Archive for December 4th, 2007

Nervous Over Fast Food Service.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007


A friend and I decided to go on a day trip beginning with
a good diner breakfast. Of course we overslept. She thought it reasonable to get a late start and proceed as planned. I thought it reasonable to forget the whole thing and go back to sleep. So we ‘compromised’ (a term, I’ve learned, which means that both parties get to equally hate the agreement). We decided we would stop for a fast food breakfast ‘to go’ order before leaving Rochester.

As soon as we walked through the door, a dull voice called out, “Can I helpya?” I assumed the counterperson was speaking to us because no one else was around. But I wasn’t completely convinced because we hadn’t even looked at the marquee menu yet and the young girl wasn’t exactly looking at us. She wasn’t exactly looking at anything actually and it was at that moment I discovered ‘The Look’.

The Fast Food Look is an expression comprised in equal parts of boredom, bewilderment, and annoyance. The eyes are glazed, focusing on nothing; the mouth is slightly open, and the lips lazily meander around in a halfhearted attempt to form intelligible words.

After a few uncomfortable seconds of our trying to make some sense out of breakfast food combinations which feature commendable convenience but questionable taste, we blurted out our orders. Immediately, the bewilderment and annoyance elements of ‘The Look’ shot into expression. The mouth opened more and the lower lip made an attempt to touch the chin. It was as if we had spoken the most vulgar words imaginable.

My friend, who’s a lot better at this sort of stuff than I am, quickly realized our glaring sin. We had ordered the food by name rather than by number. She skillfully translated our breakfast choices into cash register numbers and pictures, and boredom once again
assumed its rightful place on the counter girl’s face.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the girl began to press the keys, interspersing the process with long eye blinks and nose crunches, trying to remember the two numbers (along with their drink partners) and I began to relax. Suddenly, disaster struck!

“May I have my bacon extra crispy, please?” chirped my unsuspecting friend who must have gone completely insane after translating our order. I shot her a look of horror. But that expression was mild compared to the counter girl’s look of absolute annoyance coupled with total bewilderment as she desperately searched the register for the “extra crispy bacon” button.

“Never mind,” I stupidly said trying to salvage the crashing order, “we’ll take it just as you put it in.”

And then the Look of Annoyance did a remarkable thing. It leapt from the face of the order taker, tripled in size as it flew across the counter, and landed squarely on the face of my friend. As she began her “I’m a Big Girl Now and I Don’t Need You to Help Me with Life’s Little Decisions” lecture, I absent mindedly looked around at the sickeningly bright decor.

That’s when I saw the clock. That’s right, a big clock. Right on the wall right next to the counter. Now what dim witted designer thought this a good idea? Are we customers supposed to time the slowly shuffling workers who act as if they are auditioning for bit parts in “Night of the Living Dead”? Are we to watch the ticking away of our lives spent in a place in which we really don’t want to be; waiting, waiting for food we don’t really want to eat?

Six minutes passed, then seven. And then a disembodied voice called from the back, “We don’t have no more bagels – they got to get ‘em on English Muffins.”

“That’s it,” I said, “Please cancel the order and give us back our money.” Within seconds, a manager appeared and quickly punched into the register a dazzling sequence of multiple numbers. She was very efficient. She must have run through this exercise many times before.

As we left, now with looks on our faces resembling those of the counter people, I knew we would have a discussion that complimented the experience inside.

“Told ya we should have gone to a diner.”

“Told ya we should have stayed home….” it began.

Sign on my apartment door:

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

They live here. You don’t.
If you don’t want cat hair
on your clothes. . .



Shit Rolls Downhill

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

“Shit rolls downhill” is a crude saying in business that just about everyone understands. Basically it means if your boss catches some crap from his boss, it won’t be long before he starts shooting some at you. It’s a well known practice and, unfortunately, quite common. I never knew it also existed in the world of Cats

Tuesday and Wednesday are my two best living cats and I love and treat them equally. Usually, I let them work out their own “issues”. Tuesday is the older, more dominant cat. She’s lived here longer and immediately became “Mom” to the much younger Wednesday. And now, even though Tuesday is getting a little slower with
age, the younger, stronger Wednesday always lets her lead the way. If a new food is introduced, Wednesday first looks to see if Tuesday likes it. If Tuesday turns up
her nose at the strange entree and walks away, Wednesday quickly follows without even trying it! Old roles die hard.

Both cats sleep in two beds, exactly alike, under my desk. Although the beds are precisely the same, over the years I’ve noticed each cat has “her” bed and I’ve never known them to sleep in the other’s place.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, around 3:00 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to play on the computer. When I rolled out my desk chair, I noticed Tuesday was asleep in it. As usual, Wednesday was asleep in her bed a few feet away under the desk.

“Sorry Pretty,” I said as I gently awakened Tuesday, “I want to use the computer and I need my chair.”

Tuesday, of course, thought this the most unreasonable request in the world, glared and grumbled as I softly put her on the floor.

Without hesitation (!) she quickly walked over to the sleeping Wednesday, meowed and then head butted her out of her own bed! Poor Wednesday stumbled over the
side, confused and obviously half-asleep. Tuesday stretched and then settled down in her new resting place.

Wednesday looked up at me.

“Sorry, Baby,” I said trying not to laugh too hard, “shit rolls downhill.”

Maniacs in Yorkville

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007


When my sister was 7 and I was 8, we used to love staying at Aunt Esther’s house in Yorkville, New York. Aunt Esther never had any kids so she treasured these visits in her large Victorian home and always took us on strange ‘capers’. We came from a small town, Mom and Dad were Beaver Cleaver parents, and we never knew ANYONE who was “out there” – so these visits were always special for us.

On one visit, Aunt Esther was ‘spooked’ – so she sat us down for a serious talk. She told us (can you imagine?) that Marcy State Insane Asylum was close by (I now know it was about 20 miles away) and sometimes the patients escaped and murdered unsuspecting, naive people who let them into their homes – usually slitting their throats with their own kitchen knives.

I can only imagine our faces and open mouths as we heard this unhappy news. (Thinking back, maybe the lesson here was not to let anyone in when we were at her house…. or …maybe she was just bonkers.)

BUT – not to worry – Aunt Esther had a PLAN to save ourselves if a crazy person got in (which must have slipped the minds of all those naive Yorkville homeowners who had their throats slit.)

The plan? DISTRACT the maniac. He was crazy, right? As soon as he picked up a knife, we were to say (in a friendly voice,) “Say, would you like something to eat?”

And when we went to the kitchen to make him lunch or a snack, we were to throw open the back door and run like hell!

I don’t remember questioning the wisdom of this plan, but I know neither Joanne nor I EVER let anyone into Aunt Esther’s house.

Sunday the Cat vs. Hannah the Stripper

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007



There are some cats born so lovable they melt the hearts of even the most faithful dog lovers. Others are so beautiful and graceful, everyday humans simply stare at them in admiration and respect. And some felines wear an aura of inscrutable mystery that inspires poets.

But Sunday the Cat was just born tough and grouchy. If she was born human, you could easily imagine her as an overripe teenage girl talking too loudly with a half-lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth.

Sunday was a survivor. Within weeks of her birth, most of her brothers, sisters, and Mother were wiped out by Feline Leukemia. As the vet took her from me in the waiting room of his office, he was very grave.

“If she was the largest kitten in the litter, she got most of her Mother’s milk.” he said. “If her Mom died of the disease, chances are almost 100% she has it too. It’s a horrible, hopeless disease. If she tests positive, shall I just put her to sleep?” I sadly nodded my head. Although I had known this marmalade kitten with the lioness head and the bad mood for only a day or two, she was already knocking on the door to my heart. I sat down and stared at the floor. After a short time, I heard the vet’s excited voice. When I turned around, he was walking towards me with Sunday in his hands!

“You won’t believe this: she tested negative for leukemia! I even gave her a second test at my own expense to make sure. She’s negative!”

Sunday quickly thanked the cat doctor by hissing loudly and taking a swipe at his face with her little paw. I also noticed a fresh scratch on one of his hands. The glare he gave the kitten was a visual definition of ambivalence.

Four months later on a hot summer night, Sunday must have seen a moth or bug outside my bathroom window. She dove after it and hurtled down four stories breaking her pelvis upon landing. This did not improve her disposition one little bit. She stayed two days at the emergency vet’s. She was supposed to stay three but the staff couldn’t stand her.

“She bites and scratches everyone who comes near her!” whined the vet’s aid. “We think it would be OK if she went home now.” I rushed to the hospital. When I saw this awful “aid” carrying my cat into the lobby, I stared in disbelief. Sunday was in a straightjacket – a goddamn cat straightjacket! (Who even knew they had such things?) It was made of thick lamb’s wool surrounded by heavy leather and buckled with wide straps. The only visible part of Sunday was her head which was wildly darting around trying to bite anyone she could reach.

“Get her out of that thing!” I growled.

“Sir, we have to protect our staff from …… “

“GET HER OUT OF THAT THING NOW!” The tinny-voiced drone who made a lousy career choice probably realized I was now more of a threat than a 6-pound cat. She gently laid the bundle on the reception desk. I started unbuckling the straps.

“Sir, be careful! She’s in pain and heavily-medicated. She may not even recognize you.”

“I tenderly picked up Sunday and held her in my arms. She hid her face in my elbow.”

“Well,” Tin-Voice said, “I guess she knows her Daddy.”

Before she’d even finished her sentence, Sunday turned her head, bared her teeth, and hissed at her. And although I often wish I could act more maturely in situations like this, I must admit, I did the exact same thing.

Over the next few years, Sunday became an overly-loved, spoiled cat who instinctively knew when she hit my patience limit with her constant demands for attention, games, and treats. When I rushed to grab the small water-squirter bottle with which I constantly threatened to discipline her, she rarely ran. She just bowed her head, dropped her tail, and waited for the extremely rare, soft stream of water. Who could squirt a cat like that? And when it was time to spray our plants, Sunday froze in wide-eyed amazement. You just knew her cat brain was saying, “But what in the world did THEY do?”

Sunday was the moodiest cat anyone had ever seen. Sometimes she could be the most gentle, loving companion imaginable. She’d tilt her head, stare at you with baby-love eyes as you lied on the floor softly talking with her – and then she’d run across your forehead at mad speed, full claws extended for no discernible reason. She terrorized Betty, the poor cleaning woman who was afraid of cats and followed her every minute she was in the apartment.

Sunday tried to teach Monday, the cat we got for her,to crouch and “hunt” the birds who landed safely on the other side of the terrace window. But she always seemed to shake her head and slowly walk away in heart-wrenching disappointment, tail completely down, when Monday turned out to be a student with serious Attention Deficit Disorder. She’d turn her back on all of us and just face a wall with her own despondent thoughts until we all begged her to cheer up and come play.

Attention was something for which Sunday lived. Once, when I was talking to a friend who stopped paying attention to her, Sunday jumped into the trash basket next to his legs and hung her big, raccoon tail over the side! Needless to say, all attention was again focused on her.

Have you ever seen a cat who climbed on the television after you’ve seated guests to watch a video and who then patiently waited for the opening credits to roll before dropping her bushy tail directly in front of the screen?

Or a pushy fur-face who would eat cigarette butts out of ashtrays and dental floss or anything plastic from the floor and then watch in delight as “her people” scrambled around loudly arguing if the emergency vet should be called – again? With Sunday the cat, incidents like these happened at least once or twice a week!

When my wife and I separated, she took Monday and Sunday and I became even closer.

Perhaps Sunday’s strangest and possibly most annoying eccentricity was her demand for me to watch her eat. Fortunately, this only happened three or four times a month. After preparing her dinner and fresh water on her tray and setting it down, I usually walked over to the computer or the television. Occasionally, for no apparent reason, Sunday would look at her tray and then stare at me. It was a routine through which we went countless times.

“Sunday,” I’d say aloud, “I don’t care if you eat your dinner. It’s no big deal to watch you eat – I’ve watched you eat dozens of times. Who cares if you eat?” I’d then make a grand effort to turn around and go back to my computer or TV. And then my blood pressure began to rise because I knew – I just knew – she wasn’t eating! Then I’d slightly turn my head and find her out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough – there she was – not eating – staring at me – just waiting for me before beginning her dinner.

Then, with a clenched jaw and a stratospheric blood pressure, I’d say to myself, “Well really, what’s the fuss here? If so little makes her happy, why not?” I’d then walk over to her dinner tray, lie next to her, and watch her eat her smelly, expensive cat food.

“This is the last time though, Sunday!”, I’d say aloud, “It’s no big deal to watch you eat. Who cares if you eat?”

When I said those words, she never even looked up.

Hannah was a dancer; an exotic dancer. All right, Hannah was a stripper.

“Dancer?” as one old drunk at her club once said, “These girls aren’t exactly Ginger Rogers. Hell, most of ‘em can’t even dance as well as Roy Rogers!”

I’m sure Hannah had no idea who Ginger Roger was. I asked her once – she didn’t – she never heard of Roy Rogers either. “Does he come in here?” she asked.

Anyway, Hannah was a beautiful, tall, lithe woman in her early twenties. She grew up on a farm in a small town and quickly decided “dancing” was a better career choice than raising goats – at least it paid a lot more.

She told me at first it was hard to keep from laughing when she pretended the cold, brass pole against which she leaned her bare back was really turning her on. But the men bought the fantasy and tipped her accordingly. Actually, after just a few minutes of conversation, Hannah completely destroyed the “dumb stripper” stereotype. “I don’t talk like this to every guy,”she once told me, “you’re special.” I believed her the first few times. Hey! – I was young and she was a lot smarter than strippers are supposed to be, OK?

Anyway, Hannah and I went out on a few dates and enjoyed each other’s company. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I asked her to my apartment. I invited her to sit on the couch as I went to the kitchen to make some drinks. She smiled, crossed her incredibly long legs, and elegantly lit a cigarette. After a few minutes I heard,

“What is it with this cat? Why is it staring at me?”

“Damn!” I thought as I rushed back to the living room only to see Sunday sitting on the coffee table, immediately in front of the dancer, intensively eyeing this possible rival. Now you must remember, Hannah grew up on a farm. Cats lived in her family’s barn only to keep down the mice and rat population. Having one as an indoor pet was roughly equivalent to making a pet of a chicken.

“Oh.” I lied, “That means she likes you.” Hannah looked at me skeptically through her cigarette smoke. It seemed men may have lied to her before.

“Really.” I quickly said. “Sunday is my pal and she’s anxious to meet you. Watch this. Put your hand out like you’re going to shake her paw.” Hannah did as she was told. For once it was an advantage to have an ex-wife who was a psychology major. T. taught Sunday to ‘shake’ on command when she was a kitten; it was the only trick she ever learned.

“Sunday, shake!”, I said. Fortunately, my beautiful cat extended her paw and shook “hands” with Hannah.

“I can’t believe it!” shrieked Hannah a little too loudly, ”A cat who can shake like a dog! She quickly extended her hand again, “Sunday, SHAKE!”

Before I could say anything, Sunday loudly hissed and made an impressive leap to the top of the couch millimeters from Hannah’s head. Hannah, of course, screamed and threw herself to the side of the couch. Of course if Sunday had really wanted to harm the lady, she easily could have. This was just a dramatic warning.

“Sunday!” I yelled, “Bad cat! Go to your chair! BAD!” Sunday slowly walked off the couch and skulked into her chair across the room. The glare she gave me reminded me of how she looked when I was dumb enough to buy cheap cat food on sale .

After a time, things settled down and Hannah and I became even more friendly. When it got warmer, she began to remove her clothes. When I complimented her on how sensuously she did that, she said, “It’s my job – remember?”

When it was time, we walked into my bedroom; Hannah, me……… and Sunday. Hannah and I laid down on the bed……and so did Sunday.

“Get rid of the cat, OK?”

“It’s only a cat Hannah, forget about it,” I said as I tried to start kissing her again.

“Well if you won’t get rid her, “ she said pulling away, “I will!” Then she gracefully hopped off the bed, picked up a squawking Sunday, tossed her out, and closed the door.

After a few pleasant hours, Hannah had to leave. As we walked into the living room, we both expressed our desire to see each other again. I quickly noticed Sunday was not around but I didn’t say anything.

I watched as the beautiful dancer began to pick up her clothes and was surprised when she looked puzzled.

“How did my clothes get wet?” she said as she brought them up to her unforgettable face. “And they smell. THEY SMELL! Your goddamn cat peed all over my clothes! Goddamnit! That bitch pissed on my clothes!”

I can’t remember exactly what I said next. I’m sure I babbled a collection of apologies, offers of dry cleaning, and pleas of forgiveness. But it really didn’t matter – Hannah was in a rage. I gave her a pullover but she still had to wear her wet, nose-insulting jeans. I offered a plastic bag for her other wet clothes. She snatched it from my hands. Somehow I knew we’d never date again; somehow, I was right. It was a long, silent elevator ride and walk to her car.

When I returned to our apartment, my furry roommate was eating her top-shelf dry food from a bowl on her Chinese red tray.

“You little bitch……..”, I snarled.

Sunday continued to eat and never even looked up.


sunday1.jpg The late, great, Sunday the Cat.


Cats and Canadians

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007


Sunday the Cat was a terror. Hardly a week went by when she didn’t dream up some new way to act badly. But Monday the Cat just wasn’t good at being bad. She’d follow her older fur sister and try to be bad – but she was just a copycat – and not a very good one at that.

One of Sunday’s tricks was the ‘Toilet Paper Waterfall’ which she would perform a few times each month. Sometimes when my wife and I were quietly talking, we’d hear the sound of a rapidly spinning toilet paper roll. We’d rush to the bathroom and find Sunday sitting on her hind legs on the toilet cover, furiously swatting the paper roll with both paws as cascades of toilet paper rushed to the floor.

“SUNDAY!”, we’d scream as she dove off the seat cover and shot through our legs. Her sister Monday would always be sitting on the bathroom floor, staring up with dumb, naive, feline pride.

One day, after the usual ‘Sunday!’ scream and sprint, Monday decided she was going to be a bad cat too. So instead of following her sister out the door, she hopped on the seat, sat on her haunches, seriously stared at the paper roll, tentatively lifted one paw………and then stopped. Her paw wavered in the air and you knew she was thinking, “Now, how’d Sunday do that? Why isn’t this paper falling down? And why are the people laughing at me?”

I thought of Monday the Cat when I saw a television report of a Canadian “riot”. Now even imagining Canadians rioting is a difficult concept for the mind to grasp. It’s like trying to picture a drunken, barefoot, Mother Theresa leading a Conga line at a wedding reception that has gone on too long. “Canada” and “riot” are words that just don’t blend well.

On this side of the world, rioting is a passionate activity fueled by global heat forces. An important issue which ignites a blistering riot in Venezuela killing dozens of people, rolls north through South America causing smaller, still-hot outbreaks injuring hundreds, pauses around Central America where thousands of angry fist fights erupt, and then lands in America where it’s often talked to death by wimpy newspaper editorials and snitty, radio talk show hosts. The hot issue usually fizzles out even before it reaches the cold, Canadian border. Which is just as well because most Canadians would be indifferent to it anyway, eh? If passion is only an infrequent traveler to America, it’s a damn space-alien to our Northern neighbors.

You see in the 17th and 18th centuries, England sent its worst criminals and religious zealots to America and its quietest, most orderly citizens to Canada. As wild, American adventurers slashed and slaughtered their way West, Canadians spoke softly, and at length, to their own natives. The Indians gave them all sorts of land; perhaps because there was so much of it – but more likely, they were just trying to escape the incessant, energy-free drone of the new Canadians and didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Canada evolved quietly – orderly. And if a mutant wild-man burst through the calmness of their gene pool, say an Alex Trabeck or a Lorne Green, the Canadians politely asked them to move south with the rest of the crazies. The only loons allowed in Canada were to be on lakes and coins.

So when I heard the television announcer say “riot in Canada”, I immediately started to pay attention. Really – what could possibly shoot up a Canadian’s blood pressure enough for him to disturb the tranquility of the place? The answer was embarrassingly obvious: hockey. And not only hockey, but a Canadian hockey team losing to an American hockey team! How revolting! After the game ended, thousands of Canadian fans flowed out of the arena and into the street. It seems they didn’t want to go home; almost couldn’t go home -drenched in depressing , degrading defeat. So they milled around together – bonded by a tragic loss, weepy tears, and fueled by too much of the fermented national beverage. Soon a department store window was broken – and the crowd decided to “riot” – Canadian-style.

It was hard to watch. Like Monday the Cat, they didn’t quite know what to do. Some danced to music only they heard. Others walked on the hoods and roofs of cars balancing with one hand as the other clenched a can or bottle. Many drunkenly smiled and waved at cameras and camcorders guaranteeing their place in oblivious -nitwit history. (“No dear, that’s not Mommy. I was at University that day and we all watched this debacle with disgust.”)

One inspired rioter-trainee managed to mount heavy electrical lines a good 20- or 30- feet over the crowd and began an impromptu tightrope walking show with real sparks popping. The confused Canadians, either to keep the dolt from electrocuting himself or to show off their superior target shooting skill, began to hurl bottles and cans at the guy. They could have used a lot more practice.

Most of the containers missed, but, of course, crashed on the heads of the mob on the other side of the wire. This prompted massive, retaliatory can and bottle throwing from that team. Finally, someone scored. The dope took an impressive dive onto the pavement and it was about that time when all the police arrived. Lots of police; seemingly hundreds of them.

While the police began lining up in an impressive formation, a loudspeaker blared a woman’s voice, “Would you please disperse? You must leave this area! Would you please disperse?”

My mouth dropped in amazement. “Please disperse” – from the police? As an old antiwar protester who’s been gassed and smashed in a number of American cities in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I can tell you, I never once heard anything like that. Maybe we’d hear some harsh static shouted into a bullhorn – but more likely, we heard “thumps” and screams as angry police parted the hair and heads of hapless demonstrators with big-time billy clubs. But this was Canada – and the protesters seemed to get annoyed that anyone in authority would even speak to them like that. So no one moved and their taunts grew louder. That’s when the first tear-gas canisters were shot at the street near the front line of demonstrators.

Now, everyone in the world learned in ‘Rioting-101’ that a tear gas canister should be picked up with a gloved hand and thrown back at the police. I mean, that’s basic; you’ve seen it dozens of times on TV, right? But not these innocent newbies. They just left the bombs where they landed. Then, while most of the crowd moved back, a handful of chowder-heads actually hung around the gas-spitting canister and looked at it like it was just a large version of the smoke bombs they set off in the sixth grade. Surprise! Soon they started coughing and wretching and falling down and making a terrible fuss. It was just too embarrassing to watch.

Then the loudspeakers told the police to ‘put on their helmets’ and advance. I mean really! Police had to be told to put on their riot helmets? What the hell did they think they were going to do with them – throw them at unruly rioters? Obviously everyone was new at this and as awkward as a seventh grader at his first dance.

As the crowd began to disperse, a few stragglers were still defiant – or drunkenly confused. That’s when the batons went into action. Some cops lightly struck the legs of some protesters to help them along. The scene provoked some long-ago memories of 1968 when Chicago police swung their clubs at the heads of demonstrators like they were trying to hit home runs out of Wrigley Field. But this was Canada. There were no baseball bat sized clubs. The Canadian police batons seemed thinner than those of high school marching band majorettes. And they were used with restraint, almost reluctantly.

I turned off the television. Actually, I didn’t know quite how to feel about this rare, Canadian riot. I’m glad Canada is America’s closest neighbor. I can’t think of any country in the world I would prefer to take it’s place And then I smiled when I remembered the late, Monday the Cat. Monday appeared silly only when she tried to be like Sunday, the cat of bold, eccentric mischief and badness. Monday herself was gentle and peaceful and loving. Each had her own wonderful gifts – and each was fiercely loved for herself.

I miss them both – a lot.