Chapter 102: COVID Chronicles

July 8, 2020

By Karen

Day 119

Robert E. Lee Stands Alone & Catching Up With the Kitties

Yesterday the statue of General J.E.B. Stuart came down…

Photo James H. Wallace, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Now the only Confederate left standing on Monument Avenue is Robert E. Lee, and he’s probably feeling like it’s Appomattox all over again.

There’s still no word on where the statues are hidden or what’s going to be done with them.

Next up on the Virginia To-Do list should be banning the Confederate Flag, which promises to raise an even bigger stink than the statues. I’m surprised Trump isn’t flying one over the White House right now, just for spite.

Speaking of Trump, the publication date of his niece Mary’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, has been moved up to July 14. I’ll be downloading the e-book as soon as I get the green light. Fingers crossed that hearing every cable news talking head laughing at him and swapping anecdotes about what a fucked-up little demon-child Trump was will accelerate his meltdown.

Richmond has had several straight weeks of humid weather over 90o. Even with central air and fans, we feel it and I’m more often drenched in sweat than not. Roc finds it cooler to nap on my recycle paper than in his comfy bed…

Yesterday, new collars for Roc and Tony arrived. Yes, I still hope Tony will one day accept wearing a collar so he doesn’t look like a stray.

As it turns out, that day has not yet arrived. As soon as Tony was in his new collar, he deflated. He kept scratching at his neck and shuffling around with his head down. His usual joie de vivre was gone. He’s already a virtuoso when it comes to playing me. So, Max got the new collar instead and he seems very satisfied with it…

Tony checked out Roc’s handsome new look…

Tony is obsessed by shadows. This morning he thought he saw something on the wall and we had this brief exchange (listen carefully) about it, but he finally agreed it was nothing…

BONUS: Did you happen to catch Trump saying he’d wear a mask if he had to? He wore a black one once and thought it made him look “like the Lone Ranger.” Comedian Sarah Cooper shows us how effective that would be…

PS: In case you’re unfamiliar with The Lone Ranger, here’s what his mask looked like…

And yet Trumpers are still out there believing Trump’s just fine.


Chapter 99: COVID Chronicles

July 5, 2020

By Karen

Day 116

Kitties Hate Fireworks & Catching Up on Movies

Last night, Roc and Tony were jumpy during the barrage of July 4 fireworks, celebratory 2nd Amendment gunfire and explosives that went off mainly between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. We felt some big booms quite close to the house, but I couldn’t see who was behind them. Through the trees, I did catch a bit of the fireworks, but I have no idea who put on that show.

This was really Tony’s first Independence Day. Last year, he was a tiny four-week-old kitten fighting to survive.

I was just refreshing on Tony’s roots in his paperwork, and discovered a freaky coincidence. It appears Tony and Roc are both alumni of the Happy Tails rescue in Abingdon, which is in the western corner of Virginia. The Richmond Animal League takes in animals from shelters that euthanize or do fewer adoptions so the little guys have a better shot at finding a forever home. So, Tony and Roc took exactly the same path to find me.

When movies are released and I don’t get to the cinema, I put them on a watch list and check periodically to see if they’ve made it to TV. I just caught two.

The first was A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, with Ton Hanks wonderfully channeling the gentle spirit of Mr. Rogers…

His co-star is Matthew Rhys (The Americans), who starts out as a cynical investigative journalist who initially resents being assigned a 400-word magazine fluff piece on Rogers. He morphs it into a 10,000-word cover story, and the friendship with Mr. Rogers that develops changes his outlook.

As a kid, I preferred Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room to Mr. Rogers. But after seeing this movie, I regret it. After you watch, you’ll feel better about the world — until the next time Trump opens his mouth.

Aside: I’m watching Matthew Rhys in an HBO prequel/remake of Perry Mason. Here, Perry is a seedy private investigator working a baby kidnapping and murder case. I find Rys convincing, but after two episodes, I don’t see how or why anyone felt compelled to call him Perry Mason, nor how he’ll make the leap from grubby PI to slick  attorney. He gets his clean ties off stiffs in the city morgue.

The other movie that blew me away was The Good Liar, with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen. They “randomly” meet through online dating and it’s immediately revealed that McKellen is a swindler who’ll con anyone for a buck. His partner in crime is, of all people, Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey (Jim Carter).

When McKellen determines that Mirren is a well-off widow, he plays on her sympathy until she invites him to stay in her house as her companion.

As his and Carson’s scheme to clean her out gains momentum, you’re rooting for Mirren, hoping she’s really the better liar and figures out a way to save herself. But the ending has a twist I didn’t see coming. It was mind-blowing, yet satisfying. No spoilers here.


Chapter 98: COVID Chronicles

July 4, 2020

By Karen

Day 115

Independence Day’s a Dud & Amazon Solves 28-Year-Old Norwegian Puzzle

I didn’t go to my parents’ cookout. I don’t know if they still had one, or if I ruined it. My sister was invited, so my guess is they did get together for lunch. Probably a quick one — on holidays Sis and her boyfriend usually have other obligations — so they weren’t together for too long. That will be their justification that it was all fine and I’m a bitch.

Meanwhile, on American Independence Day, I’m all Norwegian, or norsk, as they say. I’ve stuck with Duolingo. Initially, I was whipping through lessons so fast that I temporarily achieved Duolingo’s highest status, Diamond League.

But I had covered too much and I stopped retaining most of it, so I went back to Lesson 1. That’s when I discovered each lesson has four levels with lots of repetition and drilling, which was exactly what I needed. I also found grammar explanations and vocabulary lists. So, now I’m building a better foundation. However, Duolingo still makes you question your comprehension with nonsense like…

Nei, gitaren min gråter ikke.
(No, my guitar is not weeping.)

And…

Den fulle fyren kastet en hamburger på meg!
(That drunk guy threw a hamburger at me!)

And…

Katten er tre bananer lang.
(The cat is three bananas long.)

Who measures cats in bananas?

Speaking of cats, to help me remember min norsk, we’ve named that bird Roc carries around Fuglen (loosely pronounced Foolin’). It means “the bird.”

Speaking of Fuglen, he may be plotting something. This morning I found this shady gathering (mouse, Fuglen, Rowdy Rat, and Tony’s balding blue sparkle ball, which had migrated from the bedroom) on the kitchen rug…

But back to norsk. When I took up Norwegian in 1992 while dating a Norwegian, I asked him to bring me a book from home by any American author so I might buy the English edition and have the translation while I practiced reading.

He brought me Garrison Keillor’s En Rolig Uke I Lake Wobegon (A Quiet Week in Lake Wobegon), originally published in 1987, with Norwegian translation in 1988.

Here’s where it gets weird. Remember, 1992 was pre-Amazon, or really pre-online shopping anywhere. I never found that book in any store, even by comparing the first page of text, whose gist I got, with every Keillor book I came across. Since the Norwegian edition was too advanced for me, it has sat on my shelf all these years.

The other day, I pulled it out and was gobsmacked to find that I had somehow missed clearly written at the top of the copyright page: Originalens tittel: Leaving Home.

Amazon had THAT book…

Keillor wrote a much shorter foreword for the norsk edition, and some of the stories have titles as stretched as the book’s itself, but it does look like a valid translation.

So my next project is to read a whole Norwegian book. Didn’t former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg once say that’s why he learned Norwegian?

They say when you really absorb a language you stop translating it in your head. I hope that’s where I am by the time I get to Slutten (The End).


Chapter 97: COVID Chronicles

July 3, 2020

By Karen

Day 114

Apropos of Nothing & July 4th Family Drama

I don’t spend all my time watching TV. I also read. It took a few weeks to finish Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, but I really loved it. It’s funny, self-deprecating, and the stories he shares about growing up, falling in love with movies, and how he became a director are delicious.

Woody heaps praise on virtually all the actors he’s ever worked with, even the ones who now claim to regret it and say they’ll NEVER work with him again, because that’s the cool #MeToo thing to do. He even extols Mia Farrow’s acting ability.

For the record, I’ve always believed Woody on the molestation accusations because his side of the story makes total sense. Also, he was exonerated in two thorough police investigations, and he was later cleared to adopt children after he married Soon-Yi.

Mia Farrow, on the other hand, I vividly remember as a flaky wack job since she became famous on the nighttime soap opera Peyton Place in the ‘60s, which I used to watch.

When Woody met Mia, she’d already begun hoarding orphans (eventually 10 total) like a turbo-charged Joan Crawford. Mia already had three boys by her second husband André Previn, yet insisted she and Woody have a child together unmarried. When she finally got pregnant, she told Woody the baby might be Frank Sinatra’s (Mia’s first husband, 30 years her senior, marriage lasted a year).

Look closely at Ronan Farrow and see if you don’t detect any young Sinatra. Ronan is apparently uninterested in learning the truth, which seems an odd attitude for a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist.

Anyway, Woody dating Soon-Yi sent Mia over the edge, and a lot of people got hurt in Mia’s quest for revenge.

Woody and Soon-Yi have now been married 24 years and have two adopted daughters in college.

Three of Mia’s adopted children died young, at least one by suicide.

On the home front, I learned this morning that my parents are going ahead with a July 4th cookout that I’ve been hoping wouldn’t happen. Humidity’s going to make it feel like 100o, with a storm in the forecast. That means everybody will be talking and eating in the house without masks.

When my mother called to tell me, I told her I’m not coming. To persuade me, she said she’d just met with clients and nobody was wearing masks.

Then she accused me of calling her ignorant, which I certainly did. Now she’s mad at me.

That’s how most of our phone calls devolve, so this is nothing unusual.

I’m 65 years old, I have high blood pressure and excess weight. I also don’t have a husband or boyfriend to help out around here if I’m too sick to function. The LAST thing I’m going to do, after holing up in the house for nearly four months, is throw it all away by exposing myself now for a fucking hot dog.

To end the week on a more cheery note, Max was very happy to have the sunny spot on the couch this morning…

He looks a bit grouchy when he first wakes up…

And Tony is practicing to be a portrait model, posing for these two great pics atop the blue kitty perch…


Chapter 95: COVID Chronicles

July 1, 2020

By Karen

Day 112

Roc May Feel Guilty & EU Shunning Gets to Me

I call this Roc’s “Hall of Good Intentions.” For the past week, he’s been bringing presents to my bedroom that never quite make it all the way (of course, Tony was on hand to photo-bomb)…

Maybe Roc’s trying to make it up to me for his sleeping in the living room with Max as their contest to determine King of the Couch continues. Meanwhile, Tony has been coming to bed with me and seems to enjoy having me all to himself (I’ve been taking lots of pics of him because he’s currently helping a good cause and hopes to become a star, details coming soon)…

Last night for the first time, Tony cuddled in the crook of my arm, which meant I spent that time lying on my back, a position I can’t fall asleep in. But it seemed like an affection breakthrough, so I stayed put as long as Tony did.

In yesterday’s comments, talking about the EU ban on Americans, I mentioned to our Danish reader the song about Copenhagen that Danny Kaye sang in the movie Hans Christian Andersen

I got teary-eyed watching it. Americans becoming unwelcome pariahs in much of the world, thanks to Trump fostering spread of COVID-19 here with unbridled glee and doing NOTHING to help the states contain it, makes me feel hopeless and almost worse than this fucking lockdown.

If you’ve never traveled outside the country, you don’t miss it. But after once having strolled around some of the most beautiful cities of Europe, finding yourself cut off from them because your country’s leader is a demented, murderous monster is crushing.

It brought to mind this song from the show, Do I Hear a Waltz?, which I believe to be an underrated musical. Richard Rodgers composed the music and produced it in 1965. It was originally intended to be a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, but Oscar Hammerstein died of cancer. One of his final wishes was to have a young composer he’d mentored, Stephen Sondheim, write the lyrics.

Neither Rodgers nor Sondheim thought the book, The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents, made good material for a musical, and it ultimately ran for only 220 performances on Broadway.

You know the story if you ever saw the 1955 movie Summertime with Katharine Hepburn and Rossanno Brazzi. Hepburn plays a spinster secretary who, while on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Venice, meets and falls in love with a semi-married shopkeeper. Elizabeth Allen and Sergio Franchi had those roles on Broadway.

This song you’ve probably never heard, This Week Americans, is sung by the proprietress of the Venetian pensione where the spinster stays. Sondheim managed to work in just about every cultural stereotype you can think of, but it reflects how, once we dump Trump, I hope the world can think of Americans again…


Chapter 90: COVID Chronicles

June 26, 2020

By Karen

Day 107

Cats at Play & Theft

In the ongoing competition over the couch’s primo spot, last night Roc politely sidled up to Max as close I’ve ever seen them. They even exchanged a few head licks before dozing off…

Roc’s display of what Max must have known was insincere affection apparently grossed Max out, because he soon left and spent the rest of the night up in the Man Cave.

Always on the prowl for fun, Tony has dug out an Easter egg that was a gift from a former Cats Working reader, also named Adele. It arrived many years ago for the original blogging crew, which consisted of the now all-late Fred, Yul and Adele. I can still make out Fred’s name on this egg. I put a little wicker ball inside to make it rattle because Tony loves a mystery. Roc was watching, so Tony did his best to stay cool…

But it was no use. Like a kitten, Tony pounced back on, dribbling the egg until it got trapped one time too many…

Nothing escapes Tony. This morning, with no cats around, I put two slices of sourdough bread in the toaster to cook after I finished cleaning the litter boxes. While I was off doing that, Tony deftly lifted a slice out, a feat of greater dexterity (and cunning) than he’s ever shown before, and was nibbling it when I returned. Lately, he’s had an intense interest in bread of all types.

Then last night, Tony had a grappling session with Rowdy Rat, after Rowdy got a catnip refresh. This particular rat has survived here 30-35 years through a succession of cats who all did their best to kill him. He’s still sold by Cat Claws. Poor Rowdy has managed to keep his tail, but his pink ears (which I’ve reattached several times) are long gone…

Tony, Max and Roc wish everyone a healthy and safe weekend and full bowls!


Chapter 88: COVID Chronicles

June 24, 2020

By Karen

Day 105

Max Owns the Couch & Finds a New Hobby

I’ve never had a cat who picks specific spots and won’t let them go like Max. When I went to bed last night, he was lying on the couch.

When I woke up this morning, he was sound asleep — on the couch.

He’s been there all day. But I must say his new friends seem glad to have him…

He only leaves to use the litter box, grab a bite to eat from his bowl on the coffee table, and drink from his kitty fountain.

Roc hangs around, hoping for a chance to reclaim that spot just to do it, but he’ll eventually give up and go play with Tony or join me upstairs.

This could go on all summer. Max has fixated on other places before, like the top levels of both the high kitty perches and the rocker. When he did, he stayed in those spots exclusively for months.

But then one day he’ll change his mind, move somewhere else, and never go back. It’s a mystery what goes into that decision.

When Max does leave the couch, he never walks in front of it back to his spot and hops up. He has to get there by way of the end table and the back of the couch. Or the slightly more direct route from the table to my shoulder and then down my entire body. I’ve got scratches on my boob to prove it.

The other night I opened a new box of tissues for the end table, and this is what Max immediately did to it…

Not counting how he inadvertently gouges all the furniture when he stretches with his claws out, I would say Max is the cat who takes pains to NOT be destructive. His one vice has always been slamming doors. He’s been known to trap unwary cats in a closet or my office, like the late Cole. Or even Roc, who I’m surprised didn’t see it coming.

So this business of shredding tissues is uncharacteristic. He’ll even do it while I’m sitting right there. Could he be trying to perfect the art of origami?

He’s had nine months to adjust to Adele’s absence. Even though Roc and Tony often chase Max around like Adele did, he seems to get that they’re doing it for sport rather than with an intent to kill, so Max doesn’t fear them or try to hide from them.

I guess Max is still exploring the feisty side he had to keep hidden from Adele all those years. I just hope he doesn’t go into the bathroom and discover those 1,100-sheet rolls of Scott® toilet paper I’m using now, because this was one of his first tricks as a kitten…

PS: Tomorrow is officially #BourdainDay and I’ve got some family updates to share, so stay tuned…


Chapter 85: COVID Chronicles

June 21, 2020

By Tony

Day 102

Belmont Recap & Funny Business in the Holly Tree

For my first time ever seeing a horse race, I’m pretty proud of my predictions for the Belmont Stakes yesterday. I gave Tiz the Law the benefit of the doubt, since he was the humans’ favorite, and they were right. He won.

But there I was, glued to the screen when MY favorite, Fore Left, shifted into high gear and stunned everybody on the track when he looked for a moment like he was going to pull off a big upset…

Here was the leader board…

Unfortunately, Lefty’s boldness motivated the other horses and some of them overtook him. I’m glad his jockey let him relax back to 9th place because it made no sense at that point to run him to death.

One of the horses that charged in the end was my other favorite, Max Player. He really showed his stuff in the stretch and finished third!

At home, we had some excitement, too. It started when Karen noticed some dead branches on the holly tree outside the kitchen window. When she went to investigate, she found this nest…

There’s this cardinal who’s been giving Roc and me the stink-eye from that tree for about a week now. Little did we know he was shacking up out there…

Turns out he’s married. When Karen was tugging on the dead branches before she saw the nest, he and his wife were having a fit, flapping and squawking. Here he is again (top) and his bride…

She doesn’t look anything like a cardinal, so we thought it was a mixed marriage (do birds do that?). But Karen looked it up and girl cardinals are gray. Also, cardinals are monogamous and keep the same mate for life, so rather than the carefree playboybird he made us think he was, he’s spoken for.

The wife plopped down in the nest as soon as Karen came back into the house. This is their mating season, so she’s probably hatching a litter out there. The nest is too high for Karen to peek into. Cardinals are born in about 12 days, so Roc and I are keeping an eye out for a sudden population explosion.


Chapter 83: COVID Chronicles

June 19, 2020

By Karen

Day 100

Forget Waldo. Where’s Roc? & Tony’s Learning Ponies

This morning, out of the blue, Roc decided to climb onto my bookcase (which he hasn’t done since he was a kitten) and post his own version of “Where’s the Cat?” that trended on Twitter this week…

Max’s recent willingness to claim new spaces may be rubbing off. But since Roc doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, I think you found him pretty easy to spot. And seeing him on that bookcase reminds me I really could tidy things up over there.

Here is the much more clever photo from Twitter that inspired Roc, posted by @KateHinds. Can you find the cat? I couldn’t…

Photo @KateHinds Twitter

Hint: focus on the TV nook.

That’s it for today. We’re busy coaching Tony for his first big horse race tomorrow, the Belmont Stakes. Last year, he wasn’t even born when Triple Crown season began.

Tony’s in the spirit, excited to learn about racing, and practicing typing with his oversized paws. I’ve been helping him do his homework on the horses, and he’ll share his picks for the big race in the morning.


Chapter 82: COVID Chronicles

June 18, 2020

By Karen

Day 99

It’s Tough Being a Statue & My Tasty Tuna Salad

Richmond’s down to 10 Confederate statues (from 13). Earlier this week, protesters spray-painted and yanked off its pedestal a rather nondescript one called “Richmond Howitzers.” I’m sure I’ve driven past it multiple times over the years, but can’t say I ever noticed it existed until it bit the dust…

Alexa Welch Edlund/AP

I think my Yankee-bred radar has conditioned itself to ignore Civil War blips because they never quit. It even comes up in some of my work, in academic contexts.

But Richmond being Richmond, some tit for tat to Black Lives Matter was inevitable. Yesterday someone spray-painted White Lives Matter graffiti on the pedestal of tennis hero Arthur Ashe’s statue. I’m not a tennis fan, but the Ashe statue is truly fascinating. I get creeped out every time I see it…

Sports Illustrated

He’s posed as if he’s about to serve a stack of books. And what’s with those sawed-off children? They’re straight out of Stephen King.

The Ashe statue was placed on Monument Avenue in 1996 after a protracted battle to get it there. But they made sure he was well apart from the Confederates. Here’s a rough map of where they all sit…

Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

After erecting the statue, believe it or not, Richmond honored Ashe AGAIN.

Richmond had this wide old street named just “The Boulevard.” It’s home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the new “Rumors of War” statue, and crosses Monument Avenue at one point. One year ago, on June 22, The Boulevard was renamed Arthur Ashe Blvd.

There’s some talk of renaming myriad streets around here that have Confederate names. But if they start on that path, it will directly affect a large portion of the population, cost a fortune for address changes, and nobody will be able to find anything anymore.

Footnote: I didn’t mention this because it wasn’t initially reported, but when the statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was pulled down, his face got bashed in. I don’t know if it happened in the fall or deliberately. Assuming no one will pay to restore him, he’s probably toast. It’s all for the best.

Back on the home front, I’m out of lunchmeat. I only buy it at Aldi because it costs considerably more in Food Lion, so today I made tuna salad for lunch. It never turns out the same way twice, depending on what I have on hand.

I do prefer giving it crunch with radishes over celery because 1) radishes are spicier, and 2) I can never use up a bunch of celery before it goes bendy.

I eyeball the quantities and use just enough mayo make it hang together. Old Bay seasoning is excellent on just about any fish (and popcorn!). Here’s all I threw into this batch and it turned out delicious…

Of course, as soon as they heard the can opener, Tony and Roc came running for tuna juice. I gave them some of the plain people tuna as well, but Roc turned up his nose and left it for Tony.

By the way, Roc sends his regards. Windows are open today and he’s enjoying the outdoors from a kitty perch…

Max, still determined to keep his new spot on the couch, has been there since breakfast. He’s got amazing bladder capacity…

Tony just brought to my attention his resemblance to the little cat drawing that’s hung for years above the Kitty Condo near Clark Gable…

BTW, we’re all prepping Tony to watch his first Triple Crown race Saturday, the Belmont. We’ll see if horses are his thing. Adele would be so pleased.

 


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