Wildlife

So, regrettably, my blog site was down from July 3 through the 19th. It took Mike a while to realize it because he was away on vacation and not checking up on it as he should have been. Once home, he managed to not check on it for several more days. Once he realized there was a problem, he contacted the Word Press folks who quickly intervened on my behalf, God bless them. I hope you all missed me. I certainly missed you.

The July 11 issue of The Citizen, the local paper in Fayette County, had a lead front page story with the following headline:  “Attack of Peachtree City Deer without Fear” Underneath this bold assertion, in a smaller font it read: “One dog killed, others trampled in multiple deer attacks; some residents worry about safety of their small children”. What is this world coming to? Docile Bambi has gone all Rambo on us. I don’t know where Peachtree City is. I’m sure it is not anywhere near Happy Meadows. All our deer here are peaceful although on the nervous side. I suppose does with fawns were feeling threatened by yappy little dogs who were just being their little doggy selves. It’s not as though people were letting their dogs out on the loose. Most of the attacks occurred in the people’s (and dog’s) back yards. The world gets curiouser and curiouser. Mike says that the greatest threat to life as we know it is overpopulation. I guess this applies to deer and dogs as well. By the way, do the Peachtree City folks really think the deer are going to attack their small children? Give me a break. Also by the way, I heard that Peachtree City is a community in which people get around in golf carts. The kids even drive them to school, I think.  Maybe they can run down a few deer on their way, lol. By the way, I have a bone to pick with people who say something nasty  in a text or post, like I just did, and then append, lol. If you want to be nasty just be nasty. Don’t pretend that you don’t mean what you said.  That said, I really don’t think school children should run down deer with their golf carts.

By the way, speaking of curiosities, Mike says when he moved to Atlanta in 1984 there were 35-40 streets that included the name “Peachtree.” This led to a certain amount of unnecessary confusion. According to a recent check with Ask.com, there are now 71 such streets. What kind of sense does this make? There is also every kind of Peachtree business you can imagine: Peachtree Cleaners, Peachtree Audiology, Peachtree Electrical, etc., etc. Mike missed a great opportunity when he failed to call his Addiction Medicine practice Peachtree Addictionology. I guess he still could, unless someone beats him to it.

And it’s not just deer and dogs. We have ants in the kitchen. Little ones that are hard to discourage. And we have frogs. A couple of years ago a frog (or maybe it was a toad) took up residence in a planter we have on the back deck. Judy named him Gerald. Gerald disappeared for a few days, and then Michelle discovered him under the toilet seat in our downstairs bathroom. He wouldn’t say how he got in the house. We have other frogs that sing at night. They fill the air with lovesong, very charming and pleasant. By our front door we have lights on either side of the stoop. Most nights one or more frogs hold on to the side of the house under one of the lights, their little throats pulsating rapidly,  helping themselves to the bug buffet.

 

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Not the best picture, but you get the idea. Mike took a few more but can’t figure out how to add them to my blog. We are lucky to have this one to show you.

Yesterday we got an email from the Marietta police that they are well-aware that a small black bear has been seen cavorting around West Side School, and please stop calling them to report it. For one thing, the bear hasn’t broken any laws that they know of. For another thing, they are on it. Remarkably, that can’t be more than 3 miles from here, probably less. I hope the bear comes to visit Happy Meadows. I have never met a real bear.

But, the biggest story of wildlife invading suburbia involves Rocky Raccoon. Not the one who checked into a local saloon only to find Gideon’s Bible. This is the one who is living in Michelle’s attic. People think raccoons are adorable. They have a bandit’s mask which gives them a roguish appearance. They don’t mind coming up to people’s houses, sometimes mama raccoon with her kits, and people feed them because they are so damn cute. But not so fast, my friend! Raccoon’s  lack of fear of humans make them inherently dangerous.They think nothing of approaching a human dwelling, climbing up the side, and finding shelter, breaking in by clawing their way through a window, soffit,  or old siding. They have been known to climb down chimneys to get into a house, and once in they can tear the place up looking for food. And they carry disease. Almost 40% of all documented rabies cases in the USA have involved raccoons. Fortunately for everybody except the one person who died from rabies after a raccoon attack, seldom has the disease been transmitted from raccoons to humans. They also carry other exotic diseases including leptospirosis, distemper, listeriosis, tularemia, and trichinosis. Raccoons tend to eliminate in a single area, called a raccoon latrine, rather than spread the wealth  around. Thus their feces can be concentrated in closed areas, including attic spaces. An attempt by a person to enter such a space and clean it out can expose him or her to a high concentration of pathogens including giardia and  the larvae of roundworms. Leave the extermination of raccoons to the professionals, is my advice. Full disclosure requires me to say that the picture below is not of Michelle’s house. The raccoon in the photo is the Wisconsin cousin of Michelle’s raccoon. Finally, as I was out this morning I saw another cousin running across the street in front of our neighbor’s house. She was carrying some thing in her mouth, something dead I am quite sure.

rocky raccoon

Well, that’s all the news for now. I am so happy to be back and share the Happy Meadows goings on with you. Be well, and enjoy what’s left of your summer.

He was a Chazer

So, as I mentioned last time, not much has happened in Happy Meadows. Nevertheless, you all are deserving of whatever updates I can muster. You may recall that I reported in my last post (“He Lies” published 6/18/18) that Shayna Maidel went to visit the Extreme Vet. Well, darned if Mike and Judy didn’t grab her, stuff her into the carrier, and haul her back on Friday afternoon. And, they did it again yesterday. She has expressed her displeasure by throwing up on their bed. Twice. I don’t think she is sick, though. I would be able to tell. The other change in our routine is that Mike has put a new kind of litter in one of our boxes. It smells funny and, thus far, Shayna Maidel is the only one of us who has set foot in the weird sand. The litter is supposed to be dust-free, and Doctor Jeff told Mike that it is safe to use, so we will probably be switched over to it entirely unless the other 3 of us can hold out against it. I will keep you posted.

Sometime last week a new family moved into a house down the street from us. They have an all white cat that they let out to roam around and claim her territory in her little piece of Happy Meadows. I met her walking along some bushes in front of our house. She is a nice girl, friendly, and tutored, like myself. (See “The Other Cats”, published 12/18/16.) When I say she is all white, that is true as far as her God-given ghostly coat. But the first time I saw her, there was a bright red mark in the shape of human lips, planted right on top of her head. The next day I noticed that the lipstick-shaped impression was more of a plum color. Yesterday it was pink. I think her momma loves her. They call her Pookie. She calls herself Phantom, the Ghost Cat.

Those of you who are literary types may know that T.S. Eliot, that great American poet, wrote a whole opus about cats. Someone even was inspired to turn it into a Broadway Musical. Eliot’s father owned  a grocery store in St. Louis where I’m sure they had lots of cats to kill the mice and rats, and to cull the store’s left-overs. So, he was well-acquainted with cats from an early age. Anyway, Eliot relocated to England where he found people to be more suited to his intellectual taste. He spent the rest of his life, I think, as an expatriate. In writing about cats, he said that cats have three names: the ordinary name people give them, one shared by many other cats; a fancy name that is peculiar to them alone; and a name that only the cat himself/herself knows. He suggested that when cats meditate, they are contemplating their own ineffable name.

He was close. In fact, there are 3 names that go with each cat. First, the name that their person calls them; next, the name they call themselves; and last and most mysteriously, the name that nobody knows. This is in some ways similar to the psychological theory of human personality expressed by Dr. Carl Jung. He described 4 levels of personality, the first and closest to conscious awareness being the “persona”, the face that people present to others. Next is the “anima/animus”. These are the characteristics of each person which is more typical of the opposite sex. For men, it is their underlying feminine characteristics; for women, it is their underlying masculine characteristics. Still next is the “shadow”, that reservoir of instinctual energy, similar to Dr. Freud’s “id.” Last is the “self”, where the person connects with the Spiritual Essence as only he personally can. The “self” is the human equivalent of the feline “name that nobody knows.”  Every person seeks to find  the “self” through meditation and through what the Jewish philosopher Isaac Luria called “Tikkun Olam”, the repair of the World. (If you are interested, read about this Jewish mystic and his theory of cosmogeny.) All people are at some level unknowable, even to themselves. Cats get much closer to self-realization than people do as they meditate upon their inexpressible name. But I give people credit for trying; at least, I give credit to those that do make the effort. As Mike says, after enjoying the beautiful world in which he was born, and fixing it up a little bit, within his capacity (“Tikkun Olam”), the main purpose for which he was created is to have a relationship with the God of his understanding. This can only be achieved through honest contemplation of one’s feelings and thoughts, taking right actions, and through meditation. My suggestion to anyone who wants to learn good meditation practice is to watch a cat meditate.  We are dialed in.

Speaking of the anima and animus, this was Gay Pride weekend if I am not mistaken. Gay people have all struggled with who they are, and those who can accept and love themselves as they have been created have a right to be proud. I wonder when Straight Pride weekend is? Oh, that’s right, straight people have not faced this challenge, so in this department they have nothing to feel proud about.

New topic: So, 4 days ago Benazir Bhutto would have turned 65, if she were still alive. The eldest child of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ali Bhutto, she was educated in Pakistan, in the USA at Radcliff and at Harvard, and in the UK at Oxford. She was an outspoken and brave champion of the Pakistani people, and was the first woman ever elected as president of an Islamic Republic. Not surprisingly, her enemies were many and determined. She was assassinated after a campaign rally in 2007. She was a brilliant, strong, courageous, and by all accounts a very beautiful woman. She deserves to be remembered.

And it is worth noting that a few days ago marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, also after a campaign rally. I hate what happened to the Kennedy family, one tragedy after another. You couldn’t make it up. Mike was a great admirer of both JFK and Bobby Kennedy, and in time came to appreciate Teddy Kennedy as well. Ultimately, they did the right thing  and supported the little guy, the guy who worked hard for a living, trying to make a decent way of life for his family. Mike learned about democracy and equality from his grandfather, Carl Cowl. Carl had a laundry route in Minneapolis. He was a hard-working decent man. He followed politics closely, and had a name for the politicians who he considered to be supporting the interests of the rich, as opposed to the working class. Anyone he thought was dishonest or against the working man was a Chazer, Yiddish for pig. What could he call  a person that would be worse? I’ll probably tell you more about Carl Cowl another time. Actually, there were 2 Carl Cowls, first cousins. Stay tuned.

By the way, the name of T.S. Eliot’s book on cats was “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” Old Possum was a nickname given to Mr. Eliot by Ezra Pound. Pound was an expatriate intellectual poet, like Eliot. He was a prime example of how a person can be smarter than hell and dumber than shit at the same time. After the first world war he became a Fascist, eventually allying himself with Benito Mussolini. He wrote extensively about his political and economic theories that were thoroughly antisemitic. Starting in 1940, and during the entirety of the Second World War, he gave radio broadcasts from Italy promoting the cause of Fascism, criticizing Roosevelt, damning the Jews, and glorifying Hitler. In short, he was a Chazer. After the war he was arrested and charged with treason. He spent over 12 years in custody, mostly in psychiatric institutes where he was diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder. He was eventually released, and is said, in the end, to have believed that he had erred in his thinking, acknowledged his evil intentions, and especially, regretted his antisemitism. I hope this is true.

Well, that’s the news from Happy Meadows. But, one more thing. Let’s all wish Mike and Judy a happy wedding anniversary, #23. I think they are as much in love now as they ever have been. Please send them some good energy, and share the joy.

He Lies

So, it’s been a while, and a lot has happened, although not so much in Happy Meadows. I don’t know if you have been following the news, but if not, you missed the story of the adolescent raccoon accepting the dare from her peers to climb to the top of a skyscraper. The entire free world followed the progress of what became known as the NPR raccoon. I heard Judy and Mike talking about it. They thought the architectural specs for the building must have required that the exterior surface be raccoon grip-worthy. What foresight! I suppose there was a pack of coon hounds amassed at the base of the building barking, “Jump! Jump!”, but  this part of the story got very little coverage.

I mentioned the “free world” because I have been thinking about the recent Funny Hair Summit between the little guy from North Korea, and his chief admirer, Spoiled Donald. The Korean dictator has absolute power, and enforces it by a robust policy of murder, imprisonment, and otherwise terrorizing his own people. I heard Spoiled Donald call him a strong leader, saying that when he speaks his people come to attention. Then he said he wished “his people” would do that. (I’m not sure who he was referring to as “his people”, but if he was referring to Mike and Judy, I am going to be sick.) This kind of hyperawareness of the Supreme Leader can only result either from extreme fear or from great respect. Spoiled Donald has a long way to go on both counts. He quickly backtracked and said he was only kidding, but a joke wouldn’t be funny if there was no implication of truth in it. So, he lied about telling the truth.

The Washington Post has just published a story stating that he has told 3000 lies, or about 6.5 lies per day since his inauguration. (See my post, “An Auguration, January 15, 2017.) I didn’t read the story, of course, but it was reported yesterday morning on CNN. I was lounging in the family room when Mike came down and turned on the TV around 6. In addition to the 2 anchors, there were 2 other men on the show, one of whom said Spoiled Donald lies all the time, and the other essentially defending him (while not directly denying that he lies; and, he also tried to redirect  the discussion by blaming the Democrats for refusing to fund his Wall. I have heard Spoiled Donald’s supporters gleefully boast that he has done what he has said he was going to do. But, I thought he was going to make the Mexicans pay for that stupid wall.) I think it is fair to say that all politicians lie. Indeed, all people lie. One could argue that civility demands it at times. But I don’t think we are talking about small-time lying. We are talking about a systematic form of discourse designed to manipulate opinion, accomplish self-aggrandizement, and further one’s ambitious goals. In the political world it is referred to as propaganda. If you repeat a Big Lie often enough people will believe it, especially if you prevent the listeners from hearing alternative viewpoints. (No doubt the North Korean people think that America is an Evil Empire.) If you can’t prevent the people from hearing the alternative viewpoint you attack it by labeling it Fake News. You just say your enemies are liars, and you say it over and over and over and over and over again. At first the only people who believe you are the paranoiacs who buy into wacky ideas like a Deep State. But after a while, more normal people start to wonder whom to believe. Psychological research has proven this.

Let’s get back to counting lies. Let’s assume that the Washington Post has done good quality research to come up with the numbers, 3000 lies since inauguration and 6.5 lies per day. I heard Mike discussing this with his friends yesterday morning. You would have to assume that this only counts the lies Spoiled Donald has made in a public forum. Let’s make a few more assumptions. Let’s say that 20% of what he says is in a public forum. This is probably high, but let’s go with it. Then assume that he lies in private at the same rate that he does in public. You could quibble about this, but let’s just use that assumption. Then let’s assume that he sleeps 6 hours per day, leaving him 18 hours per day in which to lie. Let’s further assume that he can talk and eat at the same time, so we need not factor in a correction for mealtime. Even though some of his waking time is devoted to listening to other people lie, let’s not try to factor in how this affects his overall rate. For one thing, he uses his news shows as a source for some of his disinformation. So, if 6.5 lies per day is accomplished during only 20% of his waking hours, the projected number of lies per day is 32.5, not 6.5. And the total number of lies since inauguration, considering all this, is closer to 15,000. Now, I recall a political commentator saying during the election campaign in 2016 that Spoiled Donald told 1 lie every 3 minutes. Using the same assumptions, then he should have told 20 lies per hour, 360 lies per day, and approximately 166,000 lies since his inauguration. I’ll suggest that as in most things, the truth lies (so to speak) somewhere in between. However, I am certain that if 166,000 is the actual number, Spoiled Donald would be proud of the accomplishment.

Since I have gone head over heels into a political blog, I might as well continue. A few weeks ago Spoiled Donald jumped into another fray, this time the protest of a few National Football League players. The story goes something like this. Colin Kaepernick (an African-American man), who at the time was a player for the San Francisco 49ers, was very upset over the fact that some black men are unjustifiably brutalized and even killed by American policemen. As a symbolic protest, he decided one day to sit rather than stand and place his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem prior to a football game. Subsequently, he was advised by a former player (a white man), that it was disrespectful to sit during the playing of the National Anthem, and that a respectful form of protest would be to kneel instead. So, in subsequent games, until he was fired, he knelt. Several other players subsequently joined in the protest by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Many people took offense, saying that the only way to show respect during the playing of the National Anthem is to stand and place one’s hand over the heart.  Spoiled Donald, always quick to defend the elite and to play to the people he thinks like him, jumped in. He said that not only should the kneeling protesters (son’s of bitches, he called them, if I’m not mistaken) be fired from their teams, but they should not be allowed to remain in the country. The rich (mostly) white men who own the teams, fearing a loss of revenue if they came down on the side of freedom of speech, established monetary penalties for teams who allow their players to protest on the field. If the players don’t want to stand for the National Anthem, they have to stay in the locker room. Mike is licking his chops. He was something of a civil rights and war protester during the 60’s, and he can see that the league is goading the players into more protesting. Stay tuned.

A careful reading of the Constitution of the United States  reveals no mention of standing with one’s hand held over one’s heart during the playing of the National Anthem prior to  football games. However, the constitution does guarantee freedom of speech in the First Amendment which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Now, I agree that the football league has a right to establish policy, but not if such policy violates the First Amendment. I suppose some will say that no speech is involved in a symbolic gesture of respect, or disrespect, for the national anthem, and by extension, for the flag. But the courts have ruled that a form of free expression directly relating to the flag is covered in the concept of free speech. In 1989, the Supreme Court of the United States of America  upheld the right of an individual to burn an American flag as an expression of protest. So, as a little black cat, I strongly object to white men telling black men what form their political protest can take, and where they can express it. If that pisses some people off, I’m sorry. I love Happy Meadows, my little world, which by God’s grace lies within the USA. Our country has been a symbol of freedom and liberty for over 200 years. Mike says he never realized how much he loved his country until it came under attack from within by the enemies of the free press and free speech.

People are madly writing books and rushing them to press, dealing with various aspects of the Spoiled Donald phenomenon. Recently published is one by Amanda Carpenter, a woman who has worked as a Republican Party strategist.  Her book is called “Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us.” Mike and I heard her interviewed this past week on the radio. She is very smart and well-spoken. People should wake up about how they have been duped. If you elect a clown, you are going to get a circus. But I’m not one of those people who think Spoiled Donald should be impeached. I think it would be very bad for our country, not for the least of reasons that if he is impeached we get another whole kind of crazy in the White House, the religious right.

I will close with a small story about my little sister, Shayna Maidel. We have been getting e-mails from the Extreme Vet saying she is due for her annual well-cat exam and immunizations. Mike and Judy took her in a few days ago. She came home with attitude. Doctor Jeff said her teeth couldn’t be better, she was a slender 5.75 pounds, and she was a perfect little cat. She also had a little piece of jewelry, a tag with her name on it. But they spelled her name wrong. It was spelled “Rabies.”  Doctor Jeff told Mike and Judy that they needed a stool specimen, and sent home a small container with the word “prepaid” on it, along with Shayna Maidel and Judy’s names, both spelled correctly. By the time they left the Extreme Vet Shayna Maidel was totally over it because of the long wait, and all the poking and prodding in the strange environment which included barking dogs, distressed cat yowls, and antiseptic odors. The ride home is less than 5 minutes, but Shayna, feeling horrible (you go to the vet to get sick) started drooling and howling, and produced the required biological specimen right there in her carrier. But she quickly recovered, and is back to her marvelous little self. As I said, not much has happened recently in Happy Meadows, usually a good thing. I hope everyone had a happy Father’s Day. I will talk to you soon.

The End of the World

 

So, not long ago I went on a rant about cilantro (April 23, 2018, “Friday the 13th”). In my furor, I made a misstatement of fact, and I wish to set the record straight. I said that Judy thinks cilantro tastes like soap. Not so, although this is a common complaint among cilantro haters. She says it tastes like dirty sweat socks. This can’t be good, but it surprises me that she knows what dirty sweat socks taste like. Unless she is making the assumption that they taste as they smell, which could be the case. Only a dog would know what dirty sweat socks taste like. Mike’s friend had a dog (Joe, of blessed memory) who once ate a dirty sweat sock, and then lost control of his bowels. They had to have Zero Rez come in and make the house habitable. Fortunately, amidst all the mess a dirty sweat sock was found, so Joe didn’t require surgical extraction. So, Judy, please forgive my faux pas. I’ll work harder at fact checking.

Mike and Judy were out to eat recently, and Mike perused the drink menu. Drinking just isn’t what it used to be. Mike quit drinking a long time ago, but when he did drink he just drank: Jack Daniels in a glass, with ice. Or if there was no ice, Jack in a glass. Or if there was no glass……well, you get the idea. There were none of these silly fru fru mixes you see today. He has seen menus with two dozen or more different kinds of martinis. For a martini, all you need is a glass with gin, a dash of vermouth, and a couple of olives. Or if you don’t have olives, it’s okay. And if you don’t have vermouth, well, again, you get the idea. So, as Mike was reading the menu of silly concoctions, the “Spanish Garden” caught his eye. It consists of altos anejo, yellow chartreuse, chateau aloe liqueur, TBTB bitters, and yes, you guessed it, cilantro. Make it a double.

A friend of Mike’s recently went into a liquor store for a bottle of dinner wine, and as he was looking around, he noticed an entire aisle of vodkas. (A few years ago Mike read somewhere that 10% of the entire GNP of Russia was comprised of vodka production and sales. This may not be true, but it is a number worth sharing.)Not only was there a choice of cheap vodka, intermediately priced vodka, and expensive vodka, but there was a myriad of different kinds of flavored vodkas. There was every kind of fruit-flavored vodka you can imagine (including banana) but also other oddball flavors like chocolate, bubble gum, and wedding cake flavored vodka. Judy has told Mike that if he ever comes home with wedding cake on his breath she will know he has relapsed. So, Mike’s friend walked up to the clerk, a young fellow with less than impeccable hygiene, who looked depressed and bored out of his mind. Mike’s friend asked, “What’s with all these varieties of flavored vodka?” The clerk looked away for a minute and then replied, “It’s the end of the world.”

There is so little happening here right now, that I am reduced to reporting that Mike cleaned the cat boxes and put in fresh litter. It was so tempting that I took the first shot in the virgin box. Soon the other 3 cats were excitedly dumping their little loads. Mike was so proud of us, and said we had a veritable crapfest. Sometimes he accuses me of bringing in all my friends to use the box, but I wouldn’t, and he doesn’t really mean it. On another topic of major interest and importance, it took the neighborhood squirrels about 3 days to figure out how to get to our new bird feeder. Judy hung it out in front of the window where Ladybug likes to sit and look out. I suppose she enjoys looking at squirrels as much as birds.

The next topic of local interest, also completely true like everything else I report on from Happy Meadows, features PETA, that animal rights organization that has always been as determined as any organization I know of to go out of their way to  invite ridicule. A few days ago, early one morning, a truck driver going South on highway I-75 coming into the city lost control of his truck and turned it on its side.He was carrying cattle destined for the abattoir. Ten cattle died prematurely in the wreck, and the rest escaped and wandered around Cobb County until they were rounded up. Word has it that one is still on the hoof. Maybe it will show up in Happy Meadows. That would be so cool. I have never seen a cow up close and personal. So anyway, traffic was tied up for hours and everyone in Atlanta was talking about the event. I heard some sympathy for the trauma that the cows had suffered. But PETA has jumped on this like white on rice. There is an article in today’s paper saying they plan to erect a billboard near the crash site to honor the ten dead cows. The billboard will feature a gloomy-looking cow and the following quotation: “I’m ME, not MEAT. See the individual. Go vegan.” The worst thing about this is that it is as lame a saying as I have ever heard. And also, from the perspective of a cat, this is incomprehensible. The consumption of meat is as natural a thing as there can be. What could be more marvelous or natural to eat than a warm, furry, little mouse? It is God’s Perfect Food. Of course, people are free to decide for themselves what they want to eat; and they are equally free to express their opinions. But I think people should be consistent in their politics. I happen to know that within the past couple of years a truckload of chickens headed for market was distributed all over highway I-285, and no outcry from PETA was heard. Or at least, we didn’t get a billboard.

This is Memorial Day weekend. Let me express my personal feline gratitude to all the men and women of the USA who have risked or even given their lives so that I can be free to roam around in Happy Meadows and live with Mike, Judy, Shayna Maidel, Ladybug, and Jackson. And to those of you who are not in the Armed Forces, but who are engaging in the current struggle for freedom, God is blessing you, and you will not fail. Until next time, Sholom from Happy Meadows.

The Barn Owl

So, Mike had breakfast yesterday morning was his friend Richard. Mike has been worried about his friend Mike T. for a long time and learned yesterday that Mike T. had passed away about three weeks ago. Mike’s calls to him the past few weeks had gone directly to voicemail which had a message that the mailbox was full. Since Mike didn’t know where Mike T. lived exactly he was pretty well stuck. Mike T. had over 25 years sober when he died. But over the past couple of years he appeared to be losing his mind. He made bad decision after bad decision, driving his wife away from him and then most of his friends. He was very sick but would check himself out of the hospital over and over as he would get angry with the doctors and find fault with their treatment plans. Mike said it was like looking at a train wreck in slow motion. Mike doesn’t have the details but he’s afraid that Mike T. died alone. This morning Mike’s friends came over for their Sunday morning get together. Mike T. used to be part of this group until about two years ago when he first left Atlanta. They talked about Mike T. and they all agreed that every one of them has the capability of driving people away from them and dying alone. I hope that never happens. I think success in life depends upon the characteristics of honesty, personal integrity, having good friends, and reliance on a higher power. Mike remembers his last conversation with Mike T. His last words to Mike T., after he failed to talk some sense into him, were “I love you Michael.” Mike T. replied to Mike, “I love you too, Michael.” Rest in peace, Mike T.

So, Mike has had a miserable cold which started about 10 or 11 days ago. He was surrounded by Kleenex and the hand sanitizer for several days and was doping himself up with various over-the-counter remedies. His voice nearly disappeared into the depths. Now Judy has the cold. It’s hope she doesn’t get as sick as he did. And oh, did I mention that Mike went to work every day? I hope he kept his hands to himself and didn’t transmit his disease to his patients. I’m pretty sure doctors are supposed to help you get better, not the other way around. It’s true though that the patients depend upon him to be there to check on their progress and keep their various medications going.

Last night Mike went out to his rabbi’s retirement gala celebration. Judy was too sick to go. Mike says he’s not contagious anymore, and he’s probably right. When Mike moved to Atlanta in 1984 with his then wife, Gena and with Michelle who was seven years old at the time, they decided to look for a temple to join. Mike guessed that a reform Temple might be more accepting of his interdenominational and interracial family than a more traditional synagogue. He still doesn’t know if that’s true or not. Probably in some cases yes and in some cases no. Anyway, he found an excited and exciting group of families that had joined a new Temple that was formed in 1981 by Rabbi Harvey Winokur. Alan A. was also instrumental in the foundational meeting which took place in a Chinese restaurant. Mike and his family felt very much at home and accepted in their new spiritual community, Temple Kehillat Chaim. Kehillat Chaim means “community of life.” Over the years the temple members referred to themselves as either TKC or as the Kehillah.  TKC was an important vehicle for Michelle forming her own identity as a mixed-race child of a Jewish father and a Baptist mother. Her Temple youth group was the place where she found the most acceptance and sense of belonging through her elementary and high school years. Through the years she has firmed up the rest of her identity and self acceptance as a woman of color, but this was a critical piece for her at the time. When she was to have her bat mitzvah Mike asked her if she would like to share her bat mitzvah with her grandmother, Mike’s mother, Bernice. Bernice had always had a deep love for the Jewish religion and Jewish people, but when she was growing up there was no such thing as a bat mitzvah. Michelle welcomed the idea, fully supported by Rabbi Harvey,and so they had a joint bat mitzvah celebration at TKC in 1990, I think. By this time Gena had been diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently had a recurrence in 1991. Although she continued to attend religious services with Mike and Michelle at TKC, she also found a Baptist Church to reestablish herself in the religion  most familiar to her. One can only imagine what was going through her mind having cancer and having not fully raised Michelle to adulthood. Mike remembers when she counseled with Pastor Johnson at Zion Baptist Church a few times. I think he was able to be comforting for Gena. Unfortunately, late in 1991 Pastor Johnson passed away. The following April Gena passed away after spending a month in intensive care. During that period Rabbi Harvey was immensely supportive of the family, frequently coming to the hospital and praying with them. He was there when she died. Likewise, Pastor Larry from Zion was extremely attentive and supportive and brought a lot of prayers from Zion. He and Mike have remained friends to this day. In fact, Mike gave a talk at his church recently (see my blogpost, “Not So Loud, Just about Right” dated March 25.) Gena’s funeral was at Zion, and Rabbi Harvey and Pastor Larry co-officiated. Mike remembers telling Michelle how important it is to be involved with a synagogue or a church family. It made a great deal of difference to him not to have to do this alone.

Three years later Rabbi Harvey blessed Mike and Judy’s wedding. The TKC family welcomed her lovingly. So, Rabbi Harvey has been deeply involved in the major lifecycle events in Mike’s life over the past 34 years.  Mike was asked to say a few words last night at the celebration. He hopes he conveyed how much love and appreciation that he has for Rabbi Harvey and for the entire TKC family for the spiritual home that they have provided for him and his family over the last many years. Mike had the honor of being involved on the search committee to find a new Rabbi. Rabbi Holtz will be starting in July and Mike and the entire TKC family are excited to welcome him and his family into their community. We hope for a good transition and a lot of good new energy. Mike and Rabbi Harvey have talked about doing some projects together having to do with religion, spirituality, and addiction recovery. I hope they do it.

Mike didn’t stay to the bitter end last night. I think the cold had worn on him as well as three full hours of the event, the noise, and visiting. He’s glad that he left early because he had an experience on the way home which he was excited to tell Judy and Michelle about when he got home. As he turned onto his street about 9:30 he saw by the side of the road about 30 feet ahead of him what looked like a cat sitting. He stopped and realized that it was a large bird facing away from him, peering intently at something. As he sat there the bird turned and faced him with this creepy barn owl face. Mike sat and watched it for possibly two minutes as it occasionally would turn and stare at Mike and then get back to its quarry. Then it took it two little hops, grabbed its furry little victim, pecked at it, and silently flew off. The cycle of life continues. People come and go; institutions come and go; we live, love, have our adventures, and move on. But I like to think there’s always something new and exciting down the next road. I’m sure there is. I hope you think so too. Well that’s all the news from Happy Meadows for now. May all your colds be little ones. Talk to you soon.

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 mcgordon4@comcast.net 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.