The Cat’s Meow

So, you probably remember that a few weeks ago Ashley Grimes overdosed. You’re probably wondering what happened to her. I had been somewhat wondering the same thing. The other day I was back at Richard Donkle’s place and I overheard Hallie and Richie talking about her. It seems that she has been sent out of state for treatment of her addiction. They didn’t have too much to say about it so I can’t tell you any more than that. I’m glad she’s still alive and will get another shot at life. It’s hard to have to make such serious life and death decisions when you’re young. I hear Mike talking some about addiction and recovery at the house. His medical specialty is addiction medicine, so he has a lot of experience treating folks like her. He knows what she is up against, including the fact that many heroin addicts have multiple relapses before they get into ongoing recovery, if they are fortunate enough to make it that far.

The last time I went up to the Donkle’s there was nobody there except for their maid, and the place was locked up tight. As long as I was there I went over to the kennel. They have a nice outdoor enclosure for their for German shepherds. Ever since our 1st meeting they have given me plenty of space (Veni, Vidi, Vici, posted 3/26/17). I really have nothing against them as long as they don’t try to kill me. Now that Richard lets me into the house on a regular basis they are regarding me as someone who is supposed to be there so their territorial instincts don’t kick in any longer. And of course, they are still afraid of me. But I didn’t spend too much time there. I wandered back across the expanse of lawn and back into the subdivision of Happy Meadows. I decided to go visit David, a fellow that lives by himself near the entrance to the subdivision where the houses are a little smaller. David spends a lot of time sitting on his front porch. He smokes cigarettes and takes naps. David used to go to work wearing some kind of a uniform like a policeman, but he has been sick and has not been working for quite some time. I’ve heard Mike say that David has cancer. Every Saturday afternoon Mike goes over to David’s house and spends a couple of hours visiting with him. Mike always brings him a few groceries. David is getting to where he really can’t eat any longer but he tries to get some canned something-or-other into himself. I think it’s a nutritional supplement. He has been losing weight. He used to be a very husky, strong man. I understand that he used to have quite a temper and could be violent. This might be why he lives alone. David enjoys my visits. He always talks to me nicely and calls me Magic. I’ll jump up on his lap and he’ll pet me. I have to be careful not to put any pressure on his abdomen because it hurts and he winces when I do that. I certainly don’t want to hurt him. Sometimes he gets up to go in the house and he always lets me come in as well. He doesn’t have any pets of his own and he must get quite lonely. Last weekend Mike didn’t make it by because he and Judy went up to the mountains in North Carolina. They seemed to enjoy themselves very much. I heard Mike say that the tent caterpillars are alive and well in North Georgia. I see them here also but apparently there is a much greater infestation up north. Mike and Judy talked about the eclipse mania that they encountered in North Georgia and Western North Carolina. It seems that the day after tomorrow we are expecting a near total eclipse of the sun here in Marietta and a total eclipse of the sun further north where they were. They are expecting over 100,000 people to come up for the eclipse. I think I’ll stay right here and settle for a 95% eclipse experience. I’ll let you know what it was like. Apparently there are people who go all over the world to view eclipses. I never would’ve imagined such a thing. But whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Ladybug had to go to the Extreme Vet yesterday. They did their usual poking and prodding and gave her a rabies shot. She got a mani-pedi as well. I wasn’t around when it happened but Shayna Maidel and Jackson told me that she complained loudly about it. That sounds about right. Well, I’m glad she had a good checkup. We don’t need any sick cats to give us added stress around here.

Now that I think about it, not much is happening right now in Happy Meadows. Maybe that’s why I haven’t posted anything for 3 weeks. I hope you haven’t missed me too much, and of course I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. At least, it looks like the whackos are not going to blow up the world after some stupid saber rattling. So, life goes on. I hope your life is as good as mine. But what could be better than being a little black cat that gets a lot of love? It’s the cats meow.

The Big Minyan in the Sky

So, a few months ago I posted a blog entitled “Longevity.” You can look it up if you’re interested. It was posted on January 27, 2017. In that post I mentioned that Mike’s mother was 100 years old and severely demented. I foolishly speculated on the value, or the lack thereof, of living to such an advanced age and state of cognitive deterioration. Well, Mike, Judy, and Michelle went up to Minnesota recently to help his mother celebrate her 101st birthday. They were joined by 2 of his brother’s children and 2 of his brother’s grandchildren as well as many cousins. Mike says that his mother was more alert than he had seen her for the past 3 years. She was awake most of the time and seemed to be aware to some degree of who was there and that it was a special day for her. Mike also found out how to get  his mother to speak in a complete sentence in a meaningful way. He was giving her a drink of water and the top of the cup leaked water onto her shirt whereupon she burst forth with “You’re spilling water all over me!” Plain as day, she spoke. I guess it is a matter of motivation. Mike has posted a picture of himself and his mother on her one hundred and first birthday on his Facebook page. You can check it out if you want to. They are  sitting outside in the courtyard of her nursing home, and she is humming a tune. You have to imagine the tune because it is just a picture so there is no sound.

Speaking of longevity, Mike’s brother, Bob, was not so fortunate. Yesterday would have been his 76th birthday. He died almost 6 years ago of complications of diabetes, heart disease, and ultimately, cancer. Bob was a very interesting fellow. Life never made sense to him until he discovered religion. He became very observant in the Jewish faith, and was a Talmudic scholar. He attended yeshiva at the same time that he attended law school. He earned his law degree from the University of Chicago at the age of 21 and was awarded ordination into the rabbinate a few years later. Bob and his wife have 5 children.  Mike enjoys getting together with them. For one thing, they are a loving, devoted family, and lovely and interesting people.  Also, they always have questions about Bob and his family life growing up. At this point Mike is their only real source of information other than digging through documents. Mike enjoys being a resource for Bob’s family. One of the most memorable and emotionally important moments in Mike’s life was at Bob’s funeral in Jerusalem. Mike had the honor of saying Kaddish for his brother at the funeral service.

Now that Mike has lived well over half of his life he is getting a perspective on things that it’s not possible to have for a younger man. Or for a younger cat for that matter. Mike says that as wonderful as life is, it does have a way of knocking you down some. He was at the doctor yesterday to have his thyroid checked and the nurse after measuring him and weighing him told him he was 5 foot,7 and 3/4 inches tall. He was shocked. He used to be 5 foot 10 1/2 inches tall. But, he acknowledged, life has given him somewhat of a pounding over the years. Even Judy says that he’s shorter than he used to be. Mike’s back was never straight to begin with and it is less so now, so I suppose that’s part of it. Despite the fact that he’s shorter, paradoxically, the floor seems to be much further away than it used to be. Bending over and picking something up off the ground is now something that he has to think twice about. The effort is now typically accompanied by unpleasant grunting noises with occasional curse words thrown in. And I have already mentioned in a previous post that Mike can barely reach his feet to trim his own toenails, and that Judy is going to have to start taking him to the Extreme Vet one of these days to get them trimmed. (“Nibbinubs,” posted June 3, 2017)

So, Mike’s Sunday morning group has just left. This time of the year they sit on the screened porch. This morning is particularly lovely. It is sunny, but not yet hot, and the humidity is unusually low. I heard a bird call that I have never heard before, but I didn’t see it. Bird identification is not something that would interest a cat, but Mike would have liked to know what it was. He didn’t recognize the call or see the bird either. Maybe next time. I saw a doe with her 2 fawns in the back yard earlier this morning. They were lovely. It is good to be alive. My advice is to enjoy it while you can, and try to make the world a little better each day that you spend on this earth. One day we will all be sweating in that Great Sweat Lodge, or praising God at the Great Revival, or attending the Big Meeting, or dining at the Great Dumpster, or davening at that Big Minyan in the sky. Or whatever your tradition might be. It will all make sense once we get there. In the meantime have fun, enjoy your relationship with your fellows, and with your God, and pick up the trash when you come across it (if you can bend down that far.) It really is a lovely day today.

The Double Identity Discovered

So, it was yesterday that Ashley Grimes OD’d, and Richard Donkle found an oxycodone tablet in the family room where his kid and his friends hung out. It looked like the opioid epidemic had invaded Happy Meadows. The next evening about 9 o’clock I was home, chilling, and the phone rang. Mike answered the phone and I heard him say that no, it wasn’t too late, and that fine, come on over and we can talk.

A few minutes later the doorbell rang and Mike opened the door to let in, guess who, Richard Donkle.

“Please come in,” said Mike. “I made some coffee. How do you like it?”

“Oh, thanks very much,” said Richard. “Cream and sugar if you have it.”

He extended his hand. “We’ve seen each other around but I’ve never introduced myself,” he said. “I’m Richard Donkle. You can call me Donk.”

“Mike Gordon,” Mike replied. “I’ve never called anybody Donk before, at least, not to their face. It might come out as Richard.”

“I will answer to either,” said Richard.

Mike led him into the family room, offered him a seat, and returned shortly with 2 coffees. You might think I should describe Richard a little more, in terms of how he was dressed, his general appearance, and so on, but in fact, I don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing. You’ll just have to use your own imagination. That might be more fun anyway.

“I want to talk to you because of your expertise in substance abuse,” said Richard. “No doubt you’ve heard about Ashley Grimes overdosing yesterday.”

“Yes I did,” replied Mike. “I understand that she survived and will be going into treatment.”

“I have heard the same thing,” said Richard. “I am here in 2 capacities. As president of the HOA, I have an interest in the general welfare of the people in the neighborhood. I would like to know if you have any ideas about what we can do as a neighborhood to address the problem with drugs which we obviously have right here in Happy Meadows. I’m also here as a father. I found this pill in my family room last night.”

Richard handed the tablet to Mike. He had it in a small vial. Mike took a look at it.

“Oxycodone 30 mg,” said Mike. “You say you found it in your family room?”

“Yes,” Richard replied. “Ashley Grimes is a good friend of my son’s girlfriend, Hallie. They come over frequently. It appears that they do drugs at my house. I have to tell you that I am very concerned about this, and especially concerned about what my son might have gotten himself involved in. Of course he said that he hasn’t used drugs himself when I confronted him with this tablet.”

“It is never their tablet,” said Mike. “It’s always somebody else’s. So, how can I help you?”

“I would like advice on what to do about making sure that Richie is not using drugs,” said Richard. “I already went to the  store and bought a drug test and had him take it. He tested negative.”

“It would probably be a good idea for you to have him evaluated by someone who is an expert in this area,” said Mike. “How old is Richie?”

“Nineteen,” said Richard. “Almost 20.”

“Is he in school?” Asked Mike.

“He’ll be starting his 2nd year at Georgia Tech,” said Richard. “He is a business major.”

“I see,” said Mike. “Have you noticed any unusual behaviors that he has demonstrated or anything else that you have been concerned about regarding Richie?”

“Not really,” said Richard. “But I now realize that a hell of a lot can be going on in my house that I don’t know the first thing about. I wonder if you could talk to Richie and let me know what you think. I would really appreciate it.”

“It might be better if I stay on the sidelines and not get directly involved,” said Mike. “I think I could be more helpful to you that way. With us living in the same neighborhood I can see some conflict of interest developing that could interfere with open communication between Richie and myself. I don’t want to appear to him to be acting on your behalf. I would rather be supportive in an informal sort of way. But I can recommend a very good doctor for him to see. Dr. Rebecca Kingsley is an addiction medicine specialist and colleague of mine. You can rely on the quality of her evaluation and what she might have to say.”

“I’m disappointed that you don’t want to see Richie,” said Richard.

“It’s not that I don’t want to see him,” replied Mike. “It’s just that I have a good sense that I can be more helpful working from the sidelines. I hope that you can trust my judgment in this.”

“So, how do I reach this Dr. Kingsley?” Asked Richard.

“I’ll text you her office number,” said Mike. “Also, with your permission I will call her tomorrow and give her a heads up about what’s going on.”

“I would appreciate that very much,” said Richard. “Can we talk about the neighborhood matter sometime soon?”

“Absolutely,” said Mike. “I think it’s a great idea to have a community-wide approach to dealing with the opioid problem. And people haven’t quit drinking either. I’m aware that there is a great deal of alcoholism afoot in Happy Meadows.”

Richard seemed to relax a little, took a sip of coffee, and looked around the room. That was when he noticed me for the first time. “Well, hello Sambo,” he said, “What are you doing here?”

Mike appeared startled. “This is our cat, Black Magic,” he said. “Has he been visiting you?”

Richard smiled. “Yes he has, a welcome visitor. He comes over fairly often for a dish of cream and to bully my dogs.”

“Really?” Mike responded.

“Well,” said Richard, “he  had to bully them only once. Now they give him plenty of space.” He finished his coffee. “I shouldn’t keep you, I know it’s getting late. Thanks for your time and your help.”

They both got up and walked back to the kitchen. They put their cups in the sink, and Mike walked Richard to the front door. They shook hands.

“Thanks again,” said Richard.

“No problem at all,” Mike replied. “Let’s talk again in a few days.”

“Definitely,” said Richard as he left. Before he left he glanced over at me. “So long, Sambo,” he said.

Mike closed the door and looked at me. “Cream? Really? Cream?”

I stared at him for a minute and then looked away. Mike headed upstairs, at the same time calling to Judy, “Judy, you won’t believe what Black Magic has been up to.”

She didn’t die this time.

So, I got home very late last night after an exhausting day.I  made my way upstairs and found Mike and Judy asleep. Shayna Maidel was sleeping on Mike, and Jackson was sleeping on Judy, as was their custom. Ladybug was down in the living room lying on the couch, fast asleep, with her legs stuck straight up in the air. She was snoring softly. I went back upstairs, jumped up in bed between all the sleeping beauties, settled in, groomed myself, and thought about my day.

I hadn’t visited Richard Donkle for a while, so I had headed over to his estate after lunch, when my homies regularly take one of their many naps. There was a lot of activity at one of the houses as I made my way along. I saw a fire truck, 3 or 4 police cars, an ambulance, and a bunch of people rushing in and out of the house. Naturally, I stuck around to see what all the fuss was about. After a while, two of the EMT guys carried someone out of the house on a gurney. I was close enough to see who it was, and darned if it wasn’t the girl who was with Hallie and that other kid the last time I visited the Donkles. (A Bade Vibe, posted 4/30/17; and Fake Jews, posted 5/26/17) She seemed out of it. I moved on. Coming to the Donkle’s estate I slipped through the Great Gate and strolled across the lawn of their 3 hole golf course. The four white German shepherds (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs—“The Suits” as I call them) kept their distance. They learned their lesson with me the first time I came for a visit (Veni, Vidi, Vici, posted 3/26/17). Richie’s Jeep and several other assorted vehicles were scattered in the circular drive, and in front of the 3 car garage. The patio door was open so I walked into the kitchen. Richie was sitting at the kitchen table with his mother, Bianca, and he was distraught. I realized that they were discussing the excitement I had just witnessed on my way over here. Joker was there too, his tongue hanging out, with a goofy smile on his face. He was the only one who noticed that I had come in, but he was too lazy to get up and greet me, or even to bark.

“God, mom. I thought she was dead!” said Richie. “Hallie and I came over to pick her up. She didn’t come downstairs when her mother let us in, so we went up to her room. She was passed out on the bed, with a goddamn needle stuck in her arm!”

“My Goodness, what did you do?” asked Bianca.

“I started shaking her, and Hallie ran to get her mom. She came running upstairs and started CPR. I called 911. Hallie was screaming. I told her to calm down and call Ashley’s father at work. He got there right after the first police car did. Then everything was happening at once. The paramedics arrived with Narcan, and a minute later she woke up. More cops came. Neighbors. Everyone. I couldn’t believe it. A freaking needle in her arm!”

“So you didn’t  know Ashley was using drugs? She is one of Hallie’s best friends. They come over here all the time.”

“I knew she dabbled a little, but I had no idea she was shooting up. Jesus Christ!” Richie got up and started pacing around.

“Richie,” said Bianca, “Please don’t say that, unless you are praying. You know how I feel about using the Lord’s name like that.”

“I’m sorry, mother,” he replied. “I’m just so upset.”

Bianca got up and hugged her son. “Let me get you a cold drink,” she said. “Go sit back down.”

About that time Richard walked in. “What’s going on?” he asked. He glanced over at me. “Oh, hello Sambo,” he said.

“Ashley Grimes just OD’d,” said Bianca. “Richie and Hallie found her a little while ago.”

“Is she going to be okay?” asked Richard.

“We haven’t heard anything since she was taken to the hospital,” Bianca replied.

“They did arouse her before they took her away,” said Richie. “I just can’t believe this.”

They commenced to discuss the situation. Richie was grilled about whether he or Hallie used drugs, whether he knew of anyone else who used drugs, whether anyone had brought drugs to the house, and so on and so forth. The phone rang several times with both curious callers and updates. Richie was on his Smartphone more than he was off of it. I wanted to explore, but did not want to miss an opportunity for a dish of cream, now that Richard was there. Eventually my perseverance paid off. I also used a little persuasion by rubbing up against Richard’s leg.

After my delicious snack I went to look for Natasha, the Donkle’s cat. She lived under the comforter in the master bedroom for the most part, and that was where I found her. She was decidedly unsociable, so I nosed around for a while, used the box, and then stretched out on the white couch in the living room. It is not that I forgot that Jarmila, their maid, didn’t want me getting my luxurious black fur on her white sofa. It is more that I didn’t care. A cat has his spots, and this was one of mine, so she can just get used to it! I’m not sure how long I slept, but it was a good while. Inevitably, though, I was interrupted by a series of angry Polish expletives as I made a quick exit back to the kitchen. It was already dark outside. Things had calmed down. Apparently, Ashley was going to be okay, and discussions were being held about what to do with her next. Richie and Hallie had gone to the hospital.  Richard had gone downstairs and conducted a careful search of the living area where the kids would hang out. He had found a pill, and I found him in his office at the computer, looking at pictures of pills. I rubbed up against his leg. He looked down at me.

“Roxicodone 30mg, Sambo,” he said. “It looks like Richie and I are going to have a little talk.”

He and I went up to tell Bianca, who appeared very upset. Drugs had invaded their world. I had had enough and went over and pawed at the patio door until Richard let me out. Mike talks about the opioid epidemic at home. He is a doctor who works with addicts in his practice, and he seems to enjoy it and helps enough people to make it worth the effort. He has written an article about addiction and Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) that is going up on his website in a few days. I will let you know when it is available, in case you are interested.

A serious look at pseudo-patriotism

So, Mike L. asked me what I thought about a face book post promoting an organization that wants to return America to Christian values. I just tried to find the site, and was unable to do so. There are dozens of organizations that have ambiguous names and wrap themselves in the American flag in a display of  pseudo-patriotism, so I will not address any particular organization, but just deal with the topic as I see it. In analyzing the concept of returning America to Christian values, it is necessary to ask two questions: what are the values upon which America was based, and what are Christian values?

First, what are the values upon which our great nation was founded? Our founding fathers talked a lot about personal liberty and representative democracy. Read, for example,  the Declaration of Independence, ratified by a committee, but authored principally by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was strongly influenced by the writings of John Locke (1632-1704) a leader of The Enlightenment Movement. Locke is considered to be the Father of Liberalism. The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, is the document upon which subsequent ideas of liberty were established. It was signed to settle a feud between the King of England and the lesser nobility. It established the limits of authority of the king, but was never meant to address the rights of common people. The Declaration of Independence asserts the right of people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but in reality, they were referring only to people who were white male landowners. Non-whites, women, and ordinary working class people were all less entitled. Over the last 200-plus years great strides have been made by the groups not included in the original ideas of liberty, but not without strong push-back from wealthy white men. Other values generally considered to be fundamentally American are expressed in the Constitution of the United States of America, especially in the Bill of Rights. These values include freedom of religion, separation of church and state, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom of speech. It is worth noting that all this was established at the same time that women had no vote, and millions of blacks were held in slavery. I point this out to establish that the grand ideals expressed by our founding fathers were ideal in their expression only, not in practical application.

So, what are Christian values? These are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, a Jewish preacher who lived 2100 years ago in Israel, and who was crucified by the Romans. Jesus was asked what is the foremost commandment of all, and his reply was to love God, and to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. He emphasized the importance of brotherly love. He even commanded his followers to love their enemies! He advised his followers to forgive those who had harmed them.He counseled against revenge and hatred. He advised his followers to help those less fortunate than themselves. He taught not to be judgmental of others, but rather, to judge one’s own thoughts and actions. He taught the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And he taught a lot more, but you get the idea. All people are the family of man, male and female, rich and poor, black, brown, red, yellow, and white. His teachings were based upon his understanding of God that he learned from the Hebrew Bible, the teachings of the rabbis, and his innate understanding of God’s will. He understood that you can’t take anything away from another person without taking something away from yourself. Now, it is well known that ever since Christianity became a religion, great atrocities have been justified, supported and even promulgated in the name of Jesus and Christianity. The same can be said about what has been done by the American and state governments in the names of freedom and justice. So the ideals taught by Jesus have all too often been at best ignored. It is a real shame.

So, what is a Christian anyway, and who is entitled to call themselves Christian? One answer would be a Christian is a person who has undergone the ritual sacrament of Baptism in the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Another answer would be a Christian is a person who believes that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected so that he personally might be saved, and forgiven for his sins. Another answer might be that a Christian is anyone who says he is a Christian. I don’t think I have a right to say who is or is not a Christian. I do think it is of interest that many of our founding fathers were not Christians, or at least not in their belief system. Deism was a prominent philosophy of the time. Deists believed in God, but not in a God who intervened in the affairs of men. So they certainly did not believe that Jesus Christ was who Christians said he was. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. In the introductory paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, where he established the basis for the right of the colonies to declare their independence from the tyranny of the King of England, he used the expressions “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God” as the source of their authority. In the concluding section he referred to “Divine Providence.” Thomas Paine was the most outspoken of the Deists, and expressed his belief thusly: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” So, it is worth pointing out that the philosophical underpinnings of the founders of our government were not specifically or exclusively Christian, at least not in the sense of the Christian religion.

What is the source of energy that drives people to wrap themselves in the flag and decry the current state of affairs? What is it that people fear? What people fear the most is losing what they have or not getting what they want. And what changes are taking place in America at this time? I see many things that are changing, but two in particular, I think, are driving this effort to return to the “good old days” when men were men, and women were women, and you could tell who was a white person and who wasn’t. The first is the gradual erosion of the United States of America as the most powerful nation on earth. This is inevitable as the other countries gain greater levels of education and economic productivity. If “Make America Great Again” means reversing the globalization of the economy, it is a con game, and not going to happen. The other change taking place in America is the population shift towards the time when whites will be in the minority. (In my home state of Georgia I am told that there is only one of close to 170 counties in which the majority of the population is white.) Xenophobia is alive and well. If the white people think that they will be able to prevent this they are wrong. so what they will try to do instead is through various tactics deprive people of color from their hard fought right to vote, deprive poor people of a good opportunity for education, keep  brown and black people from coming to our country, try to expel as many people of color as possible, deprive poor people of decent health care, and keep locking up as many black, brown, and red people as possible, with the help of repressive laws against drug use. It is perfectly understandable that they will try, but they will fail precisely because America is a great county that is established on the principles of justice and liberty. We are witnessing a reaction in our country to having elected a black president. The pendulum has swung in the other direction, but it will swing back. The message of Jesus is love, and take it from me, Black Magic, that love is the answer, and the more we love and take care of each other, the more will come back to us as a strong and peaceful society.

On a more personal note, today is Mike and Judy’s 22nd wedding anniversary. They are still very much in love with each other, and such good friends.  It is very sweet.

Popo

So, Mike’s going to play in a golf event this coming Monday. He used to play golf on weekends and enjoyed it a great deal, but now he wonders where he ever found the time to play. Last year he played in this same charity event.  He doesn’t think his game was really that much worse than it had been 5 years previously when he last had played, but in these charity events you don’t keep your own score which is a good thing. He had bought new golf shoes just before he laid his clubs down, so he was surprised that by the time he got to the 1st green his shoes were falling apart, I suppose from dry rot. Luckily, the 2nd hole kind of went back to the clubhouse, and he ran up to the parking lot and put his sneakers back on. He has just bought a new pair of golf shoes which I’m sure won’t have time to dry rot before Monday.

The event is a fundraiser for The Extension, a long-term residential treatment program for homeless addicted men in Cobb County where Mike lives. It opened originally as a winter shelter about 25 years ago. A few years ago they also opened a separate facility for women. They have done an outstanding job with the program and have helped great numbers of people. A number of Mike’s acquaintances and friends are involved with The Extension in one way or another, and he has provided some services to them as well. He even attended a memorial service there earlier this year. Bert S. had been a counselor at The Extension for many years, was well-loved and respected by everyone, and he died sober. Mike has been to a number of memorial services for Alcoholics Anonymous members, and they are always powerful, deeply moving experiences in which there are always a few laughs. Recovering people are good at laughing at themselves (and each other). Mike remembers the service that was held for Walt H. a few years ago. Walt was quite an old man when he quit drinking and by the time he quit he had been homeless for some time. His actual age was a closely guarded secret. I’m sure some of you remember Walt. He was very involved in the AA meetings around Smyrna and enjoyed working with newcomers. Walt had a special way of talking to people in which every person was approached in a unique way appropriate to that person. Walt always threw a few Yiddish words Mike’s way, for example. At the memorial service many people shared, and it was only then that Mike realized what a genius Walt really had for interpersonal relationships. And he died sober too.

I have to tell you, I really enjoy living in Happy Meadows. There are always things to do and lovely people and their pets to visit with. There is also a seemingly endless supply of chipmunks, mice, squirrels, and other assorted critters to hunt. There are a lot of pregnant does this time of year and I see them from time to time throughout the neighborhood. Happy Meadows is located near the national Battlefield Park, so there are plenty of woods and some prairie lands for the deer to hide and forage. There is an abundance of wild turkeys too. You have to watch out for the hawks though, as there is an abundance of them as well. Last year I was in the backyard and a doe brought her fawn along. She had the fawn lie down in a little nook by the house and she went off to forage. I checked the fawn out. It’s true what they say; they have no scent whatsoever. It didn’t move as I sniffed around at it. Very interesting.

The other day when I was out and about, I decided to go visit Ms. Wilson and her daughter, whom everyone calls Popo.  Popo was born with cerebral palsy, and she is quite physically and intellectually impaired. She goes by Popo because it sounds like what she calls herself. Her given name is really Paulette. (So, the name was not inspired by the children’s story, “Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti”, written by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps,  illustrated by Elmer Simms Campbell, and published in 1932, as some of you may have surmised, even though you could have had no idea that Ms. Wison was originally from Haiti. An original copy of this book can be found at Emory University Rose Library’s rare book collection. It might be easier for you, if you are interested, to find a copy  online. Michelle says that if she was stranded on a desert island with only one author to read it would be Langston Hughes. After hearing this Mike has made a mental note to read more Langston Hughes.)  Popo is not able to walk and so she stays in a wheelchair during the day. She has a little lever that she uses to maneuver the wheelchair around which she does with difficulty because her arms don’t work right either.  Popo also does not have speech that most people can understand. However she and Ms. Wilson communicate quite well, and I generally know what she’s thinking too. I do know that she likes it when I jump up in her lap. She is awfully clumsy and not that good at petting me but I appreciate the effort that she does make. I don’t think she has learned how to read. There is no one else that lives there, just the 2 of them. It’s interesting seeing how deeply personal and spiritual a relationship can be in which one of the parties is so impaired intellectually and physically. With such limited language capability, communication of necessity is beyond words, and enters another dimension known and understood only by the people involved. I think what Popo has in great measure though is a capacity to love. As I was lying in her lap the other day, purring with her sort of nudging me with her hand as she tried to pet me, I looked up at her and saw an enormous smile on her face. I reached up with my paw, and I touched the side of her face. It was a special moment for both of us. She is so sweet, and truly, one of the happiest people I know. I’ll probably go back and visit again in a few days.

So, that’s all the news from Happy Meadows. Not much going on as you can see. Father’s Day is coming up this weekend so I should have something to report again soon. And I might  go back and visit the Donkle’s tomorrow and see if I can wrangle some more cream from Richard. Happy Father’s Day y’all.

The world is divided into two kinds of people.

So, I need to start with some sad news. Mike’s first cousin, Sandy Sidell, passed away this week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Mike and Judy went out to Seattle to see him a year ago after he was diagnosed. They had a wonderful visit and also met with his son Josh, daughter-in-law Rachel, and baby grandson Aaron. The grandson gave Sandy great joy in the last year of his life for which Mike and all the family are immensely grateful. Sandy was a lovely man and he will be missed. Sandy dealt with his diagnosis and treatment with the best possible attitude and was certainly an inspiration to Mike and everyone who knew him. Mike lived a separate life from his cousins, simply because of geography. Sandy and his older brother Steve grew up and lived in Seattle, and Mike grew up in Chicago and afterwords lived in the Midwest and then the South. So they couldn’t just drop in on each other. Steve came to Atlanta for a bridge tournament several years ago and stayed with Mike and Judy for one or two nights. They took him around to see some of the things that he wanted to see including the Carter Center and the Fernbank Center. They also went to eat at the Flying Biscuit and Dreamland barbecue. Steve was delighted and had sent a note thanking Mike and Judy for a perfectly wonderful visit. And it was. Mike and Sandy shared something else in common. They had both been widowed in their 40s and had to finish raising children on their own. I think they both handled themselves with grace and dignity and all 3 of the kids have turned out to be wonderful adults themselves.

So, yesterday I was in the bathroom while Mike was brushing his teeth, and I realized that humans can be divided into 2 categories: people who brush their teeth standing over the sink, and people who pace back and forth while brushing their teeth. Mike is a pacer, and Judy is a stander. Mike remembers when he was in college one of his dormitory mates told him about one of the other fellows who paced back and forth when he brushed his teeth, and how ridiculous he thought that was. Mike remembers thinking at the time that he also paces back and forth when he brushes his teeth. So this is an ingrained habit of many years duration. I wonder if the trait is genetically determined. Somebody could do a study. Grant money could be available for something like this. And here’s another thing. It’s not unusual for Mike to drool while he is brushing his teeth, especially since he started using the electric toothbrush. I don’t know how many times he’s had to change his shirt because of this. You’d think he would remember to brush his teeth before he puts his shirt on, but no, not Mike. Well, he does once in a while. I remember one day he had to change his shirt twice, but the 2nd time it was because of an unfortunate encounter with spaghetti. Mike as you may recall had another encounter with spaghetti sauce a few months ago as I had reported in the post entitled “The Stolen Carpet/Eating Out” dated 12/26/2016. He had dragged his shirtsleeve across his plate in a very careless manner. Actually I think it was his coat sleeve. It was so cold in the restaurant that he had kept his coat on. He also kept his hat on throughout the entire meal. (It is my understanding that a Southern gentleman removes his hat when he is indoors. This is a topic that I could return to at another time.) That was the same day that the little girl a couple of tables over threw up at the table. Not the best dining-out experience.

I love this time of year. We have lots of flowers in the yard. I’ll show you some of them. We have daylilies, daisies, butterfly bush, lantana, and for some weird reason the mums are blooming already. We also have little tomatoes on the vines already. The yard would look better if Mike would get out there and cut the grass. I hope he does so today or tomorrow. You should see Richard Donkle’s place. You know, he has a 3 hole golf course on his property. He has a landscaping staff and the place is stunning and immaculate. That is, if you don’t count the little bombs that his dogs leave here and there. I need to go back and visit them soon. I had a nice time the other night when I was there. His wife doesn’t like me and neither does their maid, but I don’t let something like that bother me. He gave me some delicious cream when I was visiting. You can read about this visit in my recent post “A Bad Vibe” dated 04/30/2017.

I just love flowers. And they provide good cover, and attract butterflies, a double bonus.

 

We have news reports of a cluster of overdoses and at least 4 deaths in central Georgia from some counterfeit Percocet tablets. It seems that once people get addicted, their judgement goes out the window. And there are people who have no conscience whatsoever who take advantage. If they increase their profit margin by 5-10%, so what if a few (or a few hundred) people die. Caveat emptor! I’m afraid that it is just a matter of time until we have a tragedy like this in Happy Meadows. You remember that I witnessed some young people using drugs at Richard Donkle’s place the other night. (See “Fake Jews” posted on  05/26/2017). Mike’s medical specialty is addiction medicine, so he is active in trying to help addicted people turn their lives around. It is a passion for him. He says he is old enough to retire, but he still enjoys what he does, and he gets to help people that not enough other people either want to help or know how. He does say that the field has advanced enormously from when he first got into it in 1973. Without exaggeration, he gets more referrals from other physicians in any given week than he used to get in an entire year. He has written an article that I will either attach to my blog or set up a link to it. It would be pointless to ask Mike to do it. He wouldn’t have a clue.

Nibbinubs

So, Mike woke up a couple of mornings ago with the word “nibbinubs” in his head. He told Judy that he didn’t remember his dream but he had the feeling that the word referred to a brand of cat food that he had been dreaming about. Is that weird or what? Now, it’s hard to say why Mike would be dreaming about cat food, but as I admire all things cat, I’m generally in favor of him having such a dream.The word reminded Mike of “yipiyuk”, a little creature in a poem written by Shel Silverstein, a creature who “would not let go.” So this brought to mind  Shel Silverstein and his book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Mike, Gena (Mike’s late wife),and Michelle had taken a weekend trip down to Chicago from their home in Madison, Wisconsin. Mike had just picked up the book and sat down in the hotel room with Michelle on his lap and started reading to her. Michelle was 4 years old at the time. She wouldn’t let him stop reading until he finished the entire book. This is one of Mike’s favorite lifetime memories, Michelle’s joy at those silly pictures and poems and sharing it all with her. Michelle still remembers this incident. Sadly, the book has disappeared, but since all this got stirred back up in Mike’s memory he went out with Judy and Michelle today and got another copy, the 40th year anniversary edition. The book was actually first published in 1974. Mike would never tell you what to do but I am going to encourage you to get a copy  and read it. You can read about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (who would not take the garbage out). You can read about Hector the Collector, the boa constrictor, and the invisible boy. All in all, thoroughly delightful. Don’t wait. I could go on and on about Shel Silverstein but I’ll leave it to your research to see about the other things he did with his life and delightful books that he wrote. Sadly he died too young. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

So, Mike got a blast from the past the same day, a phone call from Gena’s cousin Brenda. It was great to hear from her after over 20 years of no contact. People seem to drift apart for no particular reason, or at least for no reason that’s good enough. We did  a lot of catching up over the phone and hopefully we’ll get together this summer. It was a joy for him to hear from her.

More about Mike. I wandered into the bathroom the other day when he was struggling to trim his toenails. He can barely reach his feet anymore. It is pathetic. If this gets any worse Judy is going to have to take him to the vet to get his nails trimmed…….. you know, the Extreme Vet at Happy Meadows Veterinary Clinic. I’ve talked about this outfit before. You get brought over there for some lame reason, and the next thing you know they are poking and prodding you in every orifice. I told you about the time I was at the shelter when the vet showed up, and the next thing I knew I had taken a nap and I woke up tutored.  I never seemed to want to date after that. I had told you in my post entitled “So, I suppose I should introduce myself a little more”  dated December 4, 2016 about this episode, and said that if anybody suggests that you be tutored I would advise against it. I have not changed my mind. Be careful.

Oh, and check this out! Sometimes Mike takes me out for a ride in his hamstermobile for reasons other than going to the Extreme Vet. I recently noticed that across the street from the clinic there is a specialist who does nothing but tutoring. I got Mike to take a picture. Here it is.

 

I would advise you to stay away from this place. However, the place next door is another story altogether. If only they had mice on the menu it would be absolutely divine. You should try it sometime.

Obviously

So, I was just glancing over some of my earlier posts, and I discovered a serious factual error. In my post entitled “Elmoo and Elvis”, dated 1/08/2017, I said Mike’s late wife, Gena, had died in 1977, the same year as had Elvis Presley. Not at all! She passed from this life in 1992. Indeed, Elvis died in 1977, the same year that Mike and Gena had married, and the post correctly indicated that it was posted on their 40th wedding anniversary. Sorry for the confusion. Sloppy proofreading on my part. I would like to blame Mike, but I can’t. He definitely would have picked up on that mistake right away.

I awakened early this morning to a crashing thunderstorm. Mike’s phone kept going off with alerts informing him of the obvious. Glad I was indoors. The other cats were very nervous. Mike got up and turned on the stairwell light for us. It didn’t make the other cats any less nervous, but it made him feel better. Speaking of obvious, let me tell you about one of my pet peeves. I find it extremely irritating when someone says “obviously” when the referenced fact is not obvious in the least. This is particularly annoying and common in broadcast sports journalism, especially on radio broadcasts. I hear quite a lot of this because Mike frequently will have a game on or listen to sports talk radio. Granted, it is a refreshing break from politics.  I’ll give you an example. One of the conversations I hear is whether LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan. The other day someone on the radio said, “Obviously, Michael Jordan was surrounded by better players on his team than LeBron James.” In what way is that obvious? A person as old as Mike would remember Michael Jordan and his teams, but not me! I think it is a fact (you can look this up if you are interested – I could be wrong)that Michael Jordan didn’t win a championship until the Bulls got Scottie Pippin, who is considered by some (same stupid argument extended to 50 players)  to be one of the top 50 NBA players of all time. But the greatness of a player is not measured only by his athletic ability, or by his personal statistics. It is also measured by whether he elevates the play and success of the other players. Anyway, what is obvious about this is that if something can’t be seen it is not obvious.  I won’t bore you with other examples. But if you listen to the radio or participate in any sort of communication with people you will notice this use of “obviously” often. I hope it irritates you as much as it does me.

And while I am on the subject of listening to the radio, I heard  Mike tell of how he used to listen to the radio before his family had a television set. And even after they did (his father eventually gave in – he had been holding out waiting for a color TV) he didn’t get to watch after 9PM. Mike remembers listening to the Indiana State High school basketball championship final game in 1954, the year Milan beat Crispus Attucks High School of Indianapolis. He thinks the score was something like 32-30. He also has a vague recollection that one of the Milan players was surnamed Plum. You could look this up too, if you are interested. This David vs. Goliath story was eventually turned into the movie, Hoosiers. Also of interest, a sophomore on the Crispus Attucks team was a fellow named Oscar Robertson, one of the 50 Best Ever. The following year Crispus Attucks went 34-1 and won the Indiana State Championship, the first ever for an all-black high school in Indiana. They got the traditional parade in Indianapolis, but the after-parade party was held outside the city limits. The authorities were afraid of the black people having too good of a time and getting rowdy, I suppose. In 1956 they went undefeated and were state champs once more.

In case you were wondering, Crispus Attucks was the first man killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770, and generally regarded as the first casualty of the American Revolution. He was of mixed-racial descent, with some African and some Native American (Wampanoag) elements, but really, not that much is know about him.

And now that I think about it, I also remember hearing Mike talk about another game he heard on the radio in 1959. It was played in Milwaukee between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Braves. These are the same Braves that now play in Cobb County about a mile from Mike’s office. (They are still called the Atlanta Braves, though. The Cobb County Braves sounds lame.) So, this particular broadcast was not live. Rather, it was some guy reading a telegraph wire and embellishing the information, pitch by pitch. Very dry, but at that time Mike was really into sports, and he was desperate for even low-value entertainment. The broadcast was on when he went to bed that night. He shared a room with his brother who must have heard the game as well. I’m sure he would be able to tell you about it, because Bob never forgot anything, but sadly, he is no longer on this side of the Rainbow Bridge.

It was a dark and stormy night. Harvey (“Kitten”)Haddix pitched for Pittsburgh, and Lew Burdette pitched for Milwaukee. It was the most remarkable game ever played, some say. After 9 innings, neither team had scored, and not a single Milwaukee player had reached base. Today, it is rare to see a starting pitcher pitch 9 innings, and they are considered to have pitched well to get through 6 innings and give up 1 or 2 runs. But pitchers were real men in those days. Haddix and Burdette pitched 3 more innings each without giving up a run, and Milwaukee still had nobody to reach base. Haddix had retired 36 consecutive batters. Felix Mantilla led off the 13th inning and hit a ground ball to Don Hoak at third base. Hoak threw to first but the ball was in the dirt, and Mantilla reached on an error. The imperfect end of a perfect game effort. The next batter was Hank Aaron (the same Hank Aaron whose statue is standing in front of Sun Trust Stadium, the land of the free and home of the Braves). He was walked intentionally. The next batter was Joe Adcock. He was a big guy who could hit the ball a mile, and he whacked it over the fence for a 3 run home run and a Milwaukee victory. So you might imagine that the final score was 3-0. But no.  After Hank Aaron rounded second base and Mantilla scored, Aaron left the base path and returned to the dugout. He must have been more than ready to take his shower and go home. Adcock, meanwhile ran all the way around the bases to home plate. Initially, the final score was posted as 2-0. However, the next day, the league office changed the score to 1-0. Obviously, Aaron hadn’t scored because he returned to the dugout after touching second base. Adcock was ruled out for passing Aaron on the base path. But baseball’s officialdom wasn’t done. Over 30 years later the Great Powers who decide such things stated that Haddix had neither pitched a no-hitter nor a perfect game. In a way, of course, he hadn’t, but I think it was petty of Major League Baseball to say so. The main thing that bothered Haddix was that he lost the game. By the way, when Haddix broke into the major leagues he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had grown up on a farm in western Ohio, not that far, really, from Milan, Indiana. There wasn’t much to do but work on the farm and play baseball in those days. His first major league victory was against, you might have guessed it, Lew Burdette, who was pitching for the then Boston Braves, in 1952. Haddix picked up his “Kitten” nickname that year because of his supposed resemblance to another left-handed  pitcher on the Cardinal staff, Harry, “The Cat” Brecheen. Obviously.

Fake Jews

So, I went back down to the basement to see what Richie and his friends were up to. They gathered in an informal lounge area and Richie put out some dip and chips. One of the visitors produced a little baggie.

“I’ve got some oxy 30s,” she said. She passed the bag over to Richie who declined. Hallie grabbed for the baggie.

“Those are 30s. You better just take one, Hallie,” he said.

She took 2. “I’ll save one for later,” she said. She popped a little pill in her mouth and swallowed it, washing it down with a little Coca-Cola. The others all did one also, and after a while started acting weird and a little sleepy. The boy produced another baggie with some white powder. He also had a straw. He put one end of the straw in the baggie and the other end in his nose and snorted up some powder. He passed the bag around. Richie again declined. He put on a movie as his girlfriend and visitors entered a world that he was not involved with. He and I looked at each other. I decided to go back upstairs.

I snooped around and found the litter box in an upstairs laundry room. Good thing to know. There was also some kibble in a bowl as well as some water in another bowl. I wasn’t hungry but I had a little drink. The house was so big that even though Mila and Bianca and the 4 young people as well as Joker and the other cat were all in the house, it seemed as though I had the place to myself. I found a nice white couch in the living room to curl my black self up on and settled into a good nap.

Sometime later I heard Richard come back in the house. Bianca came downstairs to greet him.

“How did it go?” She said, as she gave him a little kiss on the cheek.

“A waste of time,” he replied. “I don’t understand all the resistance to improving Happy Meadows. I could make it a great place to live.”

“Were there a lot of people there?” asked Bianca.

“We had about 20 people,” he said. “The rest of the board was there, and the Blumenthal’s, Riley’s, Hendersons, Jim Bennett, and a few others. The Gordons were there too.”

“Oh, I know Shirly Blumenthal. I saw her at church last Sunday.”

“The Blumenthals are Jewish,” he said. “What was she doing at church?”

“They are members at 1st Methodist,” she said. “They are not Jewish. They just have a Jewish name.”

“Next, I suppose you’re going to tell me that the Lowensteins are not Jewish,” he said.

“They’re not,” she replied, “They’re Episcopalians.”

“Fake Jews,” he muttered. “Nothing is what it appears to be any more. I suppose you’re going to tell me that the Johnson family isn’t black.”

She rolled her eyes. “No, they really are black. But their dog is white.”

He changed the subject. “Whose car is parked out there?” he asked.

“Oh, those are some friends of Hallie’s,” said Bianca. “I think they are downstairs watching a movie.”

As she spoke she looked over into the living room and saw me on the sofa.  “That cat is still in the house!  And look,” she sputtered, “He is getting his black hair all over my clean white sofa!”

As she headed towards me I hesitated for a moment and then jumped off the sofa and ran past her into the foyer. Richard opened the front door for me and I made a hasty but graceful exit.

“Good-bye, Sambo,” he said. “Come back any time.”

“Like hell,” I heard Bianca say, as she headed for the closet to get her vacuum cleaner, hoping to remove all traces of my visit.

It was a warm spring evening with almost no breeze. I passed under a privet shrub, its sweet perfume lingering in my nostrils as I meandered across the golf course and back towards home. I thought about Donk’s comment about fake Jews. People seem to be more comfortable if they can place themselves into categories that amount to “we” and “those other people.” I heard Mike talk about watching “All in the Family”  (a show which is now extremely dated) years ago. The program trafficked heavily on mocking the prejudices of people, Archie Bunker in particular. A gag was set up when a black family, the Jeffersons, moved into the house next door. The Jefferson’s wouldn’t come over to meet the Bunkers because they didn’t like “Whitey”, but George Jefferson’s brother-in-law did drop by. He and Archie got into an argument during which the visitor referred to Archie as “you people”. Archie was incensed, and replied indignantly, “What do you mean, youse people! Youse people are youse people.” This gets back to the tribal mentality I referred to briefly in my last post (A Bad Vibe, April 30, 2017). It is a great obstacle to peace in the world, not a new problem, and I don’t have the answer for it. I heard a rustling sound in the grass. I stopped short and focused intensely. Soon I had a lovely, warm little mouse in my mouth. I trotted straight home, left it on the front stoop, and slipped in through my cat door. All in all, a fine adventure.