She likes a cozy box

Little Girl, who was Mama Kitten‘s shadow and fellow Driveway Bitch (mother and look-alike daughter were always in the driveway, by the door, ready to shake Sekhnet and me down for treats whenever we came or went) had a brush with death not long ago. She’s fine again now, back to hunting, and nonchalantly dominating her sisters, and seems to prefer a cozy box to the larger ones, sometimes.

Two cool clips (15 seconds total) from Sekhnet the perfectionist

With thanks to my girl, holding the camera phone rock steady in one hand while flipping the cookies perfectly with her other hand to her partner, the talented three year-old feral Little Girl, check this out (that’s Little Girl’s sister, Whiteback, working on a pile of her own cat cookies, in the foreground):

And here’s another take, even better, by the intrepid Sekhnet:

Here is my version, from a few days back:

Little Girl, the cat who was closest to her mother Mama Kitten (the two of them hung out in the driveway, shaking us down for treats whenever we appeared there, hence “the driveway bitches”), appeared for a few weeks to be succumbing to the same thing that killed her mother a few months ago. She was increasingly withdrawn, weak, unsteady on her legs, didn’t have much of an appetite and very little energy. I wrote about the poor devil’s struggle to survive on March 10.

Since then, starting a couple of weeks ago, she seems to have had a complete recovery. Here she is in the back of the garden, up to one of her old tricks:

Our talented feral friend seems fully recovered

Little Girl, the cat who was closest to her mother Mama Kitten (the two of them hung out in the driveway, shaking us down for treats whenever we appeared there, hence “the driveway bitches”), appeared for a few weeks to be succumbing to the same thing that killed her mother a few months ago. She was increasingly withdrawn, weak, unsteady on her legs, didn’t have much of an appetite and very little energy. I wrote about the poor devil’s struggle to survive on March 10.

Since then, starting a couple of weeks ago, she seems to have had a complete recovery. Here she is in the back of the garden, up to one of her old tricks:

Little Girl Wants to Live

Sekhnet and I have been very sad to see Little Girl, one of the feral cats we care for, seemingly following the progression of her mother’s quick, sudden death a few months back. Little Girl, a skilled hunter, who with her great paw-eye coordination, loves to catch thrown cat treats midair, with both paws and, often pop the treat directly into her mouth, is closely bonded to Sekhet and has lately been much more interactive with me. Now, no longer hunting or seeking to have treats thrown to her, she seems to be dying. The other day Sekhnet put out a box with a rug in it, in the sun, and Little Girl emerged to sun herself there each of the last few days.

A few nights ago, I went out to check on her. I sat next to her insulated sleeping box and saw she was in there and breathing, I didn’t want to bother her. She generally doesn’t like to be petted in there and lets you know with a quick yowl and a flash of her long, sharp claws.

While I sat by her box, her sister Whiteback hopped the fence and wanted to be petted and get a few treats. I obliged and as Whiteback began crunching the treats I saw Little Girl’s paw emerge from the box, reaching toward me as if to tap me on the arm. Her mighty claws were, for once, not extended (see photo below of her mighty claws, when she was a kitten). I put some treats in the palm of my hand and reached inside. Little Girl ate them all, licking my palm when the treats were done. She ate a few more batches. I was glad to see her appetite seemed better. When she was done eating I petted her a few times, until, eventually, she gave me a brief taste of the claw, indicating she’d had enough affection.

Her mother was about six when she died, Little Girl is not yet three. She’s been hanging in there so far, sat on Sekhnet’s lap for a long time yesterday, eating delicacies that Sekhnet brought her. We’re hoping for the best, her recovery, thinking perhaps a younger, healthier cat might be able to fight off whatever killed her mother, unlikely though it seems. We’re encouraged that she’s still eating a bit.

Here are two photos of her with brothers Turtleback and Whitefoot, from June, 2018 (Little Girl center in each). Those two wonderful little souls were gone within a few months of their birth. Little Girl, though she has been folding up her tents for the last week or two, does not seem ready to call it a day yet. It is a hard struggle for survival out there for feral cats, the ones who survive are tough, tough, tough– and lucky.

As I type I got this update on my phone from Sekhnet in the garden, under the caption “cozy dog…”, informing me that she ate a tiny bit more:

A Thousand Cuts

The dermatologist does a volume business, so the surgeon cuts deep, to cut only once and be done — he can see many more patients this way. Mohs surgery is designed to leave a minimal scar, particularly when removing a cancer on the face invisible to the naked eye, as this latest one (unseen by the dermatologist, diagnosed by me) was. But it takes time to remove the cells a few layers at a time, examine the cutting under a microscope, scrape a little more if needed. In a volume practice you simply cut down to the cartilage of the nose, examine the cutting under a microscope to verify you got the whole thing and you’re done.

As the patient, if you don’t want a deep scar, you can pay out of pocket to have your nose cut again, differently, stitches put in, etc. Or you can stop being a crybaby, this is the fourth or fifth scar on your nose anyway. Every other Mohs surgery you’ve had took hours, with this one you were in and out, after having the wound cauterized, in about thirty minutes.

You learn new words as you get older. Nocturia, waking at night to urinate. You hope to wake, anyway (so far, so good). Crepitate, the cracking sound your arthritic knee makes when you get up from a chair or the bed, the snap and pop accompanying the pain. Venous ablation — the process of inserting a wire into the veins of your leg to cauterize them from the inside to allow normal blood flow to return and reduce the odds of a stroke from pooled blood in the lower legs. Hematuria, blood in the urine, sometimes dribbling out in a dark brown stream, before the clot can finally be pushed through and get spit out.

Sometimes this shit just seems to come in a flood. You get up for nocturia, crepitate with a wince of sharp pain, feel a throb from where the next vein needs to be ablated, et voila, gross hematuria, a thin stream of prune juice and an impressive clot in the toilet bowl. Then you break a tooth.

These things can have an effect on your mood, like angry people claiming that because they love you they can do whatever they want to you and you just have to accept it — Ahimsa Boy. Especially hard to take as you watch the suffering of tens of millions, the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands and the embrace by tens of millions of a brazen, partisan denial of this suffering. Things being done to solve massive, societal problems, things supported by 3/4 of our citizens, are countered by lies and irrelevant talking points told to undermine every effort to ameliorate mass suffering. The proposed budget for pediatric psychiatric services in the American Rescue Plan, for aid to suffering children during an unprecedented (in a hundred years) pandemic is countered by a snarl of “cancel culture” when a private publisher decides to stop printing books with a few hilariously racist characters in them [1].

Then we throw this deep, cunning cut into the mix, just to complete the picture mood-wise:

This feral cat’s affectionate, fierce mother, Mama Kitten, died in October of an undiagnosed disease. It took a few months after her mother’s death for Little Girl, her mother’s shadow, a good hunter who had always been second in command to her dominant mother, to get comfortable in her new role as the alpha cat. In time she became almost as trusting and affectionate as her mother had been. Her coat is silky and she loves to be scratched and petted (when she feels like it, being a cat). She and her sister Whiteback are the only survivors of the litter with their brothers Whitefoot and Turtleback.

Lately she has shown the same signs of approaching death that her mother displayed before she died. A curious asymmetrical thickening of her abdomen (similar to her mother and older sibling Grey Guy right before they died) and a loss of energy, appetite and status. Her dopey little sister Whiteback recently stepped up to take her food the way Little Girl had done to her mother right before the end. Little Girl took to the same warm, insulated box her mother stayed in before she died and she didn’t come out for meals yesterday.

I offered her a treat, which she declined. I reached in to pet her and she reminded me she is a feral cat, giving me a nice long slash on the thumb with her sharp claws. Sekhnet was more persistent, and more persuasive, and she spent a long time petting and comforting the doomed cat, virtually immobile in her warm box. As fate would have it, it was frigid last night. We both expected to find a beautiful little corpse this morning.

Sekhnet sent me the picture above, from earlier today, reported that the cat who hadn’t eaten yesterday was very happy to eat a new kind of fish shaped cat cookie, as well as some sardines. “Her last supper,” Sekhnet said fighting back tears.

Later I went out to the garden and saw Sekhnet, comically bent in half, Little Girl lounging on Sekhnet’s back, one of her favorite places. Little Girl was massaging Sekhnet’s back.

As a kitten she’d often perched like a parrot on Sekhnet’s shoulder as the human went about her work in the garden. As Sekhnet maintained her bent pose and tried to resist crying I petted and scratched Little Girl for a long time. She inclined her head to indicate the angle she wanted her face massaged from.

She seemed happy for the attention and showed no inclination to leave her comfortable spot on Sekhnet’s back. After a time I lifted her to a nearby perch where, after revealing how wobbly she was on her legs, she had a few more fish-shaped treats and drank some water.

It appears there will be another feral cat funeral very soon. I hope I’m able to carry her to her final resting place after my fourth goddamned venous ablation tomorrow.

[1] fucking politics:

What does one thing (helping people in deep jeopardy) have to do with the other (“cancel culture”)? FUCK YOU! The so-called facts of an organized, well-funded months’ long campaign to convince Americans of a lie, that Joe Biden was elected by massive fraud, with the collusion of countless Republican traitors in several states, are met by a cry that Biden is the fucking liar and a tool of vicious radical N-word terrorists! Irrationality is just as valid as so-called rational analysis! In other words: FUCK YOU!!

You have a brazen zealot like Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, who insists it wasn’t Trump’s people who ran amok in the Capitol after months of Trump fomenting a lie, after the “Stop the Steal” rally was shown an incendiary propaganda video blaming thieving, violent libtard cucks, inflammatory speeches delivered right before the riled up mob headed to the Capitol to “stop the steal”– the angry mob had every right to be angry, first of all, because they truly believed a fucking infuriating alternative fact– and second of all, it was leftists, posing as Trump supporters, who smeared feces and attacked cops on January 6th.

Prior to party-line passage of the American Rescue Act Johnson somehow was able to force hapless clerks to read the 628 page Democrat [sic] aloud to an empty chamber, until the wee hours of the night. A clever leftie (Sarah Lazarus at Crooked Media) will observe of this kind of stunt:

Senators finally began debating the coronavirus-relief bill on Friday, after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) forced a handful of innocent clerks to read the full text out loud to him all night as a stalling tactic. Democrats immediately made up for the lost time by shortening the debate from 20 hours to three hours when no Republicans were there to object, but hopefully Ron had a nice time at his tyrannical, coronavirus-themed slumber party!


And then we learn that the GOP managed to extend the “debate” to 24 hours of bipartisanship anyway. To demonstrate that you can win an election, by a signifiant margin, and still be regularly pantsed by the minority party, a unified, lockstep party with no compunction about justifying anything their mad leader says or does, no matter how wild, insane or demonstrably false. Many people I know tune out politics because, it only aggravates us and there’s nothing anyone in a democracy can actually do to hold anyone else accountable for anything.

Dream with a win-win happy ending

I woke from a dream a few weeks back with a sense of wonder about how everything worked out much better than expected throughout. I still clearly remember the dream, the kind impulse leading to oddness and incoherence, the escalating danger, the surprise happy ending. There was every reason to anticipate the worst, things looked worse at every turn — instead, it turned out well for everybody, man and beast alike.

It used to be, prior to our current bellicose, threatening, highly infectious epoch, that sometimes grim-looking situations turned out fine. The unlikely thing happened sometimes and everyone walked away relieved instead of skittering sidewise like agitated crabs on the ocean floor. In our present moment, most of our hope for this kind of mutually beneficial outcome is forgotten.

The encounter where everybody comes away better than they were before was commonly called a win-win scenario, something that is almost impossible to remember, the black and white, toxic way things are now. Surprise happy endings are really not that rare, they certainly weren’t in the past, but this dream hit me with some force, reminded me how unlikely any kind of humane resolution to anything seems in our troubled, troubling, increasingly violent times.

I generally don’t remember dreams in any detail after I’ve had them, this one stayed around for a few days afterwards, is with me now weeks later. I intended to write it out and eventually made a note in my drawing book days that I didn’t need to even look at before writing this[1]. The only detail I forgot was the owner’s threat to call the local police on me — the law and common sense being completely on his side.

I was in the large enclosed porch, or maybe an unfurnished room with floor to ceiling windows. It was in a stranger’s house, a place I wasn’t supposed to be, I was trespassing. When I passed I’d seen there was a dog in there, alone, seemingly trapped, and in some distress, the door to the room was unlocked, or at least easy enough to pop open. The dog seemed traumatized, did not approach me, but watched me, cowering. There was no food or water anywhere to be seen. I was trying to figure out a way to help the poor devil.

As I puzzled over what to do about this dog, in a place where I didn’t know anybody (it seemed to be a small seasonal community, perhaps Cape Cod, during the off-season), a guy walks in the door on the other side of the room. He’s got a dog on a leash, he’s glowering and at the same time seems slightly sheepish. He was a short, stocky black man who reminded me of Cleveland on Family Guy, only he was angry and defensive.

As I began telling him about the dog he admitted that the dog used to be his, that he’d abandoned the dog. He looked guilty when he told me that, but also determined not to take any shit from me about about it. He didn’t know why he did it and he didn’t want to talk about it, was trying to be a tough guy but was obviously hurt, somehow. I told him I wasn’t from around here and asked him if he knew anybody who might be interested in rescuing or fostering the dog, maybe a local vet.

Suddenly the owner of the house, an imposing looking white man in a plaid flannel shirt, entered through the other door.

The scene was set for something bad to happen. The white guy was not happy to find two strangers in his place, trespassers, sitting, engaged in a tense conversation, as if one of them owned the place. He stood at the other end of the open room, demanded to know what the hell we were doing in his house. He may have had a shotgun, if not pointed at us, at hand, it might have been a baseball bat. He was about to call the police, told us he’d let us explain to the cops (his good friends) what the hell we’re doing in his house. I was at a loss for words, start gesticulating toward the dog, began to say something.

The man looks at the dog, as if seeing it for the first time, and it is clearly love at first sight. The dog immediately goes over to the guy who starts petting the dog and ruffling its fur. The man is happy, the dog is happily wagging its tail and gladly accepting the affection. The sheepish, angry black guy leaves quietly through the opposite door with his dog as this is going on. I’m sitting there, relieved to no longer be a suspect or in any jeopardy, watching the man and the dog happily enjoying each other. Everything is suddenly clear, the right thing is happening, no need to explain anything to the man and his new best friend. If anything, the guy will express gratitude toward me when I get up to leave.

I remember a great feeling of peace, of being in a universe where everything is in its place, for the right reason. The feeling was with me when I woke up. It is with me, a little bit, as I write these words.

I woke up (this was maybe three weeks ago) thinking “damn!” and feeling amazed about this dream long after I woke up. It has stayed quite vividly in my memory ever since, very rare for even my best dreams.

I wonder how long it has been since I pictured anything besides troubling, dangerous things inevitably turning to shit, the worst playing out in an escalating death spiral, inevitable as the next bit of widely broadcast lying propaganda enflaming angry, stressed out people on both sides.

The possibility of love and connection and things working out wonderfully for everybody — it hasn’t really gone anywhere, odd to say. It’s just that we’re living in disorienting times, beaten down by a long relentless war to keep unfairness firmly in place and we can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t this relentlessly bitter and threatening, no longer even dreaming of the possibility of things not being exactly as angry as they are right now, or worse.

You’re in trouble, you explain (no words needed), you are understood, no longer in trouble. Instead you get to watch the first flush of new love playing in front of your eyes, everybody getting what they need. Not a bad win-win, I’d say.


NOTE (from my drawing book):

dog dream

happy ending

dog adopted by guy about to call cops

former owner had no excuse

A visit from el perro negro

At a particularly depressing and anxious time for the human race like the one we find ourselves in now, depression and anxiety are understandable. It is hard to stay optimistic in the face of prolonged social isolation, a still raging incurable disease that can kill you, lies and denial of reality in the service political brutality, cascading climate catastrophe and all the rest. The hanging out with friends, family and likeminded strangers that used to remind us of the other side of life is now dangerous, must be approached with caution, if at all.

Social media, texts and emails are no substitute for personal contact with people you like. People think you are insane (and they are probably justified) if you send them a hand-written letter in the mail. Sekhnet, a self-proclaimed happy hermit, is relatively fine with cheerful random encounters with strangers, by phone or socially distanced and masked. At times I find myself wistful about the ongoing lack of connection with others.

I’ve been aware of not falling into the trap of despair. The world is the world, always full of danger and challenges, and though fear may grab us hard sometimes, and doubt, and all the other dark things of this world, it is best to keep in mind all the rest, the sweetness of life that keeps us grateful for every lifegiving breath we take.

The world is also change, all life is constantly moving, evolving, changing. This shit too will pass, surely, and once the pandemic is over we’ll hang out together to talk about it and laugh in relief to have survived it.

There is hard work to be done fixing a lot of things that are badly broken, I’d like to help. I hope to figure out how to lend a hand, throw my back into it. I feel like I’ve been doing OK emotionally, the usual complaints (the arthritis in my left knee is getting to be a real pain) aside.

Last night I cheerfully dialed an old friend, to check in, to resume my long habit of checking in with distant friends. I’d decided not to talk for long, just hear how he was doing, hopefully have a laugh (he’s a funny bastard) as I exercised my ailing legs outside in what was suddenly a mild evening. I got his voice mailbox, which was full.

I suddenly remembered the weight he carries, responsible for the livelihoods of literally hundreds of people in his badly stressed organization, dozens of whom must call his cellphone daily. It was too late to ring his home phone, his wife goes to bed early and it was already almost 10:00. Figured I’d call the home line tonight, after the dinner hour, see how they’re doing.

Watched an episode of David Attenborough’s brilliantly presented (and beautifully shot) Planet Earth on Netflix, had a moment of despair about what human greed has made of the oceans and deep seas (which contain 95% of the earth’s life, I think I heard), but mostly, we marveled at the weird and wonderful beauty of nature and the gentle, wise presentation of it . Here’s a nice montage from the wonderful limited series.

Sekhnet and I went upstairs, played few rounds of Wordscapes on my phone and I tucked Sekhnet for the night (so she could spend the next hour learning Chinese in Duolingo).

Then sometime after I did a little watercoloring (a variation on the figure below):

washed the dishes, got myself a cold drink and sat down to prop my leg up and watch a dark crime show, I became aware that the Black Dog had crept into the room with me.

I’d truly forgotten all about el perro negro.

“Remember me, motherfucker?” asked the black dog.

I did, indeed. Everything was suddenly hopeless. Why bother calling my friend? I’d destroyed my life, utterly, the whole thing a series of stupid mistakes I’d keep making until the end. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about your precious, polished, meaningless, unmonetized hobbies. The world is only a depressing antechamber to certain, terrible death. Nothing is ever going to work out well, you’ll see. Everyone who ever said they loved you was lying, and they proved it, in spades; everyone you love, dead. Evil triumphs in this world and if you think it doesn’t — fuck you, I’ll slit your ugly face. Look around, asshole.

“Forgot how persuasive I am?” asked el perro negro, stinking faithfully at my feet.

Not for a second.

I took two Tylenol PMs (discovered by Sekhnet’s insomniac cousin recently) and waited for the stabbing in my left knee to subside. Within an hour I was drowsy, went up to bed. Today, no sign of the black dog, though I can still smell his wet, cloyingly pungent fur. I’d forgotten all about the motherfucker, actually.

Dog on a string

Sit back and enjoy the groove of Paul Greenstein’s original track. Composition, arrangement, engineering and all instruments by Paul. This is the great tune I jammed to here, back in April, 2006.

Paul explains the title, in a way:

The only thing I might suggest would be an explanation of the title ‘Dog on a string’.

During the 70’s and early 80’s in the UK, there was a certain type of festival (for example Stonehenge and early Glastonbury), that attracted a certain type of festival-goer; a rebel, non-conformist, ‘free spirit’, counter-culture type of person. Dreads, grubby denim, beads etc. Sometimes referred to as a ‘Crusty’, due to a propensity to get covered in mud (think classic British Festival Weather), the mud would then dry, leaving a crust, gettit? Driving and often living in an old school bus, ex-post-office van, or similar (called a ‘bender’), this person would often have a canine companion, usually a skinny bitsa (bitsa this, bitsa that). Eschewing anything as conservative as a  ‘proper’ dog lead, a piece of string would be used. Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the track itself, and probably even less to do with the vocal, for which I still don’t have a translation.

Actual history – in 1985, Margaret Thatcher sent in the police to disperse a band of ‘new age travelers’ heading towards Stonehenge festival. The resulting brutality is known as the Battle of the Beanfield.

For a bit more of more recent Paul, clickez-vous Plague Mice. a 10,000 mile collaboration from May 2020.

Another collaboration, from around 2009: Now Before I Gliss (Paul with some evocative playing on fretless glissentar).