Sometimes it’s just you and the cat.

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My girlfriend is away.

The talented thing she is, she’s off rehearsing a play, doing what she wants to do, living the dream, etc, etc.  The only unfortunate thing is, it is away.  Some 2,500 miles and two time zones away.  So it’s just me and the cat for about two months.

Sure, we talk on the phone, and we’re texting every day, but alas, her smiling visage no longer graces the capacious rooms of our castle home.

Therefore, I am getting A LOT of work done.

It’s not that I don’t get work done when she’s here, but when she’s not here, boy howdy!  From the time I wake up until my eyes close on my pillow at night, I’m doing something or other:  I’m writing, I’m transferring my writing from my notebook to my computer, I’m corresponding via email about my writing, I’m recording audiobooks, I’m editing audiobooks previously recorded, I’m working on the musical I’m writing, I’m corresponding with my writing partner about said musical, I’m traveling to my day job, or I’m working at my day job.

There are only MINUTES of my waking hours when I’m not doing one of these things, and I usually watch Doctor Who during that time.  I’m a very busy boy.

If Becca was here, there would be less of this, and more of canoodling and general nesting activities with my loved one.  More time spent on eating, sitting together, engaging in conversation, etc.

What’s been nice in this time of separation, however, is the Travel Notebook.

OH YES.  CAPITAL LETTERS.

The Travel Notebook was a BRILLIANT idea I had (thank you very much) the last time she was away.  I bought a small, pretty, hard-backed notebook for her to take with her on her travels.  For every day she was away, I wrote a prompt for her to complete.  “Describe where you are at this exact second.”  “What was the most interesting thing you saw today?”  “If our cat was there, what would she be doing?” and so on.  

Since she had it the last time she was away, I was deemed the notebook-holder this time.  When I visit her in the middle of her time away, we’ll trade, and I’ll give her the notebook.

It’s nice, and it keeps us thinking about each other.  It also provides a fun diary on which we can look back once together and see what the heck we were up to.

Until then, though, it’s just me and the cat.

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Sometimes your cat is a huntress

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It was a normal day.

Oof – what a way to start a story.  So rife with possibilities.  Anyway –

It really was a normal day.

Becca is off being a time traveler for the next couple weeks with her family five hours ahead in the UK, so it’s just me and Franny here at home.

Nothing too major was happening in the afternoon, so I went into the closet to get some audiobook recording knocked out.  A few times during my half-hour or so in there, I heard Franny meow out in the apartment proper.  I thought nothing of it and kept recording.

Then, I was startled by scratching at the closet door.  Oh no, I thought.  What the heck?  The cat was meowing nonstop and scratching at the door, so she obviously wanted my attention.

I opened the door to see the puss sitting on the floor with pride, a dead mouse in front of her.  Using her paw, she pushed it toward me gently.  Giving another purr, she looked into my eyes and waited for a response.

A few things went through my mind:

1. What the hell.

2. That’s a dead mouse.  Where did that come from?

3. Did she really kill this thing?  I mean, she’s killed flies and roaches before, but this is a MOUSE.

4. Oh my god.  She’s so cute.  She’s presenting it to me.  She wants me to have it.

This final thought taking precedence in my head, I praised her.  I mean, heck, she just killed a pest!  Huzzah, little Amazon!  Huzzah!

Out of meat, and with a cat that hates cat treats, I gave her some catnip to occupy her while I went to get paper towels with which to dispose of the catch.

When I came back from the kitchen, Franny was sauntering toward me with the mouse in her mouth.  It may sound weird, but she was ridiculously cute with the thing hanging from her pard.

Then she started to play with it.  She lay down and began throwing the animal up into the air and batting it with her paws.  I politely asked her to stop (also I made her).  Annoyed, but compliant, she set it down on her scratchpad, then turned away.  I picked up the dead animal and wrapped it in paper.  I disposed of the thing, and that’s when the fun started.

Franny had no idea where it went.

She was bereft, to say the least.  She began to meow and circle the scratchpad.  She pawed at the spot where it once was.  She tried to flip the scratchpad over.  This went on for about ten minutes, so I decided I would help the girl out.  I titled the scratchpad on its side so she could see there was nothing under it.  The mouse was gone.  The search continued.  For another hour, she stalked the living room, looking behind items, looking under furniture, pawing at the scratchpad, and meowing up a storm.

Poor thing.

Eventually she gave up the hunt, and resigned to be ready for the next one.

(WHICH I HOPE NEVER HAPPENS.  LET’S NOT FORGET THERE WAS A MOUSE IN MY APARTMENT SOMEWHERE.)

The moral of the story, however, is that I have the best cat in the world, and she is a mighty huntress, and I feel safer knowing she’s guarding us from ferocious rodents.

Sometimes you name strangers’ cats.

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None of these cats are featured in this post. But boy, are they cute.

My girlfriend and I have three cats.

There’s the one who lives with us, the one that Becca adopted a few years ago.  She’s charming, moody, and snuggly.  The perfect cat.  She’s all we could ever want.

However, there are two more cats in our life:

1. Tito.  One day, as we were walking up our street, we saw a cute little black and white kitten sitting in an open window.  He was observant and curious, watching the world go by from the safety of an old Puerto Rican lady’s kitchen.  Tito, we named him.  Over the past year or so, we’ve watched this little kitten grow into a big kitten.  He’s one of our great joys of living here.  Every single day, every single time either of us passes that window, we look up.  About sixty percent of the time, we see Tito.  We get so excited that we even text each other when we see him.  No joke:  “Tito!!!” the text usually reads.  We’ve even started to imagine that he and Franny have begun a secret love affair, which brings me to:

2. Pouncival.  Early on in our residency at our Manhattan castle, we looked across the courtyard to see a stunning white cat seated on a window next to the fire escape.  This is Pouncival.  He is Franny’s actual boyfriend.  In the Moulin Rouge version of our lives, if Franny equals Satine, Pouncival is The Duke.  Tito is Christian.  Franny is nominally betrothed to the stunning coat and manicured nails of the gentleman across the way, but her heart belongs to the Puerto Rican street tough that may or may not show up from day to day.

This is how we pass the time, waiting until there are new cats for us to call our own.

Sometimes you get lost on an Idaho mountain while snowshoeing.

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Behold the beauty of the western United States. (Click the panorama for a larger picture) Marvel in its magnificence. Kowtow to its comeliness.  This is where I have been for the past week.

Here, in the shadow of the Rockies, I traveled with my girlfriend’s family north into Winter itself and rented a cabin in the wilderness.

(NOTE: It is odd how I left the east coast at a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit only to discover it is now in the negatives!  Got out of there just in time, I’d say.  It hovers in the positive single digits here at its worst.)

On our first full day in rural snow-country, we went snowshoeing.  It was my first time.  Apparently there is usually a lot more snow on the ground than the good six inches under our feet at the trail-head.  This was the lowest elevation on which we would stand today, though, so I was already sufficiently impressed.

After strapping on the odd contraptions and grasping poles in hand, we set off.  After a bit, we came upon this helpful map:

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After studying the trails for a bit, we decided to head right to the summit of the hill and gaze upon nature’s visage.  Just because I’m such a helpful helper, I snapped a picture of it with my iPhone (its only use, since we were well out of cell service).  And we were off!

We made it to the summit and beheld the view (see first picture).  We stopped for a selfie:

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And then we made our way down.  And no, we were not going to simply reverse our snowshoes and retrace our steps.  We were witnesses Gaea’s spendor!  We consulted the iPhone picture (good on me, right?) and mapped a route back to the trailhead.

An hour later, we found ourselves blazing our own trail through up to two feet of snow.  So we backtracked.  Then we found ourselves on a cross-country ski trail.  So we backtracked.  Then we found what we thought was the correct snowshoe trail, but this only made a tiny loop and reconnected with the cross-country ski trail again.  So we had to make a decision.

It was now late afternoon, the sun sitting low in its easy chair on the horizon.  Something must be done.  It was decided we would follow the ski trail.  After all, based on the map (thank you very much), this trail should take us directly to “The Hub,” wherein we first saw the sign and snapped the life-saving picture itself.

(NOTE: I was pretty proud of myself for taking that picture)

The ski trail, however, brought us to a crossroads of ski trails that existed nowhere on the map.

Peril.

After more discourse, one of us discovered he had a bit of cell reception.  He fired up the ol’ iPhone and turned on his compass (thanks, iOS).  South was the direction of choice, because that led back to the trailhead and parking lot.  We turned right and made our way down that ski trail.

After a bit we came to another “hub,” complete with several intersecting ski trails and THIS ONE HAD A MAP!  Huzzah!  Unfortunately, it was a completely different map than the one we had previously seen:

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Perplexed as we were, we decided – dash it all! – we would just follow the ski trail all the way back to “The Hub” (the original), and then follow the actual snowshoe trail back to the trailhead.

Glorious day when we happened upon that original sign with the original map.  Our error, it seemed, lie not with what direction in which we chose to go, but with the fact that the first map we came upon was not specifically a winter map.  It had all sorts of hiking trails on it, too.

Sigh.

Safe and sound, though, we made it back to the cabin, where we could marvel upon the splendor of our cat:

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Sometimes you have orchid guilt.

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A while back, I bought an orchid.  
Well, actually, our cat Franny got the orchid for my girlfriend for Mother’s Day.  Ya know.  Like normal.  
Either way, there was an orchid in our lives.  And we were happy.

We put it up in our apartment and we were so proud we could hardly contain ourselves.
Orchid owners!  
We felt like we had joined the elite of fauna ownership – the special forces of flower-keeping.

There’s a status that comes with orchids, after all.  They’re not geraniums.  They’re not even tulips.  They don’t come little packets at the checkout counter of Home Depot.  They don’t exist in most gardens you come across.  There are entire organizations and websites and all manner of things devoted to devotees of the strange flowering plant.  

Therefore, they must be better.  They must be grander.  They must be hipper, cooler, rarer, weirder, and more fun.  Right?

We thought so.

It was good for a spell – we watered it with a little ice cube once a week like the instructions told us.  Sure, we’d forget sometimes, but we’d always manage to get that ice cube in there only a day or two after we were supposed to.  Then it happened – the orchid got sad.

The leaves started to wither.  The roots started to flake.  We tried more water.  We tried less water.  We tried more sunlight.  We tried less sunlight.  We scoured the internet for blogs and followed countless steps attempting to revitalize the poor cat’s Mother’s Day gift.

It was not to be.  The blooms did not return so we decided to let it go.  We placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.  We had fallen from the elite ranks of orchid owners to the level of sad normal people.

A few days ago, however, Becca came home with a new orchid in her arms.  We were to be elite once more!  We’re being extra vigilant with this guy and following the instructions to the letter in order to keep him alive as long as we can.

But when I picked up the old orchid plant to throw it away, the leaves were still green!
WHAT’S THIS?
Could this plant be fighting for its life still?  After weeks – nay, months! – of not watering it regularly?  I was perplexed, to say the least.  Yet there they were – bright green, beautiful leaves!  

Enter the orchid guilt.  

I couldn’t bear to throw away this old plan when it still has the tiny glimmering possibility of wick inside it!

So now we have two orchids.  One with flowers and one without.  

I guess it just makes us super-elite now.  🙂

 

 

 

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART THREE

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On our final full day in Connecticut, we woke up early.  After eating a quick breakfast, we headed up to Mystic, Connecticut.

It was Nerd Heaven.

Our first stop was the Mystic Seaport, which is an entire complex set up as a 19th-centry seaport.  SO MANY DEMONSTRATIONS.  SO MANY COOL SHIPS TO WALK AROUND.  SO MANY COOL OLD STOREFRONTS TO WALK INTO.  SO MUCH LEARNING. 

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Neat old ship! It had a fascinating history too detailed to recount here.

I cannot stress enough how much fun it was to watch an anchor being brought up or to watch an open-sea fishing demonstration or to walk through an actual old whaling ships.  Those areas that were not equipped with actual demonstrators in them doing something (blacksmiths, coopers, most of the ships) had wonderful educational plaques and reconstructions that you could read.  And then there’s the actual thrill of walking through another world – a world without computers and cellphones and electronic navigational equipment.  A brilliant place.  Just brilliant.

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That one’s mine. That cute girl there.

On that day, we wanted to stay forever.  We, however, had bought a double ticket that gave us admission to the Mystic Aquarium as well, so we begrudgingly left the seaport and headed across town to the aquarium, which was super-fun as well.

We both had grown up with the advantage of great aquariums, but this was no less fantastic than others we’ve seen.  The most entrancing animals present were the beluga whales.  I likened them to a cross between a dolphin and a dog.  They swam like dolphins – graceful, playful, upside-down, right next to the glass to show off for the kids – but there was something more (less?) there than you see in dolphins.  It was almost an openness, a simpler way of looking at things.  I know they’re not as intelligent as dolphins, so perhaps it was really just the lesser intelligence I was seeing.  But it was still charming to watch and something that I had never seen up close.

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Clarification: we saw actual beluga whales as well as plastic ones.

My one point of contention with the aquarium was the touch tank.  UGH.  I cannot abide by families (read: parents) who have no awareness of others around them. 

Yes, Ma’am – my girlfriend and I are standing right behind your child, waiting for a turn to touch the sting rays.  Yes, you’ve been there for ten minutes on your phone and your kid hasn’t even tried to put his hand in the water once since you first plopped him down there.  Yes, every other person around the tank is doing the same thing, i.e. – not paying attention to anyone but themselves.

After an extended wait, however, we managed to steal a spot and touch the ray.  After we did so, we left to make way for others who wanted to do the same.  How hard was that??

We ate dinner at a charming little place and made plans to come back the next day.

Which we did.

After a harrowing laundry experience the next morning (we may have overestimated the drying power of the standard Maytag), we loaded up the car and left our little house in Fairfield.  Then we drove right back up to Mystic Seaport.

After all, there was so much we didn’t do the first time!  The planetarium, the hauling up of the anchor, the exhibit on figureheads, the small boat museum!  We strolled the grounds a second time (AND STILL DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO DO EVERYTHING) and realized we had to head back home.

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The drive back was lovely as we listened to showtunes, refreshed from our New England vacay.

We dropped off the rental car and greeted our cat with open arms.
We were home.