Monday, July 31, 2006

Spider Man

About a month ago I got bit on the shoulder by a spider. For a couple of weeks after the area around the bite was itchy.

I only mention this because early yesterday morning I again was woken up by the sound of one of the boyz hacking up a hair ball. (I think the warm weather is causing them to clean themselves more and thus ingest more hair...) I was much too tired to get up and deal with it.

When I finally did get out of bed I searched everywhere to find the mess. I couldn't find anything out of the ordinary in the plush carpeted area of the isolated upper wing of the house. I began to wonder if I had just dreamed all this.

Later in the day I was going down the basement steps to do laundry, and sure enough I found a fairly fresh hairball. The first thing I could think of is the spider bite has given me super powers- extraordinary hearing. I'll let you know if I find I have the ability to climb the walls.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Bob's Quote of the Week: "The cynic smells flowers and looks all around for a coffin."

My sister Janet gave me a jade plant when I moved out on my own after graduating from college. I still have that plant, the only one I've been able to keep alive for any amount of time. (Although to be fair for the many years I lived with Max the Cat I couldn't really have plants around. Max loved to munch on all things green and vegetarian except for my jade plant.)

This past week when I came to work (where my jade plant now resides) I discovered that most of the branches of the plant had fallen off. I'm not sure why other than perhaps the plant has gotten too big, and can't support its own weight. (Who hasn't found themselves there?).

I felt myself feeling sad that something that I've had since the late '80s might be dying on me. I've greatly neglected it over the years yet it has kept pushing on, kept growing and providing some beauty in some otherwise dreary surroundings.

This past week I also learned that for the first time in years I may not be playing softball this fall. Turns out my team was too late in signing up for our usual St. Paul fall league. The league has already filled all the nights up with teams. We tried another St. Paul league only to find that it too had already filled up. Same with Roseville. Seems like softball playing has suddenly become fashionable. When you consider how many players it takes to field a team (at least ten) its pretty remarkable that there are so many wannabe players out there in this medium sized midwestern city.

No softball. My jade plant may be on its last branches. What else could I possibly lose? And how exactly does one go about facing the end of things? Well, this frisky cowboy found himself dealing by playing his favorite song from 2006 (thus far), Paul Simon's "Outrageous." (Who would have thought that the 96 year old Simon would still be capable of writing such terrific music after all these years? Who would have thought he could still be crazy after all these years?")

The song starts out as a political rant against all the things politically wrong with this world from the exploitation of workers to the destructive human behavior causing environmental damage to the planet, to a culture that places such importance on physical beauty that the singer laments how he is now coloring his hair the color of mud. What gets me about "Outrageous" however is the chorus asking an important question. "Who's gonna love you when your looks are gone?" Simon repeats this line many times with each repetition reinforcing a real desperate revelation. Is there enough substance inside to keep us lovable when a wink of an eye, a toothy smile, a flirtatious glance are no longer is part of the repertoire?

What's even better is Simon eventually answers his own question with the definitive, "God will... like he waters the flowers on your window sill." It's a sterling image.

The other thing I did to keep from falling into a funk was to re-watch the terrific Canadian sitcom The Newsroom. The CBC show is kind of a cross between an updated Mary Tyler Moore Show and Sports Night. It's about the efforts of the staff of a news show on the Canadian public broadcasting network. The news director is a complete jackass, sexist, racist and completely clueless. He spends most of the series taking great pains to avoid making tough decisions, and fleeing responsibility for putting out a decent news show. This of course leads to more effort covering his own mistakes. The pilot episode for example features the attempts of the intern to get the show's main phone number changed; all in effort to get the news director's mother to stop calling him at work. The intern eventually justifies this request to the corporate higher ups by making up a story about how the news anchor has been getting death threats. This leads to the news anchor becoming paranoid and demanding he be given a bulletproof vest to wear during his broadcasts.

The Newsroom first season flows along like any other smartly written sitcom when all of a sudden at the end it takes a surreal turn. A story breaks about a likely nuclear meltdown of the plant in Toronto and the news director responds as if the story is to be told like a movie. He orders a copy of The China Syndrome and begins interviewing actors to play the part of reporters and nuclear power experts.

This unexpected turn is jarring but effective. It turns the series on its head and forces you to think about the difference between what we perceive as reality and fiction and how news coverage is often guilty of blurring the lines instead of making any of it more clear.
In the end it's perhaps the best end to a TV show season I have ever seen. And although The Newsroom was to go on for a couple more seasons, had they only done the first fourteen episodes this would have to go down as a must see TV show. It's outrageous and it's jaded and it fit the mood I was in this week.

Friday, July 28, 2006

My Choir Cat

Thompson is such a well behaved cat. I don't have a whole bunch of house rules but the ones I do enforce (no going behind the TV where there are a bunch of wires; no jumping on the kitchen table or in the kitchen sink; etc.) Thompson obeys without trying to see where the line is to cross.

He wouldn't hop on to my bed for over the first year he lived here. I'm guessing he was taught by his foster home that he wasn't allowed on the bed. On the other hand Diego had no qualms about jumping in bed with me a week after I adopted him.

The tradeoff for such good behavior is that Thompson expects me to keep to the routine- he knows when meal times are, he knows when I go clean the litter boxes every day, he knows what time I get home. He doesn't like unexpected breaks in that schedule.

The few times I have yelled at him for breaking a rule have been followed by his staying out of sight for the next few hours. Even when I scold Diego-san, Thompson seems to take it personally.

What has impressed me most the past couple of weeks is after Thompson has cleaned out his dinner bowl, he'll wait until the slowest eater, Theo is done at his dish and then he'll see if Theo has left any food on the plate. He never tries to push Theo aside, he patiently waits until Theo walks away from the dish. What a nice boy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Saw the Light

Two of the light bulbs in my office were burnt out so I finally got around to changing them. To reach the bulbs I had to bring in a chair from the kitchen. This unusual activity of course got the attention of all three boyz. And ultimately all three personalities shone through in the great light bulb exchange of 2006.

Diego was the first to come in to see exactly what was going on. He was right there at the legs of the chair, sniffing the foreign object in the office.

Theo was close at his heels. And Theo was the first to hop up on the chair, peaking through the back bars as if he was now in prison.

Thompson peaked around the corner of the doorway into the office. He became distracted by a piece of scrap paper lying in the doorway. When I went towards the kitchen to get the new bulbs he ran away thinking that he was in trouble for checking out the piece of paper given all the other commotion and change going on.

After the new bulbs were in I couldn't believe how much brighter things were in my office. I couldn't believe I put up with so much darkness for so long.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My Lil Rooster

At about 5:00 a.m. this morning I heard Theo crying(?), yelping(?), clamoring(?) in a very loud voice. I couldn't tell if he was calling out in pain or distress or just reacting to imaginery bunnies bouncing around the ground.

I didn't get up and eventually he stopped. Hope this doesn't become an every morning ritual.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Joys of Cat Ownership

Saturday morning I was woken by the sound of Theo throwing up. As soon as I heard him making that awful, but by now familiar cat hacking sound, I rushed out of bed and tried to place something underneath Theo. But I was too late and moments later I was trying my best to clean the carpet.

Sunday morning I was woken by the sound of Diego-san trying to bring up a hairball. This time I was too tired to get up and figured I would just deal with the aftermath when I was good and ready. When I finally got out of bed an hour later I wearily got up to assess the damage.

Proving that my theory that Diego is brighter than your average cat, he managed to keep what he threw up entirely on the computer desktop he has come to claim as his sleeping spot every night. Thus cleanup was very easy.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Feline Felon Suspected in Glove Thefts

By JIM FITZGERALD, Associated Press Writer

A pink-and-white gardening glove was missing Thursday morning from Jeannine Goche's front porch. But there was absolutely no mystery about who had taken it. Willy, the cat who loves gloves, had struck again.

"It has to be him," said Goche, an attorney. "I've heard about him."

As if the gardeners of Pelham don't have enough to worry about, with the rocky soil and the slugs and the big trees casting too much shade, a feline felon has been sneaking into their back yards and carrying off gardening gloves.

Goche's flower-patterned number may soon take its place on the clothesline that's strung across the front fence at Willy's home, which he shares with Jennifer and Dan Pifer, their 19-month-old son Hudson and a mutt named Peanut Chew.

Above the line is a sign that says, in words and pictures, "Our cat is a glove snatcher. Please take these if yours."

On Thursday morning, nine pairs of gardening gloves and five singles were strung up, nicely framed by the Pifers' flourishing tomato and basil plants. Willy, looking innocent, was playing with a beetle under the Subaru in the driveway and occasionally dashing after Hudson.

"This all started about the time people began working in their gardens, I guess March or April," Jennifer Pifer said. "Willy would just show up with a glove, or we'd see them on the front steps. I guess it's better than if he was bringing home dead birds."

A friend, Claudia Bonci, said she was in the Pifers' kitchen recently and had noticed a single gardening glove on the sidewalk.

"Jennifer was telling me all about how Willy was bringing home all these gloves, and there was a small pile of them outside the door, and then here comes the cat with a glove in its mouth, proud as could be, like he was giving me a gift."

Some of the gloves really are gift-worthy.

"A lot of these looked brand new," said Pifer. "Some of them are really nice."

She doesn't know how far afield Willy goes to find a glove, but she has learned it takes him two trips to bring home a matched pair.

Willy, born to a stray last spring and taken in by the Pifers as a newborn, stays out some nights but seems to assemble his collection in daytime raids.

"Mostly it happens on weekends, I guess when people are out gardening," Pifer said. "Can't you just imagine people saying, `The gloves were right here, where'd they go?'"

John Cassone, who lives and gardens across the street, said he isn't missing any gloves. He uses "the big, heavy leather kind" and figures Willy, a wiry type, isn't strong enough to drag them away.

Guess again: There's a pair of the big, heavy leather kind among Willy's trophies.

Willy couldn't care less about the gloves after they're captured. On Thursday he could not be enticed into a grab-the-glove game.

In winter, when gardening gloves are hard to find, Willy switches to his offseason prey, dirty socks, which he brings from the laundry room.

"We find them in the hallway, on the stairs," she said. "I used to think, `Oh, I must have dropped it on the way down.' But now I know better."

Despite his criminal nature, neighbors get a kick out of Willy. Cassone said the cat likes to accompany the mailman up and down the block, all the way to each front door. Willy also likes to climb trees and bat at the heads of people below.

Since Pifer grows flowers and vegetables and herbs herself, isn't she tempted to make use of the endless supply of garden gloves that arrive at her doorstep free, shipping included?

"No," she said, a bit sadly. "I do a lot of gardening but I don't use gloves."

Play Time

Yesterday Theo and I played fetch for twenty minutes or so. After one toss instead of bringing the ball back to me, he went over to Diego-san and laid it at Diego's feet.

Diego proceeded to do what he loves to do with a ball- he casually swatted it around the room until he worked himself into a frenzy batting it and running after it. Theo stood there watching him, curious and wide eyed.

It was all quite cute.

I sometimes feel sad that Thompson really isn't as playful as the other boyz. I think he wants to be but cat toys are hard to bat around when you're missing your front leg. He does have a favorite catnip mouse that he'll pull out of the toybox and lie on his side and try to rip apart.

I took away his one consistent play activity. It used to be that when I was putting on my shoes to go to work, Thompson would try to grab the laces with his mouth as I was trying to tie them. Now I have loafers and thus there are no laces. Style and ease won out over Thompson's play time.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Take Me Out Of/To The Old Ballgame

I've been a Twins fan for upwards to 33 years now. I don't think I've ever seen them play better over an extended period of time than they have over the past month or so. Even the world champion teams of 1987 and 1991 never put together a streak like this- where the team is so thoroughly dominating in all aspects of the game- pitching, hitting, defense and strategy.

That said, I don't think I've ever been more frustrated with a Twins squad as I am the 2006 version. They find themselves nine and a half games out of first place, and four games out of the wildcard race. And the maddening thing about their place in the standings is they didn't have to be where they find themselves to be. It's all been self-inflicted.

The team was limping along when management finally decided to pull the plug on the brief (but all too long) Tony Batista, Rondell White, and Juan Castro era. The club broke out of spring training believing that those veterans were better options than younger players (with far greater upside) like Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto. Far more puzzling (and unforgivable) was the decision to open the season with Kyle Lohse and Scott Baker in the starting rotation and Francisco Liriano in the bullpen. Manager Ron Gardenhire is now defending this decision saying that Liriano wasn't ready for starting because he spent much of the spring on the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic.

This is outright bunk. Even if it meant that Liriano's first few starts were limited by a pitch count, having him out there was a far better alternative than anyone on the pitching staff not named Johan Santana. That it took into June for the team to concede this is unforgivable. If Liriano had been given four or five more starts like he should have been the Twins likely would be that much closer to the top of the division.

Liriano has been electric. He's been the key to this turnaround. When he's on the mound there is a sense of something special about to happen. When he gives up a hit you are almost shocked. He makes Santana (who is among the elite pitchers in the game) look like a lesser pitcher in comparison.

By any measure 2006 was going to be a year of transition for the franchise. Going into the season the team appeared to be on a downward path after dominating the division from 2001 to 2004. The White Sox and Indians were clearly teams that had finally passed the Twins in talent. Detroit looked like a team ready to contend as well. This was likely going to be Brad Radke's last year in the game and Torii Hunter's last year as a Twin. Prospects for the long needed new stadium seemed dim at best.

Signing Rondell White seemed smart. A career professional hitter, White seemed to fill the cleanup hole that Justin Morneau clearly wasn't ready to fill last year. And after losing Matthew LeCroy and Jacque Jones the offense that was so weak last year needed some experience and personnel changes to make it more productive.

But if this year was the start of another rebuiding phase the decision to start the season with Castro at short and not Bartlett, and Kubel only given a nominal look before being sent to the minors was confusing at best, stupid at worst. It was time to see what these two could do and it was also time to give both of them the chance to learn at the Major League level so some of the growing pains could be endured this season rather than further down the road.

The season isn't over but to expect this team to continue on this torrid pace is unrealistic. To give away two and a half months while floundering along is what makes this season so frustrating. If the team is to somehow make the playoffs you gotta love our chances given that Santana and Liriano will be given four starts in any seven game series. If we don't make it, you can blame it on some boneheaded decisions, some of the worst in the team's history.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Licker... I Don't Even Know Her!

Theo hasn't been his ultra-friendly self the past few weeks. His tendency to hop up on my lap whenever I'm working on the computer has been replaced by a growing solitary attitude and paranoia (as if one of the other boyz has been leaping out at him around every corner).

About the only connection I have with Theo these days is when I get out of my morning shower and he licks my legs until I put some pants on.

Maybe it's the weather- all the heat takes away the appeal of hanging with other warm bodies in the house. Maybe it's just he is still trying to find his place here. If that's the case I feel bad that he still feels like an outsider in his own home.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Theo's Not a Skunk

Last night I had the strangest dream. I was seemingly in my house but I was asking a friend for directions to a nearby movie theater.

She was pointing out the window to where the theater was located. We were miles up in the sky so she just had to point down to show me the route to take.

I couldn't tell which way to go even in this aerial map view (I'm lousy with directions). So I went downstairs and happened to look out the window to see Diego roaming my yard free.

Fear gripped me as I knew catching him and getting him back in the house were going to be huge challenges. I looked over at the other side of the yard and saw a skunk. (I've never seen a skunk in my neighborhood- well not the animal kind anyway). I saw Diego heading in that direction and knew what was on his mind.

Sure enough he was off to challenge this skunk to a fight. He slowly wandered over and Just as he was reaching up to claw at the skunk, I woke up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Break

Finally was cool enough to open the windows last night. This meant of course that Thompson slept by himself in the main level bedroom- right by an open window. The boy really does appreciate fresh air.

Thompson doesn't want the world to go by without him keeping an eye on it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Aggressive Passivity

By any definition Diego-san is a lap cat. He loves to hop up onto a person's lap (doesn't matter who) and often doesn't stop there, climbing to one's hair if one allows it.

He loves to be petted and have the area behind his ears, and his forehead, scratched. He has a long impressive tail that I often run my hand (in an OK sign) all the way up and down and he seems to love that sensation.

And although he loves all the attention (demonstrated by his deep deep purr), he cannot sit still on a lap. If you stop petting him, or scratching him he will rub his face into yours. He'll climb all over you unless you let him know he already has your undivided attention.

Unlike Thompson and Theo, he will not sit on a lap for more than a few minutes. It's like when he wants love and attention he REALLY wants love and attention. But for the most part he's his own guy and he's quite content going off somewhere to be his own guy.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Critter Update No. 1

By the time I got home Saturday evening whatever it was that was stuck in my air ducts was no longer moving. I believe there are three possible scenarios/resolutions:

a) That whatever it was got free and is back outside looking for some shade;

b) That whatever it was died in the heating/cooling system and soon there will be some foul air in my house;

c) That whatever it was got free but inside the house and Diego promptly ate it.

I really hope it was scenario A. REALLY hope.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Cheapo Newsletter Diet

My 4th of July resolution was to do something about my ever expanding waist line. I decided it was well past time to do something to regain my girlish figure.

It all began in the spring after bringing all three of my cats in to the vet for their annual physical. After being told that both Theo and Thompson were bordering on being overweight I decided to take the vet's advice and switch them over to diet food. I did so knowing that my trio of boyz, and Thompson in particular, really look forward to and enjoy each and every meal.

Because of this I decided that I wouldn't make a radical change- that instead I would buy their regular food and mix it in with the diet brand. It soon became clear that the diet food doesn't taste as good as the regular food as all three boyz first eat up the morsels of regular stuff and walk away with a few diet pieces left in the dish.

I also realized it wasn't exactly fair that since over the past few years I have dealt with a feeling of my pants getting tighter and tighter by loosening my belt a notch or two, and buying pants with a bigger waist size.

So on this Independence Day I decided to get proactive about my own increase in weight. I decided that I would not only eat better but also get a little more exercise in my daily routine.

The first part hasn't been too hard. Some of you might have tried the trendy diets like lowering your fat or carbohydrate intake but I'm here to say that if you want to drop a pound or two or fifty, that all you have to do is remember our friend Popeye. There's nothing more refreshing in the summertime that a spinach based salad topped with mushrooms, fresh vegetables and a few pieces of cut up chicken. It's easy to make, quite tasty, and you leave the table with a sprightly and energetic feeling.

The second part has been a little more difficult- having to free up some time during the evening to take a walk. When I bought my house a decade ago one of the reasons I bought in the area I bought (the Como Park area) was that I was nearby both a lake and a park and that seemed like a good place to be. Shortly after when I was spending a lot of time with the potential housemate who never was, the gal named after a rabbit, one of the things we enjoyed doing together was taking walks around my neighborhood.

I stopped walking after she walked away. And my exercise regimen since has relied on the summer softball games and whatever walking I do at my job. Thus I may be half the man I used to be but I surely don't feel that way physically and my clothes certainly don't reflect that.

I've had the time to take walks around Lake Como most every night for the past two weeks. And quite frankly it not only has helped with my pants feeling a bit looser, but also has helped with clearing my never been more cluttered mind. During my walks I listen to a CD I haven't listened for a while (does anyone else realize that U2's Joshua Tree or Alex Chilton's High Priest are such delightful recordings?) and I've rediscovered how much I love music.

Still the thing I've probably enjoyed the most about my walks around the lake is watching the people who are walking their dogs. I love how when you look at the dogs you can just tell how much they enjoy the fresh air and exercise and spending time with their owners. Likewise you can usually see the pride and affection in the owner's eyes. It's a give and take relationship, the rewards of which come shining through across the paved path around Lake Como.

I've walked enough where I have developed a blister on my foot but still I've never come back to my house feeling anything but better for the steps I've taken. It's good to get out there again. Good to finally be feeling better about where I am these days.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Diego and Thompson spent most of last evening in the basement. Diego stayed downstairs last night as well. I thought it might be the heat and that the basement is a little bit cooler than the rest of the house. But still, Diego has been spending a lot of the last few days upstairs where it is warmer than the rest of the house.

This morning I heard some scratching noise so I went down to see what Diego was up to. What I saw was him watching the furnace and air conditioning ducts. Upon further investigation I discovered that there is an unknown animal stuck in the ducts.

I don't know what it is but Diego has been dutifully waiting for whatever it is to escape so he can presumably pounce on it.

I don't know exactly what to do. If I try to get it out and it's a bird or a squirrel I likely won't be able to catch it and it will flee somewhere in the house. If I let it die it will probably be pretty stinky pretty darn quick.

And I can't think of a worse way to die- trapped in a dark tube with hot and cold air blowing by you constantly. I'd like to help it get out- whatever it is- but I really don't want to deal with the chaos that is sure to follow.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I've been thinking that when it cools down a bit I'm going to take the boyz for a walk (on a leash).

The late great Mr. Max used to love going for walks. It was the only time he got to go outside. We used to make quite the sight I'm sure- me in my goofy hats, Max grazing on grass like a feline cow.

I took Thompson and Diego out for walks a couple of summers ago. First lesson was I couldn't walk them together since they both wanted to go different directions.

Diego loved being outside. I think it may have been the first time he had ever gotten to explore outside the walls since he was brought to a shelter after he was born, spent time in a foster home until I adopted him.

Thompson didn't much seem to enjoy the experience. Maybe it was the leash. Maybe it was the memories of his accident. When we were outside my neighbor came over to chat and I could tell Thompson just wanted to get back inside. He eventually got away from me and I chased after him with no chance of catching him. We circled the house a couple of times when it dawned on me that if I reversed directions we'd meet in the middle. Sure enough we almost ran right into each other. He hasn't been outside since.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cat Reader

I think I've become a fairly good reader of the cats I've gotten to know. My first cat (roommate) Mr. Max and I developed an understanding of what the other expected and needed over the years.

When I used to housesit my sister's cat, Ralph, I think we bonded, and he appreciated our time together, what he could get away with away from his usual family.

Over the past few years I've also gotten to housesit my friend Amy's cats (current- Marabou and Marcel) and I think even though Marabou is perhaps the most moody of her species I've ever seen, we've all developed a co-existence that works.

That's why I gotta say that I'm not sure even after all this time that Diego and I truly understand each other. Diego-san is an ultra-male- expecting all the attention and yet he can be so ultra-friendly, turning on and off the charm seemingly at will.

We'll figure each other out eventually. Ever since Theo entered the fray, I think Diego and I have turned to each other for some relief from the unrelentless more and more. He's been a tough nut to crack and yet that has made given our relationship even more meaning.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Too Crafty

Two nights ago after a wrestling match Thompson and Theo sat together for a long time. Thompson cleaned Theo but mostly they just lie together in a clump.

Last night Theo and Diego were sitting together, Theo occasionally licking Diego's head. I grabbed my camera because this was unusual behavior for that combo. But just as I was focusing to take a picture, Diego wised up and walked away. No way he was going to have documentation of any toleration of Theo.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I shaved my head on the 4th of July (an annual summer hair cut I've done the past few years). It's much cooler, my head isn't odd shaped, and it makes taking a shower a brief experience.

I took a walk around a lake near my house and didn't wear a hat so I ended up a little sunburned on top. Yesterday my head was peeling so I was slapping my noggin watching all the dead skin cells float down. I looked over and noticed Theo was watching me intently. I'm sure he was thinking to himself (if there is actually thinking going on in that head of his) that he had finally seen me lose it. Didn't take very long.

Monday, July 10, 2006


It's been hot and muggy out (and in) so I've turned on the air conditioner the past few days. This means, of course, that the windows have to be closed.

So the comfort the boyz gain (and when it is hot and sticky the boyz act mighty lethargic) they lose equally one of their favorite pasttimes (particularly Thompson) of sitting in a window, breathing fresh air and taking in all the smells.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Not So Stealthy

Theo was digging in the box of cat toys I keep underneath the piano bench in the living room. Diego-san was sitting on top of the piano (one of his favorite spots to sit). I could tell by his posture and the way his tail was wagging what was on Diego's mind.

He was going to pounce on the unsuspecting Theo. But in order to get to a better spot for the pounce, Diego-san had to climb down lower. This meant he had to walk across the keyboard. As soon as he did so I assumed the Bartok like music would startle Theo- who was lost in the world of cat toys.

But the noise/alarm didn't even cause Theo to look up. Diego kept trying to find the ideal pouncing position and kept walking across the keyboard. Theo slowly strolled away, seemingly unaware of what he had somehow managed to escape. Diego went back to his spot on top of the piano.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

When You Gonna Wake Up?

Isn't it weird how there are times when you'll hear a song, see a movie or TV show, or read a book, that grapples with the very issues occupying your most recent thoughts and it's all purely a random coincidence? How you didn't deliberately mean to stumble across this particular piece of art or entertainment, but nonetheless this coincidental discovery delves deeply into what you think about late at night when all the defenses come down or it's the very thing you wrote about last week in your weekly newsletter column for a local music retail company?

Last week in this space I wrote about my attempts to try to figure out this religion thing. Two days later, (on Independence Day mind you) I slid Ingmar Bergman's 1961 masterpiece, Through the Glass Darkly into my DVD player. I didn't have any idea what the movie was about having put it in my Netflix queue based solely on a recommendation the concerned Netflix folks made to me based on my movie rental tastes.

Winner of the Oscar for "Best Foreign Film" Through the Glass Darkly tells the story of a family (father, daughter, son, and son-in-law/daughter's husband) spending time at a lake house. The family tension is only made more difficult in that the daughter (played in a masterful performance by Harriet Andersson) is slowly going insane.

The father much to his son-in-law's chagrin, is using his daughter's illness as fodder for a new novel. Anyone who has ever written about someone else in a public forum and gotten spanked in the process can probably relate. Art is based on life and yet you either do or you don't take other's feelings into account in your suffering through the creative process. Is your work more important than the feelings of your friends and family? You decide or you don't, knowing that your decision will ultimately have some grave consequences for your own life and others around you. I love that Bergman tries to address this conundrum.

Andersson's character is convinced that God is calling her to abandon her family but when the moment of calling comes, she is frightened by God's appearance. Turns out he looks like a spider with frightening eyes.

Confession here: I think what may have fueled my current spiritual seeking mindset is that I recently finished re-watching season five and six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During those two terrific seasons there were episodes dealing with Buffy's mother's death; Buffy's death and return from Heaven; and perhaps my favorite Buffy episode of all time- where she is "poked" (Xander of course asks her to clarify just where she was poked) by a demon whose poison causes her to drift between two worlds. One world is the world we've known all along in the series- where Buffy is a superhero in a world full of demons and difficulties. The other is a world where Buffy has been hospitalized for a mental illness and where her mother and father are trying desperately to pull her back to safety.

Whenever I tell someone they HAVE to watch these episodes of Buffy they tend to roll their eyes and mutter something about David just being David. I mention in particular that the episode where Buffy's mom dies is by far and away the closest I've ever seen to anything capturing what I felt when my own Mom died. I also mention how the art of the direction in that episode is downright "Bergmanesque." I used this term having never actually watched an Ingmar Bergman movie in its entirety before.

Through the Glass Darkly confirmed my intuition and limited exposure to the much lauded Swedish director's skills. I have to think that Joss Whedon watched this movie before he wrote the Buffy may be institutionalized episode. The themes are the same- how the reality we depend on may not actually be the world we should be existing in.

Bergman's film of course digs much deeper and delves deftly into issues about how little our families can help in truly desperate situations and how the need to believe in God maybe in itself a delusion or maybe the path to our only salvation.

Through the Glass Darkly is part of a trilogy of films Bergman made between 1961-1963 based around contemplation on religion. I haven't seen the other two films yet (Winter Light and The Silence) but now I just have to. I'm sure SCTV could do some terrific spoofs of these ultra-serious Swedish movies but sometimes the jokes just have to be put aside for a serious thought or two.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Move

Every time I walk up the stairs Theo tears up after me as if it is a race. I always make sure to compliment how fast he is.

In the morning if he's in an extra playful mood he'll chase after me as I walk the length of the upper wing. I'll turn around quickly to face him and he'll stop in his tracks and jump straight in the air, front paws spastically placed as if he's planning on latching on to me. He'll quickly reverse directions and run the other way.

Oh the fun we have.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


It was a mostly quiet 4th of July. The boyz and I lounged around the house. I watched Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly not exactly a side slappin' rib tickler. (It's the type of movie that makes you want to jump off a high high building).

At night the fireworks rattled the windows since I live very close to the state fairgrounds. The noise used to scare Mr. Max out of his mind but the boyz seemed OK. (Well I think they were OK). Theo and Thompson were upstairs with me- but Diego was downstairs somewhere.

Hopefully they didn't think it was the end of the world, or it was so frightening that they wanted to jump off a high high building.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Theo was on a mission yesterday and today. We have a triangular cardboard scratching box that has a little mouse on a sting hanging on the inside. There are two circular holes cut in the sides of the box. The idea is for the kitty to swat at the tempting hanging mouse (no doubt providing for hours of fun!).

This box has been around the house longer than Theo has. It was one of the many (unsuccessful) attempts to find a way to dissuade Diego-san from ripping up all my furniture. (The current method is to admit I'll never be able to buy good furniture with my current roommates.)

Anyhoo- for whatever reason Theo has decided he must get at that mouse. He can't reach it with his paws so he's been jamming his head inside the hole and this leads to him stumbling around the living room with a box attached to his body.

But he won't give up.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sunday Afternoon Baseball

Thompson took a nap on my chest as I watched the Twins' pitching phenom, Fransisco Liriano blow away the Brewers 8-0. Since Liriano is on my fantasy baseball team, the Osaka Cat's Meow, I was quite pleased.

After a sluggish start the Cats have been in first place the last couple of weeks. This rise in the standings is due to improvement in pitching- with Liriano playing a huge part of that.

Unfortunately my pleasure with the Cat's fortunes was short-lived. Two of my other pitchers, Mark Buerhle of the White Sox, and Alay Soler of the Mets got creamed. Buerhle giving up 10(!) runs in five innings and Soler giving up 8 in less than three innings.

The Cats are still in first place this morning but the lead has shrunk and the team seems to be limping into the All Star break. And although the Twins have been playing astoundingly great baseball the past few weeks (winning 18 out of 19), they've barely gained any ground on the two teams in front of them, the Tigers and White Sox. Talk about spinning your wheels.

Thompson, though, is well rested.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Losing My Religion While Getting Right with God

It was thirty years ago this summer when my oldest sister got married. I don't remember much about the first wedding I'd ever been to. I remember wearing a lime green leisure suit that I wish I still owned and fit into. I also remember at the reception there was a low ceiling just out of my reach. I spent a lot of time trying to jump up and touch it. I couldn't have been more than an inch away. And I wouldn't give up, figuring that eventually I could cheat gravity just once.

It's quite certain that getting married changed my sister's life. (Her son graduated from Stillwater High School a couple of weeks ago). It also ended up changing mine. Because we hadn't gone to church my entire life up to that point, the wedding was the first time I remember being in a church. I think my Mom realized this and decided that our family should start going to church again if only to expose us kids to the concepts of religion.

The whole church service fascinated me. I loved being able to sing unfamiliar songs in a public setting trying to figure out the melodies and strange words merely by reading the hymnal. I tried to imagine the circumstances of the list of people that was read every week who we were praying for.

(A little girl goes to church one Sunday and looks at all these fancy plaques hung up all around. She has the chance to ask the minister a question. "Father, what are all those plaques hung up with flags on them?" The father responds, "Those are to honor those who died in service." The little girl looks at him wide-eyed and asks, "Which one, the 8 or 9:30?")

There were a couple parts of the church going experience I didn't particularly care for. When communion began we wouldn't go up to the altar because we hadn't been baptized or confirmed. As the ushers slowly let row by row go up, I felt embarrassed when they got to our row and we all just sat there, feeling unworthy.

The part of church that I hated most however was going off to Sunday school. Right before they let us out, Father Henry Hoover would read the announcements and my stomach would turn in knots, butterflies fluttering like dandelion seeds on a windy day.

I hated Sunday school because I didn't know anything about what was being taught. I had never read the Bible. And since I was the newcomer in class I felt like all the other kids in my class not only knew a whole lot more, but also knew each other. I not only felt dumb and alone, I felt God would punish me for my ignorance.

Mr. and Mrs. Miel, who were the teachers, seemed to sense my uneasiness and didn't try and call on me unless I had a look of certainty on my face. Who would have guessed I'd grow up and one day shake the Dalai Lama's hand? (Years later when the Miels came to my Mom's funeral, after it was mentioned during the service that I was a Bob Dylan fan, Mrs. Miel came over to me and said that she used to babysit Bob and his younger brother. "His brother was a really good kid, but Bob never said a thing.")

Through the years my own personal spiritual beliefs have been challenged and changed although the basis remains the same. I don't believe this world is the end. I think there's something else, some greater purpose that comes next. I have no proof (other than certain dreams and an undying faith that humans can't possibly be the highest being). I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who believes differently. I think the greatest danger facing our existence is the growing blurring between politics and religion.

That said, I don't understand those who don't seem to be curious about religion. I don't understand how you can't be. Maybe it's being able to live entirely in the present (or for some in the past) getting lost in what's going on today without trying to figure out what comes next. But at some point don't you have to stop and wonder what it all means? Am I the only one losing sleep over this?

That's why I will faithfully be watching Bill Moyers' new PBS show, Faith and Reason. The show features interviews with famous writers (the first show featured Salman Rushdie). Ultimately Faith and Reason strives to answer Moyers' question, "In a world where religion is poison to some and salvation to others, how do we live together?" If after the seven episodes air I have a better understanding of that, it will be seven hours well spent. Thank God.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Me and D

As Diego-san and I have developed our relationship over the past couple of years, I've come to appreciate him more and more. He makes me appreciate (at times) that I'm around for him yet he's constantly expressing his individuality. I respect that.

So over the past few weeks I've made it a point to compliment him at what a great cat he is. And without exception immediately following these confessions he does something that he knows violates house rules like scratching furniture of hopping up on the dining room table.

I'm living with a smart yet defiant cat.