Archive for June, 2010

End of Hope in Hyde Park?

June 28th, 2010

At 15, when I tried to discuss what I got from Beatles’ lyrics, my older sister curtly informed me I was overthinking. I should just be literal.

Yet today, noticing a Fairmount Hill neighbor’s rubbish array, I wonder what it means. nowishesHer wishing well has long dominated her front yard. Now she’s discarded it.

Could it be that all her wishes are manifested? Could she have given up, like one who has stopped buying a weekly lottery ticket? Could it be that this was a decorative object only and she has tired of it? Might she have a grander wishing well on the way? Might someone be digging her a well to complete the metaphor? Might this be a symbol of the lack of hope in Hyde Park and Boston. Might my sister have been right all along?

This also brought to mind a piece of performance art by a friend when I lived in New York. I sort of inherited Savannah (the nom d’art of Marion Etheredge) from my new wife. They had shared a house in Beaufort, South Carolina during Savannah’s nasty divorce. Afterward she moved to Manhattan where we lived.

In this larger city though we saw Savannah set a tall step ladder in front of her place on Vestry Street in the view of the Twin Towers. She struggled up a bit, burdened with a watermelon. Holding it for a long moment, she said brightly and clearly, “Like our hopes and dreams…,” as she let it fall to the sidewalk. It splattered and broke apart.

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Don’t Fear Cops Bearing Rosé

June 25th, 2010

Even though I’m a life-long crank, I was surprised to hear my wife call to the basement that a police officer was there to see me. I immediately responded, “It isn’t Linskey, it is?”

Well, he was.

This is one of those reaping what you sow moments…and a pleasant one at that. The city’s number one officer, Chief Superintendent Daniel P. Linskey had walked three houses East, bearing:

  • a bottle of wine (a modest Spanish rosé, well suited to warm weather)
  • a 2-page, single-spaced explanatory letter
  • neighborly acquaintanceship

This visit was a direct result of my sporadic exchange with Commissioner Edward Davis. Most recently, I had perhaps unfairly involved Linskey.

As a sometimes driver from Boston (an not a Boston Driver) and very frequent cyclist, I have serious, loud opinions about safety, enforcement, and how the BPD officers should behave. I had a couple of exchanges with Davis about this, including his form-letter response that cops obey the traffic laws because they get annual training telling them to do so. I sent a recent letter back suggesting that was more pixie dust than proof.

With a bit of jaundiced glee, I recently saw Linskey head home, breaking a series of laws on the final leg, as he passed me cycling up our very steep hill. I sent a teasing letter to Davis nothing that blue-and-white with plate POLICE 1 blew a stop sign, turned without a signal and pulled to house without signaling — three sort of standard Boston-driver actions within 100 yards.

That prompted the visit from Linskey, it seems. His letter was also surprising in contrition. He noted that he had a physical reason to hurry home, as well as that he had been involved in his many non-police, after-duty tasks, including the likes of baseball, football, lacrosse, school and music with his kids.

Actually while he has a nice base salary (reported recently as over $179,000), he is not one of those BPD members who doubles his salary or more with paid details. Instead, he volunteers with youth sports and the like. Good on him. He’s a serious dad and not greedy.

Regardless, he and I had a nice chat in the living room. He couldn’t stay, but he ended up meeting not my sons, but my wife and three visiting New Mexico relatives, my sister, niece and grandnephew. It was a, well, neighborly visit.

I confess that even Dan Linskey’s graciousness will not make me less of a crank. I still believe that our cops have a real duty to model proper behavior, including excellent driving.

Meeting Linskey has certainly made me feel better toward  him personally.

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The Mayor’s Steed Must Wait

June 25th, 2010

Well, if not hot gossip, it’s at least warm. Sure enough, Boston Mayor Tom Menino won’t be street cycling short-term.

I get to say that two city officials have told me that his knee rework has not healed as fast as he wants. Despite his promise last month at the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Avenue bike lanes, he may not be back on the saddle for weeks or months.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally met neighbor Daniel Linskey. (That is another good tale — more on it later.) He used to be Menino’s driver and is still a good friend. He also happens to be the number one police officer, the chief superintendent.

I mentioned to him that I had been trying to get eminence gris et bleu to ride into his/our city hall from Hyde Park. Now that I’ve moved here, I figure I can inspire him to do more than tool around Readville. I ask him every time we meet.

However, Linskey said that he doesn’t think Menino will be riding soon. In fact, his knee is still troublesome and the mayor and Police Commissioner Ed Davis swim instead. That apparently is part of Menino’s therapy.

Then today at Bike Friday, Boston Bicycle Coordinator Nicole Freedman (shown in red to his blue) confirmed the delay. She said he has been limping around the fifth floor. However, she also said that he tells her he misses biking and will be back on two wheels as soon as he can.

There you have it, cycling fans, confirmation from two sources. That’s about as good as hearsay gets.

I for one look forward to Da Mare’s return to cycling. He is certainly a cycling champion in the sense of advocacy. My invitation to ride into town from our shared neighborhood remains.

Cross-post note: This appears at Marry in Massachusetts, overlapping politics and regular life.

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Invisible Purple Butt

June 23rd, 2010

Seen only by my wife, my big old gluteus maximus (sinister) bruise got bigger. Following being hurled to the pavement with my bike by a hit-and-run driver 11 days ago, the worst wound isn’t publicly obvious.

A bit lower, knees in general lack the beauty and sensuality associated with other parts, such as necks. My far more displayed right knee is even less attractive after the collision. My right elbow took an asphalt scrape as well. The knee is scabbed over where it had been bleeding that day.

It’s my left nether cheek though that seemed to have taken the brunt of the not-quite-passing driver’s side view mirror. I figured that out on the cycle home as my head began to clear from the shock of it all. It began to and has continued as though my hip and butt had taken the force of a baseball bat in full swing.

The geometry and logic of it suggests I might feel grateful and fortunate. A few more inches or a different angle and the car surely would have caught my bike’s rear wheel instead of my rear end. In that case, I likely would have ended up under the car and dead.

Given the irresponsibility and cowardice of the driver in what did happen, that too would have been a hit and run. It’s unlikely that we can teach people what they didn’t learn growing up.

Now I have this living, morphing, almost certainly disappearing tattoo…down there. The afternoon it happened, it was grapefruit sized. It grew to cantaloupe dimensions and covers my entire left launch.

Assuming it doesn’t form internal blot clots, it should become paler until it disappears as my body resorbs it. The ubiquitous custodians that patrol our circulatory system are relentlessly cleansing.

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Southern Smells of Spring

June 22nd, 2010

“You will notice an odd odor. If it doesn’t have the foam and the odor, do not use.”

My favorite recipe from my maternal grandmother, Mable, is very sensual and suitably vague. That salt-rising bread recipe starts with “At noon, slice 2 potatoes into a qt. jar,” goes through creating a frothy leavening not by salt but with potato starch, corn meal and baking soda, and leads to adding “fat the size of an egg” before kneading.

The peculiar smell is definitely part of the bread, both in preparation and eating. Reading the recipe puts me back in that West Virginia kitchen. Slicing the dense bread thinly and coating its toast in a wee layer of butter puts me at the table in the next room.

Walking down Brush Hill Road today on the border of Boston’s Hyde Park and Milton, I stumbled by and breathed in more honeysuckle. I don’t see much of that up here in Yankee land and when I do, I see one vine, not 50 or or 100 yards of it. Yet, that cloying smell evokes childhood. Perhaps that’s one of my Madelaine triggers.That single full honeysuckle today sent me back to age 13.

This works even for we feeble men. Scent is supposedly the woman’s advantage among senses. Word is that a typical woman can detect the faintest whiff of another woman on a man, while he is oblivious. Perhaps, but flowers and foods transport me.

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Vanishing Cape and Intruding Trees

June 21st, 2010

In a follow-up to the Blue Hills geology perambulating lecture, the same guy, Les Tyrala, took a dozen of us around World’s End in Hingham. As well as seeing, touching and hearing about the rocks, we learned to bid farewell to Cape Cod and about yet other foibles of Frederick Law Olmsted.

The BH version was a DCR property and this was Trustees of Reservations’. Regardless, if you can hike slowly and have any interest in nature, Tyrala’s shows are worth the trips.

He admitted at the Blue Hills that this version was less varied and less dramatic in geological terms. Of course, he was right, but he knows so much beyond and related to rocks.

Bye Bye P’town

I remember in my first college geology course how the professor enjoyed talking about the ice ages. Speaking of the rate of movement of the thick slabs, he said the humanoids at the time were unlikely to think, “Oh, no…here comes the glacier. Run!”

Similarly, Tyrala notes that in geological terms, Cape Cod is gone. As he put it in my anthropomorphic terms, “The Atlantic Ocean doesn’t want it there.”

The relentless erosion is unstoppable. He figures the feature will be underwater to present day Duxbury. However, mirroring the caveman era, that’s nothing you and I have to worry about short-term. He estimates the process will take about 50,000 years or so.basaltdike

As for World’s End, it was mostly volcanic in origin, but relatively low-key. Seeping lava left rounded pillows here and there, but fairly homogeneous formations everywhere. A few shifts over faults moved one section higher and another lower. Weathering filled in air bubbles and cracks with other minerals, which makes for a little visual interest. Fresh seepage of lava produced classic Cape Ann basalt dikes — intrusive pathways of stone between two outcroppings.

Finally, the local glaciers did rough up the surface of the largest formations a bit. However, it had much less effect on striation and relocation than in the Blue Hills.

Pix Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail for a larger view. Use your back button to return.

Last Go for Fred

For the non-lithological aspects, Tyrala drew again on the local staff as well as his own broad knowledge. World’s End is a likely subject, as the last of Olmsted’s projects before he turned his landscape architecture business over to his son.

This land was set for exploitation by wealthy Bostonian owner John Brewer. Apparently he had worked through his farmer fantasy and hired Olmsted in 1890 to create a subdivision here. While that project sputtered, it got as far as the remaining web of carriage trails. There are also Olmsted plantings.

olmstedtreesA remarkable one is the seeming pathway of Norway maples in a long, close row. The Trustees guide gave us a tale that sounded apocryphal to me. Workers feared Olmsted’s extreme pickiness and planted these rows not for a pathway but as insurance in case some didn’t survive.

Of course, planting them so close kept them smallish, crowding each other. It would not be logical as backup either, leaving irregularities that surely would have displeased the perfectionist Olmsted. There doesn’t seem any record of the design decision.

However, as the skies and coincidence had it, we got another maybe tale the next day. We headed to Jamaica Pond for a 6 p.m. concert, following that vigorous rain and lightning display. While the band had given up about 5:30, wisely deciding not to have their electronics operating in thundershowers, still standing was Gerry Wright, Olmsted enactor.

As his real self, he felt it kind to hang around and inform the dozens dribbling in with chairs that the reggae/fusion concert would happen on August 1st instead. He also slipped seamlessly into his Olmsted persona.

I asked about the rows of trees. His version was that (he as) Olmsted believed you can never have too many trees. Overplanting and then thinning was his preferred design procedure.

Rogue Scandinavian

Oddly enough in modern terms, Olmsted loved vigorous trees and introducing species to his parks. That included the Norway maple, which has lovers and haters.

For the latter, such as the Nature Conservancy this tree is an overgrown weed, an invasive opportunist that crowds out sugar maples and serves as home to destructive beetles. Others, including my family, love the spreading and gracious early leafing tree, and particularly that it remains in its gorgeous yellow leaves for months, while that premature defoliator, the sugar maple, has gone to bare twigs and limbs.

leaves1In that vein, Yankee published a piece by my wife, on the tree. We had that house whose dining room used stencils of Norway maple leaves made by our artist friend Savannah (Marion Etheredge). The tree would be in full yellow glory outside the windows and images of those leaves would play off the interior walls.

You may fall into the hate or love camps for Norway maples, or you may never have thought about it. In any case, it’s worth checking the park sites, like the Trustees, DCR and Friends of the Blue Hills. These one-time tours for rocks, wildlife, bugs and plants are frequent in nice weather and occasional even in winter.

What you get after an hour or two hiking around is heightened awareness. After two walks with Tyrala, we know a ton more about how the rocks got there, what they’re made of, and how they changed and will change. There’s lots underfoot and overhead if you know what you’re seeing or touching. I suppose you could get that from reading guidebooks and doing it alone, but would you?

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King of the Reclaimed Road

June 20th, 2010

Yes, eight days ago, a hit-and-run driver smashed me and my bike to the asphalt. No, I’m not going to stop cycling, quake at the sight of cars or stay off the road.

Sore as my right knee and left gluteus are, I’ve been on the bike a few times since. Today, I rode that same road…to reclaim it emotionally.

Who’s a Monkey?

Aren’t we humans peculiar that way. Something bad occurs and we reprogram ourselves, forever looking for that negative outcome. That’s very much unlike my cinnamon ringtail monkey Sam of decades ago. I remember her sneaking behind me when I was rewiring a wall light switch. Before I could grab her, she thrust that agile paw into the plateless frame and got the full jolt  through her three and one-half pound body. I thought that might kill her, but she only looked very surprised. Less than two seconds later, I pulled her back as she went for the frame again.

I’m not sure the human reaction is any more sensible. We are wont to  say, “I know from experience that if you x, then y happens.” It makes no difference that y only happened once and did not happen hundreds or thousands of times before.

That seems the basis, the sole basis, of Scientology with its talk of engrams. If something bad happens, you will permanently alter your behavior.  Of course, in that specific case there is the solution of paying many thousands of dollars to hold tin cans or some other galvanometer connection and get cleared by one of theirs.

Long before this iteration though, clichés had it covered. To those who admit defeat, there has been once burned, twice shy. To the gut it out sorts, there has been when you fall off the horse, get right back on.

The distinction goes to one of my regular routines about literalism. Those of us who in fact become so crippled by a single bad experience that we are immobilized or afraid are just too literal. Those think differently. Too bad.

On the other hand, there’s another version of silly behavior by those who eschew analysis and can’t learn the obvious. My monkey was in that class and she has human company.

What Can We Learn?

As my head cleared from the shock and pain of the wreck last weekend, I did wonder if I had done all I could…short of hiding at home…to avoid getting hit. I have to say I did, with bright clothes, flashy colored bike, riding in the shoulder to the right of the fog line, constantly using my side-view mirror, signaling all turns and lane changes, and on and on. Even someone playing by all the conventions of safety can lose at the hands of the inattentive, malicious or drugged driver.

So, those who have not lost skin and blood to a reckless driver might ask, how is it to be back on a cycle on the same road? It’s a little nervous making, particularly in light of my not having any behavior to modify to make me feel I’m doing more to ensure my health and life.

I saw again on Route 138 what I generally see in road biking. Jerk behavior can include:

  • Intentionally coming inches from a cyclist (illegal as well as vicious)
  • Coming right on the rear wheel of a cyclist and blowing the horn (certain to startle, possible even cause a crash)
  • Playing drama queen by veering two or all four wheels over the center line even when the cyclist is in the bike lane or shoulder (very dangerous for both lanes and highly illegal)
  • Swinging past a cyclist and cutting two or four wheels into the shoulder or bike lane (also illegal and danger, as well as seeming to be a mindless overreaction)

I was slightly more aware of the drivers’ crazy behaviors. Those reminded me that unless drivers are also cyclists, they aren’t likely to get it. They are not trained to apply solid geometry and physics to passing, accelerating and sharing. They are also sure to not notice the field of broken glass in the bike lane or shoulder that will require the cyclist to avoid it. They may even behave as though if they blow their horn, the cyclist will disappear off the road so the drivers don’t have to obey the laws about passing safely or slowing as necessary. They don’t seem to understand that horns do no substitute for brakes.

Regardless, I did feel some kinship with drivers in one way. As those who veer into and travel in bike lanes and shoulders, I understand claiming territory. They seem to be marking the lane where the despicable biker will travel with their wheels when they drive there. That really isn’t much different from a cat or dog using scent glands or urine to mark turf.

In my case, I was back on 138. I briefly stopped by where the driver hit me. While I hoped to see a broken mirror I could take to the police, I figured Officer David would have seen that last Saturday. What I really wanted was to ride and walk that same stretch of road, making it mine again.

Back up on the horse, or in this case, on the bike…either way, in the saddle…is a damned sight better than paralyzed by events.

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Left in a Heap in Stoughton

June 18th, 2010

Bloodied, befuddled, bruised, but living, I arrived back home Saturday to cook for a dozen guests. It was after all my 10-month-old grandnephew’s day. This was his dedication — the UU version of a Christening, with a minister but without the trappings of removing demons or reserving a spot in the next world.

I escaped after being flung to the pavement with my bike by a hit-and-run driver in Stoughton.

The ride was an aging Boomer’s wont. I figured if I’d drink and eat well, I should sweat off calories in advance to earn it. The healthier choice might have been to sit on the deck and wash down junk food with beer. I don’t think crazed scofflaws would have driven to the back to get me.

Put me in the bucket of those with little tolerance for rants about how dangerous cyclists are — to pedestrians, cars, trucks, trolleys and themselves. Facts are that inattentive and even malicious drivers maim and kill others by the thousands every year. I’ve had my share and am tired of it.

About 15 years ago, an unlicensed, unregistered and uninsured young woman floored her car turning left and broadsided me. I can still hear the shouts and scream of the bystanders to her. She apparently was looking at and talking to her baby at the moment. The minimum-wage Filene’s clerk got a nominal fine and nothing else. I had broken fingers, a serious concussion and a ruined bike and helmet. The judge wouldn’t punish her and there was nothing to get were I to sue, said a lawyer.

A few years ago, one of those massive pickup trucks jumped a red light and hit me, also broadside. This was a damaged wheel and broken wrist.

Six days ago, I was only 10 or so miles from home when the hit-and-run coward clipped my butt and side mirror, knocking me with great force to Route 138. The cop who showed a few minutes afterward concurred that there was no way he didn’t see me and no way he would not have known he’d hit me.

Pix click trick: Click an image for a larger view.

visibilityFor the obviousness factor, since I was hit by the clerk, I dress for safety. My bike is bright yellow. My helmet is metallic blue. I was wearing a bright orange shirt. I’m nearly 200 pounds and six feet tall. I have gigantic shoulders and chest. At 11:30 a.m. there I was in my colorful glory.

A few schools, including Harvard, have veritas (truth) as their motto. My cycling version could well be visibilitas (visibility). I’m not one of those arrogant loonies who wanders behind cars backing up in the store lot thinking, “Oh, he’ll see me.” I try to make sure drivers see me. In fact, one my cycling guidelines is not riding on a day when I wouldn’t be able to see the face of a truck or bus driver because of sleet or snow or rain, figuring the driver might not see me.

Yet there I was on 138 headed north. The police report says it happened at 217 Washington Street in Stoughton. That’s across from X&O, the restaurant/bar.

Many cars turn in there and my amateur wreck reconstruction would have me in the shoulder/bike lane to the right of the fog line. That’s where I travel whenever I can and  there I can. I did not see the hit, but I sure felt it and the grapefruit-sized bruise on my left haunch as well as the destruction of my mirror at the same height suggest the side view mirror of the car did the damage.

That would put the driver maybe passing a left turner without looking ahead or to the right and coming over into the shoulder to hit me. It’s possible the driver did the damage without passing a turning vehicle, but I’ll stick with Occam’s razor on this one.

Wave the hands. Then magical things happen. Apparently I was either in shock or had a mild concussion. The next I recall is speaking to a nice and sharp and concerned Stoughton cop. 217

The magic was that according to the police report read to me today over the phone, I spoke with the fire department’s EMTs and the officer, whom I found out is Neal David. I refused a trip to the hospital, told them I did not see the car or driver or license number. I also provided my name, phone and other vitals as though I was functioning. I have no recollection of any of that.

I do remember speaking a bit with Officer David when I gained my awareness. He was angry and regretted not seeing the hit so there would have been no running. He’s not much for irresponsible scofflaws.

Perhaps I should have been checked out as a preventative, but really, short of bleeding brains (no helmet damage or other indicators) and the like, there’s not much an ER can do in such cases except consume 4 to 12 hours of your time. I had food to prepare, wine to chill, and clothes to dress myself in to assume the role of godfather

About two hours north on what appears to be a pretty undamaged bike, my head cleared more. I had images of being hit, but still didn’t see the car — I was compelled to the right and down away from the impact.

It was as I defogged that I was aware that I had not been aware. There was a missing block of minutes, while I appeared rational to the authority types. I suppose that’s what training and hormones can do.

I had a pretty ripped up knee, that big butt bruise with a lot of related muscle pain, and scrapes on my right forearm and elbow. william

Calling today to find out the specifics that I did not recall, I had a brief fantasy. Officer David said that sometimes witnesses call in to report details. My thought was that the hit-and-run driver might not have been amoral and devoid of compassion. Perhaps as Polybius wrote, “There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.” and someone came forward to ‘fess up.

…wrong on both counts.

That’s a very busy stretch of road. Apparently I was in a heap beside the road, bleeding and dazed. No one ID’ed the driver and no one stopped to see to me. The timeliness of the police coming by was Stoughton’s humanity.

What could I expect. This was Stoughton, not Samaria.

Glibness aside, I could easily have died from being hit from behind by a one to two ton vehicle. That I was in the right would not have counted for anything. My death certainly would have inconvenienced and upset those gathering for William’s day.

It does little good too to ask what sort of person would drive inattentively? would hit and run? would leave a body in the road? I think we all know about disregard for others, poor upbringing, disdain for laws, and amorality. Such a person is not even worthy of cursing. Yet, part of me does hope that Polybius was right.

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Pet Parting Pain

June 17th, 2010

Cracker became one of us. We even got used to that name she arrived bearing.

Today, we stroked and spoke to the aged and very sick cat as the vet killed her. That experience was of course sad, but less so than continuing to force medicine and food into her. Her mouth cancer made eating impossible and the only treatments would have been agonizing and deforming, as well as only slightly delaying her death.

We finally learned the lesson that vets had tried drum into us with two previous old, sick cats. Today though was about her and not us.

In her last couple of years, she had to come to terms with much. As an outdoor cat down South, she seems to have been tortured by more than her name. Coincidentally, the two young girls in her house named the first cat Ritz for its tan color and the next one Cracker to complete the trope, even though this one was all white. Her real color statement was unintentional, having two different color eyes, green and yellow. Her other physical oddity was an ear deformed years before from a mite infection. Her anomalies provided the attractiveness of slight imperfection.

When her owner family got a transfer to England for two years or who knows how long in reality, bringing a pet for a six-month quarantine was beyond awkward. Instead, we were pressed into service and Cracker arrived with one of the daughters bringing her in a pickup truck. She came into a life of being an indoor cat in a new climate and house, a house that already had a resident feline.

That start was ugly, very ugly. The much younger existing cat was beside herself in anger. Cracker was indifferent to Chi’s threats and only defended herself if directly attacked, but for the first time in my life, I had to get used to prolonged, regular hissing as background noise.

For her part, Cracker was much rougher on humans. We quickly realized that even touching her tail brought scratches and bites. We suspected that one or both of the daughters might not have been as kind as young girls in Disney cartoons. Cracker was not interested in laps or petting or even being picked up.

Yet it all came. She chose our then 17-year-old son as her person, sleeping by him and letting him rub her. She had a weird yet endearing trait of forcing open a bathroom door to rub against a person and get touched when anyone was seated on a toilet. She would hop up on the bed at night and get an 8 or 10 stroke rubdown before scurrying away. Eventually, she allowed petting and particularly combing. Long-haired Chi hates getting brushed but Cracker would likely sit under a comb for hours.

So as Cracker bonded more with us and we with her, we were reaching stasis and better. She adapted quickly to our new house, her second with us. That actually worked better for Chi as well. The new, larger house was like being territorial in the outback. Go ahead. There were lots of rooms, duplicate cat boxes and sauntering space for all.Cracker

So then it was that the aged Cracker became sick and then got the fatal diagnosis. I’m not a true cat person, but my wife came with cats and we’ve always had one or more. Becoming attached and then attempting detachment as they sicken and die really doesn’t get any easier.

I admit that it was harder with the previous cat, Tang, a Maine Coon. We had her for about 15 years. She was dog-like in her friendliness, gentleness and patience with humans.

Today, the vet was pretty plain about euthanasia being the right thing to do. As with Tang, it was in fact a good death, a quick and painless few seconds. Cracker’s only complaint was weak because of her malnourished state, but she was not happy about having a square inch of leg shaved with an electric razor to find a good spot for the barbiturate injection.

A few more words, a few more strokes and the needle. She was gone before you could have started to count.

How odd that I had just seen an online piece in Slate on human lethal injections. It included that the typical uncomplicated process there takes 9 minutes. I asked the clearly compassionate vet — after confessing that I was opposed to human capital punishment — why states could not or would not do the same for people. He said they could but chose to make a show out of it instead.

That seems all too plausible.

Back at home, Cracker’s corpse has an arboreal place in the back. Her remains went down classic style, deep, in a shroud, and covered with soil and a flagstone. The plan is to put shade-loving plants nearby, likely hosta. Tang got a dwarf cherry tree in the sunny spot.

Here, we’re at neither pet extreme. None of us dismisses our furred companions as just animals. Neither does any of us say, “This is my baby.” Yet, we attach to those who choose to sleep next to us or sit in our laps, who come to us for affection as well as food, who scold us if we have been away for days leaving them the help of visiting caregivers.

I can certainly see a life without a cat. After all, I had 27 years like that before I met my wife. However, I confess that I also enjoy the seemingly random, indecipherable chatter a cat can perform. I don’t anthropomorphize them, but I have always found them often affectionate familiars who mean me no harm.

Cracker got used to us and two new houses. We got used to her. I’ll miss Cracker with her old two-toned eyes.

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Lewd, Rude and Colorful

June 8th, 2010

stinkhorn clusterStriking in appearance, but otherwise unwelcome, the stinkhorns have visited under some of our rhodys. This trio popped up, spent the week smelling a bit, and withered.

They’ll be back. Short of putting non-acid loving plants in the spot and replacing all mulch and top soil, nothing gets rid of this colorful, fetid fungus.

Also known, for obvious reasons, as a penis plant, these visitors don’t serve much use except for a little color. One expert at the University of Wisconsin writes that maybe because of their shape, they are treated as aphrodisiacs in China. Then again, it’s difficult to find plants and animal parts that are not.

This is not the worst variety though. Some literally stink up the neighborhood. These are just mildly unpleasant close up, with a whiff of an animal carcass. However, by the time you see and smell them, the fungus part at the base has already reproduced. The phallus part is really the flower.

I think this is a live-and-let-live situation.

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