Friday the 13th

So, Mike and Judy went out to eat with their friends Richard and Barbara last week, and Richard asked Mike if I had written anything about black cats and Friday the 13th. I hadn’t planned to write anything about it because it’s stupid for anyone to think that a black cat brings bad luck…..or that the number 13 brings bad luck. It is especially stupid to combine the stupidities into the double whammy of encountering a black cat on Friday the 13th bringing bad luck. The superstition in America of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day is well established. However, there is no scientific evidence that 13 or any other number is unlucky. In other countries the 13th falling on other days of the week, for example, Tuesday in Greece, is considered bad luck. This is equally stupid. All of this presupposes that there is such a thing as luck. It’s certainly true that unexpectedly fortuitous things happen to people, things that could be considered good luck. Likewise, unexpectedly bad things happen to people, possibly a result of bad luck. But there is no agency or force that drives this. You can take my word for it.

There are a lot of stories about the origins of the unlucky nature of the number 13. One that I have heard is traced back to the Last Supper of Jesus, the Passover Seder which supposedly occurred on the 13th of the Hebrew month Nisan. There were 13 people in attendance, Jesus and his 12 disciples. Since 13 is an odd, or imperfect number, this could be considered to be evidence of disharmony. Furthermore, one of the 13 betrayed Jesus. This was Judas Iscariot whose luck ran out shortly thereafter. There are other legends including one about the Knights Templar whose luck ran out in 1307 when King Philip IV of France had hundreds of them burned at the stake. Their crime had been that they had become too powerful and were seen as a threat to Philip as well as to Pope Clement V. Worse, King Philip owed the Knights a lot of money. The Knights Templar had put themselves in position of being the bankers in the Christian world. Apparently, Philip thought that cancelling the debt was preferable to repaying it. So, according to this legend the incineration of the Knights occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307 in Paris. The Grand Master of the Knights put a curse on the day and on the people who perpetrated the crime. I’m not suggesting that you believe the story.  I’m just sharing.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, around the time the Knights Templar were taking it in the chops, there was a series of plagues. Some people blamed cats and an effort was made to exterminate cats. Thousands of innocent cats were murdered. (By the way, I’ve seen this phrase used, and I don’t really understand the point of saying “innocent” children or “innocent” cats that befell some kind of cruel misfortune. Of course children and cats are innocent. Why is it necessary to say so?) Anyway back to the bubonic plague or typhus or whatever it was. Ironically, by killing  so many cats the rat population, which was the actual source of the plagues, increased.

Back in the days when people used to believe in such things, witches were thought to be able to turn themselves into cats in order to perpetrate their evil mischief on the innocent citizens of whatever community in which they resided. That’s why it was such a good idea to burn witches at the stake and kill cats. It’s not clear who benefited from any of this, certainly not the cats or the  ladies that were unjustly accused and murdered. By the way, for some reason Mike thinks I should mention that in many cases it was the clergy and other spiritual leaders of the communities that perpetrated these crimes, and all in the name of Christianity. Christians today should not be held responsible for this. I’m just saying that just because somebody he says he is speaking for God doesn’t mean that he really is.

And since we’re talking about terrible things, it’s time for me to say something about cilantro. Mike and Judy are both cilantro haters. Judy says that it tastes like soap to her. This is a common perception among cilantro haters. Mike says he has never tasted soap so he can’t say one way or the other. What he can say is that he hates the stuff, that is, cilantro. He says the first time he ever ran across it was in a Mexican restaurant in Atlanta 30 some years ago. He thought that they had served him a salad with spoiled lettuce. Mike is normally a reasonably civil and well-behaved person in public. However, slip some cilantro into his food and watch him perform. He and Judy were out once with Judy’s brother and his wife and they went to a Vietnamese restaurant. Mike was very naïve in those days about what cultures include cilantro in their food. When he took a big first bite out of his spring roll he was filled immediately with such revulsion that given the choice of chewing it up and swallowing it or spitting it out into his napkin, it was almost as if the choice was made for him. It was an embarrassing moment. Then there was the time he and Judy were at a really nice restaurant and Mike ordered one of his favorite things, bouillabaisse. Mike loves meals where everything is cooked in one pot. Who would think that French cuisine would include cilantro? (Julia Child once said that if she found cilantro in her food she would pick it out and throw it on the floor.) Nevertheless, the bouillabaisse was inedible and Mike loudly burst forth that his entire evening was ruined. This was completely spontaneous and with no thought whatsoever. A nerve was touched. This sudden, forceful, and spontaneous reaction to taste must be related to the survival instinct. And people’s sense of smell is so weak that they frequently have no idea what their food is going to taste like before they actually put it in their mouths. People are kind of pitiful in this respect.

So, it seems that cilantro doesn’t taste the same to everybody. Mike and Judy both think that there is no possible way that people who like cilantro perceive the taste the same way that they do. There are other foods that are commonly disliked that probably do taste the same to everyone, but a lot of people just don’t like it. Liver would be a good example. It has a very strong flavor which some people find disgusting. And then there’s the issue of texture. Come to think of it, cats can be pretty finicky about flavors in their foods as well. There are very few canned cat foods that Ladybug will eat, for example. Shayna Maidel will eat anything with gusto that comes out of a can with a picture of a cat on it. Jackson lies somewhere in between. As for me, if it’s there I’ll eat it, but I like to catch my own fresh food. Farm to table, that’s my style.

Cilantro is comprised of the green leafy part of the coriander plant. Some sources say that the word, coriander, is derived from the Greek word for bedbug, and that the aroma has been compared to the smell of bug-infested bedclothes. I wouldn’t know. Mike and Judy both make a point when they’re at a restaurant and ordering of telling the waitstaff that they are allergic to cilantro. However, at some restaurants the waitstaff lacks facility in English, so they are still at risk. This is sometimes true in Indian restaurants, a cuisine that is riddled with cilantro. So, they really can’t be sure that they’ve communicated adequately. Mike now knows to only order tandoori chicken whenever he goes to an Indian restaurant. So far this has worked well for him. Mexican restaurants are another place that he can’t be too careful. The cilantro can show up in any of the sauces (or salads). Mike only goes to Mexican restaurants where he knows their salsa is cilantro-free. I’m told that some people who at one point  hated cilantro eventually develop a taste for it. This is the sort of thing that’s hard for a cat to understand, but people tend to eat a much greater variety of foods than we do and they have a tendency to season their foods. They also will eat food and drink beverages that are manifestly evil and taste dreadful, and yet come to like them. Beer would be a good example of this. Actually, I have heard that some dogs  enjoy beer. Mike said when he was at the University of Illinois one of the fraternity houses  had a St. Bernard that they used to ply with copious amounts of beer. One could see the dog passed out around campus from time to time. I doubt if they would get away with that stunt now. At least I hope not.

I got distracted from my writing so this post is a little stale for Friday the 13th. Please forgive me, but I had other things to do, people to see, and other cats and dogs to visit with here in Happy Meadows. Nevertheless, I thought I’d put it up anyway, and I hope you all enjoyed it.

The Kaddish

So, it was about 3 weeks ago that Mike’s dear friend, Warren, was released from his struggles and passed through that mysterious door we call death. He and Mike had become very close. Some people can talk to each other for hours, and never run out of things to say to each other. Mike and Warren were like that. Warren was ill the past few years, so Mike always went to see him. Warren never came here.They had a common interest in spirituality and religion. Warren was a licensed minister with the Disciples of Christ, also known, if I understand it correctly, as the Christian Church. He and Mike agreed on most things spiritual. I suppose that the biggest difference is that Warren was a Christian, and Mike is Jewish. Mike has a liberal theology in which he takes most of the stories in the Bible as allegorical rather than factual. He thinks what is important is the message behind the story. He and Warren were in agreement about this. The message is all about love. We are directed to love each other, love God, and love ourselves. It turns out to be a lot harder to do than it looks like it should. It is not so hard for a cat, but people don’t see things nearly so clearly as we do, and their lives are more complicated. Mike and Warren were also in recovery, so they had that in common as well.  Another element of their lives held in common was, as Warren put it, they had both “married up.” They agreed that they both had better wives than they were entitled to. Brenda fully devoted herself to caring for Warren, and exhausted herself in the process. I guess you never know what you are capable of doing until you have to do it.

So, Warren passed on, and the memorial service was held last Saturday at Warren’s church. Mike, Judy, and Michelle all went. Warren’s good friend, Rev. Jerry, presided and delivered the eulogy. Many of Warren’s friends spoke up and talked about how much Warren had meant to them in their own journey. A couple of them said he had saved their lives, being there for them and knowing what to say when they were in great need. It was a celebration of Warren’s life. It underscored the important fact that we all are here to play a part in God’s great plan to love each other and make the world a better place. Brenda had called Mike just after Warren died and asked if he would say a Hebrew prayer at Warren’s funeral. Mike was honored, and said he would say Kaddish for Warren.

The Kaddish is a prayer that was very likely a part of the Jewish liturgy going back to the time of Jesus, shortly before the destruction of the second temple. Its language is Aramaic, the daily spoken language of the Jewish people during that period. It is a prayer of sanctification of the name of God.Over the centuries it has been modified somewhat, and now contains  Hebrew sentences in addition to the Aramaic text. The entire prayer is not long. It can easily be recited in less than two minutes. The word “Kaddish” means sanctification. It is found in the great vision of the prophet Isaiah where the angels all said “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” Or in the Hebrew of the Bible, “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.” In time, a version of the Kaddish began to be recited at funerals, and for a length of time after the death of a parent or of a loved one. This form is referred to as the Mourner’s Kaddish. It has existed in this form and practice for several hundred years. It is also a traditional practice for a Jew to say Kaddish for a deceased loved one on the anniversary of their death. This is done at the synagogue, where the community can be aware and supportive of the loss. It is of some interest that there is no reference in the Kaddish to death. Scripture says “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Kaddish is the “blessed be the name” part of that sentiment. The anniversary of the death is referred to as the Yortzeit. Mike late wife’s Yortzeit is tomorrow. It will mark 26 years since she has passed on. Mike isn’t so sure that she ever left Michelle though. I think he is right.

So Mike said Kaddish for Warren at his going home celebration, and also read the translation in English. Brenda sent him a beautiful note thanking him. She said that Warren was/would have been very pleased . I’m sure this is so. Mike could not have been more grateful for the opportunity to honor his friend in this way.

I had mentioned in my last post that Mike had given a talk at Rev. Larry’s church about the relationship between Passover and Easter, and that I was going to try to get Mike to put it up on my blog. Mike said that it is too long and boring, and that he is not going to do it. However, he will email it to anyone who wants to read it. You can email him at if you want to. He doesn’t check his email every day so be patient, please.

It is a beautiful day today in Happy Meadows. All the trees are blooming, and the azaleas have opened up. I went by to see Mrs. Greenblatt this morning. She and her husband were just getting home from church. Mr. Greenblatt is Jewish, but she is Roman Catholic. Today is Easter Sunday. I could feel that despite the very recent death of Snowball, who as you may remember was run over by a car on Meadows Trace a few days ago, she is comforted by her relationship with her Lord. Life is so hard that it would be intolerable, it seems to me, if you don’t believe in something. I think Mrs. Greenblatt appreciated my visit. She spoke sweetly to me and offered me one of Snowball’s yummy little treats. I think I’ll drop in on her from time to time, just to see how she is doing. Let’s all pray for Mrs. Greenblatt, and for Brenda, and for Mike and Michelle, and for everyone who is sad for whatever reason, that they may find peace and consolation in their lives.

Not so loud, just about right

So last week I wrote about how Mike’s hearing aids were blasting into his ears like nobody’s business. He hung in there with them until he got back to the audiologist a couple of days ago. She took pity on him and readjusted them. He thinks they are just about right now. It’ll take a few days to see if he is really hearing Judy or if she has to repeat herself as before. We will adjust as necessary, and life will go on. Mike says that one thing for certain is that the birds outside are overjoyed. As soon as he puts in his hearing aids they start singing. So he knows they are happy about his new hearing aids.

I have never been so proud of the teenagers as I am right now. Quite frankly, usually they seem to be a bunch of dumb kids who are only interested in themselves and what their friends have to say on social media. But after the latest school shooting in Florida, some of the kids in Florida who survived the incident became very outspoken about gun control and the senseless violence that is perpetrated by people with high-powered semi- automatic weapons. They have tapped into a lot of energy that is present in our country that is mobilizing against gun violence. That the shooters in these incidents are mentally unbalanced goes without saying. But as we noted in a recent post (The Mark of Cain, posted February 25, 2018), the mentally ill we always will have with us. We just don’t want them to have access to these firearms. The opponents of restricting access to these weapons to mentally unwell persons make Second Amendment arguments and personal liberty arguments, as well as stating that “the liberals” want to take everyone’s guns away from them. The only ones who talk about taking guns away from people are the gun lobby who says that the liberals want to take guns away from people. Oh, and of course, there is Spoiled Donald who said that we should take away the guns from mentally ill people first and invoke due process afterwards. But very few people take what he says seriously, and those who do, shouldn’t.

If I can jump from one soapbox to another right now, I want to hold forth about distracted drivers. You may recall Snowball whom I mentioned in the post called “Possum”, posted on February 19 of 2017. I was over near his house the other day. He lives (lived) on the main road through our subdivision, Meadows Trace. There is a fair amount of traffic there, and a number of the drivers regard the speed limit as a suggestion rather than a regulation. I hate to tell you what I saw but I’m going to. Snowball, a beautiful fluffy white Persian male cat, had found a patch of sun to stretch out in. Unfortunately, it was right in the middle of Meadows Trace. Along came a driver in an SUV, and ran right over Snowball almost before he even saw it coming. He had just noticed the car and started to react when the right front tire got him. He was nailed by the back tires as well. The driver stopped and got out. It was a young woman I would guess in her mid-20s who had a small child with her who remained in the car seat. Mrs. Greenblatt came running out of the house crying and screaming “Snowball, my Snowball!” At least it was quick. He was already gone and I don’t think he felt a thing. The  young woman got a blanket out of her car and covered Snowball with it. She tried to comfort Mrs. Greenblatt just saying over and over again, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”. It was just plain awful. Mrs. Greenblatt took the blanket and wrapped Snowball up in it. The young woman asked her if she wanted her to stay with her for a while, but Mrs. Greenblatt said, “No, you have your little boy with you, you just go on. I’ll call my husband and he’ll come home.” So she went on into the house with Snowball wrapped in this blanket, and the woman stood there in a state of shock. She got out her phone and called her husband. I guess he was not able to come over right then. He must have been at work or something. I heard her tell him that she had been talking on the phone when she ran over Snowball with her car. I guess she was holding the phone according to what I heard her tell him. I know Mike and Judy both have hands-free phone devices when they’re driving. Judy never talks on the phone when she drives, even so. She is afraid of getting distracted. There’s nothing wrong with being cautious. It’s one of my best traits, and part of why I’m still alive. You’ll never catch me sunning myself in the middle of the street like Snowball was doing or like Nevermore does. You know, I’ve talked about Nevermore before. He is the black dog that lives on our street and who came in to visit us one year when we opened the door for Elijah the Prophet during our Passover Seder.

Not to get off track, but Passover is coming up this coming week. Mike was invited to speak at a nearby Missionary Baptist Church by his friend, Rev. Larry, this past week. I of course, didn’t go, but Judy and Michelle did. So did one of Mike’s friends, Steve, who works with him. I’ll try to talk  Mike into letting me post his talk. His topic was the relationship between Passover and Easter. Nothing to interest a cat, but I heard that the church folks enjoyed it. You might enjoy it as well, but if it’s not your cup of tea, you don’t have to read it.

So, when I got home later that evening I heard Mike and Judy talking about Snowball having been killed by a distracted driver. They were pretty upset about it. Judy made some chicken soup and they took it over to the Greenblatt’s and stayed for a few minutes. I guess you can make a Shiva visit for a cat. I heard them talking again later about the pending bill in the Georgia legislature to address the problem of people talking on the phone while they’re driving. The bill is regulating the use of the phone, not banning  it. Texting while driving is already illegal in Georgia. The argument in favor of the legislation has to do with the increase in motor vehicle related deaths that have occurred in Georgia the past 3 years. It’s quite dramatic, and it is directly correlated to the increase in use of mobile devices by people while driving. I don’t think they keep statistics about how many cats and dogs are getting killed by distracted drivers, but I guarantee you that number has gone up as well. With current technology there is no excuse for anybody having to hold the phone in their hand to talk while they are driving. The argument against the legislation is a personal liberty argument. Some people think the government shouldn’t infringe on the conduct of their lives, even if what they do endangers the lives of other people, dogs, or cats. The personal liberty argument, carried to its logical conclusion, would have us eliminate laws against drunk driving, hollering “fire” in a crowded theater, or selling firearms to people with a history of mental illness.

Back to that again. Mike thinks that in the short run, no real change will happen with gun control legislation. The NRA will throw millions of dollars around, and the conservatives will assume that the kids will get bored and discouraged and go back to their video games. In Mike’s talk this week at the church he said that we have experienced a predictable backlash in this country to the election of a black president. He said that it’s a temporary thing and that it can’t and won’t last. I think were already seeing a backlash against the backlash. And I think that it’s the women and the young people in this country who are leading the way. It will be interesting to watch.

LOUD, and Amazing

So, Mike came home a couple of weeks ago with these little things in his ears. Just from listening to him talk with Judy I realized that these devices are supposed to help him hear better. I didn’t particularly notice that he hadn’t been hearing that well. Of course, the 2- leggeds in this household don’t hear nearly as well as we do. Mike has not complained about it, but he’s been hearing hissing in his ears for years. I think the medical term for this hissing is tinnitus. He says that he knows that his hearing must be diminished, although he hadn’t noticed it particularly. He said tinnitus occurs when the hearing nerve is damaged. So if he had tinnitus he must have diminished hearing as well, he reasoned. As far as he was concerned, when he didn’t hear what people said to him it was because they were not speaking clearly or directly to him or loud enough etc. etc.  Anyway there has been this recurrent drama going on in the house where Mike has had to ask Judy to repeat herself quite often. Judy has been quite annoyed at times. Mike has said that if he’s in the bathroom with the water running and Judy is speaking in the other room she shouldn’t expect him to hear her. That makes sense, but facts are facts; he doesn’t hear that well. I think it has something to do with listening to loud rock ‘n roll, and the rest of it has to do with his ears being 75 years old. (That’s about 15 in cat years.) He started to go for hearing tests several years ago, but last year was the 1st time an audiologist told him that he would benefit from hearing aids. She showed him a model and when she put it in his ears it sounded like she was speaking into a microphone. The other thing that was  remarkable is that the hissing went away. Now, truthfully, Mike was up to that point  not at all interested in getting hearing aids. He had only gone to the audiologist because Judy asked him to get tested, and he was trying to be a good husband. He had thought that the tinnitus was something that he was just going to have to live with, and that his hearing was more than adequate. Anyway, he didn’t get the hearing aids at that time, mostly because of the price tag which was substantial. Then Judy came home saying that some of her friends had gotten hearing aids at Costco and Mike should go over there. Well, one of the things that Mike found out at Costco was that the brand of hearing aid there was the same as their brand of hot dogs, laundry detergent, Norwegian salmon, and dog food. So he wasn’t so sure about the hearing aids. But they tested him and said he needed hearing aids and fitted him with a model, and he walked around the store and couldn’t tell any difference whatsoever. He went back the next day and tried again with no real improvement. They told him that hearing aids would not help him with his tinnitus which he knew to be false based on his brief experience a few months earlier. So not long ago he called back to the audiologist he saw last year, but they couldn’t give him an appointment because she had left the practice, and the clinic hadn’t hired a new audiologist yet. So he called another audiologist who carried the same brand, Widex. He liked the new audiologist, and that brings us up to the visit 2 weeks ago where he got fitted for his hearing aids. He went back again a couple of days ago and gave his hearing aids a C-. It turns out that she had not cranked them up to full volume at first for fear of making his head explode. After 2 weeks of some improvement she reset it to what she said would be the equivalent of his hearing when he was 18. No jokes, please.

And EVERYTHING IS LOUD. Scratching his head, combing his hair, opening drawers, closing drawers, the television, walking on the hardwood floors, people talking, breathing through his nose, his own voice, flushing the toilet, computer keys, the printer, and OMG the vacuum cleaner; the birds singing outside; you name it and it’s loud. Mike’s friends came over Sunday morning for their weekly men’s group, and at first he thought he was going to have to take his hearing aids out because one of his friend’s voice was so loud. But he hung in there and was able to tolerate it. I will mention 2 amazing (see below) things; no, 3. One is that he can hear so much better. The 2nd thing is that he went to see “Black Panther” with Judy and Michelle Saturday and he was able to tolerate the loud soundtrack of the movie. The 3rd thing is after the movie when he normally would’ve had loud tinnitus he didn’t have any, and didn’t really have any tinnitus to speak of on Sunday either. That never happens. But he woke up this morning with the hissing as usual. I guess it’s just going to take time. He said he’s going to go back again this week and get them readjusted if necessary.

I would say that the change in his hearing, and in fact the whole experience has been amazing, except if I did so I would be giving in to the current overuse of that word. Everything is amazing these days. I’ve collected a short list of things that have been said to be amazing just listening to the TV in the last couple of weeks. The arugula is amazing; the Brussels sprouts were amazing; the level of competition was amazing; the pastry wrapped brie was amazing; the crème brûlée was amazing; remembering that “The Woman in Red” had a Stevie Wonder soundtrack was amazing; the challengers for the Senate race are amazing; the Americana and pageantry of  college football Saturday is amazing; somebody has an amazing husband; Mark’s performance on Celebrity Big Brother was amazing; somebody’s sense of humor is amazing; the kitchen was amazing; the wooden beams were amazing; the chandelier was amazing; the antique Rookwood vase was amazing; someone’s marketing skills are amazing; she looks amazing; someone’s skin is amazing; how she looks in her wedding dress is amazing; the job with her hair was amazing; the pork chops were amazing. I could go on but I’m sure you’ll thank me if I don’t. You can tell that there’s a lot of food and home and garden programming on at the house. Well, seriously, let’s be real, that many things can’t be amazing. The impact of the word has been diminished to the point where it means no more than “better than average” or “noteworthy”. The arugula  was better than average; the Brussels sprouts were better than average; the level of competition was noteworthy; and so on. I suppose it is completely natural for people to speak in a vernacular, and with mass communications being what it is, people get exposed to other people’s expressions and manner of speaking quickly. Things have not always been amazing. Mike remembers when things were not to be believed. He remembers sitting in the high school cafeteria one day when he heard a girl at the next table say “I don’t believe these hot dogs!” He wondered at the time what there was to believe about the hot dogs. Or, were the hot dogs really trying to persuade her about something? He realized that she could’ve just as well said “these hot dogs are much better than I thought they were going to be.” Or possibly, she could have said “what in the world is in these hot dogs? They are awful!” In any case, the amazing and noteworthy hot dogs were not to be believed, and either well above or well below average; and if nothing else, deserving of comment. Enough said about that.

So, there’s a lot more to report but it will have to wait. Happy Meadows is an amazing place with so much going on all the time. Mike just dictated “Happy Meadows” for me and the voice recognition program typed “heavy metals”. That is not as funny as some  AutoCorrect events such as changing the word Paraclete to parakeet in the minister’s sermon. But it was mildly amusing if not noteworthy. Be safe and be well, and remember,  if it’s not about love, it’s not about nothing.

The Mark of Cain

So, I have been remiss in keeping you updated on the adventures of Jackson and his pooping or not pooping. It turns out that Mike and Judy took him back to the Extreme Vet about a month ago because he was passing these hard, dry, nutmeg seed-like things again. So he got flushed out again and they changed his medicine. Ever since then things have been quite normal. He’s a lot more comfortable and Mike and Judy are relieved.  I hope you all are relieved as well.

Not too much going on otherwise around here. Mike and Judy found a TV channel that plays the kind of music that you would hear at a spa. They flash pithy sayings on the screen as you listen to this music. It’s all very Zen. One thing that caught Mike’s eye was a statement by Anne Frank. I suppose you know who Anne Frank was. She was a young girl who lived in Amsterdam and went into hiding when the Nazis were arresting Jews and sending them to concentration camps during the 2nd world war. She kept a diary which was recovered by the people who were helping her family. They returned it to her father when he got out of the camp after the war. He was the only one of his family who survived. I don’t remember the exact quote, but she said something like it’s a wonderful thing that everyone has an opportunity to improve the world right at this moment. That’s quite a positive thought for somebody who is in hiding. Her opportunities in hiding to improve the world would seem to have been limited. But maybe not. Maybe if you improve the little piece of the world that you are in at any given moment you are fulfilling your purpose. Mike once read a book on Jewish mysticism in which there was a statement that every time someone does a good deed he creates an angel. It’s something to think about. Mike, Gena, and Michelle visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in 1989. I should tell you about it some time.

A couple of years ago Mike developed a small red mark right in the middle of his fore- head. I think it’s a small hemangioma. Anyway, I heard him tell Judy that he thinks it’s the mark of Cain. She didn’t think so. Cain as you may recall was the older of the first 2 sons of Adam and Eve. He became a farmer and his younger brother Abel was a hunter. According to the story in the Bible, both boys made an offering to God of their produce, and God looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not so with Cain’s. Naturally, Cain killed his brother. What else could he do, right? It was a bad start for the human race if you ask me. Not that any of this really happened. The Bible says that God called out Cain and told him that he would have to wander the earth because of what he did. Cain was concerned that people who found him would kill him and God told him he would put a mark on him to protect him. My question is what people would find him if there were only 3 people  on earth, and he was one of them? The next thing you know he’s taken a wife which is hard to understand because where did she come from? So they get busy and start a family and he has a son named Enoch and he goes and builds a city that he calls Enoch. Why he needed to build a city for the 3 of them I have no idea. The stories in the Bible that occur in prehistory I’m sure are meant to be allegorical. Mike thinks that actual historical events recorded in the Bible probably start with the Hebrews living in Egypt prior to the Exodus. The actual books that are contained in the Bible could not have been written for thousands of years after the prehistorical events (that didn’t happen) and probably several hundred years after the Exodus. So there would’ve been time for a detail or two to get added or dropped. You probably wonder where I’m going with this.

What caught my interest about the mark of Cain is that it turns out that people used this biblical curse as the first part of an excuse for the justification of the enslavement of black Africans in the United States. You must recall that I am a black cat, so I have a natural interest in this sort of thing. (See my post, “Nevermore”, posted February 5, 2017.)The rest of the biblical justification is the story of Noah and the flood. After the flood waters receded Noah is said to have planted a vineyard and drank too much of his product. He was lying in his tent naked and uncovered and was observed by his son, Ham. Noah was covered up by his other 2 sons protecting his modesty. A curse was put on Ham that his son Canaan and all his generations would be servants of servants. Protestant theologians back in slavery times promulgated a theory that Ham had married  a descendant of Cain so that his generations carried both curses. Furthermore, part of the curse was that they would be black. It  should be noted that nothing about Ham or Cain’s descendants being black can be found in the Bible. Based on this nonsense, religious people justified the enslavement of black people by white people. It also raised other interesting questions such as do black people get to go to the same heaven as white people? There must be two separate heavens some thought. Happily, such theology has been largely abandoned although more recently than you might think. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Southern Baptist convention fully admitted their error and issued an apology for their bad theology. The Baptists were not the only people, however, to use the Bible to perpetrate this kind of nonsense. I’m not going to go into this in more detail. I think I’ll just piss off the Baptists and let it go at that. No wait, let me talk about the Mormons for a minute. It’s my understanding that they do have scripture  that says the descendents of Cain were black. (There is also a story in the Bible where Moses was said to have married a Cushite woman. Cush was supposed to be a (black) descendent of Ham. Moses’ sister was bad mouthing him for marrying this black chick and God struck her with leprosy for her bad manners. I’m not suggesting you take this story as gospel truth either, but it’s interesting that this treatment of racial intolerance pops up in the Bible. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.) With regard to the Mormons, the church president in 1954 denied that there was a doctrine in the church that blacks are under a divine curse. He acknowledged that there was a practice based on Scripture for withholding the priesthood from black men, but also said that it was a practice, not a doctrine, and that it would change eventually. I believe it has.

The idea of the difference between a practice and a doctrine reminds Mike of the difference between a guideline and a rule. He remembers that he told Judy that he had a rule that he wouldn’t date anybody that he worked with. Then he said  it wasn’t a rule, it was really a guideline. That was when Judy knew that Mike was interested in her, because they worked together. The line about a rule versus a guideline came from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”. That movie has a classic scene in which Harry and Sally are in a restaurant and Sally tells Harry that she has faked orgasms. He said he didn’t believe it. So she sat right there in the restaurant and panted and screamed and hollered in very convincing fashion that she was having an orgasm. After she finished a middle-aged lady turned to the waiter and said “I’ll have what she’s having.” You’ve probably seen that scene. It’s really funny.

So, Mike I don’t think has  to worry more than anyone else does about somebody killing him, mark on his forehead or not. But we certainly do seem to be living in a world in which random people are killing other random people for no reason that is discernible. I’m proud of the young people that are speaking out after their teachers and classmates were murdered at their school by a mentally disturbed person in Florida. When Mike was a kid he didn’t worry about getting killed in school. He knew which neighborhoods to stay out of in Chicago. But you have to go to school. The gun lobby is trying to make it a mental health issue, not a firearm issue. Of course, it is in part a mental health issue. It’s a sad state of affairs when the same people that want to make it a mental health issue don’t want to fund mental health treatment. Mental illness is not going away. To paraphrase Jesus, “The mentally ill you will always have with you.” The problem is when the mentally ill have access to semi-automatic firearms and can kill a bunch of people in a matter of minutes. By the way, have you read the Second Amendment? It doesn’t say anything about individual citizens being able to arm themselves for their own personal protection. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But that’s not what it says. That idiot in Washington has suggested that the way to protect our students is to arm all the teachers. Like teachers don’t already have too much to do besides teach. And what are they supposed to do with their firearms while they are teaching? And what are they supposed to do with a handgun when faced with somebody with a semi-automatic rifle? Or are we going to arm them with the same weapons that the perpetrators of hate have access to? Give me a break! I wonder how I got on this topic? I started with a constipated cat and a hemangioma on Mike’s  forehead. Anyway, what do you think about all this? Please feel free to let me know, stay regular, and by all means have a nice day. That’s all the news for now from Happy Meadows.

Home again

So, the next morning didn’t start well. As I should have realized, Ludmila gets up early and it didn’t take her long to come into the living room to discover me sleeping on the white couch. As I have said before, I don’t understand Polish, but I heard “glupi kot” and “czarny diabel”  over and over. She tried to swat me off the couch but I beat her to it. I raced to the kitchen and considered my options. There was no one in there to let me out. I ran down to the theater room where I figured I would be safe. Before long I heard the sound of the vacuum cleaner removing traces of my essence from her precious white sofa. After a little exploring I came back upstairs when I heard sounds of other people stirring. I went back into the kitchen where Richard and Richie were getting coffee and something to eat. Richard went to a cupboard and removed something that looked like a plastic cup wrapped in a plastic bag.

“Let’s go,” he said. He and Richie headed for the bathroom. While they were in there Bianca came into the kitchen and started to fix herself some tea. She looked up as Richard and Richie came back into the kitchen.

“All negative,” said Richard. Richie had nothing to say about it. They sat down to some breakfast. I went down to the laundry room to relieve myself and have a snack of kibble. As I was approaching the laundry room Natasha came out, hissed at me, and raced back to her bedroom.

“Whatever,” I thought. No personality whatsoever.

After a while breakfast was over and everybody went back to their respective bedrooms to shower and get dressed. When I came back into the living room Richard had gotten  his phone out to make a call.

“Hello, Mike?” he said. “It’s Richard Donkle.” He paused. “Yes, Donk, yes. Listen, I’ve got your cat here. He came over last night and it was too cold to let him back out. Can I bring him back in a little while?” He paused. “No no, it’s no trouble,” he said. “I want to talk to you about something anyway. Richie is coming with me.” He paused again. “No, no, don’t worry. I have four-wheel-drive. The roads will be no problem.” Another pause. “How about 20 minutes?” He waited for another moment to listen. “No really it’s no problem. I’ll see you soon.”

Before long Richie came back into the kitchen as he was putting on his winter coat, hat, and gloves. Richard was likewise getting dressed to go out. Next thing I knew Richie had picked me up and we were going out to the garage. Now, I have very little experience riding in cars, and none of it good. Most of it has to do with going to the Extreme Vet.  I don’t react well to the experience, and have been known to get carsick. Richie got into the passenger side on the front seat and had a good grip on the back of my neck which somehow calmed me a little bit. The whole ride couldn’t have taken 5 minutes. Soon, we were back outside with Richard ringing at the front doorbell. Mike let us in and Richie put me down on the floor. I immediately sat down to groom myself, letting everyone know that nothing had bothered me at all.

“Come in, come in,” said Mike. “Let me take your coats.” He took their coats and they took off their shoes. “Let’s go into the kitchen and have some coffee,” said Mike.

“Thank you,” said Richard. “That would be delightful.”

They went on to the kitchen and I did not follow them. I wanted to be alone for a few minutes. So I sniffed around and checked things out around the house. Nothing out of order. After some kibble and a drink of water I headed back to the kitchen. Mike must have just asked Richie how Hallie was doing since she got back from treatment.

“She’s doing fine as far as I know,” said Richie “we have not had that much contact. She stays busy with her aftercare activities, work, and school.”

“Her parents are keeping a tight rein,” said Richard. “I talk to her mother fairly often because she is on the homeowners association board. I think she is doing well, though.”

“How about you, Richie?” Mike asked. “How are things going with you? Did you ever go and see Doctor Kingsley?”

“I’m good. I met with her a few times and she told me I could come back if I wanted to. So far I don’t really see the need for it,” Richie replied. “I don’t know if I’m smart, lucky, or just chicken, but I never had any interest in doing drugs. I admit I smoked a little pot but it made me paranoid. So I just leave it alone. I don’t like drinking either. Besides, dad drug tests me frequently.”

“You are fortunate,” said Mike. “A lot of parents have their heads in the sand. And if you start using drugs at your age there’s a good chance that you’ll fail to accomplish the goals that you might have otherwise set for yourself in life. That is, if you survive at all. You know, I think it was 2009 that the number of accidental overdose deaths first exceeded the number of motor vehicle accident deaths in our country. And it has gotten worse every year since.”

“Unbelievable,” said Richard. “I guess I’m lucky too. Nobody in my family took that much of an interest in drinking or drugs. I will have a beer once in a while or a glass of good wine with a nice meal.”

“Some people are susceptible to a powerful sense of euphoria when they use drugs or alcohol,” said Mike. “For them it is extremely reinforcing, and they tend to do it again and again. Before long physical and psychological dependency kick in. It leads to compulsive use and loss of control. People think that they have drugs and alcohol, but in reality, drugs and alcohol have them.”

“I understand there is a high relapse rate after treatment,” said Richard. “I wonder why that is?”

“Addiction is an illness,” said Mike. “It is as if the disease has a life of its own. Because of the effects on the pleasure center of the brain, the underlying craving for the sensation provided by the drug or alcohol remains for a long time for most people. Often, people just experience a sense of malaise or discontent, and don’t recognize that they are craving. If they don’t know how to identify the sensation and resist it, they will resume drug and alcohol use.”

“So just being educated about the disease isn’t sufficient?” asked Richard. “You would think that after what people have gone through in terms of their negative consequences they would never try it again.”

“You would only think that if you had never had the experience of euphoria provided by drugs and alcohol,” said Mike. “At the same time that the disease develops, denial develops to conceal it from the involved person. Denial is an ego defense mechanism which prevents people from seeing negative realities about themselves. Denial, rationalization, and other ego defense mechanisms are part of the structure of the normal human personality.”

“I’ve been learning about that in my psychology class,” said Richie. “It’s like the story of the Fox and the grapes that he couldn’t reach. He walked away muttering that they’re probably sour anyway.”

“Exactly,” said Mike. “The fox rationalized that the grapes were sour to deal with his disappointment. Addicts have 2 layers of denial when it comes to their disease. The first layer is ‘what drug problem? I don’t have a drug problem.’ If that breaks down and they acknowledge they have a problem with drugs or alcohol the next layer of denial is that they think they can handle it on their own.”

“Just say no,” said Richard.

“Yes,” Mike replied. “If someone is allergic to strawberries, they never eat them again. That’s because while they might like the strawberries, there’s no more than a reasonable amount of pleasure that they received from the taste of the strawberries, and the adverse consequences, usually breaking out in hives, is not something they want to re-experience. So is relatively easy to just say no. But with addiction it’s another story. It’s as though the disease, having a life of its own, uses your brain to get you to feed it. Everything that’s alive needs food to survive. The disease grows stronger on denial, rationalization, and continuation of old behavior patterns, including of course, continuing to drink and use. On the other hand, recovery can also have a life of its own. It gets stronger as people abstain, associate with non-using peers, become more educated about their disease, and acquire coping skills to deal with their insecurities and frustrations. Treatment involves teaching people about their disease and how to starve it; and about their recovery and how to feed it.”

“Do people get to the point where they no longer have to worry about relapsing?” Richie asked.

“Not entirely,” Mike replied. “Addiction is a chronic illness. It never is entirely gone. But people can learn how to live with it by engaging in a daily pattern of healthy behaviors. One of these behaviors is reminding themselves on a daily basis that they still have this disease. Once an alcoholic or addict, always an alcoholic or addict.”

“Didn’t you tell me that you were once an alcoholic?” asked Richard.

“I’m still an alcoholic,” Mike replied. “But I haven’t had a drink in a long time. I’m confident that as long as I keep doing what I’ve been doing to maintain my recovery, I will continue to be abstinent.”

“Don’t you ever want to take a drink?” asked Richard.

“Not really,” replied Mike. “I think people quit drinking initially because they have become so miserable from the consequences of their alcoholism. But it’s not possible to remember pain with the intensity that it is experienced in real time. If I had to rely on remembering how miserable I was I would be at serious risk of drinking again. Speaking for myself, and I think this is true of most other people in recovery, we stay sober because we enjoy and value the new life that we have found for ourselves. I would never voluntarily give up the quality of enjoyment that I experience out of my life  for any reason. I feel good physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have my family, friends, a profession where I can help people, and a relationship with God that I never thought I would ever achieve. As long as I maintain myself, using the tools that I have been given, I feel safe.”

“How long did it take you to lose your desire for a drink?” inquired Richard.

“For me it was not long at all,” Mike answered. “It was just a matter of weeks. Different people have different experiences along those lines. A good example would be the 2 co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill Wilson was relieved from his obsession to drink from the very first day. Doctor Bob Smith craved a drink for 2 1/2 years before the obsession left him. Not that a person can’t think about drinking once in a while. You have to think about it every time you go out to eat. You are put in a position of having to say no when the server asks what you would like to drink with your meal. Every time you turn on the television to watch a ballgame you see beautiful young people appearing to have a wonderful time swilling beer. The temptation is everywhere. But the thought leaves as quickly as it comes and there’s no real desire in my experience ever to take a drink. And I can’t stress how unnatural that is for an alcoholic to never want to drink. We really have found an effective answer for how to live successfully with this disease. It’s not a cure, but functionally it really is, executed one day at a time.”

“Interesting,” said Richard. “I must admit, it’s hard to understand for a person who has never been there. Say, do you recall that I said that I’d like to talk to you sometime about what we could do as a neighborhood or a homeowners organization to help our community in the midst of this opioid epidemic?”

“Yes,” said Mike. “I have been thinking about that.”

“Any ideas?” asked Richard.

“A couple,” said Mike. “We could start posting informative articles on our HOA website. I would be happy to be a contributor. We might offer our clubhouse as a location for support groups. I know there is a neighborhood out in Paulding County where they have AA meetings at the clubhouse.”

“Would that be open to anybody or just for as the residents of the neighborhood?” asked Richard. “I could foresee a lot of problems with people like that coming into our neighborhood and I’m not sure that we would want that.”

“That would be for the homeowners association to decide,” said Mike. “But if it was up to me, I would open it up to anyone who wants to come. I would worry more about the people are already here who are still drinking heavily and using drugs than the people who are coming here for purposes of staying clean and sober. But it certainly wouldn’t work if we become a gated community as I think you have suggested.”

“I must admit that that suggestion has not been well received by the homeowners association,” Richard replied. “I’ll give it some thought and talk to some of the board members. It’s an interesting idea.”

By now I was thoroughly bored. No one was paying any attention to me or to the fact that I could use a treat about now. Time for a nap. I didn’t even hear  Richard and Richie leave.

How cold was it?

So, a few nights ago I decided to go out and visit Richard Donkle. I hadn’t seen him in what  seemed like a long time. It had snowed the previous night, about an inch, and it didn’t melt because the ground was so cold. Then the next night really cold weather blew in, what Mike calls an Alabama Clipper. I figured I could tolerate the cold and I headed straight for the Donkle’s, but as I went on I realized I had made a very poor choice. But by then it was too late because I was already halfway there, so it would be no faster to go back home. So, I decided to keep going. I hadn’t stopped to consider  that they might not let me in because they either wouldn’t be home or wouldn’t be in the kitchen to notice me. It just goes to show you that even wise middle-aged cats like me can make dumb decisions. I ran most of the way there without bothering too much about being evasive or finding cover and made it safely. I pawed at the sliding glass door to the kitchen and luckily Richie was in the kitchen and let me in.

“Well hello there Sambo,” he said. “Isn’t a little cold to be out and about?”

He reached down to pet me which I graciously allowed him to do momentarily. I even rubbed up against his leg a little bit.  I heard voices in the living room and I headed straight there. Richard and Bianca were sitting in the living room quietly, both of them reading. Richard was reading the Wall Street Journal and Bianca was reading something on a Kindle.

“Sambo, for goodness sakes I haven’t seen you for a while,” said Richard. “Isn’t it a little cold to be going out?”

I went and sniffed at both of them and he reached down to pet me. I jumped up on the white couch but Bianca shooed me off. Their maid, Ludmila, would have a fit if she found black hair on the sofa. They went back to reading, so I set about to explore things. I went downstairs to the theater room where Richie used to hang out with his girlfriend Hallie and their other friends. I didn’t get any whiff at all of anybody else besides the 4 people who lived in the house. Going back upstairs I encountered Joker who was in the laundry room having a big drink of water. He gave me a goofy grin and we sniffed at each other. I went on to the Donkle’s bedroom to check on Natasha and to see if she was in her usual place under the comforter on their bed. There was indeed a cat shaped lump under the comforter that smelled  like Natasha. Joker followed me around for a while until he lost interest. I went back to the living room and poked Richard’s leg until he got up and led me back into the kitchen saying, “Let’s see if we have some cream for you.”

“Don’t give him too much,” said Bianca calling after him. “He’ll get sick.”

“Sambo will be fine, won’t you Sambo?” Richard replied. He went to the refrigerator and got out a small carton. He took a small bowl out of the cupboard, put it on the floor, and put a little bit of cream in the bowl. It would’ve been nice if he had warmed it a little, but I didn’t have any way of telling him; and as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. I lapped it right up, and he enjoyed my enjoyment of the cream very much. After a while I was ready to leave, so I went over and pawed at the door.

“It’s too cold for you to go back outside,” said Richard. “You’ll have to spend the night here with us.”

I turned and looked at him as though he had lost his mind. But he was already headed back to the living room and didn’t see me. I prowled around some more, lurking near the kitchen in case somebody else walked in so I could be let out. After a while I started to think that maybe staying with the Donkle’s for the night wasn’t such a bad idea after all. It was plenty cold outside. Mike used to quote his father on the subject of how cold it was. Grandpa Moe used to say when it got really cold that it was colder than a well diggers ass in Siberia. I suppose that’s really cold, but I wouldn’t know. Anyway, I started checking out my options for a good spot to spend the night. As I’m sure you know, many cats enjoy sleeping with their people. Richard and Bianca’s bed was already occupied by Natasha whom I doubted would welcome me graciously. I could impose myself on her anyway but the confrontation did not seem worthwhile. Ludmila was definitely a poor choice. She hates me. The door to her room was already closed anyway. That was probably to my benefit. If she had already turned in I wouldn’t have to deal with her hostility until the morning. That left Richie. I had been in his room before. That was the time that Ludmila was chasing me with a mop and a lamp got knocked over by the side of his bed. So I  went to his room, and he was sitting in his chair looking at his phone. From time to time he would chuckle. I rubbed up against his leg and then jumped up on his bed. Eventually, he came to bed, turned off his light, and fell asleep; but I couldn’t get comfortable because of his tossing and turning. So, I went off to the laundry room where I had a drink of water, a snack of kibble, relieved myself in the litter box, and headed off to the living room to spend the night on the white couch.

You might think that I would know better than to antagonize Ludmila by leaving my hair all over the white couch. Actually, I didn’t think that much about it until it was too late. I’m not the sort of cat that would deliberately antagonize anybody just for the sake of it. There are cats like that. There are going to impose their will on the cats and people around them. There are people like that too. I’m sure you know some of them. My advice is to stay away from cats and people who care more about themselves than they do about anyone else. I have heard some people say that all cats think more about themselves than anyone else. I think it’s more that we are just very self-assured. I personally don’t mind sharing my territory with anyone who is willing to be nice. But let’s get one thing straight, it’s still my territory. And of course, this applies to wherever I happen to be at the time. I settled in for a good night sleep. I would deal with Ludmila in the morning.

Itching, Doctor King, and the Holy Land

So, we are in the middle of the dog days of winter, as I like to refer to them. We might be in Georgia, but I guarantee you it’s cold outside today. The humans are scratching themselves because their skin is so dry. Mike says that his skin has always itched. There isn’t a minute of his waking life when he is not itching someplace or other. He refers to it as the joke that God has played on him. In fact, he uses the itching sometimes to remind himself to meditate, and to think about God in a loving way. . He had a condition called eczema from infancy until he was in medical school,  but it pretty much has gone away. The only thing remaining is the itching. He has a skin lotion that he sometimes uses that’s made from colloidal oatmeal. It works well but Mike can’t reach his back any longer. It’s not that it’s any farther away from him than it used to be, but the range of motion of his shoulder joints has diminished. Judy got him some kind of a strap with loops on both ends. He applies  lotion to the strap, grasps one loop in each hand, reaches around behind himself, and applies the goop to his back. This works pretty well, but the lotion is so cold that Mike often would rather put up with the itching. Occasionally it disturbs his sleep, so he gets up and suffers the cold. He has some other kind of shmear that he puts on his face a couple of times a day. His face is by far the itchiest place on him. I wonder what that is all about. Michelle got him some skin lotion with the absurd name of “Yes to Carrots”. Mike doesn’t use it because it has a girly smell. Michelle was thinking it would be good because it has according to her, salt from the Dead Sea in it.

Mike and Michelle went down to the Dead Sea in 1993 when they went to Israel to visit relatives. In case you didn’t know it, the Dead Sea is a large body of water which is over 1000 feet below sea level. It is the lowest place on earth as far as elevation (or lack of it) is concerned. It is located in the desert at the border between Israel and Jordan. In fact, the River Jordan flows into it. When Mike and Michelle were there they went swimming in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea really isn’t exactly water. It’s water with a lot of minerals dissolved in it. Because of the high concentration of minerals if you go swimming in it you pop up to the top like a cork and float on top of the water with ease. Despite that fact, when Mike got in he was thrashing around like a dying fish, and splashed this mineral water stuff in Michelle’s eye. They had to get out and irrigate her eye with fresh water. Michelle forgave him though; she is very sweet. Mike remembers on the walk from the parking lot to the Dead Sea being approached by a couple of young Palestinian boys, probably around age 18. It turns out that if you’re an American you stand out like a sore thumb there. Mike recalls that they asked him what he thought about President Clinton. Mike had more sense than to get into a political discussion in that situation so he made some sort of benign remark. The boys wanted to know where Mike was from and  he didn’t mind telling him that he was from Atlanta. It was a friendly conversation. There is a significant industry at the Dead Sea in mining the mud and selling it as a treatment for psoriasis and other skin diseases. So, apparently there is something to the idea of putting Dead Sea salt in a skin lotion product. What it has to do with carrots I’m not sure.

That was Mike’s first trip to Israel. It is probably hard for non-Jewish people to fully grasp the significance of the Jewish homeland to a Jewish person.  For one thing, Jews who take the Bible as the Word of God believe it was promised to them. It seems to be a very deeply felt, gut level, maybe even a DNA driven energy force. In one sense this characteristic is not a particularly Jewish one. I think all social groups are deeply attached to a homeland. You may have heard the expression “American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.” It is on the same gene as tribalism, I guess. It is seen in cats as the establishment of a territory.  Dogs are even more territorial than we are. Come to think of it, it must be related to the survival instinct. We all need a home to be warm, raise our young, and protect our families. More about this another time.

Jerusalem  is an ancient city of great significance to people of all 3 of the Abrahamic religions. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all deeply attached to it. Mike went back to Israel when his brother was so sick and ultimately died a few years ago. He went there again with Judy the following year. Their relatives  were very warm and welcoming. One day they went back down to the Dead Sea. This time though they went to the Jordan River a short distance upstream from the Sea.. There is a location there where Jesus was said to have been baptized by John the Baptist. There is a small church on the Jordanian side, and on the Israeli side of the river there is an area for people to congregate, contemplate, and pray. Mike says he doesn’t think the river was wider than 30 or 40 feet. He said the water was very muddy in appearance. They sat on some bleachers and watched the people. Sitting quietly behind them were 2 Israeli border guards armed with Uzis. They saw 2 families there from Indiana, Mennonites, who were baptizing their children and singing gospel music. Mike’s niece went down and talked to them. She even stepped into the water. It was a lovely day. It must have been a very spiritually moving experience.

Today is the national celebration of the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King. Mike recalls vividly the day he was shot. It was a terrible day. He was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time. He says it was during his black hole period. I’ll talk more about this time in his life later if Mike wants me to. Doctor King was a great man who believed in the dignity and equality of all peoples. As a Christian minister he had a deep sense of the importance of the Jewish people and of the land of Israel in God’s plan. He spoke frequently about the importance of the state of Israel as a bastion of democracy in that part of the world. He was also very frank about anti-Semitism. He said “When people criticize the Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.” There is a street in Jerusalem called Martin Luther King St. If you go there you will see the street sign in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. I said a little bit about Doctor King in my blog at this time last year entitled “An Auguration.” It was published on January 15, 2017. You might want to take a quick look at it.

The gospel read in church yesterday was from John. It read: “Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him,’Can anything good come out of Nazareth (that shithole)?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ” I added the parenthetical phrase myself, but no doubt most of the congregations across the county did so mentally. (See my most recent post, “So, What Shithole Country Do You Come From?”)  I hope you are not offended. Mike belongs to a group that encourages restraint of tongue and pen. This is no doubt an excellent principle to live by; but sometimes I follow it, and sometimes I don’t. If I have offended your Christian sensibilities, you can thank me, because when you forgive me, as you must, you get one step closer to godliness. See, it is all about Love.

Mike and Judy have started giving us wet food morning and evening. I usually don’t bother with it. I would rather catch me a mouse or something. Ladybug will eat a little bit just to be polite. Shayna Maidel goes after it like she hasn’t eaten for weeks. The whole point of this is to get some Miralax into Jackson so he won’t get all stopped up again. He has still been passing these hard dry nutmeg seed-like poos and probably throwing up more than the other cats. Of course we all throw up sometimes. We have to get rid of the hairballs, and also we need to give the people we live with something to do. All 4 of us have our own funny litter box routines. Ladybug is still very private in her personal habits. In the several years that she has lived here I don’t think she’s been seen in the litter box more than a half a dozen times. And Mike says that he’s never seen her take a drink of water.

Well, I shouldn’t natter on. I hope you have a blessed day, and take a few minutes to meditate. That’s all the news from Happy Meadows.


So, what shithole country do you come from?

So, what shithole country do you come from? This is a question I never would have particularly thought of asking anyone but in his final act as resignation as moral leader of the free world, Spoiled Donald started a whole conversation yesterday about shithole countries. Mike never thought that Spoiled Donald was a racist until yesterday. He thought that he was just a spoiled, elitist, misogynistic, immature, ignorant, xenophobic, alt-right sympathizing bullshit artist. But when he learned that the shithole countries he identified are populated primarily by black people and the desirable country that he identified, Norway, is populated largely by white people, he finally conceded that Spoiled Donald is also a racist. Maybe I shouldn’t have just said all that, but one of the great things about the USA is that people (and cats) get to speak their mind. Even Spoiled Donald gets to.

My own ancestors are said to have come from Africa, although there is also evidence of origination of the domestic cat from wild forebears in the Middle East. They were wild animals who subsisted on hunting rodents and other small creatures. Cats and people started living near each other when the African peoples, particularly in North Africa,  started farming and storing grain. The cats came around the granaries to kill  and eat the rats and mice who were feeding on the grain, and in this way came in contact with people, developing a symbiotic relationship with them. Most anthropologists believe that the human race, including Norwegians, originally also came from Africa. There are also people who believe that the human race as we know it today evolved in the Middle East; but certainly not in Norway.

There is a breed of cats called the Norwegian forest cat or skogkatt, which is native to Norway. These cats must also have originated in Africa. They no doubt were taken aboard ships by the Vikings to kill rats and thus very likely arrived in the Americas as early as the 900s CE. It is inconceivable that they failed to reach dry land and start their own colonies. There may or may not have been other cats around in the Americas at that time. But as a breed of cats they did not persist in the wild. Since there are no genetic forebears of domestic cats (or people) in the Americas, all cats here were brought from elsewhere, mostly on ships. There is a reliable record of a pet female cat who came to America aboard the Mayflower. Mike thinks that the Maine Coon cat probably has a lot of Norwegian forest cat in it. The Main Coons are  large, long-haired cats that come in all colors. The 1st pair of Norwegian forest cats that were considered to be purebred were brought to the Americas in 1979 and have been recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association as a registered breed since 1984. They are large, long-haired, beautiful cats, and interestingly enough, come in virtually every color including all-black and all-white, although most of them are some variety of brown tabby. So whether you’re a cat or a person from Norway, as desirable as you might be to the well-being of the United States of America, you’re still originally from Africa, that continent of shithole countries.

Mike says that he has some empathy for Spoiled Donald, who typically says the first thing that comes to his mind with no apparent filter. Mike said he himself used to be like that when he was 14 years old. He said it was a struggle but he finally was able to put a lid on it by the time he got into his late 20s or early 30s. But some people retain their 14-year-old personalities throughout their lifetime. Some people don’t even mature out to 14. It’s not that attractive.

So, as I said in my last post, I’ve been meaning to go visit Popo. You may remember her. She is a neighbor in Happy Meadows who lives with her mother, Mrs. Wilson. Popo has cerebral palsy. I had heard that they got a couple of parrots and I wanted to go see them. And believe me, I had no interest in eating parrots. I was just being neighborly. I had mentioned Popo in my post entitled “Popo”  published June 17, 2017. Somewhat interestingly considering the topic du jour, Mrs. Wilson, Popo’s mother, is originally from Haiti, another shithole country. The kind of parrots they have are called Solomon Island Eclectus.  The Solomon Island part is easy to figure out. I think the Eclectus comes from the fact that they are sexually dimorphic, the males being primarily green and the females being primarily blue and red. I’ll put a couple of pictures up for you.


These are Jennie on the left, and Ollie on the right. Jennie is the girl, and Ollie is the boy. Mrs. Wilson and Popo got these parrots several weeks ago. They are about a year old. Jennie is talking quite a bit, and Ollie has started to say a few words. As you can see these are beautiful birds. Some Eclectus parrots will do most of their talking when they’re by themselves, and not when there are people around. They must get bored. I imagine I would be bored if I never left the house. They are free to move about the house. They have  cages, but the doors are always left open. Jennie tends to stay in her cage a lot. In the wild the female Eclectus parrot spends most of her life in a nest that she has fashioned in a hole of a hollow tree. She will defend to the death any attempt by another female to take the hole away from her. Males will bring the females food and mate with them. It’s an interesting barter system. The only thing that male cats are required to bring to females is their charm and personality. Of course, since I was tutored, my interest in females has been strictly platonic. I suppose I should feel bad about it but I really don’t. Not being driven by testosterone has freed me up to appreciate the world in a more benign and eclectic way. What do you know, there’s that word again.

So, I went over to the Wilson’s and scratched at the door until Mrs. Wilson let me in. I nosed around a little bit and jumped up on Popo’s lap. She had a big smile for me and tried to pet me in her awkward sort of way. The birds were out of their cages but they gave me plenty of room. I acted very disinterested in them to try to put them more at ease. After a while, Jennie began a series of chirps and clicks and said very distinctly “Popo.” What was fascinating about this is that she didn’t say it distinctly at all, really. What she did was say “Popo” exactly the same way that Popo said it. She got the  dysarthric pronunciation and vocal tone nearly to perfection. Amazing! Then she would say things like “pretty girl,” let’s eat,” and “bed time.” These were all said in Mrs. Wilson’s voice, complete with her Haitian accent. You should have been there. Popo was delighted. If you’re interested, you can go on YouTube and see some videos of these birds talking. I think you should. You would love it.

After an hour or so I got restless and after a couple of pieces of Party Mix from Mrs. Wilson I went on my way. As I was walking home there was a curve in the road and there was a gathering of 4 or 5 adolescent male squirrels at the edge of the road. All of a sudden, one of the squirrels said to the others (in squirrel of course) “watch this.” Just then a car appeared coming around the curve and he dashed out in front of it across the street making it safely to the other side. Gloating from the other side of the street he said to the others, “Come on you try it.” Pretty soon another car came along and another squirrel shot across the street in front of  it, barely missing the tires. Before long all the squirrels had proven their manhood and none of them had been flattened. It looked like fun but I really don’t recommend the behavior. “Hey, watch this!” are famous last words. Well, these will be my last words for now. This is all the news from Happy Meadows for today. And if you have an opportunity and the timing is right, see if you can tell Spoiled Donald to grow up. It’s not funny anymore.































































You can’t be too careful.

So, it was really cold last night and I came in early. It was New Year’s Eve and Mike was asleep by 10 PM instead of his usual 10:30. He and Judy were both awakened at midnight when the local yokels set off their fireworks. But just at dusk I had a close call. I was making my usual rounds and was a couple of streets over from home when I spotted a squirrel. I wasn’t that hungry, but out of habit I was stalking it. He was completely unaware of me and was sniffing around for seeds or something when suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, a great horned owl swooped down, grabbed the little guy in his talons, and flew off with him. I absolutely did not see or hear the owl until he was upon that squirrel. If the squirrel had not been there he could just as well have grabbed me. That would have been a shame, because I love my life and I have so much more to say. It just goes to show you that you can’t take anything for granted, especially your life and your health. Damn, that was close!

I got home just as Judy and Mike were getting  home. They had gone out to eat and made a wonderful discovery. A Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant has opened not terribly far from where we live. The Mellow Mushroom is a restaurant chain that was founded  in Atlanta in 1974, and has been a favorite of theirs. However, the closest place to them had closed 4 or 5 years ago. Sad! Mike has to be careful about eating too much pizza because of his reflux, but he was cautious and made it through the night last night just fine. He has been known to wake up in the middle of the night with acid in his throat and coughing and groaning for the next several hours. Mike and I came down to the computer this morning getting ready to work on this story and there was some kind of a problem which took a couple of hours and some money to resolve but we’re back in business again.

So, last week when Mike was dictating a report using his voice recognition software, he ran into a problem that happens all the time. Mike uses this cheap software program that he got for less than $100. He had an opportunity to buy the professional medical package which would’ve had the names of all the diseases, drugs, and so on for $2500 but he passed. So if he dictates a word that’s not in the software’s memory bank,  it puts together something as best as it can. Mike was dictating about a patient whose primary care physician had put her on a medication for weight loss called Belviq. The voice recognition software substituted Bill Veeck.

For those of you who don’t know, Bill Veeck was a baseball entrepreneur and showman who had quite a colorful career. He definitely thought outside of the box and wasn’t afraid to be outrageous (or visionary, depending on your point of view.). Bill had grown up in Chicago where his father was president of the Chicago Cubs. Oddly enough, his father was originally a sportswriter who wrote a number of highly critical articles about the way the team had been run and the team’s owner, William Wrigley Junior, told him if he thought he could do it better he ought to try, and he hired him. The younger Veeck worked in various menial capacities for the Cubs including selling popcorn. He claimed to have had the idea for planting ivy on the walls at Wrigley Field. This may or may not be true, as would apply to many of his later claims. In 1942 along with Charlie Grimm he bought the triple A level Milwaukee Brewers which was his 1st venture into baseball ownership. Subsequently, he bought the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and was twice owner of the Chicago White Sox. While owner of the St. Louis Browns, he pulled a stunt by hiring a little person, Eddie Gaedel,, and put him in a game as a pinch hitter. Eddie was 3’7″ tall. He made a single plate appearance and drew a walk on 4 pitches. He was replaced by a pinch runner at 1st base, but not before stopping twice on the way to first base and bowing to the crowd. About 10 years earlier, James Thurber wrote a short story called “You Could Look It Up”  in which a little person was put in as a pinch-hitter in a ballgame. Veeck denied getting the idea from Thurber’s story and he may not have. The next day Gaedel’s contract was voided by the American League. The American League president, Will Harridge, said that Veeck was making a mockery of the game. In response, Veeck  said he was going to request a ruling by the league of whether Phil Rizzuto was a short shortstop or a tall dwarf.

Another thing worth knowing about Bill Veeck was that he was a veteran of World War II where he saw combat and was wounded. He had several operations on his leg and ultimately had an above-knee amputation. Mike remembers him tromping around Comiskey Park back in the ’50s on his wooden leg, smoking cigarettes and putting them out in an ashtray that he had cut into the prosthesis. He was also known to enjoy a drink or more every now and then.

Veeck was also a very early advocate of racial integration in baseball. While owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1947, he signed the 1st African-American ballplayer in the American League, Larry Doby. Veeck also used to tell a story of taking an overnight train in 1942 to Philadelphia to  buy the Philadelphia Phillies. He was close to an agreement but decided to let the major league baseball commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, know of his intentions to integrate. Supposedly, he was going to bring on a number of players from the Negro leagues to play for the Phillies. When Veeck got to Philadelphia on the overnight train he learned that the deal was off. Some or all of this story could well be a  fabrication. What is true is that as I write this, I’m no more than 3 miles away from Kennesaw Mountain here in Marietta, Georgia. I’m sure there must have been a good reason to name a little baby boy for a mountain, but right now I can’t think of what it might have been. I’m glad he wasn’t named for Grandfather Mountain. That would have been weird.

And speaking of Kennesaw, did you know that it is required by city ordinance in the city of Kennesaw to own a firearm? The city Council of Kennesaw took this action as a way of mocking the gun control ordinance passed in 1982 in Morton Grove, Illinois which banned the possession of firearms.

So, I heard that Popo Wilson just got a couple of parrots for Christmas. I will have to drop by soon to see them, and get some pictures for you. Until then, have a great day, and of course, happy new year! Mike is about to go downstairs to watch the Rose Bowl.  I never thought I would say this, but Go Dogs!