising our arms and wiggling our fingers — instead of cheering or clapping. It’s very restful, and makes you laugh when you see all those arms shoot up and all them digits flapping in the breeze. (There was no breeze on that day BTW. It was hot and  sunny, and Buffy and I were glad to use or signs as shade devises.)

A lot of people asked if they could take pictures of me and Buffy holding our signs. Did I tell you that Buffy is my identical twin sister and we both had  khaki pants and white shirts on? Yeah. Cute. And plus, we’re, like, old.

These guys (see below) were standing next to us right before the General Assembly began, and they asked Buffy for a pen so they could write “I Am The 99%” on their coffee cups, and hold them up to let their freak flags fly:

Once the General Assembly began,  we were asked to sit down in front so that the thousands in back of us could see. This is what I call my “Occupy Wall Street” neighborhood (the people I stared at for the next hour or so, during the speeches):

Buffy and I both thought this was the cutest guy in the neighborhood:

As you can see, Buffy and I were right in the front of the Assembly. We could hear the speakers just fine, but as the speakers were not allowed any amplification, we were part of the Human Microphone that, in a chorus of 200 or so, repeated every few words of speech so that it could be heard, and relayed, to the back of the crowd.

It was a HOOT to be part of a chanting crowd.

This is the guy (see below) from Egypt’s Tahrir Square who came all the way from Cairo to add his support to Occupy Wall Street — the things he said got a lot of “Like” signs, even though he mentioned revolution:

OK, you can’t really see Mohammad in this shot — but you can see the speakers facing us, and although I have a lot of photos of the scrum of photographers who were crowding the speakers area you can’t really get a good idea of how many media-types there were, snapping photos like crazy. HUNDREDS. Maybe dozens. About 40.

Now, I haven’t been to Zucotti Park since it was occupied, but I know Zucotti Park and it’s nothing even close to a “park”, by the way. Even in the best of times it’s a shitty paved plaza with some crappy potted trees, so don’t worry that it’s being a green space that’s being trampled to death.

I’d love to see how it’s been humanized, colonized by My People.  I want to go down and hang one day soon. You too!

Come on down!

We Are The 99%.

We’re Too Big To Fail.

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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

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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