Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Further On Up the Road

I was talking to my friend TS Elmwood earlier today. I was telling her about Will’s cat being very ill.

“That’s so sad. I feel so bad for him and Mary – you’ve told me how much they love their animals.”

He said that they are worried that their old girl is near the end.

“Our dog died last year. During her last weeks, I found myself trying to come up with ways to express what I was feeling. Metaphors, analogies, whatever, for the experience.”

For instance?

“I would think about walking with her, along a path near a cliff, and being scared to death that she was going to fall off the cliff. I realized that wasn’t quite right – she was old and sick, she wasn’t going to fall off a cliff. Then I would think about fog.”


“I would think about walking through a thick fog with her, and she would be by my side, then she would walk a little farther away from me, and it would be harder to see her in the fog, and again, I was scared that she would walk away from me, and disappear into the fog, and she would be gone.”

Will was telling me that one night he saw their cat sitting in the doorway to their bedroom, and then the cat walked away and disappeared around the corner.

“Poor Will. That does come close to describing how I felt about our dog. So along with cliffs and fog, I also thought about different paths – that is, paths or roads, with forks or branches.”


“When I realized that our dog did not have long to live, I realized that we were on the path to her death. Day by day, I would think about the path ahead, and my impressions of how long or short the path might be – when she had a good couple of days, I would think that the path had changed, and we still might have a ways to go. But then her symptoms would get worse, and I would feel that we had taken a different path, one that would be shorter.”

Will was saying that he hopes to get her to her next birthday in a month.

“And we had hoped to get our dog through the holidays. She made it, and then we had to let her go.”

This is probably a stupid question, but do you believe any of that rainbow bridge stuff?

“I don’t know. Have you heard the story about the man, his dog, and the path to heaven?”

Not that I recall.

“Let me try to adapt it to a man with cats. Ummm…“

So a man is out walking. He feels as if he is just waking from a dream, and he is just becoming aware of his surroundings. He looks around, and he sees that a number of cats are walking with him.

He remembers that these cats were his, through various times in his life, and that they all died before he did. And he realizes that he too, had died.

He and the cats walk for a ways, and they come to a big, fancy gate. There is a man sitting on a chair in front of the gate – he sees the man, and smiles, and the gate opens.

“Come in,” says the man at the gate. “We’ve been expecting you.”

The man with the cats looks through the gate, and sees a beautiful village, with many beautiful buildings and beautiful people. He asks the man at the gate, “What is this place?”

“This is Heaven,” is the answer. “Come in and join us.”

The man with the cats starts to walk through the gate. But the other man stops him, and says, “Wait,” and points to the cats, “they’re not allowed here.”

The man with the cats looks at the beautiful village behind the gate. He looks at his cats, and they look at him. He turns to the man at the gate, and says, “No thanks.”

So the man and the cats walk a ways further. They come to another gate – this is a simple wooden gate. Behind the gate he can see what looks like another village. An ordinary-looking village, with ordinary people. And the people are walking with dogs, and cats, and horses, and lots of other animals.

There is an old couple standing at the gate, next to an old pump. They smile at the man with the cats, and they put out several bowls of water, from which the cats drink eagerly.

“What is this place?” asks the man with the cats.

“This is Heaven,” says the old man.

“Come in, we’ve been expecting you,” says the old woman, and she motions to the cats – “all of you.” And the gate opens.

As the man and the cats all walk through the gate, the man turns to the old couple and says, “You know, there’s another place up the road, and they say that they’re Heaven.”

The old man nods. “They would say that, wouldn’t they.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” asks the man with the cats.

“Nope,” says the old woman. “The people who really want to get to here – they always find their way here.”

The Old Girl's Story

I had not heard from my friend Will Briarwood for a while, so I sent him an e-mail and asked him how the cats were doing. He called me back.

“It looks like we’re getting near the end for the old girl.”

I am sorry to hear that, Will.

“Yeah. We took her to the vet yesterday – she was already scheduled to get her blood work rechecked, but then she suddenly stopped eating a couple days ago, and she’s been really weak and lethargic. The vet took a chest x-ray, and said her lungs are in worse shape than we thought.”

Is she still coughing?

“No, actually, she was coughing a lot a week ago, then she stopped. And she was eating ok, so we thought she was doing pretty well. But now…”

We can talk about this some other time, if you prefer…

“Well, let me give you the situation, and let me tell you a quick story. We were at the vet for like ninety minutes yesterday, and I’m trying to process everything he’s telling us. And not only am I trying to understand the old girl’s health – Mary compared it to when her grandmother died, after having pneumonia several times, her lungs were just worn out – not only that, but Mary was also asking the vet about putting her to sleep, and I’m trying to take this all one step at a time…”

You and Mary will know what step to take when, Will.

“I know. Mary already talked to a vet who does house calls, so when the time comes, we can let the old girl go without having to stress her out with one final trip to the vet…”

Can we do anything for you?

“No, I think we’re ok. If only the old girl would get her appetite back, then maybe we would have a bit more time – I really wanted to get her to her birthday in a month.”

How old will she be?

“She would be – will be – could be… she was born on September 2, 1992, so her fifteenth birthday is coming up.”

If I remember correctly, that would make her about seventy-five in human years.

“Seventy-six on the chart we use. Let me tell you a quick story, then I gotta go.”


“True story, unless I was dreaming. I’ve mentioned that all of the cats sleep in our bed with us.”

You have.

“And they come and go during the night – sometimes I wake up, and they’re all there, sometimes it’s a couple of them, sometimes they’re all somewhere else.”

Go on.

“Week or two back, I woke up early one morning. Mary was asleep, and all four cats were in the bed with us. After a few minutes, the old girl gets up, climbs out of bed, and walks to the bedroom doorway. She sits there for a moment, and, half awake, I call her name. She looks over her shoulder for a few seconds, then she walks out into the hallway, turns the corner, and she’s gone. And I’m lying there, completely… what’s the word I want…”


“No, that would imply something scary, or evil. Unsettled, maybe? Lying there in bed, me and Mary, with only three cats. And the image of the old girl, sitting in the doorway, on her way to… somewhere…”

That would be unsettling.

“And you know how it is, when we’re stressed by things like this, sometimes we try to read too much into a normal occurrence.”

Like this was a premonition?

“Or a message from the old girl, that she wanted me to know that she would be leaving soon…”

Are you sure there is nothing that covivant and I can do for you?

“We’ll be ok. One way or another. I’ll let you know how things go.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stuart and Dave, Peter and Abby

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today.

“Do you know who Peter Walsh is?”

The name sounds familiar…

“He’s a professional organizer, he used to be on Clean Sweep.”

I remember – covivant and I watched that show for a while.

“We saw him on Oprah recently, talking about his new book, and getting all philosophical.”

They did not get into that Secret stuff, did they?

“No, not that kind of philosophy. Peter helps people get rid of the clutter in their lives, and he said that people generally have two kinds of clutter.”

Which are…

“Stuff that they associate with memories, and stuff that they think they might need one day. So half of their stuff is from the past, and half is for the future, so they’re not living for today. Or something like that.”

That makes sense. I know I have lots of stuff in each of those categories.

“Well, as usual, it got me thinking about other stuff, and people.”

Is this about stuff that you are saving, that has memories of family, or people you knew?

“Not physical stuff, no.”

Umm – what are we talking about here, Will?

“Let me tell you whom I was thinking about – Stuart Adamson, and the Hoodoo Gurus, and my friend Abby from college.”


“Stuart Adamson was the singer / guitarist / songwriter for Big Country. I bought their first couple records, and then kind of lost interest in them. I bought their last record after he died, and found myself feeling guilty that I had not followed his career.”


“Not the right word, maybe. But I felt like I should have stayed with them longer, that I had missed out on something.”

Same for the Hoodoo Gurus?

“Yeah. Except that Dave Faulkner – the singer / guitarist / songwriter – is still alive. I bought their first few records, and again, lost interest.”

Ummm – you do know that, as a fan, you are not really obligated to keep buying their music forever?

“I know, I know. Mary says I’m – what’s the word, transferring? I’m transferring my feelings about something, or someone else to the music I listen to.”

You mentioned your friend, Abby?

“Yeah. Let me say first, that I had a bunch of good friends back in college, and kept in touch with them for many years, but eventually I stopped seeing them, then we stopped calling, and now I think we just get one Christmas card from that group of people. So it’s not just Abby.”

Who was she?

“I met her through another friend in college – I think she was someone’s roommate. I’m not sure of the last time I saw her – maybe like fifteen years ago, a few years after she got married.”


“…and she died a couple years ago.”


“She was forty-nine, I think. I read her name in the alumni newsletter, in the ‘Deaths’ column. Then I went and found her obituary in the Tribune.”

People do go on different paths, and lose touch over the years.

“I know, I know. It was just a shock to see her obituary – I think she was the first friend of mine that died. And then it was kind of an unhappy realization that none of my other friends from back then had let me know that she died, or that she was sick – the obituary mentioned a ‘battle with cancer.’”

Maybe they had lost touch with her, too.

“Maybe. I guess. So anyway, I was thinking about what Peter Walsh said, and I started looking at the stuff I have in our basement, and started thinking about things that I’m keeping for the memories – cd’s from bands that I stopped listening to, or junk from college days.”

Umm… I think we are just touching lightly on a heavy subject, Will.

“I know. Peter Walsh also has lots to say about the reasons that people save clutter. And that it’s one thing to go through your old lp’s, or cd’s, or through your closet, or basement, and attic, and then the garage…”

But it is another thing…

“It’s two other things. One is to address the reasons that we need to hang onto so much stuff – physical clutter, I mean. And it’s another thing to deal with friends who are gone. Or who are still around, but just not in our lives.”

So which are you going to do first?

“I think I’m going to play an old Big Country record, and then an old Hoodoo Gurus record or two.”


“And then, what I’m going to do, is throw out some stuff that I really don’t need any more.”

What about the old friends? Going to give someone a call, or maybe an e-mail or a letter?

“Still working through that.”

Well, good luck with that.

“Thanks. Leave us with a Big Country lyric, won’t you?”

“I dreamed I heard that you were dead
I dreamed I searched an empty bed
For a sign of you”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Read About It

Stuff I read online recently…

Amy Rigby aka Little Fugitive In France tells about hearing “Every song you never wanted to hear again played as badly as possible without shame.”

Calculated Risk writes about “Those Wacky NAR Forecasts.”

Cocktail Party Physics writes about Al Gore III and his Prius, and many other things.

Jim DeRo talks to Yoko Ono.

And the BBC writes about organic food.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good Life, With Cats

As I was saying, I talked to my friend Will Briarwood the other day. He was giving me the latest on his cats…

“We took the old girl to the vet a week-and-a-half ago, and we took the boys in the next day.”


“Well, we have good news for now, and we have pretty good news, and we have some good and some not good.”


“The big guy, who has had two cancer surgeries, he got a clean bill of health. The vet said if he can stay healthy for another few months, then we can worry less about recurrence.”

That does sound good.

“For now. After his first surgery, he got two more tumors about five or six months later. So we will keep checking him. I feel bad sometimes, when I go to pet him, and I hesitate because I’m worried about finding another lump.”

I think I read somewhere that cats can, in some way, sense that you are worrying about them. So it is important to keep a positive attitude, to avoid stressing your cat. And yourself.

“I try, but it’s hard. Anyway, the big guy also lost about a pound in the last three months. I told the vet it was probably because the little guy eats special food, and we put it up on the kitchen counter where the big guy can’t get it. So the big guy is eating less than he used to.”

Was the vet concerned about the weight loss?

“Yeah, but I think that’s one of those things that always catches their attention. A weight loss, or a weight gain, those are numbers that are easy to notice. He said another pound might be a concern, if it’s too sudden.”

And how is the little guy?

“He got the pretty good news. He’s all healed after his surgery two months ago. The vet was a bit concerned about the concentration of his urine – we have to get him to eat more of his moist food. Or try adding water to his dry food.”

And how is the old girl?

“Let me take a deep breath here… the vet had us increase her prednisone, which brought her appetite back, which is good, but she’s still coughing, which is not good, and she’s also slightly anemic, which is not good, and we are giving her iron supplements, which we worry could make her constipated. But her kidney functions were good, and she acts normal, meaning that she’s not hiding, and she’s not lethargic, which is good.”

And let’s not forget the queen.

“She’s sixteen years old – we figure she’s about eighty-one in human years – and she also got a clean bill of health last month.”

And how are you and Mary doing with all this?

“It’s a strain. Emotionally and financially. I would be lost – and so would the cats – without Mary.”

You know, you have complained to me that you are the one who is always paying the vet bills, and the pet store bills, and cleaning the catboxes, and…

“Yeah, I know. But she loves those cats so much, and they love her so much – that connection is so important for their health.”

You have given those cats good lives, Will.

“And they have given us a good life.”

Monday, July 09, 2007


I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. He called to let me know how his cats were doing.

“First, though, you said you wanted to thank some people.”

I did say that. So thank you, Amy Rigby, for all those great cd’s of yours, and for your kind words in your comment on this blog the other day.

“I hope she’s happy with Eric in France, and I hope that domestic bliss doesn’t make her next record boring.”

Thanks, Will. I think.

“Who else?”

Two people, neither of whom I ever met in person, both of whom I knew online.

“As well as one can know someone online, you mean.”

Right. So, thank you, Chet Kresiak, for your encouragement about fifteen years ago, when I first got online via the old Prodigy , and we met on the Springsteen boards. And thank you, Dave Purcell, as you were the first person to encourage me to post more on Postcard2, like ten years ago.

“I’d like to thank my wife, Mary, for taking care of our cats.”

Hold that thought for the next post…

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summertime and the Blogging Is Easy

I got an e-mail from my friend TS Elmwood earlier today. TS is into The Weather.

She wanted to make sure I was reading the Tom Skilling weather blog. I do read it, and I had seen the story she mentioned in her e-mail, about how hot and dry it was out west. I called her to discuss.

“Weren’t those great numbers? A hundred and ten degrees, with a dew point below zero, and like one percent humidity.”

It was fairly dry here the other day, but for us that means a dew point down in the forties.

“I hope you got out and enjoyed it.”

I mowed the lawn, front and back.

“That’s not what I mean. Are you still walking?”

Not as much as I should. I got a pedometer recently, but I do not think I have gotten past about five thousand steps in a day.

“I told you that moving out to the suburbs would do that to you.”

I know. When I lived in the city, and did not own a car, I would walk everywhere.

“Now you sit inside and blog.”

Are you saying that I should get a long cable, and take my computer outside?

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, you dope. How is the blog going?”

OK. I did get my first comment the other day, and it was from one of my favorite people.

“And that would be…”

Amy Rigby. She’s a singer / songwriter, and I have all of her cd’s. I left a comment on her blog, and she returned the favor with a nice, encouraging comment on mine.

“It is nice to get encouragement, isn’t it.”

It is.

TS had to go out with her kids, so we said goodbye.

But before I forget, let me repeat, it is nice to get encouragement. So in my next post, I want to thank some people…

9-1-1 On 7/4

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. I asked him how his Fourth was.

“Not too bad. But I did call 9-1-1 last night.”

Neighbors with late night fireworks again?

“No, those morons were a lot quieter this year. And besides, I don’t think the police ever showed up when we called them a couple years ago to complain. This year I called them about Monica.”


“About seven o’clock, the doorbell rang. I answered it, and it was a young woman, maybe college-age. She said she was a foreign exchange student – she did have a slight accent – and she was selling children’s books.”

Umm – that sounds pretty dangerous. Did you call Homeland Security, too?

“Ha. Let me continue the story. So she said to me that my children were probably older and moved out. She kept talking, and I cut her off and said I was sorry, but we would not be interested.”

Again, sounds pretty dangerous.

“Then she started asking about which of our neighbors had young children – and she pulls out this map she had drawn of our street, checking off different houses. She said she had knocked on one door twice by mistake, and that she wanted to keep track of which houses she had been to.”

OK, that does sound a bit weird.

“So I told her I did not feel comfortable giving out that sort of information, and she apologized, and went over to the house next door. Mary and I talked about her for a few minutes – we figured it was probably a ninety-five percent chance that she was just some kid selling books.”

And that other five percent?

“Well, there have been a few burglaries around our side of town, over the past few weeks, daytime burglaries. And the stories in the local papers, they always quote the police as saying that citizens should report any suspicious activity.”

So you reported.

“I called the non-emergency number. The woman there said I should call 9-1-1, and they could send a car. I called 9-1-1 – I told the dispatcher about her, and he said they would check her out.”


“Well, I made one mistake, I think – when the guy at 9-1-1 asked if I wanted the officer to come talk to us after he talked to the woman, I said no, that was not necessary. So I don’t know what happened.”

You never saw the police?

“Well, when I was talking to 9-1-1, I could see Monica – did I mention that she said her name was Monica? I could see her at one of the houses at the other end of the block. Then I saw her walk to the corner, turn north, and that’s the last I saw of her.”

Maybe the police saw her on the next block and talked to her.

“Maybe. I mean, I felt bad for this woman, because she probably was just someone selling books. But she was out on a holiday, and she was asking weird questions.”

You do not think that any of your neighbors would call the police?

“I don’t think many of them were home last night. But before Monica left, when I saw her talking to the neighbor at the end of the block, I could see the neighbor pointing to several of the houses down there, like she was telling Monica which houses to go to.”

If Monica was working with burglars, I guess knowing which houses had young children would mean it would be more likely that those houses would have someone home during the day, right?

“Yeah, I wish I had thought of something to tell her, like that Mary worked at home, or that she was out walking our big vicious dog and would be right back.”

Another story with no ending, Will…

“Write one for me. Like, ‘Police Crack Burglary Ring Thanks To Vigilant Citizen.’”

Or ‘Exchange Student Goes Back Home After Police Harassment.’

“Ha. Remind me to give you an update on the cats, next time I talk to you.”

Will do.

“What ever happened I apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July