New Christmas Tree, Part Deux: The Lights

December 1, 2022

By Karen

I’ll admit I didn’t thoroughly think through the logistics of putting lights on an 8’ tree — nor foresee that all the lights would be on one continuous string.

I gave away my seven strings of 700 lights with the old tree because they had green cords that simply wouldn’t do with a white tree.

I replaced them with this newfangled 500-light LED string from Amazon because I fell madly in love with the spool and the price was right…

Photo: Amazon

Over the decades, it never mattered how painstakingly I wrapped and stored my lights. Next time, they’d always end up tangled. The spool concept is so DUH!, I’d like to see a federal law mandating Christmas lights on spools forevermore.

But I did have misgivings. Coming down from 700 lights to 500 seemed like a lot of dimming. However, Amazon reviews assured me that 500 LEDs would be plenty on an 8’ tree. Once that quantity was decided, it was final because these strings can’t be plugged together.

In hindsight, I’m thankful I didn’t go for 1,000 because that would have killed me.

When the lights arrived, I thought there had been a screw-up because they all looked white. But it turns out there’s a control button on the plug that makes them glow white, multicolored, blue and green or yellow and red, blinking or solid on demand.

My next surprise was realizing that they were spooled exactly backward. I hang lights from top to bottom with the plug last so it’s near the outlet. But this spool started with the plug. So, I had to unwind and rewind all 165’ by doing laps in the living room…

For less tangling on the rewind, I should have dragged them around the entire house, but then cats would have tried to help and that wouldn’t have ended well for anybody.

The next thing I realized is that having all the lights on one heavy spool really makes it a two-person job. One circles the tree hanging lights and the other follows, feeding more lights.

What to do, what to do? I’ve never had Christmas help in my life. Boyfriends always tended to evaporate around holidays.

(Wait, I take that back. I must have done once. When I was 23, I lived briefly with this guy who gave me a cheap, out-of-season ruffled cotton dress for Christmas, a style he’d never seen on my body. He accessorized it with maroon boots — both left. His mistake meant Santa probably left another lucky woman somewhere in Richmond two right boots. We parted ways soon after.)

The solution to my solitude popped into my head during my morning Calm meditation.

First, I removed the tree top and hung lights on it. Then I hung the spool around my neck with a long scarf. I had to take this photo to show you after I was finished, because once I put the tree top back on, the tree had me on a leash of lights…

I’m letting my hair go gray. Not loving it, but it’s cheaper.

This idea was PERFECT. I was able to climb around and control the flow of lights as needed. When I got near the end and the weight was less, I transferred the spool to my left wrist.

By the bottom, I felt like I didn’t have enough to do the job, but there was no turning back. Redistribution would have been a nightmare.

I waited until nightfall to see the results. Tony seemed happy…

What do you think?…

The tree definitely leans left, which in this house is appropriate.

Max came downstairs to check out my handwork and gave it four paws up…

Next up, the cat ornament collection meets its new home.


Cats Working Goes BIG This Christmas

November 28, 2022

By Karen

According to the label on its box, our lovely 6.5′ spruce Christmas tree turned 25 years old this year. We used it for what turned out to be the last time in 2020 during the pandemic…

Assembling it branch by branch and hanging our full collection of cat ornaments was so much work, we kept the tree up until February. Back in 2011, when Max was a kitten having his first Cat Working Christmas with the late Adele and Cole, he demonstrated how much fun it was to climb that tree.

My ornament collection has only grown since then, and the poor tree felt overloaded, so this year I decided to surprise the cats by switching things up.

(The old tree and its lights and garlands were adopted by a young guy who blew the leaves in my yard last week.)

Our new tree from Wayfair is 8′ of white iridescence, and comes in only four sections. I wish I could have gotten video of myself putting it together because the sections were loose and the branches kept flopping over me like a frantic octopus.

When I saw how the branches are half naked, the potential for a Christmas disaster suddenly loomed large…

Roc, always on the lookout for a way to get into trouble, immediately noticed this detail…

He just had to sample the taste of cold steel (or aluminum?)…

Then he checked to see if the branches would hold his weight. His answer was me screaming, “Roc, NOOOOO!”…

Tony was more circumspect, taking in the new arrival from a safe distance…

(Max took zero interest in this adventure, preferring to nap upstairs in the Man Cave, which is filling with boxes as I get the decorations out. He did come down that evening and inspect my handiwork.)

Finally, I had all four sections nested on top on one another and had managed to avoid losing an eye to the floppy branches…

Even though it’s only 18″ taller than the old tree, this one brushes 3rd beam, a feature with “Disaster” written all over it as soon as Roc and Tony see it from up there. But for now, they were present and ready for the next stage, which we call “The Floof.” This is the most time-consuming process for any artificial tree. The cats were no help, but took turns supervising me. Roc first…

Then Tony. He was particularly good at pointing out where I missed a branch…

After nearly an hour, the floof was complete…

If I can say anything about this tree, it’s that it sheds worse than any cat. I was kicking myself for vacuuming BEFORE I started, because I had to do it all again…

These shiny little spreckles are now everywhere, and I expect to see iridescent poop in the litterboxes through the holidays.

Once assembled, the tree posed two problems. The first was the bare branches up the middle, shown here from a cat’s-eye perspective…

The second was its location. The smaller tree felt more intimate standing in front of Fred Astaire, but this one’s girth makes it overwhelming. So, I moved it. This wasn’t as hard as I feared. After pulling off the top section so it would clear the beam, I dragged it a few feet to a spot where it’s now the living room’s focal point when you walk in the front door. It’s also safely beyond 3rd beam…

But now with daylight behind it, the naked center really shows and could use some filling in. Unfortunately, I gave away my stash of iridescent garland with the old tree. But I did keep our tree skirt with bells, which the cats aren’t happy about. They call it the “Jingle Snitch”…

After buying more garland, I did my best to wrap it around the naked interior. [Note to self next time: Do garland BEFORE Floof.] But it does seem a bit more filled in and nobody’s tried to climb it. What do you think?…

Next step, the lights. I’ve got 500 new LEDs all on one string. But this is all I’ve had the energy for so far. Stay tuned…


Tony B. (the Cat) Conquers 3rd Beam

November 7, 2022

By Tony B. (photos by Karen)

Karen thought you needed a break from all the recent heavy stuff about my namesake, so she sat me at the keyboard for this one.

The guy who designed our house probably didn’t realize he “Catified” the living room with the three big wooden beams that hide the ductwork. From the house’s front to back, we call them 1st, 2nd and 3rd beams.

Karen says every cat has loved 1st and 2nd beams, and they have the scars to prove it. She made them even more irresistible with tall bookcases between them on the floor below, right beside the fireplace mantle. We cats can go upstairs > downstairs without stairs. Max does it all the time, even though the leap down from the mantle makes his teeth rattle.

[SECRET: An alternate, arguably easier, route is to leap from 1st beam to the gray perch, but it takes more precise aim.]

Strolling along 1st and 2nd beam is easy-peasy because you just step off the balcony. The first night Karen brought me home, Roc says I shot out of the carrier and onto 1st beam within minutes. Within a day or so, I did it again, only to slip and fall off.

But falling off 1st or even 2nd beam is a rite of passage here. Every cat has done it, but none have ever hit the furniture nor been injured, even though Karen says we don’t always land on our feet.

3rd beam is another story. You need mega cat guts to go out there because it’s beyond the balcony. It requires a full-body stretch across empty space.

Karen says all my Cats Working predecessors attempted 3rd beam at least once as young cats. Once was usually enough, and then they avoided it for the rest of their lives.

The exception was Yul, an enormous black cat who, according to legend, was a diabolical genius, even after one of his daredevil stunts cost him his tail. He looks like he’s got zero fucks to give, right?…

If reincarnation is a thing, Karen says Roc could be Yul. As soon as he figured out the logistics, Roc claimed 3rd beam as his exclusive turf, and Max and the late Adele were happy to let him have it. He goes out there all the time like it’s nothing…

I’ve been studying Roc’s technique closely…

Last week when I told Max I was going for it before I age out, Max stared at me and muttered something about “a death wish.” Karen freaked when she saw me up there looking serious. And there was no turning back when Roc called me a “chicken”…

Readers, I did it. And it felt GREAT!

What nobody told me is that getting out there is the easy part. The potentially deadly move is the dismount.

Pulling yourself back onto the balcony takes so much upper body strength, Roc separated the wood at the bottom of the banister. Karen glued the wood back, but decided to leave it taped because she knew Roc would just break it again.

I’ll admit it, that first dismount was scary. If I fell, I was definitely hitting something sharp going down. (And be humiliated as the first 3rd beam kitty fail ever.) So, here goes…

I nailed it! It gave me such a rush, I couldn’t wait to do it again…and again…and AGAIN!

BTW, I found this clip of Roc from two years ago — doing a stunt, of course. He’s such a showoff…

Next thing you know, Roc and I pulled off what’s never been done before…

3RD BEAM DOUBLE KITTY

Karen shook her head and said, “I just hope that beam is strong enough.”

Wait, WHAT?

So, I’ve officially conquered our final frontier (if you don’t count behind the washer/dryer). And I didn’t even use up one of my nine lives.


Review: Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain

October 18, 2022

By Karen

I’ve switched to e-books mostly, due to bulging bookcases, but for any book written by/about Anthony Bourdain, I MUST have the real deal. Opening Charles Leerhsen’s Down and Out in Paradise brought Bourdain back to life for hours of good and bad revelations.

But then Tony was gone again.

I’ve written enough words here since 2007 about Anthony Bourdain to fill several books myself. Since his passing, the more I’ve read about him — which often confirms theories I had — the less I’ve felt we knew him.

Leerhsen took the backdoor to his subject because Bourdain’s “authorized” group (exception: his two wives) shut him out. The result fills in many blanks. And I’m not just talking about the circumstances of his death, but how he became who he was.

Despite Tony’s mantra, “What you see is what you get,” and his disdain for pretense, Leerhsen explored how Bourdain carefully revealed only the polite, polished tip of the extremely dark iceberg of his inner workings.

Although prepublication reviews hyped those final, fatal texts between Tony and his girlfriend AA [no longer named here because she lives for attention] right before his suicide, the bulk of Leerhsen’s research dealt with the “nobody” years before Kitchen Confidential changed Bourdain’s life.

Old friends and co-workers we’ve never heard of remembered more about Bourdain’s school and restaurant days than ever seen before.

Because Leerhsen had to rely heavily on unnamed “confidential sources,” at times it could be unclear what was fact and what was Leerhsen trying to connect dots.

And I did get confused about who actually spoke to him because he’d write, “Lydia [Tenaglia]” or “Chris [Collins] said, ‘Blah, blah, blah,’” as if ZPZ had cooperated, only to find out in the endnotes that their quotes were from third-party writings.

Tony’s brother Christopher has complained that Leerhsen muffed everything about early family life, but I’d say he confirms the more tactful version Laurie Woolever presented in her Definitive biography.

No matter how you slice Tony’s mother Gladys, she was monstrous. For example, what kind of mother doesn’t tell her kids for years that they’re half Jewish?

One factual error I did find was about Tony’s paternal grandfather, Pierre Michel, on page 38. According to meticulous genealogical research submitted to Cats Working, Pierre wasn’t immediately deported upon arriving in America as a boy, but adopted by an American.

To use a sports metaphor Leerhsen would appreciate, I think he dropped the ball on page 269, misstating that Bourdain paid Jimmy Bennett $380,000 in a lump sum to keep mum about AA’s raping him at age 17. The New York Times broke the story after Tony’s death in 2018 and Cats Working reported that he paid $200,000 upfront, with 18 monthly installments of $10,000 to follow.

I believe Bennett ultimately collected $250,000 before AA defaulted when Tony’s death permanently closed the Bank of Bourdain.

I mention this as potentially the gorilla in the room with Tony and AA. She may have dumped Tony the night he died, but he was still legally bound to continue paying for Bennett’s silence to save her face.

The burden of having his own duplicity/stupidity/hypocrisy in that mess exposed may have figured hugely in Leerhsen’s hypothesis (which I agree with) that Tony ultimately couldn’t stand who he had become.

Speaking of AA, Leerhsen’s descriptions of her beginning on page 229 are almost worth the price of the book. He begins with the understatement, “Her career had not exactly organized itself around a robust demand for her services,” and the smackdowns just keep on coming.

He writes that even Ottavia had to Google the fellow Italian and told someone, “One of the first things that came up was a picture of a woman making out with a dog.” (True; she did.)

On other fronts, Leerhsen did his homework, finding on page 205 the moment Bourdain’s evil alter-ego Vic Chanko was born (Hint: It goes back to episode 1 of A Cook’s Tour.)

He offers a fuller picture of first wife Nancy than we’ve ever seen, including Zamir’s memories of meeting her when she accompanied Tony to Russia.

But there’s a discrepancy on Bourdain’s current cremated whereabouts. On page 7, Leerhsen says Chris emailed the French authorities to send Tony’s ashes and electronics to Ottavia. But on page 277 he says, “As of this writing, Tony’s brother, Christopher Bourdain, still has Tony’s ashes.” [emphasis mine]

He includes unsubstantiated rumors that Tony had flings with handy fellow TV personalities, such as Nigella Lawson (which I’d applaud if he hadn’t been married to Ottavia at the time), and Padma Lakshmi (no doubt she’d have tried to get in his pants, but EEWWW!).

Much as I hate to believe it, prostitutes seemed to be an ongoing thing with him. Which explains why Tom Vitale went skeevy on me when I asked him about that.

Leerhsen included quite a trove of Tony’s earliest writing, including a poem. (Bourdain’s writing I’ll save for another post because I’m still processing.)

The acknowledgements were a Who’s Who of “Who?” but did include Tony’s old friend Michael Ruhlman and some who have been excluded heretofore, such as Zamir and AA. Absent was the loyal core from the Definitive bio who, as Eric Ripert put it, “want to control the narrative.”

The endnotes seem comprehensive in detailing what Leerhsen found where, but all the juiciest bits whose origins you’d really want to know invariably came from “confidential sources.”

I’m very pleased to add Leerhsen to my bulging bookshelf alongside Bourdain’s books, and hope he’ll give me an opportunity to interview him soon.


Bourdain’s Biographer Stayed in the Room Where It Happened

October 3, 2022

By Karen

In anticipation of Charles Leerhsen’s book coming out October 11, Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, I’ve contacted him about giving Cats Working an interview once I’ve read the book.

He hasn’t responded to that, but I have pinged his radar because he sent me this link to an article he wrote published Oct. 1, “Anthony Bourdain’s Last Days Revisited.” (It makes you give an email address, but once the site sends you something, unsubscribe, which I did.)

It doesn’t state the article is excerpted from the book, so Leerhsen may be providing additional information here. He discovered that Le Chambard, where Bourdain took his own life, is now squeamish about the whole subject. They refused to let Leerhsen reserve that room (he did get Eric Ripert’s room next door), but the next day, he and his wife actually finagled their way back in and stayed in Bourdain’s room.

Photo: Travelocity

The story ends on a supernatural note that reminds me of some months ago when Roc and I watched a book eject itself from my bedroom bookcase.

The article is definitely worth a read.

In other Bourdain news…

Here’s an interview with Leerhsen by The Guardian that offers some insight, if you ignore the reporting’s factual errors, such as:

  1. In the third paragraph, they mention a show running three seasons. A Cook’s Tour, or even The Layover, were two seasons each. If they’re talking about No Res or Parts, they’re WAY off.
  2. I’ve never seen anywhere that Tony was ever a co-owner of Les Halles. He was broke in his chef days, and he consistently said he never wanted to own a restaurant.
  3. He was 61 when he died, nearly three weeks before his next birthday.
  4. The Hong Kong episode wasn’t posthumous. I believe it first aired in the U.S. the same weekend the skank shacked up with Hugo and cavorted for the Roman paparazzi.

I was luckily able to read the book review published today by Dwight Garner in The New York Times, subtitled “Light on Subtlety, Heavy on Grit.” A few snippets…

“Here are the prostitutes, a lot of prostitutes, and one-night stands, and rumors of affairs with other food-world personalities.”

He compares Leerhsen’s bio to Laurie Woolever’s “authorized” book…

“A previous book, “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography” (2021), compiled by Laurie Woolever, felt like an official Bourdain-industry product. It was worthy but dull.

“It was heavy on pontificating celebrities, from the food, television and journalism worlds, who tried to puzzle out what made this magnificent, pagan, literate, lantern-jawed beast tick, to put him on the couch.

“Leerhsen’s book, on the other hand, has a lot of people trying to join Bourdain on the couch, ideally without his trousers, and thus has more adrenaline and feels truer to life.”

On brother Chris: Here’s a Leerhsen interview with the L.A. Times where he describes what apparently was going on behind the scenes between the brothers, and how Chris tried to deep-six Leerhsen’s book.

[Fun Fact: Did you know there’s virtually no such thing as defaming the dead? They are considered memories, with no active reputation to “protect.”]

The skank vs. Ottavia: Here’s another article called “Everything We Know So Far,” which gives some info on Ottavia’s role and how the skank wanted to erase Tony’s family — at least on social media.

The skank’s reaction: After her last texts with Tony went public last week, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram — defiantly no-class as always.

A friend on Instagram sent me an Italian post from an interview on kikapressandmedia. Translated, it begins…

“Down and out in paradise, the unauthorized biography focused on the character of Anthony Bourdain, has sparked new controversy: once again in the media meat grinder there is AA.” [Abbreviation mine]

AA is quoted on the text messages…

“Those who made the messages public are vultures, and there are many around a famous person. Those who sold them will see it with their karma.”

[NOTE ADDED 10/5: Just noticed another point. Above, AA predicts bad karma for the “vulture” who “sold” her texts (before she did?). Even more ludicrous than thinking her vulgarity has monetary value is her delusion that Tony’s family sought anything beyond the relief of finally getting the truth in print. Or that Leerhsen paid people for cooperation. That’s not how biographers work.]

AA ends with belated recognition of Tony’s child, so she’s working hard for sympathy…

“His daughter, me, my children have suffered, we must transform this poison, I am turning it into my cure. With Anthony we shared being alcoholics, we supported each other with a sense of dark humor, we were very lonely, but two alcoholics together drown.”

Ottavia today? With the provocative click-bait title, “How Anthony Bourdain’s Estranged Wife’s Life Is Drastically Different Since He Passed,” I thought Ottavia had opened up to someone. Wrong. Writer Tara Dugan cobbled together a so-called profile of Ottavia without speaking to her, since there isn’t a single quote, nor providing any fact that isn’t publicly available and possibly dubious. I’m just sharing it as a glaring example of “lamestream” journalism.


Unauthorized Bourdain Bio Coming Oct. 11

September 29, 2022

By Karen

Since my last post about Max’s winter retreat is picking up Bourdain buzz comments about an upcoming book by Charles Leerhsen called Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, due out October 11, I’m doing this post to give us somewhere to post any further comments or intel.

I first wrote about this book with some details on Leerhsen back in April.

The New York Times this week published brief excerpts (may require a subscription to access). It must have given Leerhsen such a nice bump that Amazon is already tagging the book a “Best Seller.” In the article, Leerhsen says both Ottavia and Nancy (Tony’s wives) were cooperative.

The Bourdain estate (i.e., Ottavia as executor) apparently has no objections to the book, but Tony’s brother Chris tried a few times without success to stop publication until inaccuracies he cited were corrected. No word on Nancy’s opinion of it.

We shall see how accurate we find it when we read it.

Print and online publications have picked up the Times piece and rehashed their own versions without adding new content.

However, reader feijicha found a story in People magazine that has a bit more.

And here’s an article in Bon Appétit with some fresh information.

If Leerhsen is on the level, this book would answer many questions we’ve hashed out here for over four years. It includes material I’ve always said must have been on Bourdain’s electronics when he died — namely, texts with the girlfriend (whom we don’t name because she probably Googles herself).

Those texts could have only come from Ottavia, since Chris objects to the book.

I’ve hoped someone on Tony’s side would finally expose the girlfriend’s culpability, and if this book credibly does that, great. And, Ottavia, well played.

Eric Ripert, surprisingly, was one of few in Tony’s circle who actually spoke to the Times about the book, which he’s read. He said it contains many inaccuracies, as well as details he told to only a few people.

One ghoulish note: As research, Leerhsen and his wife traveled to France and stayed in the hotel room where Tony died.

I’m going to leave it there for now. I’ve reached out to Leerhsen twice this week (via Instagram and his website) asking for a Cats Working interview after I’ve read the book, but have had no reply so far. Stay tuned…


Max Discovers His Winter Retreat

September 20, 2022

By Karen

Being a confirmed kitty of habit, throughout our brutally hot and humid Virginia summer Max has split his time between his Max Cave upstairs or the rocker down in the living room.

Over a year ago, my sister gave me a bed neither of her cats wanted. I’ve left it everywhere but the bathroom: on the Man Cave floor and sofa, on MY bedroom floor and bed, my closet floor, and most recently on the big living room chair that Tony once claimed, but no dice. NOBODY would even give that bed a try.

I don’t get it. It’s super-cushiony, covered with long soft “fur,” and just the right size. NONE of their other beds are this inviting.

But the bed’s prospects did a complete 180 last week after Max and I shared the trauma of his annual vet checkup.

The practice has a brand-new vet fresh out of school, whom they billed as interested in cats. I requested her, thinking she might be more cat-savvy than our usual vet, who’s always struck me as a dog person.

Big mistake. She was not good. At all. Max didn’t need shots, so she just listened to his heart and lungs and said they sounded good. His blood work last year (age 10) was fine, so she said we could skip it.

I asked if she’d checked his ears, and she replied that she saw some stuff and if he’d been bothered by it. I said no, so she left it there. I guess a $55 visit doesn’t cover a couple of Q-tips.

I’d brought a stool sample, which came up “negative” ($42).

Never again with the poop ripoff. Last time I had a cat with a parasite, it was Rex with a tapeworm back in the ‘80s.

I also brought up Max’s teeth, which have never been cleaned. She said he has “some” tartar and the front desk would give me an “estimate,” which is always “worst case,” just so clients aren’t surprised later.

An estimate? Max could use a scaling, he doesn’t need his transmission rebuilt, FFS.

OMG. The “estimate” was a full page describing teeth cleaning as a full-blown, all-day surgical procedure, complete with X-rays.

If all goes well and it’s just scaling: $950.

The estimate also said the vet recommended “2-4 extractions” (what happened to “some tartar”!!??), which would EACH run $200-$300 EXTRA.

So, “worst case” (4 extractions) would be: $2,150.

Oh, and the vet had only one cat, whom she didn’t name or seem particularly fond of.

Then when Max and I staggered out of that den of extortion, my car’s key fob suddenly wouldn’t open the doors, but the locks went crazy, and I spent 10-15 panicked minutes trying to us into the car.

When we finally got home, Max ran straight to MY BEDROOM (where he hasn’t been in many months) and spent the rest of the day on the desk. He was freaked out, too.

I know this is a long lead-in, but later that night after we’d both calmed down…

Max was sitting on the couch with me, and I decided to try one more time and put that fuzzy new bed at the end of the couch.

VOILA!…

Here’s an aerial shot I took from the balcony the next morning…

Max’s been hanging out there from morning meditation until after I go to bed. During the night, he goes up to the Man Cave for a poop and a nosh.

Max totally relaxes during evening TV time with me nearby. Here’s his stretch we call Starboard (right side, for landlubbers), one leg…

Starboard, double leg…

Port (left), one leg…

Port, double leg…

Roc and Tony have noticed there’s a hot new ticket in the house, but so far, neither have challenged Max for possession…

“It’s about time those two accept who’s man of THIS house!”

Roc’s even happy to bask in the sunny spot on the floor and let Max have his bed…

“Is it wicked of me to pretend Roc is lying there in a coma?”

With one of my crazy little pillows (that keep cats from scratching the couch back), Max sums it up…

“And a home without cats is no home at all.”

PS: Happy ending to the lock subplot: My sister’s amazingly handy boyfriend fixed the locks with a cheap, simple part as my birthday present!


I’ve Just Been Hacked

September 8, 2022

By Karen

Hackers were assaulting my checking account from Sunday, August 28, to Friday, September 2, and it’s taken me this long to recover. I’ll tell you what happened as a cautionary tale.

Two Sundays ago, my bank emailed me a Security Alert. In part, it read [verbatim]:

On 8/28/2022 12:46 AM, there was the forgot password process was attempted for your login ID… If you suspect fraudulent activity, please contact us… Please do not reply to this message.

The bad grammar and absence of contact info looked like spam. I knew my little community bank doesn’t do weekends, so I was helpless until Monday.

But that afternoon at 4:50 p.m., a quick succession of more Security Alerts arrived about: 1) forgot password, 2) change to secure access code contact information, 3) added a Tempia Otey (??!!) to account, 4) a process was started to add an external contact.

At 5 p.m., my landline rang. Caller ID showed my bank and its local number, so I answered. Mistake ONE.

It was “Jacob” from the “Fraud Department,” following up since they hadn’t heard from me (how?).

Jacob was a criminal newbie with Swiss-cheese story he kept having to “check with his supervisor,” which kept dropping the call. Once, he called back from 843-474-1626 in Beaufort, SC, stammering that that line was “more secure” than the bank’s. (If this doxes you, Jacob, tough. The bank and the FCC have this number now, too.)

MAJOR POINT: You know two-factor authentication, where they phone or text a code number to you so you can access a website or account? To “verify” me, Jacob somehow sent one of those to my landline, and it actually came from my bank. I’m still kicking myself for telling him what it was, but I hadn’t yet realized he was a hacker. Mistake TWO.

Jacob’s real mission was to “verify” (i.e., steal) my debit card information.

When I refused to tell all (I did give some, like a dummy) Mistake THREE, Jacob transferred me to his “supervisor” Jessica. She’d only say, “We need your debit card number,” so I hung up on her.

The next day, Monday at 7 a.m., this Security Alert arrived…

On 8/29/2022 6:54 AM there was your security alert preferences were changed.

I called the bank as soon as it opened and we found the bogus Tempia Otey online withdrawal and another one. They totaled $500 and luckily had been blocked by Zelle, a third-party money transfer thing my bank has. So, I changed my password and drove to the bank to close my debit card.

At 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the hacker phoned again, spoofing the bank on Caller ID, calling himself “Jonathan.” I answered because the bank had promised to call back about the Zelle situation. Once again, not knowing it wasn’t the bank, he sent an authentication code to my cellphone this time (so he had both my phone numbers), and I told him the code. Mistake FOUR.

I think this call sealed my fate.

As soon as I realized it was Jacob again, I hung up. A few minutes later the Security Alert emails started rolling in…

On 8/29/2022 3:11 PM, there was an invalid password for your login ID was submitted.

…forgot password process was attempted…

…security alert preferences were changed…

Since Zelle had blocked suspicious activity, bank customer service was on the case, and I’d notified my branch there was a problem in person, I thought they all had my back and we were done. Mistake FIVE.

Beginning Tuesday, the hackers siphoned daily increasingly large amounts from my checking account into another account they’d opened in my name somewhere until I was out $14,000, which I’d set aside for some major bills.

I discovered these thefts Friday, September 2, after I was locked out of my online account trying to get my monthly checking statement.

Hair ablaze, I dashed back to the bank to close the checking account and file a fraud report. (When they printed my statement, the daily theft withdrawals were screamingly obvious.)

The bank said it might take “months” to research and recover my “disputed” $14K. And they said it was now in MasterCard’s hands. WTF? Who ever said anything about MasterCard? The debit card was closed BEFORE the withdrawals started.

This crime began within days of the bank launching a new app. I think the app has security issues a cruise ship could sail through. The bank employee who helped me had been getting the same Security Alerts on HER account and blowing them off. And she said other customers had been making similar reports (presumably also being blown off).

With a new checking account, all my online bill-paying information, automatic drafts, the direct deposit arrangements with clients got obliterated. I’ve spent most of this week piecing my finances back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

BUT THERE’S A HAPPY ENDING: Instead of months, the disputed $14K was restored to me within 24 hours — but it was deposited in the now-closed account. ANOTHER trip to the bank got the funds over to the new account. I’m a familiar (if masked) face at the bank now.

LESSONS LEARNED: I can’t trust my bank. Their “security” is nothing but useless ungrammatical emails. They’re unable to detect a multi-day theft in progress. And if I hadn’t been proactive, my $14K would STILL be sitting in a closed account.

I’ll take your questions now.


Tony Bourdain (the Cat) Confidential

August 22, 2022

By Karen, with Tony’s permission

Our wild child Tony B. is letting me share more intimate details of his lifestyle with you.

But first, let’s correct misconception about this angelic face. Tony is neither cuddly nor a cuddler. He allows a daily designated time to display affection (keep reading), and that’s it. His demeanor toward me is cordial and mostly respectful, but I sense he’s always aware of maintaining his personal space.

Although fully equipped to shred, he’s not one to flash claws and scratch in anger. But he will bite if you pet him — hard enough to make a point, but not draw blood. It’s probably a hand phobia from his earliest kittenhood when he had lots of medical issues, and we’re still working to overcome that.

Otherwise, he’s extremely sensitive and gentle. If he wants something, he’ll pat my leg with a soft paw, never claws. He totally understands boundaries. If he’s engaged in mischief and I firmly say “Tony, no,” he backs right off and looks concerned that he offended me.

Mornings, Tony seems to know the second I wake up. He has a signature move to signal his arrival, which is to flap his huge bat ears. Only Tony’s ears make that distinctive sound.

Then he leaps onto the bed to knead his favorite blankie, kept there so I can lure him in for a few minutes of “Pet Practice.” When he’s all kneaded out, he’ll settle quietly beside me and let me pet him without biting.

If he lasts five minutes, it’s a win, and it’s the only time we spend affectionately together all day.

He enjoys scoping out the neighbors from the big kitchen window…

“Hmm… hope that little human doesn’t pee on our bushes like the dogs do.”

Being a highly private cat, Tony recently staked out a me-space in my closet that the late Adele preferred in her final months. I put a bed in there fearing he might never return because I had intruded, but he seems to appreciate it…

“At times a kitty needs to get away from it all. And by ‘all,’ I mean Roc.”

The Man Cave Café (a.k.a. bathroom) recently got a new lounge…

“No, I haven’t leaked my butt all over the tub. I’m on a rug, silly!”

Since I used Gerber baby food a few years ago to trick Max into taking meds for a cold, Max gets a spoonful of chicken or turkey for breakfast, the only wet food he’ll touch. Tony never fails to materialize on the counter as soon as he hears the clink of the little spoon I use because he has to lick it clean. It’s his special little treat, and he never asks for more or tries to steal Max’s. He has a highly developed sense of fair play.

When I do my Calm app meditation, once Max vacates, Tony will occasionally drop by. As gentle as he is, he has no qualms about walking all over me, which would include my face if it’s in his path…

“Are we meditating yet?”

On this day, he immediately lost interest in me, sauntered over to Roc napping by the sliding door, who told him to scram. When Tony returned, you can see the second he realized I was filming him, which always makes him self-conscious. You can catch his meow if you listen closely…

The gray kitty perch has become Tony territory (he lets Roc maul the sisal posts), where he hangs out most evenings while we watch TV…

“Nothing like a little nap before bedtime.”

Other times, Tony throws himself on the floor as if he wants his belly rubbed, but I know he’s bluffing…

“Come on, it’s so cute. Rub it. You can trust me.”

Before we all head off to bed, Tony enjoys a snack of graham crackers [Note: HONEY grahams only; cinnamon is very bad for cats]…

“My sweet tooth MUST be fed!”

I think Tony sleeps upstairs with Max on the Man Cave sofa because maybe it feels cooler right by the window during our steamy nights…

“Downward Cat pose always gives me the best dreams.”

FINALLY! Garland Gouges Trump’s Teflon

August 9, 2022

By Karen

They say payback is hell, and Trump’s finally tasting what the January 6 Capitol ransacking felt like to the rest of us – just without the broken windows and feces on the walls.

Yesterday morning, FBI agents executed a search warrant for hours in Trump’s personal residence at Mar-a-Lago while Trump’s security detail twiddled and watched. The resort itself was closed for the summer, so no golfers were harmed in the raid.

“They even broke into my safe!” Trump whined from the safety of New York, where he’s apparently holing up in Trump Tower for his deposition for AG Letitia James’ civil investigation into his shady business.

(Ivanka and Junior have already given their depositions after a temporary postponement to ditch their mother Ivana’s corpse on Trump’s Bedminster golf course so Trump could get a cemetery exclusion and evade property, sales and income taxes.)

The FBI doesn’t convince judges to allow search-and-seizures without a firm belief they’ll find crime. It’s public knowledge that Trump stole documents on his way out, some so top-secret that the National Archives, which had already repoed 15 boxes from him, couldn’t even describe them.

This happened just as Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort admits he was not helping Trump, but fostering his own future business deals with Russians when he gave sensitive campaign data to his buddy Konstantin Kilimnik.

Hmm… Selling secrets to Russians. And Trump happened to steal some from the White House. Connect the dots?

Remember when Trump was kvetching about how toilets take 10-15 flushes? He wasn’t lying but engaging in his second favorite fact-bending, projection. New photos just surfaced of paper with Trump’s 2nd grade Sharpie printing in various toilet bowls. Here’s one…

Naturally, Republicans are furious over the FBI’s outrageous invasion of a former president’s privacy. But over Hillary’s emails, they spent five years screaming “LOCK HER UP,” and would have been dancing jigs had the FBI raided a former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State.

With two grand juries and now this residential raid, it seems like Merrick Garland is finally taking a sharp nail to Donny’s Teflon, and it’s not a moment too soon.

May the unfamiliar sense of impending doom cause Trump to stress-eat more junk food, sleep even less and lose the remaining fragments of his mind — preferably in public.

Then when he announces he’s running for president — it will be soon, because he fantasizes it makes him untouchable — the laughter of the 81 million who voted him out in 2020 (and new converts who have finally had enough of his shit) will ring in his ears like a bad case of tinnitus.

Speaking of Trump’s addled mind, his faithful dead ferret apparently leaped from his head and into Ivana’s golden casket with her. Trump appeared at a rally in Wisconsin last week in what looked like a poorly matched, Hitler-style toupee from the George Will collection…


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